Tuesday, February 14, 2012

RLPB 146. Middle Eastern Christians face bleak future

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 146 | Wed 15 Feb 2012

MIDDLE EASTERN CHRISTIANS FACE BLEAK FUTURE
By Elizabeth Kendal

The 'Arab Spring' opened the door for long-repressed Sunni Muslim Brotherhood and Salafi forces to rise up and seize power locally and challenge the balance of power regionally. Faced with escalating persecution and decreasing security, Christians are increasingly opting for flight. The alternative is to exist as dhimmis: subjugated second-class citizens forced to live with crippling inequality and profound insecurity under Islamic domination. In Egypt, Iraq and Syria -- homes to the region's largest and most ancient Christian communities -- the security situation is critical. Furthermore, the conflict in Syria has the potential to inflame sectarian tensions in neighbouring volatile Lebanon, which is also home to several large and ancient Christian communities.

Egypt, which once gave refuge to the Christ-child, is today a tinderbox where anti-Christian hostility is rising to incendiary levels. Not only do those who violently persecute and terrorise Christians do so with absolute impunity, but Islamic ad hoc 'courts' and 'reconciliation sessions' then compound that persecution. The victims are denied compensation, expelled from their homes and dispossessed, or they are charged with offending Islam or threatening social cohesion. In Iraq, where the Assyrian Church of the East -- the world's first Christian denomination -- was established, Christians are today the victims of violent Islamic jihad and ethnic cleansing. Over recent years the Christian population of Iraq has halved. In Syria, where followers of Jesus were first called 'Christians', radical Sunni Arab fundamentalists are fighting for control of Syria and the regional balance of power. Not only is the Syrian Church imperilled, but so too are the Assyrian-Chaldean Christian refugees who fled the genocide in Iraq for refuge in Syria.

Persecution is escalating in Iran. On Wednesday 8 February, plain-clothed security officers raided a house church gathered for prayer and worship in the southern city of Shiraz, arresting all ten believers present. One of those arrested, the convert Mojtaba Hosseini, had been arrested previously in May 2008 when aged only 21. Iranian sources think the authorities have had Mojtaba under surveillance for some time. The whereabouts of these believers are unknown. Several other believers incarcerated over Christmas remain in prison. Regarded as traitors, spies and sources of 'fitna' (anything that could threaten the faith of a Muslim), all Iran's Christian prisoners are subjected to harsh conditions and cruel treatment.

Western powers pursuing economic and geo-strategic gain seem to regard the Christians of the Middle East as inconvenient peoples who may be sacrificed for greater ends such as oil and power. Needless to say, God does not see his imperilled children that way. Indeed, he suffers with them. 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me. . . . Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.' (From Matthew 25:40,45 ESV) The Church must stand up for the Middle East's imperilled Christians.

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL --

* use this catastrophe to draw all Christians closer to him and to each other; as conflict and terror abound, may the LORD deliver to that 'faintly burning wick' -- the besieged Church -- fresh oxygen not only for life, strength and hope, but for revival. (Isaiah 42:3)

* intervene on behalf of his precious people (Isaiah 59:14-19) that they might see and know his hand of wise guidance and arm of loving provision and protection. (Isaiah 40:10,11)

PRAY ALSO for the NUBA of SUDAN, half a million of whom will soon be dying en masse as the Government of Sudan's engineered famine explodes as a 'weapon of mass destruction' to effect the genocide of these non-Muslim, non-Arab, predominantly Christian peoples. [See prayer requests in RLPB 145 ]


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
----------------------------------------------------------------------
MIDDLE EASTERN CHRISTIANS FACE BLEAK FUTURE

The so-called 'Arab Spring' opened the door for long-repressed Islamist forces to rise up and seize power locally and challenge the balance of power regionally. In Egypt, Iraq and Syria -- homes to some of the region's largest and most ancient Christian communities -- persecution is escalating and the threat of genocide is real. Furthermore, the conflict in Syria has the potential to inflame sectarian tensions in neighbouring Lebanon, which is also home to several large and ancient Christian communities. Whilst poor socio-economic conditions and escalating discrimination and persecution have been driving Christians to emigrate from the Middle East for decades, the deteriorating security situation is giving rise to effectively a Christian exodus. There is much fear. Please pray for the Church in the Middle East.