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Will ISIS go nuclear?

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Debate continues over the probability and likelihood of a nuclear ISIS. While reportedly improbable, Central Asia could be a starting point for the Islamic State’s nuclear ambitions.

ISIS in Central Asia

(Wikipedia)

(Wikipedia)

In March, terrorists handed out hundreds of notices on official ISIS letterhead before and after the bombing of a Shi’ite mosque.

Though officials continue to deny an Islamic State presence in Pakistan, “they’re operating there,” says Bruce Allen of Forgotten Missionaries International (FMI).

“Their recruiting pamphlets are there across Pakistan; brick-and-mortar office buildings.”

Yet, a bigger concern is the growth of ISIS in neighboring Afghanistan.

Earlier this week, the top commander of U.S. forces in the region called for more troops because ISIS and al-Qaeda were increasing in strength.

“The ISIS influence is stronger in Afghanistan than in Pakistan,” claims this security analyst.

“However, Pakistan would not be able to counter the threat alone if he conflict in Afghanistan worsens and Pakistani and Afghani militants inspired by the ISIS try to capture territory along the Pak-Afghan border for establishing a ‘caliphate.’”

(Photo cred: FMI)

(Photo cred: FMI)

While clearly present in Pakistan and Afghanistan, the Islamic State’s “hold” on Central Asia as a whole is arguable.

“No Central Asian government has produced much by way of proof that Islamic State is operating in any substantial fashion within the region,” said a blogger on Eurasianet.org.

Meanwhile, indigenous missionaries supported by FMI are pressing forward without fear.

Background check: Rohingya boat people

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Rohingya starvation

Many Rohingya are facing starvation since foreign aid workers were forced to leave the region by the government.
(Image, caption courtesy Partners)

Most Rohingya refugees currently adrift in the Andaman Ocean fled persecution in Myanmar months ago with the help of traffickers. They were stuck between a rock and a hard place, and had to make a decision.

Myanmar’s government doesn’t allow the Rohingya to move beyond highly-monitored zones resembling concentration camps. Since beginning their work in Rakhine state three years ago, Partners Relief and Development has helped improve daily life in the camps for many Rohingya refugees.

But as time went on, many saw the writing on the wall and took to the sea.

“Two years ago, [the situation] seemed like it was temporary, and that they were going to be able to go back to their homes eventually,” says Partners co-founder Oddny Gumaer.

“Now, it’s looking like this is where they will be for the rest of their lives.”

For most Rohingya, the desperate escape from Myanmar has turned into an unimaginable trap. Boat people keep getting pushed back to sea as nations throughout Southeast Asia continually deny them entrance.

Why are countries turning a “cold shoulder” to the Rohingya?

As government talks drag on, it doesn’t look like the Rohingya crisis will end any time soon. In this article, Gumaer shares what YOU can do about it.

Commentary: What’s the cure for ISIS? I have an idea

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USA (MNN) — Islamic State is taking lives in the most barbaric ways. Beheading Christians, burning people alive, selling the organs of those they capture, and selling young girls to the highest bidder. Why are they doing this? It’s not because these individuals have offended them, have attacked them, or threatened them. They’re being attacked because members of these terrorist groups want everyone in the world to bow to them and their god.

I’ve heard some pretty outlandish things. First, a U-S State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf  told one news network that the west needs to go after the root causes that leads people to join groups like ISIS and Boko Haram. She says if we could improve the governance of their countries, improve the grievance process, and provide job opportunities that would address the problem.

Following the three day White House Summit on Violent Extremism, President Barak Obama said the world needs to end the cycle of hate by expanding human rights, religious tolerance and peaceful dialogue. He also suggests that Western nations must show that they “welcome people of all faiths,” at a time when “extremists” are saying that Western nations are “hostile to Muslims.

I do believe both of these individuals have a point, but not what you think.

First, let me address Marie Hart’s comments. She’s right, we need to address the root of the problem to fix the ISIS problem. But, the root problem isn’t the lack of jobs, or poverty. If that was the case India would be the home of great bands of terrorists and the homeless in the United States would be nothing more than urban terrorist thugs. The key to getting at the root cause is seeing what is at the heart of this issue — evil hearts.

What do I mean? Man without Christ is evil. As we look at these world events, the only thing that can describe the problem is that it’s utter evil. Where does that come from? A person who is separated from Christ. Satan is the master of using evil to accomplish his purposes.

Secondly, I believe President Obama is correct also, but his assessment is a bit off. I believe we should do more than just bomb the Muslim terrorists and and leave. I think as Christians we have a responsibility to do something for these people. But the first thing we need to do is to tell them about Jesus.

When the Bible says, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against spiritual wickedness in high places,”  we now see what that’s like first hand. We’re seeing people who are blinded by the faith of ‘another gospel.’ We’re seeing people who are searching for truth, only being blinded by the lack of truth taught by a book that’s not God’s spoken Word.

