Dear Friends and Partners,
We hope that you had a very peaceful and joyful Christmas and happy Hanukkah, and we take this opportunity to wish you a Happy New Year from the OFWI team. As 2011 comes to a close we are pleased to be able to share with you some of the highlights and challenges that marked this momentous and eventful year…
We would like to begin with one of the high notes of this year, which was the completion of Freedom Fighter, a documentary movie that introduces Rev. El Shafie’s story and follows his work over the last four years, including a segment on his rescue of little Neeha and her family. The film was premiered in Vancouver and Toronto and has been screened at several film festivals where it has won critical acclaim and been recognized with the award for Best Documentary Feature, the Gold Award for a Documentary Feature, and Official Selection. Freedom Fighter is also scheduled to be screened at some upcoming film festivals and we have been working with our distributor to make it more widely available to you in the New Year.
Alerts, Cases, and Missions
Much of 2011 was spent planning and executing a very delicate and dangerous mission to Iraq which we have told you about throughout the year. Rev. El Shafie assembled a delegation that included a Canadian member of parliament and senator as observers and was the highest-level Canadian visit to Iraq since the beginning of the war. The delegation met with senior government officials including the Vice-President, the Deputy Prime Minister, the President of Parliament (equivalent to our Speaker of the House), the Minister of Human Rights, the Minister of the Environment, senior Foreign Affairs officials, and others and Rev. El Shafie challenged them about the threats facing Iraqi minorities. He also supported Iraqi refugees and visited Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad where he spoke with and encouraged parishioners whose church had been targeted in a hostage-taking in which more than 50 people were killed in October 2010.
The situation in Egypt received the majority of the focus in our alerts this year, beginning with the New Year’s attack on al-Qiddissin church in Alexandria. Less than a month later, Egypt was the focus of the world’s attention as the Egyptian people undertook an historic campaign to openly oppose the government, eventually forcing President Hosni Mubarak to step down. The army stepped in to govern the country through the transition to a new regime, but we shared with you about our concerns over Islamic extremists strengthening their position and about the continued and worsening attacks against Christians by both Islamic extremists and the army. The October 9 massacre at Maspero in Cairo when the army turned its armoured vehicles against a crowd of peaceful Christian demonstrators horrified the world yet prompted only weak statements from our political leaders which fell notably short of doing justice to the outrage and condemnation this event deserved. In addition to working hard to keep this attack before decision-makers, OFWI also responded by sending medical supplies to treat injured Christians.
We have monitored the situation in Nigeria since we mentioned it together with Egypt in our first alert of the year. This is an on-going situation and an alert will follow this update summarizing events of this year and focusing on attacks that took place this Christmas.
In the meantime, Iranian pastor Yousef Nadarkhani continues to face the death sentence for apostasy (converting from Islam). While Iranian authorities indicate the case is still pending, we are concerned that the sentence may be carried out quietly as the delays turn the world’s attention elsewhere. Your letters together with thousands of others from around the world have been invaluable in Pastor Yousef’s case and as long as he is still alive, your continued attention to this matter in 2012 can literally help to save his life.
Shortly after his return from Iraq, Rev. El Shafie was invited to advise the Canadian government with respect to its proposed Office for Religious Freedom. His oral testimony at the official consultations was very well received and was supported by a written report setting out OFWI’s recommendations with respect to the Office, which we hope will be an effective tool in the fight against religious persecution around the world. Finally, Rev. El Shafie was invited to testify before the human rights subcommittees of the US Congress and the Canadian Parliament where he was asked to share his insights into the dramatic events that have taken place in Egypt and the situation in Iraq.
As always, we are blessed and humbled to be granted the opportunities to speak to those in positions of power and authority on behalf of the persecuted Christians and other people of minority religions who have no voice. This year has been full of challenges, hope, and victory, but we are already planning our campaigns for 2012 and the only thing we are sure of is that there will be no shortage of events calling for our urgent intervention. More than this, however, we are secure in the knowledge that as we stand with the persecuted and the oppressed, we are fulfilling the will and call of God on our lives and He will stand with us to accomplish the mission.
We would like to take this opportunity to give special thanks to our OFWI team, those partners and volunteers who work anonymously behind the scenes, sacrificing their time, sleep, effort, finances, and even lives, to ensure that the work moves forward.
Finally, the OFWI family would like to thank all of you for being partners in our work in 2011. Without your active participation, prayers, and moral and financial support none of our work would be possible. We undertake our work by faith, knowing that it is the call of the Lord and that it must be done, making great sacrifices and trusting that He will provide even though the work requires tremendous resources. Please take this opportunity to prayerfully consider making a special year-end donation to OFWI or committing to support our work on a monthly basis in the coming year (OFWI’s address and banking information are included below).
Once again, we hope that you had a lovely Christmas and Hanukkah, and wish you a very happy, peaceful, and prosperous New Year 2012!! As we look forward to the New Year and all the challenges that lie ahead, we trust that you will continue to support our work, both in prayer and financially, and by taking action with us on behalf of the persecuted church.
Please continue to pray through 2012 for Pastor Nadarkhani and his family and for the Christians in Egypt and around the world that they would experience the love and presence of Christ at this special time and be able to rejoice in the midst of their suffering. Pray that they would stay strong and courageous in the face of great evil and that their response to their enemies would help their persecutors experience and receive the joy, love, and peace of Christ.
Finally, remember that the persecuted Christians are dying every day, but they are still smiling. They are in a very deep dark night, but they have the candle of the Lord. The enemy can have a very strong weapon and a very strong army, but we have the Lord Almighty.
“They can kill the dreamer, but they cannot kill the dream” in the Lord’s name.
Be with God and may God be with you.
One Free World International El Shafie Ministries