Articles

The last defenders of the Islamic State terror group's self-declared caliphate are refusing to surrender, clinging to their last sliver of land while hiding among hundreds of civilians.

Commanders with the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, observers, and officials with the anti-IS coalition say about 300 mostly foreign fighters have so far rebuffed efforts to get them to give up an area in the eastern Syrian village of Baghuz that spans no more than a few hundred square meters.

The last defenders of the Islamic State terror group's self-declared caliphate are refusing to surrender, clinging to their last sliver of land while hiding among hundreds of civilians.

Commanders with the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, observers, and officials with the anti-IS coalition say about 300 mostly foreign fighters have so far rebuffed efforts to get them to give up an area in the eastern Syrian village of Baghuz that spans no more than a few hundred square meters.

Complicating efforts to finish off the terror group's physical caliphate, they say, is the presence of up to 1,000 civilians, including IS family members, children, and possible hostages, as well as ongoing concerns that more IS militants and civilians may be hidden in a network of tunnels extending from Baghuz.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which has been monitoring the conflict in Syria, said on its website Monday that SDF commanders had rejected a request by the remaining IS fighters to allow them safe passage into neighboring Iraq in exchange for the release of hostages and SDF prisoners.

SOHR and other activists also said that the SDF did allow several truckloads of food to be delivered to the IS-held area, possibly in return for the release of 10 SDF fighters.

The slow-moving developments in Baghuz came as a top U.S. commander visited with SDF leadership.

The head of U.S. Central Command, Gen. Joseph Votel, met Monday with SDF commander-in-chief Mazloum Kobani in Syria, Monday.

Following the meeting, Kobani told reporters he asked that the U.S. and its allies keep a force of 1,000 to 1,500 troops in Syria to help keep IS from resurging.

"We would like to have air cover, air support and a force on the ground to coordinate with us," he said, adding that should include "a partial group of American forces."

U.S. President Donald Trump announced this past December that U.S. forces would be pulling out of Syria. But while some equipment has been removed, no timeline has been established for when the last of the U.S. forces would leave.

Votel has argued for continuing to provide support for the SDF in their efforts against IS, but said following his meeting with Kobani, leaving U.S. troops on the ground in Syria was not under consideration.

"So, the discussion really isn't about U.S. forces staying here," he said. "We've looked at potentially what coalition (forces) might be able to do here."

U.S. defense officials have been involved in ongoing discussions with coalition members about increasing their help and assistance once U.S. troops ultimately withdraw, though no agreements have been reached.

Meanwhile, Washington's European allies have been pushing back against demands they do more to help deal with the hundreds of foreign fighters who joined IS but are currently in SDF custody.

"I think our major endeavor now should be not to allow them to come back to Europe," Hungarian Foreign Affairs Minister Peter Szijjarto said at a meeting in Brussels Monday.

Trump late Saturday tweeted that he had asked Britain, France, Germany, and other countries to "take back over 800 ISIS fighters that we captured in Syria and put them on trial," he wrote, using an acronym for the terror group.

"The alternative is not a good one in that we will be forced to release them," he added.

Responding to questions about the tweets, French Justice Minister Nicole Belloubet told France2 television Monday her country "won't respond to injunctions."

Britain likewise pushed back, pointing to a statement Friday by Home Minister Sajid Javid.

"If you have supported terrorist organizations abroad, I will not hesitate to prevent your return," he said.

SDF commanders said Monday they currently are holding about 800 foreign fighters from about 50 countries, along with about 700 of their wives and 1,500 children.

Previous estimates from the SDF, U.S. officials, and observer groups have put the number of fighters much higher.

Kurdish officials Monday called their presence a "time bomb."

 

Read More
Colossians 2:13-15
 
Almost all great teachers have thought in pictures, and here, Paul uses a series of vivid pictures to show what God in Christ has done for mankind.  The intention is to show that Jesus has done all that can be done and all that needs to be done and that there is no need to bring any other intermediaries for the full salvation of mankind.  There are three main pictures here.
  • (1) People are dead in their sins.  They have no more power than the dead either to overcome sin or to atone for it.  By, His work, Jesus has liberated people both from the power and from the consequences of sin.  He has given them a life so new that it can only be said that He has raised them from the dead.  It was the old belief that only the Jews were dear to God, but the saving power of Jesus has come to the uncircumcised Gentiles.  The work of Jesus is a work of power because it puts life into dead people; it is a work of grace because it reaches out to those who have no reason to expect the love of God.
  • (2) The picture becomes more vivid.  Jesus blotted out the 'handwriting' of ordinances that were against us; He wiped out the charge list that set out all our self-admitted debt, a charge list based on the ordinances of the law.
  • (3) One other great picture flashes on the screen of Paul's mind.  Jesus has stripped the powers and authorities and made them His captives.  The ancient world believed in all kinds of angels and spirits.  Many of these spirits were out to ruin mankind.  Jesus conquered them forever.  He stripped them. The word used here means stripping the weapons and the armor from a defeated enemy. Once and for all Jesus broke their power.  He put them to open shame and led them captive.  The picture is that of the triumph of a Roman general.
Paul thinks of Jesus as a conqueror enjoying a cosmic triumph, and in His triumphal procession are the powers of evil, beaten forever, for everyone to see.
 
In these vivid pictures, Paul sets out the total adequacy of the work of Jesus. Sin is forgiven and evil is conquered.
 
Life Application
Do you get the picture of all that Jesus has done for you? Because of what He did, you are more than a conqueror.
Praise/Prayer
Dear Father, I am so thankful that Your Son Jesus, came to earth and defeated the devil and demonstrated it publicly. We no longer have to be bound by the devil. Jesus is Lord and Conqueror. Hallelujah! Praise God forever more. Amen!
 
 
Read More

Welcome to the February 2019 Global Prayer Agenda featuring major concerns affecting the nations of our world, and the growth of Christ's church universally for the advancement of world evangelism and the establishment of God's Kingdom.  This agenda was specially prepared for use during the Monthly Global Prayer Teleconference sessions by a few members of the team of leaders facilitating these monthly global prayer calls.  The agenda is structured into three main categories for the convenience of our users.  As you join us in prayer about these various issues, during this month, we trust that you will find the experience spiritually rewarding.  We also extend a special invitation to join us for our next Monthly Global Prayer Teleconference.  

 

Category One

Prayer for North and South America, the Caribbean and Europe

Scripture: Isaiah 12: 4 (NIV)

Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done,
  and proclaim that his name is exalted.Sing to the Lord, for he has done glorious things;
    let this be known to all the worldShout aloud and sing for joy, people of Zion,
    for great is the Holy One of Israel among you.”

