BWA sends aid to displaced Iraqi Christians

The Baptist World Alliance (BWA) sent an initial sum of US$20,000 to assist with Christians displaced inside Iraq.

Funds given by the BWA will be used to help provide food and other urgent relief supplies to approximately 500 Iraqi Christian families who fled Mosul and Karakosh to Irbil city in Kurdistan state.

Christians fled in haste without their possessions, including clothing. Money, jewelry and other valuables were stolen or confiscated.

A sum of US$90 is needed for mattresses, blankets and a two-week food supply for an average family of six persons.  Baptists and other Christian groups providing assistance expect the need to last through several months.

 

 

Mosul, Iraq's second largest metropolitan area after Baghdad is an ancient city in Northern Iraq that has had a significant Christian presence going back almost 2,000 years. Karakosh is in close proximity to Mosul.

Problems faced by Iraqi Christians escalated in June this year with the Northern Iraq offensive, when the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, sometimes referred to as the Islamic State (IS), and aligned forces, began a major offensive in Northern Iraq against the Iraqi government. The same protagonists attacked Kurdish-held territory in Northern Iraq in August.

Christians and other minority religious groups have been specially targeted by IS.  A decree was issued in July that all Christians in the area under IS control, including Mosul and Karakosh, must pay a special tax of approximately US$470 per family, convert to Islam, or leave. It was later announced that all Christians needed to leave or be killed.

Many Christians have fled to Kurdistan.

Christians have been leaving Iraq in droves after the 2003 United States invasion of Iraq. Violence against Christians by radical Islamist groups rose dramatically, including abductions, torture, bombings and killings. Christians were pressured to convert to Islam under threat of death or expulsion, and women were ordered to wear Islamic dress.

By 2007, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimated that 2.2 million Iraqis were displaced to neighboring countries such as Lebanon, Jordan and Syria, with a large majority being Christian. Another two million were displaced internally.

Donations may be made online at www.bwanet.org or sent to
Baptist World Aid
c/o Baptist World Alliance
405 North Washington Street
Falls Church, VA 22046
USA

Baptist World Alliance®
© August 29, 2014

Appeal made to Baptists to fight Ebola

The Baptist World Alliance (BWA) is appealing urgently to Baptists to make generous contributions to help in alleviating the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

The BWA sent an initial sum of US$5,000 to Sierra Leone to assist in a public education campaign about the disease.

Donations will be used to provide food, educational materials for the prevention of the spread of the Ebola virus, as well as materials and equipment to provide adequate sanitation for persons who have been affected by the crisis.

 

Baptists in Liberia, one of the countries affected, will focus on areas where economic conditions are difficult and are expected to get worse in the weeks and months ahead as the Ebola crisis deepens in the West African country. Those who have been internally displaced and laid off from work since the outbreak will be specially targeted.

Sierra Leone Baptists will assist persons that have been quarantined with food and medical supplies in areas such as Bo, Kenema, Makeni and Lunsar. Other initiatives include sensitization of church members on the signs and symptoms of Ebola, provision of plastic buckets with chlorine and educational workshops on Ebola.

The current Ebola outbreak first began in Guinea in March and has since spread to the bordering countries of Liberia and Sierra Leone. By August 20, the World Health Organization reported 2,615 suspected cases of Ebola with 1,427 deaths in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria.

Donations may be made online at www.bwanet.org or sent to
Baptist World Aid
c/o Baptist World Alliance
405 North Washington Street
Falls Church, VA 22046
USA

Baptist World Alliance®
© August 27, 2014

Baptists in Gaza request urgent prayer, extend assistance

Baptists in Gaza are appealing to Baptists and other Christians to pray for their city that endured a month of heavy fighting between Israel and Hamas.

“Due to the desperate situation which is unfolding in Gaza, I must write to you again to ask for more prayers,” wrote Hanna Massad, former pastor of the Gaza Baptist Church who lives in exile in Amman, Jordan. “Fear is everywhere and nowhere is safe.” He reported that neighbors have taken shelter in his Gaza home.

“Many people are running out of food,” Massad stated. He has put a relief plan in place in collaboration with the Gaza Baptist Church. Thus far, his food relief efforts have been extended to 130 Christian families and preparations are in place to help some 1,000 Muslim families, but only half that goal has been met. Each food package, he says, costs US$60.

The Greek Orthodox and the Catholic churches, Massad said, “have opened their doors to refugees who have fled from the bombing. Some flee because their homes have been destroyed, others because the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) has told them to go because their area is about to be bombed.”

He said the current war is the worst the city has experienced. “The situation in Gaza is much worse than during any other conflict before. I was on the telephone to some friends in the church in Gaza and on the phone these dear brothers are breaking down in agony due to the trauma they are suffering from the constant bombardment. Even amongst those who have not been killed, many lives will never be the same again.”

An escalation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict began following a series of events, including the continued blockade of the Gaza Strip by the Egyptian and Israeli governments, continued rocket attacks from Gaza, the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers, the subsequent kidnapping and murder of a Palestinian teenager and the arrest by Israel of nearly all of Hamas’ West Bank leaders.

On July 8 the IDF launched Operation Protective Edge in the Gaza Strip. Approximately 1,880 Palestinians have died and about 10,000 wounded, 80 percent of them civilians. Sixty four Israeli soldiers and three civilians have died, while 651 IDF soldiers and 23 civilians were wounded.

