Talks are now set to begin in Qatar this week, aiming to put an end to two decades of war and the loss of thousands of lives in Afghanistan. They were meant to begin in March, but instead were held up for months by wrangling over a prisoner exchange plan.  The final batch of 400 Taliban prisoners were released last week clearing the path for these talks. The next stage of the process, talks between the Taliban and Afghan government, or "intra-Afghan negotiations", will revolve around an actual "peace deal". Officials, and indeed ordinary Afghans, hope a ceasefire can be agreed although, until now, the Taliban have seemed determined to continue fighting until their demands are met. They see violence as their best form of leverage, and are cautious of allowing their fighters to lay down their weapons, in case it becomes difficult to redeploy them or they drift towards rival militants in the Islamic State group. Negotiators will also try to establish some kind of agreement on a political future for the country. The task seems daunting. How to reconcile the competing visions for the country? On the one hand the "Islamic Emirate" that the Taliban adhere to, on the other, the more modern, more democratic Afghanistan built over the past two decades.

Pastors around the world are facing destitution and even starvation because of the devastating impact of Covid on church tithes. Churches in countries that rely on cash tithes are forced to close their doors, Many pastors are struggling to feed themselves, let alone give anything to those turning to them for help. Wage earners are unemployed or unable to work due to the pandemic. In India, finding alternative sources of income has been virtually impossible for some of the pastors. Relief distributions are carried out by local administrations but Christians are ignored for being Christians.  Sub-Saharan Africa reported similar situations. Pastor Adane in rural Ethiopia said Covid had affected all church income streams, making it impossible to pay staff. He said, ‘Because of Covid-19, the church is in great trouble’.

Commissioner of Public Lands said new fires are starting   in every corner of the state.  60+ hikers and campers were rescued by military helicopters.  A fire in Southern California was sparked by a smoke-generating pyrotechnic device used to reveal a baby’s gender. That fire is only 7% contained. Hundreds of homes have been lost. From California to Minnesota millions are choking and wheezing from toxic smoke blanketing the area and blocking sunshine. Pray for those with chest complaints struggling to breath. See also

They are the first cases to be detected among Syrians living in Jordan-based refugee camps, the UN refugee agency in Jordan said on 8th September ‘It is a reminder that everyone has been affected by this epidemic, and solutions must be addressed through international solidarity and cooperation.’ At the time of writing the two affected refugees have been transferred from the Azraq camp to the Dead Sea Isolation Site. Testing plus isolation procedures are being implemented for all individuals who have been in contact with them. The Azraq camp is Jordan's second-largest with almost 37,000 refugees. Jordan hosts over 1.2 million Syrian refugees, including 650,000 registered with the UN. To date, the kingdom has reported 2,478 coronavirus cases and 17 related deaths.

Jesus Christ, awesome King of the Universe, is connecting His Body as never before and you are invited to World Prayer Together - a global online prayer experience of repentance, reconciliation, revival and reaching all with His Gospel. Ministry leaders representing 10 world regions will ‘stand in the gap’, identifying and confessing major corporate sins that characterize their regions as those from other regions empathize and pray for revival and mission breakthroughs for each of those regions. Participants will be led in worship and celebrate His forgiveness by taking communion together globally, and then, since this is also the Feast of Trumpets (Rosh Hashanah), we will blow shofars or other indigenous instruments all around the world at the same time!  Details to connect to the call www.worldprayertogether.com. Please pass this invitation on to others in your networks, churches and prayer groups, so they can also join in this magnificent flowing together of His people.

A fire has destroyed Greece's Moria migrant camp on Lesbos. 13,000 are sleeping rough in fields, car parks and roads. Authorities have sent three ships to temporarily shelter 2,000 and are working to provide emergency accommodation near the destroyed camp. Germany called the blaze a ‘humanitarian disaster.’ Some locals attacked and prevented fleeing migrants from passing through their village. The UNHCR said it was aware of ‘tensions’ between nearby townsfolk and the migrants. Pray for those working to arrange shelter for 13,000 refugees. 70% are Afghani with 30% from 70 different countries. Authorities placed Moria under quarantine last week after a Somali migrant tested positive for the coronavirus. There are now 35 confirmed cases.

Leonid Mikhovich from the Baptist Union in Belarus said recent events have divided the church, ‘The situation has created a lot of tension in society as well as among Christians and churches. There are several dividing lines between churches so we have a lot of discussions and tensions. The Church in Belarus has historically been separate from politics. During the Soviet Union, the Church was an enemy of the state, and most churches still feel this way today. Consequently, only the Catholic Church has publicly sympathised with the anti-government movement while others have focused on prayer and street evangelism’. Mikhovich has asked Christians around the world, ‘Pray for churches. We need unity in this time, to work together, especially evangelical churches. Pray for our society, to keep us from hate, revenge and bitterness.’

On 7th September Maria Kolesnikova, a Belarus opposition leader was forced into a van by masked men. She was next seen on 9th September at the Ukraine border where she prevented officials from forcibly expelling her by tearing up her passport and throwing it out of the car window. She is one of three women who joined forces to challenge Lukashenko in August’s election. The other two, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who won 60-70% of votes and Olga Kovalkova, both fled the country. Thousands have been protesting since the disputed vote even though President Lukashenko insisted he will not step down from power. He calls Vladimir Putin ‘big brother’ and is increasingly dependent on Russia for support. In an interview he said that Moscow needs him too, saying, ‘if Belarus breaks, Russia will be next.’ Lukashenko seemed to be saying to Moscow, back me up and Russians won't get any ideas about ousting a long-standing leader through popular protests. Mr Lukashenko will meet Vladimir Putin on 14th September.

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