Tuesday, July 30, 2013

RLPB 221. July Update, Incl. Malaysia, Egypt, Central African Republic, Eritrea, India (the Afghan Church) and India (Madhya Pradesh)

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 221 | Wed 31 Jul 2013

By Elizabeth Kendal

For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh.  For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.
(2 Corinthians 10:3-4 ESV)


JULY 2013 UPDATE -- During July we prayed concerning . . .

* MALAYSIA (RLPB 217), where children were put at risk of forced conversion by a draft law that had been submitted directly to Parliament, by-passing the Cabinet where certainly it would have been rejected by non-Muslim members. Doubtless the government hoped it would be approved without scrutiny. PRAISE GOD, the plot failed and the ruling Barisan Nasional was forced to withdraw the Bill so it could be scrutinised by the Cabinet.

UPDATE: THE STRUGGLE FOR CHILDREN CONTINUES
On Thursday 25 July a Malaysian High Court quashed the religious conversion of three children who had been converted to Islam in a Sharia Court in 2009 by their convert father, in their absence and without the consent of their Hindu mother. Justice Lee Swee Seng declared the religious conversions 'unlawful' and 'unconstitutional'. But the four-year legal battle is still not over. The husband, K Patmanathan (now known as Mohammad Ridzuan Abdullah), will appeal the ruling (unless he is found to be in contempt of court). Pray that the court will uphold the rights of children not to be converted to Islam at the whim of a convert parent. [In Islam, conversion is essentially a legal and not a spiritual matter.]

* EGYPT (RLPB 218), where the military had ousted Egypt's first democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi, in a military coup staged under the cover of anti-Morsi protests. This triggered a violent backlash against anti-Morsi forces, particularly the Coptic Church.

UPDATE: The military is pursuing its own interests while deflecting blame onto anti-Morsi protesters. Recently they called for anti-Morsi forces to come out into the streets and provide the military with a mandate to crack down on 'terrorism', i.e., the Muslim Brotherhood. Now the military is using lethal force against Muslim Brotherhood protesters, claiming a mandate from the pro-secular forces. Is the military really trying to set Egypt on a path to civil war? Pray for the Church in Egypt.

* PAKISTAN (RLPB 219) where Muslims in the sectarian hot-spot of Gojra have accused Christians of sending blasphemous text messages by mobile phone. Instead of applying the law, the police and the court are only interested in appeasing belligerent Muslims and clerics. Pray for the Church in Pakistan.

* IRAN (RLPB 220), where persecution -- including the closing of Farsi-speaking fellowships and the imprisonment of converts from Islam -- is continuing under the new president, Hassan Rouhani. Pray for Iran's Christian prisoners.

JULY 2013 ROUND-UP -- also this month . . .

* CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC (CAR): 'DO NOT FORGET US'

A letter from a local believer in Bangui has been forwarded to RLPB. The writer describes the situation as like 'enduring Calvary', adding that it is only 'by the grace of God that we survive'. The picture is one of utter devastation, rampant hunger and widespread terror. 'From what we are currently experiencing we have the impression that it is Islam -- at the expense of Christianity -- that is in the process of settling in our secular country.' [Full text of the letter.] The Catholic Church's Peace and Justice Commission likewise laments the wanton destruction, rampant looting and extreme violence, stating: 'It seems Beelzebub, chief of all demons, now inhabits the hearts of certain daughters and sons of this country.' The Secretary-General of the Central African Republic's Catholic Bishops' Conference, Mgr Doumalo, told CatholicHerald.co.uk that Christians face continual danger and uncertainty. 'This is why we're asking the world not to forget us,' he said.

* ERITREA: SYSTEMATIC PERSECUTION OF PROTESTANT YOUTHS

In Eritrea, the law requires all citizens between the ages of 18 and 40 to perform national service, comprising 6 months military training and 12 months deployment. It is not uncommon for the deployment to be extended and for conscripts to be exploited as slave labour. Cruelty, including torture, is widespread.  To address the problem of evasion, in 2003 the government ruled that the final year of secondary school be undertaken at the Sawa Military Training Camp (SMTC). Amnesty International reports that some of these students are under 18, with some as young as 15. A student must complete this military service to graduate. Every year reports emerge of Protestant Christian students suffering violent persecution in SMTC. On 25 July Morning Star News reported that 39 school students in SMTC had been excluded from graduation. They were being subjected to beatings and forced hard labour with insufficient food and water, as well as being threatened with prison, simply because they refuse to 'renounce Christ'. Pray for the Church in Eritrea, particularly for these youths.