So, what’s the answer? I believe the answer is to start praying for Muslims to see and understand who Jesus is. Many Muslims believe Jesus is a Holy Prophet. Because of that, Christians need to leverage that. If they believe He is holy, why don’t they know more about Him. How will they learn more about Him? By reading the Gospel. How will they read the Gospel if they don’t have access to it.

Today, Muslims can access Scripture in more ways than ever before. They can access it in text on websites in their own language (https://www.biblegateway.com/versions/). It’s also available to people who would rather listen to it (http://www.bible.is/).

What’s the bottom line? Only Christ can change the ISIS problem. Only God can limit the evil man does to each other. Only God changes hearts. Pray earnestly every day that God will do this in the hearts of Islamic State terrorists and others who don’t know they Savior.

 

Urgent Prayer Request from E3

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Hey friends,

(Graphic cred: E3 Partners)

(Graphic cred: E3 Partners)

E3 Partners’ Tom Doyle shared an urgent prayer reminder with me during a recent interview. As we prepare to celebrate Christmas with family and friends, we also need to be mindful of our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ.

“We get excited about worshipping Jesus,” Doyle shares. “Believers [in Syria] wonder, ‘What’s the blowback going to be?’.”

Because Christmas is known as a “distinctly-Christian” holiday, Christians in areas controlled by ISIS will be targeted.

“People will die just because they’re known for following Jesus, and [Christmas is] the day that we celebrate His birth,” says Doyle.

During Easter last year, “ISIS and other terrorist groups claimed, ‘we will wash the streets in Syria with Christian blood’.”

A similar reaction is expected tomorrow.

“They (terrorists) hate Jesus, they hate the resurrection; therefore, they’re going to hate the day that we celebrate His birth.”

As you gather with your families for Christmas and celebrate Jesus’ birth, pray for His family.

Join E3’s prayer initiative for Syrian Christians here.

Weekend Prayer Alert: Ukraine

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Dear Ministry Friends and Supporters,

With Ukrainian presidential elections scheduled for this Sunday, May 25, violence has sharply escalated in the eastern part of the country, renewing fears that Ukraine is on the verge of civil war. On Thursday, a total of 14 Ukrainian troops were killed and 32 were injured in two separate attacks in the cities of Donetsk and Luhansk.

Sadly, Christians have also become targets of the violence. Today, armed separatists attacked a prayer tent in Donetsk, ripping the tent apart and issuing this threat to those who were praying: “If any Christians come back here tonight to pray, they will all be shot.” Specific threats have also been made against pastors in the cities of Pervomaisk, Lisichansk, Slavyansk and Bryanka, who had to flee the region with their families.

Many speculate that this escalation in violence is an attempt by pro-Russian separatist forces to derail the imminent presidential elections by further destabilizing the situation in the eastern part of the country.

The following is a firsthand account from one of our School Without Walls coordinators that describes the situation in eastern Ukraine as well as how these young Next Generation leaders trained by Russian Ministries are reaching out with the gospel:

“I live in Dimitrov in the Donetsk Region of Ukraine. I love my country and believe that, as a Christian, I must do everything possible to help it flourish and to spread God’s Kingdom. My roots are also from Russia and I can’t help but love the Russian people. I pray and care for Russia and want Christ’s light to reach all corners of that enormous country.

“In Dimitrov and Krasnoarmeisk three weeks ago things were already starting to stir. Government buildings and police stations were seized. They raised a flag of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) above the mayor’s building. Many people with criminal backgrounds have gotten behind the DPR. For some people war is a tragedy, while it puts others in their element. People are scared, and are buying up all of the sugar and flour, in case of war. Most people keep their money in Privat Bank, but the DPR members are robbing Privat Bank’s cash in transit vehicles, so the bank shut down for a while. It has started working again, but they will only issue limited amounts of cash. People are panicking.

“On a positive note, people are more open to the gospel. In churches we are praying a lot. We have had night-long prayer meetings. We ask God to have mercy on our country, not to allow war, and to save many people in our town. Praise God, the Ukrainian army has set up posts around our town. We collected money and took them some basic necessities – razors, soap, socks, water. We also distributed Scriptures. We prayed for them, for God to protect them.

“I recently attended a meeting of pastors of Baptist and Pentecostal churches of our town. Everyone said that they are also praying for Ukraine and hope for peace.

“It is sad that the DPR has announced that they are against all churches other than the Russian Orthodox Church. It is sad that this resonates with a large portion of the population. But for us it is a signal that we have work to do here, that the harvest is ripe, but the workers are few.”

Russian Ministries has been responding to this situation by organizing prayer meetings, providing emergency aid and distributing Scripture throughout the country.

This Sunday also marks the observance of Refugee Sunday. While major Western news outlets are not reporting on this problem, there are now as many as 20,000 refugees fleeing Crimea and the eastern part of Ukraine. Russian Ministries is caring for these refugees by providing food, clothing, temporary housing and the Gospel of Luke through its Emergency Fund.

In light of the growing violence and refugee crisis in Ukraine, Russian Ministries urges the global Christian community to pray that the violence would cease and that the upcoming presidential elections in Ukraine would take place without interference or disruption. Please also consider a generous gift to our Emergency Fund by visiting our website at: www.russian-ministries.org, clicking on the Donate tab, and selecting Emergency Fund from the dropdown menu.

