PICTURE EDITION 34: THE CHURCH IN MOROCCO: ALMOST VISIBLE AGAIN!

1. History

Morocco is situated in the north west corner of Africa. It has fertile land in the north, the Atlas mountains in the centre and the Sahara desert to the south. The recorded history of Morocco begins with the Phoenician colonization of the Moroccan coast between the 8th and 6th centuries BC, although the area was inhabited by indigenous Berbers for some two thousand years before that.

In the 5th century BC, Carthage extended its rule westward over the coastal areas of Morocco, while the hinterland was ruled by indigenous kings. These kings re-took control a few centuries later and ruled until 40 CE, when Morocco was annexed by the Roman Empire.

The region was then conquered by the Arab Muslims in the early 8th century and was the launching point for the Muslim assault on Western Europe in 711AD. Berber-dominated Morocco broke away from the Arab-centric Umayyad Caliphate after the Berber Revolt of 740AD. Under self-rule, Morocco has dominated north-west Africa for  the last 1,300 years, and also Muslim Spain for the first 500 years of that period.

In 1912, European powers took control and divided Morocco into French and Spanish protectorates. Moroccans agitation for independence grew stronger from the 1940’s onwards and the Moroccans were granted independence from France in 1956 on the condition that they become a constitutional monarchy. In 1975 it occupied land in the western Sahara claimed by Spain and has maintained control of this disputed territory since then. Sadly, Morocco is now a majority Arab country, with the native Berbers now constituting only 41% of the population. The official language is Arabic, but Berber is still widely spoken in many homes.

2. Today

Compared to many other Muslim nations Morocco has enjoyed a relatively peaceful existence since independence due to a limited form of democracy. However, it is increasingly authoritarian in the face of a rising Islamist threat. Literacy is low, officially around 50%, but functionally much lower. The economy survives on tourism, fertilizer mining, textiles and agriculture, with incomes being some 6% of the USA. This figure hides the sad fact that there is a great gap between the rich few and the masses of poor. Unemployment is very high so many youth seek employment in Europe. Such massive income disparity provides fuel for the Islamists.

Sunni Islam is the state religion, officially claiming 99.88% of the population, but the existence of now vastly shrunken historic Christian and Jewish communities is tolerated. Islam’s drift toward fundamentalism among the poor and the opposing force of materialistic secularisation from neighbouring Europe are tearing at the fabric of religious unity in modern Morocco.

3. True Christianity

Christianity is much older than Islam in Morocco. It was the religion of opposition to the tyranny of Rome among the Berbers. Even in modern times Morocco was still home to a large minority Christian community. Casablanca was almost 50% European during the time of the French Protectorate. However, most Europeans and Christians from the ancient denominations have migrated to the Western world since independence.  In modern Morocco it is legal to talk about Christianity and to invite discussion, but all known Christian activity is closely monitored by the government. During the Arab Spring in 2011 a large number of expatriate Christians were deported and their institutions closed. Local believers are regularly  harassed by police and have been known to be imprisoned for their faith. The state-run media plays its part in stirring up opposition to any form of Christianity. Their motivation comes partially from the French and Spanish Catholic push to convert Muslims during the colonial era.

The Voice of the Martyrs reports there is a growing number of native Moroccans (45,000) converting to Christianity, especially Berber people in the rural areas. Many of the converts are baptized secretly in Morocco’s old churches. Some local believers deliver podcasts via internet radio stations and youtube, and then distribute Bibles to interested listeners. House churches dominate indigenous expressions of faith so it is unknown just how many Moroccan believers there are or how fast the church is growing. Arrests are common, suggesting that the underground church is growing significantly. Agadir and Marrakech, in particular, are known to have significant Christian populations. Intriguingly, recent statements from the government suggest a change is in the air and tolerance of Christianity is finally coming to pass.

4. Prayer Points

Something has started. Let’s fan the flames with prayer!

Pray for a major breakthrough among the Berbers, as is happening in Algeria next door

Pray for that breakthrough to flow into the Arabic community

Pray for signs wonders, dreams and miracles

Pray for internet media to reach into millions of hearts

Pray for boldness in the face of persecution from family and friends

Pray for faith to take the place of fear in all believers

Pray for the government to continue softening its tone toward Christians

Pray for believers to challenge Satan’s strongholds

Pray for the Good News to reach the nomadic tribes in the south

Pray for refugees and immigrants transiting through Morocco, many are Christians

Pray for Bibles, numbers are currently restricted

PICTURE EDITION 33: THE CHURCH IN MAYOTTE: VIRTUALLY NON-EXISTANT

1. History

Mayotte consists of two small islands located half way between Madagascar and Africa, and is part of the Comoros chain of volcanic mountain tops jutting out from the Mozambique Channel. The area was known to Arab and Iranian traders who brought their religion to the islands, and its name is a French corruption of the Arabic Jazīrat al-Mawt meaning islands of death. Mayotte’s people are 90% indigenous to the island or the Comoros islands and their ancestors were likely people from the African Swahili and Bantu cultures who came over from as early as 1000 BC.

Shiragi Arabs from Persia first arrived in AD 933, bringing Sunni Islam with them. From the 8th to the 13th centuries they were followed by an influx of Austronesian sailors from Southeast Asia, who had earlier settled nearby Madagascar. Thus, like Comoros next door, Mayotte can lay claim to being the first site of the complete mixing of the African, Arabian and Asian people groups.

In 1843 France took control of all the islands of all the region and on July 6, 1975 the Comorian parliament passed a resolution declaring unilateral independence. The representatives of the island of Mayotte abstained and in two subsequent referendums the population of Mayotte voted decisively against independence from France. Mayotte thus remains under French administration and is 9 times richer than the other Comoros islands due to French financial subsidies.