 

Prayer for Revival in the United States of America

Some Important Facts on the State of the church and  spiritual needs of  the nation

  • Based on the current rates of retention and evangelism, it's estimated that 42 million young people could leave the church by 2050. That is over one million young people walking away from the church each year.
  • If, however, we can revert to Gen X rates of retention and evangelism, that number can be reduced to only 20 million.
  • Every year, about 4,000 churches are planted in the US and every year about 3,700 churches close.  Based on population growth rate we need to triple church planting in the next five years.  By 2050 it is estimated that the US will need to 416, 000 new churches. (Source: www.thegreatopportunity,org)

 

Needs of Pastors across America

  • At any given time, 75% of pastors in America want to quit. (Church Resource Ministries – 1998)
  • More than 2000 pastors are leaving the ministry each month. (Marble Retreat Center 2001)  (Source: www.Standaloneministry.org)

These needs underscore the dire need for spiritual revival in the church in America.

Pray

  1. For pastors across America experiencing loneliness, the burning out effect, other challenges of the pastoral ministry that impact negatively on their families or considering quitting the ministry as a result of discouragement to turn to the Lord, the only Rock of our Salvation for spiritual comfort, assurance, and strength. Indeed, all other grounds or bais of faith or worship are sinking sand.  
  2. For all pastors facing all types of moral failure that continue to undermine the credible witness of the church as salt and light of this nation, to turn to the Lord in prayer and repentance to help to facilitate revival in the church for the spiritual healing and transformation of the nation so urgently needed at this time.  
  3. For a revival in the church across America resulting in the growth of the church, through the additions of millions of new converts, particularly millennials and establishment of thousands of new churches.    

 

Prayer for US Government: Solution to Major Immigration Challenges

As for American policy, an immigration website notes that “The United States has been the top destination for international migrants since at least 1960, with one-fifth of the world's migrants living there as of 2017. Despite its long history of immigration, the United States has oscillated between perceiving immigration as a valuable resource and as a major challenge.”

According to Wikipedia, “In absolute numbers, the United States has a larger immigrant population than any other country, with 47 million immigrants as of 2015. This represents 19.1% of the 244 million international migrants worldwide, and 14.4% of the U.S. population.”

Against this background of a vibrant and dynamic history of immigration in America, let us pray regarding the current challenges facing the US immigration system, now considered broken and in urgent need of reforms.

PRAY

  1. For the President and Congress to work together on reforming US immigration laws to address the growing problem of illegal immigration. Pray for solutions that are just and fair in keeping with Biblical standards.
  2. For a solution to the crisis caused by the thousands of migrants from South America amassed at the US/Mexico border seeking asylum in the US.  

Prayer US/regarding children:

New York’s ‘Reproductive Health Act’: What the Pink Tower Says to Pro-Lifers

John Stonestreet, G. Shane Morris

Last week, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law the most radical pro-abortion bill our country has seen in a very long time. The so-called “Reproductive Health Act” removes abortion and, get this, the murder of a pregnant woman’s baby, from the state’s criminal code.

It also allows any doctor, nurse practitioner, or even midwife to perform an abortion all the way up to the moment of birth, provided the mother’s “life or health” is at risk. 

By ACLJ.org (5 months ago)

NARAL is promoting abortion to kids like they’re selling ice cream. No literally.  They are.

Big Abortion has gone to shocking lengths to try to normalize their abominable business of blood money – particularly in spreading their pro-abortion message to the young.

We told you how they have stooped as low as targeting children with their propaganda.  A Planned Parenthood representative actually stated the world needs a “Disney princess who’s had an abortion.”

PRAY

  1. Father, we stand in the gap for our political leaders – especially those in NY and VA – and ask that the fear of God would overtake them (and all of like mind in our nation) and they would repent of the evil they have allowed/mandated against the most vulnerable and valuable of your creation, our children.
  2. We pray safety and protection – we speak LIFE – to every child in the womb. We decree and declare that each child will fulfill the gifts and callings you have for them.
  3. We repent of, reject and renounce the spirit of death and call forth the spirit of life. May each Mother (and Father) choose life.
  4. We pray for more crisis pregnancy centers, more ultrasounds, more homes for the mothers, more adoptive parents.

 

South America and The Caribbean

 

Venezuelans get little news about their own country

From Venezuela censors its political crisis

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns the disastrous climate for journalists in Venezuela, where the deepening political crisis has been accompanied by increasingly blatant and disturbing censorship of non-governmental media. The government must respect the freedom to inform, RSF says.

What with arrests of reporters, confiscation of their equipment, police violence against them during demonstrations, Internet cuts and outright broadcast bans, access to objective and pluralist reporting has been virtually impossible for most Venezuelans during the past few days of historic developments and turmoil.

On 23 January, the day that national assembly president Juan Guaidó declared himself to be interim president amid major demonstrations and clashes throughout the country, no national TV channel broadcast Guaidó’s address, while the authorities harassed and attacked independent media outlets critical of President Nicolás Maduro that tried to cover these historic events.

Personnel from the General Directorate for Military Counter-Intelligence (DGCIM) and the Bolivarian Intelligence Service (SEBIN) stormed the offices of three media outlets – Global TVNoticia Al Día and Aventura TV – in Maracaibo, the capital of the northwestern state of Zulia, on 23 January, smashing electronic equipment and cutting Internet access. Global TV’s broadcast signal was suspended on the grounds that it “broadcast Juan Guaidó’s speech live.”

Censorship and restricted access to news

On 23 January alone, the local NGO Espacio Público has counted no fewer than 17 direct attacks against journalists, including arbitrary detentions, confiscation of equipment and violence by police or soldiers.

This persecution of journalists by the Venezuelan state apparatus is utterly counter-productive and reinforces President Maduro’s isolation,” said Emmanuel Colombié, the head of RSF’s Latin America bureau. “Press freedom is in great danger in Venezuela. The Maduro administration must stop censoring and systematically obstructing journalists’ work and must instead guarantee their safety. In this time of trouble, the freedom to inform is more essential than ever for all Venezuelans.”

Internet cuts and cyber-space regulation

In addition to the direct censorship and violence, the past month in Venezuela has also seen unusual information blackouts and restrictions on access to social networks, which are massively used by Maduro’s opponents.

This trend is all the more disturbing in the wake of a leak to the media a few days ago revealing the existence of a proposed “Cyberspace Law” designed to increase the government’s power to control Internet access and use. On 23 January, RSF joined a national and international NGO coalition in voicing concern about the bill.

 

Venezuela is ranked 143rd out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2018 World Press Freedom Index.

Pray

Pray for God to:

  1. Release divine and humanitarian relief to come to the 90% of Venezuelans who are now poor and lacking sufficient food, water, and electricity, and reveal Christ as their Savior.
  2. Open the way for media to communicate to Venezuelans the truths they need to understand and overcome their crisis.
  3. Prevent world powers such as the US and Russia/China from clashing militarily over Venezuela or overriding informed public sentiment about their future direction.
  4. Present His solutions and directions to His choices for their future leadership.

 

Revival across Europe

Issues for Prayer – Europe

Movement “Do Not Mess with My Children” launched in Spain

Evangelical leaders back a movement to defend the right and responsibility of parents to educate their children in values. It will confront the “tyranny of gender ideology”.

