ATLANTA – A global livestream memorial service will honor the life of Christian evangelist and apologist Ravi Zacharias, who died on May 19, at age 74, after a brief battle with cancer.

The celebration of Zacharias’s life and legacy will be streamed live at RZIM.org/RaviMemorial on May 29 at 11 a.m. ET.

Zacharias spent the past 48 years traveling the world to commend the Christian faith and address life’s greatest existential questions of origin, meaning, morality and destiny with eloquence and grace for a variety of audiences. Through his founding and leadership of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM), Zacharias launched a global team of nearly 100 Christian scholars and authors who continue to speak, resource, train and address the questions of millions around the world.

“The story of the gospel is the story of eternal life. My life is unique and will endure eternally in God’s presence. I will never be ‘no more.’ I will never be lost because I will be with the One who saves me,” wrote Zacharias in Seeing Jesus from the East (Zondervan, 2020).

Tributes to Zacharias will include homages from family and friends, including RZIM President Michael Ramsden, athlete and author Tim Tebow, Brooklyn Tabernacle Senior Pastor Jim Cymbala, and Passion Movement Founder Louie Giglio. Musical artists Matt Redman and Lecrae will perform

Following the initial livestream, the video will be available for replay in perpetuity.

The Zacharias family has asked that in lieu of flowers gifts be made to the ongoing work of RZIM.

Peter Wooding
Assist News Service

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (ANS) – Evangelist for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, and the grandson of Billy Graham – Will Graham – will co-host a national observance broadcast with America’s National Day of Prayer Task Force president, Kathy william graham is an evangelist with the billy graham evangelistic associationBranzell on May 7.

The US National Day of Prayer is an annual national observance established in public law in 1952 and observed publicly on the First Thursday in May, according to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA).

A BGEA press release said regardless of the unprecedented challenges that America faces today due to the corona crisis and resulting economic shutdown, it will not be canceled nor postponed – but will look very different from years past.

Each year, people gather across the nation, in over 60,000 local community events to pray together for America. While the number of people gathering may be different this year, prayers will be multiplied and amplified through new and creative approaches, combined with unprecedented access to digital platforms. In homes, neighborhoods, communities, cities, states, nation and the world, observing recommended “social distancing” measures, their NDP coordinators are planning to mobilize millions in unified, public prayer for America.

The BGEA reports that while focusing on using these digital platforms, this year’s ‘virtual’ observances have the potential to become the largest prayer ‘gathering’ in U.S. history – with millions praying together, individually.

In addition to virtual events being held in communities across the nation, The National Day of Prayer National Observance Broadcast will take place on May 7 from 8:00 -10:00 p.m. ET. It will be broadcast, streamed, and posted in many ways including, the Billy Graham website, live on their Facebook page and cross-posted by many of their ministry partners. It will be televised on GodTV, Daystar, NLC, and BrioTV, with more stations to come, and on radio through Moody and Bott Radio Networks.

This year’s theme, “Pray God’s Glory Across the Earth”, is based on Habakkuk 2:14, and reminds us that this promise, “for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” is for us today.

“Unprecedented times call for unprecedented prayer! This year’s ‘virtual’ National Day of Prayer Observance may have more prayer – and more ‘pray-ers’ than ever before!” Branzell said.

Call for prayers to be said on the feast of St Paul

By Sheraz Khan
Middle East Correspondent for ASSIST News Service

DAMASCUS, SYRIA – Samir Nassar, the Maronite Archbishop of Damascus, has condemned the death of 24 people following military bombardments in many regions in war-torn Syria.

A press release from Aid to the Church in Need, a Catholic charity, said that it had received an update from Archbishop Samir Nassar in relation to theMgr-Samir-Nassar-archeveque-maronite-Damas sufferings of Christians in Syria.

It quoted the Archbishop as saying that the bombs of Jan. 22 had now claimed 24 victims, of which seven were children, who were hit as they left school.

The release stated that the Archbishop in his communication to Aid to the Church in Need described the community’s “fear” and “anguish” following the loss of life.

“At the Patriarchate, there was more, serious damage in addition to the destruction caused by the bomb of Jan. 8,” the release quoted the Archbishop as saying.

It stated: “The initial shelling caused major damage to the Cathedral’s doors and windows as well as fuel tanks and water tanks.”

The Archbishop called for prayers for peace on the feast of St Paul (Thursday, Jan. 25), asking Christians around the world to join with them in prayer when they celebrated Mass.

“The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity has turned towards peace and forgiveness. Please unite with us in our Eucharist on Jan. 25 – the Feast of the Conversion of St Paul,” the press release quoted the Archbishop as saying.