2. Today

Although far richer than its neighbours in Comoros, Mayotte is by far the poorest protectorate in the world belonging to France. It is home to a French military base and widespread welfare subsidies have dramatically reduced any incentive to be self-sufficient. Thus agriculture is collapsing and the population lives off expensive imported foods. All the while the population grows through natural means and large scale illegal immigration from Comoros. Many times the United Nations has condemned France’s continued occupation of the islands, and has repeatedly recognised Comoros’ legal claim to sovereignity, but to no avail. This is at odds with 99% of the population who wish to remain part of France.

Two hundred and eighty thousand Mayotteans live on just 373 square km of land. Literacy is somewhere between 30 and 50%. Because money is relatively easy and life relaxed, a spirit of complacency rests on most of the population. If nothing changes in Mayotte there will be an eventual disaster and major policy shift from France as lazy wealth continues to attract a never-ending stream of illegal immigrants from Comoros to these two tiny islands.

3. True Christianity

Around 97% of the population is Sunni Muslim, but folk Islam and witchcraft are widespread. Many people are involved in cults practicing spirit possession. Approximately 26% of the adult population, mostly men, report regularly entering trance states in which they believe they are possessed by certain demonic spirits. Islands of death is definitely an apt description of the spiritual state of Mayotte.

There are only around 250 known evangelicals on the islands as part of a wider community of 3,200 nominal Christians, mainly Catholic. There are just three evangelical congregations on the islands, and they do not yet have a fired-up vision for reaching their fellow citizens. Because Mayotte is French, evangelism is legal and never challenged, but is not common due to widespread social pressure. Evangelical Christianity needs to find a way to get inside the indigenous culture. The most response to the Gospel comes from the illegal immigrants from Comoros where they have never heard anything to do with Christianity.

4. Prayer Points

As for the Maldives and nearby Comoros, Satan thinks he owns these islands. But prayer will change the future!

Pray for demonic powers to be decisively broken

Pray for local believers to get a vision for souls

Pray for culturally sensitive evangelism

Pray for ex-Muslim evangelists to come as church planters

Pray for signs, wonders and miracles to shake up complacent hearts

Pray for souls!

Too Proud? Fifty Years After The Stonewall Riots

Note from Kevin: The following article, by James Parker, is the best summary I have ever read about the homosexual movement. James is a former gay activist who today supports same-sex attracted people and their loved ones.

Fifty years after the Stonewall riots: What the LGBTQI+ movement needs is less pride and more humility…

Fifty years ago gay, lesbians and cross-dressers fought back when police raided a seedy bar in New York, the Stonewall Inn. The ensuing riot lasted for a couple of days. It was the opening shot in the gay liberation movement and over the years has acquired an almost mythological status. This weekend, “pride” events will be celebrated across the world.

I became a gay activist 20 years after the Stonewall Riots. I set out to fight for a better world, where no one should feel shame for being honest about who they were sexually attracted to. I had been raised to believe that a person’s future flows from facing their present reality. My reality was that I fancied men, and only men.

Accepting during puberty that I was erotically attracted to my own sex was an excruciatingly painful revelation, and not without suicidal undertones. By accepting my reality I found a new inner strength, purpose – and yes, pride.

To the best of my knowledge, I was the first person to come out in my Catholic high school. I was also the first person to come out in my university college and consequently saw it as my duty to make a stand for lesbian and gay, or L & G, rights. (There were no BTQQIAAPP+2S minorities in those days.)

I learned of the successful attempt in 1973 by gay members of the American Psychiatric Association to tweak 81 words which suddenly redefined homosexuality and cast off its ancient shackles as a sexual deviance and a mental disease. Just this past week, American psychoanalysts offered an apology for labelling homosexuality an illness.

In the 80s, I engaged with leading gay strategists from the USA and the UK. I devoured their content which outlined all we are seeing transpire today.

Their strategy was that homosexual men and women should infiltrate and take leadership within key areas of society, most notably the entertainment industry, mainstream media, education, politics, healthcare – especially psychology and psychiatry, the military, religion and sport. The purpose was to use their positions to bring about homosuperiority. Yes, not homonormativity or even mere equality, but homosuperiority.

Homosuperiority was to be achieved by meticulously following the propaganda manifesto entitled After The Ball: How America Will Conquer Its Fear and Hatred of Gays In The 90s, by neuropsychiatrist Marshall Kirk and communications consultant Hunter Madsen.

If you didn’t know, the manifesto is working exceedingly well, thank you very much, with its key themes on display in the Israel Folau debacle.

There were eight principles. Principle 5 laid down in After The Ball calls for portraying gays as victims, not as aggressive challengers, and the use of propaganda to rely “more upon emotional manipulation than upon logic, since its goal is, in fact, to bring about a change in the public’s feelings”.

Propaganda, it says, “can be unabashedly subjective and one-sided. There is nothing necessarily wrong with this.” Corporate Australia has dived headfirst into this principle.

To call people “homophobic” is also expected should opponents fail to wholly embrace homosexual ideology. Politicians and civic leaders have equally become puppets to this principle.

Any speech which opposes, or even questions, homosexual behaviour should be banned as “a clear and present danger to public order”. The school curriculum, psychology and psychiatry and mainstream media all now tow the rainbow party line.

Principle 5 states that “in time, we see no reason why more and more diversity should not be introduced into the projected image” citing “drag queens, bull dykes, and other exotic elements of the gay community”. Remember, this vision was cast over 30 years ago. You now need look no further than local bookshops and libraries to see this principle being lived out.

Once birthed, the seed of pride demands that layers of further lies and calumny be added to protect the original fault from being exposed. Welcome to the world of Gay Pride.

With every generation there is a growing demand to ensure each social stratum is more deeply inculcated with adherence to the original lie. No one must admit that the emperor has no clothes on. Therefore, “conversion therapy”, a term recently created by gay activists, has been used in the past decade to demonise any assistance given to someone suffering the pain of same-sex attraction.

