Wednesday, August 26, 2009

019. August Update; incl. India, Iran, Somalia, LRA in Sudan

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 019 | Wed 26 Aug 2009

AUGUST 2009 UPDATE -- During the month we prayed concerning . . .

PAKISTAN, where eight Christians were murdered (six burned alive) during an orchestrated Islamic pogrom in the city of Gojra in the Faisalabad region of Punjab Province on 1 August. Responding to incitement from the mosques, Muslims attacked the Christian community after a police investigation cleared a Christian falsely accused of desecrating a Qur'an. This has resurrected the debate about Pakistan's infamous and oft-exploited Blasphemy Laws.

* UPDATE: AsiaNews reports (25 Aug) that police in Gojra have filed reports against 29 Christians and 100 unidentified persons for alleged involvement in the Gojra violence. One of the Christians accused by the police is Anglican Bishop John Samuel of the Church of Pakistan in Faisalabad. It is quite possible the government is planning to use Christian 'hostages' as leverage to force Christian leaders into reconciliation agreements that require dropping charges against Muslims. (That happens in Egypt -- see RLPB 011, Wed 1 July 2009, Egypt: Impunity fuels persecution.) Watch and pray!

VIETNAM, where Catholics hold courageous public prayer vigils for religious freedom in response to the government's refusal to return confiscated church properties. Both Catholics and Protestants are facing increased persecution, prosecution, police brutality and anti-Christian propaganda as traditional communist repression escalates.

* UPDATE: RLPB 017 noted police brutality against Catholics at the historic Tam Toa Cathedral. The government has since resolved this issue in true totalitarian fashion: on 20 August they bulldozed the church.

MUSLIMS, that increasing conflict and disillusionment within Islam might lead many Muslims to consider Christ. We acknowledged the need for revival in the Church, so that we might be worthy and able servants of the Lord.


AUGUST 2009 ROUND-UP -- also this month . . .

* INDIA: BJP IN CONFUSION; GOVERNMENT IN DENIAL; CHRISTIANS IN PRAYER

On 23 August 2008, Indian Maoist (anti-caste) rebels assassinated Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati, a senior Hindutva activist in Kandhamal, Orissa, north-east India. When Hindutva leaders blamed Christians, local Hindus went on an anti-Christian pogrom that crushed the Christian community of Kandhamal and spread into several other states.

The Hindutva violence of Aug-Sep 2008 brought shame and destruction to India, leading many to reject the Hindu nationalist BJP in the May 2009 polls. Hindutva ideologues are now conflicted over issues of leadership, ideology and strategy. Last week, senior BJP officials discussed the issues in a three-day meeting. (Psalm 70:2.) Meanwhile the Indian Government has disputed the US Commission on International Religious Freedom's accusation that it is not doing enough to protect its Christian minority. Protest as it may, the facts speak for themselves. Pray that the Government will be compelled to move beyond rhetoric, posturing, fantasy and wishful thinking to really tackle the dangerous and destructive issue of Hindutva, which is essentially Hindu fascism. On 23 August 2009, Christians across India fasted and prayed 'for peace and harmony and a spirit of reconciliation'.

'Oh Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive. Oh Lord, pay attention and act. Delay not, for your own sake, O my God, because . . . your people are called by your name.' (Daniel 9:19 ESV).


* IRAN: FAITHFUL IN THE FIRE

Between 29-31 July, 32 Christian converts from Islam were arrested and interrogated in Iran as part of an intensifying campaign of intimidation. Seven remain detained, their whereabouts unknown. Then on Sunday 9 August, imprisoned Iranian Christians, Maryam and Marzieh, appeared before a Tehran court. Elam reports that, whilst the chief interrogator had recommended a verdict of 'apostasy', no verdict was actually delivered. Instead, the women were questioned about their faith and ordered to recant. Both courageously refused to renounce their allegiance to Jesus Christ and were returned to Evin Prison. Arrested on 5 March, they are now in failing health with Marzieh in considerable pain and in desperate need of medical attention. Please pray. (Hebrews 13:3.)


* SOMALIA: FIVE MORE CHRISTIAN MARTYRS

International Christian Concern (ICC) reports that four Christians caring for orphans in the coastal town of Merca, southern Somalia, were kidnapped by al Shabaab militants on 27 July. Fatima Sultan, Ali Ma'ow, Sheik Mohammed Abdi and Maaddey Diil were accused of promoting religious discord and beheaded for their apostasy. ICC said one eye witness reported: 'All the four apostates were given an opportunity to return to Islam to be released but they all declined the generous offer.' Then on 18 August, al Shabaab militants shot and killed Somali Christian convert from Islam, Ahmed Matan (41, father of three) in Bulahawa, southern Somalia. Somali Christian leaders have told Compass Direct that they believe al Shabaab intends to totally 'cleanse' Somalia of Christians.


* SUDAN: KHARTOUM, THE LRA AND THE CHURCH

The Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) is a northern Ugandan tribal guerrilla force that declared war against the Ugandan government over 20 years ago. LRA leader, former Catholic Joseph Kony, is a spirit-medium who orchestrates unparalleled violence, claiming to be led by the Holy Spirit. Driven by occultic forces and deeply influenced by Islam, the LRA commonly targets churches and Christian communities. The Islamist government in Khartoum, Sudan, has long supported and armed the LRA as a proxy militia against Christian communities in Southern Sudan and Uganda. Today the LRA no longer has any ideological or political goals and simply kills, raids and pillages to exist, regularly replenishing its ranks with kidnapped children. The LRA is presently terrorising Western Equatoria, Southern Sudan, possibly with arms and support from Khartoum. On 12 August, LRA fighters abducted 10 girls from a church in Ezo district near the border with DR Congo. The violence has forced the withdrawal of the World Food Programme from parts of Western Equatoria. The rag-tag LRA has been outwitting and outrunning Africa's largest armies for two decades.

Please pray, seeking the intervention of Jesus Christ, 'who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him' (1 Peter 3:22 ESV).

FOR complete background on the LRA - includes earlier prayer initiatives see Religious Liberty Monitoring, label: Lord's Resistance Army (LRA).