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Major Gen. Peter Gersten has a good idea why the terrorist group ISIS has seen nearly a 90% increase in defections in recent months, and why it is harder and harder for them to attract new recruits: They’re running out of cash. The military leader recently told reporters that airstrikes have been targeting buildings where ISIS is known to store its money, resulting in up to $800 million in cash being completely destroyed. He told reporters, "We're seeing a fracture in their morale, we're seeing their inability to pay, we're seeing the inability to fight, we're watching them try to leave [ISIS] in every single way.” Discuss

Saturday night, a 7.8-magnitude earthquake—the strongest in decades—rocked Ecuador. At this point, the Ecuadorian government reports at least 272 people were killed, and another 2,527 injured, mostly in the northwestern coastal areas. President Rafael Correa declared a national emergency and mobilized about 4,600 members of the National Police and 10,400 members of the armed forces. The front page of The New York Times this morning declared that “Ecuador ‘Looks Like a War Zone.’” The paper quoted Viviana Baquezea, a florist from Portoviejo, the provincial capital of Manabí.

It looks like a war zone ... It’s incredible what was happened to us—that our city is destroyed and we’re experiencing such anguish and pain ... We don’t have food or water, there are no supermarkets, and we’re surviving with what we had in our homes.

Several Christian groups have already begun relief efforts in the country, including World Vision, Compassion and Samaritan’s Purse. You can donate to the efforts like these here, here and here.

Staff from World Vision are posting photos from Ecuador you can check out here. Discuss

Twelve Syrian refugees have a new home. This weekend, Pope Francis invited three Muslim families who fled ISIS and violence in Syria to live at the Vatican. The Pope even flew them to Italy on his private plane. According to the Vatican, each of the families had their homes destroyed in bombings during the country’s on-going civil war, and were living in a refugee community in Greece. In a statement, church officials said,

The Pope has desired to make a gesture of welcome regarding refugees, accompanying on his plane to Rome three families of refugees from Syria, 12 people in all, including six children … All the members of the three families are Muslims …The Vatican will take responsibility for bringing in and maintaining the three families. The initial hospitality will be taken care of by the Community of Sant’Egidio.

The Catholic church leader recently visited a Greek island that has been home to thousands of refugees, who have made the dangerous journey through ISIS-controlled areas in the Middle East to find safety in Europe. There, he met with families, and encouraged them with a message of hope, assuring them that they are not alone. Discuss

Christians around the world today are facing persecution on an almost unimaginable scale. According to a recent report from Christian Freedom International, more Christians have been killed for their faith in the 21st and 20th century than in the previous 19 combined. Read More

Two years ago today, radical Islamic terrorists from the group Boko Haram kidnapped at least 276 school girls in Northern Nigeria. The brazen abduction led to the social media awareness campaign using #BringBackOurGirls and brought new international attention to the terrorist group. For years, Boko Haram has carried out suicide bombings, mass abductions, murders and rapes in the region.

Today CNN obtained a new video showing at least 15 girls kidnapped from Chibok. The “proof of life” video is thought to be part of a tactic used in negotiations with government officials, who have recently made major offensive military strides in fighting the group. Though nearly 11,000 people have been rescued from Boko Haram in recent months, many of the Chibok girls are still missing. Some were thought to have been forced into sex slavery or marriage. Some kidnapping victims have even been used as suicide bombers.

According to CNN, the new video was likely record in December. In what appears to be a scripted address to the camera, one of the girls states, "I am speaking on 25 December 2015, on behalf of all the Chibok girls, and we are all well.”

A military force from several countries in the region are currently taking back territory captured by Boko Haram, and has even recently offered mercy and rehabilitation to militants who repent. Discuss

For the first time ever, a non-Muslim in Indonesia’s Banda Aceh province, has been subjected to punishment for breaking the region’s strict sharia law. Up to now, the laws only applied to Muslims. This week, a 60-year-old Christian woman was publicly caned in front of a large crowd for breaking the religious law prohibiting the sale of alcohol. She was reportedly whipped 30 times while people in the crowd recorded the punishment with their phones.

When the sharia laws were implemented in the region, initially, religious leaders told reporters that non-Muslims did not need to be concerned about observing. A leader told a local paper,

The fact is that Muslims in Aceh do tolerate religious freedom and we can coexist without any problems. We don’t want to raise the impression that Islamic law in Aceh infringes on the rights of non-Muslims… It doesn’t [force] sharia law on non-Muslims because they are free to observe their own faiths and beliefs.