To add another layer of lies to the conversion therapy myth is the phrase “internalised homophobia” which denotes that individuals who refuse to embrace and even celebrate their erotic attractions to the same sex are somehow turned in against themselves. Yes, they are their own problem.

No stone must be left unturned The same lie must be repeated incessantly that not only is gay good, but that gay is godly, and even that God is gay.

This of course requires a complete perverting of the natural world. Aldous Huxley wrote clearly of this when describing the results of social anthropologist J. D. Unwin’s study of 80 primitive tribes and six known civilizations through 5000 years of history laid out in the book, Sex and Culture.

Huxley wrote:

“Sex and Culture” is a work of the highest importance. Unwin’s conclusions… may be summed up as follows. All human societies are in one or another of four cultural conditions: zoistic, manistic, deistic, rationalistic. Of these societies the zoistic displays the least amount of mental and social energy, the rationalistic the most. Investigation shows that the societies exhibiting the least amount of energy are those where pre-nuptial continence is not imposed and where the opportunities for sexual indulgence after marriage are greatest. The cultural condition of a society rises in exact proportion as it imposes pre-nuptial and post-nuptial restraints upon sexual opportunity.

According to Unwin, after a nation becomes prosperous it becomes increasingly liberal with regard to sexual morality and as a result loses its cohesion, its impetus and its purpose. The process, says the author, is irreversible:

The whole of human history does not contain a single instance of a group becoming civilized unless it has been absolutely monogamous, nor is there any example of a group retaining its culture after it has adopted less rigorous customs.

The LGBTQI+ communities barely bat an eyelid to open relationships – before, during, after and without same-sex marriage. Group or polyamorous relationships are fast becoming acceptable. Any additional minority that wishes to add its letter to the alphabet acronym must be welcomed and incontestably supported, meaning that any sexual activity undertaken by any minority group who “cannot help the way they feel” be accepted. This should both frighten and anger us.

It is no wonder that 50 years after Stonewall, contemporary riots are not being waged on the streets against the police and statutory authorities but appear online with rugby at the heart, one of the globe’s toughest team sports that was deliberately formed not only on Christian values, but with the purpose of forming a strong, robust and masculine spirit evidenced in the witness of Israel Folau.

Our online riot is foremost a fight against Judeo-Christian values, the very glue that has held together Western society and permitted it to excel as it has.

The activists’ world I embraced demanded that I take on a calculated intolerance, a bigoted mindset, a capacity to rabidly hate, and the ability to reject, or at least to distort, everything I came across that even questioned the establishment of a homosuperior world. And all of this while bowing to the mantra that #LoveWins.

I had to believe first within myself that the lie I was being sold was nothing short of the truth. There is no wonder that lavender militants are alarmed to discover that the younger generation they have been resolutely brainbow-washing are now growing less rather than more tolerant of LGBTQI+ individuals and ideals.

Stonewall and contemporary LGBTQI+ activism have never been about an equal, diverse, inclusive and tolerant world. No. The illusory pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is more a darkened cauldron. It brings to the table a diminishment, and ultimate eradication, of mainstream freedoms such as speech, thought, association or a belief or anything which fails to pay total homage to what for millennia has previously been defined as a sexual deviancy.

If you think I have an axe to grind, well, you are right. I care too much to remain silent.

On a daily basis I walk with young people coming to terms with their same-sex attractions, with individuals struggling with the concept of being male or female, and with men and women ditching their other-sex spouse and children (and now even their same-sex spouse and surrogate or adoptive children) to pursue a “more fulfilling” relationship with one or more people somewhere over the rainbow.

Fifty years on from Stonewall, with every pillar of society now rainbow-friendly and frightened, I see 50 plus shades of gay grey which continue to imprison those who pursue an LGBTQI+ utopia. Five decades later, dysfunction has not only been accepted, but in places it has actually worsened.

The cocktail of gay hook-up apps along with accessibility to the drug Truvada taken by HIV-negative people to reduce their risk of HIV infection has birthed a more sexually compulsive world than existed prior to the AIDS epidemic of the 80s. Unbridled sexual activity only leads to more addictive and destructive disconnection, which in turn is leading to more partner interpersonal violence and sadistic practices.

The sexual health clinicians I have spoken to in the past month report working on a constant level of overdrive trying to deal with the inordinate numbers of problematic sexual health cases they have to diagnose and process.

Self-harm is on the rise, even if only looked at from the perspective of time spent engrossed in the consumption of pornography which cuts off individuals from the healthy engaging relationships which we all need to survive and thrive. Then there are the mood disorders, panic, bi-polar and conduct disorders. There is a new rise in agoraphobia, and no significant reduction in suicides, even in pro-homosexual nations like Sweden, the Netherlands and New Zealand.

Is this the Golden Liberation we should be celebrating? For the most part, the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots is a celebration of man’s ever deepening foolishness. The story of Israel Folau reads like a fable and yet unravels before our very eyes displaying layers of pride woven to cover pride to cover earlier pride, all based upon one man privately posting online three verses of the Christian Scriptures.

I fear for members of the LGBTQI+ community and for those who join their ranks. I equally fear for any society that embraces essentialist viewpoints about human sexuality without the balance of constructionist and developmental viewpoints which are presently being silenced.

My activism today is born out of a different heart. For nearly two decades I have facilitated spiritual support groups for those who experience varying degrees of same-sex attraction and for those questioning their biological sex. Those who attend can ask deeper questions compared to those who remain isolated at home or who engage with the gay community as a whole. Attendee’s desire answers – and many get them, and especially to matters relating to childhood sexual abuse, to emotional or physical abuse or neglect.

If one person can move from being homosexual to heterosexual (and believe me there are thousands across Australia and in every nation who are rejecting homosexuality) then it is clear that the fundamental LGBTQI+ narrative of being born gay contains within it a number of myths, each one of which requires dismantling, not celebrating.

