12 24 Newsflashes from the Persecuted Church
Egypt: Most Christians to Celebrate Christmas on Jan. 7 after Difficult Year
Unlike the western world celebrating Christmas on Dec. 25, most Egyptian Christians celebrate Christmas on Jan. 7, following the eastern Coptic calendar. The fact that Mary and Joseph escaped to their country with Baby Jesus makes Christmas a very special celebration for Egyptian Christians. Of course, Egypt is largest Islamic country in the Arab World, so one doesn’t really see Christmas decorations and lights hanging across the streets or on balconies during the Christmas season.
But Egyptian Christians have their own way to celebrate the unique memory of the birth of the Savior.
In almost every church, a Christmas tree and a grotto of the nativity would usually be set up at the front of the church with glimmering lights, decorated with small white angel ornaments, while other colorful decorations are hung all around the church walls.
In Christian homes, families who can afford it would put up their own Christmas trees and grottos in the nicest corner of their small apartments. This brings them the Christmas atmosphere in a society that only accepts the historical fact of the birth of Jesus, yet still denies His deity and crucifixion.
But are Egyptian Christians going to joyfully celebrate Christmas this year? Obviously, 2013 has not been an easy year for them. It’s the third year in a row after the dreadful attack on the Coptic church of the Two Saints in Alexandria during the New Year’s Eve celebration on December 2010. A bomb went off just after midnight outside the church killing Christians who were peacefully greeting each other for the arrival of the new year.
The drastic political changes that Egypt has passed through since then have eventually caused more attacks by radical Muslim groups and pro-Muslim Brotherhood activists against many Christians. This has resulted in painful suffering and agony for so many – not only in the loss of possessions, but more importantly, the death of their dear ones.
How can Mariam’s parents celebrate Christmas this year after their 9-year-old child died from a bullet shot into her heart outside their church after a family wedding in early August? Who would buy 11-year-old Peter his Christmas gift after his father Abanoub was stabbed dead as he was trying to protect his small church in Minya, a southern Egyptian city, against an attacking radical Muslim mob?
But in spite of the pains, agonies and uncertainties, Egyptian churches will still be packed with Christians on New Year’s Eve and Christmas Day. Some may stay home, but many will still go, in spite of the unknown dangers that may suddenly threaten them. Millions will fill those churches – small or big, fancy or basic, decorated or in ashes. All will sing to Emmanuel, knowing that although He has allowed them to go through suffering, yet He has never abandoned them.
International Institute for Religious Freedom Completes Audit of World Watch List
The International Institute for Religious Freedom (IIRF) has published its audit report of the Open Doors World Watch List (WWL) methodology today. The WWL is an annual report prepared and published by the World Watch Research team at Open Doors International (ODI) detailing the persecution of Christians around the globe. The list itself comprises the 50 countries where it is most difficult to profess and practice the Christian faith. The 2014 list will be announced on Jan. 8.
The IIRF audit report, authored by Professor Dr. Dr. Thomas Schirrmacher and Professor Dr. Christof Sauer, assesses the methodology, processes, design and questionnaire of the WWL. The IIRF researches the persecution of adherents of any religion and is independent of Open Doors in all respects. The report praised the accurate presentation of the WWL’s methodology, the transparency behind the decisions on which countries were analysed, and also that responding experts (those completing the questionnaires from which that data is drawn) had a common understanding of their task.
Sauer, who engaged with the World Watch Research team, remarked: “It was a pleasure to interact with the Open Doors team. They willingly made all information requested available. And they worked very hard to improve the World Watch List. “ Dr. Ronald Boyd-MacMillan, Open Doors’ Chief Strategy Officer, said: “We really welcome the academic rigour that the IIRF has brought to us, and we believe that its input into the product will make the WWL much more defensible, which is important, especially in advocacy circles.”
He added: “The World Watch Research team and our network of respondents to the questionnaires have invested a great deal of time and effort to make the WWL the most comprehensive picture of the Persecuted Church available. The Persecuted Church deserves the best standards in research, and this partnership is a great step forward in that regard.”