Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 101 | Wed 30 Mar 2011
By Elizabeth Kendal
MARCH 2011 UPDATE -- During March we prayed for . . .
EGYPT, after the Egyptian Army fired live ammunition against the community of St Bishoy Monastery in Wadi al-Natroun before using tanks and bulldozers to destroy the monastery's security wall -- all that protected the monastery from Arab raiders and jihadists.
* UPDATE (1): ARMY AS MUTAWEEN (Islamic religious police). Amnesty International reports that after the military cleared Tahrir Square on 9 March, officers of the Egyptian Army took at least 18 women into military detention where male soldiers were permitted to photograph them being beaten, stripped and electrocuted. Whilst torture and degradation in Egyptian prisons is not new, what happened next is. In what is nothing short of sexual assault, the women were also forcibly examined to see if they were virgins. Those who failed the 'virginity tests' were threatened with prostitution charges. Further to this, Middle East analyst Barry Rubin reports (28 March) that a text message circulating widely in Egypt is demanding all women, Christians included, adopt proper Islamic dress. Will the Army defend the rights of women or the dictators of Islam?
* UPDATE (2): RECONCILIATION EGYPTIAN STYLE. On 20 March in the village of Qana, Upper Egypt, Muslim fundamentalists torched an apartment belonging to Coptic Christian teacher Ayman Anwar Mitri (45) because they claimed he had leased it to 'prostitutes'. When Mr Mitri arrived at the scene he was taken away and attacked by a gang of 12 Islamic fundamentalists. Claiming they were applying Sharia Law, they beat him and sliced off his right ear. They also cut into his neck, other ear, face and arm while shouting religious slogans and threatening to kill him. When they had finished torturing him, they called the police who took Mr Mitri away and coerced him into accepting 'reconciliation'. (Sharia Law does not permit Christians to testify against Muslims. This is the most dangerous element of 'dhimmitude' or 'state of subjugation'.) When threatened with the kidnap of his daughters, Mr Mitri agreed to drop the charges. The 'reconciliation' was conducted in the presence of Colonel Ahmed Masood, vice military ruler of Qena.
ETHIOPIA, where a massive Islamic pogrom in Muslim-majority Jimma Zone in Oromiya regional state had at least 59 churches, a Bible school and an office razed, with more than 4000 Christians displaced.
* UPDATE: According to Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, the pogrom was incited by preachers from the Islamist Kawarja sect and other 'extremists'. Some Christian victims reported that those who torched their homes and tried to kill them had been their neighbours and friends. One victim heard Islamic leaders shouting that any Muslim who did not join in the pogrom was not a true Muslim. Kawarja, which seeks the establishment of an Islamic state, has reportedly been preaching intolerance and hatred in the area for several years. Some 100 attackers have been arrested. Still, relations have soured and tensions remain high.
SOUTH SUDAN, where Khartoum-backed militias and heavily armed soldiers of the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) have invaded, razed, fortified and occupied several villages in the northern Abyei region, forcing some 45,000 Southerners (Ngok Dinka) to flee south for refuge.
* UPDATE: The regime in Khartoum appears to be incrementally invading and occupying the resource-rich, contested border region of Abyei. Recent satellite images show that at least three more villages have been occupied by the SAF, and that massive troop deployments and air-power has been brought in. Clearly any Southern resistance to the SAF advance will trigger a huge conflagration. Further to this, South Sudan faces an implosion along tribal lines. Five Southern rebel/opposition forces have now allied under the leadership of General George Athor to fight against the main Southern force, the Dinka-dominated SPLA.
NIGERIA, where pre-election violence is mounting. Tensions are soaring, especially on the ethnic-religious fault-line, and most notably in flashpoint Jos where the political stakes are particularly high. The Nigerian elections are: 2 April -- National Assembly (parliament); 9 April -- Presidential election; 16 April -- State Assemblies and governorships. Please pray for Nigeria.
MARCH 2011 ROUND-UP -- also this month . . .
