Stories from Egypt and Iraq

In May I had the opportunity to travel to Egypt and Iraq with International Christian Concern, an organizing dedicated to advocacy for the persecuted church. I was tagging along with a friend of mine, Aidan Clay, who is the North Africa/Middle East regional manager for the organization. My task was to capture photography and videography of the stories from persecuted Christians in both these countries. The Arab Spring brought some freedom and democracy to North Africa and the Middle East. However, the western view of “democracy” with a separation of church and state doesn’t work as well in these highly religious countries. While the west hoped secular governments would arise to rule these countries in the void left by dictators, in every case an Islamist party was elected. Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Iraq, and now Syria looks fall the same direction Most of these countries have an ancient Christian population. Sizable populations (10 million Coptic Christians in Egypt for example), but still a minority. In Baghdad, Iraq, before the 2003 war, there were 60 churches. Today there are only 6. A dictator was removed, yes, but the situation on the ground got much worse for Christians under democracy. Many Christians fled the country completely, if they had the means, or fled to Northern Iraq where the Kurdish government allows some religious freedom and more importantly, some protection. I talked to pastors there from Mosul and Kirkuk, cities that were too dangerous for us to visit as high-value-target-westerners, who told stories of car bombings and threats and terrible persecution in their community. Pastors who had patiently endured without fleeing like most of their...

Protected: North Africa

North Africa: expansive deserts, exotic medinas, ancient Christianity, modern Islam. Its fascinating and diverse landscape is home to 165 million people, yet the number of people who know Christ here is less than 1% and closer to 0.1% in most places. Despite the region’s ancient Christian heritage, Jesus is not only unknown there, but great barriers to know him have been erected by the governments and their extreme control over many aspects of life. While a few of these countries have an official freedom to exercise religion, this really only applies to foreigners. Locals who desire to follow Jesus will most certainly be expelled from their family and community and risk imprisonment… or worse. Last month I had the opportunity to live for 2 weeks in an ancient medina in one these countries, which I can’t name. I’ve been to the region a handful of times and probably half my trips throughout Africa are to creative-access nations. I am well aware of the security and political considerations one must make as a Christian entering these countries. I know the list of words I can’t use over the phone, the sites I can’t visit on the internet, the email domains I can’t send or receive from. I know I have to leave my regular occupational identity back home in Kenya, and that here I am simply a photographer, a filmmaker, a tourist, who happens to be a serious Christ-follower. I don’t have to be afraid of that label. This trip reminded me that we, as Christians, are engaged in a spiritual battle, not a physical battle. The people I met...

The Island Called Death

(Today I decided to syndicate Tim Lang’s blog post on our trip last December- the one where we produced the film, Walking in Shadow, because he’s the only one on our team who wrote about our experiences and he’s pretty funny) It was December, 4th. We were leaving on a Kenya Airways flight for another video project. Unfortunately, with a scheduling mishap and the lack of advanced notification, we missed every Christmas party and children’s music concert which were scheduled the week we were gone. When I say we missed every Christmas party, I mean that to the utmost extent because we were going to an island where the no one, except foreigners, celebrated Christmas. There was a local soccer team sitting behind us, who probably never showered, and one of them took off their shoe and stuck their foot in between the side of the airplane and Ted’s chair. For some reason the people sitting in front of us smelled of old dairy product. The mixture of scent which occurred in our general vicinity could only be given the image of a bucket of cheese, aged in a boy’s high school locker room, then found at the end of the year by an unfortunate custodian. Needless to say, it was a much longer flight in nature than duration. When the plane started to descend, I could still only see water through the window. Then a green mountain came into view, it sloped gracefully into the warm water of the Indian Ocean surrounding it. I saw the airport building fly past the window, and then the other end of...

Mombasa

We went to Mombasa last weekend, in partial fulfillment of our orientation requirements, and in partial fulfillment of ourselves and getting away from the busyness our lives are in right now. We stayed with some new friends of ours, Justin and Shannon Brown, in Mombasa’s Old Town which was built in the 1500’s. It was the closest we’ve been as a family to life in an islamic culture since Lesa, Sydney and I went to North Africa 3 years ago. Waking up in the middle of the night to the sound of the call to prayer in 12-part dissonant harmony from the dozen mosques in the vicinity, sweating it out in the oppressive heat and humidity even at 4 in the morning, reminded us alot of where we were when we experienced that original confirmation/call into missions. The drive to Mombasa from Nairobi is like this: 2 hours of the worst roads followed by 6 hours of the best roads in all of Africa. We left around lunch time on Friday, stopping along the way to treat ourselves with snacks and sodas and a sit-down Kenyan-style meal, and arrived at the Brown’s around 10pm. We didn’t sleep too well, though, as it was all we could to do stop thinking about the heat as we lay sweating on top of our beds, under the mosquito nets, with fans blowing on us. The next morning we did a little grocery shopping, ate lunch out, and spent the afternoon teaching at AIC Tudor, a large church in the Tudor area of Mombasa Island. Lesa and I had been invited to give...
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