Wednesday, September 30, 2009

024. September Update; incl. Lebanon, Morocco, North Korea

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 024 | Wed 30 Sep 2009

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

UZBEKISTAN, where 'foreign and non-traditional' Christian fellowships (i.e. not Russian Orthodox) are afflicted with the same security provisions designed to repress 'foreign and non-traditional' Islamic groups: Wahhabi fundamentalists and jihadists, and Hizb-ut-Tahrir Islamic revolutionaries. Even though the government knows the evangelical minority are peaceful, another reason they are targeted is because their very existence causes social tension with the Muslim and Russian Orthodox majority, a tension the government would like eliminated. Donam Protestant Church, a registered (and therefore legal) church in Tashkent pastored by Vladimir Tyo, is being attacked by the government. Also Pentecostal pastor Dmitry Shestakov remains incarcerated in the third year of his four-year prison sentence for illegal religious activities.

LAOS, where ethnic minority Christians are being specifically targeted for persecution by an increasingly paranoid and insecure government whose hatred and brutality is no longer being restrained. The registered Boukham Church is experiencing serious persecution under the supervision of the local police chief, Thao Somphet. Church elder Thao Oun is in prison (where torture is routine) and being threatened with death. New believer Thao Aom was expelled from his village because he refused to renounce Christ throughout three hours of police 'interrogation'. Please pray for the Church in Laos.

PAKISTAN, where decades of Islamic radicalisation, primarily through the free education provided by hundreds of thousands of fundamentalist Islamic madrassas, has prepared large swathes of the Muslim population for exploitation by the Islamic fundamentalists. They are now specifically targeting Christian communities so as to inflame Islamic zeal in the general Muslim grassroots. Islamic clerics have incited four large-scale violent pogroms against Christian communities in Punjab in the past three months -- with impunity. Also, on 14 September a Christian boy named Fanish Masih (19) was tortured to death in a Pakistani prison. He had been falsely accused of blasphemy, but the real reason for his imprisonment was his romance with a local Muslim girl. Fear and anxiety is rising in the Christian community. Please pray for them.


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

* LEBANON: HEZBALLAH'S STRENGTH GROWS

Though the Saudi and US-backed, Sunni-dominated, pro-West March 14 Alliance won Lebanon's June 2009 elections with 70 seats to 58, the Syria and Iran-backed, Shia-dominated, Hezballah-led opposition actually won the popular vote with 55 percent of the ballot. Moreover, Hezballah is still the strongest military force in the state. In such circumstances it is not entirely surprising to find the minorities allying themselves to Hezballah in the hope that when fighting breaks out they will be on the winning team. Some 70 percent of Lebanese Christians (including many evangelicals) are allied to Hezballah in what must certainly be a 'covenant of death' (Isaiah 28:14-22). Now Walid Jumblat, leader of the Druze-led Progressive Socialist Party, has deserted the March 14 Alliance and, while feigning neutrality, is aligning himself with Hezballah and Iran for security's sake. He regards the Maronite Catholic commitment to the 'March 14' liberal ideals as 'suicidal'. Lebanon's Daily Star reports (28 Sep 09) that over 70,000 Christians have fled Lebanon since mid-2006. Pray for the church in Lebanon.


* MOROCCO: A NEW MOVEMENT SEEKS RELIGIOUS FREEDOM

A new group has emerged called the Alternative Movement for the Defense of Individual Liberties (MALI). It has declared its intention to defend 'all freedoms . . . including freedom of worship' (MoroccoBoard.com 24 Sep 09). MALI's founder, Ms Zineb El-Rhazoui (a journalist) appealed through the group's Facebook site for supporters to join her in an act of civil disobedience on 13 September. With Article 222 of the Moroccan Penal Code criminalising public eating during Ramadan, the group planned to hold a public picnic during fasting hours in the woods outside the town of Mohammedia. However, on 13 September a large contingent of police besieged the Mohammedia railway station and recorded the details of the religious dissidents. Outraged Islamic clerics have demanded their punishment and MALI's leaders have received death threats. Reportedly the 'Moroccan blogosphere' is now abuzz with debates about 'freedom of conscience in a Muslim society' (LATimes 21 Sep). The Moroccan Association of Human Rights is very concerned about Ms Zineb El-Rhazoui, who has 'been disappeared' since 17 September. Pray for religious liberty in Morocco. Pray for King Mohammed VI (46), a visionary Arab leader and force for modernity, democracy and liberty.


* NORTH KOREA: NEW UNIVERSITY OPENS

The first privately funded university in North Korea, the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST) , was officially opened on 16 September after a two-year delay and will eventually have 2000 undergraduate students. PUST is being built mostly with donations from international religious groups and South Korean individuals as well as with $1 million from the South Korean Ministry of Unification. Its founder, American entrepreneur Dr James Kim, refutes suggestions he 'paid-off' Kim Jong Il to get permission for the project. As a faithful Christian Dr Kim gives all the glory to God, while rejoicing that he (Dr Kim) has 'unlimited credit at the Bank of Heaven' (Daily NK, 16 Sep 09). Dr Kim, who spent 40 days in a North Korean prison cell in 1998, acknowledges the project is totally dependent on the grace of God as it is constantly being held hostage to geo-political agendas and whims. Pray for this miracle to continue; that God will frustrate the way of the wicked (Psalm 146:9c); and that PUST will achieve 'immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine' (Ephesians 3:20 NIV).