In this issue of the newsletter
Update: Christmas for Refugees successful despite Covid-19
Update: The cause of the suffering of Syrian Christian children
Update: Heart for the Persecuted Church – Unification of our programs
New: Working with the Tiv Tribe in Nigeria to help displaced Christians
Christmas for Refugees despite Covid-19
Christmas for Refugees: There were no large Christmas for Refugees events this year with hundreds of children celebrating the birth of our Lord except in Syria and Nigeria. Normally in each country buses pick up children from various points and families drop them off at auditoriums, churches, civic centers or other venues.
In past years the children have spent hours at the Christmas events participating in songs, games, contests and having a hot meal. Covid-19 restrictions made that impossible this year. We were restricted the most in Iraq this year, but in Lebanon we were able to host many more children than previous years.
The events may have been toned down, but they were still about Jesus. In many places the children had to walk one at a time through the venue and pick up their gifts and the gifts for their families.
The gifts were not inexpensive trinkets that can be found at Walmart. The gifts consisted of Christian books, activity books and other items that are useful.
Everything distributed, including custom items we had made, was in Arabic. Families received food vouchers and hygiene kits or blankets depending on the area served.
Christmas decorations were put up at each distribution place, and Christmas carols played as the children picked up their gifts.
Because of the shortened work weeks for Christmas and New Year’s, this newsletter had to be sent to the printer before many of the Christmas events had taken place. In the next newsletter there will be more reports of Christmas events along with photos.
The number of children participating increased from last year, but the final counts will not be known for some time. Communications from areas in Syria (where we drastically raised the number of children and families) is difficult because of the ongoing attacks by terrorist groups and the sanctions imposed on Syria by Western nations.
Syrian Christian children: The Christian children of Syria are suffering, not only those facing jihadists, but those that are in deep poverty in Lebanon. What happened?
Syria had a higher per capita number of college graduates than did the United States before the invasion of Western-supported Jihadists through Turkey beginning in Islamic terrorists from all over the world travelled through Turkey to do Jihad in secular Syria for the purpose of establishing a Sunni Muslim Caliphate.
Syria was an advanced nation with large manufacturing areas. It had one of the largest pharmaceutical industries in the world. Many of those companies were owned by Christians.
Because of a Russian military presence, including a Russian naval base located in Syria on the Mediterranean, many Western nations including the United States, jumped at the chance to support al-Qaeda rebels and later the Islamic State, claiming them as “legitimate opposition” to the secular Syrian government.
It was not until the Islamic State controlled large areas of Syria and Iraq and began attacks on American and European interests, that Western nations moved in and reluctantly began bombing campaigns against the very groups that they had armed beginning in 2011.
The jihadists supported by Western nations had targeted the Christian population. Entire villages of Christians were wiped out. Tens of thousands of Syrian Christians fled to Lebanon and Jordan. Meanwhile, Iraqi Christians fled as the Islamic State troops from Syria took over much of the traditional Christian homeland in northern areas including the Nineveh Plain.
As Western and Russian air forces destroyed jihadist targets, the Syrian government took back territory the Jihadists had controlled and discovered hundreds of tons of arms made in the United States, the UK, and Israel. Many of those arms had been used to kill and displace Christians, despite promises made by Sunni Muslim “rebels” not to harm religious minorities.
March 2021 will mark the tenth year of Syria and Iraq fighting Jihadists, and it is not over. Despite the lack of news in the mainstream media there are still areas in Iraq held by the Islamic State while “moderate” jihadists supported by Turkey hold areas in northern Syria.
The amount of suffering by the Christian populations of Iraq and Syria was greater than any other group. As I have reported before … I have been there, and I have been in the destroyed homes and churches and I have talked with and prayed with the survivors.
Christians have suffered in the Middle East ever since the 633 invasion of the Fertile Crescent which includes most of Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, but somehow they held on and continued the Christian faith in the Middle East. Christians live in towns Paul and the other Apostles walked through and preached in during the first century after the Ascension of the Lord.
The Holy Land is not just Israel. The Lord intervened and changed the life of Saul on the Road to Damascus. The ministry of Saint Paul began in Syria!
The programs I began in the Middle East were designed not only to help the beleaguered Christians materially but most importantly — spiritually. The Christmas for Refugees program reinforces the knowledge of the Lord in Christian children who have seen their homes destroyed and in some cases their parents murdered.
The programs of the Religious Freedom Coalition, including the Christmas for Refugees program, help Christian ministries in the Middle East survive. With the dwindling number of Christians, some ministries would be forced to shut down without programs like ours.
