Posts Tagged ‘afghanistan’

How safe is Your Holiday or Business Destination this Summer?

June 29, 2015

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As recent terror attacks in three continents continue to send shock waves around the world, many people are now wondering whether to cancel their summer holiday – particularly if it happens to be in Tunisia. Horrific scenes have emerged in the last few days; of tourists, including young children running for their lives on a Tunisian beach; of rising casualties in a Shia mosque in Kuwait and of an explosion in a chemical plant near Lyon where a man beheaded his boss…

Elsewhere many areas of the world are in complete turmoil. Refugees and migrants fleeing war, poverty and persecution are floating in the open seas in rubber dinghies and little wooden boats which were never meant to hold the number of people that have been packed unto them. We see images of men, women and children being washed ashore on Greek islands – where the locals are barely able to provide for the needs of their own families.

On a personal level, my husband is to participate in a conference in the Greek island of Zakynthos next month but Greece, we fear, is on the brink of a humanitarian crises. School teachers in Athens have complained that young children are under-nourished and some are even fainting because they have not eaten in a couple of days. In the countryside at least, people it appears are able to grow fruit and vegetables, keep hens for eggs and goats to milk and make goat’s cheese from. However, I have to admit that I am a little apprehensive about our proposed trip to this lovely green island which the Venetians once named “the flower of the east.”

It was here, on this third largest of the Ionian Islands that dozens of terrified Afghan and Iraqi Kurdish refugees washed in to shore just recently, because they were unable to make it to the coasts of Italy. So what awaits any traveller this summer, having reached their destination – financial chaos, refugees on the beach – or worse still… a gunman on the beach?

Yes, it appears that even Greece is on the map of “tourist area hotspots with terror threat level” issued by the foreign office. On the red alert “high threat” list are France, Spain, Algeria, Libya, Egypt, Turkey – and now Tunisia of course. Italy, Greece and Morocco are classified under “general threat,” while Portugal, Croatia and Bulgaria are listed under “underlying threat”.

“Oh, just stay at home,” some sigh… “Let’s face it, the world is just not safe out there anymore!”

‘But is it even safe at home?’ I ask myself. If someone had asked an 82 year-old British grandmother ‘did she think she would ever be beheaded in her own back garden?’ I’m sure that she would never have dreamt of such a horror – but this happened not so very long ago.

In an uncertain world, we brace ourselves for tomorrow’s news… but there is a happy band of people in this world who can claim these lovely words and apply them to any situation that they find ourselves in… “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Se-lah.” (Psalm 46v1-3)

Can you claim to feel a genuine peace when you hear these words? Whether it is financial unrest, wars, rumours of war, persecution; violence in the forces of nature, sickness or even death – if the Lord has control of all of your life, you have nothing to fear – either here or in the world to come. Of course pain, bereavement, anguish, or having to face up to our own death is horrendously hard to bear but thank God for the Lord Jesus Christ who loves us and wants to be our Burden-Bearer. He said: “Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11v28)

But He also said: “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10v28)

And so, in an uncertain world, it is essential to be certain of this one thing – that the Lord Jesus Christ reigns supreme in your life.

If it is that you fear an uncertain eternity, it is not His will that you continue to live in this unhappy state. “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5v8)

The Lord Jesus Christ suffered and died for your sins because he loved you and wants you to have an assurance of sins forgiven in this life – and a deep peace in your heart that you will spend eternity in heaven with Him. All He asks is that you repent and put your trust in Him today. Remember – tomorrow may be too late… for all our tomorrows on this earth are becoming increasingly uncertain. There is nothing comparable to the joy of feeling His Presence with you as you face into each new day. Oh that you would be one of that happy band who can honestly say…“For this God is our God for ever and ever: he will be our guide even unto death.” (Psalm 48v14)

May the Lord bless these words to whoever reads them.

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The Bible is Still the World’s Best Seller!

April 23, 2012

As tonight, 23rd April 2012, is World Book Night, I have been reflecting on the issue of education (as well as that of women’s education) throughout the world and have also been thinking about the different attitudes towards it in societies everywhere. I would like to know what justification there can be for recent vicious attacks against young girls who are trying to go to school in Afghanistan. Is it a matter of culture and tradition or do those who perpetrate such deeds find justification for what they do in their religious writings?

Young girls have been poisoned, gassed, mutilated… all because of their natural desire to have a basic education.

I was dismayed by the following true story from Afghanistan…

One morning as two young sisters in Kandahar were going to school a man pulled up alongside them on a motorbike and asked: “Are you going to school?”

When he learned that they were, he pulled one of their burqas off and sprayed the little girl with burning acid. This horrific attack has left her scarred for life and nowadays her vision is blurred, making it difficult for her to read.

How I wish that these young girls could attend school on a regular basis without constantly living in fear of such attacks or even of being murdered. Sadly it is a fact that my experience of school many years ago was so encouraging and positive when compared with girls in Afghanistan today.