SOURCES Protestante Digital AUTHOR Evangelical Focus MADRID 30 JANUARY 2019 10:30 h GMT+1
http://evangelicalfocus.com/family/4175/The_movement_Do_Not_Mess_with_My_Children_is_launched_in_Spain 

The “Con Mis Hijos No Te Metas” (in English: Do Not Mess with My Children) Spain movement (#CMHNTM) was officially presented in Madrid, on January 26.

Around 250 evangelical leaders from all over the country, came to listen to Christian Rosas, after a personal invitation. The political scientist and spokesman of the civic movement in Latin America explained that #CMHNTM is not a defense of Christian morality, but of the first institution that preceded religion and society: the family.

Rosas encouraged the attendees to defend the right and responsibility of parents in the education of values, in the face of any interference by the State. He especially warned about the “tyranny of gender ideology, which aims to impose itself globally as the only accepted worldview”.

Evangelical churches are called for a Day of Prayer on February 28; and in the following months, there will be training sessions and personal contacts with local, regional and national political parties and institutions. In September, a national march in Madrid is planned, which will give much visibility and social presence to the requests of the Movement.

#CMHNTM also started a campaign to collect signatures supporting the “Declaration of Madrid”, which was signed by the attendees.

#CMHNTM Spain is linked to the movement of the same name that has emerged throughout the Spanish-speaking world. It has a national coordination group, formed by people representing Spanish Protestantism and under the auspices of the Pentecostal and Charismatic Fraternity of Spain (FPCE in Spanish) and the Spanish Evangelical Alliance (AEE).

 PRAY

  1. For the total success of this Movement in Spain, in its efforts to defend the right, authority and responsibility of parents to educate their children in moral values;
  2. That the Lord will enable the Movement to be effective as it seeks to confront the “tyranny of gender ideology” which undermines the natural differences between male and female and which holds that people have the right to choose their own gender;
  3. That the Lord will unite His people in Spain, the UK and throughout Europe, in opposing this deceptive ideology.

 

Prosecutions against religious groups double in Crimea.

Most administrative prosecutions end in punishment. Many are prosecuted for sharing their faith on the street. “Believers go out to share their faithless often and give out publications or invitations less openly”.

AUTHOR Evangelical Focus SEVASTOPOL 28 JANUARY 2019 10:34 h GMT+1 
http://evangelicalfocus.com/europe/4166/Prosecutions_against_religious_groups_double_in_Crimea

The prosecutions against faith groups and individuals who carried out “missionary activity” in Russian-occupied Crimea, doubled in 2018, reaching 23 cases, the organization for freedom of religion, Forum 18, said. Most of these are prosecuted for sharing their faith on the street, for holding worship at unapproved venues, or not using the full legal name of a registered religious community. The Russian authorities also fined individuals for having or being deemed to be in charge of religious literature that the government considered “extremist”. The fines can be up to nearly two months' average local wages, and the confiscation of any literature or other material.

According to Forum 18, of these 23 administrative prosecutions, 19 ended in punishment. In addition to these punishments, at least five individuals are facing criminal prosecution for exercising their freedom of religion or belief. The communities known to have faced administrative cases in 2018 are Pentecostal, Baptist, Lutheran, Russian Orthodox, Muslim, and Karaite.

A member of a religious community in Crimea told Forum 18 that “it is a question not just of fines, if you don't pay the fines are doubled, then if you still don't pay, they impose compulsory labor”, he added.

All the administrative cases in Crimea in 2018, were brought under the amendments to the Religion Law that President Putin signed in July 2016, which were immediately imposed in Crimea. The law redefined “missionary activity” as any religious act done outside church premises. Any missionary or national believer must secure a government permit through a registered religious organization.

Since the March 2014 Russian annexation of Crimea, local religious communities have to re-register under Russian law. Many were forced to restructure themselves to meet Russian requirements. Religious communities, libraries, and individuals repeatedly face raids and punishment.

PRAY

  1. That the Christians in Crimea will be given the wisdom to “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s” and not allow themselves to get entangled in the surrounding political issues or be distracted by them;
  2. That the situation facing them will drive them to deepen their devotion to the Lord and their commitment to each other despite their differing political viewpoints;
  3. That they will experience the power of the Spirit of God among them enabling them to be effective in their testimony and their witness to their non-Christian neighbors.

The Gospel in East Ukraine’s prisons

AUTHOR: EVANGELICAL FOCUS | 01 FEBRUARY 2019

http://evangelicalfocus.com/multimedia/4183/The_gospel_in_East_Ukraines_prisons

Many are coming to Christ in some of the toughest prisons in this troubled part of the country.

According to the global News Alliance, despite high crime rates in the ongoing conflicts with Russian separatists, something remarkable is happening in the prisons. Thanks to the ministry of former gang leader turned pastor, Soge Kosmenco; many are turning to Christ. He himself had served a two-year sentence for attacking a police officer.

“I totally understand it is my calling from God to help prisoners. I can meet in prison some guys that I saw some years before. They were released and then they forgot about God… and then they became prisoners again, again, and again. I think that when someone is punished it’s a new chance for him to repent.”

As well as preaching in prison, Kosmenco has established a rehabilitation and discipleship home to help these new converts adapt to life after they have served their sentence. After several years Kosmenco has helped at least 100 ex-offenders with an extremely high success rate where most have gone on to live productive lives away from crime. One of those going through the programme is former addict Alexander …. . According to him, “It was a great pleasure for me to help because when you are released from prison you have a lot of temptations and to stand against them and then to change your life step by step; that’s why it’s so important … and it helped me a lot to live a better life.”

It is hoped that this new army of believers will help to stem the crime and conflict in eastern Ukraine.

……….

Described as ‘a notorious Ukraine prison’, the Lukiyanivska detention center in Kyiv is Ukraine’s oldest functioning prison and is infamous for its terrible conditions, with detainees enduring cold, crowding and crumbling walls. Detainees awaiting trial live surrounded by moldy walls and windows without glass.

“We lie fully dressed with our hats on,” one detainee said. “The average temperature here is 10 degrees.”

The plumbing in the prison was installed in the 1960s and has not been renovated since. There are frequent breakdowns in the water and sewage systems. Some inmates in pre-trial detention spend several years here, awaiting the conclusion of investigations and trials.

The Ministry of Justice officials say they are aware of the situation but lack funds to improve the facility. (https://www.rferl.org/a/ukraine-detention-center/29067856.html).

PRAY

  1. That the Lord will continue to move graciously in the Ukraine prisons to deliver and save more inmates;
  2. For the provision of funds and resources for the rehabilitation and discipleship homes that are set up for the ongoing care and nurturing of converted inmates upon their release. from prison;
  3. That the Lord will raise up send forth more workers and ministers into the prisons.

 

Category 2

 Israel, the Middle East, and Africa

Israel

The largest pro-Israel group in the United States is Christian, not Jewish, and it may now outnumber the entire U.S. Jewish population. This is significant since some believe that the key to the survival of Israel and the Jews lies in Christian hands.

