Wednesday, December 29, 2010

088. Nigeria: Jos and Maiduguri see Christmas terror

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 088 | Wed 29 Dec 2010

NIGERIA: JOS AND MAIDUGURI SEE CHRISTMAS TERROR

By Elizabeth Kendal

Islamic militants sent a loud and clear message on Christmas Eve when they unleashed terror on Christians celebrating Christmas in Jos and Maiduguri. Jos, the capital of Plateau State in Nigeria's 'Middle Belt', sits atop Africa's increasingly volatile ethnic-religious fault-line (see Religious Liberty Monitoring: Why is Jos such a tinderbox ). Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State (north-east Nigeria), is the base of the al-Qaeda-linked Boko Haram (see RLPB 079, 27 Oct 2010: 'Nigeria: al-Qaeda supports Boko Haram expansion').

On Christmas Eve bombs exploded virtually simultaneously at 7.35pm in two Christian neighbourhoods in Jos, hitting shopping precincts, bars and the Sacred Heart Catholic Church. The terror attack left 38 dead and over 100 wounded, 74 of whom were hospitalised. A previously unknown jihadist group, Jama'atu ahlus-Sunnah Lidda'awati wal Jihad, has claimed responsibility. Jos subsequently erupted into cyclic retaliatory sectarian violence. Special Task Force (STF) soldiers patrolling the Nassarawa Gwom area of Jos averted disaster when they interrupted a group of militants planting bombs outside the First Baptist Church. By late Sunday evening dozens more were dead and wounded, taking the death toll to around 80 with about 120 hospitalised. Some 20 houses were burnt and two mosques and a church vandalised.

Also on Christmas Eve two churches were attacked almost simultaneously in Maiduguri by militants belonging to the al-Qaeda-linked Boko Haram Islamist sect. According to Rev. Haskanda Jessu, three militants armed with guns and petrol bombs attacked his Sinimari Church of Christ in Nigeria, riddling the walls with bullet holes and killing the security guard. About the same time some 30 jihadists descended on Victory Baptist Church on the other side of the city in Alamderi. Shouting 'Allahu Akbar', they dragged out and executed Rev. Bulus Marwa (37) and shot dead Christopher Balami (50), Philip Luka (22), Paul Mathew (21) and Yohanna Adamu (26). Twenty-five other worshippers were wounded as the jihadists razed the church to the ground.

PLEASE PRAY that God will draw the Nigerian Church (north and south) to him in humble, dependent prayer for comfort, peace, justice, security and efficacy in advocacy and mission. May he hear and answer their prayers and increase their faith. 'He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry. As soon as he hears it, he answers you.' (Isaiah 30:19b ESV)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

087. Christmas Devotion

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 087 | Wed 22 Dec 2010

By Elizabeth Kendal

CHRISTMAS: NOT BY MIGHT

Interposed as the smallest of beings (an infant);
he was born in a most humble abode (a stable);
laid in a most unbecoming crib (an animal's feed trough);
in a most insignificant little town (Bethlehem);
observed by the meekest of witnesses (shepherds).

Yet Jesus Christ was heralded by angels (a glorious host of them),
visited by wise men (from afar),
and his presence truly terrified the king (Herod).

Truths stand in tension:
He is Servant, yet he is Sovereign;
He is humble, yet he is holy;
The Lamb of God is the Lion of Judah.

It should come as no surprise therefore,
that prayer and promise,
not power and politics;
divine covenant and compassion,
not human conspiracy and connivance;
'returning and rest . . . in quietness and in trust' (Isaiah 30:15),
not arrogant independence and fearful travail,
are God's appointed means for deliverance.

When we contemplate the meekness of the infant Christ-child this Christmas,
may we who know the awesomeness of what Jesus Christ achieved (2 Timothy 1:10),
and the sovereign majesty which he attained (Philippians 2:9-11; 1 Peter 3:22),
find our faith enlightened, encouraged, emboldened.

For truly, it is not by might, nor by power, but by the Spirit of the LORD (Zechariah 4:6b)
that we shall see deliverance.

By faith . . . by faith . . . by faith . . . by faith . . . (Hebrews 11).

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The Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin ministry hopes this short devotion will serve to enlarge the faith of intercessors this Christmas. For genuine intercession -- i.e. advocacy in the courts of Heaven before the Highest Authority in the universe -- is first and foremost an act of radical faith. For the sake of the Body of Christ, may our faith be enlarged that our prayers might be also.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

086. Persecution Trends in 2010

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 086 | Wed 15 Dec 2010

By Elizabeth Kendal

RELIGIOUS LIBERTY TRENDS IN 2010

'In whom do you now trust?' (Isaiah 36:5b ESV)

Religious liberty is in decline globally. Consequently persecution of Christians and repression of Christian humanitarianism and proclamation are on the increase globally.

In the non-West, persecution of Christians continued to escalate through 2010. The draining wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, combined with the 'global financial collapse' of August 2008, have left America without the economic leverage to convince leaders of non-free states to rein in persecution. This comes at a time when intolerant, fundamentalist Islam is in revival and intolerant, religious nationalism is emerging as a dominant political force in the world. Meanwhile, Iran is ascendant in the Middle East and exerting influence across the Muslim world. Likewise, China is ascendant in Asia and exerting influence in Africa and other places where it has established a presence. To counter domestic tensions, both Iran and China are escalating persecution against anything that could threaten 'harmony', i.e. the political status quo. As persecution escalates neither the US nor the EU (European Union) nor the UN nor any NGO (non-government organisation) can do anything about it.

Not only is the West increasingly powerless to help the persecuted in the non-West, but due to 'culture change', the West itself is becoming increasingly hostile to Christianity. The more the West 'evolves' from a Judeo-Christian to a post-Christian culture, the more it becomes just like other non-Judeo-Christian cultures: intolerant, authoritarian, repressive and hostile towards Christ. For many decades now the West has been forgetting God (Deuteronomy 8:11-20) and in pride and arrogance has been pursuing independence and self-sufficiency. Across much of the West, once dominant Christian values have become minority values increasingly deemed to be in violation of human rights. As the West lurches towards 'culture collapse', Western leaders are similarly becoming increasingly desperate for 'harmony' at any price. Consequently, belligerent forces are being appeased while Christians are starting to lose their jobs, their places at university, their right to free speech and witness, and even their right to serve in a humanitarian and charitable capacity. Unless there is widespread revival -- for this is a spiritual issue before it is a political one -- the situation will only get worse.

Over recent decades persecuted Christians and their advocates have increasingly invested their hopes, trust and faith in governments and NGOs, especially in the US and the UN. Persecuted Christians and their advocates should be starting to realise that politics, the projects of men, powerful alliances and military might are all failing to bring security. As the devil mockingly asks, 'In whom do you now trust?' let us pray that the crisis serves to awaken and revive the Church. Might we like King Hezekiah remember our gracious, faithful LORD and turn to HIM (Isaiah 36,37).

PRAYER

Gracious Lord,

We ask you to bless your Church with a great awakening of faith.
May imminently imperilled Christians in Sudan, Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and Egypt put their faith in you alone.
May increasingly subjugated and threatened Christians throughout the Muslim world -- including Indonesia (especially Papua and West Java), Malaysia, Bangladesh, Lebanon, Iran, the North Caucasus -- put their faith in you alone.
May repressed and persecuted believers throughout Asia -- including China, North Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, India, Maldives and Sri Lanka -- put their faith in you alone.
May Western Christians experiencing the consequences of 'culture change' put their faith in you alone.
May those who advocate for religious liberty, for the persecuted and for justice and righteousness put their faith in you alone.
May those who work to raise awareness and relieve suffering put their faith in you alone.
For 'without faith it is impossible to please' the Lord (Hebrews 11:6)
We ask this so that 'all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone are the LORD' (Isaiah 37:20b).

