Wednesday, August 25, 2010

070. August Update; Incl. Afghanistan, Egypt, Kenya, Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 070 | Wed 25 Aug 2010

'For thus says the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, "In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength."' (Isaiah 30:15 ESV)

AUGUST 2010 UPDATE -- During August we prayed concerning . . .

IRAN, where persecution is escalating in line with Iran's ascendency.

BEKASI, West Java, Indonesia, where churches have been forced to close and Islamic militants have been violently attacking worshipping Christians with impunity.

* UPDATE: On Sunday 15 Aug 2010, some 1200 Indonesians -- predominantly Christians -- protested in Jakarta against government inaction in the face of escalating Islamic intolerance and violence. The rally was organised by the Forum for Religious Freedom Solidarity. Some protesters marched with their mouths taped and some waved Indonesian national red-white flags at half-mast. According to the Setara Institute for Peace and Democracy, there were 17 incidents of violence against churches in 2008, 18 in 2009, and the tally for January through July 2010 is 28, with seven attacks in Bekasi and six in Greater Jakarta. If the government does not act against the militants and allows the trend to continue, then the 2010 total will eventually triple that of 2009. These are watershed days for Indonesia.

PAKISTAN, where chaos and lawlessness, combined with widespread radicalisation is resulting in a dramatic escalation in persecution of Christians. This is the culmination of decades of Saudi-funded Islamisation via mosques and madrassas. The situation is very serious indeed when local Muslims -- as distinct from the totalitarian dictators or trained paramilitaries -- are so radicalised they commit violent hate-crimes including gang-rape, torture and murder against their Christian neighbours. If radicalised Muslims come to be confident that subjugating and killing Christians will be rewarded with impunity, then jihad and religious cleansing will be inevitable. Pray for the Church in Pakistan.


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

* AFGHANISTAN: AID WORKERS EXECUTED AS TALIBAN CONSOLIDATES


On 5 August 2010 eleven aid workers returning to Kabul from a medical expedition were ambushed by militants in Badakhshan, north-eastern Afghanistan. Whilst one Afghan who recited portions of the Qu'ran was spared, the other ten -- six Americans, two Afghans, one Briton and one German -- were massacred. On 7 August Taliban spokesman, Zabiullah Mujahed, claimed Taliban responsibility for the attack saying, 'They were Christian missionaries and we killed them all.' Badakhshan Province fell from NATO to Taliban control in the weeks prior to the massacre. As the Taliban consolidates, the risk to Christian aid workers will increase, for even if they never 'preach' they will always be guilty of 'fitna'. (Fitna is absolutely anything -- including Christian grace -- that could shake the faith of a Muslim. Islam requires fitna to be eliminated.)

* EGYPT: SHARIA MEANS NO EQUALITY BEFORE THE LAW

The Assyrian International News Association (AINA) reports that on 13 August Sheikh Tobah, Imam of the village of Shimi 170km south of Giza, used Friday prayers to incite local Muslims to wage jihad against the local Coptic Christian community. Within hours an Islamic hard-liner named Mohamed Ali Almstaui had attacked a local Copt, Maher Amin, who was washing his taxi. That evening Almstaui led a mob of some 20 Muslims against the Amin family home. When the security forces arrived they arrested the Christians, ignoring their injuries, so they could pressure them to accept 'reconciliation'. (To uphold the Sharia provision that Christians may not testify against Muslims in court, the Egyptian government enforces 'reconciliation' whereby Christians are forced to drop charges in exchange for Muslim assurances that the conflict has ended.) Less than 24 hours after 'reconciliation' was brokered, Almstaui led a Muslim mob in a fresh persecution attacking Copts in their homes, on the streets and in their fields. The Copts are greatly distressed by their evident helplessness, knowing that in the absence of legal protection they are essentially without rights and are extremely vulnerable to further violence. Since the government started enforcing 'reconciliation' in 2007, violent persecution has soared. The situation in Egypt is very serious indeed. Pray for the Church in Egypt.

* KENYA: CHURCH SPLIT OVER REFERENDUM ISSUES

On 4 August Kenyans voted to accept a new constitution which the government strongly supported. While the constitution contains many positive and essential political reforms, some church leaders have opposed the softening of abortion laws, the enshrining of khadi (Islamic) courts and the establishment of ethnic federalism. As the referendum approached, splits emerged in the church and clerics came out supporting the government line, even denouncing the 'sharia-phobia' of the 'No' campaign clerics. Since the referendum the 'No' clerics have appealed for amendments. On 21 August Kenyan Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka urged church leaders to put aside their concerns and support the constitution for the sake of unity and harmony. In other words, the government wants the concerned clerics to keep quiet. The pro-constitution clerics agree, denouncing the concerns of the 'No' clerics as 'intolerant' and 'divisive'. The Kenyan Church has entered a new and risky era. (See Religious Liberty Monitoring)

* SAUDI ARABIA: CHRISTIANS THREATENED -- AND HONOURED

On 11 August deputy leader of Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), Said al-Shihri, posted an audio message to the Internet calling for the overthrow of the al-Saud regime, attacks on Israel and killing all Christians living in the kingdom. Meanwhile, quite a stir has been caused by the popular sitcom 'Tash Ma Tash' ('No Big Deal') which screens every Ramadan and pokes fun at the problems of daily living in Saudi Arabia. The writers' stated purpose is to 'criticise social customs, traditions, administrative procedures and political habits'. While the royal family is protected, religion is not. Naturally, Saudi clerics hate and denounce the show, but it gets spectacular audience ratings and every day Saudi newspapers devote pages to discussing its episodes and themes. This year a two-part episode entitled 'Uncle Boutros' has ignited intensive debate over its positive portrayal of Arab Christians as pleasant, honest and charitable. Outraged Islamic clerics have urged Muslims to stop watching the series as it could shake their faith. Pray that God will shake the faith of Saudi Muslims that truth might prevail. Pray that God will protect all Christians living in Saudi Arabia, especially his Saudi Church, which is a reality despite Saudi claims to the contrary.

* UZBEKISTAN: BELIEVERS HARASSED AND INTIMIDATED IN TASHKENT


On 28 July twenty-three Baptists from an unregistered church were meeting informally in the home of Yuriy Garmashev in Tashkent's Mirzo-Ulugbek District, when police raided the home, confiscating Bibles and songbooks. The officers aggressively manhandled the believers and their children, taking them in waiting cars to the District Police Station. Ten of those held were cautioned and released the next day, whilst the others had to face the District Criminal Court which imposed short-term detentions or heavy fines for meeting illegally and 'obstructing' police. Yuriy Garmashev was detained for five days, nine others spent three days in detention and the remaining three were each fined 80 times the minimum monthly salary. The police continue to harass and intimidate the church.