Just before its Bar Mitzvah 13th year anniversary next month, Christians United For Israel (CUFI) has achieved an astounding milestone. Not only is CUFI the largest pro-Israel group in the U.S., dwarfing all the Zionist Jewish groups combined, but there are now arguably more Christians supporting Israel via CUFI than there are Jews in the U.S.

Pastor John Hagee revived CUFI in February 2006 in San Antonio. Touting itself as a grassroots organization, CUFI brings together Christians from a wide range of denominations and thousands of churches for one unified cause: supporting the state of Israel. In November, they announced their membership reached 4.5 million, and it is now at 5.4 million. (Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz, Breaking Israel News, January 31, 2019)

https://www.breakingisraelnews.com/121223/pro-israel-christians-us-jews/

CAPITOL HILL — The U.S. Senate is nearing a vote to facilitate penalties against American companies that boycott Israel, a measure that divides Democrats and is cast by some Republicans as a litmus test of bedrock support for the Jewish state. The chamber this week advanced the Strengthening America's Security in the Middle East Act, which is expected to pass next week. Republicans are united in support, while more than 20 Democrats reject the anti-boycott measure in a bill that also provides military assistance for Israel, extends defense cooperation with Jordan and imposes new sanctions against the Syrian government.

The legislation would allow U.S. states and cities to decline to do business with American companies that take part in a campaign to boycott and divest from Israel to pressure the Jewish state to alter its policies about Palestinians and Israeli settlements. (Michael Bowman, VOA News, January 31, 2019)

https://www.voanews.com/a/us-senate-targets-companies-boycotting-israel-/4768131.html

Pray:

  1. Thank the Lord that Christians United for Israel now has 5.4 million members.
  2. Pray for the US Senate to pass the legislative measure that penalizes companies for boycotting or refusing to do business with Israel.
  3. Pray for the continued success and protection of Operation Exodus—a Christian ministry helping Jews to relocate to Israel. Also, pray for Operation Exodus to have a greater profile worldwide.
  4. Pray that more churches and ministries would support Operation Exodus.
  5. Pray for the strengthening and growth of the Church in Israel.

Iran

SAN FRANCISCO — Facebook said Thursday it took down hundreds of "inauthentic" accounts from Iran that were part of a vast manipulation campaign operating in more than 20 countries. The world's biggest social network said it removed 783 pages, groups and accounts "for engaging in coordinated inauthentic behavior tied to Iran."

The pages were part of a campaign to promote Iranian interests in various countries by creating fake identities as residents of those nations, according to a statement by Nathaniel Gleicher, head of cybersecurity policy at Facebook. (Agence France-Presse, VOA News, January 31, 2019)

https://www.voanews.com/a/facebook-takes-down-vast-iran-led-manipulation-campaign/4767487.html

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES — Iran arrested more than 7,000 people last year, including dozens of journalists, in what Amnesty International on Thursday called a "shameless campaign of repression" as the U.S. released an American anchorwoman for Iranian state television held for days as a material witness.

The Amnesty report said that among those arrested in 2018 were protesters, students, journalists, environmental activists, workers, and human rights defenders. Some 50 detainees were media workers, of whom at least 20 "were sentenced to harsh prison or flogging sentences after unfair trials," the report said.

"2018 will go down in history as a 'year of shame' for Iran," said Philip Luther, Amnesty's Middle East and North Africa research and advocacy director. (Associated Press, January 24, 2019)

https://www.voanews.com/a/amnesty-criticizes-iran-s-mass-arrests-as-us-frees-reporter/4757035.html

Two Iranian Christians at their final appeal hearing were ordered by a court to renounce their Christian faith to gain their freedom but they refused to do so.  Christian Solidarity Worldwide said the hearing took place on Tuesday in Tehran, where Christians Saheb Fadaie and Fatemeh Bakhteri were ordered by presiding judges Hassan Babaee and Ahmad Zargar to turn away from their religion.

The believers, who refused to comply, have been convicted of “spreading propaganda against the regime,” and are waiting to hear their final verdict. In September, Fadaie was sentenced to 18 months in prison, along with two years of internal exile, while Bakhteri was sentenced to one year in prison. The Christians were arrested and convicted for discussing Christian doctrine in a house church, which was deemed to be an attack on Islam, the dominant religion in Iran. (Stoyan Zaimov, Christian Post Reporter, January 19, 2019)

https://www.christianpost.com/world/iranian-christians-refuse-renounce-christian-faith-freedom-from-prison.html

Pray

  1. Thank God Facebook has removed hundreds of inauthentic Iranian accounts that were created as a part of a vast manipulation campaign to promote Iranian interests.
  2. Pray for the release of dozens of journalists, environmental activists, workers, and human rights defenders who have been unjustly arrested.
  3. Thank God that Christians Saheb Fadaie and Fatemeh Bakhteri refused to deny their faith even though Iranian judges ordered them to do so.
  4. Pray for the release of the Christians being held in Iranian prisons because of their faith in Christ. Also, pray that the imprisoned Christians would not deny their faith in Christ.
  5. Pray for the strengthening and growth of the Church in Iran.

 

The DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

GENEVA — Six months after the outbreak of Ebola was declared in the Democratic Republic of Congo's North Kivu province, the World Health Organization is expressing cautious optimism that it is making headway in controlling the spread of the deadly virus. Latest figures reported by the WHO show 752 cases of Ebola, including 465 deaths.

WHO Regional Director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti, says progress in containing the spread of the virus is due to a number of public health measures, including the training of health workers on infection prevention and control, closer engagement with communities, case investigation, and contact tracing. She says the use of a vaccine and promising new drugs have been a boon to these efforts. (Lisa Schlein, VOA News, February 01, 2019)

https://www.voanews.com/a/who-reports-progress-in-controlling-ebola-in-congo/4768665.html

KINSHASA — At least 15 mass graves have been found in northwestern Democratic Republic of Congo in the wake of three days of ethnic bloodshed in December, a spokeswoman for the U.N.'s MONUSCO mission in Congo said Tuesday.

Earlier in January, the United Nations estimated that at least 890 people were killed as a result of the violence, some of the worst in the area for years which highlighted the precarious state of inter-ethnic relations even in the Central African country's more peaceful regions.

A MONUSCO special mission looking into the circumstances of the fighting found at least 11 mass graves and 43 individual graves around the town of Yumbi and at least four communal graves containing at least 170 bodies in nearby Bongende, spokeswoman Florence Marchal said. (Reuters, January 29, 2019)

https://www.voanews.com/a/un-finds-at-least-15-mass-graves-in-congo-after-december-violence/4764279.html

Pray

  1. Pray that those responsible for the murders of innocent people and placing their bodies in mass graves would be brought to justice.
  2. Pray for the Spirit of God to surround the new president with wisdom and godly counsel, to reconcile the country, and bring peace and healing to suffering citizens
  3. Pray for protection of the health providers who are working in dangerous areas managing the Ebola menace.
  4. Pray for revival and growth of the Church in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Tanzania

Tanzanian authorities say that 10 children who were kidnapped in December were found dead and were killed for their body parts. The children’s ears, teeth and “private parts” were removed, and some were missing limbs, according to published reports that cited the authorities. They were 2 to 9 years old. Authorities in Tanzania have indicated that there may be more children missing. A relative of three of the children has been arrested.