AMEN.

~~~~~
SUMMARY TO USE IN BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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RELIGIOUS LIBERTY TRENDS IN 2010

As religious liberty declines globally, persecution and repression are growing. The situation for Christians in the non-West deteriorated in 2010 as US influence declined and Iranian and Chinese influence rose. Christians in Sudan, Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Egypt, Indonesia, North Korea and elsewhere are imperilled and neither the US nor the UN can do anything about it. In the West, Christians are facing increased hostility due to 'culture change'. Persecuted Christians and their advocates should be realising that politics, powerful alliances and military might are failing to bring security. The devil mockingly asks, 'In whom do you now trust?' (Isaiah 36:5b). Revival is the only answer -- let us pray that the crisis serves to awaken the Church. Our gracious God alone is sovereign, faithful and worthy of trust.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

085. Ivory Coast: on the brink of war

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 085 | Wed 08 Dec 2010

IVORY COAST: ON THE BRINK OF WAR


Like Sudan and Nigeria, Ivory Coast is divided by a volatile ethnic-religious fault-line. Whilst the less-developed North has long been predominantly Muslim, the South -- Ivory Coast's economic and political engine -- has historically been predominantly Christian and African Traditional Religion (ATR). Decades of mass immigration (1960-1993) from the neighbouring Muslim states of Burkina Faso, Mali and Guinea might have been great for the economy, but they have tipped the demographic balance so that Ivory Coast -- officially about one-third Muslim -- is actually majority Muslim.

The civil war that erupted in September 2002 was portrayed by the international media as a crisis of democracy and human rights caused by Southern xenophobia and Islamophobia. In reality, Ivory Coast's crisis is the consequence of decades of mass Muslim immigration coupled with political ambition and an internationally-sponsored Islamic agenda. The civil war was fought essentially between those who want all Ivory Coast's Muslim immigrants naturalised -- giving Ivory Coast a Muslim majority overnight -- and those who do not. Though he denies it, former Prime Minister Alassane Ouattara, a Northern Muslim, was doubtless behind the September 2002 failed coup that triggered the war. Ouattara and his party, the Rally of the Republicans (RDR), have been playing the race and religion cards for political gain. Ouattara's intent has been to have all the Muslim immigrants naturalised (over 4 million: estimated to comprise between 30 and 40 percent of the total population) so that he (their champion) can dragnet the Muslim vote. Ouattara has long had his eye on the presidency.

The civil war left Ivory Coast totally polarised, split between a virtually ethnic-religiously cleansed, rebel-controlled Muslim North and a government-controlled predominantly Christian, non-Muslim South. Since the war the North has been in serious decline with AIDS, poverty and lawlessness increasing exponentially. In November 2004 Ivory Coast's Christian president, Laurent Gbagbo, launched surprise airstrikes against rebel positions in the North in an attempt to reunify the country. However, former colonial power France (which backs the rebels for economic gain) intervened, razing all IC's airforce planes, destroying runways and sending tanks against the Presidential Palace, around which loyalists formed a human shield.

The West had insisted that Ivory Coast could be reconciled, reunified and essentially saved by means of democratic elections, such is their faith in 'democracy' and the inherent goodness of man. In reality, the divisions are so profound and the stakes are so high that, unless genuine reconciliation occurred first, elections could only trigger conflict. Elections were held on 28 November 2010, with both Gbagbo and Ouattara claiming victory. The US, European Union and African Union have recognised Ouattara as the winner and called for Gbagbo to respect democracy and step down. Russia meanwhile is blocking a UN statement that would recognise Ouatarra, saying that this is not the UN's role. Ivory Coast's non-Muslims are traumatised, fearing that their homeland -- once the most prosperous 'Christian' nation in West Africa, home to the region's largest cathedral, home-base to most of West Africa's regional Christian ministries -- is about to come under Muslim political domination.

(COMMENT: Ivory Coast's crisis -- the consequence of decades of Muslim mass immigration -- is a foretaste of what several states in democratic Europe may be facing in a generation or two.)

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY FOR GOD TO:

* give Ivory Coast's Christian leaders -- pastors and politicians -- great spiritual wisdom and authority.

* bring revival to the Church in Ivory Coast so believers will be compelled to go out with the gospel in boldness, empowered by the Holy Spirit, so that Ivory Coast might be spiritually transformed. For only then will the peoples 'beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks . . .' (Isaiah 2:4 ESV)

* intervene in the tense climate by interposing a spirit of restraint, compelling the people to seek a negotiated solution as a means of averting another destructive civil war -- a war that would certainly attract international jihadists.

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SUMMARY TO USE IN BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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IVORY COAST ON THE BRINK OF WAR

Ivory Coast held elections on 28 November 2010 and both the incumbent Christian president Laurent Gbagbo and his Muslim opponent Alassane Ouattara are claiming victory. The US, European Union and African Union have recognised Ouattara as the winner and Gbagbo is being called upon to 'respect democracy' and step down. The stakes are extremely high. Decades of Muslim mass immigration has tipped the demographic balance so that Ivory Coast -- officially around one third Muslim -- is now actually majority Muslim with immigrants from Burkina Faso, Mali and Guinea comprising up to 40 percent of the population. Ivory Coast's non-Muslims are traumatised, fearing that their homeland -- once a strategic Christian centre -- is about to come under the political domination of Muslims. War threatens. Please pray for the Church in Ivory Coast.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

084. Sudan: referendum soon and war looms

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 084 | Wed 01 Dec 2010

SUDAN: REFERENDUM SOON AND WAR LOOMS

-- a necessarily longer informative posting

Voter registration commenced on 15 November for Sudan's Southern Self-Determination Referendum (SSDR) to be held on 9 January 2011. In this referendum Southerners, who are black African and mostly Christian, will vote either to remain part of a united Sudan or to secede and become an independent state. The SSDR is mandated in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) signed by North and South on 9 January 2005. However, it was always the vision of Dr John Garang -- leader of the South Sudan-based Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) -- that free and fair elections (also mandated in the CPA) would oust the repressive and abusive Arab-Islamist regime in Khartoum and give Sudan's long-suffering, marginalised peoples a voice in a truly representative democracy that could make unity attractive. This, however, was always going to be the most difficult path, and after Dr Garang's untimely death, support for unity waned, exacerbated by the regime's belligerence and reluctance to implement the CPA. Ultimately unity has not been made attractive and sources estimate that more than 90 percent of Southerners will vote for secession, even though this could trigger a return to war according to most analysts.

After several postponements, elections were held in April 2010. While the regime worked to ensure that the elections would be irredeemably compromised, the SPLM managed to unite most opposition parties in an alliance called the 'National Consensus' whose presidential candidate, Yasir Arman, would pose a significant threat to President Omar el-Bashir. An Arab from the north, Yasir Arman has long been an SPLM/A member/fighter. He was also a close friend and aide to Dr John Garang. However, in the weeks prior to the elections, the SPLM leadership abandoned the 'National Consensus' and brokered a deal with the National Congress Party (NCP; formerly the National Islamic Front) of President Omar el-Bashir. The SPLM leadership agreed to withdraw their presidential candidate, Yasir Arman, and support the presidency of Omar el-Bashir in exchange for guarantees of a peaceful referendum. They did this though el-Bashir -- a pro-Sharia, pro-jihad, pro-Arab Islamic hardliner -- has proved to be a liar, a traitor and an absolute master at 'divide and conquer'.

Numerous Christian groups are calling for prayer for a peaceful referendum, but that is only the start of what is required. Even if the referendum is held, it is virtually certain the NCP will reject the results and refuse to recognise an independent South Sudan. Eighty percent of Sudan's oil reserves are in the South and the oil pipelines run through the North to Port Sudan on the Red Sea. All efforts to establish post-referendum wealth-sharing arrangements have failed and no Western state can offer the North anything that would approach compensation for loss of oil revenue. Lacking leverage, the US is merely offering to reward Sudan if it co-operates by removing it from its list of State Sponsors of Terrorism. Meanwhile, Sudan's allies -- particularly Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Iran -- are all opposed to secession and are warning that the referendum may trigger war. Iran is ratcheting up its anti-Western, anti-Zionist, anti-'interference' rhetoric, saying that while Western-'Zionist' states would not tolerate secessionist referenda in their own countries, they have no qualms about destabilising and dividing states such as Sudan (Iran's PressTV 7 November).

Southerners living in the North are imminently imperilled. The NCP has stated that if South Sudan votes to secede, Southerners in the North may lose their citizenship rights, jobs, benefits, access to markets, hospitals and the like. The National Assembly speaker said that Southerners in the North will be 'second class citizens'. Some Islamic Councils have reportedly issued fatwas against Southerners living in the North. It seems increasingly that a vote for secession may trigger an outbreak of ethnic-religious cleansing in the North and a massive humanitarian and refugee crisis.

Both sides have been arming for war for some time and reports are emerging of the recent build up of troops in the North-South border regions. On 24 November government-controlled Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) helicopter gunships attacked SPLA positions at Kiirabem, in North Bahr al-Ghazal, South Sudan, wounding four SPLA soldiers and two civilians and displacing thousands. (The SAF denies this.) Furthermore, NCP MP Dr Mohammad Mandour Al-Mahdi has accused the SPLM of aiding rebels in Darfur. (The SPLM denies this.) Al-Mahdi is provocatively calling this 'a declaration of war against the north of the country'. He has also accused the SPLM of obstructing the registration process by terrorising Southerners, so preparing the way for the results to be rejected.

Sudan is in this diabolical situation primarily because years of diplomatic and international pressure to get the Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed have been followed by years of abject neglect, appeasement and loss of leverage. When the CPA was signed in January 2005 the regional hegemon (power / influence / leader) was Sudan's nemesis, the USA. Today the regional hegemon is Sudan's close ally, Iran. The Southern leadership's decision to abandon the 'National Consensus', destroying opposition unity and forfeiting the moral high ground in order to invest their hopes in the liar-traitor el-Bashir, was (in the opinion of this writer) a massive strategic blunder and failure of faith. While the Southern leadership was brokering a 'covenant with death' (Isaiah 28:15-19), el-Bashir was busy shattering the opposition ahead of a profound betrayal. The Church in Sudan desperately needs our prayers.

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY FOR GOD TO:

* be known and experienced in the midst of his Church that the faithful may have security in the midst of the storm.

* draw his people close, delivering and preserving them, empowering their faith and witness, and giving them his profound peace that passes understanding. 'You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.' (Isaiah 26:3 ESV)

* intervene for justice and righteousness, watching over the helpless and bringing the way of the wicked to ruin (Psalm 146:9); may YHWH Sabaoth (the 'Lord of Hosts' / the commander of heaven's armies) interpose himself and his forces into this situation for the sake of the Church in Sudan, and for the sake of Sudan, a nation in desperate need of the gospel (Jonah 4:11).

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SUMMARY TO USE IN BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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SUDAN REFERENDUM SOON AND WAR LOOMS

War looms over Sudan as Southern Sudanese prepare to vote on 9 Jan 2011 in a referendum on independence. Years of neglect and failure to implement the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement make unity unattractive to the mostly African-Christian Southerners who will almost certainly vote to secede. However, 80 percent of Sudan's oil lies in the South and Sudan's neighbouring allies oppose Southern secession. The Arab-Islamist regime in the North is highly likely to reject a referendum result that recognises an independent South Sudan. Government forces recently bombed Southern army positions in Kiirabem, displacing thousands of people. Northern MPs are accusing the Southern leadership of supporting Darfur rebels which they assert is akin to declaring war against the North. Please pray for the long-suffering Church in Sudan.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

083. November Update; Incl. Afghanistan, Bhutan, Laos, Pakistan, Syria

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 083 | Wed 24 Nov 2010

NOVEMBER 2010 UPDATE -- During November we prayed concerning . . .

BURMA, where the fraudulent elections produced a landslide victory for the pro-military Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) -- the military junta in civilian clothes. This will doubtless be presented as a mandate for the junta's violent subjugation of its long-suffering ethnic minorities. The regime is demanding that ethnic groups' defence forces be assimilated into the centrally controlled Border Guard Force (BGF). Groups that continue to resist this demand are destined to be deemed insurgents, separatists and subversives, and will be attacked with overwhelming force in the name of 'democracy and reconciliation'.

