Wednesday, April 27, 2011

105. April Update; incl. Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Somalia, Vietnam

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 105 | Wed 27 Apr 2011

By Elizabeth Kendal

'Be gracious to me, O God, for man tramples on me . . . When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.' For, 'This I know, that God is for me.' Psalm 56:1a,3,9c ESV)

APRIL 2011 UPDATE -- During April we prayed for . . .

IVORY COAST, where race and religion cards have been played for gain: to benefit Alassane Ouattara (who seeks to rule), Islam (which seeks to dominate) and the West (which seeks to exploit). This is especially true of colonialist France. Thanks to France's 'humanitarian' (read: military) intervention in support of the weaker side (the aggressor), the losers will actually be Ivory Coast's native Christian tribes, peace, justice, prosperity and religious freedom.

* UPDATE: According to most Western media, Ivory Coast's conflict is supposedly over, 'normalcy' is returning and 'democracy' has prevailed (albeit through fraud and the barrel of a gun). The situation for Christians remains dire. Pro-Ouattara ethnic-Muslim militias have been running house-to-house 'cleansing' operations in pro-Gbagbo ethnic-Christian regions. Churches and mission stations in the south and west have filled to overflowing with ethnic-Christian refugees. Some 27,000 refugees remained holed up in the Catholic mission in Duekoue where pro-Ouattara militias massacred around 800 civilians over 28-29 March. Children are dying of treatable diseases; it is too dangerous to venture out to bury the bodies; women with shaved heads as a sign of grief are everywhere. Around 2400 refugees have been trapped for weeks in Abidjan's St Paul's Cathedral without sufficient food, water or medicines. According to Father Augustin Obrou, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Abidjan, 'other local churches have a similar number of refugees'. There are also some 5000 refugees in the Cathedral of St Pierre in the southern port city of San Pedro. Since Gbagbo was captured on 11 April, an estimated six thousand pro-Gbagbo ethnic-Christian refugees have fled Abidjan on foot for the Liberian border. (See Religious Liberty Monitoring (Ivory Coast) for more details.)

CHINA, where, after being denied a meeting place, members of Beijing's 1000-strong Shouwang Church decided to meet in an open-air public space, knowing the government would react negatively. On Sunday 17 April the believers arrived to find police waiting to take them away for questioning

* UPDATE: On Easter Sunday, 24 April, 36 members of the Shouwang Church were arrested as they met for worship in the open air plaza. Very few members could attend as many were either under house arrest or ordered to work. As of Tuesday 26 April, 16 remained in custody. Senior Pastor Jin Tianming is confined to informal house arrest. The size of the church is a real issue for the Communist Party. According to China's Global Times, when the Shouwang Church pressures the government for religious freedom, it is engaging not in religion but in 'politics' (apparently unacceptable), echoing 'the political pressure exerted by the West on China' (i.e. echoing 'foreign interference'). The recent crackdown on Christians comes at a time when tensions in Beijing are extremely high. Artists, journalists, lawyers and human rights advocates are all facing increased repression. Arrested, internationally acclaimed Chinese artist Ai Weiwei has reportedly succumbed and confessed to economic crimes after being subjected to two days of torture.

NIGERIA, where Northern Muslims rioted after the incumbent Goodluck Jonathan (a Southern Christian) won the Presidential election, securing almost double the votes of Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (a Northern Muslim). The pogroms left around 500 dead and some 60 churches razed. The worst violence occurred in the states of Kaduna and Bauchi.

* UPDATE: Nigerians returned to the polls on Tuesday 26 April to elect their State Governors and State Assemblies. Kaduna and Bauchi will go to the polls on Thursday 28th under tight security. Jonathan has threatened to impose emergency rule in Kaduna and Bauchi if violence erupts again. On Monday 25 April at least three people were killed and 14 seriously injured in Maiduguri, Borno state, when four bombs constructed by al Qaeda affiliate Boko Haram exploded around the city.


APRIL 2011 ROUND-UP -- also this month . . .