Authorities are said to suspect that witchcraft motivated the horrors that were inflicted upon the children. Some witch doctors in the area where the children were killed claim that by obtaining some body parts, people can attract money and good fortune. The children went missing while their parents sold food at a market, the BBC said.

"This is all about superstitious beliefs and many believe they will get help from witchcraft," Njombe District Commissioner Ruth Msafiri said. "These murders are linked to witchcraft practices because that is the trend for such crimes, where herbalists ask people to get these human parts for money rituals," he said. The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights has described the body parts market as one that fetches from $2,000 for a limb to $75,000 for a corpse.

Authorities said the murder and mutilation of the 10 children were not related to the killings of albinos in the country. (Elizabeth Llorente, Fox News, January 29, 2019).

https://www.foxnews.com/world/ten-children-in-tanzania-kidnapped-and-killed-for-their-body-parts-authorities-say

Pray

  1. Pray that those responsible for the kidnapping and murders of the 10 or more children would be brought to justice.
  2. Pray for the stronghold of witchcraft to be pulled down and demolished in Tanzania. Also, pray for the salvation of some of the witch doctors involved in the mutilation of children.
  3. Pray for the Church to lay hold of and demonstrate the supernatural power of God so that people would seek God for help and not witch doctors.

Category 3

Prayer for Movement Day Global Cities, the Persecuted Church and Other Critical Concerns of Asia

Scripture   -   Psalms 29: 1 - 11

PRAY 

Movement Day Expressions

  1. Pray that God would anoint the emerging leaders that were in attendance during the 100 Cities Summit
  2. Pray for financial provision as leaders are planning their 2019/2020 Movement Day expressions. We have a total of 26 expressions on the calendar for 2019!
  3. Ask God to nourish every newly cultivated and reestablished relationship fostered during the week of the 100 Cities Summit.
  4. Pray for our Global Hub Leaders, as they cultivate relationships within their respective regions to advance unity within the body of Christ
  5. Pray that God would strengthen the Movement Day expressions team as we plan for Movement Day Global Cities 2020.

  

The Global Persecution of Christians

Open Doors Lists Top 10 Persecutors of Christians Worldwide

Over 215 million believers are persecuted with intimidation, prison, and even death for their faith in Jesus Christ across the world, Open Doors USA says in a report, listing the top 10 persecutors of Christians.

Half of the top 10 human rights offenders toward Christians are Islamist terror groups, including the Islamic State terror group, also known as IS, ISIS, ISIL or Daesh. The brutal and targeted attacks from ISIS have driven many Christians to flee countries like Iraq, where Christianity has had a presence for nearly 2,000 years, the report says. "Ten years ago, there were nearly 1 million Christians living in Iraq, with a large majority of the population living in Mosul. Today, ISIS has been driven out of Iraq and Syria for the most part, but now they are spreading to Southeast Asia. Abū Bakr al-Baghdadi is the current leader of ISIS in western Iraq, Syria, Libya and Afghanistan," it notes.  While Islamic State was listed as No. 1, the list is not comprehensive or in particular order, the ministry notes.

The second persecutor of Christians listed is the al-Qaeda terror group,

The far-right Hindu nationalist movement" seeks to wipe out any religious expression, including Christianity, that falls outside of the Hindu faith, the report says. It mentions the Hindu nationalist association Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, or RSS, which "has created a culture war and made it very dangerous and difficult for many Christians living in the region who are often forced out of villages, beaten and arrested for believing in Jesus." The governing Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party in India is seen as the political wing of the RSS.

Fifth on the list is the al-Shabaab terror group, which is "in many ways the Eastern African version of al-Qaeda." "Al-Shabaab has terrorized the country of Somalia for the past decade and is recently focusing its attacks on the neighboring country of Kenya. In 2015, a Kenya college campus faced an attack where Christian students were specifically targeted, killing 148 in total. Any place al-Shabaab controls operate under Sharia law, which includes the slaughtering of anyone who identifies as Christian."

Another top persecutor is the Boko Haram terror group in Nigeria, "whose belief is that any sort of Western influence is heresy, especially Christianity." "Boko Haram has conducted raids, bombings, and assassinations against any target it deems Western, especially churches and schools. They have taken out contracts on influential Christian leaders and are also at war with the Nigerian government," says the ministry.

Next on the list are Muslim Fulani herdsmen in northeastern Nigeria, who have been accused of aligning with Boko Haram.

The 2017 Global Terrorism Index described the herdsmen, who attack Christians regularly in southern Adamawa, as terrorists in 2014. According to the index, the Fulani are responsible for as many as 60,000 deaths since 2001. Nigerian Christian leaders have warned that if the current rate of massacres continues, with hundreds of believers being killed each month, Africa's most populous nation is on the brink of decimating its Christian population by 2043.

Open Doors further identified as a top persecutor radical Islam, which continues to spread, "aiming to bring many parts of the world under Sharia Law." "The movement, which often results in Islamic militancy and persecution of Christians," is expanding in Asia, including the Philippines, Bangladesh, Indonesia, and in African countries like Egypt, Nigeria, and Somalia.

Also making a list are drug cartels in Colombia and Mexico. "On top of the danger that these groups bring to ordinary citizens, Christians are specifically targeted," the report says. "A soul won for Jesus is a soul lost for them," it quotes a pastor from Colombia as saying. "They know that too." "For this reason, Christian evangelists are particularly targeted. Drug cartel leaders know that they are the greatest threat to their way of life."

Rounding out the top 10 on the Open Doors list is "the ultimate enemy," or Satan.  "It's easy to read this list and feel hopeless in the face of so much evil. However, in Ephesians 6 we're told our war isn't a physical war, it's a spiritual one. Behind all of the atrocities listed above is Satan, who prowls this world like a roaring lion," the ministry explains. "We are also told that God's kingdom is forcefully advancing and that in the end, Satan is overthrown and all things are made new."

Open Doors said it published the list because "Jesus commanded us, directly, to pray for our enemies." "Pray that God would stop their actions, change their hearts and shine the brilliant light of the gospel onto their path." (Source: Christian Post - June 2018)

PRAY

  1. For the over 200 million Christians worldwide suffering persecution with intimidation, prison, and even death for their faith in Jesus Christ across the world to experience the blessings of the Kingdom promised by Christ to those who suffer persecution for righteousness;   
  2. For the leaders of ISIS, al-Qaeda terror group, Boko Haram and other terrorist organizations involved in the wide-scale persecution of Christians in the Middle East, Asia and Africa.
  3. Pray that God would stop their actions, change their hearts and shine the brilliant light of the gospel onto their path." 

