15-year-old Christian girl still missing

Reporting by Simba Tian, Compass Direct News

NAIROBI, Kenya, February 22 – A Christian widow in north Sudan is agonizing over the kidnapping of her daughter eight months ago by suspected Islamic extremists in Khartoum.

“Since my daughter was kidnapped, I have been living in a state of fear and terror,” said Ikhlas Anglo, 35, a mother of two daughters.

She said her 15-year-old daughter, Hiba Abdelfadil Anglo, went missing while returning from the Ministry of Education in Khartoum on June 27, 2010. Hiba, a member of Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church in Khartoum, had gone to the education ministry office to obtain her transcripts for entry to secondary school.

Two days later, the family received threatening telephone calls and SMS messages from the kidnappers telling them to pay 1,500 Sudanese pounds (US$560) in order to secure her return.

“Don’t you want to have this slave back?” one of the kidnappers told Anglo from an unknown location by cell phone, she said.

Anglo and others said they believe the kidnappers are Muslim extremists who have targeted them because they are Christians, and that police are aiding the criminals. She said that when she went to a police station to open a case, police bluntly told her she must first leave Christianity for Islam.

“You must convert to Islam if you want your daughter back,” officer Fakhr El-Dean Mustafa of the Family and Child Protection Unit told Anglo, she said. Recently transferred to another station, Mustafa was not immediately available for comment.

A relative of the girl said police are fully involved in the crime, as officers had traced the phone number of the kidnappers but were reluctant to admit that to the girl’s family.

‘‘The police have a direct link with the kidnappers,’’ the relative said.

Adding to the anguish of the kidnapped girl’s family was Anglo’s dismissal from her job when she took time off to search for Hiba. Anglo said her supervisor at Asia Health Center, where she had worked for many years as a cleaner, had told her to report back to work after recovering her daughter, but after a month she was surprised to learn that she had been fired as of July 1, 2010.

“They dismissed me because I was looking for my daughter, although they have given me permission,” she said.

Christians in north Sudan are anticipating increased persecution due to a referendum that gave the right of self-determination to the people of south Sudan, the majority of whom are Christians.    On Jan. 9, south Sudan voted for secession in order to establish a zone free of sharia (Islamic law). Northern Christians fear further dangers after July 9, when south Sudan will officially become an independent nation.

President Omar al-Bashir, wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity in Darfur, has stated that the rights of southern citizens remaining in the north after secession will be respected. But Christians’ fears grew after he said in December that an altered constitution would be based on sharia and that Islam would be the official religion.

Nearly four months ago, police allegedly helped a Muslim businessman to seize property belonging to the Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church in Khartoum (See Police in Sudan Aid Muslim’s Effort to Take Over Church Plot, Oct. 25, 2010).

By Simba Tian, Compass Direct News

Image of Hiba Abdelfadil Anglo: Compass Direct News

Aftershock

Such relief to turn off the TV and allow silence to settle upon me after being saturated with news casts of crumpled buildings, dust, distraught survivors, sirens, fires, a toppled cathedral, and bodies in the rubble. I run water, hot water, to wash dishes and thank God for this – a simple, everyday thing which requires major city infrastructure to function and I almost never consider it.
The residents in Christchurch cannot so easily shut off to the disaster. No water, no sewerage system, even no electricity for many. Roads, buildings and bodies broken. Some gone for ever. The interview of a father, a little younger than myself, desperate to help search for his wife in the rubble of a building. In tears he tells the reporter that when his two small daughters asked this morning where mummy is, he could only reply that she was “still at work”. At work, somewhere under that heap of concrete.

Another man tells a different reporter that he is waiting for news of his sister, also a mum, and he asks anyone who is ‘a praying type’ to please pray, “because there is real power in praying you know”. His exact words… faith, even there, even now.

Interestingly, it is now those who claim not to believe in God that are protesting ‘give Christchurch a break’. Who exactly are they addressing? The forces of nature? Even our Prime Minister commented today that “we will not bow to this challenge”. The worldview that there is no God, that chance and randomness rule, causes folks to become hopelessly unstuck when that very randomness and chance strike with force. They shout “unfair” when another earthquake strikes within six months of the first.