* INDIA: AFGHAN CHURCH GROWS AMIDST STRUGGLES

Christian converts started fleeing Afghanistan around 2005 as the Taliban gained strength. In May 2009 a Kabul-based television network, Noorin TV, broadcast images taken of a worship and a baptismal service in a Kabul secret house church. A member of the Afghan parliament subsequently called for apostates to be executed. An estimated 100 Afghan Christian converts fled to India in the following months. Afghan converts are still arriving in India, with some 40 up to July this year. The Afghan Church of New Delhi has from 200 to 250 Afghan converts, refugees who have fled religious persecution in Afghanistan. Whilst they are relatively safe now, as Afghans they suffer discrimination in Indian society, as well as hostility from Afghan Muslims who despise them as apostates. Pray that God will bless, protect, provide for and build his Afghan Church in India.

* INDIA: PERSECUTION ESCALATING IN MADHYA PRADESH

Madhya Pradesh (in central India) is ruled by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). It has long had a law requiring that those who convert to anything other than Hinduism must notify the authorities. [Hindu nationalists do not regard conversion to Hinduism as conversion, but as 'ghar vaspi': i.e. 'homecoming' or reversion.] On 10 July the Madhya Pradesh Legislative Assembly voted to increase the repression by passing a bill that requires converts and clergy to obtain permission from the authorities prior to conversion. An application form providing names of converts, as well as the date and venue of any conversion ceremony (baptism), must be submitted to the district magistrate one month prior to conversion. Once a request is submitted, the police may investigate. If the prospective converts are minors, women or members of Scheduled Castes / Scheduled Tribes (Dalits), the legislation stipulates a jail term of up to four years and/or a fine of up to 100,000 rupees (US$1,680).  The law is unconstitutional, breaching the citizen's rights to privacy and freedom of religion. India's BJP-led states are enacting laws that are unconstitutional knowing the Federal Government is unwilling or unable to defend the constitutional rights of citizens. Pray for God's intervention in India.

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Elizabeth Kendal is the author of
Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today 
(Deror Books, Dec 2012)

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

RLPB 220. Iran: Christians imprisoned for their faith

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 220 | Wed 24 Jul 2013

IRAN: CHRISTIANS IMPRISONED FOR THEIR FAITH
-- PLUS: update from Pakistan

By Elizabeth Kendal

On 12 October 2012 security officials raided a house in Shiraz where members of the Church of Iran denomination had gathered to pray. Elderly believers were harassed and threatened and eight others were arrested. A few days later two other members were summoned to the Intelligence Ministry detention centre where they were subsequently arrested (although a lady with kidney disease was released the following day). The believers were transferred to Adel-Abad Prison and kept separate from other prisoners. Whilst two believers were released on bail in late October, the others remained incarcerated until March 2013. The judge set bail for prayer leader Mohammed Roghangir at US$200,000, while the others had to find US$80,000 each. The exorbitant sums were doubtless designed to cripple the believers and deter others.

Sentences were handed down on Tuesday 16 July. Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) reports: 'Mohammad Roghangir was sentenced to six years, Massoud Rezaie to five years, Mehdi Ameruni and Bijan Farokhpour Haghighi to three years, Shahin Lahooti and Suroush Saraie to two-and-half-years each, while Eskandar Rezaie and Roxana Forughi were both sentenced to one year in prison.' Morning Star News adds that the believers were found guilty of 'action against the national security' and 'propaganda against the system'. These believers were not plotting terrorism or spying for the CIA, nor were they marching in the streets inciting counter-revolution! They were praying as Christians. Because Islam is a material and political religion, apostasy (leaving Islam) is not viewed as a spiritual issue as much as a betrayal of the Ummah (Muslim community) and treason against the Islamic State. To prevent apostates from becoming a source of 'fitna' (trouble / temptation to doubt Islam), Islamic law mandates that apostates be killed, or at least rendered utterly undesirable. [In reality, Islam's repression and cruelty is a prime source of 'fitna' and Muslims are increasingly seeing Islamic states as utterly undesirable.]