 

Pakistan

Pakistan extremists vow to murder Christian woman Asia Bibi despite acquittal over 'insulting Islam'

Extremists are vowing to take matters into their own hands and execute Asia Bibi for 'insulting Islam', despite a ruling by Pakistan's Supreme Court on Tuesday rejecting a challenge against its decision to acquit her. Hours before the ruling, the Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) party, which led violent protests demanding Bibi's execution after her acquittal, called for its members to be ready for action in a message sent to journalists.

"She deserves to be murdered according to Shariah," Hafiz Ehtisham Ahmed, an Islamist activist linked to the extremist Red Mosque in Islamabad, told AFP.

The new ruling lifts the last legal hurdle in the years-long blasphemy case and potentially paves the way for the Christian mother to leave the country to safety, her defense team and activists hope. The ruling ignited immediate calls from activists to allow Bibi to leave Pakistan, where she remains a prime target of extremists. The government is refusing to reveal her whereabouts as Islamist militants call for her murder.

Speculation is rampant that she will seek asylum in a European or North American country, and unconfirmed Pakistani reports claim her children have already fled to Canada. Moments after the ruling was announced, Bibi's lawyer Saif-ul-Mulook hinted that his client's move could be imminent. But extremists vow Bibi will not be safe even if she leaves the country. 

Bibi was sentenced to death in 2010 in what swiftly became Pakistan's most infamous blasphemy case. (Source: The New Arab, January 29, 2019)

PRAY

  1. For the continued safety and protection of Asia Bibi and her family in Pakistan as they await an Asylum offer from another country.   
  2. For a quick offer of Asylum to the Bibi family from one of the various nations from which Asylum is being been sought. 
  3. For God, by His sovereign grace to open the door for the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ, to be proclaimed throughout Pakistan.

The Philippines

MANILA — 

Philippine troops clashed with Abu Sayyaf gunmen in fierce jungle fighting that left five soldiers and three militants dead, as the military pushed forward with a fresh offensive following a deadly church bombing last weekend.

President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered government forces to destroy the Abu Sayyaf after the bombing last Sunday of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Cathedral in the Sulu provincial capital of Jolo that killed 22 people and wounded more than 100. The attack has renewed terrorism fears across the Philippines, where the national police went on full alert and security has been strengthened in churches, shopping malls, and other public areas. The militants were led by Abu Sayyaf commander Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan, who is suspected of helping plot the bombing. The Abu Sayyaf, which has about 300 to 400 armed fighters, has been blacklisted by the United States and the Philippines as a terrorist organization because of years of bombings, kidnappings, and beheadings in the predominantly Roman Catholic nation. (Source: VOA News, January 27, 2019)

PRAY

  1. For the Government of the Phillippines to succeed in its efforts to eradicate the entire Abu Sayyaf terrorist network in the Philippines.
  2. Pray for Our Lady of Mount Carmel Cathedral and for the families of the 22 people that were killed in the terrorist bombing there.  Pray also for the speedy recovery of the over 100 persons that were injured in the bombing.
  3. Pray for the continued growth of the church across the Philippines.

 

China

China on course to become 'world's most Christian nation' within 15 years

Officially, the People's Republic of China is an atheist country, but that is changing fast as many of its 1.3 billion citizens seek meaning and spiritual comfort that neither communism nor capitalism seems to have supplied. Christian congregations, in particular, had skyrocketed since churches began reopening when Chairman Mao's death in 1976 signaled the end of the Cultural Revolution. Less than four decades later, some believe China is now poised to become not just the world's number one economy but also its most numerous Christian nation.

China's Protestant community, which had just one million members in 1949, has already overtaken those of countries more commonly associated with an evangelical boom. In 2010 there were more than 58 million Protestants in China compared to 40 million in Brazil and 36 million in South Africa, according to the Pew Research Centre's Forum on Religion and Public Life.

Prof Yang, a leading expert on religion in China, believes that number will swell to around 160 million by 2025. That would likely put China ahead even of the United States, which had around 159 million Protestants in 2010 but whose congregations are in decline. By 2030, China's total Christian population, including Catholics, would exceed 247 million, placing it above Mexico, Brazil, and the United States as the largest Christian congregation in the world, he predicted. (Source: The Telegraph, February 2019). 

Pray

  1. Praise God for the tremendous growth of the Church across China, despite ongoing persecution and the various attempts of the Communist Government to stifle the growth of the church.
  2. Pray against all the various efforts of the Chinese Government to restrict the growth of house churches across China, including demolition of church buildings, removal of crosses and banning free access to Bibles. 
  3. For the growth of the church across China to facilitate the expansion of Christianity across Asia.

 

 

 

Read More
 
COLOSSIANS 1:15-23
The Son is the beginning of creation, and the end of creation, and the power who holds creation together, the Creator, the Sustainer, and the Final Goal of the world.
It is Paul's teaching that God's agent in creation is His Son and, in this passage, He has four things to say of the Son in regard to creation. 
  • (1stHe is the firstborn of all creation (Colossians 1:15). We must be very careful to attach the right meaning to this phrase. In English, it might mean the Son was the first person to be created, but in Hebrew and Greek thought, the word "firstborn" has only very indirectly a time significance. There are two things to note. Firstborn is very commonly a title of honor. Israel, for instance, as a nation is the "firstborn son of God" (Exodus 4:22). The meaning is that the nation of Israel is the most favored child of God. 
  • (2ndWe must note that firstborn is the title of the Messiah. In Psalm 89:27, as the Jews themselves interpreted it, the promise regarding the Messiah is, "I will make him my firstborn, higher than the kings of the earth." Firstborn is not used in a time sense at all but in the sense of special honor. So, when Paul says of the Son that he is the firstborn of all creation, he means that the highest honor that creation holds belongs to Him. 
  • (3rdIt was by the Son that all things were created. This is true of things in heaven and things in earth, of things, seen and unseen. Paul lays it down that the agent of God in creation is no inferior, ignorant and hostile secondary god, but the Son himself. 
  • (4thIt was for the Son that all things were created. The Son is not only the agent of creation, he is also the goal of creation. That is to say, creation was created to be his and that in its worship and its love he might find his honor and his joy. 
  • (5thPaul uses the strange phrase: "...in him all things hold together." This means that not only is the Son the agent of creation in the beginning and the end, during time as we know it, but it is also He who holds the world together. That is to say, all the laws by which this world is in order and not chaos are an expression of the mind of the Son. The laws by which the universe hangs together, are not only scientific laws but also divine.
Life Application
If you walk with Jesus, you have no fear because He holds it all together! He is your Lord, Savior and coming King. Praise be to the Father God and to His Son, Jesus!
 
Praise/Prayer 
Great is our God and Greatly to be Praised! Dear Father and Son, when I read Your plans in the Bible, I rejoice. I know that You hold the future and because You do, I need not fear because my hope is in You. Amen!
 
 
 
Read More

 

Pakistani police have fired tear gas and wielded batons to disperse a rally by Islamic radicals in the southern port city of Karachi against the acquittal of a Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy.

But despite the Karachi violence, nationwide rallies the extremists had called for on Friday against Aasia Bibi's freedom mostly fizzled.