Thank you for your prayers and support during this critical time that may determine the future direction of Ukraine.

Prayerfully,
Sergey Rakhuba
President

Pray for Afghanistan: Day 3

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An Afghan worker verifies the identification card of a resident at a polling center in the Matun district of the Khost province of Afghanistan Sept. 18, 2010, during parliamentary elections.  (Image, caption courtesy U.S. Dept of Defense via Flickr)

An Afghan worker verifies the identification card of a resident at a polling center in the Matun district of the Khost province of Afghanistan Sept. 18, 2010, during parliamentary elections.
(Image, caption courtesy U.S. Dept of Defense via Flickr)

Barring Taliban deterrence, some 3.8 million registered Afghan voters are expected to show up to the polls tomorrow.  Logistics challenges mean the final winner may not be known for several weeks, but multiple sources agree that the 2014 elections are a crucial step in Afghanistan’s journey toward democracy.

So-called elections have been taking place in Afghanistan since 2004, but have been marred by fraud and violence. Those issues are once again a concern for this year’s elections; ballot-stuffing could be an issue since Afghans hold multiple voting cards. The 2009 elections were reportedly marred by this occurrence, resulting in a win-by-default victory for current President Hamid Karzai.

New electoral laws passed last year not only made tomorrow’s election possible, they set a up a commission to deal with voter fraud “and other irregularities.” As the BBC notes, there’s a lot riding on tomorrow’s polling: “Donor countries have made it clear that continuing aid depends on fair elections.”

Keep an eye on the 8thirty8 Facebook page for updates.

PRAY: Pray that the Taliban will not stop tomorrow’s elections from taking place. Pray that no more bystanders will die at the hands of terrorists. Pray for a free election and peaceful transfer of power.

Pray for Afghanistan: Day 2

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Dutch military troops in Uruzgan province, Afghanistan (Image, caption courtesy Remko Tanis via Flickr)

Dutch military troops in Uruzgan province, Afghanistan
(Image, caption courtesy Remko Tanis via Flickr)

Afghanistan has been a hotspot for conflict in modern history and a common battleground for international troops. As the December 2014 deadline for troop withdrawal draws near, pray it won’t leave Afghanistan in Taliban hands.

The country was taken over by Socialists in 1978, and Western forces came alongside Afghan rebels to try and reverse the Soviet land-grab. According to Peace Direct, the U.S., UK and Saudi Arabia all provided support to resistance groups. Over a decade later, Soviet troops withdrew and Afghanistan was declared an Islamic state in 1992.

As the country descended into civil war, the Taliban emerged as a political and religious power player. Terrorist attacks on U.S. embassies brought Western attention back to Afghanistan, the home base of Taliban leader Osama bin Laden, once more. Sanctions and targeted attacks began in 1998, but it wasn’t until 2001 that the U.S. and NATO began a major push on Afghan soil.

U.S. and UK troops ousted the Taliban government in December 2001. More troops were quickly sent by France, Germany and Italy to fight the Islamic insurgency.  In 2006, NATO took over Afghanistan’s national security, “its first-ever operational commitment outside of Europe”, according to BBC.

After more than a decade of conflict, foreign troops are packing up and heading home. Around 130,000 NATO troops are due to leave by the December deadline; the complete withdrawal of U.S. troops hinges on an unsigned security agreement.

With three days remaining until Afghanistan’s presidential and provisional elections, a strong prayer effort is needed. “Share” this series on social media and encourage more believers to intercede for Afghanistan.

PRAY: Pray that the withdrawal of international forces in 2014 will not lead to a return to civil war.

Pray for Afghanistan: Day 1

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(Image courtesy Hamish Burke via Wikimedia Commons)

(Image courtesy Hamish Burke via Wikimedia Commons)

April Fool’s! Afghanistan hasn’t cancelled their elections. Despite multiple attempts by the Taliban to stop the country’s democratic progress, voting will still take place on Saturday, April 5.

But why is this event so important in the first place?

“As Afghanistan goes, so goes this whole Central Asia area,” E3 Partners’ Middle East expert Tom Doyle explained in yesterday’s article. Afghanistan is a catalyst for change in a region where radical Islam has been a power player for centuries.

Shifting the country’s control away from the Taliban could result in more freedoms and hope for Afghanistan’s people. Decades of instability and conflict have left the national economy and infrastructure in ruins, and refugees comprise most of Afghanistan’s population.

While religious freedom is an unrealistic hope, Doyle noted, the election of a “moderate” candidate has potential to bring them a little more protection. Today, any connection to Christianity is deadly in Afghanistan. People who follow Christ are viewed as apostates and if their faith is discovered, they automatically receive the death penalty.

Watch this video to see what life is like for Afghan Christians. Then, share it with your friends on social media. Ask them to join you in praying for Afghanistan this week.

PRAY: Pray that the Taliban’s influence in Afghanistan will diminish.