Wednesday, January 13, 2010

038. Egypt & Malaysia: persecution takes a step up

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 038 | Wed 13 Jan 2010

EGYPT & MALAYSIA: PERSECUTION TAKES A STEP UP

Islamic fundamentalism that advances Muslim supremacy through implementation of Sharia Law is on the rise worldwide. Most at risk are the Christian minorities of the Muslim world, from the Arab heartland to Asian periphery.

EGYPT: MASSACRE AT NAG HAMMADI

On 18 November 2009, a Coptic youth was arrested in Upper Egypt on suspicion of raping a 12-year-old Muslim girl in Farshoot, near Nag Hammadi, Upper Egypt (455km south of Cairo) despite her being unable to identify her attacker. A subsequent Islamic pogrom on 21 Nov 2009 forced many Copts to flee (see RLPB 032, 25 Nov 2009). In the days leading up to the Coptic Christmas, death threats were sent to local Copts, including the Coptic bishop at St John's Church in Nag Hammadi, threatening to avenge the alleged rape. Though Bishop Kirilos informed the police, they did not boost security at the church. Then late on 6 January six Christian Copts and one Muslim security guard were killed when a drive-by shooter sprayed machine gun fire into the crowd of Copts emerging from the Christmas midnight mass. Nine other Christians were wounded, three critically. Two days of rioting followed in which some 40 people, Muslims and Christians, were arrested. On 8 January arsonists set fire to 11 shops, two motorcycles and eight houses belonging to Copts in Bahgoura, near Nag Hammadi. Three local Muslims have been detained for 15 days pending an investigation into the shooting.

The Nag Hammadi church massacre is the most serious attack targeting Christian Copts in years. Government officials told Reuters newsagency that the violence was not sectarian and was just an isolated incident. The situation in Egypt is serious and deteriorating rapidly. It must be asked why would the government rather cover up the truth than deal with it?

MALAYSIA: CHURCHES ATTACKED

Judge Lau Bee Lan delivered a High Court ruling on 31 December 2009 permitting the Catholic Herald to use the word 'Allah' for God in the Malay section of its multilingual weekly. Malays have been using the Arabic word 'Allah' for God ever since the arrival of Islam. When Christian missionaries subsequently translated the Bible into Malay they opted to keep the familiar word. In the Arab world the word 'Allah' is used by both Muslims and Christians without contention. As Judge Lau Bee Lan noted, it is not an Islamic word but an Arabic word that pre-dates Islam. However, Malay Muslims who claim that the word belongs to Islam alone have been protesting with unprecedented violence, targeting churches. The first attacks occurred on Friday 8 January 2010, after fundamentalist imams had used Friday prayers to stir up anger in the Muslim community. More attacks occurred on Sunday 10 January. The nine churches targeted were denominationally diverse and geographically widespread. Whilst most attacks caused minimal damage, the ground floor of the three-storey AOG Metro Tabernacle in Kuala Lumpur was completely gutted.

The slogans being used indicate that the protests are driven by apostaphobia (Islamic fear of apostasy). Whilst Muslims say that we worship the same God, Islam explains away the vast differences in our theology by alleging the wide-scale corruption of Jewish and Christian texts, despite all the evidence to the contrary. However, Malaysian imams are afraid that if Malay Muslims look to the Bible as an alternative source on 'Allah', then they will convert to Christianity. If the government does not nip this Islamic violence in the bud -- through justice, not appeasement -- then more serious attacks are guaranteed.

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT:

* God will give great wisdom and authority to Coptic and Malaysian Christian leaders, so they might lead their people into God's sanctuary (Isaiah 8:14) and not be tempted to place their faith in men and human institutions that cannot save. (In Egypt especially, even if the government did respond with justice, it might only trigger a backlash -- these Christians need divine intervention.)

* God will intervene to frustrate the schemes of the wicked, foiling their plots and delivering the saints from evil. Psalm 146; Psalm 18:1-19.

* the Holy Spirit will bring comfort and counsel to Egyptian and Malaysian Christians.

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EGYPT & MALAYSIA: PERSECUTION TAKES A STEP UP

Six Coptic Christians were killed and nine wounded on 6 January when a drive-by shooter targeted a crowd of Copts emerging from midnight mass in St John's Church in Nag Hammadi, Upper Egypt. Riots ensued and Copts' homes and property were torched. This massacre is the most serious violence to target Egypt's indigenous Christian Copts for years. On 8 January Malaysian imams used Friday prayers to fire up Muslim indignation after the High Court ruled that the Catholic 'Herald' may use the word 'Allah' for God in the Malay-language section of its multilingual weekly. Eight churches have since been hit with Molotov cocktails. Whilst most damage was minor, the ground floor of the three-storey AOG Metro Tabernacle in Kuala Lumpur was totally gutted. Please pray for God's intervention. Psalm 18:3.