Bibi had spent eight years on death row on charges of insulting the Prophet Muhammad.

Tehreek-e-Labbaik party, which petitioned the Supreme Court to reverse its Oct. 31 acquittal of Bibi, had called for new rallies after the top court this week threw out its petition.

It had also urged businesses and transport operators to strike but the call was ignored.

There were scatterings of small rallies against Bibi in northwestern Pakistan and the capital, Islamabad.

Read More
 
Philippians 4:10-13
 
In his writing to the Philippian saints, Paul had one more topic to treat. He used the immediate occasion, which was his sincere expression of appreciation for their financial support, to teach them an extremely important lesson. The phrase "your care of me hath flourished again" may indicate a suspension of their financial support for a time due to the influence of false teachers.
 
Paul had learned the true secret of life, and he desired to share it with them. At some particular point in his life, Paul made a commitment to serve the Lord faithfully no matter what circumstances he had to face. The results of that decision still were evident in his life when he wrote this letter to the Philippians. There came a time in Paul's life when he determined to serve God faithfully no matter what happened. The idea expressed at the end of verse 11 and in verse 12 literally means, "I have learned the secret" or "I have been initiated."
Even though Paul used the very word Stoics used to boast about their self-sufficiency, his sufficiency was based upon his relationship to Jesus. His sufficiency came, not through the kind of mechanical self-discipline practiced by the Stoics, but because of his union with a personal God. In addition,  verse 12 also clarifies the fact that his sufficiency was not based on material possessions.
Paul's sufficiency did not come from circumstances, but from Jesus. Since the text here contains the title "Christ," He obviously was the One empowering Paul so that he could accomplish "all things," or whatever God wanted him to do.
Life Application:  Have you learned to be so committed to Jesus that He is the supplier of whatever you need? He really wants to be the source of everything you need and the one to guide you through life.
 
Praise/Prayer:  Hallelujah what a wonderful God we serve! Thank You, God, for supplying all I have ever needed and more. You supply the food for me to eat and share with others. I always have had the clothing I wanted and not just needed. You have always been a very generous giver and I thank You over and over again. I love telling people that You are my source. Great is Your faithfulness! Amen!
Read More

 

A new study by a defense analysis company indicates there was a 33 percent drop in global terror attacks in 2018, and terrorism fatalities fell to a 10-year low.

Jane's Terrorism and Insurgency Center released its annual Global Attack Index on Wednesday, saying one of the central reasons for the decrease in incidents and fatalities was the decrease in violence in Syria, where the government has gained control of territory previously occupied by Islamic State militants.

Attacks by IS in 2018 declined by nearly 75 percent compared to 2017.

The study said in addition to Syria, IS was also affected by losses in Iraq, which "noticeably reduced" the militants' capability to operate, forcing them to switch to "lower intensity insurgent operations."

With violence down in Syria, Afghanistan became the deadliest country worldwide in 2018 in terms of nonmilitant fatalities. Jane's said attacks rose by almost one-third last year, while fatalities rose 80 percent.

Ukraine also saw a marked rise in violence. In the east, home to a Russia-backed separatist insurgency, attacks have been rising 18.4 percent over the past year. The report attributed that rise "almost entirely" to two pro-Russia separatist groups operating in Ukraine's eastern Donbas region where the separatist movement is strongest.

The report said it recorded 15,321 attacks in 2018, which resulted in a total of 13,483 nonmilitant fatalities.

Jane's has been issuing its reports since 2009. It said the 2018 study showed the lowest fatality numbers since it began issuing the report 10 years ago.

Read More

At this, the start of another year of ministry, we would like to take this opportunity to thank all our friends and partners for their prayers and financial support during the past year. While we know that God is our ultimate source, we are also aware that He often provides for his work through willing and yielded channels.  We therefore deeply appreciate everyone who chose to stand with us during the year. 

As we reflect on what we were able to achieve as a result of the wonderful support of our friends and partners, we are very pleased to share with you this brief ministry report for 2018. 

On May 19, IPMI hosted the Eleventh Annual Pastors’ and Leaders’ Prayer Symposium in New York City with guest speaker Dr. David Bryant, a leading scholar and expert on spiritual revival.  Seventy-five pastors and leaders from across the tristate attended the Symposium and received a free copy of Dr. Bryant’s latest book, Christ is Now, and other free resources to strengthen their prayer lives and facilitate prayer in their congregations.

We hosted the Twenty-second Annual Prayer Breakfast in New York City, with guest speaker Bishop Joseph Garlington on June 17.  Approximately two hundred believers of various denominations from across the tristate attended the Breakfast.  In addition to catalyzing spiritual revival among participating churches in the region, the Prayer Breakfast has facilitated a powerful time of prayer for the nations over the years.

IPMI collaborated with members of the clergy and the Jamaica Overseas Missions in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom to host the Fourteenth Annual Jamaica Diaspora Day of Prayer and Fasting (JDOP) on August 1.  Since its inception, thousands of Jamaican Christians from scores of congregations in these regions have participated in this annual day of fasting and prayer for spiritual renewal and transformation in their homeland.  The initiative has also helped to raise much-needed funds to assist two Jamaican charities that work with at-risk youth from the inner city communities on the island.           

The twenty-second Annual 21 Days Prayer and Fasting climaxed with the hosting of another powerful Global Prayer Summit on October 13 that attracted a group of local and international prayer leaders to New York City.  In addition to some great presentations from conference speakers, including Rev. Mary Glazier (Alaska); Bishop C. B. Peter Morgan (Jamaica); Dr. Joseph Campbell (Missouri), attendees had the opportunity to participate in a few powerful times of intercession for revival in the US and the various challenges facing nations around the world.

During 2018, IPMI was also busy promoting united prayer for revival for world evangelization and the healing and transformation of nations through the hosting of three monthly global prayer calls. Christians leaders from nine nations, including the US, facilitated these thirty-six global prayer calls.  IPMI also launched a new state of the art website and a special project to develop further the Schools of Prayer Program to enable IPMI to extend this great ministry resource on a much larger scale to churches locally and internationally.  The project will result in the development of a curriculum for the schools of prayer and the publication of a series of books on prayer over the next two and a half years, depending on the availability of funds.  This was, indeed, a wonderful year of ministry.    

As we prepare for another exciting year of ministry in 2019, we would like to use this opportunity to invite you to join us for some great meetings and events we have lined up during the year.  In addition, we would like to ask you to consider coming with us on board as a partner who commits to giving to IPMI a monthly gift of $25 or more. 

Click here now for more information and to sign up as a partner.

 

 

Read More

The deadly al-Shabab attack that rocked a luxury hotel in Kenya’s capital of Nairobi Tuesday, killing 14 civilians, including one American, is seen by many experts as a signal of resilience by the Islamist militant group that has been battling U.S.-backed forces in East Africa for years.

The attack on the Dusit D2 hotel in Nairobi contained the hallmarks of al-Shabab’s previous tactics: detonating explosives, followed by suicide infantry. But it does not necessarily demonstrate the group is resurging. Rather, the attack shows its ability to survive and execute significant attacks, according to U.S. officials and other observers interviewed by VOA.