I still fight for spaces where young and old alike can face the reality of their attractions. No one should be afraid to admit to, or be discriminated against for, being erotically attracted to their own sex or for questioning their own gender identity.

And yet as celebrations of Gay Pride unfold across the globe, today more than ever I believe we need to take stock of the Biblical proverb quoted consistently throughout the ages, “Pride goes before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.

I was invited to reject pride. Today, my dominant attraction is very much towards women. I am one of the fortunate individuals who escaped the gay community and stumbled across professional therapy which enabled me to pursue the developmental viewpoint about human sexuality.

My earlier dysfunctions, still prevalent at the heart of the LGBTQI+ community, have diminished or disappeared. I am no longer a label, or divided from mainstream society, or fighting a losing battle.

Fifty years on from the Stonewall Riots in Manhattan, much has indeed changed, but not all for the good. Instead of giving time and energy to matters of pride, I believe it is time to engage on a whole new level of forming a society where humility becomes ubiquitous at all levels. And for everyone’s sake, that is a battle worth fighting for.

 

PICTURE EDITION 26: KYRGYZSTAN: A SMALL AND STRUGGLING CHURCH

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1. History

Kyrgyzstan was at the heart of the Silk Road trade for millennia because of its east-west oriented mountains and subsequent abundant food and water supply. The ancient nomads pioneered the many local trade routes before horse traders from China took them over and started trading further and further west, eventually reaching Europe. In fact the southern city of Osh was famously called the half-way point in this once great trade route. Various peoples, including the Buddhist Kushans and Uyghurs, ruled these lands before the Mongols invaded in the 13th Century. This invasion was devastating, costing the Kyrgyz their written language and their independence.

A century later the Turco-Mongolian empire of Timur brought devastation to the Christian communities of the entire Central Asian Region, reportedly killing over 7 million believers in his Satanic purge of Christianity form his empire in the name of Islamic domination. In 1775 the Russians, under Catherine the Great, began to take an interest in the Kyrgyz people and region. In 1876 they formally annexed most of central Asia. This was the first and only time Central Asia has been ruled by Europeans. Eventually Communism was brutally imposed on the Kyrgyz, supressing Islam at all levels.

2. VToday

In 1991 Kyrgyzstan finally gained its long awaited independence only to be ruled by two corrupt dictators, both removed through popular revolt. It has since become one of the few former Soviet Bloc countries that has successfully transitioned to a democracy and is friendly with the west, even allowing US troops to use its airport during the Afghan War.

With only 6 million people, so much mountainous terrain and few natural resources, Kyrgyzstan remains a poor country with an income of just 2% of the USA. Consequently, half a million Kyrgyz have had to seek work abroad, mainly to the north in Kazakhstan.

Most Russians left the country soon after independence, but they left a distinctly European landscape and culture in the Capital city of Bishkek. German is also widely spoken in Kyrgyzstan as it was where Stalin sent many of his German prisoners of war. At independence the country was 5% German! Nearly all have since left. However, if you travel several mountain ranges to the south of the country there is a distinctly Islamic ethnicity, culture and identity, and it also much poorer. That’s what I found when I was there in 2016.

As with most Central Asian countries, Islam is on the rise since the fall of Communism. Some 2,000 mosques were built with Middle Eastern money between 2000 and 2005. Increasing Islamisation has created an atmosphere of fear for the few remaining Russian Orthodox and newer evangelical believers. However, most Kyrgyz people are still nominal Muslims and we met some while there who were proud to talk of their obvious shamanist beliefs.

3. Evangelical Highlights

Because it was on the Silk Road, the Nestorian church with its amazingly active missionary movement came to Kyrgyzstan very early in the history of Christianity. Several uniquely Christian cities have left remains in the fertile valleys of Kyrgyzstan even to this day. We saw a stone image of Christ in 2016 while visiting an archaeological site of the Kyrgyz Medieval city of Balasagun destroyed by the Mongols.

With the fall of Communism there was a short window of opportunity for Christian missions within Kyrgyzstan and the church grew impressively in those few years. Today believers number some 50,000 or around 1% of the country, are centred in the northern city of Bishkek, and are culturally Western in their Church practice. This is a legacy of 120 years of a “real church” having a building and being registered with the government. This is unfortunate as visible Western displays of faith are associated with European subjugation and Islamic repression in the minds of the Kyrgyz peoples. Kyrgyzstan awaits a truly indigenous expression of the Christian faith such as we are seeing in Pakistan and Bangladesh. There are signs that this may finally be taking shape via a fledgling house church movement in the south.

4. Prayer Points

Pray for the young people who are making a stand for Jesus in the face of strong persecution

Pray for a culturally sensitive expression of Christianity to emerge, such as house churches

Pray for the intrepid and invisible church planters from South Asia. It is their backyard

Pray for boldness in the face of Islamic intimidation, property destruction and violence

Pray for unity between the old orthodox and the new evangelical believers

Pray for believers in the south, they are few and far between

Pray that radical Islam will become repulsive to the local people

Pray for apostolic leadership to rise up, people with a vision to take the land

Pray for the many young professionals in Bishkek who are now followers of Jesus

Pray for a decisive spiritual breakthrough, this used to by a largely Christian land!

Pray for the nomads, there are many. How do we reach them?

Pray for the emerging house church network of the Fergana Valley in the far south.

 

PICTURE EDITION 32: THE CHURCH IN MAURITANIA: ALMOST NON-EXISTENT!

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1. History

The history of Mauritania, what little there is since its people were mostly desert nomads until the 1970’s, is bound up in three distinct ethnic groups. There are the sub-Saharan black Africans who have always inhabited the extreme south hugging the Senegal River. Then there are the Berber/Arab people who were in control of the northern regions since the beginnings of the Arab Empire in the 10th Century. They are called the White Moors. Mauritania even takes its name from an ancient Berber kingdom. Then there are the Black Moors who are in part the descendants of the slaves of the White Moors. The nation is split evenly between these three ethnic groups, with the last two always vying with each other for power. Arabic is now the official language.

