Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 174 | Wed 29 Aug 2012
By Elizabeth Kendal
AUGUST 2012 UPDATE -- During August we prayed concerning . . .
* SYRIA, SUDAN & BURMA (RLPB 170), where wars have displaced hundreds of thousands of Christians. In Syria they are fleeing Islamic jihadists; in Sudan they are fleeing an Islamic, Arab-supremacist regime; and in Burma they are fleeing a Buddhist Burman-supremacist regime. In each case, Western governments ignore the suffering of these 'inconvenient Christians' because addressing their plight would mean risking Western economic and geo-strategic interests. Though Western governments abandon them, God does not (2 Corinthians 4:9) and neither must we.
UPDATE BURMA: REFUGEES EXPELLED FROM CHINA
China has been forcing Kachin Christian refugees back over the border into the war zone. At least 1500 refugees have been forced back in recent weeks and another 4000 were set to be deported last weekend (25-26 Aug). Because it is the monsoon season, travel is exceedingly difficult, leaving many Kachin stranded in the Burmese jungle amidst armed conflict. According to Chinese authorities, the Kachin are returning 'freely' of their own volition. A Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO) spokesman told The Irrawaddy that returning refugees report that the Chinese are demolishing the camps. The KIO reports furthermore that the Burmese military has been building up troop numbers in Kachin State in preparation for an offensive. The Burmese junta, which despises the Christian Kachin on racial and religious grounds, covets Kachin lands. Please pray.
UPDATE SUDAN: REFUGEE HEALTH 'ALARMING'
Around 170,000 predominantly Christian refugees from Sudan's South Kordofan and Blue Nile States are sheltering in camps in South Sudan's Upper Nile and Unity states. In February we prayed for the God who parted the Red Sea to open an escape route through the besieged Kauda Valley (RLPB 145) -- and he did (RLPB 148)! Consequently, the population of Yida camp in Upper Nile has more than doubled since then to some 60,000. Now we must pray for their provision. According to the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), at least half of the refugees in Upper Nile are under 11. The health situation is described as 'alarming', with rain, cold and lack of sanitation accounting for increases in malaria, diarrhoea and respiratory tract infections. Acute malnutrition is contributing to the shocking mortality rate (double the emergency threshold) of children under 5. Pray for God's provision for the camps and to displaced, imperilled believers still stranded north of the border. HE can do it!
UPDATE SYRIA: 'REBELS' BLOCKADE CHRISTIAN TOWNS
On Friday 24 August, the Syrian Army liberated Rableh killing 60 rebels in the process. Armed opposition groups linked to the Free Syrian Army had isolated and surrounded Rableh, a Christian town west of Qusayr, near Homs in the south of Syria. For two weeks, the 12,000 mostly Greek Catholic residents were besieged, their supplies of food, water and medicines dwindling as rebels enforced a blockade. Snipers killed at least three men: George Azar (20), an unnamed 21-year-old, and Elias Tahch Semaan (35) who was married with four children. While Rableh has been liberated, Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need is presently trying to get aid to another Syrian village in a similar situation. As in Rableh, bridges have been blown up, power has been cut and rebels are enforcing a blockade. 'We have organised ourselves so we could stand by each other and we are sharing everything so we could survive,' a local priest said. 'We need every help we could get. Please help us.' Pray that the LORD of hosts will intervene for his people.
* EGYPT (RLPB 171), where some 120 Coptic Christian families had been driven from their homes in Dahshur by rioting Muslims. Continue to pray for Egyptian Christians in these days of insecurity.
* IVORY COAST (RLPB 172), where some 5,000 predominantly Christian ethnic Guere had been driven from the Nahibly camp in Duekoue by rioting Muslims who killed 11, wounded dozens and burnt the camp to the ground. Pray for God's intervention and provision.
* PAKISTAN (RLPB 173), where hundreds of Christians have been driven from Islamabad's Mehrabad slum by rioting Muslims, after an illiterate, mentally-impaired 11-year-old girl, Rimsha, was accused of burning paper with Qur'anic verses on it. Rimsha was arrested on 16 August.
UPDATE: THE SHAME OF PAKISTAN
Rimsha is being held in solitary confinement in the high security Adiala Jail, the same jail housing Mumtaz Qadri, the bodyguard who assassinated Punjab governor Salman Taseer in revenge for his campaign against the blasphemy law. Rimsha's legal team has not been able to meet with her. Christian activist Xavier William visited Rimsha during the week and confirmed that she had been severely assaulted by the mob. He said she is in 'very bad shape' with 'bruises on her face and on her hands'. She would not speak or make eye contact. 'She was frightened and traumatised,' he said.
