Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 143 | Wed 25 Jan 2012
By Elizabeth Kendal
JANUARY 2012 UPDATE -- During January we prayed concerning . . .
NIGERIA (RLPB 140 & 141), where al Qaeda-affiliate Boko Haram is escalating its terror campaign across Northern Nigeria.
UPDATE: A string of coordinated bombings (including suicide bombings) targeting police rocked Nigeria's second largest city, Kano, after Friday prayers on 20 January. The death toll at present is 185, but is continuing to rise. In claiming responsibility, Boko Haram reiterated that it was not fighting the Nigerian people per se, only those responsible for arresting Boko Haram members. In a highly offensive statement peppered with dangerous, inflammatory disinformation, Boko Haram declared: 'Our fight is against the government that is waging war against Islam, the security services and the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) -- an organisation that has been killing Muslims and even perpetrated cannibalism by eating their flesh.'
On Sunday 22 January, 10 people were killed in a pre-dawn gun battle between police and Boko Harram militants in the town of Tafawa Balewa in Bauchi State. Then, at about 5 am, three bombs exploded at two churches in Bauchi City. Whilst the Evangelical Church for Win All (ECWA) suffered only minimal damage at its perimeter, Our Lady of St Lauretto Catholic Church was completely destroyed. There were no casualties. In Kano, police conducting 'bomb recovery' searches found ten bomb-laden cars and 'over 300 unexploded devices'. The violence is causing many Northern Christians to flee their communities. In Minna, the capital of Niger State, a Christian missionary home that cares for orphans and children from impoverished families was torched on 23 January. According to its owner, Pastor Isaac Ogwu, Mission Field Coordinator of Missionary Alliance for Africa, it was the fifth time 'Bethany Home' had been targeted in recent days. Whilst residents had managed to contain previous fires, this time the entire property was engulfed and all its buildings razed. Fortunately the children were all evacuated unharmed. Such an attack is likely to have been perpetrated by local Muslims sympathetic to Boko Haram and eager to exploit the chaos.
NORTH KOREA (RLPB 141), where repression is likely to escalate as the regime of Kim Jong-un consolidates.
KASHMIR (India -- RLPB 142), where on 11 January two Christians were convicted in Kashmir's Sharia Court of hurting Muslim sentiment and threatening communal harmony by engaging in 'unethical' conversions.
UPDATE: On 19 January Srinagar's self-appointed Supreme Court of Islamic Shariat issued a decree mandating the expulsion of Punjabi Protestant pastor MC Khanna along with his wife, Kanta, and associate, Gayoor Masih, as well as Dutch Catholic missionary Father Jaap (Jim) Borst. It was claimed they were involved in 'unethical' conversions. A case against a fifth Christian, Parvez Sameul Koul, principal of Tyndale Biscoe School, is under investigation. Faced with a steady trickle of conversions to Christianity, Kashmir's Islamists have committed themselves to eliminating fitna (anything that could shake the faith of a Muslim), particularly the fitna that arises from Biblical Christianity. [For more details see Religious Liberty Monitoring: Eliminating Fitna in Indian-administered Kashmir.]
JANUARY 2012 ROUND-UP -- also . . .
IRAN: REPRESSION ESCALATES
At a recent conference on 'New-Age Cults' in Varamin, a county south of Tehran, Iranian cleric Akhond Mohsen Alizadeh epitomised the regime's mindset when he described 'evangelical Christianity' as 'the most horrifying intelligence and security organisation in the world'! Also in January, the regime issued regulations giving Internet cafes 15 days to install cameras and start collecting detailed information on all users. The regime is preparing to launch its domestic (internal) intranet. Designed to shield Iranians from all 'un-Islamic' influences, this 'halal' (permissible) intranet will eventually replace the (worldwide) internet. Earlier this month, imprisoned Protestant pastor, Yusuf Nadarkhani, was given the opportunity to secure his release from prison. All he had to do was to renounce Christ indirectly by affirming that Mohammed was a prophet of God. The faithful, long-suffering pastor refused. Consequently he remains incarcerated on death row, separated from his wife and sons. If the regime cannot break him but believes it cannot risk his execution, then it may well opt for an 'accidental' death. Pray for Yusuf, his family and the Church in Iran.
LAOS: DETENTION, TORTURE AND CHURCHES CONFISCATED
On 16 December 2011 Lao police arrested seven Christian leaders after authorities in Boukham village, Savannakhet Province, complained that the beliefs of the Christians 'violated the village's hiit' (traditional customs and spirit beliefs). The Christians were incarcerated in wooden stocks, tortured and told they would only be released if they 'confessed' to their crimes and paid massive fines. When they were unconditionally released in mid-January, each Christian was suffering from the effects of torture, including severe swelling, bruising and infections in their legs caused by the stocks. Lao authorities are reportedly planning to expel at least 47 Christians men, women and children from Natoo village, Savannakhet Province. Until then, the Christians of Natoo continue to worship the Lord in their homes. Meanwhile, Lao authorities have confiscated the Nadaeng Church building and the Dongpaiwan Church building. Many other churches are believed to be at risk. Laos, home to some 200,000 Christians comprising over 3 percent of the population, is one of the world's worst persecutors. The ruling Lao People's Revolutionary Party (Communist) has long been open about its intention to eliminate Christianity. Pray for the Church in Laos.
SOMALIA: CONVERT FLOGGED PUBLICLY
On 22 December 2011 al Shabaab Islamic jihadists publicly flogged Sofia Osman (28) for embracing a 'foreign religion'. Sofia, a believer for four years and member of the underground church, was paraded before a jeering crowd before being lashed 40 times in front of several hundred abusive spectators. According to an eye witness, the lashing left Sofia lacerated and bleeding. 'I saw her faint', the eye witness said. 'I thought she had died.' After the flogging, Sofia's parents took her away. Sofia had been in al Shabaab custody for over a month. She is so traumatised that nobody has been able to learn what she suffered during her captivity. She has been relocated for her own safety. Please pray for Sofia and her family. Pray for the besieged, imperilled Church in Somalia.
SUDAN: REGIME THREATENS PASTORS
Addressing cheering crowds on 3 January 2012, Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir reiterated his pledge to advance the Islamisation of Sudan in the wake of the secession of the South. That same day, Sudan's Ministry of Guidance and Religious Endowments sent letters to leaders of the Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church (SPEC), threatening to 'take legal procedures against pastors who are involved in preaching or evangelistic activities'. The letter also warned that all pastors must comply with new regulations requiring them to provide their names and contact information to the authorities.
On 17 January police arrested evangelist James Kat of the Evangelical Church of Sudan, alleging he was using the place of worship as his place of residence. After being beaten and intimidated, Kat was released on bail the same day. On 15 January a band of armed militiamen (rebel southerns backed by Khartoum) broke into a Catholic compound in Rabak, just south of Khartoum, accusing the parish of harbouring a former member of the oppositional Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA). Along with computer equipment and other valuables, the militants took two priests, Father Joseph Makwey and Father Sylvester Mogga. According to Bishop Daniel Adwok, an auxiliary of the Khartoum archdiocese, militants are operating right across Sudan with complete impunity, intimidating 'Southerners' and pressuring them to leave.