News from Cebu after Typhoon Haiyan

Regular readers of this blog will know that before I was Rector of St Giles I was a CMS Missionary in Cebu in the Philippines, not too far from where Typhoon Haiyan made ground fall recently. Most of my work was in rural coastal villages, which are affected every year by storms and Typhoons. The Pastor Glemar who continues the work we began wrote in his prayer letter in September this year:

Pray also for the living condition of the people in the community. They need other means for sustainable income. Most of them are fishermen. Sometimes have good catch, and sometimes only enough for the day. They are mostly affected by the condition of the weather in our country. If there is typhoon, their source of living might be suspended for they cannot go out for fishing. So please pray for them.

I haven’t heard directly from those who we knew in Cebu, but looking through the news reports it seems that our areas escaped the worst of the storm damage, and were ‘relatively’ unscathed. I have also picked up a couple of emails from missionary friends who are still in the Philippines and who have contats in Northern Cebu and Tacloban, the areas which have suffered such devastation. One of these writes:

The most intense part of the storm went across the islands where we have many of our churches. The church buildings and the surrounding towns and cities were hard hit.

Already many of our churches from the less affected areas are responding with aid. Convoys of food and water are even now working their way along the roads made dangerous by downed trees and power lines, and threats of looters toward the devastated cities. The people of our churches will bring both physical aid the good news of the gospel. They are not waiting for groups from the outside, but are acting now.

I want to encourage you to contribute generously to the relief fund set up by Converge Worldwide. These funds are overseen by our church leaders in the Philippines who we know and trust. These funds will supply aid to where it is desperately needed. This aid, brought by our churches, will provide a wonderful testimony of the love of God, and create an ongoing opportunity for the advance of the gospel.

As a church we are supporting the Typhhon Haiyan Relief effort through our Mission Partner Christian Aid who has partner agencies working in the affected areas. You can find our more about there work and support them financially here – Christian Aid Typhoon Haiyan Appeal.

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Inspiring testimony of a Bhutanese pastor

I find this short video from the US inspiring. It tells the story of a pastor from Bhutan planting a new church among Bhutanese refugees in America. Bhutan is one of the least evangelised countries in the world and Christians are denied religious freedoms we in the West take for granted; church buildings are forbidden and Bhutanese who become Christian face the loss of their citizenship and other benefits such as free education and health care.

They need our support and prayer.

 

Pray for Cebu

Before coming to St Giles I was a missionary living and serving in Cebu city in the Philippines. It was an incredibly rich time and I have an enduring love of the people and affection for the country and city. This last week Cebu was close to the epicentre of the worst earthquake that the region has known for 25 years.

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The photo above is of some of the damage in Mandaue city, close to where I lived and where many of our church members where from (courtesy of Big Picture).

The BBC have more on the story here though it has hardly featured in the national news, possibly 150 have been killed; keep the country, city and church in your prayers.

 

 

Silence of our friends – Spectator

I’m cross posting this article from the Spectator as I believe it merits the widest readership possible. The original posting can be found here.

The last month and a half has seen perhaps the worst anti-Christian violence in Egypt in seven centuries, with dozens of churches torched. Yet the western media has mainly focussed on army assaults on the Muslim Brotherhood, and no major political figure has said anything about the sectarian attacks.

Last week at the National Liberal Club there was a discussion asking why the American and British press have ignored or under-reported this persecution, and (in some people’s minds) given a distorted narrative of what is happening.

Among the four speakers was the frighteningly impressive Betsy Hiel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, who has spent years in Egypt and covered Iraq and Afghanistan. There were lots of stories of Muslims protecting Christian neighbours, but there were also incidents with frightening echoes; Hiel described a man riding on his bike past a burned down church and laughing, which brought to my mind the scene in Schindler’s List when local Poles make throat-slitting gestures to Jews en route to Auschwitz.

Some of this has been reported, but the focus has been on the violence committed against the Brotherhood. Judging by the accounts given by one of the other speakers, Nina Shea of the Center for Religious Freedom, the American press is even more blind, and their government not much better; when Mubarak was overthrown one US agency assessed the Muslim Brotherhood as being ‘essentially secular’.

The night ended with historian Tom Holland declaring sadly that we are now seeing the extinction of Christianity and other minority faiths in the Middle East. As he pointed out, it’s the culmination of the long process that began in the Balkans in the late 19th century, reached its horrific European climax in 1939-1945, and continued with the Greeks of Alexandria, the Mizrahi Jews and most recently the Chaldo-Assyrian Christians of Iraq. The Copts may have the numbers to hold on, Holland said, and the Jews of Israel, but can anyone else?

Without a state (and army) of their own, minorities are merely leaseholders. The question is whether we can do anything to prevent extinction, and whether British foreign policy can be directed towards helping Christian interests rather than, as currently seems to be the case, the Saudis.

The saddest audience question was from a young man who I’m guessing was Egyptian-British. He asked: ‘Where was world Christianity when this happened?’

Nowhere. Watching X-Factor. Debating intersectionality. Or just too frightened of controversy to raise Muslim-on-Christian violence.

Bishop Angaelos, leader of the UK Copts, also expressed disappointment at the response from other religious leaders, saying that if Christians burned down 10 synagogues or mosques, let alone 50, they’d be going over to show their sympathy and shame.

The most outspoken British religious leader has been Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, and the debate brought to mind something Rabbi Sacks recently said about Middle Eastern Christians, comparing their fate with those of the Jews in Europe, and quoting Martin Luther King: ‘In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.’