Islam came to the region a thousand years ago via the slave trade and the wider Islamisation of the Sahara desert regions. It is now deeply entrenched at all levels of society but as is common in Africa, under the surface of Islam there is widespread involvement in witchcraft and black magic. Satan has an iron grip on the people of Mauritania.

2. Today

Independent from France in 1960, Mauritania now has 4 million people but was still 70% nomadic as late as 1970. It is statistically depressing: It is one of the world’s poorest countries. It has a life expectancy of just 51 years. Over 40% of the population is under 15 years of age and fewer than half can read, especially women. One third of children face chronic malnutrition and the desert grows harsher every year. Most people still make their living from subsistence herding in its vast deserts while only 1% of the country is arable, this being the thin northern floodplain of the Senegal river. Mauritania is a place that both time and the outside world have forgotten about.

Being 99.75% Muslim, it has suffered more than its fair share of political violence and military coups. Islamic tradition is responsible for the still functioning slave trade in the interior and Sharia law is widely followed. Sadly, Mauritania is a also key transition point for African refugees seeking a better life in Europe and South American drugs heading the same way.

3. True Christianity

There is virtually none. Mauritania has never known the Good News in any way shape or form. The only Christian presence is in the far south among the Sub-Saharan black Africans. There are barely 2,000 evangelicals and 4,000 Catholics among some 4 million people and expatriate Christians are few on the ground following violence toward some of their numbers a decade ago. Local believers have been known to be beaten, imprisoned and endured social ostracism. There is tremendous social and family pressure to conform to Islam, which the national religion of the state and it is unlawful to publish any material that is deemed to be critical of Islam. Few locals travel abroad so opportunity to reach even those few is limited. Compounding the issue for evangelism is the continuing nomadic nature of some 20% of the population.

Having read these depressing statistics it is encouraging to note that most evangelicals are now Spirit-Filled and their numbers are growing at around 6%, or a few hundred, a year. A minority of evangelical Christians are Muslim-background believers who meet in secret underground church groups. We will never know their true numbers. These believers are the key to the future growth of Christianity in Mauritania but they remain well hidden due to increasing Islamic radicalisation. There is some work among Mauritanians living south of the border in Senegal.

4. Prayer Points

Pray for Christians who have paid a high price for their faith.

That God would raise up apostles, prophets, teachers pastors and evangelists

Pray for spiritual growth and maturity of believers

Pray for boldness to take on the demonic powers of darkness

Pray for the Holy Spirit to speak to and guide the church.

Pray for Muslim religious leaders to receive dreams and visions of Jesus

Pray for increased availability of Scripture in all national languages

Pray that the daily radio broadcasts in Arabic and Pulaar would be listened to by many

Pray that the Lord to raise up labourers and send them to this white for harvest field.

 

PICTURE EDITION 31: THE CHURCH IN MALI: GOING NOWHERE. NEEDS A LOT OF HELP!

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1. History

Mali takes its name from the medieval kingdom of the same name that straddled the Sahara Desert and the Sahel grasslands to its south, and acted as a conduit for trade between the north and the south. The famous city of Timbuktu is synonymous with this region and era. Not much is known of the era before this time although one ancient writer describes the king of Mali converting to Islam sometime in the 11th Century. Sometime around the 14th Century a significant minority of the population adopted Islam and Timbuktu became the southern outpost of Islam and a major source of slaves taken from the black Africans further south. About this time the great Mali kingdom began to grow in influence, aided by the fact that the mighty Niger River penetrates north into the Sahara before turning south east.

The Mali kingdom declined around the 17th Century and from then until French occupation in the 1892 Mali was ruled by a succession of short-lived kings. Mali was ruled as a section of the French West African Federation. As with other French colonies, economic and social development was never encouraged as France was more interested in exploitation and suppression. No Protestant ministries were allowed in this era and sadly, it was during this time that the major Islamisation of the country took place. The spiritual story of Mali and all other Sahel countries would now be so different if evangelical ministry was allowed to take root a 100 years ago.

2. Today

Mali finally won its independence in 1960 and for a few years the new country included modern day Senegal. Its current boundaries are ethnically artificial so it includes many different people groups in near equal numbers, except for the 30% Melinke-Bambara peoples. Mali is one of the poorest countries on earth and has many depressing statistics that back-up that unfortunate distinction. Perhaps the worst two are life expectancy at just 48 years, and literacy at 20%. Drought, locusts and desertification are all considered normal in Mali. Drug lords use the unpatrolled desert to ship South American drugs to Europe and there is always a break away Islamic militia somewhere on the northern horizon.

3. Evangelical Highlights

In the midst of all this there is a remarkable democracy and freedom of religion present in the country, a rare commodity in this part of the world. Mali is 87% Muslim but it is a tolerant form of the religion as it is not deeply engrained in the culture. It is still 10% Animist and many Animist practices are still prevalent in the Muslim majority. Occult and voodoo practices are rife in Mali.

Just 2.5% of the country is Christian of which Catholics make up 4/5ths of that figure. There are only 100,000 Protestant Christians out of 16 million people but most Protestants are evangelical believers. This true church grew rapidly between independence in 1960 and 1990 but has since stopped growing and has even shrunk as a % of the population. This is very unusual for an African country of any type and the cause is simply rapid population growth exceeding meagre church growth. Second generation Christianity is proving to be a shallow witness to the surrounding culture (as it is in most Western countries!). Even though the country is spiritually receptive, many who do make decisions for Jesus are poorly discipled and go back to previous practices.

Mali is still very much a mission field and there is some missions work going on, but not nearly enough. A culturally sensitive Muslim-focussed church planting movement is desperately needed.

4. Prayer Points

Pray for African ex-Muslim followers of Jesus to the get a vision for Mali.

