Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 096 | Wed 23 Feb 2011
By Elizabeth Kendal
Let those who fear the LORD say, 'His steadfast love endures forever.' (Psalm 118: 4 ESV)
FEBRUARY 2011 UPDATE -- During February we prayed for . . .
ARAB STREET, where minority Christians wait to see what will emerge out of the chaos.
* UPDATE (1): POLISH PRIEST MURDERED IN TUNISIA. On Friday18 February Tunisia's caretaker government approved a general amnesty of political prisoners, some 2,500 of whom were convicted under the former regime's tough anti-terrorism laws. The same day Polish priest Father Marek Rybinski (34), missing for several days, was found dead in a garage at the Salesian school in the Manouba district of Tunisia where he had worked since 2007. No group has yet claimed responsibility and the government is reporting the slaying as a crime of 'fascist terrorists'. Motivated by the brutal murder of Father Rybinski, around 15,000 pro-secular Tunisians rallied in Tunis last Saturday 19 February. Waving banners bearing slogans such as 'Jews, Christians, Muslims: all Tunisians', they called for Tunisia to remain secular and tolerant. The battle for Tunisia has begun.
* UPDATE (2): UNRELENTING VIOLENCE AGAINST COPTS IN EGYPT. On 8 February in Elias Hanna, Minya Province, where there is no church for some 600 Copts, a mob of around 80 Muslims attacked a small group of Copts praying together in a house owned by the Diocese, injuring five. In Rafah (near Gaza) the Church of St George was torched on 16 February. Walls left standing bore graffiti saying, 'No to Christians in Muslim Land.' The next day Christians in El-Hathatah, Minya Province, huddled together inside Saint George's Church as Muslims surrounded and stoned the building. Police did not respond to calls for help, leaving Coptic youths to defend the property. On 18 February Islamic militants broke into the home of the Coptic building contractor who built St Mary and St Michael church in Talbiya. After scrawling 'Islam is the solution' and 'The Church has to be demolished' across the walls, they abducted his 18-year-old daughter, Nesma Sarwat.
ETHIOPIA, where the federal government, due to ethnic federalism, seems unwilling or unable to intervene as Christians living in majority Muslim autonomous regions suffer rising levels of Islamic intolerance, violence and imposition of Sharia Law.
INDIA, where the dangerous ideology of fascist Hindutva (radical, militant Hindu nationalism) advances unchallenged.
* UPDATE: HINDU NATIONALISTS REAP REWARDS IN MADHYA PRADESH. As reported in RLPB 095, the combined Hindu nationalist forces, the Sangh Parivar, held a social kumbh in Mandla, Madhya Pradesh, over 10-12 February. Christianity was vilified and Christian 'missionaries' were portrayed as blood-sucking bed bugs that must be killed. Militant Hindu nationalism was proffered as the only path to equity, prosperity, harmony and national security, although these are the exact opposite of what Hinduva actually delivers. On Thursday 17 February by-elections were held for the Assembly seats of Kukshi and Sonkutch, two of Madhya Pradesh's long-time Congress strongholds. In a crushing blow for the Congress Party, the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) wrested both from it. State BJP president, Prabhat Jha, said the results showed that the Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Castes were 'drifting away from the Congress', adding, 'This has given us enough fuel to work more vigorously towards the welfare of tribals and SCs in the state and associating them with the party in a major way.'
FEBRUARY 2011 ROUND-UP -- also this month . . .
* AFGHANISTAN: CHRISTIAN PRISONER APPEALS FOR PRAYER
According to reports, Said Musa (45), an Afghan Christian imprisoned in Kabul, will soon be executed for the 'crime' of apostasy (rejecting Islam). Musa was one of about 25 Christians arrested on 31 May 2010, after Noorin TV screened scenes of Afghan Christians worshipping the Lord and being baptised. Himself an amputee, Musa has spent the past 15 years working for the Red Cross, fitting amputees with prosthetic limbs. A father to six young children, Musa converted to Christianity eight years ago. He was arrested as he attempted to seek asylum at the German embassy. In jail he is being repeatedly mocked, beaten and sexually abused. No local lawyer will defend him and the government refuses entry to the country for any foreign lawyer who would. In a letter smuggled out of the prison, Musa appeals for believers to pray that he will be transferred to a safer prison and that he will be able to testify to his faith, encourage other believers, and honour Christ as he gives his life.
* INDONESIA: INTOLERANCE AND VIOLENCE ESCALATING
On 8 February hundreds of enraged Muslim fundamentalists rioted in Temanggung, Central Java, after Temanggung District Court ruled that Antonius Richmond Bawengan, a Christian man convicted of blasphemy, be imprisoned for five years. The mob was demanding he be handed over for execution. Enraged, the Muslims stoned police, stormed the courthouse, bashed a priest and torched two churches and a school. The riot came only two days after a Muslim mob attacked a home in Banten, West Java, where members of the Ahmadiyah Muslim sect were meeting. Sickening mobile phone footage shows three Ahmadiyah men being stripped naked and stoned, stabbed and bludgeoned to death while onlookers cheered and chanted 'infidel' and 'Allah akbar' (Allah is great). Police showed no sympathy, saying they had warned the Ahmadis not to provoke trouble by upsetting the locals. One MP even recommended that Ahmadiyah sect members be relocated to an uninhabited island 'for their own sake'. In Indonesia the Ahmadiyah are the 'canary in the mineshaft' -- it is first the Ahmadiyah, then the Christians. The Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) is planning to hold a mass demonstration outside the State Palace on 1 March to call for an 'Islamic Revolution'.
* MACEDONIA: ALBANIAN MUSLIMS PROTEST ABOUT MUSEUM-CHURCH
Plans to build an archaeological museum in the style of a medieval church in Skopje's old Kale Fortress has led to ethnic-religious clashes between ethnic Macedonians, who are mostly Orthodox, and members of Macedonia's large ethnic Albanian minority, who are mostly Muslim. Balkan Insight reports: 'The museum was being constructed on the foundations of a recently excavated 14th-century Orthodox church in the old fortress . . . .' However, Albanian Muslims regard the church construction as an insult and accuse ethnic Macedonians of trying to gain a foothold on 'their' side of town. They said they would only support the project if a mosque were built beside the church, a request that was rejected as the site has no Islamic cultural heritage. On 11 February around 100 members and supporters of the Democratic Union for Integration (DUI) attacked and demolished the partially constructed museum-church and the authorities subsequently abandoned the project. (The DUI is Macedonia's largest ethnic Albanian political party, arising out of the ethnic Albanian National Liberation Army (NLA) which fought Macedonian Security Forces in 2001.) However, on 13 February clashes erupted between groups supporting and opposing the museum-church project. Because Albanians organised further protests for 19 February police have mobilised around the site to prevent further clashes. Tensions simmer.