Wednesday, November 25, 2009

032. November Update; incl.Iran, Egypt, Lebanon, Russia, Somalia

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 032 | Wed 25 Nov 2009

NOVEMBER 2009 UPDATE -- During the month we prayed concerning . . .

INDIA, where impunity is fuelling the rise of violent persecution.

NORTH CAUCASUS, where the mujahideen of the self-declared 'Caucasus Emirates' are escalating their jihadist violence. The local remnant church is very vulnerable.

CHINA, where repression and religious persecution are escalating in line with the ruling Communist Party's sense of ascendancy.

NOVEMBER 2009 ROUND-UP -- Also this month . . .

* IDOP (International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church).
Hundreds of thousands of congregations around the world prayed in solidarity for the persecuted church on 8 & 15 November. Please pray that cross-bearing and burden-sharing might come to be recognised as integral to Christian life and worship (as opposed to being distasteful, optional and/or occasional) for the benefit of the whole body of Christ and the glory of God.


Maryam (27) and Marzieh (30) walked free from Tehran's Evin Prison on 18 November. Imprisoned on 5 March and subsequently charged with apostasy (leaving Islam), they were released without explanation and without bail. Whilst they still have to face court they told Elam Ministries, 'Words are not enough to express our gratitude to the Lord and to his people who have prayed and worked for our release.' However, as known and unapologetic apostates, their lives will be at risk from Islamic vigilantes keen to carry out the Sharia provision of death to apostates. Furthermore, state-sponsored vigilantism is not uncommon in Islamic states that want to enforce Sharia but dare not to for geo-political reasons. Please continue to pray for Maryam and Marzieh as their liberty and security remains imperilled.


On 18 November a 12-year-old Muslim girl in the Upper Egyptian town of Farshoot reported that she had been raped by an unknown man in a black jacket. Police arrested Girgis Baroumi (21), a Copt, on suspicion. On 21 November a massive Islamic pogrom erupted with widespread seizing, looting and torching of Coptic property, homes and businesses in Farshoot, spreading to several neighbouring villages. According to AINA, a mob ambushed Coptic priest Rev Benjamin Noshi and assaulted him, fracturing his skull. Police reportedly did little to protect Copts or Coptic property. Local Coptic leaders doubt the rape allegation, but add that even if true it does not justify collective punishment by vigilante mobs. The matter must be dealt with lawfully. The security situation for Copts, Egypt's indigenous Christians, is extremely serious and deteriorating fast.


In May 2008 Hezballah, an Iranian proxy Shi'ite terrorist organisation, demonstrated its power by seizing control of Beirut (Sunni) and Mt Lebanon (Druze). The Sunni-dominated 'March 14' alliance won the June 2009 elections but agreed to form a government of national unity to appease Hezballah. After five months of political deadlock, Prime Minister Sa'd Al-Hariri has submitted to Hezballah's demands. Though Hezballah lost the elections, it has now gained the right to veto parliament and control the foreign affairs, health, communications, energy and industry portfolios. Less than 60 years after Lebanon was established as an independent Christian-majority secular Arab democracy to showcase Muslim-Christian co-existence, the future for religious liberty is bleak.


A masked intruder entered the Church of St Thomas in southern Moscow on the evening of 19 November and assassinated Russian Orthodox priest Rev Daniil Sysoyev (34, married with three children) after asking for him by name. Choirmaster Vladimir Strelbinsky was shot and is in hospital, seriously wounded. Father Daniil was an experienced theologian and specialist on Islam who had been actively engaged in missionary work amongst Russia's Muslims for at least eight years. He also regularly debated Islam's representatives in public and had received many death threats. Interfax reports: 'He began receiving threats four years ago after holding a public debate with Vyacheslav Polosin, the former Orthodox priest who converted to Islam.' When he wrote a book in 2007 condemning Islam's treatment of women, the co-chairman of the Council of Muftis of Russia, Nafigulla Ashirov, called him a 'Russian Salman Rushdie'.

Father Daniil had reportedly baptised some 80 Muslims, among them Tatars, Uzbeks, Chechens and Dagestanis. He recently told journalists that other priests were unwilling to follow his lead because 'they are afraid of revenge from the Muslim world'. Whilst Islamic militants are suspect, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, warned against any hasty accusations until the killer has been identified. Father Daniil had other enemies, including radical cultic pagans and pro-Stalin ultra-nationalists. The funeral service was held in Yasenevo, south-west of Moscow, in the church where Daniil's father, Alexy Sysoyev, is a priest. Praise God for Rev Daniil Sysoyev's courageous witness. Please pray for his family and congregation, as well as choirmaster Vladimir Strelbinsky. Pray that God will raise up and send out more workers into his Russian harvest (Luke 10:2).

'When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: "Death is swallowed up in victory" . . . Therefore . . . be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labour is not in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:54,58 ESV)'


Compass Direct reports that the body of Mumin Abdikarim Yusuf (23), a Christian convert from Islam, was discovered on 14 November. He had been executed by al-Shabaab after a boy (15) to whom he had been witnessing reported him to the terrorists. Before shooting him in the head and dumping his body on a Mogadishu street, the Islamic militants had obviously tortured Mumin severely. Presumably al-Shabaab were after information about other Christians. Al-Shabaab have since charged Mumin's Muslim parents of failing to report his conversion and they have been ordered to face a Sharia court. Mumin's parents say he had kept his conversion secret, even from them. Please pray for the Church in Somalia.