In this issue of the newsletter
Update: Christmas programs for displaced Christian children are successful.
New: American groups protest arrest of Christian woman for blasphemy
New: Meetings with Senators on Capitol Hill – The new leadership in Congress
Update: Our annual participation in the live Nativity on Capitol Hill (Protests)
Christmas for Refugees programs in the Middle East
By William J Murray
Cancelled programs reinstated: Most of the Christmas for Refugees events in Lebanon and Syria were reinstated. One of the Christmas programs for Syrian refugee children was held in Akkar which is in the far north of Lebanon. It is a small governorate (Similar to a state in USA) of only 304 square miles. The major city of Homs, Syria lies just to the East.
About one out of every three people now living in Akkar are Syrian refugees, many of them Christians from Homs. There were more than 100,000 Christians in Homs before the current plague of conflicts.
We held three Christmas programs in Homs, Syria, two at the Homs Baptist Church and one at The National Evangelical Church and many more events in other Syrian cities.
Most of the children now attending our Christmas programs are refugees from Syria. Many of the Syrian Muslim refugees are returning to Syria because of the bleak economic conditions in Lebanon. Many Christians are unable to return to Syria because their homes have been destroyed. Still, hundreds of thousands of Christians did stay in Syria.
Nativity scenes were played out by the children at most of our Syrian events. Live nativity plays reinforce the divinity of Christ to the children as they portray the birth of our Lord. The center of all Christmas programs isn’t gifts or games, the center of the programs is Jesus. The goal is to remind the children of the central place of Jesus in their lives while providing for them at the same time.
In Syria, participating churches included Baptist, National Evangelical, Armenian Evangelical, Syriac Evangelical, and Sweida Christian.
More reports to come: I do not have full reports and photos from Christmas programs in Jordan, Iraq and Nigeria because they are held very close to Christmas Day. Under normal conditions I am in the Middle East for Christmas and do not have to wait for reports from others. This year to conserve cash for the programs, I and my wife Nancy did not go to the Middle East. More news on the Christmas programs will appear in the next newsletter.
Christian woman jailed for “blasphemy” in Nigeria
by William J Murray
Another outrage in Nigeria: A Christian woman in Buachi State has been held incommunicado by the police for more than six months on blasphemy charges because she forwarded a WhatsApp message.
Rhoda Ya’u Jatau, 45, was arrested in May after receiving a WhatsApp message from Ghana condemning the gruesome killing of Deborah Emmanuel Yakubu, a university student in Nigeria’s Sokoto state who was also falsely accused of blaspheming Islam.
Buachi is one of the twelve states in northern Nigeria which have established Sharia law.
I signed a letter to Secretary of State Blinken on behalf of the Religious Freedom Coalition asking the Biden Administration to at least condemn the arrest. In the letter, I signed along with other leaders of American organizations, citing the fact that the United States was party to a November 7th International Religious Freedom or Belief Alliance (IRFBA) joint statement, affirming “firm opposition to blasphemy laws.”
The statement noted that “blasphemy laws impede the freedoms of expression and religion or belief in ways inconsistent with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,” and urged governments to “unconditionally release individuals imprisoned” under these laws.
In our letter to Secretary Blinken we stated:
“We urge you to put these words into action, by intervening with the Nigerian authorities at the highest levels to secure Rhoda’s freedom. We likewise urge you to make it clear to the Nigerian authorities your “firm opposition to blasphemy laws.”
Some of the other organizations signing the letter to Blinken included Christian Freedom International, Family Research Council, Suffering Church Network, In Defense of Christians,
Katartismos Global, Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice, Set My People Free and Voice of the Martyrs.
More dead: In November more than 40 Christians were murdered in Plateau and Kaduna States by Fulani Herdsmen. Persecution of Christians in Nigeria is more than arrests for blasphemy, but the Biden Administration says nothing and coddles the Muslim president.
More on Capitol Hill
Meeting with Senator James Lankford – On December 8th my wife Nancy and I attended a luncheon organized for Senator Lankford. The lunch was small, with only about 20 invited guests including other Senators.
Senator Lankford opened the meeting with a prayer.
Opening in prayer is not a common event on Capitol Hill, other than the Senate Chaplain ceremoniously opening the session each day with virtually no one present. When I began my work in Washington decades ago, both major parties opened events in prayer.