* ALGERIA: CHRISTIAN CHARGED WITH PROSELYTISATION

Dernieres Nouvelles d'Algerie (DNA) reports that Krimo Siaghi, an Algerian Christian, was arrested on 14 April by security services in Oran, west of Algiers. According to reports, Krimo simply started a discussion with some neighbours on the subject of Christianity. He was answering their questions when they turned against him, accused him of proselytising (illegal in Algeria) and reported him to the police. The police then searched Krimo's house, confiscating books, CDs and computer equipment. Some neighbours have denounced the arrest and questioned it when the constitution is supposed to guarantee religious freedom. The president of the Protestant Church Algeria (EPA), Mustapha Krim, said the EPA will appoint a lawyer to defend Krimo and challenge the Ministry of Religious Affairs and the Interior Ministry.

* EGYPT: MUSLIMS DEMAND RELOCATION OF CHURCHES

Hundreds of fundamentalist Muslims rallied outside St John the Beloved Church in the village of Kamadeer in Samalout, Minya province, on 5 April demanding that the church be relocated out of the village. The Copts, the indigenous Egyptians who make up the vast majority of Egypt's Christian minority, refused. However, at a 'reconciliation' meeting on 7 April, the Copts were forced to agree to the relocation of their church, which would now also be smaller and devoid of Christian symbols, e.g. no dome, cross or bell. The military governor and the head of Minya security approved the deal. Similar cases were recorded in late March at St Mary's Church in the Bashtil district of Imbaba, Giza, and at St George's Church in Beni Ahmad, 7km south of Minya. Then on 18 April one Christian Copt was killed, an elderly woman was thrown off her second floor balcony and ten Copts were hospitalised when Muslims rioted. They burnt and looted Coptic homes, shops, businesses, fields and livestock in the town of Abu Qurqas El Balad, in Minya Governorate, 260km south of Cairo.

* IRAQ: FATWA & EASTER BOMBING

On 11 April 2011 this fatwa (religious edict) by Sheikh Al-Khatib Al-Baghdadi appeared on the jihadi website Minbar Al-Tawhid Wal-Jihad: 'It Is Permissible to Spill the Blood of the Iraqi Christians and a Duty to Wage Jihad against Them.' On Easter Sunday, 24 April, a roadside bomb exploded outside Sacred Heart Church in Baghdad's central Karrada district, injuring seven. Raymond Ibrahim, associate director of the Middle East Forum, reports: 'According to the Hammurabi Human Rights Organization, over 700 Christians, including bishops and priests, have been killed and 61 churches have been bombed' since Operation Iraqi Freedom started in March 2003. Out of a pre-war community of some 1.4 million Assyrians and Chaldeans a remnant of only some 400,000 remain. They are Iraq's indigenous peoples who make up the vast majority of Iraq's Christian minority.

* SOMALIA: YET ANOTHER MARTYR

Compass Direct News reports that on 18 April, two militants from the al Qaeda-linked 'al-Shabaab' seized Hassan Adawe Adan (21) from his home in Shalambod, Lower Shabele. They dragged him away and after 10 minutes executed him for apostasy. Local Christians believe someone had informed al-Shabaab of Adan's conversion to Christianity. As is required by Islam, he doubtless would have been given the opportunity to recant and be spared. Clearly he refused for he was shot dead to cries of 'Allahu Akbar' (God is greater). And so young Hassan Adawe Adan joins the growing community of courageous Somali Christian martyrs.

* VIETNAM: COMMUNISTS BETRAY CHURCH -- AGAIN

When an interchurch committee approached the ruling Vietnam Communist Party (VCP) requesting permission to hold an Easter event, the authorities gave oral consent, promising that written permission would be forthcoming. However, on 15 April, after immense effort and expense, Christians from across Vietnam arrived at the government-approved venue, Hanoi's Dien Kinh My Dinh Sports Complex, only to be denied access and turned away. Whilst written permission was later issued for Saturday 16 April, the attached conditions and expectations were such that church leaders were compelled to issue an indefinite postponement. For many years it has been standard procedure for the VCP to make promises to the Church -- to appease the Church and avoid pressure -- and then break those promises when it is too late for anyone to do anything about it.

Human Rights Watch has just released a highly significant report entitled 'Montagnard Christians in Vietnam. A Case Study in Religious Repression'. According to the report, special 'Central Highlands Security' units and centrally-directed 'Mobile Intervention Police' have been dispatched to the highlands to root out Degar Protestants. According to the report there have been numerous house-church closures, thousands of coerced renunciations of faith and hundreds of imprisonments. Police brutality is rife, as is torture that sometimes results in death.