* UPDATE: The breakaway 5th Brigade of the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) clashed with Burmese forces in the wake of the elections (RLPB 081) and has been given 31 December 2010 as its deadline to disarm and join the BGF. On Tuesday 9 November (two days after the elections) Baptist Pastor Mang Tling (47) of Dawdin village in north-west Chin State was summoned before the military junta's hand-picked electoral commission. A pro-USDP village headman had taken revenge on the pastor for his refusal to wear a pro-USDP tee-shirt by falsely accusing him of encouraging Christians to vote for the opposition. After five days of interrogation, Pastor Mang Tling was released with orders to stop holding worship services and to close down the church's nursery program. (The Chin are estimated to be around 90 percent Christian. Chin State has a profoundly Christian culture and identity which the pro-Burman, pro-Buddhist junta has long sought to undermine.)

IRAQ, where Islamic jihad, terrorism, hatred and intolerance specifically targeting Iraq's Christian community is escalating. The legacy of this war may well be the genocide of Iraq's indigenous Christian peoples. Iraq's Christian remnant is under siege and desperately needs refuge.

* UPDATE: On Monday 22 November gunmen broke into a welding shop in west Mosul owned by brothers Saad Hanna (43) and Waad Hanna (40), both Syrian Catholic Christians, and shot them dead. In a separate incident, an elderly Assyrian woman was found that evening strangled in her home in central Mosul. Islamic fundamentalists and jihadists want Christians out of Iraq, hence the terror. Meanwhile, those keen to present Iraq as a successful democracy and example of Muslim-Christian co-existence want the reality covered up, hence the silence.

EGYPT, where high level Islamic incitement against the Coptic Church is creating an extremely volatile and dangerous situation. Emboldened by years of impunity, radicalised Muslims are escalating their pogroms against Egypt's indigenous Coptic Christians. On 15 November some 1000 Muslims rioted in the village of el-Nowahed, Upper Egypt after hearing a rumour that a Christian boy had been seen with a Muslim girl. They burnt businesses, livestock and 22 homes of Copts. The next day fields and irrigation machinery belonging to Copts were also torched.

* UPDATE: Reportedly, Egyptian State Security forces have pressured thirteen of el-Nowahed's Coptic families to sign papers stating that the fires were an 'Act of Fate' and were extinguished by security and by village Muslims. According to the Assyrian International News Agency (AINA), police have been gathering the names of Coptic youths, presumably to use as leverage in a 'reconciliation' session where Copts will be forced to give up their rights and accept total injustice in exchange for 'peace'. Meanwhile the Christians are too fearful to leave their burnt out homes in search of food and shelter lest they be slaughtered. Hossam Noel Attallah (19), the Christian boy accused of being in a relationship with a Muslim girl, is in the military hospital in Qena receiving treatment after being arrested and tortured by State Security. The situation in Egypt is absolutely appalling and deteriorating rapidly.


NOV 2010 ROUND-UP -- also this month . . .

* AFGHANISTAN: The trial of Afghan Christian convert Said Musa (see RLPBs 059 and 082) has been delayed until next Sunday, 28 November 2010. Christian groups, Jubilee Campaign and Advocates International, are confronted by numerous obstacles as they try to get a lawyer to Musa. Please pray for God to overcome all obstacles. Pray also for the faith, health, strength, security and witness of Said Musa and the other Christian prisoners.

* BHUTAN: PUNISHED FOR SHOWING JESUS FILM

On 6 October Prem Singh Gurung, an ethnic-Nepali Bhutanese citizen, was charged with 'attempting to promote civil unrest' and sentenced to three years jail for screening films about Jesus. Whilst Gurung did violate a Bhutanese law requiring authorities to examine all films before public screening, the charge itself is false and the sentence extremely harsh. International Christian Concern reported on 12 November that two other Bhutanese Christians have gone into hiding after learning the authorities are seeking them in relation to similar charges. As Bhutan opens up to the world and is in transition from a Buddhist monarchy to a constitutional democracy, religious liberty is destined to be its greatest challenge.

* LAOS: MORE CHRISTIANS FACING EXPULSION

In January 2010 village officials and local security forces expelled 11 Christian families at gunpoint from Katin village, southern Laos, simply for their Christian faith. That was after months of persecution that included property confiscations, detentions and the torture-murder of a Christian villager. Despite that, two more Katin families subsequently committed to following Jesus Christ. The expelled Christian families have been struggling with disease and hunger in shelters they have erected on the edge of the jungle. They were told in July they may only return to the village if they give up their faith. Otherwise they have been warned if they try to return as Christians they will be shot. Subsequent to this, four more Katin families accepted Christ. The Katin chief and local security approached these six new Christian families in early November with the ultimatum: give up the Christian faith before January 2011 or face expulsion. Please pray for Laos' severely persecuted Church.

* PAKISTAN: BLASPHEMY ISSUE IS EXPLOSIVE

On 19 June 2009 Aasia Bibi (45), a Christian mother of five, dipped her cup into a bucket of drinking water. When Muslim women subsequently complained that the water was now contaminated (by being touched by a Christian) the offended Bibi commented derisively that Muhammad was no prophet. Consequently she was jailed for blasphemy. The death sentence she received on 8 November 2010 attracted international outrage. Even if she were to be pardoned, Aasia Bibi's life would still be seriously imperilled as Christians accused of blasphemy are usually killed by Islamic vigilantes who enforce Sharia with impunity. However, top Deobandi and Barelvi clerics have joined forces in warning President Asif Ali Zadari against granting Bibi a discretionary pardon, saying that 'such a decision will lead to untoward repercussions'. The organisations represented and influenced by these clerics control many thousands of Islamic seminaries across Pakistan, mostly in Punjab. The situation in Pakistan is explosive. Please pray.

* SYRIA: REPRESSION TARGETS PROTESTANTS

Over recent years the number of Iraqi Christian refugees in Syria has boomed. Consequently numerous foreign Christian humanitarian ministries -- mostly American and South Korean -- have entered Syria to respond to the desperate need. Now the regime in Damascus has introduced repressive measures, supposedly to counter Protestant proselytising. According to Ya Libnan (Lebanon), the main trigger for the crackdown was Syrian Catholic and Orthodox leaders' complaints about Protestant 'sheep stealing'. The delicately positioned Alawite-led government is desperate to preserve 'religious harmony' (read: the political status quo) and so is appeasing Muslim, Catholic and Orthodox resentment. Hence the government is not renewing the visas of foreigners serving Protestant churches; is closing down independent local and foreign-sponsored Protestant worship held in 'unsanctioned' premises and is cancelling Protestant events. Please pray for wisdom, grace and courage.

'Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.' (Matthew 10:16 ESV)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

082. Iraq &Egypt: al-Qaeda declares war on Christians (plus Afghanistan)

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 082 | Wed 17 Nov 2010

IRAQ & EGYPT: AL-QAEDA DECLARES WAR ON CHRISTIANS

BACKGROUND IN EGYPT:
In July 2010 Camilia Shehata Zakher disappeared after a quarrel with her husband, a Coptic priest in Minya Governorate. Unaware that she was with relatives in Cairo, he reported her missing and accused Muslims of abducting her for forced conversion, a fate not uncommon for Coptic girls in Egypt. When Egyptian Security Forces found Camilia in Cairo and returned her to her husband, Muslims protested, claiming that Camilia was now Muslim and was being held by the church against her will. One fundamentalist sheikh claimed to have heard her say the shahada, the declaration of Muslim faith. Digitally edited photos purportedly of Camilia in full Islamic dress started appearing on the web. Islamic militants urged that Christian tourists be kidnapped and killed in retaliation. On 1 September a Mauritanian cleric issued a fatwa permitting the killing of Egyptian Copts. Camilia came to be personifying the Muslim fantasy of Coptic girls converting to Islam and of the church as causing fitna or persecution.

Then on 8 September Camilia appeared on national TV denouncing the rumours of torture, drugs and captivity. 'I am appearing,' she said, 'in order to defend my husband, my child, my church and my religion which is Christianity.' Fundamentalist sheikhs subsequently claimed the woman on the TV was not Camilia, but her 'double'. Egyptian State Security immediately refuted this and the Chairman of the Committee of Declaration of Islam at Al-Azhar University, Sheikh Saeed Amer, stepped in and denied that Camilia ever came to Al-Azhar or that her case ever came before him. Islamist propagandists subsequently asserted that Camilia was kidnapped by State Security forces while on her way to Al-Azhar to formalise her conversion. The Islamists claim therefore the State actually prevented her conversion to Islam. The truth is: Camilia is a Christian who never converted to Islam. The Camilia of Islamic fantasy -- the convert to Islam who is suffering persecution at the hand of the church -- is a myth. Nevertheless this totally debunked myth is being used as incitement and as an excuse to kill Christians.

INCITEMENT IN EGYPT; DEADLY CONSEQUENCES IN IRAQ.

On 15 September, as religious tensions soared, the former secretary-general of the International Union for Muslim Scholars, Muhammad Salim al-Awwa, raged on Aljazeera international TV, falsely accusing Egypt's Copts of 'stocking arms and ammunition in their churches and monasteries' in preparation for war against Muslims. He also perpetuated the lie that the Coptic Church was holding female Coptic converts to Islam captive in desert monasteries (RLPB 079, 27 Oct 2010). As the rhetoric escalated, riots multiplied, forcing the government to urge media restraint for the sake of national unity. Then on 31 October ten al-Qaeda militants in Iraq laid siege to a Syrian Catholic Church in Baghdad. Fifty-eight died and more than 70 were wounded in the subsequent massacre. In claiming responsibility, the al-Qaeda-linked 'Islamic State of Iraq' gave Egypt's Coptic Church 48 hours to release from captivity Camilia Shehata and Wafa Constantine, an almost identical case from 2004. Otherwise jihadists would retaliate against Christians everywhere (RLPB 080, 3 Nov 2010). The incitement in Egypt being linked to the massacre in Baghdad and the threat from al-Qaeda shocked Egypt, prompting restraint there and temporarily settling the situation somewhat.

Nothing, however, has settled in Iraq. On 9 November three Christian homes were bombed at night in the suburb of Mansour, western Baghdad. The following morning two Christian homes in al-Dora were hit by mortar fire. Bombs also exploded outside a church in Kampsara and outside about a dozen Christian homes across Baghdad. At least four Christians were killed and dozens were wounded and terrorised. The targeted homes could be seen to be Christians because of funeral notices and visible Christian insignia. Then on Monday evening 15 November Islamic militants in the northern city of Mosul stormed two adjacent homes of Christian families in the eastern al-Tahrir neighbourhood and killed the two male heads of those households, a Syrian Catholic and an Armenian. Almost simultaneously a bomb exploded outside a Christian home in central Mosul. The next day a Christian man and his daughter aged six were killed by a car bomb in Mosul. This terror has led to a surge in Christians fleeing Iraq. They will join the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Christians struggling to survive as refugees in Syria, Turkey and Jordan. They no longer see any reason to risk their lives for a state where, even if they survive, they will be condemned to live as second class citizens (dhimmis).

In Egypt, the lives of Copts are conditionally 'protected' as dhimmis. This means they will not be killed and plundered provided they submit to the injustice, persecution and humiliation inherent in abject subjugation under superior Islam. After years of impunity for attacks on Copts, their security is now extremely tenuous. On Monday 15 November 22 homes, two commercial shops, a bakery, and livestock, all belonging to Copts, were burnt when Muslims -- reportedly nearly 1000 -- rioted in the Upper Egyptian village of el-Nowahed after hearing a rumour that a Christian boy was in a relationship with a Muslim girl. (According to the rules of Islam, a Christian boy may not approach a Muslim girl but must convert to Islam first.)

Due to years of radicalisation and the re-establishment of dhimmitude, the situation in Egypt is now pre-genocidal. Meanwhile the situation in Iraq is undoubtedly genocidal, partly because Iraq has become a base for foreign-sponsored sectarian Islamic militias. Additionally there is the factor that, as a Western experiment in Islamic democracy (like Lebanon previously), the West doesn't want to see or admit failure in Iraq. Especially that would challenge the West's firmly held belief that democracy -- as distinct from the Gospel of Jesus Christ -- is the solution to noble (rather than sinful) humanity's problems.

The West must end the denial and be responsible for securing and rescuing Iraq's Christian remnant. Once US troops withdraw and the 'real' war begins, it will be too late.

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY FOR GOD TO:

* level the paths, open the doors and provide safe passage for all Iraqi Christians fleeing Islamic terror and genocide for what may be an extended period of exile.

* draw the hearts and minds of all Iraqi Christians to him, that they might put their faith in him alone, for he is their only hope.

'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to the least of these my brothers, you did it to me . . . Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one the least of these, you did not do it to me.' (From Matthew 25:40,45 ESV.)

* intervene in Egypt, to still the brewing storm; may all Egypt's Christians -- Copts and Arab converts -- look to Christ and put their faith in him alone, for he is their only hope.

* frustrate the plots and programs of the wicked, while pricking the conscience of the alliance states to Christian duty and moral obligation that they might respond with commitment and generosity to the humanitarian catastrophe that is befalling Iraqi Christians.

