Wednesday, May 27, 2009

006. April Update; incl. Egypt, India, Iran, Nepal.

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 006 | Wed 27 May 2009

[There was no April Update because only one bulletin in this new RLPB series had been issued that month. However, in this last week in May we are updating all five RLPBs.]

Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you are also in the body. (Hebrews 13:3 ESV)

IN APRIL WE PRAYED FOR --

IRAN, where Christians Maryam Rostampour (27) and Marzieh Esmaeilabad (30) remain incarcerated in Evin Prison for their faith. They are not pawns in a game of international geopolitics as was Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi. Their situation is far more serious. Please help them through prayer (2 Corinthians 1:11).

PAKISTAN, where a war is raging between the Pakistan Army and al-Qaeda-Taliban forces in Swat Valley.

* UPDATE: SITUATION REMAINS CRITICAL After weeks of fierce fighting the Pakistan Army has advanced into the Swat capital, Mingora. Hundreds of Mingora's poor Christian families remain trapped in the war zone, unable to flee due to conflict and the exploitative cost of bus transport out of Swat. Meanwhile, Christians who have escaped are reportedly facing social ostracism, threats and abuse in the relief camps. In Mingora, resistance has actually been less than expected, leading some analysts to conclude that the Taliban may have already conducted a tactical withdrawal. Multitudes of Taliban are believed to have melted into the population -- including the mobile refugee population -- from where they will doubtless conduct rearguard actions. On Friday 22 May a massive 50kg car bomb exploded in the busy Khyber Bazaar in North West Frontier Province's strategic capital city of Peshawar, killing 10 and injuring more than 75. Pray for the Church in Pakistan.

DURING MAY WE PRAYED FOR --

EGYPT, where Cairo's garbage collectors (Arabic: 'zabaleen') -- all indigenous Coptic Christians socially crippled by systematic religious discrimination -- are facing increased hardship as a result of a government campaign to cull all Egypt's pigs. Islam deems pigs 'unclean' and so pigs are kept and eaten only by Christians, particularly the zabaleen whose pigs consume the organic waste. Egypt's Copts regard the cull as yet another example of persecution.

* UPDATE: PIG CULL CONTINUES TO IMPACT CAIRO'S COPTS The pig cull continues with the authorities estimating it could take six months to complete. PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) protested the cruelty to the animals after footage emerged on Youtube showing pigs and piglets being beaten, kicked and stabbed to death, as well as doused with acid and buried alive. While the cruelty being meted out to the pigs is deplorable, the extreme hardship being forced on Cairo's Coptic Christian communities is more so. People for the ethical treatment of people should be outraged. Pray for Egypt's Christian Copts.

CHRISTIANS TRAPPED AND DISPLACED BY WAR. The Church's responsibility to pray and care for the wounded, endangered and traumatised body of Christ will continue as long as conflict and persecution continue. 'Is this not the fast that I choose [says the Lord] . . . to share your bread with the hungry, to bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?' (Isaiah 58:7 ESV)

INDIA, with a special RLPB on the results of the Indian elections. We praise God for another five years in which to challenge the wicked, dangerous and deceitful ideology of Hindutva. We pray it will not be wasted.

* UPDATE: KANDHAMAL STILL SAFFRON STAINED Please pray for Christians in the remote, violence-wracked Hindutva stronghold of Kandhamal district, Orissa State. In the State Assembly poll (held at the same time as the Federal poll) Kandhamal district was won by the BJP, even though the BJP candidate is in prison for his part in the anti-Christian pogrom of September-October 2008. This indicates that Kandhamal's displaced and vulnerable Christians are surrounded by a majority of highly radicalised, unrepentant Hindus who still strongly support the Hindutva agenda. Pray that the newly elected, professedly secular, centrist BJD government in Orissa will exercise its clear state-wide mandate to disempower Hindutva, ending the shameful and destructive communalism it engenders and the impunity it has long enjoyed. Pray that justice will flow (Amos 5:24).


ALSO IN MAY
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* EGYPT: A BOMBING, A STABBING AND GROSS INJUSTICE

On 2 May, Coptic Christian Girgis Yousry (21) was ambushed by three Muslims and stabbed repeatedly as he left the church of Saint Mary in Minya, Upper Egypt, where violence against the Coptic Christian community is common and impunity is standard. When Compass Direct published their report on 22 May, Yousry was still in hospital recovering from severe injuries. On Saturday 9 May at around 9 pm, a crude homemade bomb left under a parked car exploded outside Saint Mary Church in Cairo's Zeitoun district. No-one was injured and only the car was damaged. However, Egypt's Copts revere St Mary Church in Zeitoun as sacred, believing that Mary appeared there repeatedly throughout 1968. As such, the bomb targeted the heart of Coptic Christians who are routinely persecuted in Egypt.

Meanwhile, Coptic priest Rev Mattaos Wahba remains in prison, charged with conducting a marriage with forged papers, despite the woman's recent testimony that the priest was totally unaware that her papers were forged. The woman had been born into Islam but, as a convert to Christianity, wanted to marry a Christian. As conversion is illegal and women legally identified as 'Muslim' can only legally marry Muslim men, she had new identity papers forged that identified her as Christian. In another case, after a short spell of freedom, Coptic Christian brothers Refaat and Ibrahim Fawzy Abdo have been returned to a remote detention camp. They have been tortured and falsely accused of murder. When militant Muslim raiders attacked the Abu Fana Monastery in June 2008, one was shot dead, but by 'friendly fire'. The monastery kept no arms. Pray for Egypt's sorely persecuted Christians.


* IRANIAN CHRISTIAN EXPATRIATE PRESSURED FROM IRAN

John (Reza) Vashahi is an Iranian-British convert to Christianity who runs the jesusforarabs blogspot from UK. Ever since John founded the Iranian Minorities Human Rights Organisation (IMHRO) in Britain in 2008, his Muslim family still in Iran has been subject to pressure from Iranian authorities. On 14 May, Iranian Revolutionary Guards arrested John's Muslim father, confiscating his computer and books. Mr Vashahi senior (62) was interrogated and imprisoned for six days in an effort to both silence John and make sure none of the family follows in his 'apostasy'. Pray for the Church in Iran and amongst the Iranian diaspora.


* NEPALI CHRISTIANS KILLED IN KATHMANDU CATHEDRAL BOMBING

On Saturday morning 23 May 09, in Lalitpur (Kathmandu Valley), a bomb exploded in the Cathedral of the Assumption where some 400 people had gathered for worship. Celeste Joseph (15) died instantly whilst Deepa Patrik (30) died later in hospital. Fourteen others were wounded, three seriously. The bomb, detonated by a timer, was left in the centre of the Cathedral in the handbag of a woman who exited supposedly 'to go to the toilet'. Leaflets belonging to the Nepal Defence Army, a Hindu nationalist group that has threatened the Church previously (see RLP 490, 6 Aug 08) were found in the cathedral. Later that day Nepal's parliament met to elect a new Prime Minister. Newly-elected PM Madhav Kumar Nepal condemned the attack as 'highly deplorable' and promised 'the guilty will be brought to book'. Please pray for Nepal.