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

Robert Ilatov Story and pictures by Annabel Foery
Special to ASSIST News Service

JERUSALEM, ISRAEL – At the main event of the first National Prayer Breakfast held at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in Jerusalem on June 7, Chairman of the Knesset Christian Allies Caucus (KCAC) Robert Ilatov said that he is launching the Jerusalem prayer breakfast movement.

“Our time has come,” he said, “to stand in the gap, just as it is written in scripture” (Ezekiel 22-30).

Now that Israel has reached the milestone of 50 years of having a united Capital, he asked everyone to stand together and undertake praying for Jerusalem.

The KCAC has the mission to build direct lines of communication cooperation and coordination between the Knesset and Christian leaders around the world in both the political and the faith communities. Goals are to recognize the contributions that Christians in America, Europe and around the World, are making to the security of the State of Israel and to the welfare of the Jewish people; to bring to the attention of the population of Israel the unqualified support Christians have given, and continue to give to, Jewish aspirations in the holy land.

Event MC, Albert Veksler, speaking to the more than 550 attendees from 56 nations, pointed out that scripture doesn’t just say that there is blessing for those that “know Jerusalem” but “those that love Jerusalem.” He went on to say, “We want to make Jerusalem a house of prayer for all nations. How big must this house be? Well, we are ‘building’ this house of prayer – will you join with us to make this city a house of prayer – a House of Prayer for All Nations?”

Distinguished politicians from many nations read potions of scripture and prayers were given by pastors from around the world, amongst whom, Pastor Tom Hess, spoke of praying for reconciliation with the Arab people – Jerusalem is the heart of the “Isaiah 19 Highway” (see Isa.19:22-24).

Billy Wilson, President of Oral Roberts University, called for a “wave of intercession” for the country and the city of Jerusalem.Menora at the Knesset

Coordinator of the Allies Caucus, Josh Reinstein, said that “a united city of Jerusalem is not a political issue, it is a biblical issue. There is not a West Jerusalem and an East Jerusalem – there is only one City of Jerusalem. This is the most important issue of our time.”

The concluding speaker, former United States Representative, Michele Bachmann, instead of speaking her own thoughts passionately prayed scripture after scripture, which brought many to tears throughout the room.  Afterwards, she said she didn’t know what she was going to say until she stood at the podium where she just let herself be led by God.

Photo captions: 1) MK Robert Ilatov. 2) Full Ballroom at the Breakfast. 3) Menora at the Knesset, where attendees were able to visit during their time in Jerusalem.

Annabel Foery, an English transplant to the USA, has been a follower and disciple of Jesus Christ, (Yeshua Ha-Mashiach) learning to know the heart of God and encouraging others to do likewise.  She lives in Alexandria Virginia and helps volunteer with hosting overseas guests at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington DC, and can be contacted by e-mail at: foery@icloud.com.

By Grelan Muse Sr.
Inside The Pew

President Donald Trump’s trip to Israel is a promise that goes beyond words. Trump, the only sitting U.Strump-visits-western-wall. president to visit to holy sites in Jerusalem, said the visit to the Western Wall was a “great honor,” one that could build “a deeper path to friendship with Israel.”

Trump’s visit to Israel was historic and welcoming. Billboards and signs proclaiming, “Trump Is A Friend of Zion” and “Trump Make Israel Great” have lined the streets of Jerusalem in a very public welcome to the president. The initiative, launched by Michael Evans, founder and chair of the Friends of Zion Heritage Center and a member of the Founding Trump Faith Board.

“Donald Trump won the election because of a historic evangelical voter turnout – the largest in American history. Evangelicals tend not to be monolithic except on two issues – the Supreme Court and Israel.

Evans, among others, point to Trump’s campaign promise to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. By moving the embassy, Trump would signify that the United States recognizes Jerusalem at the capital of Israel.

“President Trump promised us he would recognize Jerusalem and move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem.  We wholeheartedly believe that this promise is non-negotiable and will happen while he is president.”

Don Horwitz, executive director of Christians Care International, told Inside The Pew the bond between the U.S. and Israel is based on the shared Judeo-Christian values of our two nations. He said both nations cherish personal liberty, religious freedom, and human dignity.

“When the President of the United States visits Israel, he sends the world a powerful message that this bond will Don Horowitznever be broken and that our two nations will forever be united in friendship and mutual support.

Horwitz added that Trump’s visit also puts Israel and the Jewish people into the world’s focus, and reminds us that many thousands of Jews remain subject to virulent anti-Semitism and persecution.

“Christians have also become increasingly subject to persecution and religious violence – Jews and Christians must stand together in the face of this violence.

“As the Bible tells us, Israel is a light unto the nations. It is time for the world to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s eternal capital.”

Trump’s next stop in this tour is a meeting at the Vatican with Pope Francis on May 24.

Photos (top to bottom):

President Donald Trump prays before the Western Wall in Jerusalem. (AP)

A banner hangs on a building in Jerusalem. (Yossi Zamir)

Don Horwitz, executive director of Christians Care International (http://www.christianscare.org/)

Tonya Whitaker contributed to this story.

© 2017 Inside The Pew

By Grelan Muse Sr.
Inside The Pew

Recounts from Christian missionaries show the transforming power of God’s word. This is exactly what Dr. Erickgabon-central-africa-jesus-film Schenkel conveys in his upcoming release, Everyone, Everywhere.

Schenkel, executive director of Jesus Film Project®, shares his personal journey in ministry since graduating from Harvard College in 1974 and the subsequent global impact of the film “JESUS” since its release in 1979.