The war claimed its first known Christian casualty, Massad reported. “Mrs Jalila Ayyad became the first person from the Christian community to lose her life under the bombardment from Israeli bombing. Her son has also been seriously injured. This is just one of so many tragedies happening now in Gaza on a daily basis.”

As of August 5, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs stated that in the Gaza Strip, 520,000 Palestinians, approximately 30 percent of Gaza's population, may have been displaced, of whom 273,000 were taking shelter in 90 schools. More than 485,000 internally displaced persons are in need of emergency food assistance.

Massad urged Christians everywhere to pray for the end to the conflicts; for churches that have opened their doors to those who are displaced; for those who are offering relief; for those who have been traumatized; and for the family of Jalila Ayyad.

He also asked for prayer “that Christians will be strong in faith and be seen as beacons of hope and love” and “that, in the midst of war, the believers will know the peace that only Christ can bring.”

Donations may be made online at www.bwanet.org or sent to:
Baptist World Aid
c/o Baptist World Alliance405 North Washington Street
Falls Church, VA
USA

Baptist World Alliance®
© August 7, 2014

BWA accepts new members

Four new member organizations were accepted into membership of the BWA during the Annual Gathering in Izmir, Turkey, in July.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo now has 13 members after the Baptist Community of the Faithful in Africa, established in 1958 and having 30,146 members in 136 churches, and the Baptist Evangelical Community in Central Africa, formed in 2009 and comprising 40,000 members in 150 churches, were accepted as members.

Ethiopia now has three members with the addition of the Emmanuel Baptist Church of Ethiopia, which has 20,000 members in 49 churches. It was established in 1962.

Chin Baptist Churches USA is the 19th BWA member in the United States. Formed in 2004, it has 8,500 members in 63 churches.

 The Irish Baptist Network was granted associate membership status.

The BWA now has 231 full member organizations in 121 countries and territories.

Baptist World Alliance®
© August 19, 2014

 

Baptists take precautionary measures in wake of Ebola outbreak

Baptist leaders in West Africa have called for prayer and are taking precautionary measures to protect their constituencies and communities from the Ebola outbreak that is affecting Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.

The Baptist World Alliance (BWA) sent an initial sum of US$5,000 to Sierra Leone to assist in a public education campaign about the disease.

Samuel Conteh, coordinator of social ministries for the Baptist Convention of Sierra Leone told the BWA that a Baptist Ebola Task Force has been formed  "to coordinate the sensitization of Ebola outbreak in its various churches and other public places" and that "churches are being gradually provided with sanitization plastic buckets with chlorine tablets."

The education efforts have borne fruit, Conteh said. "The response is good. People have become better enlightened on the basic preventive measures against the disease."

He however, indicated that church activities have been negatively affected by the outbreak. "Church attendances are dwindling. Baptist activities are being slowed down, particularly in [the] epicenters. The traditional embracing and handshake among members after church service have disappeared."

The Liberia Baptist Missionary and Educational Convention (LBMEC) called "on our brothers and sisters with great urgency to pray for West Africa, especially Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone."

 LBMEC declared, "We have encouraged our local Baptist churches, pastors and its leadership around Liberia through a massive electronic text messaging to commit to all the preventive practices that have been advanced by the health experts as well as the Government of Liberia on this deadly disease."

Liberia President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf ordered that all schools close indefinitely, which include the Baptist-affiliated Liberia Baptist Theological Seminary, Rick's Institute and the Lott Carey Mission School.

"We are gravely concerned over the outbreak of this lethal disease and the protection of persons in our West Africa region," LBMEC stated. It expressed concern that "hospitals and medical clinics around Liberia have been abandoned because of the alarming death of health care providers and the lack of adequate protective gears and hygienic items. The abandonment of hospitals and medical clinics is critical since it is suspected now that many people are dying from other curable illnesses in additional to Ebola causes."

At least one Liberian Baptist, a nurse, died after she attended to an infected patient who succumbed to the disease.

"We pause to remember the compassionate, committed service of Sis. Alice M. Paasewe, who was on active duty as a nurse at the Phebe Referral Hospital, in central Liberia," LBMEC said. Paasewe, a Baptist church deacon, died shortly after her diagnosis. "Sis. Paasewe was a vibrant member of her church and a strong leader in the Woman's Missionary Union of our convention," the LBMEC said.

Supo Ayokunle, president of the Nigerian Baptist Convention (NBC) told the BWA that a delegation of women who were to attend a West African Baptist Women Congress in Togo, which began on August 4, cancelled their trip out of an abundance of caution.

NBC has taken preventive and other measures in Africa's most populous country. Nigeria has reported four cases and one death, a traveler to the country from Liberia. "I have declared three days of prayer and fasting to seek God's face to remove the plague and save all countries under the Ebola siege," Ayokunle said. "We are also sensitizing people on how to avoid infection."

The current Ebola outbreak first began in Guinea in March and has since spread to the bordering countries of Liberia and Sierra Leone. As of August 1, just over 1,600 suspected cases with 887 deaths have been reported by the World Health Organization.

It is believed that common cultural practices such as communal gatherings to be present with the sick and dying and the traditional washing of dead bodies as a sign of respect have helped to spread the virus among previously uninfected persons.

Ebola usually spreads by direct physical contact with an infected person or body fluids. Scientists claim the disease is not airborne.

Donations may be made online at www.bwanet.org or mailed to
Baptist World Aid
c/o Baptist World Alliance
405 North Washington Street
Falls Church, VA 22046

Baptist World Alliance®
© August 6, 2014