September 1, 2014
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The Persecuted Church
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Stand, fight for religious liberty, Platt says
NASHVILLE (BP) -- Southern Baptists must boldly proclaim the Gospel as they fight for religious freedom in the United States and globally, David Platt said in an interview conducted by the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
Bolivian laws threaten religious liberty
COCHABAMBA, Bolivia (BP) -- Evangelical Christians in Bolivia have begun their battle against new measures that could result in the dissolution of Protestant denominations and other religious groups in the heavily Catholic Andean country.
Boko Haram sets up Islamic Caliphate
BORNO, Nigeria (BP) -- Boko Haram has established its own government in Gwoza, a Nigerian city it captured three weeks ago by killing perhaps 1,000 residents and overcoming the Nigerian military, a legislator displaced from his home there has confirmed.
Egypt yet to help persecuted Christians
CAIRO, Egypt (BP) -- One year after the attacks, Mina Thabet can still see the ruins in his mind -- a seemingly endless series of scorched, hollowed-out church buildings, schools, homes and businesses stretching out across Egypt.
Floyd: Iraq crisis calls for urgent action
SPRINGDALE, Ark. (BP) -- Christians in Iraq are the targets of a "horrific injustice" and immediate action is required to help them, said Ronnie Floyd, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, in an Aug. 25 statement.
FIRST-PERSON: Iraqi Christians are suffering. Now is the time to act!
Now is the time for Christians to act, says Southern Baptist Convention president Ronnie Floyd, as he points to the crisis in Iraq.
Indian villages crack down on Christians
NEW DELHI, India (BP) -- Christian minorities in central India face a new threat as Hindu extremists in more than a dozen village councils have passed resolutions imposing restrictions on religions other than Hinduism.
N. Korea detainee's family pleads for release
PYONGYANG, North Korea (BP) -- The family of an American man detained in North Korea for "anti-state" crimes has apologized to the country and pleaded with officials to show mercy and release him, saying in a statement that they are desperate for him to return home.
Nigeria death toll higher than reported
GWOZA, Nigeria (BP) -- The death toll from Boko Haram's takeover of the predominantly Christian town of Gwoza is nearly 1,000, not the 100 included in many reports, Nigerian relations expert Adeniyi Ojutiku told Baptist Press.
Decisive action in Iraq urged in open letter
"No options that are consistent with the principles of just war doctrine should be off the table."
-- Open letter initiated by Robert George, USCIRF vice chair
WASHINGTON (BP) -- An open letter endorsed by the Southern Baptist Convention's lead ethicist and religious freedom advocate calls for the United States and other countries to support decisive military action to incapacitate extremist Islamic forces conducting genocide in Iraq.
Abedini faces death threats from ISIS
TEHRAN, Iran (BP) -- Saeed Abedini, the American pastor imprisoned in Iran for his Christian faith, has received death threats from Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorists being held in the same prison, the American Center for Law and Justice reported today (Aug. 13).
ERLC's Moore urges action to stop genocide
"Our authorities should use the sword of the state to promote justice and the protection of innocent people."
-- Russell D. Moore
WASHINGTON, D.C. (BP) -- Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, signed onto an open letter with national leaders on Tuesday urging the United States and international community to act immediately to stop the genocide of religious minorities in Iraq.
'Pray fervently' for Iraqis, Moore says
"As Christians, we should pray for the president and our military leaders to wisely administer the sword of justice."
-- Russell D. Moore
WASHINGTON (BP) -- The Southern Baptist Convention's lead ethicist has commended President Obama's authorization of targeted airstrikes and humanitarian aid to assist members of Iraqi religious minorities threatened by Islamic militants.
Baptists called on to provide aid to Iraqi Christians, Yazidi Kurds
WASHINGTON, D.C. (BP) -- As U.S. military forces launch airstrikes against Islamic militants in northern Iraq, IMB and Baptist Global Response (BGR) are asking Southern Baptists to help provide humanitarian relief for tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians and Yazidi Kurds forced from their homes.