One of my first memories when I started school was of being seated at a desk one morning and of the teacher coming along shaking a large box of letters from the alphabet. “See how many words you can make out of these letters,” she said. And so, in time the words became sentences and those sentences became paragraphs and the paragraphs were joined to tell a story; I have to say that this activity has stuck in my memory over the years because I found it so enjoyable.

Soon I came to find the art of reading enjoyable too. My family would travel to Smithfield Markets in Belfast where we picked up armfuls of books at just a few pence each and upon our return home I would be engrossed in reading them, often to the neglect of everything else!

What a privilege it is to be able to read – but what an enormous privilege it is to be able to read God’s Holy Word, the Bible. Somehow when I came to know Jesus as Saviour, all other books (while some of them were interesting and even spiritually helpful) paled into insignificance when compared with my daily companion – the Bible.

In this tremendous volume I found all the instructions I needed to live this life to the full and the joy of the assurance that my sins were forgiven; I was taught to respect and love my fellowmen and women; I found comfort, solace and direction; amazing stories which gave me courage and poetry that inspired me. But above all I discovered that the Author loved me personally and wanted to share His riches with me forever.

It has been estimated that world sales of the Bible are currently more than a hundred million every year and yet I feel that most people in the world have still never read the Bible through even once; sadly this also applies to those who have made a profession of having trusted the Saviour.

I remember finding conviction in the words of the Bible before becoming a Christian and I believe that those who sincerely want to find truth will be spoken to. I also believe that the best place to start reading is in the New Testament – and then the Old Testament.

My prayer is that the Bible will be translated into every dialect and language of the world and that men, women and children throughout the world will be given the opportunity to discover within its pages the remedy for sin and the recipe for happiness.

“Search the scriptures,” Jesus tells us in John 5v39, “for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.”

Jesus loves you, He died for you and He rose again in triumph for you – over sin and death and hell, if you will only repent and trust Him with your life, your all. I pray that you will read His beautiful story today, if you have not already done so.  

Lest we Forget!

November 13, 2011

The following is a short extract from the end of one of my stories in “A Biblical Journey through the Irish Year.” The story entitled: Wars, Rumours of War, Three Hostages… and the Prayers of the Saints (Matt. 21v22 & Matt. 24v6-8) tells of how a young woman, Annetta Flanagan from the small village of Richhill in Northern Ireland was taken hostage by the Taliban back in 2004. Many Christians in the Richhill area prayed fervently and I thank the Lord that Annetta and her two colleagues were released unharmed some weeks later…

“The dawn of Tuesday 23rd November 2004, brought that release of Annetta and her colleagues – almost a month after they were taken hostage on Thursday 28th October. The details of the release were vague – probably because no one wanted to jeopardise those who could be involved in possible future hostage situations. One of their captors is believed to have been shot dead, but the three victims were safe and well. Only those involved in this traumatic event knew how it was for them, and are able to tell their story. But from the moment that I heard that breaking news, I wanted to tell a story – a story of the great power of our wonderful Saviour, for whom all things are possible, and I wanted that story to have a happy ending. I thank God that it did!

With tears in my eyes, I looked at all types of newspapers on display that week, depicting the smiling face of Annetta as she headed home to be re-united with loved ones. A headline in one Dublin newspaper announced: “Town rejoices as power of prayer brings Annetta home.” (Irish Independent, Wednesday 24th November 2004).  Even the secular world was acknowledging the power of prayer!

It is interesting to note that during their time in captivity, three Afghan women offered to take the place of the three hostages! What a noble gesture – and yet on hearing of this I was immediately struck by the words of Romans 5v7… “For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.” No doubt the Afghan ladies saw the injustice in threatening to kill people who were merely helping with democratic elections. However, who would offer his or her life for someone whom, in his or her view, was evil and even deserved death? Nevertheless we read… “But God commendeth his love towards us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”  (Romans 5v8) The righteous Son of God laid down His life for all (1Tim. 2v5&6) in the knowledge that nothing less than this enormous sacrifice could ever redeem the human race. 

Valiant soldiers through the ages gave their lives, so that democracy would overcome the tyrants of this world.  Annually we remember the dead of two World Wars, and the sacrifices that were made. How much more then, should we acknowledge and honour Jesus, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9v6) who gave His life for the billions of souls throughout the ages, to redeem them to Himself? I have no doubt that he has spoken to souls through this and other traumatic events, and that He will continue to speak to them in the days that lie ahead – so that they may trust Him for eternity, escaping a worse situation than they have been involved in, upon this earth. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord, For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55v8&9). A short time after the event, I wrote to a local newspaper wishing the released hostages a full recovery after their horrific ordeal. My letter concluded with the words of Ephesians 3v20&21, which I feel is an apt conclusion to a story that must give God the glory. Perhaps, too, it may have even more joyful implications than we would ever have dreamed possible… “Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end, Amen.”

Morning, noon and night our whispered anxious prayers,

Rose in silent anguish to the throne of He who cares.

Oh blessed Lord, we thank thee now, for thou hast said: “Believe…

For if ye are my servants… ye shall indeed receive!”