The “JESUS” film, envisioned by Bill Bright, co-founder of Cru, and was produced in cooperation with The Genesis Project. “JESUS” is the most watched film according to Guinness Book of World Records and, as of this year, is available in 1,500 languages with the latest translation in Daasanach. Jesus Film Project continues to carry out Bright’s vision of showing this film to people in every country of the world.

The missionary has witnessed numerous miraculous occurrences as a result of both his and others’ commitments to sharing the Gospel around the world and working toward fulfilling the Great Commission through various mediums throughout the years including “JESUS” film screenings and the latest tools and films available through the Jesus Film Project app.

“This book is an invitation to join the most exciting, the most compassionate, the most significant movement in theerick-schenkel-everyone-everywhere world,” Schenkel said. “It is written primarily for people who are presently followers of Jesus Christ, but I dare to hope that some who are not His followers will be drawn to the beauty and the importance of the realities it presents.”

Through Everyone, Everywhere, which is set for release on May 23, Schenkel sheds light on the history of evangelism throughout the centuries and the varying branches of the Christian faith. He points out that though each of these sects might have had different beliefs on certain aspects, fundamentally everyone who has professed a belief in Christ has been tasked with the same thing – to spread the Gospel.

“We followers of Jesus Christ share one history,” Schenkel said. “We are involved in one mission. We must also remember that simply taking to oneself the name of Jesus Christ — regardless of what one’s devotional practice may be — is in itself a radical step.  In much of the world, there is nothing to be gained in this life by claiming to be a Christian. In fact, confessing Christ can be dangerous, regardless of the church one attends — or fails to attend.  …  Just taking the name of Jesus can get you killed.”

Throughout the book, Schenkel shares stories of missionaries, pastors and others in ministry work around the world who passionately share the message of Christ, despite the risks. From nations where sharing the Gospel of Jesus is illegal such as China and Middle Eastern countries to areas where Christianity is exploding including Korea, Vietnam and parts of Africa and Latin America, Schenkel explores how the message of Christ is indeed reaching the nations. He also talks about the fact that though the United States and other westernized countries still play a role in spreading the Gospel, the saving grace of Jesus is now being spread “from everyone, to everywhere.”

“Never has there been the possibility of inter-related global movements of Jesus followers like we see beginning to happen today,” he said. “I am convinced that we live at the most exciting moment in the history of the church.”

Learn more about Everyone, Everywhere, visit the  Jesus Film website.

Photos (top to bottom)

Residents of the central African country of Gabon view a showing of the JESUS Film.

Dr. Erick Schenkel, author of Everyone, Everywhere

Images courtesy of the Jesus Film Project®

© 2017 Inside The Pew

By Tonya Whitaker
Inside The Pew

For seven Super Bowls, Nita Belles has brought attention to the troubling occurrence of human trafficking that takes in-our-backyard-human-traffickingplace during major sporting events. And this year is no different.

Millions are awaiting the big game between the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons, scheduled to take place in Houston, Texas, the host city of Super Bowl 51, on Sunday, February 5, 2017, but as in previous years, human trafficking is a real concern to many, especially Nita Belles.

Belles is the founder of In Our Backyard (IOB) — http://inourbackyard.org/ — and Jan. 28 she officially announced the launch of the “Convenience Stores Against Trafficking” (CSAT) initiative. She did so during her appearance as keynote speaker at “Vulnerable: A Conference on the Issues of Gender, Race, Poverty & Human Trafficking,” held at South Main Baptist Church, 4100 Main St. in Houston. The free conference kicked off at 1 p.m.

“The Houston Super Bowl was the right time to launch the campaign,” Belles said. “Houston was very accepting and welcoming of the program. Greater Houston Retailers Association put CSAT materials and training out to 1,900 convenience stores.”

IOB will also work with local law enforcement and other groups responding to the anticipated increased sex trade activity in the Houston area. Days before the launch of the initiative, on Jan. 24, KTRK-TV, the ABC-affiliate in Houston, reported a 21-year-old woman — who said she was brought to Houston specifically for sex trafficking at the Super Bowl — was raped in downtown Houston by a pimp. According to the report, a Good Samaritan rescued the woman and took her to Ben Taub Hospital for treatment.

In addition, Belles said her organization have unveiled a major social media drive aiming to boost awareness of human trafficking during the events surrounding the February 5th game. The anti-human trafficking campaigner said she hopes for a quarter of a million shares of the new Thunderclap video, “Link Arms Across America,” during the first quarter. The short awareness message features former victims holding signs of things they were told by their traffickers.

“Thousands of women, children, and even some men across the country are caught up in the horrors of sex trafficking, convinced that there is no way out, and convenience stores can be a first line of help for these victims,” Belles said. “Businesses like these can be heroes in this fight; we’re so glad for their support.”

Since founding IOB in 2006, Belles has become widely recognized as a leading voice in the fight against human trafficking. A frequent speaker to law enforcement, medical, civic and community groups, she has also been an adviser on anti-trafficking legislation to legislators in several states and authored the authoritative book “In Our Backyard: Human Trafficking in America and What We Can Do to Stop It.”

“Human trafficking happens 24/7, 365 days a year, in every zip code in America,” Belles said. “But working together, we can bring an end to this atrocity.”

Belles said volunteers are being recruited for the event to help canvas convenience stores in the Houston area. Visit the IOB website (http://inourbackyard.org/) to sign up.

© 2017 Inside The Pew