Most pressing is a situation the White House calls a "looming humanitarian catastrophe" unfolding on a mountaintop near the Iraqi city of Sinjar, home to the country's Yazidi religious minority, where some 50,000 Yazidi refugees are trapped with limited food and water. On Aug. 3, Sunni extremists known as Islamic State or ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) seized the city as Sinjar's Yazidi population fled fearing massacre. Many Iraqis without transportation escaped to the nearby Sinjar Mountains, a barren heap of rock where daytime temperatures can top 120 degrees. While the U.S. has begun airdropping water, food and other supplies to Yazidi refugees in the mountains, BGR representatives are focusing efforts on helping the reportedly 200,000 internally displaced Iraqi refugees who have fled ISIS militants' rapid advance. BGR is a primary ministry partner of IMB. In June, ISIS took control of Mosul, Iraq's second largest city, ordering thousands of Iraqi Christians to leave, convert to Islam, or pay heavy taxes. Yazidi Kurds and other Iraqi minorities have been forced from Sinjar and surrounding villages under threat of death. Many of the refugees have fled to Duhok and Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan, or south to Baghdad. "The news coming out of Iraq is even more heart-breaking than usual," Jeff Palmer, BGR's executive director, said. "We have been helping Iraqi families over the past few months but must now intensify our efforts due to this heightened conflict. We are grateful to have so many friends who care about people in need. Suffering Iraqis will have an opportunity to know God's love firsthand as our partners bring desperately needed relief." Rallying for relief Thursday, Aug. 7, more than 150 Yazidi immigrants rallied in front of the north lawn of the White House to plead for American involvement in the growing crisis. The protestors came from across the U.S., with at least one group driving more than 30 hours from Phoenix, Ariz. Holding signs and chanting slogans such as "Down with ISIS!" and "Save our kids!", the Yazidis' pain and sense of desperation was evident in the faces of protestors such as 27-year-old Nayyaf Abdo. Abdo grew up in Sinjar and came to the U.S. in 2011 after serving as a translator with the U.S. Army. He traveled to Washington for the rally with a group of more than 50 Yazidis from Lincoln, Neb., and said his parents, six brothers, sister and grandmother are among those stranded in the Sinjar Mountains.
Prayer urged for Iraq's Yazidi Kurds as militants attack
RICHMOND, Va. (BP)-- As tens of thousands of Yazidi Kurds flee Islamic militants in northern Iraq, IMB workers in the region are joining Yazidi immigrants in the United States in a desperate plea for international aid and prayer amid the developing humanitarian crisis. On Aug. 3, Sunni extremists known as the Islamic State or ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) seized the city of Sinjar in Iraqi Kurdistan, near the country's border with Syria. Sinjar is the home of Iraq's Yazidi people, a "minority among minorities," International Mission Board's David Edwards,* who has spent the past 14 years working among Kurds, said.
Though ethnically Kurdish, Yazidis are not Muslim like the majority of their Kurdish brethren, Edwards said. Instead, Yazidis follow an ancient religion rooted in Zoroastrianism that ISIS equates with "devil worship," making the Yazidis a prime target along with Christians, Shia Muslims and any other belief system outside the militants' ultra-conservative brand of Islam. ISIS's ultimatum is simple: convert or die. Terrified by the brutal violence directed at Christians when ISIS captured Mosul in June, Sinjar's Yazidis quickly emptied the city early Sunday morning as Kurdish security forces, reportedly low on ammunition, retreated. Many residents left everything behind. Thousands of Yazidis without transportation escaped into nearby mountains, including as many as 25,000 children according to UNICEF. It's a situation John Harper* said he shudders to think about. "They are going to be encountering hell," said Harper, the former IMB worker, who has extensive experience in Kurdistan. Sinjar's desert-like mountains have little vegetation and no water. Daytime temperatures can top 120 degrees. "Even if you're sitting in the shade with some wind, it would be like sitting in front of an oven with a fan," he said. Harper's Kurdish contacts say at least 50 Yazidis already have died from exposure, including children. He fears many more stranded in the mountains may perish within the next few days without immediate humanitarian aid. Meanwhile, Yazidis who could not leave Sinjar remain locked in their homes, at the mercy of ISIS. The situation is so dire that more than 300 Yazidi Kurds in Lincoln, Neb., rallied at the state's capitol building Aug. 3-4 to raise awareness about the crisis. Lincoln is the home to one of the world's largest Yazidi populations outside Kurdistan, and residents such as Gulie (pronounced Julie) Khalaff remain desperate for something -- anything -- to be done.

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