Religious

Courage under Fire – Help Save Maryam and Marzieh

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Courage under Fire – Help Save Maryam and Marzieh

Dear Friends and Partners,

Two Iranian Christian women have exhibited remarkable strength and courage in the face of terrible injustice and human rights abuse. Maryam Rustampoor, 27, and Marzieh Amirizadeh, 30, are two converts from Islam who have been in prison since they were arrested on March 5, 2009 and charged with “acting against state security” and “taking part in illegal gatherings”. They have been held in Evin prison (the same prison where Canadian citizen and photojournalist Zahra Kazemi was beaten to death during interrogation in 2003).

During a court hearing on August 9, 2009, the two women were pressured by the prosecutor to renounce their Christian faith which they categorically refused to do. In the course of the hearing, the women reportedly indicated that they had become Christians as a result of being convicted by the Holy Spirit. In response, the prosecutor stated, “It is impossible for God to speak with humans”, to which Marzieh responded, “Are you questioning whether God is Almighty?” When the prosecutor replied, “You are not worthy for God to speak to you”, Marzieh responded by stating, “It is God, and not you, who determines if I am worthy.”

After the hearing the two women were sent back to Evin prison and told to return when they were ready to comply with the court’s demands. There have been no further developments in this matter but the women are known to be suffering numerous health problems and have reportedly not been provided medical treatment. Torture and extrajudicial killings are common in Iran and, while the government recently decided not to pass a threatened apostasy law, concerns for Maryam and Marzieh are that they will either be held in prison indefinitely until they recant or they will be killed.

Maryam and Marzieh are just two of many Christians who are in prison in Iran, a theocracy run by Shi’a Muslim clerics. Converts in particular are often targeted and interrogated using torture to extract information about other converts and house churches. Moreover, in the wake of unrest over presidential election results this summer, Iranian authorities have arrested dozens of minority believers, mostly Christians and Bahá'í’s, many of whom remain unaccounted for. General news reports about arrests related to the unrest have highlighted allegations of rape and torture of detainees and numerous executions have taken place in the purge of opposition forces. In the midst of this growing repression, Maryam and Marzieh need our prayers and our intervention.

Please pray:

• for Maryam and Marzieh’s health and safety and their quick release. Pray that they would be encouraged in their faith and have the strength to overcome this ordeal and stay true to their faith;

• for the numerous others in prison for their faith in Iran, that they would be protected from harm and be released and able to seek and worship God freely;

• that the prosecutor and judge handling the case would be impacted by the strength, courage, faith, and love shown by these two women and that they would drop all charges and release them without delay;

• that Iranian authorities would stop targeting minority religious communities and focus on governing their people with fairness and justice for the benefit of the entire country; and,

• for the Iranian people, that they would be able to live and worship freely and that they would find true peace and freedom in the Prince of Peace.

ACTION:

The Bible teaches that faith without action is dead, so please take action urgently and write (contact details are included below):

• the representative of Iran in your country, demanding that Maryam and Marzieh be provided medical attention and that they be released immediately along with all others who are imprisoned for their faith in Iran, and further demanding that Iranian authorities respect international human rights standards with respect to religious freedom and their own constitution (specifically Articles 13 and 23 regarding recognition of Christianity, Judaism, and Zoroastrianism and the privacy of individual beliefs, respectively); assure them that an Iran where all Iranians, regardless of their beliefs, would be able to live, work, and worship in freedom will be a strong and prosperous Iran; and,

• to the Minister for Foreign Affairs or Secretary of State in your country, insisting that they use every means at their disposal to ensure the freedom of Maryam and Marzieh and urging them to make treatment of religious minorities in Iran a primary focus of foreign policy in the region.

Please remember to send us a copy of your correspondence at: info@onefreeworldinternational.org

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.

Rev. Majed El Shafie President and Founder One Free World International El Shafie Ministries

CONTACT:

In Canada:

His Excellency Mian Gul Akbar Zeb High Commissioner of Pakistan to Canada 10 Range Road Ottawa, ON  K1N 8J3 Tel. (613) 238-7881; Fax: (613) 238-7296 Email: parepottawa@rogers.com

The Honourable Lawrence Cannon Minister for Foreign Affairs Foreign Affairs Canada 125 Sussex Drive Ottawa, ON   K1A 0G2 Tel.: (613) 992-5516; Fax: (613) 992-6802 Email: Cannon.L@parl.gc.ca

In The United States:

Interests Section of the Islamic Republic of Iran Embassy of Pakistan 2209 Wisconsin Avenue, N.W. Washington, D.C. 20007 Tel.: (202) 965-4990; Fax: (202) 965-1073 Email: requests@daftar.org

Secretary Hillary Clinton U.S. Department of State 2201 C Street NW Washington, DC  20520 Tel.: (202) 647-4000 (Main switchboard) Webform: http://contact-us.state.gov/cgi-bin/state.cfg/php/enduser/ask.php?p_sid=F5OZZa6i&p_lva=&p_sp=&p_li

2008 Highlights

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2008 Highlights

Dear Friends and Partners,

We at One Free World International would like to wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year and to our Jewish friends a Happy Hanukkah! As we look forward to our continued cooperation in 2009, we would like to share with you some of the things we have been able to accomplish thanks to your prayers and support through this eventful year.