According to the release in Afrin, northern Syria, where Turkey started military action on Jan. 21, the Rev. Valentin Hanan of the Good Shepherdyoung-girl-holds-candle-damascus-syria Church made an urgent appeal for an immediate ceasefire – also asking Christians to pray for them.

“We call for urgent international protection for the believers in Afrin and to stop the Turkish bombardment,” he said. “At this moment, we are subjected to heavy shelling and the Islamic factions vow to enter the city. As a church we ask the Lord first for protection and then ask brethren for prayers and help.”

The press release said the Archbishop described the Christian community as “being under siege,” also saying that the city has experienced heavy shelling.

There are 250 Christian families in Afrin Canton with 190 families in Afrin city, 45 families in Rajo and 15 families in Maabatli, according to the minister, said the release.

It added: “Turkey claimed the bombardments were targeting Daesh (ISIS) fighters in the region, but the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces have disputed this claim.

“According to the Syrian Democratic Forces, up to 150 Daesh (ISIS) fighters were killed in air strikes on the Middle Euphrates River Valley in the south-eastern province of Deir al-Zour take took place on Jan. 20”, it said.

Note: Aid to the Church in Need is a Pontifical Foundation directly under the Holy See. As a Catholic charity, ACN supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in need through information, prayer, and action. Founded in 1947 by Father Werenfried van Straaten, whom Pope St. John Paul II named “An outstanding Apostle of Charity,” the organisation is now at work in 140 countries throughout the world. Undertaking thousands of projects every year, the charity provides emergency support for people experiencing persecution, transport for clergy and lay Church workers, Child’s Bibles, media and evangelisation projects, churches, Mass stipends and other support for priests and nuns and training for seminarians. Aid to the Church in Need UK is a registered charity in England and Wales (1097984) and Scotland (SC040748). ACN’s UK office is in Sutton, Surrey, and there is a Scottish office in Motherwell, near Glasgow and another office based in Lancaster that covers the North-West.

Photos:

Syrian church damaged after bomb attack. (Omar Sanadiki/Reuters)

Samir Nassar, the Maronite Archbishop of Damascus.

Young girl with a candle at Al-Zaytoun Melkite Greek Catholic Church, Damascus, Syria. (© Aid to the Church in Need).

By Grelan Muse Sr.
Inside The Pew

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Senate confirmed noted human-rights champion Gov. Sam Brownback of Kansas on Jan. 25 as the new Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom.

Brownback will head the State Department’s Office of International Religious Freedom that monitors religious freedom abuses throughout the world. He is the first ambassador under the revised Frank R. Wolf International Religious Freedom Act, the passage of which affirms continued congressional commitment to international religious freedom as a foreign relations priority.

The New York Times reported Jan. 24 that Browback will resign as Kansas’ governor on Jan. 31.

The outgoing governor tweeted hat he looks forward to working hard for the American people and religious freedom around the world.

With roughly 80 percent of the world’s people living in countries with high levels of religious oppression, it is a critical time for international religious freedom. In Burma, Iraq, China, and Nigeria, among other countries, Brownback’s diplomatic experience will be crucial in the months ahead.

“International religious freedom is one of the few, truly non-partisan issues in Washington, both fundamental to our identity as Americans and also essential to our national security,” said 21Wilberforce Senior Fellow Frank Wolf. “In Sam Brownback, we have a leader who not only understands the intricacies of Capitol Hill; he has a heart and the demonstrated passion for the mission of this office.”

While in Congress, Brownback was a Senate leader on international religious freedom, advocating for landmark policy reforms, both domestically and abroad, as well as for prisoners of conscience wrongly incarcerated for their faith. He led the effort to enact the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 which was central to the movement to combat human trafficking. Brownback was actively involved during the Darfur crisis. His travels to that embattled region compelled him to push for a genocide declaration in 2004. He introduced numerous pieces of key human rights legislation, including on North Korea and also Sudan, where he called on the Sudanese government to end slavery, “manufactured” famines, and civilian bombings. Brownback chaired the Senate Foreign Relations Sub-Committee on Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs and co-chaired the U.S. Helsinki Commission.

The Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom post was most recently held by Rabbi David Saperstein. 21Wilberforce President Randel Everett noted, “Ambassador Saperstein’s leadership has been an invaluable asset and he has furthered the cause for religious freedom around the globe.” When Saperstein was asked about Brownback’s support for international religious freedom he responded “It’s an issue he knows, he knows well and cares deeply about.”

Alliance Defending Freedom President, CEO, and General Counsel Michael Farris said Brownback’s appointment is a step in the right direction toward defending international religious freedom.