Hafiz Mohammed Khalid Chishti, a local imam in the Mehrabad slum, insists that his efforts to have Rimsha arrested actually saved the girl from a lynching. It is to Pakistan's shame that he is right. The whole family has been taken into 'protective custody' for their own safety and the Interior Ministry has asked the Islamabad police to oppose bail on the pretext that Rimsha's release would put the lives of the whole family in danger.
Imam Chishti maintains that the incident only arose because Muslims had not stopped the 'anti-Islam activities' of local Christians who 'caused antagonism by playing music in services at their makeshift church'. He says that though he warned the Christians at Christmas, they did not stop their 'vulgarity'. He regards it all as a 'conspiracy' and maintains that Rimsha knew exactly what she was doing. During his Friday sermon (24 August) he declared that it was 'time for Muslims to wake up' and defend their Qur'an. On the day of Rimsha's arrest he threatened to have all the Christians burnt alive. However, he will not face justice and neither will those who violently assaulted the family or burnt and looted Christian homes. That is because the Interior Ministry has asked the Islamabad police not to arrest anybody involved in the anti-Christian violence that swept over the slum at the time of Rimsha's arrest.
On 20 August, while the controversy over Rimsha's arrest raged, an 11-year-old Christian boy named Samuel Yaqoob disappeared from the Christian colony in Faisalabad, Punjab Province, on his way to the market. On 22 August his body was found dumped in a drain. He had been so severely tortured, mutilated and burnt that his family could only recognise him from a mark on his forehead. There had not been any ransom demand and detectives in Faisalabad are investigating whether accusations of blasphemy had been made against the boy.
'Arise, cry out in the night, at the beginning of the night watches! Pour out your heart like water before the presence of the Lord! Lift your hands to him for the lives of your children . . ." (Lamentations 2:19 ESV)
AUGUST 2012 ROUND-UP -- also this month . . .
* SOMALIA: AL-SHABAAB SQUEEZED; CHRISTIANS ABDUCTED
On 27 August US-backed Somali, Kenyan and African Union forces liberated the port of Marka, 70km south of Mogadishu, from al-Shabaab. Despite gains, Christian aid workers remain at risk in Somalia. On 11 July three Kenyan nationals (including one woman) serving with International Aid Services were kidnapped by Islamic militants, possibly with the backing of al-Shabaab, in Somalia's Puntland region. The militants are reportedly seeking a prisoner swap for alleged pirates being held in Kenya. Please pray.
* KENYA: MUSLIMS RETALIATE AGAINST CHRISTIANS
On Monday 27 August Sheikh Aboud Rogo Mohammed, an al-Qaeda-linked radical cleric recently designated by the US as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist, was assassinated in Mombasa. He had been responsible for raising funds and recruiting Kenyans for al-Shabaab. Francis Auma, from the local organisation Muslims for Human Rights, subsequently heard the imam of a local mosque shouting through the speaker: 'blood for blood'. Muslims retaliated against Christians, whom they doubtless view as supportive of the US-driven anti-terror laws that Muslims complain discriminate against them. Two churches were burnt and looted while at least four other churches were vandalised. Riots continued on Tuesday. One policeman was killed and 16 wounded when a grenade was thrown at police racing to save a burning church. Islamic leaders are calling the assassination an attack on Islam. Al-Shabaab has called on Kenyan Muslims to 'take the matter into their own hands, stand united against the kuffar (unbelievers) and take all necessary measures to protect their religion, their honour, their property and their lives from the enemies of Islam'. In particular they are calling for Muslims to boycott Kenya's presidential elections on 4 March 2013. Tensions are escalating.
* LAOS: PERSECUTION FOLLOWS REVIVAL
On 6 August Mr Tongkoun Keohavong was summoned before the village chief of Nahoukou village to explain why around 30 locals had embraced Christianity since February. He explained that the Lord had been healing diseases and liberating the people from evil spirits in response to prayer: 'We cannot deny the reality of God's power,' he said. The believers have been ordered to renounce their faith or face expulsion from the village. Similarly, Mr Bountheung, who had been living as a Christian in Nongpong village for 10 years, is also being persecuted. In May of this year, around 300 residents of Nongpong village decided they would embrace the Christian faith and worship the Lord as did Mr Bountheung. As leader of the village church, Mr Bountheung was summoned three times to explain to the authorities why people in his village were embracing a banned 'foreign religion'. On 3 August the believers were given until 10 August to recant their faith or be expelled from the village. After refusing to recant on 10 August, Mr Bountheung was told he had a week to sell his possessions. On 20 August he was arrested and taken to prison. Conditions in Lao prisons are severe and torture is routine. Please pray for the Church in Laos.