Missions

As you are aware, religious persecution is a serious and growing problem in the world today. Yet due to the nature of our work and the dangers facing those we are helping, we are only able to share with you some of the cases we work on.

You may remember Magdi, a Coptic Christian refugee whom we were able to rescue in 2007 from Egypt where he was tortured after being deported by Canadian authorities. Although we were able to bring most of his family with him, his daughter had to remain behind with her husband and child. In the summer of 2008, however, Egyptian authorities began to punish Magdi by harassing his daughter and then severely torturing his son-in-law. In a highly sensitive and top-secret operation we were able to rescue the family and reunite them with Magdi in safety here in Canada.

An event we organized in support of Ola, a Nigerian woman who had been living in sanctuary in a Mississauga church for two years hoping to avoid deportation and separation from her Canadian daughter, turned into a celebration when events took an unexpected turn. Ola was arrested but after discussions with border authorities her deportation was postponed. As a result Ola is able, subject to certain conditions, to live at home with her daughter until immigration officials can make a decision in her case.

You may also recall the case of Rania, a young Saudi woman who was killed by her own father when he discovered her secret conversion to Christianity. Many of you wrote letters to the Saudi government making it clear that this was unacceptable and demanding that appropriate action be taken to bring the father to justice.

Pakistan Forced Labour CampsRev. El Shafie made a second a trip to Pakistan, where he was shown labour camps where poor Christians and other religious minorities and their families are forced to live and work essentially as slaves in appalling conditions. Behind Enemy Lines, a one-hour documentary on the persecution of Christians, will include footage from Rev. El Shafie’s travels to Afghanistan, Pakistan, and elsewhere and continues to be a significant part of our work throughout 2009.

Other Events

Majed El Shafie Human Rights Sub Committee CanadaIn the spring, Rev. El Shafie was invited for a second time to present evidence before the Human Rights Sub-Committee of the Canadian House of Commons. The Committee members were challenged to take a closer look at religious persecution in Iraq, Egypt, and Pakistan, as well as elsewhere, as a result of the testimony presented by Rev. El Shafie and some of OFWI’s friends and partners. In particular, Rev. El Shafie shared never before seen evidence that he was able to obtain from the slave camps in Pakistan.

The 2008 Olympic Games were in Beijing and OFWI took the opportunity to encourage our members to boycott Chinese goods until China shows significant and lasting improvements in its human rights record. Many of you took up the challenge and are doing what you can to avoid purchasing goods made in China in order to avoid supporting an economy and atheistic system which oppresses its own citizens for their religious beliefs, including by putting religious prisoners to forced labour and “re-education” programs.

In addition to monitoring what happens around the world, we must also be vigilant on behalf of our own country. In early December Rev. El Shafie was asked to speak at a rally on Parliament Hill in the face of a parliamentary crisis in Canada. We were pleased to see many of our friends and members, some driving from as far away as Toronto for the day, brave the bitter cold on “the Hill” to stand up for righteousness in our halls of government.

Conferences

Road to Victory Horizon of Hope ConferencesOur annual conferences took place in Winnipeg (“The Road to Victory”) and Toronto (“The Horizon of Hope”). We paid tribute once again to Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan of whom over 100 have now given the ultimate sacrifice on behalf of peace and freedom for the Afghan people. Our speakers included Members of Parliament Joy Smith (in Winnipeg) and Jim Abbott and David Sweet (in Toronto), as well as Faytene Kryskow of The Cry, Willard Thiessen, and Pastor Bruce Martin, and of course our very own Rev. El Shafie.

troopsWe would like to thank everyone who participated in our conferences, from the worship leaders with their teams to all of our speakers and contributors. We would also like to extend our special thanks to our partners, Willard Thiessen and New Day Ministries in Winnipeg and Pastor Steve Long and Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship in Toronto, for their generous support and cooperation in making this year’s conferences a great success.

Special Thanks

Steve Long Toronto AirportThe OFWI family would like to thank you for being partners in our work in 2008. Without your active participation, prayers, and support none of this would have been possible. We undeWillard Thiessenrtake 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. Our conferences, travels, advocacy, and rescue missions require tremendous resources and are only possible because of your generous support. Please prayerfully consider making a special year-end donation to OFWI or committing to support our work on a monthly basis in the coming year (the address for your donation is included below).

