First International Conference in Israel
Instead of our usual annual conferences in Toronto and other Canadian cities, we were delighted to be able to organize our first international conference which took place in Jerusalem, December 14-15. We planned our first conference outside Canada to be held in Israel in order to acknowledge the role that Israel has played in Rev. El Shafie’s life and, as a result, the founding of OFWI. We also
wanted to take the opportunity to draw attention to the role that Israel plays on the front lines of the worldwide fight against religious extremism and the related twin evils of religious persecution and antisemitism.
The conference included a special address by Minister of Citizenship, Immigration, and Multiculturalism, Jason Kenney, as well as remarks by Canadian Members of Parliament Scott Reid and Mario Silva and, of course, comments by our very own Rev. El Shafie. An OFWI delegation from North America including Mr. Reid and Mr. Silva and others, including pastors, human rights advocates and other concerned individuals, also held meetings with Israeli officials and visited various sites of significance in the fight for religious freedom and against religious persecution and antisemitism, including Yad Vashem (the Holocaust memorial).
We were thrilled with the abundant positive media attention the conference received from Israeli and foreign press and would like to especially thank Tim King, our Jerusalem Director, for his long hours, commitment, and hard work in order to make this conference a success.
Alerts, Cases and Missions
During 2009 we also sent numerous alerts about cases in which your prayers and action were invaluable. Your letters on behalf of Wadie and Fifi were vital in ensuring that their deportation to the Sudan was stayed. In March you marked the anniversary of the attack against Ami by signing Ami’s petition and we were thrilled to report in November that Israeli authorities had finally arrested the attacker. We alerted you to threats against Christians and other religious minorities from Hindu extremists in Nepal and informed you about attacks against Christian villages in Egypt. Not long after we sent an alert about Maryam and Marzieh in Iran, we were able to report that these tremendously courageous Christian women had finally been released after almost 9 months in prison.
OFWI presented submissions to the Inquiry into Antisemitism in Canada initiated by the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Antisemitism and Rev. El Shafie appeared before the inquiry when he was invited to provide oral testimony. To round off our review, we also held a series of multi-faith panel discussions about religious persecution in four cities across Canada, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, and Vancouver.
We would like to give special thanks to our OFWI team, those partners and volunteers who work anonymously behind the scenes, sacrificing their time, sleep, effort, finances, and even lives, to ensure that the work moves forward. We would also like to thank Bnai Brith for partnering with us on the Israel conference and cross-Canada panels.
Finally, the OFWI family would like to thank all of you for being partners in our work in 2009. Without your active participation, prayers, and support none of this would have been possible. We undertake our work by faith, knowing that it is the call of the Lord and that it must be done, making great sacrifices and trusting that He will provide. Our conferences, travels, advocacy, and rescue missions require tremendous resources and are only possible because of your generous support. Please prayerfully consider making a special year-end donation to OFWI or committing to support our work on a monthly basis in the coming year (OFWI’s address and banking information are included below).
To all of our friends and partners we wish the richest blessings in 2010! As we look forward to the New Year and all the challenges that lie ahead, we trust that you will continue to support our work, both in prayer and financially, and by taking action with us on behalf of the persecuted church.
Remember, that the persecuted Christians are dying every day, but they are still smiling. They are in a very deep dark night, but they have the candle of the Lord. The enemy can have a very strong weapon and a very strong army, but we have the Lord Almighty.
“They can kill the dreamer, but they cannot kill the dream” in the Lord’s name.
Be with God and may God be with you.