There is no reason that can make sense of this event.
No words that can spare our pain.
We are witnessing the havoc caused by a violent and ruthless act of nature…

…We are a resilient nation, and we will not bow down to this challenge.
Prime Minister John Key, 23 February 2011

The great irony is that the Son of God Himself addressed this very issue when asked about senseless deaths:

Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
(Luke 13:4-5 ESV)

Jesus debunks the idea that it is because the people who perished were any worse than those who survived, in effect He is saying that tragic events happen, they are not due to God being ‘out to get’ anyone. Judgment will happen at the end and that is when sense will be made of everything. In the meantime some things will seem senseless, there is nothing useful to be achieved by attempting to make them make sense. The difficult work of faith is to refrain from excusing God from having any responsibility by theorizing clever arguments to let Him off the hook, He could have prevented this earthquake, He chose not to. And yes, it doesn’t seem fair.

I didn’t even feel the initial quake yesterday, being 300km away (190 miles) and on my lunch break at the time. Arriving back at work ten minutes after it occurred, my colleagues asked if I felt it. Even then it was evident that it was large and centered near Christchurch. We felt the aftershocks too, I thought of the six stories of concrete above me while watching my computer monitors wobbling and coffee gently sloshing in my cup. There was no reason to think it could not happen here too, no cause for complacent idealism that because I am a Christian I would somehow be spared. Heaving earth and falling concrete give no heed to my theology.

He gave Himself up for her, will I?

At the beginning of this year I decided that for me 2011 should be a year committed to essentials. I have given this some thought at times but, as is human nature, it really isn’t until things start getting a bit unbalanced that I have paused to consider whether I am on track with what I should be doing as opposed to what I have actually been doing. And then there is all that I have not been doing, such as:

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,
(Ephesians 5:25 ESV)

When I think about Christ loving the church and giving Himself up for her, I am reminded of  Philippians 2:5-8, which in turn reminds me of the immediately preceeding verses:

Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
(Philippians 2:3-4 ESV)

Pulling this together, I need to love my wife as Christ loved the church, which means serving her and considering her needs more than my own interests. A good example of considering her needs would be to not promptly fall asleep after coming home from work, leaving her to get three children ready for bed alone when she is already exhausted and I know it.

Over the last couple of months we have been attempting to adjust to me doing shift work, which has meant a bit of an upheaval to our usually quite routine days. As part of this there are now days when I am at work all evening and asleep in the morning so am not available to help at either of these busy parts of the day for families. This puts a huge load upon my wife, especially if I do nothing to reduce the other work she has to get done to keep our home running. On the surface it seems easy to come home from work tired and just want to rest, but I am not the only tired person – the kids are so they are cranky, my wife is so she has a thumping headache and twenty things to get done at once. Am I now going to simply have a rest myself while someone I love is being drained utterly empty?

The answer should be obvious, unfortunately I don’t always think things through like this before being selfish and unloving.

Gifts I have noticed this week (#251 – #261):

251) Problems which cause me to consider what I believe and why.
252) Physical labour on a sunny day (Ecclesiastes 3:13).
253) A shed slowly filling up with cut firewood and pine cones.
254) Neighbours who at least have good taste in what music they play loudly.
255) A lovely paediatrician who genuinely likes children.
256) Gentle reminder from a friend, that I need to encourage a brother.
257) Figuring out that the computer can do a tedious task for me.
258) Love, which causes me to want to make her a cup of tea and give her the nicest cheese roll.
259) The depth of Scripture (Mark 12:24).
260) Cold tea because I fell asleep in the sun before drinking it.
261) The Third Strand in our marriage (Ecclesiastes 4:12).

Other posts related to this topic:

How do I pray for a despot?

In my heart, the prayer I want to pray is that God will destroy these animals who masquerade as leaders. Generally this becomes slightly modified to be, “Lord, please bring justice to Burma.” Conceding that perhaps my version of justice may not be entirely just.