~~~~

PLEASE PRAY ALSO about the Sunday 21 November trial of Afghan Christian convert, Said Musa (45), in Kabul. This husband and father of six was arrested in the sweep of late May 2010, after film emerged of Afghan Christians being baptised and worshipping in 'Western safe-houses' in Kabul (see RLPB 059, 9 June 2010, Afghanistan: Christians menaced as Karzai woos Taliban). Said has reportedly been severely tortured and forced to renounce Christ, a renunciation he subsequently recanted. He is also being mocked and violently abused in prison for his faith. A state-assigned lawyer has refused to represent him because he is a Christian and no other lawyer is willing to. According to Compass Direct News 'Dr. Musa' (as he is known), himself an amputee, has worked for the International Committee of the Red Cross in Kabul for 15 years fitting people for prosthetic limbs.

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AL-QAEDA DECLARES WAR ON CHRISTIANS IN IRAQ

When claiming responsibility for the 31 October church massacre in Baghdad, the al-Qaeda-linked 'Islamic State of Iraq' threatened to retaliate against Christians everywhere unless Egypt's Coptic Church released its alleged captives. The myth -- that Coptic converts to Islam are being held captive in Coptic churches (supposedly along with stockpiles of Israeli weapons) -- has been propagated by Egyptian Islamic fundamentalists keen to incite massacres of Copts. This situation in Egypt is extremely volatile. Meanwhile, genocide is unfolding in Iraq. On 9-10 November, over a dozen Christian homes and one church were targeted with bombs and mortar shells across Baghdad, killing four and wounding many. On 15-16 November, more bombs targeting Christians exploded in Mosul while two Christians were executed in their homes by militants. Please pray!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

081. Burma (Myanmar): fighting erupts in Karen State

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 081 | Wed 10 Nov 2010

BURMA (MYANMAR): FIGHTING ERUPTS IN KAREN STATE

Burma's Kachin and Chin peoples are around 90 percent Christian, while the larger Karenni and Karen groups are up to 40 percent Christian. The Burmese Buddhist majority has long persecuted these peoples on racial and religious grounds. Consequently the long-suffering minorities who live in the hills around Burma's periphery want autonomy so they can maintain their culture and worship in liberty. Meanwhile the junta, promoting ethnic Burman and Buddhist nationalism and supremacy, covets the ethnic groups' lands for logging, hydro-electric power, jade mining and the like. And the regime is not averse to 'ethnic cleansing'.

As noted in last week's Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin, the sole purpose of Burma's fraudulent 7 November elections was to legitimise the regime and provide it with a mandate to impose its will. (See: RLPB 080, 'Burma (Myanmar): Christians at risk of post-election violence'.)

Anticipating the hostilities, leaders from six of Burma's largest armed ethnic groups met in the Thai-Burma town of Mae Hong Son on Tuesday 4 November and agreed to join forces if any one of them should come under attack after the 7 November elections. Exiled Burmese media 'Mizzima' reported: 'The alliance comprises ceasefire groups, the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO), New Mon State Party (NMSP) and Shan State Army North (SSA-N); and non-ceasefire groups, the Karen National Union (KNU), Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP) and Chin National Front (CNF). It named Kachin Independence Army (KIA) chief Major General N-Ban La Aung as its chairman.'

The Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) -- officially allied to the regime -- has long been exploited by the junta as a proxy force to fight the mostly Christian Karen National Union (KNU). However, splits have emerged in the DKBA ranks over the issue of being assimilated into the centrally controlled Border Guard Force (BGF). Burma Campaign UK reports that on 7 November a rebel faction of the DKBA occupied Myawaddy Town in Karen State on the border with Thailand. They claimed to be defending civilians who were being threatened by the Burmese Army and being forced to vote for the pro-regime Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP).

At 9 am on Monday 8 November the Burmese Army began shelling DKBA positions in Myawaddy, sending some 20,000 Karen fleeing across the Thai border. Fighting between the DKBA (which is rejecting the election results) and the Burmese Army also erupted at Payathonzu. Significantly the DKBA, with the support of Mon fighters and defecting Border Guard Forces (BGF), has secured control of Three Pagodas Pass, a strategic border crossing between Burma and Thailand. The KNU has vowed to assist their former foe, the DKBA, in its battle against the junta should the need arise. After discussions with the regime, Thai authorities agreed to return the refugees. By Wednesday 10 November, most of the refugees had returned to Myawaddy which is now in the hands of the Burmese Army. These skirmishes have the potential to escalate into full-blown civil war. Should that happen, the junta's goal would doubtless be either ethnic cleansing or total subjugation of the minorities.

In November 2008 the junta, which has nuclear ambitions, reportedly signed a Memorandum of Understanding with North Korea, formalising military co-operation. While heavily-invested China welcomed the 7 November 2010 elections as 'a step forward', Burma's other neighbours, Thailand and India, have remained silent, preferring to distance themselves from Burma's 'internal affairs' (read: human rights abuses). Abandoned by their neighbours and imperilled at home, the Christian peoples of Burma desperately need our prayers.

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL:

* draw his imperilled people close to him that they may know peace in his loving presence.

* hear their prayers and intervene in Burma to bring an end to decades of terror and bloodshed, for the sake of his Body and for the glory of his own holy name.

Deliver me from my enemies, O my God; protect me from those who rise up against me, deliver me from those who work evil, and save me from bloodthirsty men. (Psalm 59:1,2 ESV)

* give Burma's Christian leaders great spiritual wisdom, discernment, authority and strength, that they might provide spiritual wisdom, comfort and direction -- not only to the Lord's people but to all Burmese caught up in these challenging times.

International Day of Prayer (IDOP) for the Persecuted Church
: 14 November 2010

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BURMA: FIGHTING ERUPTS IN KAREN STATE

Burma's ethnic Kachin and Chin peoples (90 percent Christian) and the Karreni and Karen groups (40 percent Christian) want autonomy, primarily to maintain their culture and to worship in liberty. However, the Burman Buddhist junta wants total control of their lands and resources, and saw the 7 November elections giving it that mandate. On polling day a military faction opposed to the junta occupied the Karen town, Myawaddy, on the Thai border, to defend its citizens threatened by the junta and being forced to vote for a pro-regime party. The Burmese Army responded with heavy artillery, forcing some 20,000 Karen to flee into Thailand. Thai officials have since forced the refugees back to Myawaddy, now occupied by the junta. Civil war looms. Please pray for the Church in Burma.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

080. Burma: Christians at risk of post-election violence. (plus Iraq)

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 080 | Wed 03 Nov 2010

BURMA (MYANMAR): CHRISTIANS AT RISK OF POST-ELECTION VIOLENCE; plus Iraq

Burma's ruling military junta ruthlessly promotes ethnic (Burman) and religious (Buddhist) supremacy and nationalism while repressing, even violently crushing, all political opposition.

The ethnic minority peoples who live in the hills around Burma's periphery are mostly Christian and are persecuted by the junta on ethnic, religious and political grounds. Because of their immense suffering, these groups do not trust the regime and are seeking autonomy. Ethnic minority groups, including those who have signed cease-fire agreements with the junta, consequently are unwilling to have their defence forces disarmed and absorbed into a national Border Guard Force (BGF). These groups include the Kachin in the north, of whom some 90 percent are devout Christians. They are simply unwilling to entrust their security to a centrally-controlled force dominated by the same Burmese soldiers that have spent decades indiscriminately enslaving, raping, torturing and massacring their people.

