Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 169 | Wed 25 Jul 2012
By Elizabeth Kendal
'Pour out your heart like water before the presence of the Lord! Lift your hands to him for the lives of your children . . .' (from Lamentations 2:19 ESV)
JULY 2012 UPDATE -- During July we prayed concerning . . .
* KENYA (RLPB 166), where Islamic militants had attacked two churches in Garissa, eastern Kenya (80km from the Somali border), killing 17 worshippers and wounding over 60.
UPDATE: Stratfor Global Intelligence reports that the Somali-based terror group al Shabaab has threatened to carry out attacks in Kenya during Ramadan. On 20 July, the first day of Ramadan, the Nairobi Provincial Police chief urged the public to remain vigilant. Security has been intensified.
* SYRIA (RLPB 167), where the region's largest and oldest Christian communities -- remnants of indigenous communities that have survived Arab and Ottoman Islamic imperialism -- are now struggling to survive amidst civil war, regional sectarian conflict and international Islamic jihad.
UPDATE: Some of Syria's most senior Christian officials were recently assassinated by rebel forces. They included Defence Minister Gen. Dawoud Rajha, killed in the 18 July suicide bombing at security headquarters, possibly perpetrated by a bodyguard. Brig-Gen. Nabil Zougheib also was assassinated along with his wife and son at their home in a Christian neighbourhood of Damascus on 21 July.
Jesuit priest Father Dall'Oglio, who has spent time in Qusayr negotiating with rebel leaders for the release of Christian hostages, describes the rebels as Syrian men wearing long beards and Afghan-style traditional dress. He wrote they are not representative of the majority of Sunnis and are totally out of control (Wall Street Journal, 22 July). The terror is causing massive displacement. Fides reports that jihadists ambushed and massacred an entire Christian family on 23 July in the Damascus suburb of Bab Touma.
Syria has become a magnet for international terrorist organisations, including al-Qaeda in Iraq, the al-Nusrah Front, the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, the al-Baraa Ibn Malik Martyrdom Brigade, the Omar Farouq Brigade and others. German intelligence estimates that in the first six months of 2012 'around 90' terror attacks were committed inside Syria 'by organisations that are close to al-Qaeda or jihadist groups'. Many of these are 'false flag' operations where the jihadists massacre unsympathetic civilians and then present them to the media as victims of government forces. One German MP has slammed this tactic as 'massacre-marketing'. Whilst the German government acknowledges receiving these reports, it explains that their content remains classified 'by reason of national interest' (i.e. along with France, the UK and the USA, the German government is supporting the rebels, terrorists, and jihadists).
Tragically, the sectarian nature of the conflict has inflamed Islamic zeal and radicalised many previously tolerant Sunnis. Christian refugees in Lebanon told Sam Dagher (Wall Street Journal, 22 July) they fear that Christians will have no place in Syria if Assad leaves power. 'They say the conflict has uncovered the true feelings their former neighbours had kept hidden for years. "We ate from the same plate," said one of the displaced Christians. "And then they stabbed us in the back." '
Further to this, thousands of Iraqis who fled al-Qaeda terror and sectarian war in 2005-06 for sanctuary in Syria are now fleeing back to Iraq. However, emboldened by advances in Syria, al-Qaeda has launched a new offensive in IRAQ named 'Breaking Down the Walls'. On Monday 23 July, at least 28 attacks on 19 Iraqi cities left 111 dead and more than 230 wounded.
* NIGERIA (RLPB 168), where Fulani Muslims, Boko Haram terrorists and rogue elements within the military are co-operating in the escalating terror being inflicted upon Christians in the north.
JULY 2012 ROUND-UP -- also this month . . .
* ACEH, INDONESIA: CHURCHES ATTACKED (updating RLPB 159)
On 30 April local officials in Aceh's Singkil regency yielded to Islamist pressure and ordered the closure and demolition of at least 20 mostly Protestant 'undung-undungs' (prayer chapels and places of worship). Seeking redress, most have not complied with the demolition order. Frustrated by this lack of action and emboldened by the government's appeasement policies, Islamists have begun attacking the chapels. On Sunday 17 June some 300 Islamists invaded a store in Kuta Alam sub-district where some 60 Christians had gathered for worship. Whilst the ground floor was thoroughly ransacked, police arrived in time to prevent the attackers from reaching the besieged Christians on the third floor. No arrests were made but the Christians were taken in for questioning. According to the Jakarta Globe, this was yet 'another' attack on a 'storefront church'. Then on 18 July an Islamist mob launched a dawn attack on the Pakpak Dairi Christian Protestant Church (Gkppd) house of prayer in Singkil, dowsing the interior with petrol and setting it on fire. Furniture and musical instruments were destroyed but prompt intervention by local Christians saved the building from complete destruction.
* INDIA: HINDU NATIONALISM INCITES VIOLENCE
On 24 June the Indigenous People's Forum (IPF) in Imphal, Manipur (north-east India), conducted a one-day workshop entitled 'Lure and Proselytization and Constitutional Interpretation of Freedom of Religion'. The IPF is recommending that the Manipur state government enact the Manipur Freedom of Religion bill (Anti Conversion Act). There is little doubt that Hindu nationalist forces are behind the IPF's call. Hindutva forces want to ensure that the traditionally non-Hindu indigenous tribals do not become Christian while they are busy working to convince the tribals that they are actually Hindus. If the law is enacted it will rob all Manipur citizens of their religious freedom, cause Hindutva militancy to escalate and further entrench the racist Hindu caste system to the benefit of the Hindutva-promoting upper castes. Pray that the bill will be rejected.
The Evangelical Fellowship of India reports that on 6 July, in Ramagundahally village in Karnataka (south-west India), Hindu extremists forcefully entered a house church, accusing the Christians of forceful conversion. The Hindus tore up Bibles and savagely beat the believers before calling the police, who came and took Pastor Mounesh away for questioning. When Pastor Mounesh was released in the early hours of the following morning, the Hindutva forces were enraged. Returning later that day they bashed Pastor Mounesh and the believers praying with him. Four believers beaten unconscious required hospitalisation. Such violence is commonplace in states where Hindu nationalism holds sway.
* IRAN: TWO MORE IMPRISONED PASTORS NEED PRAYER
Protestant pastor Farshid Fathi Malayeri (33, married with two children) was one of many Christians arrested during the sweep of 26 December 2010. Tried in January 2012 for crimes against national security, a Revolutionary Court in Evin Prison in Tehran sentenced him to six years in prison on 5 March 2012. On 3 July, an Iranian court upheld both the verdict and six-year prison sentence. Farshid will serve the remainder of his sentence in section 350 of Evin Prison. He has already spent some 100 days in solitary confinement.
Protestant pastor Benham Irani (41, married with two children) is imprisoned in Karaj's notorious Ghezel Hesar Prison. Arrested in April 2010 for his Christian ministry, Pastor Irani was convicted in January 2011of crimes against national security and sentenced to one year in prison. That term was later extended to five years because of a previous conviction. The verdict denounced him as an apostate, a label that marks him out as one who may be killed. Due to frequent severe beatings from guards and inmates, Pastor Irani now has great difficulty walking and seeing. He has bleeding ulcers and other intestinal problems. Pastor Irani lost consciousness around 14 July due to declining health, a consequence of the harsh treatment he has endured. Though he has been transferred to the prison hospital, advocates fear he may not survive.
'If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.' (John 15:18,21 ESV)