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
(1 Timothy 2:1-4 ESV)

In a country like New Zealand in which our politicians may be agnostic or atheistic but generally are not complete tyrants, it is not too hard to pray for our leaders to enable us to live peaceful and quiet lives. In fact they are quite happy for us to live such lives provided we all work hard and pay taxes. It is easy enough to make sense of verses 3 and 4 in this context, that God would be pleased for us to live quiet, peaceful lives and  have freedom to spread the gospel. Not a problem. Shut my Bible, pray for the government and live my peaceful life.

However, what if a country does have a tyrant as it’s leader? What if its rulers actively create war and division in the nation, driving peace and prosperity far away? What if those same rulers have a stated policy of destroying the knowledge of Jesus Christ wherever they find it in the lands they control? How do you give thanks for that? What good is God bringing out of genocide when most of those being murdered have never even heard the gospel yet?

I will freely admit that while I do pray for Burma and the Shan people, it is hard to avoid an element of despair in my prayers when that country is in such a mess because of it’s leaders. The people have no power to resist, even when they form a resistance army the junta send it’s troops and tanks to wipe them out (Junta Troops, Tanks deployed to Shan Rebel Territory, 15 Feb 2011). Villagers are conscripted, forced to work for the army without payment or food, their homes are burned down and wives raped. In my heart, the prayer I want to pray is that God will destroy these animals who masquerade as leaders. Generally this becomes slightly modified to be, “Lord, please bring justice to Burma.” Conceding that perhaps my version of justice may not be entirely just.

O.K., so maybe in the end I am effectively praying that God will enable the Shan people of Burma to live quiet, peaceful lives even though this is currently impossible for most of them. What about Paul’s comments in Romans:

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience.
(Romans 13:1-5 ESV)

Again, this makes perfect sense in a nation with good governing authorities. They may not be perfect but we can accept that sinful men will never rule without some mistakes, self-interest, and lack of adequate knowledge at times. How does this apply to the people in Burma who have been driven out of their village by the army? They have very good reason to fear the authorities and try their utmost not to antagonize them, yet the army has standing orders to displace these villagers and make life hell for them. How is this being God’s servant for their good?

I’m afraid I cannot bring this post to a nice neat conclusion which answers the questions I have posed. I struggle with these things almost every time I pray. Knowing that Paul wrote this to Christians in Rome who were likely being persecuted for their faith by the authorities and that he had been persecuted by civic authorities himself makes it even harder to understand. In the end somebody in Burma is going to need to actively disobey the authorities in order to bring about change, how do I pray for the change to occur without also asking for people to violate this passage?

Please feel free to comment on this post, I’d love to know your thoughts.

Learning to play nicely

Flute_violin

You shall have a song as in the night when a holy feast is kept, and gladness of heart, as when one sets out to the sound of the flute to go to the mountain of the LORD, to the Rock of Israel.(Isaiah 30:29 ESV)

Today I played my flute for the first time since before my son was born. Needless to say I’m a bit rusty! I was never very good to start with and the dog still whines when I’m playing (slightly off-putting!) but at least I finally managed to muddle through one of the Bach Minuets that my daughter plays beautifully on her violin.

What is most striking to me is the joy it brings me to play music, even poorly. I have always experienced this in playing the flute, even relatively boring practise times finish with me feeling more uplifted than when I began, despite it being hard work to make fingers and brain play the notes on the page. Certainly credit needs to go to the composers who write beautiful music, it is definitely nicer to play good music than boring stuff, but it does seem to me that God has given music as a very powerful means of joy.

At its best music can elevate our minds and hearts to contemplate the glory of God and delight in praising Him. At its most corrupt it is used to debase people and elevate Satan. Anything so powerful needs to be treated with respect but is certainly a gift from God to be used for His glory.

I would like at least to practise the flute so that I can play alongside my daughter as she plays the violin. I’m full of thanks to God for prompting me to pick up my flute this evening, and am somewhat puzzled as to why it has taken me this long to do so!

Gifts I have noticed this week (#241 – #250):

241) Rain interrupting my outside work, forcing me to tidy away tools and newly cut firewood before the real deluge began.
242) Putting my agenda aside and going to bed because I am tired and need a proper sleep more than I need to cross one more item off my ‘To-do’ list. The grace to not have to try to be everything.
243) Laughing out loud at a funny movie.
244) Ephesians 5:13-14 (see why here).
245) Folding washing with my wife and best friend, chatting about children, long days, tiredness, and planning a break for us all.
246) Mild spontaneous extravagance for Valentine’s Day.
247) Work colleagues who share the load.
248) My Friday on our Tuesday, which could even be your Monday. (Yeah, I get confused too!)
249) Two-year-old son walking into the house wearing a toy bucket as a helmet.
250) Rediscovering the joy of playing the flute.

