Wednesday, March 2, 2011

097. Egypt: army fires live ammunition at monasteries. (plus Afghanistan and Laos)

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 097 | Wed 02 March 2011

(plus Afghanistan and Laos)

By Elizabeth Kendal

The Egyptian uprising has left Coptic Orthodox monasteries exceedingly vulnerable, as the police who normally guard the monasteries have either deserted their posts or been redeployed to the cities. Exploiting the security vacuum, Arab raiders, jihadists and prison escapees have attacked and raided several monasteries. When the monks requested protection at the 5th Century Monastery of St Bishoy in Wadi al-Natroun, some 110km north of Cairo, they were told they would have to fend for themselves. So they built a surrounding security wall, inside their boundary. However, Islamic law mandates that Christians may neither build nor repair churches. (See last week's RLPB 096 for some examples of consequences.)

On 21 February soldiers arrived at the monastery of St Bishoy in tanks and bulldozers. They had not come to protect the community, but to demolish the security wall. After arguing with the monks and workers, the soldiers opened fire with live ammunition, including rocket-propelled grenades. Father Feltaows was shot in the leg and Father Barnabas in the abdomen. Six monastery workers were also wounded, one critically. The wounded are being treated in the Anglo-Egyptian Hospital in Cairo. The army also attacked the Monastery of St Makarios of Alexandria in Wady el-Rayan, Fayoum, some 130km south-east of Cairo. This monastery likewise had erected a security wall after an attack by armed thugs and Arabs left six monks wounded, one critically. Not only did the military demolish the security wall, they 'confiscated' the monastery's building materials.

The demolition at St Bishoy's was filmed (from The monks did not flee the assault, but held their ground in the midst of the 'war zone' singing and praying 'Kyrie eleison' (Lord have mercy). According to eye witness Father Hemanot Ava Bishoy: 'As the soldiers were demolishing the gate and the fence they were chanting, "Allahu Akbar" and "Victory, Victory".'

As one analyst commented, the security walls threatened nobody but merely breached a rule of fundamentalist Islam. It is most concerning that those excitedly and violently enforcing this repressive Sharia prohibition were not militants nor jihadists nor agitated, incited Muslims. They were the heroes of the 'revolution': soldiers of the Egyptian Army which now rules Egypt.

Also on 21 February the body of Rev Dawood Boutros was found, murdered two days earlier in Shotb, just outside Assiut City, southern Egypt. Journalist Ahmed Zaki Osman reports for Al-Masry al-Youm: 'According to the slain priest's neighbours, four people killed the Coptic cleric in his home while "chanting Islamic slogans".'


* that the Lord himself -- Yahweh Sabaoth (Lord of Hosts, the commander of heaven's forces) -- will protect the Christians of Egypt, their churches, monasteries and homes during these days of insecurity. 'But on that day I will set apart the land of Goshen, where my people dwell . . . so that you may know that I am the Lord in the midst of the earth. Thus I will put a division between my people and your people.' (God to Pharaoh, Exodus 8:22,23a ESV)

* for a Great Awakening in Egypt: may the Church grow in faith and be sanctified to radiate more brightly; may the gospel message become the hope of many, as social transformation will come not via politics but via spiritual transformation (Isaiah 2:1-4).



Criminals and jihadists have been exploiting Egypt's present security vacuum to attack and raid Coptic monasteries. However, on 21 February the Egyptian army moved against two monasteries that had built surrounding security walls inside their boundaries. At the Monastery of St Bishoy, the army used live ammunition against the monastery's monks and workers, wounding several, before sending tanks and bulldozers to demolish the wall. This was not agitated Muslims nor a band of jihadists, but the army -- the hero of the 'revolution', the new ruler in Egypt -- enacting the repressive Sharia prohibition against Christians building or repairing churches. This does not bode well for the future of Christianity in the 'new Egypt'. Please pray for Egypt and for the Church during this insecurity and in the days ahead.



AFGHANISTAN: Said Musa, the focus of a massive international prayer and advocacy campaign, has been released from detention in Kabul (see RLPB 096, 23 Feb 2011). His whereabouts are unknown. To appease the Muslim masses, the government reported that Musa -- who clung to his faith through months of beatings, sexual abuse, torture and a death sentence -- was released upon his returning to Islam. Recall that Musa was one of around 25 Afghan converts arrested in the May 2010 crackdown (see RLPB 059, 09 Jun 2010). They remain detained, posing a dilemma for the government. These converts all need asylum. Meanwhile, the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) in India has denied refugee status to six Afghan Christian converts seeking asylum in India, meaning they may soon face deportation back to Afghanistan. Why? Probably due to the UNHCR's delicate relationship with India, combined with the UNHCR's blinkered regard for Islam.

LAOS: In January 2010 security forces expelled 11 families (around 48 people) from Katin village, southern Laos, simply because they would not give up their Christian faith (see RLPB 057, 26 May 2010). The faithfulness of the believers despite the persecution led other Katin families to the Lord. After they converted, these families were also expelled (RLPB 083, 24 Nov 2010). Now Compass Direct reports that the 62 exiled believers are at a 'critical stage'. In a last attempt to starve the Christians into abandoning their faith, authorities have commissioned locals to destroy the Christians' food and water supplies, and warned them against giving any assistance to the 'criminal' Christians. These believers desperately need Divine intervention.

Remember: intercessory prayer is advocacy to the highest authority. Please pray.