02 13 Newsflashes from the Persecuted Church
Iraq: Distributing Entire Bible Would Help Kurdish Christians
It’s her most precious possession, but where she keeps the New Testament is a secret. Efsan,* who lives in Iraq, hides her New Testament from her husband. Since she isn’t allowed to go to church, it’s her only way of learning more about God. Open Doors is partnering with the International Bible Society to make sure believers such as Efsan can soon read the entire Bible in their own language.
Efsan’s city has transformed quickly from a provincial city with muddy roads to an economic center where skyscrapers pop up like daisies. But the life inside the houses is still the same: converting to Christianity is not accepted. Although Efsan’s husband knows about her faith, he doesn’t want her to own a Bible or go to church. But sometimes, in the quiet hours when he is away and the baby isn’t crying, she reads. There are an estimated 300 Kurdish believers in Iraq, but while the translation of the New Testament has been completed, the translation of the Old Testament in Sorani, the Kurdish language spoken in Iraq, is still in progress.
Joshua* is one of the translators. He explains why it’s so important for the Kurdish believers to not only have the New Testament, but also the Old Testament: “The Old Testament is a book that Kurdish believers can relate to,” explains Joshua. “It’s a very narrative book and the Kurds are used to learning through stories. In the stories they’ll also find the prophets that they know from the Koran, so the stories are somehow recognizable for them.”
But the most important thing for Joshua is that the believers will be able to study the content of the Old Testament: “New believers are prone to false doctrines if they just have a part of the Bible,” he says.
The Kurdish church is struggling. Groups of believers have fallen apart. Some of the people went back to Islam and some just stopped going to church. The Kurdish church that still exists, consisting of house groups, is divided. That adds to the importance of a sound Bible translation. But the situation in the church also adds to the challenge of translating the Old Testament, says Joshua. “In many countries there’s a team of a 100 people working on the translation of the Bible in a certain language, but we’re working with no more than five on the Kurdish translation.”
Finding and keeping Kurdish people to help is a challenge: “Since the believers here have a Muslim background, their families often don’t like it if they help us with the translation,” says Joshua. “They put pressure on them to stop. On other occasions we have had believers who didn’t want to help us anymore because they went back to Islam.”
A first Beta-version, a version still to be tested more, was released in 2005 for a limited group. Groups used it for Bible study and gave feedback on the version. Recently the team partnered with Open Doors to get a new Beta-version of the Sorani Old Testament printed. Soon Open Doors will distribute these Bibles among believers. A next step in making the entire Bible available for all Kurdish believers like Efsan.
*Real names are not used due to security reasons.
Nigeria: Angry Youths Kill Pastor, Burn Down Churches
Angry Muslim youths killed a pastor, Dike Ocha, 50, in the town of Kankia in Katsina State in northern Nigeria on Feb. 4, accusing him of involvement in the murder of a young girl, Fatima Yusuf.
Details are scant, but it appears the six-year-old girl went missing a few days before her mutilated body was found near the pastor’s house. Irate youths accused the pastor and attacked him in his home. He was apparently rescued and taken to the hospital, but the crowd followed him there and killed him. The youths went back to burn down the pastor’s church and home.
The Katsina State commissioner of police, Muhammad Hurdi, confirmed the incident to local media and added, “It is unthinkable to assume that the pastor killed the girl for whatever purpose, and would go ahead and dump her body near his house. This is the work of some mischief-makers who wanted to create the impression that the pastor committed the crime. But we will investigate the matter to bring perpetrators to book.”
Local Christians agree that this was a set-up. Open Doors understands that other churches and homes were also burned. There are conflicting reports about the denomination the pastor belonged to and about the number of people and denominations that lost their properties as a result of the violence. Open Doors is investigating the incidents.
The Open Doors Nigerian team asks for prayer for the bereaved family of the pastor. The family has been relocated to another town for their safety. Please also pray for grace for Christians to respond to this tragic incident in a way that honors Christ.
South Sudan: Open Doors Operations Resume at College
Open Doors has encouraging news about its operations in South Sudan, according to a staff member at Emmanuel Christian College.
“Initially, we planned to open the college on Jan. 20,” the staff member says. “However, due to the insecurity, we postponed the opening to Feb. 3. On that day the college opened for all the programs, although some students did not turn up because their regions are badly affected by the war. Currently there are 120 students in the college and 204 in the primary and secondary school section. Classes in all sections are running normally.
“The Commissioner of Yei County visited the college last Sunday. He deliberately came to brief the students and give them assurance that the Yei County is peaceful. Our foreign tutors are all present in the college and the school doing their normal duties.”
There has mixed news from the regional training centers. In Bor, where fighting has caused major damage, the Open Doors training center was looted, but not damaged. At Aweil, everything is going well and training will start in March.
“We thank God for His protection and care, and keep on praying for the discussions in Addis to bear fruit so that all the regions in South Sudan will enjoy peace,” concluded the Open Doors staff member.