Saturday, July 05, 2014

Time to pray?

Civil war in Syria has decimated the Christian population. In Aleppo, where Christians once numbered around 450,000, only about 180,000 remain. Homs once had a Christian population of 60,000. Now only a few dozen are left.

ISIS, the extremist Muslim group which has taken territory in Syria and Iraq, has declared it a caliphate. It claims its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, is caliph and the only legitimate successor to Mohammed. Rape, torture, crucifixions and beheadings are reportedly being carried out against opponents there. Al Qaeda is said to have cut all ties with ISIS because of its "notorious intractability" and wanton brutality.

Large numbers of Christians have been killed in northern Nigeria by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Of girls, mainly Christians, kidnapped from a school, 219 are still missing. Boko Haram have since kidnapped more than 60 more women and girls. Four villagers who tried to escape were shot dead. Gunmen burned churches and attacked villages in north-eastern Nigeria on Sunday, leaving at least 50 dead.

Thousands of Christians have been killed in the Central African Republic by the Seleka, an Islamist militia. Christians are being killed during political unrest in Egypt.

Three more Christians were sentenced to death in Pakistan for blasphemy. No death sentences for blasphemy have been carried out there, but 52 people involved in blasphemy cases have been killed by vigilantes.

Twenty years ago, there were about 1.1 billion Muslims. Today their number is estimated at 2.1 billion. Efforts to reach them have increased tenfold. Needless to say, not all Muslims are extremists.

This week is the first week of Ramadan,  the month-long festival where Muslims fast during daylight hours, seeking forgiveness and cleansing of their souls. The 30-Days Prayer Network organises prayer for the Muslim world each day during the month. It publishes prayer booklets in 39 languages.

You can get involved here.