Pastor Robert Asserian had been arrested on 21 May in a crackdown on Farsi-speaking ministries, but was released on bail on 2 July on the condition that he remain silent. The Assemblies of God (AoG) church in Tehran where he ministered has since closed (RLPB 212). Mostafa Bordbar (27), a convert from Islam imprisoned in Tehran's notorious Evin Prison, is awaiting trial on charges of participating in a house church, an illegal gathering. Bordbar was arrested on 27 December 2012 when police raided a Christmas celebration in a Christian's home. Bordbar has been imprisoned before, for converting to Christianity, and was out on bail. Judge Pir-Abbas (the 'hanging judge') is handling his case.

The election of President Hassan Rouhani has not changed anything. The clerical regime hand-picks the candidates and manipulates the entire election process. Whilst Rouhani was presented to the people and the world as a 'reformist' and 'moderate', he is neither. He has a pleasant public persona, so he is preferred by many in the reformist and pragmatist camps, but he is no counter-revolutionary. Rouhani is a total insider, close to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei who is doubtless pleased that a belligerent, obnoxious and increasingly non-compliant puppet has been replaced with a silky-smooth one. Banafsheh Zand, a US-based Iranian journalist (whose own father was arrested in 2001, then imprisoned and tortured before being murdered in 2011) describes Khamenei as a masterful tactician, and Rouhani as 'duplicitous' (deceitful, double-dealing). 

Mostafa Bordbar, Farshid Fathi and Alizreza Seyyedian -- three Christians in prison for their faith -- have written to President Rouhani requesting that, with God's help, he might restore respect and honour to Iran's name by restoring religious freedom.


PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT --

* the great Counsellor, the ever-present, comforting and empowering Holy Spirit will remind all Iran's imprisoned believers and their families that God's grace is sufficient for them, for his power is made perfect in  their weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

* local believers will have courage and conviction to uphold and care for the persecuted, despite the risks involved, demonstrating sacrificial love as befits a family that has put its trust in God. (2 Timothy 1:15-18; John 13:34-35)

* the Church in the world will 'Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.' (Hebrews 13:3 ESV)

* God will awaken Iranians to realise their country's problems are not administrative but are spiritual; may he bless Iran with revival! (Ephesians 2:8-9)


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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CHRISTIANS IN IRAN IMPRISONED FOR THEIR FAITH


On Tuesday 16 July 2013 eight Iranian converts from Islam were sentenced to between one and six years imprisonment. They had been arrested at a house church prayer meeting in October 2012 and were found guilty of 'action against the national security' and 'propaganda against the system'. Robert Asserian, pastor of the now-closed Assemblies of God church in Tehran, was arrested on 21 May and released on bail on 2 July, on the condition that he 'remain silent'. Mostafa Bordbar, imprisoned in Tehran's notorious Evin Prison, is awaiting trial on charges of participating in a house church, an illegal gathering. Faith can be extremely costly in Iran, with long prison sentences and crippling amounts required for bail. Please pray for the Church in Iran.

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UPDATE: PAKISTAN (updating RLPB 219).

In Gojra on 20 July Christians Shafqat Masih (43) and his wife Shagufta (40) were arrested after a local Muslim accused them of sending a blasphemous text message. Their relatives have fled and it is not clear who is caring for the couple's four children aged 5 to 11 years. Shafqat insists that the police coerced him into making a confession and maintains that the accusation is false. The similarities to last week's case are blatant. Morning Star News comments: 'Accusations of blasphemous text messages could be a dangerous trend, as obtaining and activating SIM cards using someone else's national identity card is not difficult in Pakistan. Such evidence is hard to challenge in court, leaving people of all faiths at risk of being falsely convicted of blasphemy.' Please pray for the Church in Pakistan.

