Wednesday, January 27, 2010

040. January Update; Incl. Algeria, Indonesia, Nigeria, Vietnam

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 040 | Wed 27 Jan 2010

JANUARY 2010 UPDATE -- During the month we prayed concerning . . .

YEMEN, where the security of Christians (most of whom are expatriate and refugees) and Yemeni Jews is threatened by sectarian conflict (Sunni v Shi'ite Muslims).


MALAYSIA, where nine churches suffered arson attacks after a High Court ruled that Malaysian Christians may continue using the Arabic word 'Allah' for God.

* UPDATE: Two more churches have been attacked since, as has the office of the lawyers who represented the Catholic newspaper, Herald Malaysia, in the 'Allah' case. Last year the Home Ministry seized eight CDs belonging to a Christian woman from Sarawak because they used the word 'Allah' in their teachings of Christianity. The woman, Jill Ireland Lawrence Bill, is challenging the seizure. The case will be heard on 15 March.


EGYPT, where Muslim thugs fired an automatic weapon into a crowd of Coptic Christians as they emerged from St John's Church in Nag Hammadi, killing six youths. Whilst the government has arrested and charged the culprits, reportedly around 100 Coptic youths have also been arrested, possibly with the aim of corrupting the trial. It has also prevented human rights, democracy and religious liberty advocates from visiting Nag Hammadi.

* UPDATE: The government is claiming the massacre at Nag Hammadi was not religiously motivated but that it was a criminal attempt or even a foreign conspiracy to discredit and destabilise the government. The government's aim is to depict itself as the intended victim (not the Coptic Christian community) while portraying politically inspired terrorism as the culprit (not Islam-inspired violence). Thus the government would save face and be relieved of having to deal with the problems of Islamic intolerance and impunity along with escalating persecution of Christians. If the problems are not dealt with, persecution will continue to grow. Egypt's Christians greatly need our prayers.


JANUARY 2010 ROUND-UP -- Also this month . . .

* ALGERIA: 'LIGHT' UNDER ATTACK IN TIZI OUZOU
'. . . a faintly burning wick he will not quench . . .' (Isaiah 42:3b ESV)

In November 2009 Algerian authorities notified the 300-strong 'Tafat' ('Light' in Kabyle) Fellowship in Tizi Ouzou (100km east of Algiers) it would have to close. Though the fellowship is affiliated with the Protestant Church of Algeria and so legal, they meet in a residential property and not a dedicated religious site, thus violating the 2006 religion law. On 26 December 2009 members of the Tafat church were prevented from attending their Christmas worship service by a large group of Muslims blocking the road. The mob ordered the believers home and ransacked the church, destroying books, musical instruments, furniture and ripping the cross from the wall. Then on 9 January the Muslims returned and torched the church. Whilst Pastor Mustapha Krireche is relieved the attacks have not been more serious, he is frustrated by the authorities' continued unwillingness to extend protection.

As in Egypt, the government claims that because Islam is (supposedly) inherently tolerant and peaceful, the violence must be due to other factors: political opponents out to discredit or destabilise the government; foreign conspiracies; or Christian evangelism that provokes justifiable negative responses.


* INDONESIA: CHURCHES BURN IN NORTH SUMATRA

On Friday 22 January a mob of some 1000 Muslims burnt down two unlicensed Protestant churches and a pastor's home in Sibuhuan village, North Sumatra. Though the churches have operated there since 1982, local authorities had ordered they be dismantled. Reports indicate Christians are having increasing difficulty in getting licences for churches. Islamic intolerance is escalating and violence is becoming more frequent. Though over 270 Christians have reportedly fled Sibuhuan, the authorities say the situation is 'under control'. According to The Jakarta Post (27 January) nobody has been arrested because the police do 'not want to take action that might trigger more problems'. Police Chief Subandriya told the paper: 'Our job is to ensure this case does not develop into a serious racial or religious conflict.' Pray that Indonesia's constitutional religious liberty will be respected and upheld.


* NIGERIA: ETHNIC-RELIGIOUS CONFLICT RETURNS TO JOS

Jos, the capital of Plateau State, is an ethnic-religious 'fault-line' city in Nigeria's volatile middle belt. Ethnic-religious conflict erupts periodically, usually over Islamisation or migration, issues that are frequently related. Instead of dealing with the issues, politicians routinely exploit them for political gain. Disputes between 'indigenes' (generally Christians) and 'immigrants' (generally Muslims) always risk developing into warfare with ethnic-religious gangs targeting each other's communities and symbols in defence of their tribe. With tribal identity and religious affiliation inseparable, churches are prime targets. However, any attack on an Islamic symbol risks a declaration of jihad echoing across the country. Last week's violence in Jos claimed around 500 lives and left some 17,000 people displaced. Details are still emerging. Several churches were reportedly destroyed. News of a massacre of Muslims in Kuru Jantar could cause immense trouble for Jos's Christian community. 'Blessed are the peace-makers.' (Matthew 5:9a)


* VIETNAM: UNDER SIEGE IN DONG CHIEM

Ever since the parish of Dong Chiem was established over 100 years ago on the southern outskirts of Hanoi, it has owned the land at the top of the hill. Since 1944 the hilltop site has been a cemetery, marked by a large cross. However, the Communist authorities reject the concept of private property and maintain that all land belongs to the State. On 6 January Vietnamese police blew up the cross. Five local Catholics who erected a new bamboo cross on the site were arrested. Police then sealed off the area with roadblocks while state-run media went to work disseminating anti-Catholic Communist propaganda. A group of Catholic university students managed to scale the back rockface undetected and planted dozens of small crosses there. More troops were sent in. When freelance journalist JB Nguyen Huu Vinh tried to get photos on 11 January he was seized and bashed by police. On 20 January, Redemptorist brother Anthony Nguyen Van Tang (36) when trying to visit the parish was also seized by police and savagely beaten, leaving him unconscious and bloodied. On Sunday 24 January thousands of Vietnamese Catholics attended prayer vigils outside St Joseph's Cathedral in Hanoi and the Redemptorist Monastery in Ho Chi Minh City.

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* ELSEWHERE: more converts to Christianity have been imprisoned in Iran; more Christians have become the victims of targeted killings in Iraq and Somalia; and more churches have been attacked in Karnataka, India. The Body of Christ is suffering.

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