* IVORY COAST: CIVIL WAR ERUPTING
(For background see: RLPB 085, 'Ivory Coast: on the brink of war', 8 Dec 2010)
As noted in RLPB 085, Ivory Coast (IC) is so profoundly divided that it was never going to be unified by such high-stake elections. After dealing with gross irregularities emanating primarily from the unmonitored north, IC's Constitutional Council declared Gbagbo the winner. Despite this, the 'International Community' remains firm in its support for Ouattara.
The high stakes in IC relate not only to race ('Ivorite' v immigrant) and religion (Christian v Muslim), but also to Ivorian independence v French neo-colonialism. Ouattara is essentially France's man in Ivory Coast. Through him, France will maintain its exploitative, colonialist hegemony over Ivorian amenities, including the banks. On the other hand, Gbagbo is fighting to end French colonialism, especially French control of Ivorian funds. (The colonial pact brokered in the 1960s mandates that 65 percent of the foreign currency reserves of former French colonies in Africa go into the French Treasury, while a further 20 percent of reserves go to cover 'financial liabilities'. Did you ever wonder why Francophone Africa was so poor?) This is one reason why US-educated, former IMF official Alassane Ouattara -- a Muslim who plays the race-religion card for political gain, who triggered a civil war with a failed coup in 2002, who is backed internationally by Islamic states and organisations -- is so favoured by the West. It is all about 'interests'. But as rebel forces advance on Abidjan, IC's non-Muslims know they stand to lose more than just their prosperity. IC's traditional religious liberty and security will be a thing of the past if Islam takes control of IC.
* LEBANON: CHURCH BOMBED IN THE BEKAA VALLEY
Early on Sunday 27 March a 2kg bomb ripped through the front of the Church of Our Lady in Zahle industrial zone in the Bekaa Valley. Several homes and cars in the vicinity were also damaged and one man suffered shrapnel injuries. This bomb, remotely detonated in the church entrance, was intended to send a threat. Despite this, Father Georges Bahy assured journalists that the Christian community would 'fix the church and continue as normal'. The bombing came only days after seven Estonian cyclists were kidnapped in Zahle. Former President and current Phalange party leader, Amin Gemayel, is concerned that the Zahle church bombing may herald a wave of persecution.
* PAKISTAN: KILLINGS CONTINUE
(1) ASSASSINATED! On 2 March Pakistan's first Christian cabinet minister, Shahbaz Bhatti, the Minister for Minorities, was assassinated on his way to a cabinet meeting. Militants from Tanseem Al Qaeda and Tehrik-e-Taliban Punjab drove into Islamabad's secure diplomatic area, gunned down the MP and drove away, leaving many suspecting that members of the security forces were complicit. Bhatti, a Catholic and long-time religious liberty advocate, was killed for his courageous public stance against the blasphemy law and as a protest against the government's appointment of a 'disbeliever' to the cabinet.
(2) MURDERED? Qamar David, another Christian victim of the blasphemy law, died in Karachi Central Jail on 15 March. Whilst authorities maintain he died of natural causes, his family and supporters are convinced he was murdered. Charged in June 2006, David was sentenced to life in prison in February 2010. He had faced endless threats on his life since his arrest.
(3) SHOT! On 21 March in Hyderabad a group of Muslims were harassing Christian women entering the church, so four Christian men came out to request respect. The Muslims left but returned with guns and four Christians were shot. Younis Masih (47, married father of four) and Jameel Masih (22, married a month ago) died instantly. The Christians had to protest for hours, blocking the main road with the two dead bodies, just to force the police to file their report.
(4) THREATENED! Death threats have been made against Joseph Francis, the director of the Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS) in Pakistan. These death threats started after Mr Francis spoke publically about the misuse of the blasphemy law. Despite the dangers, Mr Francis is refusing to back down. He simply requests prayers for himself and the entire staff of CLASS.
But I say to you, 'Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes the sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.' (Matthew 5:44,45 ESV)
This verse is quoted fully appreciating that this is doubtless one of the most difficult things Christ requires of us. Lord help us!