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Elizabeth Kendal is the author of
Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah speaks to Christians today
(Deror Books, Dec 2012)

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

RLPB 219. Pakistan: false claims, blasphemy and Interpol

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 219 | Wed 17 Jul 2013

PAKISTAN: FALSE CLAIMS, BLASPHEMY AND INTERPOL
-- PLUS update from Egypt

By Elizabeth Kendal


On 11 December 2011 Muslim clerics in Gojra reported to police that a Christian man by the name of Sajjad Masih, a resident of Pakpatten (a two-and-a-half-hour drive south-east of Gojra), had sent them blasphemous messages via mobile phone. Upon learning of the accusation, Sajjad immediately went into hiding. Eventually Christian leaders in Gojra convinced him to accompany them to the Gojra City Police Station so he could record his statement. Once the police had Sajjad in custody they refused to release him. Morning Star News reports that as soon as the Christian leaders left the police station, the police started beating Sajjad. To coerce a 'confession' they hung him upside down, connected his feet to electric wires and threatened to electrocute him. Sajjad 'confessed' and was transferred to Toba Tek Singh Prison. On Saturday 13 July 2013 the court in Toba Tek Singh District, Punjab Province, found Sajjad Masih (29) guilty of blasphemy. Sajjad was fined 200,000 Rupees (USD1980) and sentenced to life in prison.

The judge was not bothered that the case was full of anomalies. According to the prosecution, Sajjad Masih was engaged to Ruma Masih, a Christian girl in Gojra Christian Colony, who then betrayed him by marrying a man in the UK. It is alleged that the vindictive Sajjad then used a mobile phone SIM card that he purchased in Ruma's name to send blasphemous messages to clerics in Gojra in the hope that she would be blamed and punished for her 'betrayal'. The court accepted the prosecution's case despite a total lack of evidence. Morning Star News and Pakistan Christian Post both report that the prosecution was unable to produce the SIM card, the mobile phone, phone records or eye witnesses to support their case. Furthermore, evidence was provided to the effect that Sajjad had been in his office all day on the day the SIM card was alleged to have been purchased. Also, the complainant in the case, Tariq Saleem, backed down under cross-examination, confessing that he had been coerced by police to file the case when in truth he had never received a blasphemous message. Despite all this, Sajjad was charged, convicted and sentenced, all due to pressure from Islamic clerics.

If this were not enough, Indian Express reported on 14 July, 'Muslims and clerics of Gojra also pressured police to try Ruma under the blasphemy law.' So, 'On the request of police, the federal interior ministry sought a red corner notice [Red Notice] from Interpol for the arrest of Ruma in the UK but she is yet to be traced. Pakistani police have declared her a "proclaimed offender" or fugitive'. [To understand how Interpol can be abused in this way, see here.] According to Attorney Javed Sahotra, some 'young Muslim men' in Gojra had plotted against Sajjad Masih to 'punish him for being friends with a local Christian girl'. No-one has yet explained why they cared about Sajjad's relationship with Ruma. Maybe these young Muslim men framed Sajjad to get him out of the way. Perhaps they are seeking to punish Ruma for not submitting to their will.

This case shows how police actions and court rulings are being dictated by belligerent 'Muslims and clerics' rather than by law or reason whilst the government is either unwilling or unable to do anything about it. Clearly Pakistan is no longer ruled by law, but by vindictive and intolerant Muslims and clerics who persecute with impunity and dictate to police, judges and lawmakers. Even in the rare case of an acquittal, a person who has been accused of blasphemy is targeted for life. [See documentary: 'Murder in God's Name'.] Christians in Pakistan are living with a continuous threat to their life. When the rule of law collapses in a society infected with intolerance and hate, what is left to restrain evil?

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT --

* God will cause Sajjad to be acquitted on appeal, and may he deliver both Sajjad and Ruma (with their extended families) from Islamic mischief and vindictiveness.  (Psalm 140)

* the Lord of Hosts will send his heavenly forces to restrain and pacify the Muslims and clerics of Gojra so that Gojra's vulnerable Christian Colony (ravaged by a deadly Islamic pogrom in August 2009) will be spared more violence.  (Psalm 57:1-3)

* our sovereign, redeeming God will intervene in Pakistan to graciously effect a breakthrough that will halt the decay and reverse the way being taken; may justice and righteousness be established for the sake of the Church and the 'harassed and helpless' Muslim masses who need to hear the gospel. (Matthew 9:36 ESV)


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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PAKISTAN -- FALSE CLAIMS, BLASPHEMY AND INTERPOL


Sajjad Masih (29) and his friend, Ruma Masih, two Christians from Punjab, have been falsely accused of blasphemy. On 13 July Sajjad (detained since December 2011) was sentenced to life in prison, despite a total absence of evidence and a retraction from the complainant who confessed to being coerced into filing a false claim. Ruma now lives in the UK. The actions of the Gojra police and the judgment of the Gojra court were not determined by law, but by belligerent Muslims and clerics in Gojra. First they forced the court to convict Sajjad and then made the police charge Ruma. Pakistan has issued an Interpol Red Notice against Ruma, so she might be arrested in the UK as a fugitive. Please pray for Pakistan and its imperilled Christians.