Pray for the local church to awaken to the call of the Great Commission

Pray for apostles to be raised up who can initiate change

Pray for prayer warriors to engage the spiritual battle

Pray for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit

Pray for the semi-nomadic northern people who have zero contact with Christianity

Pray for existing believers to throw off fear and begin to engage in spiritual warfare

Pray for radical Muslims to have power encounters with Jesus, just as Saul became Paul.

Pray for the Good News to be followed by signs and wonders

Pray for the lack of Biblical church leaders

PICTURE EDITION 30: THE CHURCH IN THE MALDIVES: IN SERIOUS NEED OF OUR PRAYERS!

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1. History

The Maldives lie about 1,000 kilometres south west of the tip of India and consist of 1,200 small coral islands. The islands were first inhabited by the Dravidian peoples of the South Indian state of Kerala and the Maldives culture still contains many links to these people. The earliest written records mentioning the Maldives islands date to 500 BC. For the next 1,400 years the islands were under Buddhist influence and it is this culture that survives today despite the dominance of Islam. The Maldivian language, the first Maldivian scripts, the architecture, the ruling institutions, the customs and manners of the Maldivians originated during the Buddhist period of its history.

Through the increasing cultural exposure to Muslim sea traders, the king of the Maldives converted to Islam in 1153, ushering in its current religion. His dynasty lasted until 1932. In 1558 the Maldives became a branch of the Portugese trading post of Goa in India. Their attempts to convert the locals to the Catholic religion resulted in their departure 15 years later. The Dutch came next, followed by the British in 1796, neither of these two colonists made the same mistake as the Portugese in trying to convert the locals.

Agitation for self-rule gradually gained momentum in the 20th Century resulting independence in 1965. With 360,000 citizens and 80,000 foreign workers, the Maldives is one of the most densely populated island chains in the world. Its capital, Male, is a most unusual sight indeed.

2. Today

At an average elevation of only 1.5 metres above sea level, the Maldives is in great danger from the ocean. The Tsunami of 2004 inundated nearly all its islands, devastating its agricultural base and fragile ecosystem. The global downturn in 2009 then shattered its lucrative tourism industry. It is a poor country at the mercy of nature and global economics.

Since independence the country politics drifted quickly back toward the autocratic rule of the old Sultanate. From 1978 to 2008 it was under the iron fist of a local dictator. Pressure to open up its political sphere resulted in free elections in 2008. However, within five years political autocracy was reasserting its ugly head and the government has been unstable ever since. Freedom is viewed as a threat and un-Islamic to many of the countries elite.

Behind its beautiful tourist image of an island paradise is a dark reality. Sunni Islam is the only recognised religion and is the enforced centre of all cultural expression. No other religion or ideology is allowed to exist. Freedom of expression is thus severely restricted, divorce rates are among the highest in the world, crime is rampant, as is the abuse of children and endemic drug use among teenagers.

he people of the Maldives are crying out for a better life but are being deliberately held back from the one Truth that can set them free. Part of the reason for this is that the Maldives version of Sunni Islam is deeply rooted in occult practices called Fanditha that pre-date Islam’s arrival. Its Voodoo and black magic are pervasive all the way to the highest political circles. This is an island controlled by Satan in a way not often seen in the modern world.

3. Evangelical Highlights

The people of the Maldives are therefore some of the least evangelised on earth. Freedom of religion is highly unpopular and violent opposition to any conversions is to be expected. To make matters worse, in recent years Islam has shifted sharply toward arrogant and restrictive Saudi Wahhabism. No missions work or Christian missions are allowed and the government denies the existence of any Christians, while simultaneously arresting any they find! Because the Maldives view of Christianity is shaped by the immorality of tourists and western media, Christians are seen as both enemies of Islam and the state. In fact the term Christian is used locally as a swear word to abuse each other!

Anyone who becomes a true follower of Jesus can expect mockery, ostracism, arrest and torture. Consequently there are less than 500 believers in the whole country. Numbers are rising, but from such a small base that a major spiritual breakthrough is desperately needed. There is no Bible in the native language and the internet is the only means of witnessing locally, once past the governments internet firewall!

4. Prayer Points

Pray that the demonic forces that control this nation will be smashed. This is by far the most important need right now

Pray against the demonic strongholds of pride, fear and lust

Pray for the few believers to have the courage to live out their convictions

Pray for divine favour and protection for all believers

Pray for the courage to present a godly lifestyle in the face of social pressure

Pray for disaffected youth to come across the Gospel online,

Pray for locals who travel to be exposed to the true gospel

Pray for the 80,000 foreign workers from South India to be able to share the Truth freely

Pray that the amazing and fast-growing house church movements in India will get a vision to reach into the Maldives

Pray that the yearning for freedom will flow over to religion as well as politics

PICTURE EDITION 29: THE CHURCH IN MALAYSIA: ETHNICALLY ISOLATED AND SUFFERING

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1. History

Malaysia is located on the strategic Asian-Europe sea-lane that exposes it to a huge amount of global trade and foreign culture. The full Malay people group, comprising modern Indonesians, Philippinos, Singaporeans and Malaysians are the world’s greatest seafarers, both historically and still today, making up 1/3rd of all shipping crews. An early western account of the area known today as Malaysia was in Ptolemy’s book Geographia. Indian influence was great, with Hinduism and Buddhism dominating early Malay history and these religions reached their peak with the regionally dominant Srivijaya civilisation from the 7th to the 13th centuries.

Muslims traders had passed through the Malay Peninsula as early as the 10th century, but it was not until the 14th century that Islam first firmly established itself and eventually took over from the older religions. Islam has had a profound influence on the Malay people to this day. The Portuguese were the first European colonial powers to establish themselves on the Malay Peninsula and Southeast Asia, capturing Malacca in 1511. They were followed by the Dutch in 1641. However, it was the British who ultimately secured their hegemony across the territory that is now Malaysia, leaving the southern Islands to the Dutch. This is how Malaysia and Indonesia became separate countries. With the British came a vast number of Chinese and Indian workers who now make up 40% of modern Malaysia.