Shrewdly the regime has made disarmament a condition of participation in the Sunday 7 November elections. While this sounds reasonable, it is actually a strategy by which reasonable fears are exploited to disenfranchise multitudes. However, that will not make much difference, as one quarter of all seats are reserved for appointed military personnel anyway, and the main Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP: a front for the ruling junta) is fielding more than three times as many candidates as all 35 opposition parties combined. Thus the election result -- a convincing win to the junta -- is a foregone conclusion.

The sole purpose of the exercise is to 'legitimise' the regime so it can claim a 'mandate' to forcibly subjugate the ethnic-religious minorities. Recently the regime falsely and provocatively labelled the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) as 'insurgents'. This is pure propaganda as the KIA maintains a cease-fire agreement with the regime. Reportedly the junta has just purchased some 50 Mi-24 combat-ready helicopters and 12 Mi-2 armoured transport helicopters from Russia which they have positioned in readiness in the northern and central regions of the state. According to one Kachin church leader, 'After the election process, we ethnic minorities can be crushed.'

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL:

* fix the eyes of Burma's long-suffering minority Christians onto Jesus (Hebrews 12:2,3) and draw the Church into prayer. 'I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.'

* intervene in Burma to deliver his Church from evil.

'O LORD, you hear the desire of the afflicted;
you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear
to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed,
so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.'
(Psalm 10:17,18 ESV)

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CHRISTIANS IN BURMA AT RISK OF POST-ELECTION VIOLENCE

Burma will hold elections on Sunday 7 November 2010. The result is a foregone conclusion: a convincing win to the ruling regime. The purpose of the exercise is to give the ethnic Burman and Buddhist military junta a facade of legitimacy so it can claim a mandate to subjugate forcibly the state's long-suffering and severely persecuted ethnic minorities, many of whom are predominantly Christian. Having suffered severely over decades at the hands of the Burmese military, the minority peoples no longer trust the regime and are seeking autonomy as a means of guaranteeing their human rights and religious freedom. The regime has labelled the minorities 'insurgents', and many believe the regime will launch an offensive against them after the elections. Please pray for Burma's threatened Christian peoples.

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PLEASE PRAY ALSO FOR IRAQ'S IMPERILLED CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY

On Sunday 31 October gunmen affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq, a militant organisation connected to Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, stormed a Syriac Catholic church in Baghdad. First they executed Rev. Saad Abdal Tha'ir, the leading priest, then they sprayed bullets through the congregation. Having secured around 100 Christians hostage, they called for the release of jailed al Qaeda members. According to the group's website, they specifically targeted the church (which they referred to as a 'dirty den of idolatry') in response to anti-Christian incitement emanating from Egypt (see last week's RLPB 079). Indeed the group has vowed to 'exterminate Iraqi Christians' unless two Coptic women, both wives of Coptic priests who Muslims claim have been converted to Islam, are not freed from their alleged captivity. When the militants started executing hostages after a stand-off of several hours, the Iraqi military stormed the church. The militants responded by unleashing a bloodbath using automatic rifles, grenades and at least two militants detonating suicide bomb vests packed with ball-bearings.

Of the 58 dead, 47 were Christians, including three priests. At least 78 were wounded. Iraq's indigenous, historic, traumatised, imperilled and dwindling Christian community is in mourning. We must not forget them. Please pray for mercy, deliverance and perseverance in faith.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

079. October Update; incl. Egypt, Nigeria

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 079 | Wed 27 Oct 2010

WELCOME to the intercessors who have joined the list this month.

----------------------------------------------------------------

So now, O LORD our God, save us from [their hands], that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone are the LORD. (Hezekiah's prayer -- Isaiah 37:20 ESV.)

OCTOBER 2010 UPDATE -- During October we prayed concerning . . .

ALGERIA, where the government appears to have traded religious liberty for 'peace' with Islamic militants. The persecution is targeting the less Arabised, less Islamised, mostly Berber, Kabylie region east of Algiers.

* UPDATE: On 5 October 2010, Christians Hocine Hocini (44) and Salem Fellak (34) were acquitted of the charge of violating Ramadan (RLPB 075). However, on 18 October the same court fined a 27-year-old Muslim man 100,000 dinars and sentenced him to two years in prison for 'breaching a precept of Islam' by violating Ramadan and eating during daylight hours. Nine others caught breaking the Ramadan fast will face court in Akbou on 8 November. As noted in RLPB 076, the trial of Pastor Yahou Mahmoud and three elders charged with 'practising non-Muslim worship without government authorisation' has been postponed to 28 November. False charges of 'swindling' still loom over Ali Arhab, the Algerian-born, France-based director of Channel North Africa (gospel satellite TV).


CENTRAL ASIA, where the Church is suffering escalating persecution from local Muslims who reject Christianity as foreign and non-traditional as well as from authoritarian administrations that denounce Protestant Christianity as a threat to social cohesion and harmony.

* UPDATE: On 21 October Protestant Pastor Ilmurad Nurliev, who had been falsely accused of 'swindling' more than US$2.4 million from church members (despite Turkmenistan being one of the poorest countries in the world -- see RLPB 072) was convicted and jailed for four years. Forum 18 reports: 'Judge Agajan Akjaev of Mary Town Court in south-eastern Turkmenistan ruled that Nurliev will serve his sentence in the general regime labour camp in Seydi.' The court also ordered that Pastor Nurliev undergo forced treatment for an alleged drug addiction. As Forum 18 notes, reports indicate that prisoners at the Seydi camp are routinely 'treated' with psychotropic (mind- altering) drugs. An American diplomat who travelled from the capital, Ashgabat, to Mary to observe the trial was refused entry. As noted in RLPB 072, the religious liberty situation in Turkmenistan has deteriorated dramatically.


OCTOBER 2010 ROUND-UP -- also this month . . .

* EGYPT: SERIOUS INCITEMENT AGAINST COPTIC CHRISTIANS ESCALATES

Persecution is escalating against Egypt's Christians -- particularly the indigenous (non-Arab) Copts -- as the government implements Sharia provisions that prohibit Christians from testifying against Muslims, enabling radicalised Muslims to assault, rob and even kill Christians with impunity. In May 2010 Youssef Ibrahim (a New York Sun reporter) claimed President Mubarak had brokered a quid pro quo deal with the Muslim Brotherhood: they would accept dynastic succession of power to Mubarak's son, Gamal, in exchange for freedom to advance Sharia (Islamic law) as well as restore over the Copts the rules of dhimmitude (i.e. accept subjugation or face jihad).

On 15 September Muhammad Salim al-Awwa, former secretary-general of the International Union for Muslim Scholars, raged against Egypt's minority Copts on Aljazeera TV, falsely accusing them of planning a coup against the Muslims. He claimed the Copts were importing weapons from Israel which were being stockpiled in churches. Equally ridiculous was his claim that Egypt's security forces are unable to gain access to churches and monasteries to investigate. At the same time, Islamic inciters are spreading rumours that the Coptic Church is kidnapping converts to Islam and whisking them away to desert monasteries where they are tortured back to Christianity -- the exact opposite of what actually happens. (Muslim converts to Christianity have been kidnapped and tortured to revert.)

Muslims have staged at least ten mass demonstrations since September with calls to massacre the Copts. Muslim demonstrators burned an effigy of Coptic Pope Shenouda (86) on 8 October while chanting, 'Shenouda, just wait, we will dig your grave with our own hands.' As incitement escalates and genocidal violence looms, the government of President Hosni Mubarak remains totally silent. The situation is extremely dangerous. Please pray for God to intervene, drawing the Copts into prayerful dependence and then answering their prayers for the glory of his own holy name. (Isaiah 37:20.)

* NIGERIA: AL-QAEDA SUPPORTS BOKO HARAM EXPANSION

According to terrorism analyst Yossef Bodansky (Strategic Policy 8, 2010), in mid June 2010 Boko Haram ('the Nigerian Taliban') formalised its links with al-Qaeda of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). Bodansky also reported that AQIM is receiving aid and intelligence from Sudan and Iran 'who are operating jointly in the Sahel'. AQIM leader Abu Mousab Abdel Wadoud asserts that the international jihadist movement will assist Boko Haram with weapons and training to enable al-Qaeda to gain 'strategic depth' in sub-Saharan Africa and the solid foothold in Nigeria required for operations in West Africa.

Boko Haram jihadists attacked a federal prison in Bauchi in September 2010, freeing about 750 inmates, including numerous imprisoned sect members. A spate of attacks over recent weeks, targeting police officers, politicians and traditional leaders in the city of Maiduguri, has forced Nigerian security forces to escalate their efforts against Boko Haram. On Sunday 24 October, Boko Haram jihadists attacked the police station in the town of Bara in the northern state of Yobe. The AQIM link could lead to the emergence of 'spectacular terrorism' al-Qaeda-style -- such as suicide-bombings -- hitherto unknown in Nigeria. Boko Haram has been behind most outbreaks of mass violence against Christians in the north since 2004. Please pray for the Church in Nigeria as Boko Haram's new relationship with AQIM does not bode well.

079. October Update; Incl. Egypt, Nigeria

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 079 | Wed 27 Oct 2010

So now, O LORD our God, save us from [their hands], that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone are the LORD. (Hezekiah's prayer -- Isaiah 37:20 ESV.)

OCTOBER 2010 UPDATE -- During October we prayed concerning . . .

ALGERIA
, where the government appears to have traded religious liberty for 'peace' with Islamic militants. The persecution is targeting the less Arabised, less Islamised, mostly Berber, Kabylie region east of Algiers.

* UPDATE: On 5 October 2010, Christians Hocine Hocini (44) and Salem Fellak (34) were acquitted of the charge of violating Ramadan (RLPB 075). However, on 18 October the same court fined a 27-year-old Muslim man 100,000 dinars and sentenced him to two years in prison for 'breaching a precept of Islam' by violating Ramadan and eating during daylight hours. Nine others caught breaking the Ramadan fast will face court in Akbou on 8 November. As noted in RLPB 076, the trial of Pastor Yahou Mahmoud and three elders charged with 'practising non-Muslim worship without government authorisation' has been postponed to 28 November. False charges of 'swindling' still loom over Ali Arhab, the Algerian-born, France-based director of Channel North Africa (gospel satellite TV).