Am I reflective?

How do you see? We see an object when light reflected off it’s surface enters our eyes and is translated into an image by retina and nerves. The light does not usually come from the object itself, mostly it is from the sun in daytime. As the light shines it reveals to our eyes all that was hidden by darkness. If my life is pure and holy others will see Christ clearly reflected with minimal distortion. If I am corrupt and filthy Christ’s glory will remain brilliant, but my filth will be starkly illuminated against his holiness.

Gemstone

But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,“Awake, O sleeper,
and arise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”
(Ephesians 5:13-14 ESV)

How do you see? We see an object when light reflected off it’s surface enters our eyes and is translated into an image by retina and nerves. The light does not usually come from the object itself, mostly it is from the sun in daytime. As the light shines it reveals to our eyes all that was hidden by darkness.

As Christ shines in the darkness (John 1:5) the true light reveals all. People will see who I am as Christ shines upon me. If my life is pure and holy they will see Christ clearly reflected through my life with minimal distortion. If I am corrupt and filthy they will see me clearly for what I am – Christ’s glory will remain brilliant, my filth will be starkly illuminated against his holiness.

Am I reflective?

How do you see? We see an object when light reflected off it’s surface enters our eyes and is translated into an image by retina and nerves. The light does not usually come from the object itself, mostly it is from the sun in daytime. As the light shines it reveals to our eyes all that was hidden by darkness. If my life is pure and holy others will see Christ clearly reflected with minimal distortion. If I am corrupt and filthy Christ’s glory will remain brilliant, but my filth will be starkly illuminated against his holiness.

But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,
“Awake, O sleeper,
and arise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”
(Ephesians 5:13-14 ESV)

How do you see? We see an object when light reflected off it’s surface enters our eyes and is translated into an image by retina and nerves. The light does not usually come from the object itself, mostly it is from the sun in daytime. As the light shines it reveals to our eyes all that was hidden by darkness.

As Christ shines in the darkness (John 1:5) the true light reveals all. People will see who I am as Christ shines upon me. If my life is pure and holy they will see Christ clearly reflected through my life with minimal distortion. If I am corrupt and filthy they will see me clearly for what I am – Christ’s glory will remain brilliant, my filth will be starkly illuminated against his holiness.

My work is no good – I’m no good

This morning I was literally given a beautiful gift, which in my semi-awake, cold-clogged grumpiness I fobbed off, telling a nine-year-old artist to put her offering on the kitchen bench unviewed. I have been thinking, reading and writing lately about seeing the beauty and grace of God and giving thanks to Him for it, yet I wouldn’t even look when directly asked to.
Fortunately her Mum took the time to look, and to listen to the Young Artist’s self-deprecating words, “It’s stupid, I should just throw it out. I’m useless.” The folded work was rescued and is now displayed on our fridge door. Upon finally stopping to look, I too saw the beauty, detail, care taken and conceptual ideas in the picture.

I also considered the Young Artist’s words, “It’s stupid” (I’m no good), “just throw it out” (hide away, don’t reveal myself to the world). Where did she pick this up from? Is this the message I am consistently sending? (It could be). Can I foist all the blame onto catty friends at school? Or is it Satan whispering to her, sowing seeds into the fertile soil of sinful nature, disappointment, discontent, disapproval and disinterest cultivated in her heart by we who surround her?

How does the assessment (whether correct or not) ‘what I have made is not good’ translate into ‘therefore I am no good’? Is it because only God can make anything that is good? (Genesis 1:31) Maybe this is the case, yet God Himself said of sinful men that nothing will be impossible if they work collaboratively so obviously good workmanship is still possible (see Genesis 11:6).

I asked the Young Artist why she thought her work was no good. It turns out that she was reasonably happy with it until seeing what others had done. Then the self-abasement began, “I’m useless, I’m no good at anything.” (Notice the lies Satan uses to pull us down).