The Japanese invasion during World War II ended British domination in Malaysia. It unleashed a wave of nationalism which resulted in the declaration of independence on 31 August 1957. Eight years later Singapore was granted full independence from Malaysia.

2. Today

As you can now see “Malaysia” is a modern concept, created in the last two centuries but especially in the second half of the 20th Century. Its people are likewise not rooted in history as 40% are foreign in ethnicity. This eventually led to terrible Race riots directed toward the Chinese in 1969 and the imposition of emergency rule to re-establish Malay control of the country. This curtailment of political freedoms and civil liberties has never been fully reversed and is the foundational doctrine of al modern Malaysian politics. The Malay people have created a two tiered culture with themselves and Islam at the top, and all other ethnicities and other religions at the bottom. Political and economic Corruption and religious intolerance have therefore become hallmarks of modern Malaysia, and this greatly limits its economic development compared to Singapore next door. Even so, Malaysia the industrious Malay people have created the world’s most successful non-oil based Muslim economy.

The government greatly fears the Chinese and Christianity so all Malays are considered Muslim by definition and are legally off limits for evangelism. Over 100 radical Islamist groups agitate for more power and Sharia laws in political life. Malaysia is a hotbed of forment.

3. Evangelical Highlights

Though treated with contempt by the government, Christianity plays a significant part in Malaysia’s cultural life, even though Christians regularly face social discrimination, regular legal injustices and growing discrimination. Amongst many restrictions: No church can be built within 5km of a mosque and over 30 words previously used in the Malay Bible are now off limits. 10% of the country identifies as Christian, with almost half of these being evangelical believers with a growth rate of 3% a year. Unity among believers is high compared to many other countries, although a ghetto mentality has set in among more traditional churches which are aging rapidly.

Most recent evangelical growth has occurred in the Chinese, Indian and tribal peoples. Mainland Malaysia, where most people live, is only 3% Christian but the Christian faith is growing in all non-Muslim groups there, especially among the urban middle class English speaking Chinese. Sadly, this creates an even greater cultural gap between Christianity and indigenous Malay culture.

The only way Malay believers, of whom there are a few tens of thousands, can meet is in underground house churches completely cut off from the visible church. A Malay who converts loses everything and becomes a refugee in their own country, often sent to a prison for “re-education”. This makes the Malays are one of the world’s largest unreached groups.

4. Prayer Points

Pray for the Malays, they need a sovereign spiritual breakthrough from inside their culture.

Pray that whole Malay families will come to faith. This is the ONLY way Christianity can spread in this restrictive culture.

Pray that Satan’s plans will be smashed

Pray for internet and other electronic media to impact the Malay peoples

Pray for the non-English speaking, non-urban Chinese. They lack a Christian presence.

Pray for the Christian tribal peoples of Borneo who face increasing pressure to convert to Islam.

Pray for the many rural areas in the mainland that lack a Christian presence.

Pray for the Orang Asli, the original Malays who are now 10% believers.

Pray for boldness in the face of government discrimination.

Pray that the 8% of Indians who are Christian will grow significantly.

Pray for further growth among the Chinese community.

Pray for Sarawak, which is over 40% Christian, but still animist practices remain.

Pray for all rural Christians as poverty is a huge issue, enticing them to the cities and materialism.

 

PICTURE EDITION 28: THE CHURCH IN LIBYA: SUFFERING TERRIBLE PAIN AND HARDSHIP

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1. History

Libya has been occupied by humans since the dawn of history. During the ice ages after the great flood it was a lush and fertile area with a growing population. From its original population emerged the Berber people group. Sadly it is now 90% desert and most people now hug the Mediterranean coast to the north.

The recorded history of Libya comprises six distinct periods: Ancient Berber Libya, the Greek and Roman eras, the Islamic era, Ottoman rule, Italian rule, and the Modern era. First to join the Berbers were the Phoenicians from Lebanon. The famous city of Carthage was their headquarters. The empire that grew out of Carthage was a major thorn in the side of the expanding Roman Empire across the waters to the north. At the time of Jesus many Berbers traded with Israel and it was a Berber, Simon of Cyrene, who carried Christ’s cross to Gethsemane (Mark 15:21). In 698 AD Libya fell to the Arabs and thus began the still ongoing subjugation of the Berber people, language, culture and their Christian religion.

With the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and its North African possessions during World War 1, Libya fell into the hands of the Italians. Half the Bedouin population was killed in the severe suppression that characterised Italian rule. Libya finally became an independent state in 1952 but only 15 years later it fell into the hands of a military dictator, Muammar Gaddafi who destroyed much of the culture and social cohesion.

2. Today

Gaddafi’s death during the Arab Spring uprisings in 2011, and the power vacuum that followed, has led to large scale disintegration of the country and a religiously motivated civil war. The booty of this war being control of Libya’s vast oil reserves. Only now is there a strong enough faction emerging to pull the country together again.

Libya today is a country of some 8 million people and is the main jumping off point for illegal immigrants from Africa wanting a better life in Europe. Perhaps 2 million more people are stuck in Libya on their way to Europe. Its infrastructure and economy is shattered and the little wealth that does come in from oil, which is 90% of all exports, doesn’t find its way to the common people.

3. Evangelical Highlights

In addition to Simon of Cyrene we hear of Libyans present at the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:10). In the next few centuries the church flourished among the peoples of modern day Libya. Tertullian, the great theologian, was a Libyan Berber. It took many hundreds of years for Arabisation and Islam to destroy this vibrant church culture, but by the European colonial era the process was largely complete. Only a hundred thousand Catholic and Orthodox believers remain from that original church.