CENTRAL ASIA,
where the Church is suffering escalating persecution from local Muslims who reject Christianity as foreign and non-traditional as well as from authoritarian administrations that denounce Protestant Christianity as a threat to social cohesion and harmony.

* UPDATE: On 21 October Protestant Pastor Ilmurad Nurliev, who had been falsely accused of 'swindling' more than US $2.4 million from church members (despite Turkmenistan being one of the poorest countries in the world -- see RLPB 072) was convicted and jailed for four years. Forum 18 reports: 'Judge Agajan Akjaev of Mary Town Court in south-eastern Turkmenistan ruled that Nurliev will serve his sentence in the general regime labour camp in Seydi.' The court also ordered that Pastor Nurliev undergo forced treatment for an alleged drug addiction. As Forum 18 notes, reports indicate that prisoners at the Seydi camp are routinely 'treated' with psychotropic (mind-altering) drugs. An American diplomat who travelled from the capital, Ashgabat, to Mary to observe the trial was refused entry. As noted in RLPB 072, the religious liberty situation in Turkmenistan has deteriorated dramatically.


OCTOBER 2010 ROUND-UP
-- also this month . . .

* EGYPT: SERIOUS INCITEMENT AGAINST COPTIC CHRISTIANS ESCALATES


Persecution is escalating against Egypt's Christians -- particularly the indigenous (non-Arab) Copts -- as the government implements Sharia provisions that prohibit Christians from testifying against Muslims, enabling radicalised Muslims to assault, rob and even kill Christians with impunity. In May 2010 Youssef Ibrahim (a New York Sun reporter) claimed President Mubarak had brokered a quid pro quo deal with the Muslim Brotherhood: they would accept dynastic succession of power to Mubarak's son, Gamal, in exchange for freedom to advance Sharia (Islamic law) as well as restore over the Copts the rules of dhimmitude (i.e. accept subjugation or face jihad).

On 15 September Muhammad Salim al-Awwa, former secretary-general of the International Union for Muslim Scholars, raged against Egypt's minority Copts on Aljazeera TV, falsely accusing them of planning a coup against the Muslims. He claimed the Copts were importing weapons from Israel which were being stockpiled in churches. Equally ridiculous was his claim that Egypt's security forces are unable to gain access to churches and monasteries to investigate. At the same time, Islamic inciters are spreading rumours that the Coptic Church is kidnapping converts to Islam and whisking them away to desert monasteries where they are tortured back to Christianity -- the exact opposite of what actually happens. (Muslim converts to Christianity have been kidnapped and tortured to revert.) Muslims have staged at least ten mass demonstrations since September with calls to massacre the Copts. Muslim demonstrators burned an effigy of Coptic Pope Shenouda (86) on 8 October while chanting, 'Shenouda, just wait, we will dig your grave with our own hands.' As incitement escalates and genocidal violence looms, the government of President Hosni Mubarak remains totally silent. The situation is extremely dangerous. Please pray for God to intervene, drawing the Copts into prayerful dependence and then answering their prayers for the glory of his own holy name. (Isaiah 37:20.)

* NIGERIA: AL-QAEDA SUPPORTS BOKO HARAM EXPANSION


According to terrorism analyst Yossef Bodansky (Strategic Policy 8, 2010), in-mid June 2010 Boko Haram ('the Nigerian Taliban') formalised its links with al-Qaeda of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). Bodansky also reported that AQIM is receiving aid and intelligence from Sudan and Iran 'who are operating jointly in the Sahel'. AQIM leader Abu Mousab Abdel Wadoud asserts that the international jihadist movement will assist Boko Haram with weapons and training to enable al-Qaeda to gain 'strategic depth' in sub-Saharan Africa and the solid foothold in Nigeria required for operations in West Africa.

Boko Haram jihadists attacked a federal prison in Bauchi in September 2010, freeing about 750 inmates, including numerous imprisoned sect members. A spate of attacks over recent weeks, targeting police officers, politicians and traditional leaders in the city of Maiduguri, has forced Nigerian security forces to escalate their efforts against Boko Haram. On Sunday 24 October, Boko Haram jihadists attacked the police station in the town of Bara in the northern state of Yobe. The AQIM link could lead to the emergence of 'spectacular terrorism' al-Qaeda-style -- such as suicide-bombings -- hitherto unknown in Nigeria. Boko Haram has been behind most outbreaks of mass violence against Christians in the north since 2004. Please pray for the Church in Nigeria as Boko Haram's new relationship with AQIM does not bode well.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

078. Central Asia: Christianity's past and present

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 078 | Wed 20 Oct 2010

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CENTRAL ASIA: CHRISTIANITY'S PAST AND PRESENT
By Anneta Vyssotskaia
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The Central Asian region is a vast territory including five countries which were once part of the former USSR: Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. In ancient times it was inhabited mainly by nomadic tribes and was an important part of the Great Silk Road, which played a big role in the historical and cultural development of this region. The total population of Central Asia exceeds 60 million, the majority of whom are Sunni Muslims, and includes over 100 ethnic groups. In the Soviet period about 25 percent of the population were Russians but after the collapse of the Soviet Union the majority of the Russian population migrated out of this region. However, many Central Asian people still use the Russian language for international communication.

Christianity came to Central Asia from Persia in the 1st Century. According to legend, the Apostle Thomas went to Samarkand (now a city in Uzbekistan) by the Great Silk Road and appointed several bishops there. Documents confirmed that in the 2nd & 3rd Centuries there were Christian churches in that region and Christianity spread mainly through Nestorian Christians. However, around the 14th Century Christianity started to be wiped out by Islam and Buddhism and practically disappeared for several centuries. A new stage of Christianity started about mid-19th Century with the arrival of the Russian Orthodox Church and Russian farmer migrants. Russian Orthodox churches were built in all Russian settlements. At the end of the 19th Century many evangelical Christians came to the region, often as a result of persecution. Although the local population was quite tolerant of both Orthodox and evangelical Christians, Christianity was still considered the religion of the non-ethnic people.

During the Soviet period all religions were controlled and persecuted by the state authorities and several generations grew up as atheists. The end of the Soviet regime brought many freedoms to the people including the freedom of religion. It opened the door to numerous missionaries and resulted in many new churches of different denominations. Masses of people were attracted to the churches. However, very soon active support of traditional national religions started and also resistance to missionary activities. Islam became more active. The religious freedom and openness gradually were replaced by restrictions. The governments supported certain religions and denominations while resisting the activities of others, especially foreign missionaries and 'non-traditional' religions. This was partly an attempt to use certain religious teaching as an ideological basis for the whole population and partly to reduce the threat of destabilisation and ethnic conflicts in their countries. The next step was to amend existing laws to impose legislative restrictions, especially regarding sharing faith with other people, children's work and even religious education of church members.

According to Open Doors World Watch List, four out of the five Central Asian countries are included in the list of 50 countries where Christians are persecuted for their faith: Uzbekistan (10th), Turkmenistan (15th), Tajikistan (32), Kyrgyzstan (49).

In an environment where ethnic conflicts can be easily ignited, Central Asia churches suffer the problem that these conflicts may cause divisions and bitterness even amongst Christians.

The overall picture in Central Asia is the Church has to survive and grow in circumstances of persecution, ethnic conflicts and economic hardship. Study materials are lacking in the local languages, which is a hindrance to discipleship especially in remote places. In Uzbekistan, it is especially difficult as Christian literature is searched for, confiscated and destroyed by police, and church members get detained and fined on a massive scale. It is now an impossible task to get a church registered, but even registration no longer protects a church from police raids and detention of its members.

Christianity in Central Asia has to walk a long and narrow path to growth, despite all the restrictions and difficulties imposed by state and religious authorities, as well as pressure from the predominantly Muslim society.

A believer in Uzbekistan says, 'I continue to live by the power of the One Who has loved me.' This was just written by the wife of a pastor serving his fourth year in prison for his Christian faith.


PRAISE GOD FOR:

* the spiritual revival in Central Asia following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

* Church growth across Central Asia despite growing restrictions on religious freedom and severe persecution in many places, praying that he will protect and strengthen his Church.

* faithfulness and boldness of Christian leaders who set a good example to the believers in their churches.


PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL:

* enable his children to fulfil his Great Commandment of making disciples in all nations and all remote places, and that there will be enough material in their languages so every believer might study the Word of God in all its fullness.

* help and provide for many needy Christians living in this region of great poverty and unemployment.

* help his children of different nationalities to be united amidst all ethnic conflicts and be instruments of his peace.

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THE CHURCH'S STRUGGLE IN CENTRAL ASIA

The Church in the former Soviet countries of Central Asia -- Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan -- struggles for survival and growth amidst persecution, ethnic conflicts and economic hardship. Lack of material in the local languages hinders discipleship training. This is especially a problem in Uzbekistan where the police search for Christian literature, seize and destroy it, as well as detain and fine church members on a massive scale. It is now impossible to get a church registered, but even registration no longer protects a church from police raids and detention of its members. Please pray for the Church in Central Asia on its long and narrow path to growth, despite all the restrictions and difficulties imposed by state and religious authorities, as well as pressure from the predominantly Muslim society.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

077. Updates: Algeria, India, Somalia, Indonesia

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 077 | Wed 13 Oct 2010

Due to an urgent and time-consuming family health situation that has just arisen, Elizabeth Kendal, our regular religious liberty monitor, analyst and writer, has not been able to compile this week's Bulletin. An alternative contributor happened to be travelling internationally and likewise has been unable to assist.

We believe therefore what would be most helpful in these circumstances is to provide a reminder of situations we have prayed for, which have not gone away since the week we particularly highlighted them. Our sisters and brothers suffering for their faith in Christ will still value our continued support and remembrance in prayer before God's throne of grace.

Some more information and helpful links are also available on Elizabeth Kendal's blog 'Religious Liberty Monitoring'.

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* ALGERIA (RLPB 076 | 06 Oct 2010 - Society Protests Islamisation as Christians Face Court)

It appears the trial of Pastor Yahou Mahmoud and three elders scheduled for 10 October has been postponed again - it had already been postponed twice. They are accused of 'practising non-Muslim worship without authorisation', even though their Protestant Church of Algeria is a nationally accredited denomination with 30,000 believers. Mahmoud is to be tried additionally on a charge of 'hosting a foreigner' - a French pastor. Algerian society generally is supporting Christians in these and other trials because of their concern about Islamists advancing Islamisation in Algeria. The country and its Church needs our prayers.