Finally, to all of our friends and partners we wish the richest blessings in 2009. 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 to take action on behalf of the persecuted church.

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

Iraqi Christians Fleeing War and Persecution

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Iraqi Christians Fleeing War and Persecution

Dear Friends and Partners,

Every day we hear about civilian and military casualties from the war in Iraq. On April 15, 2008, however, The Ottawa Citizen, the main daily newspaper in Canada’s capital city, carried an article focusing on the suffering of Iraqi Christians along with a follow-up letter to the editor from Rev. El Shafie on April 18, 2008 (to view the articles, click on the links). Christians in Iraq are suffering and have been largely ignored by the West. We must not allow them to be forgotten.

Iraq Christian Church BombingChristians were once a majority in the area and their presence long predates the rise of Islam. Prior to the 2002 invasion, however, Christians had been reduced to about 3% of the population or 800,000 to 1 million people. Accurate figures are difficult to establish, but it is estimated that half, or 400,000 to 500,000 Christians, have fled their homes because of the fighting, lack of security, and religious persecution and will never be able to return. They are driven out of traditionally Christian areas through intimidation and extortion, kidnapped for ransom, and killed. Their only option is to flee as, unlike other groups, they have no armed militias for protection. The United Nations Refugee Agency is processing Iraqi refugees in Syria and Jordan and has estimated that, for example of those registering in Syria, Christians have made up 24-36%.

Mother and Child after Christian Church BombingOne Free World International met with officials from the Immigration Minister’s office on March 4, 2008 and presented them with the plight of Iraqi Christians. Two weeks later the Minister announced that the government will double its refugee allocation from Iraq to 1800-2000 per year. This is an important step in the right direction, but it is far from adequate and does nothing to address the unique needs of Christians and other religious minorities like Bahá'í’s and Ismailis.

In fact, the Citizen reports that Tim Vail, an Immigration Department spokesperson, stated the government has “no plans to single out any religious group for special treatment” and will rely on the UNHCR to recommend who needs our help. This policy abdicates Canada’s responsibility for determining our own refugee policy and ignores the differing realities facing the refugees. Muslim refugees have the ability to seek and obtain refuge in neighbouring countries and should do so, but relocating regionally is not an option for Christians, who are viewed as traitors, western agents, and infidels. The only viable option for Christians is to seek refuge in the West, yet when they try, they may not be able to make it to UNHCR centres or may be forced to deal with Muslim officials who obstruct their claims. Canada must take these realities into consideration and adjust its refugee policy accordingly.

Obviously the problem of Iraqi refugees cannot be solved by Canada alone, nor is this just an immigration matter. Canada must pursue a foreign policy that demands accountability from the Iraqi government for ensuring the security and rights of minorities in Iraq so they do not have to flee. With $300,000,000 in aid announced since this conflict began and almost $1.8 billion in total trade annually between the two countries, Canada must use its relationship with the Iraqi government and exercise its influence in Baghdad on behalf of human rights.

We have the ability and responsibility to ensure that Christians and other minorities do not bear an unequal share of the cost of this war. Our brothers and sisters have no one else to turn to. We must not forget or abandon them.

Please PRAY:

• for peace and security for the Christians in Iraq so that they can live and worship without fear;

• that those Christians who have been forced to flee Iraq would find comfort and peace in the midst of their circumstances and that they will find a place of refuge where they can start new lives;

• that the government of Iraq would fulfill its responsibilities to all its citizens and that peace, security, religious freedom, and respect for human rights would prevail in Iraq; and,

• that our government and our churches would recognize the suffering and take on the responsibility of helping our brothers and sisters in need.

ACTION:

The Bible teaches that faith without action is dead, so please take action urgently and write (contact details are included below):

• to the Minister of Immigration, requesting that the Minister increase the allocation for Iraqi refugees giving priority to Christian and other minority refugees who do not have the option of relocating regionally;

• to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, insisting that the government take an active role in holding the Iraqi government accountable for the human rights of Iraqi minorities so they do not have to flee; and,

• to the Iraqi Embassy, calling on the Iraqi government to strengthen the security situation in the country and to secure and respect the human rights of its minorities so that they can be equal and contributing members of Iraqi society.

Please remember to send us a copy of your correspondence at: info@onefreeworldinternational.org

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.