Sadly most Democrats proudly support social causes that are extreme and anti-Biblical such as sex change operations for children.
Because the group attending the event was small, I was able to spend some time talking with Senator Lankford on various issues important to social conservatives.
Our discussions included the persecution of Christians and the horrid nature of medical experimentation on “gender changes” of America’s children.
During our conversation I did thank him for opening the lunch in prayer, to which he responded, “We need a lot more prayer in Washington.”
Senator Lankford is the co-chair of the Values Action Team in the Senate. Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) is the other co-chair of the VAT, which includes a few other Senators.
Monthly Senate VAT meetings include social conservative organizations such as the Religious Freedom Coalition, Right to Life and others.
Several of Senator Lankford’s friends in the Senate, including Senator Borrasso (R-WY) dropped by. I make an effort to point out the horrors of Nigeria to every Senator I meet in Washington and emphasize how the Biden Administration has turned a blind eye to the outrageous conduct of the Muslim president.
Nigeria is now undisputedly the most dangerous nation in the world for Christians. On average, 16 Christians a day are murdered for their faith! Open Doors in its annual survey found that worldwide 80% of Christians who die for their faith are murdered in Nigeria.
The Biden Administration removed Nigeria from the Religious Freedom index of Countries of Particular Concern (CPC). He also removed travel restrictions to the United States. And worse, the Biden Administration is teaching the Nigerian armed forces.
With Biden’s approval, the Nigerian Navy Special Boat Service completed a five-week Joint Combined Exchange Training alongside a team of U.S. Army Special Forces in 2021. This is a continuation of the utterly insane policy of the Obama Administration to train and arm “moderate” jihadists in Libya and Syria.
The Senate deadlock: With the victory in a Georgia special election in December, the Senate went from a 50/50 tie to 51/49 in favor of Joe Biden. A few days later the Democrats partly lost their edge when Democrat Senator Kyrsten Sinema switched from Democrat to Independent. Still, Democrats will hold 50 seats and Republicans 49. The radical social agenda of Majority Leader Charles Schumer will continue.
When I first began working in Washington four decades ago, there were many social conservative and pro-life Democrats and good legislation could be passed regardless of the party in charge. That is no longer the case. Pro-lifers and social conservatives have been kicked out of the Democrat Party, which is why so many in the working class have switched to the Republicans.
With the Republicans holding the House and the Democrats in marginal control of the Senate, any hope of passing legislation to assist the persecuted Christians of Nigeria and other countries is impossible. The Democrat controlled Senate collectively admires the Muslim president of Nigeria, who allows the continuing murders of Christians.
Despite the difficulties in working on Capitol Hill, the Religious Freedom Coalition will maintain a presence both legislatively and symbolically, such as at events for Christmas and on the National Day of Prayer.
The Live Nativity on Capitol Hill
by Mandy Marlowe, Vice President
A Camel on Capitol Hill: The Religious Freedom Coalition has participated in a live Nativity program on Capitol Hill for the last 19 years.
The live Nativity is a great way to spread the message of the true meaning of Christmas in our nation’s capital, especially at a time when there are so many attacks on our faith from the establishment.
For Christmas 2022, scheduling did not allow William Murray to attend. I was honored by the opportunity to represent the Religious Freedom Coalition. Vice President of Faith and Liberty, Peggy Neinaber and I led a procession of pastors and key leaders to the Supreme Court Building.
The readings of the Scripture announcing the coming of our Lord is normally read on the steps of the Supreme Court building. This year protestors occupied the front steps when we arrived to set up the sound equipment.
After quick deliberation, it was decided to move the event to the south side of the building where we would still be in view of bystanders but would have the opportunity to communicate our message without distraction.
Once set up at the Supreme Court we read the account of the birth of Jesus from the Gospel of Luke and sang Christmas carols with the costumed participants in the Nativity. A costumed baby Jesus was central to the theme of our message.
The live animals were a definite showstopper and sparked the curiosity of many passing by. Shepherds walked with live sheep to see the newly born King. The crowd favorite proved to be Delilah the camel — after all it’s not often that you see a camel on the streets of the nation’s capital!
Participation in the Live Nativity is one of the many ways the Religious Freedom Coalition shares the gospel and social conservative values on Capitol Hill.
Please pray for our missions on Capitol Hill, the Middle East and Nigeria. And please pray for Bill and Nancy as they travel to Nigeria this month.