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UPDATE: EGYPT (updating RLPB 218).

There has been another assassination in North Sinai. Christian businessman Magdy Lamei had been kidnapped by Islamic militants in Sheikh Zuwayed on Saturday 6 July. This was the same day a Coptic priest was assassinated in neighbouring al-Arish. Lamei's bound and decapitated body was found dumped in the street on 11 July. He had been an active Christian who ministered in the church and regularly opened his home for prayers. Christians are fleeing from North Sinai.

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Elizabeth Kendal is the author of
Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah speaks to Christians today
(Deror Books, Dec 2012)

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

RLPB 218. Egypt: Islamic wrath falls on the church

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 218 | Wed 10 Jul 2013

EGYPT: ISLAMIC WRATH FALLS ON THE CHURCH;
plus update on Malaysia

By Elizabeth Kendal

On Wednesday 3 July the Egyptian military ousted the country's first democratically elected President, Mohamed Morsi, and placed him under 'house arrest'. Tanks moved into Cairo, the Parliament was dissolved and the Constitution was suspended. Whilst the military ousted Morsi in pursuit of its own interests, it did so under the cover of anti-Morsi protests, all but guaranteeing that Morsi's civilian opponents will suffer the reprisals. No soft target so clearly represents opposition to Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) as the Coptic Church, making it exceptionally vulnerable. The Coptic Pope compounded this vulnerability when he blessed the coup and supported the suspension of the Constitution. On Friday 5 July MB leader Mohamed Badie addressed a gathering of tens of thousands of justifiably enraged Islamists outside the Rabaa al-Adweya Mosque in Nasr City, Cairo. He slammed the Coptic Pope, condemned the coup and called on Muslims to rise up and not stop fighting until Morsi was returned to office.

UPPER EGYPT: On Wednesday 3 July Islamists in Minya Governorate attacked the evangelical church in el-Saleh, injuring two. In Delgia village dozens of Christian homes were looted at gunpoint and burned by Muslim rioters chanting anti-Christian slogans. Delgia's Coptic Church of St George was set ablaze. The priest survived only because his Muslim neighbours pulled him out of the inferno through a hole he'd made in the roof and gave him refuge. Most Christians have now fled the area. Further south in Qena, Islamic rioters attempted to attack the main Coptic cathedral but were repelled by the military. The rioters then looted and ransacked Coptic homes and businesses. Most Christians have now fled this area. On Saturday 6 July Christians in the village of Nag Hassan in Luxor Governorate came under attack from a Muslim mob; four people were murdered and three others injured while 16 Coptic homes and businesses were torched. The Church of the Virgin Mary was also attacked; most Christians have now fled this area too.

MEDITERRANEAN COAST: On 3 July the military repelled Muslim rioters who were stoning the Church of Holy Virgin in the coastal resort city of Marsa Matrouh, 240km west of Alexandria. On 9 July gunmen opened fire on the Mar Mina Church in Port Said (at the mouth of the Suez Canal); no casualties were reported.
 
SINAI: On 4 July at least two explosions were heard in the Israeli city of Eilat on the Red Sea. Remnants were found of a Grad rocket believed to have been fired by jihadists in the Sinai, Egypt. On 5 July the military opened fire on Morsi supporters who were demonstrating during Friday prayers in the coastal city of el-Arish, North Sinai, wounding at least 21. Jihadists immediately retaliated, expelling the military and raising the black flag of al-Qaeda. Salafi jihadist group, Salafiyya al Jihadiyya, slammed the 'crime' and announced the formation of a new group, Ansar al Sharia in Egypt, which it said was acquiring weapons and preparing to fight.  The next day, gunmen on a motorbike shot dead a Coptic priest, Mena Aboud Sharoben (39), as he was walking through the Masaeed area in el-Arish.