* INDIA (Included in RLPB 075 | 29 Sep 2010 - September Update; RLPB 062 | 30 Jun 2010 - June Update)

Hindu militants' repression and persecution of the Church in India continues to grow. Christian leaders - especially pastors - are constantly threatened and often spuriously detained and even imprisoned. Believers are attacked and churches and their Bibles, equipment and furniture are trashed. The Evangelical Fellowship of India has recorded 106 major incidents this year (up to August) - that's an average of three every week - in 16 States, including 37 in Karnataka.

* SOMALIA (RLPB 074 | 22 Sep 2010 - Islamic Terror Surges)

Having captured most of southern and central Somalia, Islamic jihadists are now fighting to control the capital Mogadishu. Al-Shabab, the most radical and aggressive of the insurgent groups, is systematically targeting the Church for elimination. Some 20 Christians, mostly church leaders, have been shot or beheaded by al-Shabab over the past two years. On 21 July al-Shabab militants shot dead long-time Christian, Osman Abdullah Fataho, in his home in front of his wife and children. Fataho was targeted because he was an apostate (convert from Islam) and active in Somalia's underground church. The jihadists abducted Fataho's family, later releasing his wife but keeping her four children aged 5 to 15 to be trained as jihadists. Please pray for this family and for the Church in Somalia.

* BEKASI, INDONESIA
(RLPB 073 | 13 Sep 2010 - Threat Level Rises; included in RLPB 070 | 25 Aug 2010 - August Update; RLPB 068 | 11 Aug 2010 - Worshippers Attacked; included in RLPB 066 | 28 Jul 2010 - July Update; RLPB 063 | 07 Jul 2010 - Jihad Threat Level High)

The threat level facing Christians in Bekasi Regency, West Java, has been rising continuously since 27 June when Bekasi's Islamic leaders publicly denounced 'Christianisation' of Bekasi (98 percent Muslim) and urged Bekasi Muslims to prepare for jihad. Christians have since been threatened with death and physically attacked during, or on their way to, worship, some so severely they have had to be hospitalised in a critical condition.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

076. Algeria: society protests Islamisation as Christians face court

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 076 | Wed 06 Oct 2010

ALGERIA: SOCIETY PROTESTS ISLAMISATION AS CHRISTIANS FACE COURT

As in many emerging Muslim democracies, hard-line Islamic fundamentalists in Algeria have secured the balance of power and are emerging as skilful politicians and experts in the art of quid pro quo. Armed with their Qur'ans, they play the religion card for political gain. Armed with threats of destabilising violence, riots and strikes, they influence policy and dictate the agenda. However, decades of horrific Islamic terror have left many Algerians traumatised and profoundly disillusioned. Further to this, an awakening of Berber identity -- especially in the Kabylie region east of Algiers -- has seen a revival of indigenous language, culture and history, and increasingly a rejection of Arab and Islamic imperialism. Christianity is growing, especially in the Kabylie region, attracting the attention of the Islamists. While persecution has escalated, the Church is not alone, for many Kabylie citizens and rights groups are equally concerned about advancing Islamisation, declining liberty, escalating intolerance and state repression. A new struggle for Algeria is heating up.

On 12 August two construction workers, Hocine Hocini (44) and Salem Fellak (34), both recent converts from Islam, were arrested during their lunch break and charged with 'non-compliance with a precept of Islam' (a highly controversial article in Algeria's penal code) for eating during daylight hours in Ramadan. On 21 September the prosecutor in the court of Ain el-Hammam, a town in the region of Tizi Ouzou in Kabylie, requested that the men receive three years in prison. When Hocine Hocini informed the court he was a 'Protestant Christian' and not a Muslim, the prosecutor counselled him 'to leave this country, a land of Islam'. Outside the courthouse, hundreds of demonstrators -- including atheists, liberal Muslims, intellectuals, rights activists and members of the movement for the autonomy of Kabylie -- stood in solidarity with hymn-singing Christians to protest 'arbitrary use of power'. On 5 October, as hundreds waited outside the courthouse again, the court handed down its verdict acquitting both men. Many saw this as a victory for solidarity. Doubtless God was answering prayers, for a guilty verdict would have had horrendous ramifications.

It will be interesting to see how the Islamic fundamentalists respond. A similar case against eight Muslims accused of violating Ramadan in Bejaia (also in Kabylie) will take place on 8 November. This case has caused such an outcry it has been postponed twice already. According to a 2009 poll, 36 percent of Algerians fast during Ramadan only 'occasionally', while seven percent do not fast at all. As one Algerian business executive noted, 20 years ago all the restaurants of downtown Algiers would stay open right through Ramadan.

In a case in Larbaa-Nath-Irathen (once again in the Kabylie region), four Protestant leaders will face court on charges of 'practising non-Muslim worship without authorisation'. Already twice postponed, this trial is now set for 10 October. The fellowship led by Pastor Yahou Mahmoud and elders Raid Abdenour, Mokrani Nacer and Haouedj Idir is affiliated with the Protestant Church of Algeria (EPA), a nationally accredited denomination with some 30,000 believers, mainly in Kabylie. Pastor Yahou Mahmoud, who owns the property where the church meets, will also be tried for 'hosting a foreigner' (a French pastor). Many Algerian Christians believe the Islamists are aiming to drive them either into dhimmitude (subjection) or out of Algeria. The President of the EPA, Pastor Mustapha Krim, is appealing for an end to these abuses.

PRAISE GOD FOR:

* the court's courage in upholding justice and acquitting Hocine Hocini and Salem Fellak, doubtless despite government and Islamist pressure.

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL:

* work all things together for good for the benefit of the Church and the glory of his name, including the public witness of Algeria's persecuted Christians, the growing desire of Algerians for liberty and the growing social solidarity.

* be profoundly present during the 10 October trial of Protestant leaders Yahou Mahmoud, Raid Abdenour, Mokrani Nacer and Haouedj Idir; may they trust in God as their refuge and strength. May the Holy Spirit both give and bless the words they speak before the court, the media and the masses. (Matthew 10:16-20.)

* continue to bless the gospel radio and satellite ministries that have been so effective in bringing spiritual liberty, peace, hope and transformation to many disillusioned Algerians; may God provide all their needs, and protect them from attacks.

* grant wisdom and justice for Ali Arhab, head of France-based Chanel North Africa, against whom Algeria has issued a nation-wide arrest warrant.


SUMMARY TO USE IN BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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SOCIETY PROTESTS ISLAMISATION IN ALGERIA AS CHRISTIANS FACE COURT

On 5 October a court in the Kabylie region east of Algiers acquitted Christian converts Hocine Hocini and Salem Fellak of the charge of 'non-compliance with a precept of Islam'. They had been arrested for eating lunch during Ramadan. During this and an earlier trial, hundreds of concerned citizens and civil society groups stood alongside Christians in a display of public solidarity to protest growing intolerance and abuse of power. On 10 October four Protestant leaders will face court, charged with 'practising non-Muslim worship without authorisation'. The fellowship led by Pastor Yahou Mahmoud and elders Raid Abdenour, Mokrani Nacer and Haouedj Idir is affiliated with the Protestant Church of Algeria, a large nationally accredited denomination. The struggle for Algeria is heating up. Please pray for its Church.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

075. September Update: Incl. Algeria, China, India, Iran, Lebanon, Pakistan

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 075 | Wed 29 Sep 2010

SEPTEMBER 2010 UPDATE -- During September we prayed concerning . . .

USA, where a church in Florida had globally advertised an 'International Burn a Koran Day' for 9/11.

* UPDATE: We praise and thank God that the event did not go ahead, not because we regard the Qur'an as sacred (for in fact it underpins an ideologically and politically dangerous, false religion that must be refuted), but because it was to be a deliberately provocative act that would have impeded mission and needlessly imperilled the lives of multitudes of already traumatised Christians throughout the Muslim world. Now Randall Terry and other Christian activists plan to hold a 'Hear Muhammad Speak' event on 6&7 October, where they will read Qur'anic exhortations to violence before tearing up the texts as rubbish. They plan to do this outside Cordoba House (the proposed 'ground zero' mosque) and at various other sites around the US. Whilst we may affirm their aims -- to provoke debate, expose inconsistency and highlight persecution -- once again the method is highly questionable.

'In everything, do to others what you would have them do to you . . . ' (Matthew 7:12 NIV)


TURKMENISTAN, where persecution and repression of Christianity is escalating as President Berdimuhamedov becomes as totalitarian and cultish as his predecessor, Niyazov.

INDONESIA, where one Bekasi pastor was stabbed and another bludgeoned as Islamic intolerance escalates with impunity.

SOMALIA, where Christians continue to be martyred at the hands of Islamic militants intent on turning Somalia into a fully Islamised and Talibanised state and safe-haven for international terrorists. (They are not far from achieving that goal.)


SEPTEMBER 2010 ROUND-UP
-- also this month . . .