It is unwise to compare ourselves with others (2 Corinthians 10:12) but should test our own work, without deceiving ourselves (Galatians 6:3-4). We each have certain attributes and abilities given by God, it is wise to be aware, be realistic and be thankful for what we are (Romans 12:3). In the end it is God who gives skill for artistic endeavours, though there is certainly room for teaching and training to hone these skills (Exodus 35:30-35).

I like the Young Artist’s picture a lot. It speaks to me of the transformation of autumn, the blaze of colour as seasons turn and the output of summer growth reabsorbed into branches, giving a last shout of glory before falling to become mulch for spring buds. In His extravagance God makes the leaves turn brilliant yellow and red, it could have been boring brown.

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven
(Ecclesiastes 3:1 ESV)

Fallen leaves

Thank you Ann

Dear Ann,Thank you for your beautiful words. I first began reading your blog (A Holy Experience) in the middle of last year and was captivated by the honest, encouraging and inspiring words you write there. Today your book (One Thousand Gifts) arrived at my door all the way from America and again I am lifted up by your words.

As I have been keeping my own list of gifts given by God, things I am thanking Him for, I also have asked:

“I think how God-glory in a cheese ring might seem trifling. Even offensive, to focus the lens of a heart on the minute, in a world mangled and maimed and desperately empty.”

I have asked the question many times, wondered also if my own list is trite and offensive to those who have so much less than I, who by circumstance of birthplace are ravaged by poverty, exploitation, war or persecution. My answers have been non-answers, feeling guilty, wondering if I should be asking for suffering in order to be a true disciple? I was not ready for the wisdom of your next paragraph:

“I know there is poor and hideous suffering, and I’ve seen the hungry and the guns go to war. I have lived pain, and my life can tell: I only deepen the wound of the world when I neglect to give thanks for early light dappled through leaves and the heavy perfume of wild roses in early July and the song of crickets on humid nights and the rivers that run and the stars that rise and the rain that falls and all the good things that a good God gives. Why would the world need more anger, more outrage? How does it serve the world to reject unabashed joy when it is joy that saves us? Rejecting joy to stand in solidarity with the suffering doesn’t rescue the suffering. The converse does. The brave who focus on all things good and all things true, even in the small, who give thanks for it and discover joy even in the here and now, they are the change agents who bring fullest Light to all the world.” (p58)

I am such a novice in gratitude and thanksgiving, I am taking small steps unsure where the path is going but seeing enough signs along the way of the leading of Christ that I know He wants me to walk in this.

Interestingly, only yesterday I was considering my gratitude list and what it is about. I realized that in participating in a community of people all recording similar lists of thanksgiving it is easy to slip into something of a numbers game and seek simply to lengthen my list out of pride rather than true thankfulness and rejoicing in Christ. On the other hand, I am sure that items make it onto my list for which I am truly thankful but have others utterly mystified as to what I even mean, let alone why I’d be thankful for them. Then there are all the things which I thank God for deeply and a few words on a numbered list simply cannot capture the depth of gratitude and dependence of hope which hang upon them.

Therefore I am going to reduce my concern over how many items are on my list and go for depth. My list may grow more slowly but hopefully my soul will grow more deeply. I want to ponder why I am thankful as well as what I am thankful for. I want to make it more explicit to myself at least that these ‘little’ things I thank God for are given by Him for my joy – a concept that my heart is reluctant to hold onto.

Gifts I have noticed this week (#238 – #240):

238) My eldest daughter asking so many questions about God, the Trinity, how the Holy Spirit helps us, and what limits have been placed upon Satan. I feel inadequate attempting to answer her questions – I think I understand in my head but it comes out all garbled when trying to express the ideas to a nine-year-old. Yet it is so encouraging that she is curious, is concerned and knows that Jesus is all-mighty. It helps me read the Bible with new eyes to be reading it to a child who is eagerly trying to figure out who and how God is. Most of all I am greatly encouraged that she is thinking all this through for herself rather than just believing what she is told in order to keep her parents happy.

239) Encouragement to continue counting gifts.

240) Grandma and Poppa reading bedtime stories: