By Elizabeth Kendal
OCTOBER 2011 UPDATE -- During October we prayed for . . .
IRAN (RLPB 128), where repression is escalating and Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, who has been sentenced to death for apostasy, awaits the 'opinion' of the supreme leader Ayatolla Ali Khamenei. Please continue in prayer. Any resolution will be posted to Religious Liberty Monitoring.
RUSSIA (RLPB 129), where proposed amendments to the Law on the Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organisations (1997) threaten to impact non-Russian Orthodox denominations negatively and significantly restrict religious freedom.
EGYPT (RLPB 130), where Copts are reeling from the 9 October Maspero Massacre, when Egyptian security forces attacked Coptic Christians (and sympathetic Muslims) who were peacefully protesting against religious discrimination. Twenty-six people -- mostly Christians -- were killed and over 300 were wounded as the army beat, shot and drove armoured vehicles into the protesters whom they abused as 'infidels' and 'sons of dogs'. The military has assumed control of the investigation. The Copts are the indigenous people of Egypt and the descendants of the Pharaohs. The Copts have been Christian for 2000 years. A full report is available on Religious Liberty Monitoring.
OCTOBER 2011 ROUND-UP -- also this month . . .
* INDONESIA: DEATHS IN PAPUA (formerly Irian Jaya)
Some 5000 Papuans from across the Eastern Indonesian province gathered in Jayapura for the third Papuan Congress from 17 to19 October, its 50th anniversary. The Congress opened with prayers and included several church leaders amongst the speakers, including Rev Benny Giay, Rev Socrates S Yoman and Rev Yemima Krey. By 8am on 19 October the streets were lined with some 3100 military and police officers wearing full combat gear and holding assault rifles. Armoured vehicles and police trucks were also out in force. As in past Papuan Congresses (1961 & 2000), a declaration of independence was read and the Morning Star flag raised. The police responded by storming the Congress ostensibly to put down the 'coup'. More than 300 Papuans were arrested, dozens wounded and six killed. The Melanesian Christian Papuans seek an end to the racial-religious discrimination and persecution they suffer at the hands of Javanese Muslims and the Indonesian government. Please pray. (For extended reports, see Religious Liberty Monitoring: 26 Oct 2011 & 10 Nov 2011.)
* LIBYA: SHARIA TO RULE NEW LIBYA
On Monday 24 October, National Transitional Council leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil declared Libya to be 'liberated'. Operating free of any democratic constraints, Jalil also declared that the law against polygamy will be repealed (bad news for women), Islamic banking will be adopted (bad news for the economy) and Sharia (Islamic) Law will form the basis for all Libyan law (bad news for all who desire religious liberty). As has happened in Iraq and Afghanistan, any concession to religious freedom will be rendered void by the supremacy of Sharia which prohibits fitna (anything that could shake the faith of a Muslim), especially proselytism (Christian witness), blasphemy (criticising Islam) and apostasy (leaving Islam). Please pray for the Church in Libya.
* MALAYSIA: ISLAMISTS DEMAND END TO APOSTASY
On 3 August Islamic religious leaders and police raided the church of Pastor Daniel Ho, ostensibly to prevent 'apostasy'. Whilst Muslims were present, the meeting was actually a dinner for people involved in the church's welfare programmes, including single mothers and HIV/AIDS victims. The raid caused a stir in Malaysia. On Saturday 22 October an Islamist non-government organisation, with permission from the ruling Umno and police, held an anti-apostasy rally in Shah Alam on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur. An estimated 5000 slogan-chanting Muslims attended, though the organisers had hoped for a million. BN-Umno (which rules, but with a greatly reduced majority) doubtless supported the event hoping to dragnet the Muslim vote. This can only embolden Malaysia's intolerant Islamist forces.
* TUNISIA: ISLAMISTS EMERGE VICTORIOUS
Tunisia's once-banned Islamist 'Ennahda' party has claimed victory in the first democratic elections of the 'Arab Spring'. Ennahda party officials have said they are prepared to form an alliance with two left-wing secularist parties, the Congress for the Republic and Ettakatol. Early results indicate that Ennahda will win more than 40 percent of the 217 seats. The anti-Islamist Progressive Democratic Party (PDP) will lead the opposition. Ennahda leader, Rachid Ghannouchi, recently returned from 22 years in exile in the UK. Prior to the elections, the formerly-banned party opened offices across the nation and flooded it with fliers, though where the funding came from is unclear. The Ennahda-dominated national assembly will have one year to draft a new constitution. Pray for tolerance and religious freedom to survive in the new Tunisia.
* KAZAKHSTAN: On 13 October President Nursultan Nazarbayev signed into law two amendments that will effectively repress all non-officially sanctioned expression of religion. The new laws came in to force on 24 October. (See RLPB 127, 29 Sep 2011).
* MALDIVES: Any lingering hopes for reform may be discarded as Maldivian authorities expel an Indian teacher accused of spreading Christianity after he was found with a Bible in his house. The Ministry of Islamic Affairs is signalling its intention to enforce fully the Protection of Religious Unity Act (1994) which bans the promotion of any religion other than Islam or any opinion that disagrees with Islamic scholars. This is the result when reformists hold power only by means of alliances with Islamists as it gives Islamists the balance of power, the most powerful position.
* SOMALIA: It was recently reported that Guled Jama Muktar, a 17-year-old Somali Christian, was kidnapped from his home and beheaded by al-Shabaab militants in Hudur City in south-western Somalia last month. After quickly burying their son, Guled's parents, also Christians, fled for their lives. Nobody has heard from them.
* SUDAN: On 12 October the president of Sudan, Omar el-Bashir, announced that Sudan will go ahead with plans to adopt an entirely Islamic constitution and strengthen Islamic law. Meanwhile authorities in Omdurman, on the Nile River opposite Khartoum, have threatened to demolish three churches in the Madinat al Fath area if they continue to conduct worship services. One Christian leader told Compass Direct News he fears that 'evil plans' are being directed against the churches and against Christianity in Sudan. The Islamic jihad continues in South Kordofan and Blue Nile where the SPLM-North is fighting for the survival of the Christians and non-Arabs of Sudan's 'new south'. Humanitarian corridors remain closed.
Please join with multitudes around the world for International Day of Prayer (IDOP) for the Persecuted Church on 13 November 2011 .
I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the LORD,
who made heaven and earth.
(Psalm 121:1,2 ESV)