Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 183 | Wed 31 Oct 2012
By Elizabeth Kendal
INTERNATIONAL DAY OF PRAYER (IDOP) FOR THE PERSECUTED CHURCH (4 or 11 November)
There is no such thing as a persecution-free day. Consequently, not a single day goes by when persecuted believers are not in need of advocacy in the courts of the Lord. And so we pray as the Apostle Paul exhorted: 'without ceasing' (1 Thessalonians 5:17). However, International Day of Prayer (IDOP) for the Persecuted Church provides an opportunity for believers and churches all around the world to contemplate the reality of persecution, take note of the global situation and respond together in prayer. IDOP is a day when Christian individuals, small groups and Church fellowships join their voices to petition the LORD on behalf of the persecuted Church. Various Christian advocacy groups have resources available -- please seek them out and make use of them. For Critical Prayer Requests (CPR) for the nations see here: CPR.
'O my God, incline your ear and hear. Open your eyes and see our desolations . . . For we do not present our pleas before you because of our righteousness, but because of your great mercy. O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive. O Lord, pay attention and act. Delay not, for your own sake, O my God, because . . . your people are called by your name.' (Daniel 9:18,19 ESV)
Please give special attention to the world's most severe persecutors: North Korea and Saudi Arabia.
In NORTH KOREA believers found witnessing or in possession of a Bible are executed while neighbours and other locals are forced to watch. Furthermore, many tens of thousands of Christians, deemed traitors for refusing to worship the Kim family, are perishing in concentration camps, the conditions of which rival Auschwitz. Further to this, tens of thousands of believers struggle with extreme poverty and famine while worshipping in strategically small, highly secretive fellowships. Once known as 'the Jerusalem of the East', this land of Christian revival (10-min documentary) has been captive to darkness for almost 60 years.
'The earth is the LORD's and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein . . . Lift up your heads, O gates! And lift them up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is this King of glory? The LORD of hosts, he is the King of glory.' (Psalm 24:1,9,10 ESV)
In SAUDI ARABIA Christian witness and apostasy (leaving Islam) are absolutely forbidden. They are capital offences for Saudi nationals. Furthermore, after the failed Sunni fundamentalist revolution of 1979 (the Siege of Mecca), the Saudi royals brokered a survival pact with the Wahhabi (Sunni fundamentalist) clerics wherein the Royals would fund international jihad and the Wahhabi clerics' global dissemination of Wahhabi Islam in exchange for the backing of the clerics. This has facilitated a revival of pro-Sharia, pro-jihad, anti-Semitic, anti-Christian, supremely intolerant and repressive Sunni fundamentalist Islam across the globe: throughout Africa, Asia and South America as well as in the universities and mosques of the West. Accordingly Saudi Arabia (an 'ally' of the West) is directly responsible for the phenomenal escalation of Sunni fundamentalist hostility, repression, terrorism and jihad worldwide, including targeted persecution of Christians.
'In that day the LORD of hosts will be a crown of glory, and a diadem of beauty, to the remnant of his people, and . . . strength to those who turn back the battle at the gate.' (Isaiah 28:5,6 ESV)
OCTOBER 2012 UPDATE -- During October we prayed concerning . . .
* INDIA (RLPB 179) where unrestrained Hindu nationalism results in unrelenting persecution.
* PHILIPPINES (RLPB 180) where the government has signed a 'framework agreement' with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) which, if implemented, will allow Sharia Law to be broadened and strengthened in a MILF-ruled sub-state on the southern island of Mindanao.
* INDONESIA, PAPUA formerly Irian Jaya, (RLPB 181) where predominately Javanese-Muslim Indonesian forces -- motivated primarily by racial-religious hatred and greed -- have been 'sweeping' Wamena, forcing thousands of indigenous, predominately Christian Melanesian Papuans out of their homes and into the inhospitable bush.
* PAKISTAN (RLPB 181) where another child has been accused of blasphemy. Ryan Stanten (16) and his family fled as soon as Ryan was accused, before Muslim mobs descended on their home in a secure Middle Class district of Karachi and burnt all their belongings.
UPDATE: ANOTHER CHRISTIAN ACCUSED. On 1 October, Barkat Masih, a sweeper and cleaner who is married with five children, was arrested in the eastern city of Bahawalpur on charges of blasphemy after two Muslim co-workers registered a complaint against him. The Muslims had asked Barkat to hand over keys to a shrine he was cleaning so they could retrieve the property papers. Barkat knew the men were seeking to seize the land illegally, so he refused. The Muslims vowed revenge and now Barkat is in jail, his life ruined.
* TANZANIA (RLPB 182): Where Islam is becoming increasingly intolerant, aggressive and assertive. On 10 October, after a child was accused of desecrating a Qu'ran, Muslims in the Mbagala Ward of Dar es Salaam rioted, and five churches were attacked. Such appalling criminal behaviour cannot be justified; it is pure intimidation. Pray for rule of law to prevail in Tanzania.
'And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.' (Acts 4:29,30 ESV)
OCTOBER 2012 ROUND-UP -- also this month . . .
* INDONESIA, ACEH: MORE CHURCHES CLOSED
In RLPB 169 it was reported that in April 2012 local officials in Aceh's Singkil Province (in the far south) had yielded to Islamist pressure and ordered the closure of some 20 mainly Protestant unlicensed house-churches. Most did not comply and some were subsequently attacked by armed militants. In mid-October, local government authorities in Banda Aceh (in the far north) ordered the closure of nine unlicensed churches and six Buddhist monasteries, warning that if they remain open the authorities will not guarantee their security. Nico Tarigan, the pastor of the Indonesian Bethel Church (GBI) which has been operating in Banda Aceh for eight years, said, 'We have 80 members who don't know where to pray.' Semi-autonomous Aceh is 98 percent Muslim. To get a licence to operate a place of worship in Aceh, a group needs the signatures of 150 members, plus 120 other local people (Muslims) who approve of the church's presence in their community. For most Christian groups, such requirements are unachievable. Because the house-churches do not have local licences, Indonesia's Home Minister defended the decision. The Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) has vowed to make sure the churches comply. The Islamic fundamentalists are determined to eliminate visible Christianity in Aceh, and the authorities are unable and/or unwilling to resist them.