In the modern era the true church of Jesus Christ has been reborn in Libya thanks to Protestant missions in the first half of the 20th Century. At the end of the Gaddafi era there was some level of freedom and local believers began to grow in number. However, the anarchy that followed the ouster of Gaddafi plunged the country into chaos and Christians became targets for brutality and persecution. Any new converts to Christianity face abuse and violence for their decision to follow Christ. The many Christian migrants from southern Africa in Libya have been attacked, sexually assaulted, detained for slavery and even executed. Open Doors estimates 7,500 Christians were executed in 2015 alone! The only visible Christians in Libya today are western expatriate foreign workers in the large oil industry. The local church has had to go completely underground. It is one of the worst places in the world to be a local Christian.

The traditional church is now gone, perhaps forever. However I believe ISIS and other radical Islamic groups are actually sowing the seeds of a new church. Their repugnant brutality has brought millions of former Muslims to Christ across the Middle East. In Libya it will be no different. As we pray the Holy Spirit will be working through dreams, visions, visitations, miracles and the like. Many Saul’s will become Pauls in the decades ahead as the ordinary people reject doctrines of violence and the religion that justifies them. Just as the true church in Cambodia disappeared under Pol Pot and is now booming, the same will happen in Libya.

4. Prayer Points

Pray for the families of martyrs. They struggle.

Pray for divine favour and safety for remaining believers

Pray for radicals to meet Jesus just as Saul did

Pray for the Berber people to embrace their original faith

Pray for peace

Pray for Sat-7 satellite broadcasts to speak life and hope into a hopeless situation

Pray for internet ministries to bring many to faith

Pray for stability and an end to war.

PICTURE EDITION 27: THE CHURCH IN LEBANON: LARGE, ANCIENT BUT BARELY ALIVE

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1. History

Lebanon (meaning The White One, referring to the 160km of snow-capped mountains that run parallel to the coast in winter, Jeremiah 18:14) is a small coastal country on the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea. Its history is deep, going back to the dawn of human civilisation. It was the home of the infamous Canaanites at the time Abraham came through on his way to Egypt (Genesis 12:6). Centuries later it was actually part of the territory promised to the Israelites when they came back to the Promised Land out of Egypt (Joshua 1:4, Joshua 3:10). the Song of Songs – are full of praise for Lebanon’s nature, wild animals, waters, trees, flowers, wine, plants and the legendary snow of its high mountains. Lebanese timber was used to build Solomon’s temple. All up Lebanon is mentioned 71 times in the Old Testament.

Lebanon also gave rise to the great civilisation of the Phoenicia which colonised so much of the Mediterranean and gave the world the first taste of a modern alphabet. The Persians then claimed it, as did Alexander the Great and the Romans. The Christian era came next, and then gave way to the Islamic era, but not before a two hundred year return to European Christendom during the era of the Crusades. As you can see, the country is literally built on a maze of precious archaeological ruins!

2. Today

Because of the horrific genocide and ethnic cleansing of Christians from many parts of the Middle East during the late colonial era and early 20th Century, the French government decided to set up a special enclave as a refuge for refugee Christians from right across the Fertile Crescent. Thus modern Lebanon was eventually born in 1948 as the only majority Christian country in the Middle East. It is also the only country with freedom of religion and the only democratic country outside Israel. The country flourished for a while but the good times all came to a shuddering halt when millions of Palestinian refugees entered the country fleeing Jewish persecution (15% of whom were Christians). This led to a 15 year civil war that only ended in 1990. Lebanon has since boomed again but the peace is fragile and the economy not strong.

The country is 87% urban. It has 6 million citizens and 2 million refugees. It is 40% traditional Christian, 27% Sunni Muslim, 27% Shia Muslim and 5% Druze. It is the world’s third most indebted nation and the majority of its poor are Palestinian Muslims because of their lower education levels and refugee backgrounds.

3. Evangelical Highlights

Jesus was actually the first to bring the gospel to Lebanon when he visited Tyre and healed the Phoenician woman’s demon possessed child (Mark 7:24-31)! From there we know Peter and Paul repeated the Good News in later decades. The church grew quickly along the coast but the many mountainous villages were much slower in accepting the Gospel. In fact to this day the Druze of this same region even refuse to accept Islam.

The church eventually settled into a culture of tradition and ritual, abandoning the very life-changing message that gave birth to it in the first place. Today Christianity in Lebanon is 50% Maronite Catholic, 20% Greek Orthodox, 12% Greek Melkite Catholic and 5% Armenian Orthodox. Get the picture! Only some 25,000 or about 0.4% of the population is evangelical. These numbers are growing, but are so tiny as to not have any impact on the vast majority of nominal Christians, let alone the Muslim majority. Sadly, evangelicals are even viewed with great suspicion by these older Christian churches.

The great re-awakening of the Lebanese church is yet to happen, but there are sparks of life in this picture from the few who dare to truly follow Jesus, and there is at least one western-style mega-church in Beirut. Another area of some growth is within the newly arrived Syrian refugees who are open to Christian witness after suffering great trauma caused by Islamic extremists. YWAM is active in the country and there is Christian TV available to many.

Because of its uniquely tolerant  religious social climate, Lebanon is also the base for much evangelical Christian leadership training for churches throughout the Middle East. There are also a number of evangelical Christian schools educating many of the future elite of the country.

4. Prayer Points

Pray for the secretive Druze. There are only a few hundred believers among them

Pray also for the downtrodden Palestinians, there are only a few believers left among them

Pray for the small but growing renewal movement inside the Maronite Church

Pray for peace so Christians from across the Middle East can continue to be trained, and for resources to flow from Lebanon to nearby countries

Pray for the refugees who now know Jesus, that their decisions are genuine and life changing

Pray for a move of healings, miracles, dreams and visions

Pray for the hardened Hezbollah fighters to come to know Jesus

Pray for nominal Christians to have an encounter with the Holy Spirit