Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 033 | Wed 02 Dec 2009

RUSSIA: JIHAD, TERROR, TENSIONS AND OPPORTUNITIES

Back in December 2001, al-Qaeda deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri identified Afghanistan and Chechnya as key to the jihadist cause. Regarding Chechnya, he noted that control of the North Caucasus would give al-Qaeda's Sunni jihadists a 'mujahid Islamic belt' from the Mediterranean through Turkey and the pan-Turkic regions of the Black and Caspian Seas into Central Asia, Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as Xingjiang in western China.

Terrorism has surged across the North Caucasus this year, particularly in Ingushetia (see RLPB 030, 11 Nov 2009), doubtless being energised by the Taliban - al-Qaeda ascendency in Afghanistan and Pakistan. In May 2009 Dokka Abu Usman, the self-proclaimed 'Emir of Mujahideen of Caucasus Emirate', declared, 'This year will be our offensive year.' In August the pro-jihadist Kavkaz Centre published a letter from the 'Riyad-us-Saliheen Martyrs Battalion' citing the 'Mujahideen of Caucasus Emirate' decision at the start of the year to launch an 'economic war' involving 'industrial sabotage' inside Russia. Accordingly 'Riyad-us-Saliheen' was claiming responsibility for the 17 August 2009 'martyrdom operation in Nazran' against the Interior Ministry as well as a 'major subversive action in Russia, disabling the Sayano-Shushenskaya hydro-electric dam' the same day. The dam breach which flooded the machine room, killing 75 RusHydro workers and shutting down Russia's largest hydro-electric power station, was an accident due to ageing Soviet infrastructure, according to Moscow. However, the jihadists claimed to have sabotaged the dam using an anti-tank mine.

Russia has suffered numerous terrorist attacks on infrastructure this year. In late November, terrorists perpetrated a series of attacks on infrastructure in the North Caucasus republic of Kabardino-Balkaria (KB), including bombing an electricity substation. A plot to blow up KB's Aushiger Hydropower Plant fortunately was foiled as it would have inundated the villages of Aushiger, Urvan and possibly others (Eurasia Daily Monitor 19 Nov 09). On the night of 27 November terrorists sabotaged the busy railway line between Moscow and St Petersburg, derailing the luxury Nevsky Express, killing at least 26 and wounding around 100. The main suspect, Pavel Kosolapov, is a former Russian soldier who converted to Islam in the 1990s and joined the mujahideen. On 30 November an explosion in Dagestan tore apart the railway line between Baku (Azerbaijan) and the Siberian town of Tyumen (Russia). The on-coming train fortunately just skidded for 150 metres and nobody was hurt.

As reported in last week's RLPB 032, Russian Orthodox priest Rev Daniil Sysoyev (34) -- a courageous missionary to Muslims and well known public critic of Islam -- was assassinated in his church on 19 November. Religious tensions are rising. Some 23 million Muslims make up 16 percent of Russia's 144 million population, although only around one-third of them (7-8 million) are observant. However, with swelling Muslim immigration they are projected to be a majority by 2050. When the USSR broke up in 1991 the Russian Federation's borders dissolved, opening the region up to infiltration by Islamic fundamentalists and jihadists, including veterans of the Afghan jihad. Before then, Russia's Muslims were mostly secular and Russianised. Though the Islamic jihad is causing pain and religious tension, it is also causing widespread disillusionment amongst Muslims. On 1 November 2005 Interfax reported that whilst some 2000-5000 ethnic Russians had converted to Islam, about 2 million Russian Muslims had converted to Christianity. According to the report, the Muslims who convert to Christianity are mostly disillusioned with Islam and attracted to Russia's Orthodox Christian culture. According to Roman Silantyev of Russia's Inter-Religious Council, this process is 'accelerated due to extremist activities'. Silantyev notes the Beslan terror attack (September 2004) caused the Muslim population of North Osettia to decrease by at least 30 percent and to halve in Beslan itself. 'As even Muslim sources confirm,' Silantyev stated, 'after each terrorist action, thousands and maybe even dozens of thousands of ethnic Muslims adopt baptism.'

Map: Muslims of Russia

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL:

* be a refuge and sanctuary for his people as terrorism escalates across the North Caucasus and into the Russian heartland; may multitudes focus their eyes on Jesus Christ and grow in faith and maturity (James 1:2-4).

* work mightily by his Spirit in the Russian Church for widespread reformation and revival, resulting in glowing holiness ('shining as lights', Philippians 2:15), courageous faith and spiritual unity.

* raise up and send out more workers for his Russian harvest. (Luke 10:2)

* turn the tide in Russia so that as the ethnic Muslim population grows so too will the rate at which Russian Muslims turn to Christ; may terrorism be an opportunity for witness rather than causing tension.

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SUMMARY TO USE IN BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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JIHAD, TERROR, TENSIONS AND OPPORTUNITIES IN RUSSIA

With the Taliban - al-Qaeda ascendancy in Afghanistan-Pakistan, terrorism has recently escalated across the region. On 27 November 2009 the bombing of the Moscow - St Petersburg railway line, which derailed the Nevsky Express and killed dozens, brought terrorism back right into the Russian heartland. Before the USSR collapsed most of Russia's ethnic Muslims were secular and Russianised. But as the borders dissolved in 1991, jihadist fundamentalist Islam flooded in. However, ethnic Muslims are now reportedly converting to Christianity at a phenomenal rate, mostly due to their disillusionment with Islam and their preference for Russia's Orthodox Christian culture. As religious tensions rise because of increased terrorism, please pray for reformation and revival in the Church, that religious liberty will be preserved and that many more Muslims will turn to Christ.