12 5 Newsflashes from the Persecuted Church
Egypt: Traumatized Christian Women Empowered, Helped by Special Ministry
Christian women in Egypt live under double trauma: they are women and Christians. This fact places them at the bottom of the unspoken yet widely acknowledged listing of personal importance in Egyptian society. This belittling view of women in Egyptian society has sadly penetrated the church. Many limits are imposed against Christian women, not only by the community, but even by men in their own families.
In view of this reality, the “Mary & Elizabeth” women’s empowerment ministry is of vital importance to support Egypt’s Christian women, helping them to cope with their hard situation, and even trying to change it. If this ministry could be summarized in one sentence, it would be: “You are so precious, valuable, created uniquely by God, loved and so crucial for the advancement of the kingdom of God in Egypt.” The ministry was established in 2007 by a group of committed and influential women leaders from various evangelical churches in Egypt. The core idea on which the ministry was built is a rather simple one: “Building women-to-women partnerships between women of different generations, wherever they live, and no matter their social or economic situation.”
This movement, which is now taking root through local churches partnering with Open Doors, aims at creating a bond of love and a platform of open sharing among women. They discover their gifts and talents and learn how to encourage one another to invest in the kingdom of God. Each leader forms a group of five other women. She cares and prays for, teaches, gives counseling and invests time with the women until each woman is qualified to take the responsibility of five other women. It’s a simple growth by multiplication process, aimed at impacting the lives of 10,000 women.
This strategy is implemented through a variety of awareness and spiritual teaching programs, such as women leader’s training seminars, which target Christian women nationwide. These seminars equip and inspire women leaders to launch ministry classes in their own areas. In these classes, women regain their value and restore their self-image through Biblical teaching and prayer meetings. They are also provided with health care awareness classes and vocational training.
According to Dr. Amaal, the leader of this ministry, the seminars have impacted thousands of Egyptian Christian women over the last six years. One seminar participant told Dr. Amaal: “I feel my ministry and impact on the women I invest in has touched their lives and helped them to change.”
Some women visitors from South Africa who spent some time with the women at a conference reported their impressions: “These ladies are passionate about Jesus and their love for Him is the basis for their willingness to spread His fragrance among their Muslim neighbors and colleagues. Their willingness to forgive, because they have no choice if they want to be like Jesus, was so inspiring. This is the only way to prevent a root of bitterness to grow. These women have not given up. God is preparing His Egyptian bride even through these shakings. He is continuously wooing them to keep walking and to keep running the race.”
Syria: Beleaguered Christians Receiving Support
Approximately 285,000 people from more than 89 countries have signed an Open Doors petition called Save Syria urging all those with influence and power to do everything possible to protect the lives, livelihoods and freedoms of all the people of war-torn Syria and in particular safeguard the future of Christian communities. Open Doors hopes to have gathered 500,000 signatures by Dec. 10, which is International Human Rights Day. They will be presented simultaneously in New York to the United Nations missions of the five permanent members of the Security Council and to many of their embassies across the world. Also, the Geneva II talks on the future of Syria will be held on Jan. 22, 2014.
Stephen Rand, Advocacy Director for Open Doors UK, explains that the campaign has been designed to ensure that the voices of Christians in Syria, who are particularly vulnerable and targeted, are heard. “It’s all about turning up the volume,” he explains. “Each signature on the Save Syria petition has been a voice added to the global chorus of support for Christians in Syria.” He sees signs of hope. “In August we were anticipating U.S. air strikes on Syria. Now we have a date for talks in Geneva. When a Christian mother in Damascus asks, ‘Why does no one care that Christians are dying?’ we can tell her there are those who care.”
The crisis in Syria has resulted in the people of Syria experiencing terrible suffering and facing enormous challenges. In particular, the Christian community – around 8 percent of the population and rooted in almost two thousand years of history – is paying a high price for living in a war zone. It is threatened with complete destruction. Overall, an estimated 125,000 people have been killed in the civil war, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The war has been waging for almost three years.
Following the October massacre in Sadad, Syria, Archbishop Selwanos Boutros Alnemeh issued a challenge to Christians around the world, saying, “We have shouted out to the world, but no one has listened to us. Where is the Christian conscience? Where is human consciousness? Where are my brothers?” The Open Doors Save Syria campaign is one answer to his question. For more information, go to www.savesyriacampaign.org.
(For more information or to set up interviews, call Jerry Dykstra at 616-915-4117 or email [email protected] The Open Doors USA website is www.OpenDoorsUSA.org).