Editorial: We bring this edition of News Digest with joyful tidings! One piece of news that was perhaps a constant all through the ND editions thus far was about Pastor Saeed Abedini who was imprisoned in Iran. If ‘was’ in the previous sentence caught your attention, it is indeed now history! Pastor Abedini was released by Iran and is now back in the USA with his family. Most ND readers would recollect this feature doing follow-up stories regarding Pastor Abedini (and his family back in the USA). At Revive Nations, we’d like to thank you for praying with us for the release of men of God who are serving time in prison for the sake of the Cross! And the release of Pastor Abedini is an answer to those prayers. As much joy as that news brought us, it should also encourage us to continue praying for those who continue to suffer for placing their faith and standing firm in Jesus. God bless you! Saeed Abedini released by Iran

Iran releases US-Iranian Pastor Saeed Abedini

Iran released U.S.-Iranian pastor Saeed Abedini on 16 January 2016, more than three years after authorities arrested him on charges of “threatening national security” by planting churches, according to several sources. Abedini was released along with three other dual-citizens, including Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian, in a prisoner swap, Iran’s official Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported this morning. U.S. officials reportedly confirmed that the release was part of a prisoner swap involving seven Iranians held on charges of violating sanctions and came after more than a year of closely guarded talks. It was in July 2013 that an Iranian court sentenced Abedini to eight years in prison for allegedly threatening Iran releases US-Iranian Pastor Saeed Abedini‘national security’ by planting house churches. Pastor’s wife, Nagmeh Abedini, who has been working hard for her husband’s release along with a few organizations, said that this has “been an answer to prayer” and thanked the “millions of people” who stood with them in prayer during their most difficult time. The news was met with great joy and jubilation at the Abedini household in the US as their 9-year-old son and 7-year-old daughter has been jumping “up and down in excitement” ever since they heard the news. Pastor Franklin Graham, who met Pastor Abedini, on his return, tweeted “Saeed Abedini told me he is not angry or bitter about his time in prison, but is tremendously thankful for his freedom.” Click here to read more.

15 Indian Christians arrested while praying on New Year’s Eve

Fifteen Christians were arrested as they were surrounded by a radical religious mob in the Indian state of Karnataka. AsiaNews reported on 15 Indian Christians arrested while praying on New Year’s EveMonday that the incident occurred at the parish of bannur Jodukatte Puttur on New Year’s Eve, where police stormed the Protestant church and arrested the 15 Christian worshipers as a means to “protect” them from a mob of Hindu radicals that had gathered outside. While the arrested Christians were released a few hours after they were taken to the nearest police station, they were warned against proselytizing, and told that they must always alert the authorities before any prayer services or celebrations. India, a secular country, has seen a spate of attacks against Christians in recent years. Click here to read more.

Imprisoned Asia Bibi forgives her persecutors

Pakistani Christian Asia Bibi who has been imprisoned on the false charges of blasphemy said that she has forgiven her persecutors. Bibi has been inside the prison for seven years after she was sentenced to death following accusations by her coworkers of blasphemy against Mohammed. She was arrested in 2009 after she verbally defended Jesus and her Christian faith when it was challenged by some hostile Muslim co-workers. Last year, the Pakistani Supreme Court overturned her death sentence, but she remains in prison awaiting a new hearing. News Source: CBN

Philippine Christians face attacks akin to ISIS

Christians in the Philippine island of Mindanao are suffering similar levels violence and intimidation as Christians in Iraq, according to a missionary priest. In an interview with Aid to the Church in Need, Father Sebastiano D’Ambra said he feared growing radicalisation in the Philippines after 14 people were murdered on Christmas Day. In one attack, a grenade was thrown at a chapel. On Christmas Eve alone, Barnabas Fund reported, nine Christians were murdered as 200 Islamist gunmen raided villages in Mindanao. Excerpts from this link.

Tent of Meeting

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Protestant Christians in Mexico forced to vacate homes

About 30 Protestant Christians in Levya Velazques village, Chaipas in Mexico had to face the ire of their villagers who raided and destroyed their homes early in January. The villagers forced the Christians to flee to the nearby mountains after blockading their entry into the village. According to International Christian Concern (ICC), this was not an isolated incident as seven Protestants were imprisoned in December when they refused to renounce their faith. The sad part about these incidents is that Mexico is a Christian country with 80 percent of population being Catholic. Click here to read more.

Day-long massacre by IS kills 300 in Syria

The Islamic State terror group has massacred nearly 300 people, most of them women, children and the elderly, in a day-long Day-long massacre by IS kills 300 in Syriaattack on the town of Deir el-Zour in Syria. The government-run SANA news agency revealed in a report on Sunday that the shootings and beheadings were among the worst carried out by the terrorist organization, which continues to hold significant territory across the country. Watchdog groups, such as the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights, have confirmed the massacre, noting that IS controls most of the province, and has been battling with government forces for control of the provincial capital of the same name. Excerpts taken from this Christian Post link.

IS attacks Christian restaurants in Syria, kills 16

The Islamic state targeted Christian restaurants in Qamishli city in Hasakah province of Syria by attacking them with bombs that resulted in the death of 16 people and left more than 45 injured. As a result, the Christians in Hasakah province unified in grief cancelled all the new year’s celebrations. “We dedicate this evening to prayers for the victims of those attacks,” a joint statement by the Assyrian-Syriac Churches of Hasakah province said. “We pray for our region and country amid the bloody war that claims lives of civilians everyday.” To read more, click here.

IS vandalizes Christian cemetery, destroys churches and monasteries

Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants vandalized a Christian cemetery and left a monastery and many homes ruined, IS vandalizes Christian cemetery, destroys churches and monasteriesbased on an Assyrian news report. On 27 Nov 2015, ISIS militants vandalized two cemeteries in Kirkuk, leaving graves opened and the crosses and tombstone in ruins. Authorities failed to identify the individuals responsible for the said acts, according to the Assyrian International News Agency (AINA). AINA published photos of the defiled graves and destroyed tombstones. The pictures show that the graves have been smashed open and the tombstones have been displaced from their original positions. Aside from that, AINA also listed 11 other Assyrian churches and monasteries that were attacked by ISIS. Excerpts from this link.

16 Assyrian Christians released by IS

After the Islamic State released 25 Christians of Syria on Christmas Day in 2015, they released 16 more hostages in early January 2016. The captives were freed in al-Hasakah in Syria, according to reports from the Assyrian Church of the East Relief Organisation (ACERO), a charity working with Assyrian Christians. The hostages were among more than 200 people abducted from villages along the Khabour River in northern Syria earlier this year. ISIS have now released more than 150 captives in total and negotiators are working to secure the release of the roughly one hundred who remain. News Source: Christian Today. 16 Assyrian Christians released by IS