* INDONESIA, CENTRAL SULAWESI: TERROR RETURNS
Indonesian Military (TNI) troops have been deployed to the Christian-majority regency of Poso, Central Sulawesi, following several terrorist attacks that included bombings and the murder of police officers. There are concerns the presence of the TNI might actually be counterproductive; many are anxious. Jamaah Ansharut Tauhid (JAT) extremist group in Poso is believed to be behind the recent terror. On Monday 22 October at 2 am, unidentified people spread gasoline over the Pantekosta di Indonesia church in Madale village, on the outskirts of Poso, and set it on fire, possibly in the hope of triggering a sectarian clash. However, local Muslims and Christians worked together to fight the flames until the fire brigade arrived. The re-emergence of terrorism in Central Sulawesi is of great concern, for as the Jakarta Post notes: 'A re-emergence of the conflict would also serve to fire up Muslim extremists across the country to wage war against Christians.'
* NIGERIA, KADUNA: ANOTHER CHURCH BOMBING
On Sunday 28 October a suicide bomber drove his SUV full of explosives to St Rita Catholic Church in Malali, a minority Christian enclave of in Kaduna North Local Government Area. When he could not gain access, he accelerated forward through the security checkpoint. He then drove his vehicle straight through the brick wall of the church right behind where the choir was situated, killing 10 and wounding 145. Parish Priest, Rev Fr Bonny Bazah had just finished delivering a sermon on exercising faith and was preparing to serve Holy Communion when the bomber struck. Fr Bonny has been hospitalised with facial injuries. According to one of the victims the bombing occurred 'when everybody was kneeling down. We were praying . . .' Nigerian Muslims are turning to Christ and an incredible spiritual battle is under way. We wrestle not against flesh and blood . . . (Ephesians 6:12).
* SAUDI ARABIA: updating RLPB 175. In July a 28-year-old Saudi convert to Christianity named Maryam fled the country. Subsequently, her boss, Henna Sarkees (51), a Christian Lebanese national, was charged with abusing his position to coerce her to convert, and an un-named Saudi national was charged with helping her leave the country clandestinely. On 14 October their trial was deferred yet again, to an unknown date in November.
* SYRIA: IS THE CHURCH FACING GENOCIDE?
ALEPPO: government forces are fighting to regain control of two Christian districts recently seized by rebel fighters. Kurds are also fighting to retake their territory back from rebel forces. Unlike the Arabs, who emanate from the Arabian Peninsula, Christians are indigenous to Syria and the wider region. Despite this, rebel Abu Mahar, who claims to control 200 fighters, says he does not regard Christians as true Syrians at all: 'Christians have no connection with the country,' he told AFP.
DEIR EZZOR: On Saturday 27 October a car bomb exploded outside the only Syrian Orthodox Church in the town of Deir Ezzor [or Deir el-Zour] in eastern Syria near the border with Iraq, damaging it severely and killing five local residents. In September the same church was desecrated and vandalised by Salafi groups reported to be operating freely. Deir Ezzor is currently under the control of the Free Syrian Army.
DAMASCUS: PASTOR TORTURED TO DEATH
On 19 October kidnappers seized Father Fadi Jamil Haddad, pastor of the Greek Orthodox church of St Elias in Qatana, Damascus, demanding his family and church pay a ransom of 50 million Syrian pounds (over 550 thousand euro). On 23 October kidnappers (possibly the same ones) kidnapped and killed the brother and cousin of another pastor, Father Salameh Salameh, of the Greek Catholic congregation in Damascus. On 24 October, the body of Fr Fadi Jamil Haddad was found not far from where he had been taken. An associate of the pastor reports: 'His body was horribly tortured and his eyes gouged out. It is a purely terrorist act. Fr Haddad is a martyr of our church.'
* EGYPT: INTOLERANCE ESCALATES
Assyrian International News Agency reports that on Sunday 28 October a large mob of bearded Salafi / Wahhabi Muslims attacked St Georges Church in Tala village, in Beni Suef Governorate. The mob assaulted Coptic Christians as they left the church, five of whom were hospitalised with broken bones. Cars were torched. The pastor, Father Cheroubim Chehab, was besieged, unable to get out of the church for hours. Though he had contacted police, they did not respond until the head of the Egyptian Union of Human Rights Organization, Dr Naguib Gabriel, complained to the Ministry of Interior, telling them, 'I want the whole world to know that a priest and his congregation are presently held captive in their church, afraid of the Salafi Muslims surrounding the church.' The Salafis subsequently attacked believers in their own homes. The Muslims had demanded that the church only be used by local Christians (who comprise eight percent of population of the village) and were objecting to Christians travelling in from surrounding villages that do not have a church. Of course what they really want is closure of the church.
FOR YOUR ENCOURAGEMENT:
What do Egyptian Christian youths do when faced with existential threat? They gather in the desert for three days of prayer and worship. (See: SAT7 footage of 'OneThing 2012', 4-6 October.) Remember them next time you hear of intolerant fundamentalist Islam taking hold in Egypt.
'For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare [i.e. mission and prayer] are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.' (2 Corinthians 10:3,4 ESV)
'Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD of hosts.' (Zechariah 4:6b ESV)