Rev. Majed El Shafie President and Founder One Free World International El Shafie Ministries

CONTACT:

In Canada:

Minister for Citizenship and Immigration The Honourable Diane Finley Citizenship and Immigration Canada Ottawa, ON   K1A 1L1 Tel: (613) 996-4974; Fax: (613) 996-9749 Email: Minister@cic.gc.ca

Minister for Foreign Affairs The Honourable Maxime Bernier Foreign Affairs Canada 125 Sussex Drive Ottawa, ON   K1A 0G2 Tel.: (613) 992-8053; Fax: (613) 995-0687 Email: Bernier.M@parl.gc.ca

Ambassador of Iraq In Canada: His Excellency Howar Ziad Embassy of Iraq 215 McLeod Street Ottawa, ON   K2P 0Z8 Tel.: (613) 236-9177; Fax: (613) 236-9641 Email: Media@IraqEmbassy.ca

In the United States:

His Excellency Samir Sumaida’ie Embassy of Iraq 3421 Massachusetts Ave., N.W Washington, D.C. 20007 Tel: (202) 742-1600 ext. 136; Fax: (202) 462-5066

Your Member of Parliament Go to: www.parl.gc.ca and enter your postal code to find your MP's contact details.

Reverend El Shafie safely back from Afghanistan and Pakistan

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Reverend El Shafie safely back from Afghanistan and Pakistan

Dear Friends and Partners,

Reverend El Shafie has returned safely from Afghanistan and Pakistan where he met with and encouraged Canadian and NATO troops and local Christians during a highly successful trip. One Free World International would like to thank you for your support and prayers for the success of this mission. The trip created several new opportunities and marked the official launch of Operation Horizon of Hope, under which Rev. El Shafie plans eventually to return to Afghanistan to continue bringing encouragement to our troops and to support the underground church.

we support our troopsDuring his 15-day trip Rev. El Shafie met with Canadian troops to encourage them and present them with cards of support signed by our friends and members across the country, as well as the Prime Minister of Canada and some federal cabinet ministers. The purpose of this meeting was not to make a political statement about Canada’s presence in Afghanistan, but to express in a concrete way that we stand behind our troops and appreciate their work and sacrifices. These brave young men and women do their job and risk their lives daily on our behalf and on behalf of peace and freedom for the Afghan people and they deserve our support and appreciation.

Neeha Victim of Christian PersecutionRev. El Shafie also met with local Christians in Afghanistan and Pakistan to encourage and support them in the midst of persecution. In Pakistan he met victims of the country’s blasphemy laws and a young girl, only 4 years old, who was raped at the age of 2 and a half by the son of her father’s employer. The young man felt entitled to inflict this cruel punishment on the girl simply because her father had a dispute with his employer and as a Christian had no rights. The family remains in hiding and cannot report the incident or obtain medical help for the child.

The mission has opened up tremendous opportunities. Currently One Free World International is working with a media production company to produce a professional quality documentary about the persecution of Christians worldwide using video footage shot during this and upcoming trips. This documentary will be used to educate the public and decision-makers about human rights abuses and persecution of religious minorities, particularly Christians. With decision-makers already expressing interest in the video, it promises to be a powerful tool on behalf of many who are suffering around the world.

One Free World International is able to make the documentary in a relatively cost-effective manner. Nevertheless, a production like this still requires exceptional resources. As you know, our work is only possible through the voluntary donations of our friends and members and we do not usually ask for your support. However, the opportunities and challenges before us are so great that we must continue to share them and give you the chance to ensure the success of these projects. Your participation is vital and much appreciated. (Please note that we cannot provide tax receipts because One Free World International has chosen to pursue its goals free of the limitations associated with charitable status.)

Among the many opportunities arising from this trip, Rev. El Shafie was interviewed on his return on CTV’s morning show Canada AM about his mission, his experiences, and his gratitude toward Canada. The interview from Thursday, August 9, 2007, can be viewed by visiting the One Free World International website and downloading the file. With so much happening, Rev. El Shafie is available and eager to speak to your church, congregation, or group about his recent trip and the documentary project. Together we can share the message and bring hope to suffering Christians in Afghanistan and Pakistan and around the world.

Please PRAY:

• for the safety and protection of the Canadian troops and other soldiers risking their lives to bring peace and hope to the Afghan people. Pray that they will return home safe and sound and pray also for the families of our fallen heroes;

• for the Afghan people who have suffered for so long from wars and oppression, that they would be able to live in peace and hope and experience true freedom through the Prince of Peace;

• for the Christians in Afghanistan and Pakistan facing persecution for their faith. Pray that they would have strength and courage to stand firm in the face of persecution and be able to love and forgive their persecutors; and finally,

• thank God for Rev. El Shafie’s return from a safe and successful mission.

ACTION:

The Bible teaches that faith without action is dead, so please take action urgently and:

• invite Rev. El Shafie to speak to your church, congregation, or group about his recent trip and the video documentary project by emailing info@onefreeworldinternational.org; and,

• send your financial contribution to:

One Free World International 20 Bloor Street East, Box 75129 Toronto, ON M4W 3T3

or deposit it directly to:

Bank: Royal Bank of Canada Institution Code: 003 Transit Number: 5452 Account Number: 1008507 (Canadian deposits); 4003190 (U.S. dollar deposits) Swift: ROYCCAT2

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