* ALGERIA: CHRISTIANS FACE JAIL AS ISLAMISATION ADVANCES

In March 2006 only six months after it granted amnesty to some 10,000 condemned Islamists, the Algerian government passed a religion law that seriously represses Christianity. The law is doubtless part of a quid-pro-quo deal with the Islamists whereby Islam is advanced and Christianity is repressed in exchange for 'peace'. This Ramadan, a number of people were arrested for eating during daylight hours even though there is no law against it. Two of those charged are Christian construction workers Hocine Hocini and Fellak Salem. Further to this, Algerian authorities have issued an arrest warrant for Ali Arhab, the Algeria-born, France-based director of Channel North Africa gospel satellite broadcasts. The warrant -- on bogus charges of 'swindling' -- prevents Mr Arhab (a dual national) from visiting family and friends in Algeria. Mr Arhab is doubtless being targeted because of his service to the Algerian Church. (For more details see Religious Liberty Monitoring)

* CHINA: PERSECUTION CONTINUES BEHIND WALL OF PROPAGANDA


The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) still operates a Mao-era 'laogai' of nearly 1000 state-owned slave-labour camps. Anyone the local authorities deem a problem can be sent without charge or trial to the laogai for up to three years of 'administrative detention' in what is portrayed as a pre-emptive rather than punitive measure. (This is one reason why 'Made in China' is so cheap.) When their house church in Xuchang, Henan province, was raided by police in March, Liu Yunhua, Gao Jianli and others refused to pay 'fines' (i.e. bribes) and were consequently detained for 15 days. On 25 March Liu and Gao were sentenced to one year of 're-education through labour' in the laogai. They have appealed, claiming the authorities were acting illegally. On 20 September several of their relatives and supporters were arrested (including Pastor Zhang Mingxan) while attending their second hearing. Three of the Christians were issued with administrative orders for 15 days detention. While this is all very normal and routine for China, the CCP has been escalating its propaganda campaign, even inviting the BBC to tour and marvel at the CCP's 'commitment to supporting the development of Christianity', and the 'millions of dollars of government funding' for state-run churches which have 'substantial freedom'. The CCP is doubtless hoping to discredit the suffering of the persecuted house churches. (See Religious Liberty Monitoring)

* INDIA: PASTOR CHARGED WITH FORCED CONVERSIONS

On Sunday 26 September Hindu militants stormed the small, mostly tribal fellowship in Umachagi village, Karnataka, led by Pastor Shivanda Siddi (45) for the past five years. After interrupting prayers they tried to argue with Pastor Siddi while abusing the believers and taking their Bibles. For the next half hour they insulted, beat and stripped the pastor before telephoning the police and falsely accusing him of forced conversions. When the police arrived they arrested the pastor, seven women and two children. Whilst the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) was able to intervene to get the women and children released, Pastor Siddi was tried and charged under Section 295 of the Indian Penal Code, which prohibits 'forced' conversions. Pastor Siddi is being detained in Sirsi prison in Uttar Kananda. This represents the Hindu nationalists' preferred method of repression and persecution and is becoming all too common in 'secular' India. The Evangelical Fellowship of India has recorded 106 such major incidents in 16 states up to August this year, including 37 in Karnataka.

* IRAN: NINE MORE CHRISTIANS ARRESTED

According to the Farsi Christian News Network, authorities in Hamedan arrested nine Christians who have since been charged with carrying out evangelism. This was announced on 10 September by a member of the Iranian Security services via Iran's Fars news agency, which is connected to the Revolutionary Guard. The accused were described as 'Christian Zionists' and 'evangelicals', two of whom were allegedly being sponsored from outside Iran while the other seven were Iranian co-conspirators. Please pray for the Church in Iran.

* LEBANON: HEZBALLAH DEPLOYS 3500 MILITANTS TO CHRISTIAN AREAS

The Special Tribunal on Lebanon, set up to investigate the February 2005 assassination of PM Rafiq Hariri, will soon hand down its ruling. It is widely expected the tribunal will indict Hezballah, Syria and Lebanese intelligence heads. Reports and local evidence indicate that Hezballah is preparing to stage a violent policy-reversing coup (similar to the one it achieved in May 2008) to prevent the tribunal from fulfilling its mandate. Hezballah has reportedly deployed some 3500 militants deep inside the Christian areas north of Beirut. Having taken up residence in homes purchased through their Christian allies in the Free Patriotic Movement, the militants are positioned to besiege the homes of Hezballah's Christian opponents. In the event of conflict, Hezballah's Christian allies will be pitted against Hezballah's Christian opponents in an act of Hezballah-sponsored Christian self-destruction. Please pray that all Lebanese Christians will seek the Lord. (See Religious Liberty Monitoring)

* PAKISTAN: TRAUMA FROM EAST TO WEST


EAST: On 3 September Tariq Gill, in the Christian colony of Mohalla Kalupura, Gujrat district, Punjab, was cleared of charges of blasphemy. Outraged Islamic fundamentalists have attacked the colony more than 10 times since. A mob of some 40 Islamic fundamentalists (including several MPs) armed with guns, axes and clubs attacked the colony on 23 September. Gill's mother was stripped and dragged naked through the streets. Those critically wounded were hospitalised. A local bishop and several pastors have been threatened with death.

WEST: On Sunday morning 12 September, a bomb exploded at the entrance of St Paul's Lutheran Church in Mardan, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (formerly North West Frontier Province). St Paul's belongs to the Church of Pakistan, a Protestant union. Whilst two Christians were injured in the blast, the situation would have been much worse had the timer been set a little later. Locals view the bombing as an act of intimidation aimed at subjugating or driving out the Christian minority. Please pray for Pakistan's besieged Church.


For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him.
He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken.
On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God.
Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.
Selah (Psalm 62:5-8 ESV)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

074. Somalia: Islamic terror surges

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 074 | Wed 22 Sep 2010

SOMALIA: ISLAMIC TERROR SURGES

Civil war erupted in Somalia in February 2006. The 'Islamic Courts Union' (ICU), an alliance of Sharia-enforcers linked to Mogadishu's clan-based Sharia courts, rose up against the 'Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Anti-Terrorism', clan warlords who had been guarding the UN-backed, US-funded Transitional Federal Government (TFG). When Mogadishu fell to the ICU in June 2006, the TFG fled to the regional town Baidoa near the Ethiopian border. After Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, a designated terrorist and the former head of al-Qaeda-linked al-Itihaad al-Islamiya, was subsequently appointed head of the then ICU's Sura Council (parliament) he announced: 'He who does not perform [Islamic] prayer will be considered as infidel and our Sharia Law orders that person to be killed.' Also, Aweys not only threatened Somalis, but as a Somali irredentist (one who seeks a 'Greater Somalia') and an Islamic jihadist, Aweys and his regime were a threat to Ethiopia's national security.

On 20 July 2006 US-backed Ethiopian forces entered Somalia to defend the besieged TFG and oust the ICU. The Islamists responded by declaring jihad. By December 2006 Ethiopia (a vastly superior military force) had ousted the ICU. However, as the US has found in Afghanistan and Iraq, 'victory' simply marks the beginning of a bloody insurgency. Ethiopia's conventional army, burdened with rules of engagement and long supply-lines, never stood a chance against the never-ending supply of well-armed, well-supplied, trained and indoctrinated Somali and international Islamic jihadists. Of all the insurgent groups, al-Shabab is the most radical and aggressive. An offshoot of the ICU, this youthful, al-Qaeda-backed group seeks to establish a Taliban-style Islamic state. Over the next two years, the jihadists regained control over much of southern Somalia.

In January 2009 battle-weary Ethiopia, frustrated by lack of international support, withdrew its forces, allowing the Islamists to flood back into Mogadishu where they continue the fight against the African Union-backed TFG forces. The TFG tried to broker peace by offering to implement Sharia Law, but this was not enough for the jihadists who are now running military training camps and recruiting internationally, including from amongst Somali refugee and emigrant communities, specifically disconnected Somali youths holding foreign passports.

In its campaign to eliminate 'vice', al-Shabab has stoned to death girls who have been raped, shot and killed boys caught watching football and executed many 'apostates'. In September 2008 Mansuur Mohammed (25) became the first Somali Christian to be martyred at the hands of al-Shabab. After being publically denounced as a 'murtid' (traitor to Islam), Mohammed rejected an offer to convert to Islam and be spared, submitting instead to a public beheading, a film of which was widely distributed. In February 2009 al-Shabab militants beheaded Musa Mohammed Yusuf's 11- and 13-year-old sons after he refused to divulge information about a local church leader. On 10 July 2009 seven Somalis were publically beheaded in Baidoa simply for being Christians. To date some 20 Somali Christians -- most of them church leaders -- are known to have been shot or beheaded as al-Shabab systematically targets the Somali Church for elimination.

On 21 July 2010 al-Shabab militants entered Osman Abdullah Fataho's home in Afgoi, 30km from Mogadishu, and shot him dead in front of his wife and children. A long-time Christian, Fataho was targeted because he was a convert from Islam and active in Somalia's underground church. After abducting Fataho's wife and four children, the militants released her but kept her four children aged 5 to 15 to be brainwashed and trained as jihadists.

Al-Shahab has local, regional and international ambitions. Despite some power struggles, al-Shabab remains allied to Aweys' Hizbul Islam. Last weekend they seized radio and TV outlets in Mogadishu. On Monday 20 September a suicide bomber blew himself up at the gates of the TFG Presidential Palace after being shot while attempting to gain entrance. The bomber was a former Interior Ministry security guard who had defected to al-Shabab. Now the jihadists are literally at the gate.

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL:

* surround Osman Abdullah Fataho's widow and all Somalia's grieving, traumatised Christians with his everlasting love and fill them with his peace.

* preserve, comfort and intervene to deliver Ali Daud Fataho (5), Fatuma Safia Fataho (7), Sharif Ahmed Fataho (10) and Nur Said Fataho (15) for the sake of the Church, the children, and their faithful parents -- one a martyr, the other a torn and grieving widow.

'When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her. . .' (Luke 7:13, when Jesus raises a widow's son. See also Philippians 2:27)

* intervene in Somalia's chaos to protect and deliver his Church; may the enemy know only confusion, frustration and failure, being splintered and mortally weakened; may Islam not escape scrutiny; and may the trauma, tears and disillusionment serve to prepare the ground for an awesome work of God.

'For nothing will be impossible with God.' (Luke 1:37 ESV)

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SUMMARY TO USE IN BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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ISLAMIC TERROR IN SOMALIA

Having captured most of southern and central Somalia, Islamic jihadists are now fighting to control the capital Mogadishu. Al-Shabab, the most radical and aggressive of the insurgent groups, is systematically targeting the Church for elimination. Some 20 Christians, mostly church leaders, have been shot or beheaded by al-Shabab over the past two years. On 21 July al-Shabab militants shot dead long-time Christian, Osman Abdullah Fataho, in his home in front of his wife and children. Fataho was targeted because he was an apostate (convert from Islam) and active in Somalia's underground church. The jihadists abducted Fataho's family, later releasing his wife but keeping her four children aged 5 to 15 to be trained as jihadists. Please pray for this family and for the Church in Somalia.