Karl Wiest, a spokesperson for U.S. Africa Command, told VOA that al-Shabab is repeatedly targeting civilians to undermine the U.S.’ relationship with its African allies.

“This violent extremist group continues to seek the establishment of self-governed Islamic territory in East Africa, the removal of Western influence and presence from the region, and to further its jihadist agenda,” Wiest said.

In its statement claiming responsibility for the attack Tuesday, al-Shabab said it was in response to U.S. President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

“Even if the Zionists and crusaders were to move all the embassies in the world to Jerusalem, the sacred land shall forever remain a noble Muslim sanctuary, without concession or compromise. Jerusalem will never be Judaized,” the statement said.

An affiliate of al-Qaida, al-Shabab formed in 2006 as a militant Islamic movement resisting the Ethiopian invasion of Somalia. Over the years, the group has taken advantage of conflict and weak governance in the region and expanded to neighboring Kenya, Yemen, Tanzania, and Mozambique.

 

7,000 fighters

Wiest said al-Shabab’s core influence is in Somalia where it has an estimated 3,000 to 7,000 fighters. The group has engaged in a fierce rivalry with IS militants who, according to Wiest, number about 250 fighters.

“Al-Shabab controls roughly 20 percent of Somalia, primarily in southern Somalia, where they have maintained a historical presence. ISIS-Somalia doesn’t control any territory but maintains influence and a very small presence in comparison to al-Shabab in Somalia in northern Puntland,” Wiest said.

The group once controlled large swaths of Somalia but was beaten back by a coordinated international effort such as those from the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM).

Its main operations now rely on making surprise and systematic attacks on soft public targets and tourism attractions, such as hotels hosting foreigners.

Last November, the group killed at least 20 people in a bomb attack targeting government officials staying in the Sahafi Hotel in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu.

Impact on investment

A Somali hotel owner in Mogadishu told VOA that many investors and hotel owners are deterred by the regular attacks, fearing their lives could be at risk, particularly if they host foreign visitors.

The owner, who requested anonymity to avoid being targeted by al-Shabab, said the November bombing damaged walls and broke the windows of his hotel in downtown Mogadishu.

“I was in my hotel when the attack happened. We heard a blast, and at the same moment, we heard broken window glasses,” he said.

“The only thing I could say is thank God nobody was hurt inside my hotel, and we were all OK,” he added.

U.S. drone strikes

The hotel owner said the attacks could be in response to U.S. military presence in the country.

The Trump’s administration has carried out more drone attacks on al-Shabab and destroyed their leadership recently. I guess it is al-Shabab’s way of getting back at them by attacking soft targets and killing people,” he said.

The U.S. re-established its permanent diplomatic presence in Somalia last month after 28 years. The absence since January 1991 was in response to a civil war that overthrew the country’s president. Washington took steps to re-establish diplomatic ties with Mogadishu in 2015 by reopening its diplomatic mission but basing it in Kenya.

David Shinn, a professor at George Washington University, told VOA that defeating al-Shabab in Somalia and neighboring countries will be difficult for the U.S. and its Western allies.

“The International community doesn’t always agree on how to approach a problem and how to deal with it. There is always a problem of resources, how much money do you want to put into this, and more importantly, how long do you want to do it for?” Shinn said.

“Al-Shabab is clearly for a long game as long as they can obtain new recruits,” he said.

National army key

Experts say building a unified and effective national army that could prevent al-Shabab violence from spreading should be at the heart of international efforts to ensure the group’s lasting defeat.

The country’s security forces, despite international support, are often accused of corruption and incompetence in the face of al-Shabab attacks on civilians.

Former Somali envoy to the U.S., Abukar Arman, charged that the international community has yet to take significant action to rebuild the Somali national force.

“Unfortunately, the international community squanders a billion or so dollars a year, and AFRICOM squanders hundreds of millions of U.S. taxpayer dollars on biweekly drone attacks on Somalia that only create more enemies,” Arman told VOA.

Increased drone attacks and the lack of an effective national security apparatus increases instability, strengthens al-Shabab’s recruiting, and bolsters the propaganda effort to spread anti-Western sentiment, Arman added.

“Unfortunately, al-Shabab’s future is bright so long as the status quo is maintained and there is no cohesive, good-faith strategy to eliminate it and stabilize Somalia. The current condition is the perfect environment for al-Shabab, or worse,” Arman said.

VOA’s Rikar Hussein contributed to this report.

 

 

Read More
 
PHILIPPIANS 4:2 - 3
 
 
Three times in the first four verses of this fourth chapter the words "in the Lord" are found. There are three great commands that Paul gives "in the Lord." 
  
(1) The Philippians are to stand fast in the Lord. Only with Jesus can a person resist the seductions of temptation and the weakness of cowardice. The word Paul uses for stand fast (stekete) is the word used for a soldier standing fast in the face of battle, with the enemy surging down upon him.   We know very well that there are some people in whose company it is easy to do the wrong thing and there are some in whose company it is easy to resist the wrong thing. Our only safety against temptation is to be in the Lord, always feeling His presence with us. The Church and the individual Christian can stand fast only when they stand in the Lord.
 
(2nd) Paul bids Euodia and Syntyche to agree in the Lord. There cannot be any unity unless it is in Jesus. In ordinary human affairs, it repeatedly happens that the most different people can be held together because they follow the same leader. Take the leader away, and the group would disintegrate into isolated and often warring units. People cannot really love each other until they love Jesus. The brotherhood of man is impossible without the lordship of Jesus.
 
(3rd) Paul bids the Philippians to rejoice in the Lord. The one thing people need to learn about JOY is that it has nothing to do with material things or with a person's outward circumstances. It is the simple fact of human experience that a person living in the lap of luxury can be wretched and another person living in the depths of poverty can overflow with joy. A person upon whom life has apparently inflicted no blows at all can be gloomily or peevishly discontented, and a person upon whom life has inflicted every possible blow can be serenely joyful.
 
The secret is this happiness doesn't depend on things or places, but always on people. If we are with the right person, nothing else matters; if we are not with the right person nothing can make up for that. The Christian is in the Lord Jesus, the greatest of all friends; nothing can separate the Christian from His presence and so nothing can take away His joy.
_________________________________________
Life Application: Have you ever been alone in a strange place? My family and I have traveled to foreign countries where English was not the language, and we didn't speak their language. But when we found someone who spoke English, we had a friend. In Heaven, we will all speak the same language and we will have a lot of friends.
 
Praise/Prayer: Dear Father, thank You for the friendship that we have here with You while we are waiting to be with You in Heaven. You give us the song to sing and the friends that we must have to be sure to make Heaven our home with You. What A day it will be when all God's children come home to Father's kingdom. Thank You for the hope and joy while waiting. Amen!
 
 
Read More

Follow Us Social networks

PLEASE DONATE

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Please type your full name.
Invalid email address.