Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 109 | Wed 25 May 2011
By Elizabeth Kendal
You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.
(Isaiah 26:3 ESV)
MAY 2011 UPDATE -- During May we prayed for . . .
SYRIA, where Christians -- including hundreds of thousands of Assyrian-Chaldean refugees from Iraq -- are deeply concerned that they will suffer if the regime falls. Whilst the protests did arise out of social and economic grievances, the Melkite Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, Gregory III Laham, warns that they are being hijacked by armed criminals and Islamists. For more details see expanded blog version.
* UPDATE: If Iran is to remain ascendant it cannot afford to lose Syria as a strategic ally. Defense & Foreign Affairs Strategic Policy notes regarding this that Iran has 'hedged its bets' by forming close ties with the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood (Ikhwan). Furthermore, according to D&FA (3, 2011), 'jihadist youth are now the backbone of the Syrian Intifada'. ['Jihadist youth' have been recruited and trained by Syrian Military Intelligence for jihad against the US in Iraq and Afghanistan.] The situation is indeed grim. Syria's Christians will either be protected by a dictator in the shade of the anti-Semitic, belligerent 'Shi'ite Crescent' or they will be left at the mercy of the increasingly radicalised, Islamist-led masses. AINA reports that on 20 May Syrian security forces made successive raids on the headquarters of the Assyrian Democratic Organization (ADO) in Qamishly, arresting dozens of Assyrians. Those arrested had not taken part in any protests.
EGYPT, where Islamic fundamentalists are spreading false accusations to incite mass hysteria against the Church. The situation is extremely serious.
* UPDATE: Copts are determined to continue their 'sit-in' protest outside the State TV building in Maspero until the Virgin & Bishop Abram Church in Ain Shams district is re-opened and the Maghagha Diocese in Minya is rebuilt. When police attempted to re-open the Ain Shams church on Thursday 19 May they were impeded by hundreds of Salafis. As one protesting Copt despairingly asked, 'How is it that the government and the army can't control some Salafis and re-open a church?'
IRAQ, where the US withdrawal and the Battle for Kirkuk are both looming. If war erupts for control of Kirkuk's oil, al Qaeda in Iraq will doubtless exploit the chaos to target the Christian presence. This could well be the final blow for Iraq's remnant Assyrian-Chaldean Christians.
MAY 2011 ROUND-UP -- also this month . . .
* CHINA: UPDATE ON SHOUWANG CHURCH
Twenty-second May was the seventh consecutive Sunday that members of Beijing's Shouwang Church gathered for worship in the open in Zhongguancun shopping area, only to be arrested by police. Six of the church's senior leaders remain under house arrest. Since 10 April over 200 members of the Shouwang Church have been arrested; more than 30 have been forced to move after their landlords evicted them under government pressure; others have lost their jobs for refusing to leave the church. In a courageous show of solidarity, 19 leaders of unregistered churches have signed an unprecedented appeal dated 10 May to the National People's Congress, requesting that their right to worship freely be upheld. (Background: RLPB 103, Wed 13 April 2011. For more details see China Aid Association.)
[The initial confrontation on 10 April was caught on film by Australian Broadcasting Corporation's Stephen McDonell, reporting for Foreign Correspondent. His report, 'True Believers', provides an excellent insight into Christianity in China. The transcript and 26-minute film can be found here.]
* NIGERIA: FIFTH PASTOR MURDERED IN BAUCHI IN A MONTH
Around 2am on 16 May militants attacked Jaruma village in the Toro Local Government Area (LGA) of troubled Bauchi State. They invaded the home of Church of Christ in Nigeria (COCIN) pastor Irmiya Maigida (55) and his wife Keziya (48). Keziya, a mother of seven, was shot as she fled outside. There, militants repeatedly struck her with machetes, stabbed her and rubbed a painful white substance into her wounds until she was unconscious. Left for dead, Keziya, however, awoke to hear her husband wailing in pain from multiple gunshot wounds to the abdomen. Family members got the injured pastor and his wife into a car and headed for the hospital only to be held up by police demanding they give statements before being permitted to proceed. Pastor Maigida's son, Ishaya, laments that his father died before they could reach the hospital. His neighbour, church secretary Brother Joshua Mana, was also killed. Pastor Maigida was the fifth pastor to be murdered in Bauchi State in the past month.
On 4 May COCIN pastor Joshua Reke (36) narrowly escaped death when Fulani militants attacked Kurum Dodo village, Bogoro LGA, Bauchi State, about midnight. His wife Dune (35) and three of his four children were, however, amongst the 16 dead. Dune had been fleeing with Fyali (1) and Faith (4) when they were struck down by men wielding machetes. When Pastor Reke found his wife, she was still alive, so he comforted her and prayed with her as she died. Their daughter Sun (13) was abused as an 'infidel' before being hacked to death in her bed, while their surviving son Seth (7) miraculously remained unseen and slept through the whole attack. The Reke's adopted daughter, Wulhim (mid-teens), is recovering from a machete wound to the neck. 'I look up to God despite what happened,' says Pastor Reke. 'I have forgiven them.'
* SUDAN: KHARTOUM ANNEXES ABYEI
The hotly contested province of Abyei (straddling the north-south divide) is supposed to get its own referendum to determine whether it will be part of the South or the North after the Southern secession. Whilst Abyei is inhabited by southern Dinka Ngok, pro-Khartoum Misseriya Arabs drive their cattle through the region annually. Speaking to a rally of mostly Misseriya Arabs in neighbouring Southern Kordofan (North Sudan) on 27 April, President Omar al-Bashir pre-empted any referendum by declaring, 'Abyei is located in North Sudan and will remain in North Sudan.'
On Thursday 19 May, Khartoum accused the Southern-based Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) of attacking a convoy of the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) in Dokura north of Abyei town. Though the SPLA denied responsibility, the government responded with force. SPLA troops retreated after being bombed and shelled for several hours and Abyei's remnant 20,000 southern Dinka Ngok residents fled south as SAF tanks and thousands of troops moved in. The MSF hospital in Agok, 40km south of Abyei, had received 42 wounded by early Saturday morning. By Sunday it was being reported that Khartoum had seized and annexed Abyei. Southern Sudanese leaders have accused the north of 'an act of war', something Khartoum denies, saying it was merely removing illegal elements so as to improve security and ensure peace and stability. Abyei, now under the control of Khartoum, has since been heavily looted and torched. War looms. Pray for the Church in Sudan.
DARFUR: Compass Direct News reports that Hawa Abdalla Muhammad Saleh was arrested on 9 May in the Abu Shouk camp for Internally Displaced Persons in Al-Fashir, Darfur. While she is yet to be officially charged, authorities have accused her of possessing and distributing Bibles. She could also be tried for apostasy, which carries the death sentence in Sudan. Sources fear she could be tortured, a plight familiar to Hawa Abdalla as she was detained and tortured for six days in 2009. Please pray.