JUST THE BEGINNING: Whilst the military may have ousted an Islamist President, dissolved a Muslim Brotherhood-dominated Parliament and suspended an Islamised Constitution, these actions have actually increased the risk to Egyptian Christians. Military violence -- such as the army's firing on pro-Morsi demonstrators in Cairo on Monday 8 July, killing 51 and wounding more than 300 -- is only further inflaming the situation. The coup will serve to radicalise many MB supporters, especially as Islamic groups from Tunisia to Somalia are citing the coup as proof that democracy does not work and that Islam can be established only by the bullet not the ballot. Al-Qaeda leader Ayman Zawahiri (an Egyptian) has ominously warned: 'The battle in Egypt is far from over, it has only just begun.'

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL --

* pour out his Holy Spirit abundantly on the Church in Egypt, so that the fears of Christians would be calmed and so they will   trust the Lord for their every need.

'I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.' (Psalm 121:1,2 ESV)

* shield, protect, sustain and deliver all who look to him in faith.

'Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by. I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfils his purpose for me.' (Psalm 57:1,2 ESV)

* use the present troubles to awaken Arabs not merely to the fact that Islam is not the solution, but to the truth that the solution and empowerment for transformation are found in Jesus Christ.

SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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ISLAMIC WRATH FALLS ON THE CHURCH IN EGYPT


Egyptian Islamists are justifiably furious that their democratically elected President Morsi has been ousted in a military coup effected under the cover of anti-Morsi protests. The Coptic Church is clearly a soft target amongst the opposition to Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, making it exceptionally vulnerable to Islamic reprisals. Since the 3 July coup churches have been attacked in the cities of Marsa Matrouh and Port Said on the Mediterranean coast, as well as in al-Arish, North Sinai, where a Coptic priest was assassinated. In Minya and Luxor Governorates, Upper Egypt, many churches have been attacked, four Christians killed and dozens of Christian homes and businesses have been looted and torched by Islamic mobs chanting anti-Christian slogans. Hundreds of Christian families have fled. Please pray for the Church in Egypt.

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MALAYSIA UPDATE

RLPB 217 (3 July 2013) called for prayer against the Administration of the Religion of Islam (Federal Territories) Bill 2013 which would permit the unilateral forced conversion of minors. Praise God: on Friday 5 July, the Cabinet agreed to withdraw the Bill so that it might be reviewed by Cabinet. Groups that have protested the Bill are calling on the government to amend related laws that contain the same wording. Meanwhile, Islamic leaders who maintain that 'there is no need for both parents to consent to their children's conversion if one of the parents has already embraced the Islamic faith' are calling on Muslims to rise up and unite in defence of Islam. Pray that the government will have the courage to protect human rights and implement the law in the face of Islamic challenges.


RAMADAN commenced on 9 July and will run through to 7 August. Please pray for Muslims during Ramadan. For resources, visit 30 Days

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Elizabeth Kendal is the author of
Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah speaks to Christians today
(Deror Books, Dec 2012)

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

RLPB 217. Malaysia: move to legalise forced conversion of minors

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 217 | Wed 03 Jul 2013

MALAYSIA: MOVE TO LEGALISE FORCED CONVERSION OF MINORS

By Elizabeth Kendal

In early 2009 there was an outcry in Malaysia after three children born to an Indian Hindu couple were converted to Islam by the father without the mother's consent after he converted to Islam. At that time, the Cabinet discussed the case and decided that the children of an estranged couple should remain in the 'common religion of the parents at the time of their marriage'. In Malaysia, Cabinet decisions are essentially unwritten laws that civil servants are obliged to implement. Despite the April 2009 Cabinet decision, Islamic officials have continued to convert minors at the request of one parent, without the consent of the other. For example, in April 2013 an estranged husband, who converted from Hinduism to Islam in prison, secretly took his two children aged 5 and 8 to an Islamic Centre where they were officially converted to Islam and given Islamic names. When their Hindu mother sought redress she was told that because her children were now Muslims she would have to go through the Sharia courts. Believing that to be futile and possibly even dangerous, in early June she opted instead to lodge a complaint with the police. This case triggered a fresh outcry when it was exposed in the media. [Note: in Islam, the Islamic State determines and manages a person's religion; it is not a matter of personal freedom.]