“America must defend and protect religious freedom globally, and Gov. Brownback is unquestionably capable of engaging this vital mission. It’s clear from history that when any nation abuses or suppresses religious freedom, other freedoms are likewise in danger. America needs a strong advocate for the basic human rights and dignity of those who wish to live consistently with their faith without undue government interference. We commend the Trump Administration and the Senate on the confirmation of Gov. Brownback, whose clear passion and understanding of this issue will work for the good of persecuted people of faith around the world.”

Photo: Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback has been appointed Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom.

© 2018 Inside The Pew

By Michael Ireland
Chief Correspondent for the ASSIST News Service

ASMARA, ERITREA – Human rights groups have reported that the number of Christians arrested in the Eastern African nation of Eritrea since the government began its most recent crackdown against Christians in May has reached at least 160.

Sources who spoke with the international religious persecution advocacy group Christian Solidarity Worldwide have put the number of Christians detained in raids in the capital of Asmara and seven other towns at about 170, according to a press release shared with The Christian Post.

Meanwhile, Release International, an organization that monitors and reports on Christian persecution in numerous nations across the globe, reported on Wednesday that around 160 Christians have been arrested, according to Christian Post reporter Samuel Smith.

The Christian Post says that in May, it was reported that nearly 100 Christians were detained, including 49 evangelicals who were arrested at a wedding party on May 21.

The outlet says the authoritarian government’s recent crackdown on Christians comes 15 years after the government closed many non-sanctionedmap-of-eritrea churches and banned religious practices not affiliated with state-recognized denominations such as the Catholic, Evangelical Lutheran and Orthodox Christian churches and Sunni Islam.

“Worryingly, this latest phase has been described to Christian Solidarity Worldwide as ‘unprecedented in its intensity and rough treatment,'” CSW said.

CSW, which recently earned accreditation with the United Nations, notes that among the 160-plus Christians arrested are 33 women who are being held a Nakura, “a notoriously harsh prison island in the Dahlak Archipelago that was created by Italian colonialists in the late 19th Century to crush political dissent.”

Most of the 33 women being held at Nakura are reported to be young mothers who have left approximately 50 children without parents to care for them.

A local source told Release International that 12 children are actually in prison with their parents, with the youngest child believed to be about 2 months old.

“Unbelievably more than 30 children have been left without parents or guardians and the security police are monitoring them to make sure they do not get support from the Christian community,” the Release International report states.

CSW Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said in a statement that the increase in Christian arrests is a “clear illustration that the persecution of unrecognized faith groups in Eritrea is continuing.”

“Moreover, the detention of these women, many of whom are young mothers, in a notoriously harsh facility simply on account of their religion or belief, is unwarranted, deplorable and in violation of Eritrea’s obligations under international law,” Thomas said.

According to Release International’s website, whole families are being arrested during this most recent crackdown on faith. The organization states that in the past, most arrested Christians were detained at Bible studies or Christian events. But now, “believers are being arrested at their homes.”

“Security officials accompanied by an Orthodox priest are turning up at homes and questioning people over their religious affiliation,” Release International explained. “All except Muslims, Orthodox, Catholic and Lutheran are liable for arrest.”

Eritrea ranks as the 10th worst nation in the world when it comes to the persecution of Christians, according to Open Doors USA’s 2017 World Watch List.

An Open Doors fact sheet states: “The government’s attempt to control all religious institutions was particularly evident in the deposing and replacing of the Patriarch of the Eritrean Orthodox Church (EOC) [Abune Antonios] in 2007, and he has remained under house arrest ever since. The EOC itself persecutes those who leave the EOC and become Evangelical or Pentecostal believers.”

CSW’s Thomas praised the United Nations Human Rights Council for passing a resolution earlier this month that extended the mandate of the special rapporteur on Eritrea for one year.

“Obviously, there has been no improvement in Eritrea’s human rights situation, and CSW warmly welcomes the renewal of the special rapporteur’s mandate, which will ensure continued human rights monitoring and follow up of Eritrea’s implementation of recommendations from the special rapporteur’s reports and those of the COIE,” he said in a statement.

“It is time to prioritize accountability for human rights violations; thus we reiterate our call for the international community to facilitate justice for victims of atrocity crimes, and to maintain pressure on the Eritrean regime until every prisoner of conscience is freed without precondition.”

 

Photos: Featured image: Sunset Over Enda Mariam Orthodox Cathedral, Asmara, Eritrea (Eric Lafforgue Photography); Eritrean Christians worship in prison (courtesy of Barnabas Fund); Map of Eritrea