Helping Christian workers: Christians are employed because of our programs. The programs also help Christian businesses survive. I’m not shipping Chinese made toys bought at a USA Walmart to the Middle East.
I am not wasting money shipping Chinese stuff from America to Iraq! Our ministry is buying as much locally produced materials as can be found in Iraq, Lebanon and even the West Bank.
When we give a child a new toothbrush and several tubes of toothpaste, it is made in Lebanon. Arabic Christian Bibles, workbooks and even coloring books are made in Lebanon or sometimes in Iraq. Blankets for families in colder areas are made by a company of Syrian Christian refugees in Lebanon.
In the “West Bank” I strive to give children at our Christmas events items that were produced locally by Christians. Each year we have given the children who participated hoodies. They were purchased from a Christian vendor and the Scripture verse imprinted on them was done by Christian workers in the Holy Land. Those are jobs that help Christians as they struggle to continue to live in the land where our Lord preached.
The supporters of the Religious Freedom Coalition are helping Christians hold onto their homes, their churches, their businesses and their ministry organizations in the Middle East.
Heart for the Persecuted Church
Christmas for Refugees and Diapers for Refugees programs are a part of the Religious Freedom Coalition’s overall ministry, Heart for the Persecuted Church.
Better Identifier: In the Middle East and Africa this ministry is not identified as the Religious Freedom Coalition but rather by the names of programs such as Christmas for Refugees and Diapers for Refugees. In Iraq for several years pastors just referred to us as the “Diaper Ministry.” Using the various program names has caused some confusion with churches that think they are dealing with more than one ministry when in fact it is just one ministry – us!
There has also been some confusion for donors in the United States. Some of the Internet supporters of the Christmas for Refugees program have no knowledge of the Diapers for Refugees program because the two programs have their own Internet sites.
It is my plan to bring in the various overseas programs under one name, Heart for the Persecuted Church. There will still be a Diapers for Refugees and a Christmas for Refugees, but those and other ministries, such as for the orphanage in Nigeria, will be moved to one Internet site under the banner of Heart for the Persecuted Church.
Letter to President Trump
Ambassador Sam Brownback: I was one of the main signers of a joint letter to President Trump asking him to award the Medal of Freedom to former Senator Brownback who is Ambassador-at-large for International Religious Freedom.
I have worked on numerous projects with Ambassador Brownback starting when he was elected to Congress. He served one term in 1995-1996 before running for and winning a Senate seat from Kansas. He almost immediately began the Senate Values Action Team to work for legislation supporting social conservatism and religious freedom.
On 9-11 I was on my way to participate in a press conference with then Senator Sam Brownback when Sunni Muslim jihadists flew hijacked civilian airlines into the Twin Towers in New York and the Pentagon in Virginia. That press conference was to promote the Sudan Peace Act designed to stop then Sunni Muslim dictator Omar al-Bashir from killing Christians in the South Sudan.
Sam Brownback left the Senate to become governor of Kansas and was in his second term when he resigned to take the post of Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, after being appointed by President Trump.
That is dedication! Brownback left a powerful political position as governor of Kansas to work for international religious freedom. In our letter to President Trump, I and others stated:
“We write as an informal, multi-faith coalition of organizations and individuals to ask you to recognize the achievements of U.S. Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback by awarding him the Presidential Medal of Freedom.” The letter included numerous accomplishments of Ambassador Brownback in promoting religious freedom. Please pray with me that President Trump will answer positively.
The Nigeria Mission
Queen of the Tiv Tribe: Just before Christmas I spent nearly an hour on a Zoom call with Queen Felicia Hembadoon Ayatse of the Tiv Tribe in Nigeria.
She is the wife of the Tor Tiv (king) of the Tiv Tribe that is predominately in Benue State. Tor Tiv James Ortese Iorzua Ayatse was the first king of the Tiv Tribe to be sworn in on the Holy Bible. The Queen works to aid Christians forced from their lands by Sunni Muslim herdsmen of the Fulani Tribe.
I have visited the IDP (Internally Displaced Persons) camps in Benue, and the Religious Freedom Coalition has delivered aid there. As the state sponsored oppression of Christians and Shia Muslims worsens there are more and more IDP’s. Queen Felicia is working to create schools within the IDP camps and to assist Christian children.
It is my prayer that our Heart for the Persecuted Church ministry will have affordable projects to pursue in Benue State. Benue is 95% Christian and has a very stretched budget to care for the tens of thousands of IDP’s.
Our Orphanage in Nigeria: The orphanage we support in Plateau State was able to hold one of our traditional Christmas programs with no masks and no social distancing because the children live together and are isolated from the outside.
Photos of all Christmas events can be found at www.Christmas4Refugees.org