In Malaysian politics, a draft law or 'bill' is discussed and approved by the Cabinet before it is submitted to the Parliament. Yet on Wednesday 26 June a bill permitting the unilateral conversion of minors into Islam went to the Parliament without first going to the Cabinet. If passed, the Administration of the Religion of Islam (Federal Territories) Bill 2013 will replace the 1993 Act. This bill would further Islamise Malaysian law by mandating that a minor may be converted to Islam by 'his parent' (singular). The bill employs the same language as the Constitution (Article 12(4)). However, Article 160(1) of the Constitution clarifies that the Constitution is to be interpreted according to the 'Eleventh Schedule' which states: 'words importing the masculine gender include females'; and 'words in the singular include the plural, and words in the plural include the singular'. As such, it has always been understood that where the Constitution says 'his' it includes 'her' where relevant, and where it says 'parent' it may be interpreted as 'parents' where both parents are alive.

Because the bill bypassed the Cabinet it was introduced into Parliament without any scrutiny from the Cabinet's non-Muslim members, leaving non-Muslim MPs feeling betrayed and marginalised. Malaysia is 50 percent ethnic Malay and 60 percent Muslim, but a significant proportion of those Muslims would be nominal or secular. The government was wrong if it thought it could get passage of this bill by stealth, for the bill has caused an outcry, particularly amongst Malaysia's non-Muslims. Despite this, the government is standing firm. On 1 July Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin insisted that the bill would proceed despite it being contrary to the April 2009 Cabinet decision, maintaining it is based on the Constitution, court precedents and present realities.

The Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) has slammed the 'stealthy' tabling of the bill. As MCA vice president Gan Ping Sieu notes, 'It contains controversial provisions that affect the constitutional and religious rights of the non-Muslim. This will seriously and irredeemably affect the religious harmony and national unity of our country.' According to the Malaysian Bar Council President, Christopher Leong, the unilateral conversion of minors is unconstitutional. Roman Catholic Bishop Paul Tan Chee Ing comments: 'I understand this amendment contravenes a decision by the Cabinet announced on 23 April, 2009 that a single parent cannot convert a minor. If so, this would not be the first time that the Cabinet is overridden by civil service functionaries -- the main drivers of creeping Islamisation in this country.'

It is not uncommon to find non-Muslims (including nominal and backsliding Christians) converting to Islam for personal gain: in particular, men converting to Islam so they can take another wife. If passed, this bill will legalise the forced conversion of non-Muslim children. And as the bill states (Article 99): 'From the moment of his conversion, a mualaf (convert) becomes subject to the same duties and obligations as any other Muslim.' For the sake of vulnerable children, we must pray against this bill.

'Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.' (Jesus: Matthew 19:14 ESV)

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT ---

* the Spirit of the Lord will arouse passionate indignation in all Malaysians who treasure personal liberty and the fundamental human rights of children, so that this bill will not pass and the loopholes will be tightened to protect vulnerable children from Islamic mischief.

* God will halt the Islamisation of Malaysia and that the Malaysian Church looks to the Lord of Hosts who has promised to be 'strength to those who turn back the battle at the gate' (from Isaiah 28:5-6 ESV).

* our faithful Lord Jesus Christ will establish justice for all Christian children and parents who have been robbed through Islamic mischief, not only in Malaysia, but in Egypt (where it is also uncommon) and throughout the Islamic world.

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Ramadan commences on 9 July and will run through to 7 August. Please pray for Muslims during the 30 days of Ramadan. For resources, visit 30-Days.
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SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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MOVE TO LEGALISE FORCED CONVERSION OF MINORS IN MALAYSIA


On 26 June a bill that would further Islamise Malaysian law went to the parliament. It provides that a minor may be converted to Islam by 'his parent' (singular) without the consent of the other parent. Thus a parent who (for whatever reason of self-interest) has converted to Islam could get their children registered as Muslims. (Christian parents and children suffer this mischief throughout the Islamic world.) The government was wrong in thinking it could get the bill through by stealth as it has caused an outcry, particularly amongst non-Muslims. May the Malaysian Church, amidst all this, look to the Lord of Hosts to be her strength. Please pray against this bill, for the sake of Malaysia, its children, the Church and all others vulnerable in this situation.

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Elizabeth Kendal is the author of
Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah speaks to Christians today
(Deror Books, Dec 2012)