September 17, 2014
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Northern Iraqis 'just like us' & need help
KURDISTAN (BP) -- The newlyweds collapsed into bed, exhausted from a day filled with wedding celebrations. It was their first night as man and wife.
Displaced Iraqis share stories of suffering
NASHVILLE (BP) -- More than they want food, forcibly displaced families in northern Iraq want to talk about the pain they are enduring at the hands of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) extremists.
Muhammad's life shapes Youssef analysis
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP) -- Christians must never compromise the exclusivity of Christ when engaging Islam, Michael A. Youssef said at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in a Sept. 2 lecture.
ISIS terror threat gives impetus to 'just war,' strategists say
NASHVILLE (BP) -- With ISIS beheading a second American journalist and controlling a large section of Iraq and Syria, analysts say military action against the terrorist group aligns with traditional just war principles.
Life-saving supplies delivered to displaced in northern Iraq
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP) -- Life-saving relief supplies are being delivered to Iraqi Christians and other minorities forcibly displaced in northern Iraq by radical ISIS Islamists. Many of these families have gone for three weeks with little to eat, said Abraham,* who leads work in the Middle East for Baptist Global Response (BGR). He reports these persecuted Christians believe they are facing extinction and worry Christians in the West do not know of their suffering.
"We entered this one camp, and they said, 'So far we are just eating rice and some watery tomato soup. We have only had meat once. A guy came and he gave us some chicken. Just for a day,'" Abraham said. "It touched my heart, to know we could provide some good healthy nutrition for these people," he added. "It brought joy to their hearts for us to bring beans and other food. Just to make them feel they are normal and loved." Many of these families were urban professionals who ran businesses and owned homes. When violence reached their majority-Christian neighborhood, however, they had only minutes to flee. An estimated 60,000 people left in the space of a few hours, most with only the clothes on their backs. Several families pooled their resources and managed to rent an apartment, Abraham said. Eight families shared two floors of an unfinished house. "We entered this place, and it's totally empty. It's just a floor and concrete walls," he said. "To look at these children, to look in the eyes of a defeated father who cannot provide for his family, the least we could do was we bought carpet so it can be a little more comfortable for them than sleeping on the floor. Pillows. Blankets. Basic things." Baptist Global Response has been providing relief to refugees and displaced families throughout the Middle East for years now, Abraham said. But the ISIS advance across northern Iraq has compounded one crisis with another. "That makes it more tragic, in a sense, but at the same time it helps us because we already have work, we already have projects on the ground, to pool our efforts together, to pool our teams together," he said. "Now some of our national team members are forcibly displaced themselves, becoming victims of the crisis as well." BGR is drawing on resources provided by Global Hunger Relief (GHR) to provide food, water, baby formula, propane burners and temporary shelter. They also have been helping families obtain cooling units to provide relief from scorching summer heat. "The heat is suffocating. The temperature is in the hundreds and it's a dusty environment. So you can see a baby, 25 days old, they cannot endure this," Abraham said. "So we try to have a water cooling system to help them in their own tent."
Afghan family longs for hope and peace
AFGHANISTAN (BP) -- Reza* appears frail. He hobbles on a wounded leg. Haunted by his family's past and weighed down by a future full of threats, this young man appears much older than his years.
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.
Israeli and Palestinian believers 'not void of hope' amid conflict
JERUSALEM (BP) -- In war-torn Gaza and Israel, Christians watch with anguish as violence ravages the innocent on both sides of the conflict. But this "season of weeping and mourning" is "not void of hope," said Yohanna Katanacho, academic dean of Bethlehem Bible College and an "on call" pastor of Nazareth Baptist Church.
"Our tears are the bridge between brutality and humanity," Katanacho, who describes himself as an Arab Christian living in Israel, said. "Pray with tears" in regard to the Gaza-Israel conflict, he challenged believers. The latest clashes between Israel and Hamas in the past six weeks have seen more than 2,000 killed and 10,000 injured. But as deadly attacks continue, Christians from both sides of the conflict continue to pray for peace that some would contend can only be supernatural, and peace that the Bible says is beyond understanding. "We feel strongly that our position is to enlist prayer for all the people on all sides of the conflict," Dale Thorne, director of the Jerusalem Prayer Center, said. The center, an entity of Southern Baptists, is a five-minute walk from the ancient walled city of Jerusalem. "The real question for us is how are we to pray in this quagmire of pain, fear, destruction and confusion," Thorne said. "We can only depend on God's Word. There is no other source." Prayer is "invaluable" in times like these, he said. "When we replace worry with prayer and anxiety with thankfulness, we experience God's peace, which will control our emotions and thoughts and keep us centered in Jesus the Messiah," Thorne said. One leader of the Baptist church in Gaza said, "We have peace in our hearts." For people like Faten,* that peace is vital. Faten, a Baptist who attends the Bethlehem Bible College extension in Gaza, is grieving the deaths of two students who attended the school where her sister works. The students were hit by Israeli rocket fire while playing on the roof of their apartment building. When Katanacho, the academic dean of Bethlehem Bible College, learned that rockets were striking close to the building where Faten lives, he phoned her asking if there was an area where she could seek refuge. "She chuckled and said that the only refuge she has is God and He is enough for her," Katanacho said. He expressed amazement at her trust in God's care. "She wholeheartedly believes that her life is in God's hands," Katanacho said. "God is her refuge in Gaza. God called her to serve Him in this difficult place, and she will honor her Lord." Hanna Massad, former pastor of Gaza Baptist Church now living in Jordan, said, "It's a truly desperate situation ... many lives will never be the same again."
Reign of terror must be stopped, Moore says
WASHINGTON (BP) -- The United States possesses a distinctive duty in Iraq to combat the reign of terror by an Islamist army and needs discernment on how to do so, the Southern Baptist Convention's lead ethicist has said.
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.
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.
Displaced Iraqi families receive help
IRAQ (BP) -- While the world's attention has been focused on the plight of Iraq's suffering Yazidi community, Baptist Global Response humanitarian partners have been working in other parts of the country among some 250,000 other displaced Iraqis.
'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.

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