Wednesday, November 24, 2010

083. November Update; Incl. Afghanistan, Bhutan, Laos, Pakistan, Syria

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 083 | Wed 24 Nov 2010 

NOVEMBER 2010 UPDATE -- During November we prayed concerning . . . 

BURMA, where the fraudulent elections produced a landslide victory for the pro-military Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) -- the military junta in civilian clothes. This will doubtless be presented as a mandate for the junta's violent subjugation of its long-suffering ethnic minorities. The regime is demanding that ethnic groups' defence forces be assimilated into the centrally controlled Border Guard Force (BGF). Groups that continue to resist this demand are destined to be deemed insurgents, separatists and subversives, and will be attacked with overwhelming force in the name of 'democracy and reconciliation'. 

* UPDATE: The breakaway 5th Brigade of the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) clashed with Burmese forces in the wake of the elections (RLPB 081) and has been given 31 December 2010 as its deadline to disarm and join the BGF. On Tuesday 9 November (two days after the elections) Baptist Pastor Mang Tling (47) of Dawdin village in north-west Chin State was summoned before the military junta's hand-picked electoral commission. A pro-USDP village headman had taken revenge on the pastor for his refusal to wear a pro-USDP tee-shirt by falsely accusing him of encouraging Christians to vote for the opposition. After five days of interrogation, Pastor Mang Tling was released with orders to stop holding worship services and to close down the church's nursery program. (The Chin are estimated to be around 90 percent Christian. Chin State has a profoundly Christian culture and identity which the pro-Burman, pro-Buddhist junta has long sought to undermine.) 

IRAQ, where Islamic jihad, terrorism, hatred and intolerance specifically targeting Iraq's Christian community is escalating. The legacy of this war may well be the genocide of Iraq's indigenous Christian peoples. Iraq's Christian remnant is under siege and desperately needs refuge. 

* UPDATE: On Monday 22 November gunmen broke into a welding shop in west Mosul owned by brothers Saad Hanna (43) and Waad Hanna (40), both Syrian Catholic Christians, and shot them dead. In a separate incident, an elderly Assyrian woman was found that evening strangled in her home in central Mosul. Islamic fundamentalists and jihadists want Christians out of Iraq, hence the terror. Meanwhile, those keen to present Iraq as a successful democracy and example of Muslim-Christian co-existence want the reality covered up, hence the silence. 

EGYPT, where high level Islamic incitement against the Coptic Church is creating an extremely volatile and dangerous situation. Emboldened by years of impunity, radicalised Muslims are escalating their pogroms against Egypt's indigenous Coptic Christians. On 15 November some 1000 Muslims rioted in the village of el-Nowahed, Upper Egypt after hearing a rumour that a Christian boy had been seen with a Muslim girl. They burnt businesses, livestock and 22 homes of Copts. The next day fields and irrigation machinery belonging to Copts were also torched. 

* UPDATE: Reportedly, Egyptian State Security forces have pressured thirteen of el-Nowahed's Coptic families to sign papers stating that the fires were an 'Act of Fate' and were extinguished by security and by village Muslims. According to the Assyrian International News Agency (AINA), police have been gathering the names of Coptic youths, presumably to use as leverage in a 'reconciliation' session where Copts will be forced to give up their rights and accept total injustice in exchange for 'peace'. Meanwhile the Christians are too fearful to leave their burnt out homes in search of food and shelter lest they be slaughtered. Hossam Noel Attallah (19), the Christian boy accused of being in a relationship with a Muslim girl, is in the military hospital in Qena receiving treatment after being arrested and tortured by State Security. The situation in Egypt is absolutely appalling and deteriorating rapidly. 

NOV 2010 ROUND-UP -- also this month . . . 

* AFGHANISTAN: The trial of Afghan Christian convert Said Musa (see RLPBs 059 and 082) has been delayed until next Sunday, 28 November 2010. Christian groups, Jubilee Campaign and Advocates International, are confronted by numerous obstacles as they try to get a lawyer to Musa. Please pray for God to overcome all obstacles. Pray also for the faith, health, strength, security and witness of Said Musa and the other Christian prisoners. 

On 6 October Prem Singh Gurung, an ethnic-Nepali Bhutanese citizen, was charged with 'attempting to promote civil unrest' and sentenced to three years jail for screening films about Jesus. Whilst Gurung did violate a Bhutanese law requiring authorities to examine all films before public screening, the charge itself is false and the sentence extremely harsh. International Christian Concern reported on 12 November that two other Bhutanese Christians have gone into hiding after learning the authorities are seeking them in relation to similar charges. As Bhutan opens up to the world and is in transition from a Buddhist monarchy to a constitutional democracy, religious liberty is destined to be its greatest challenge. 

In January 2010 village officials and local security forces expelled 11 Christian families at gunpoint from Katin village, southern Laos, simply for their Christian faith. That was after months of persecution that included property confiscations, detentions and the torture-murder of a Christian villager. Despite that, two more Katin families subsequently committed to following Jesus Christ. The expelled Christian families have been struggling with disease and hunger in shelters they have erected on the edge of the jungle. They were told in July they may only return to the village if they give up their faith. Otherwise they have been warned if they try to return as Christians they will be shot. Subsequent to this, four more Katin families accepted Christ. The Katin chief and local security approached these six new Christian families in early November with the ultimatum: give up the Christian faith before January 2011 or face expulsion. Please pray for Laos' severely persecuted Church. 

On 19 June 2009 Aasia Bibi (45), a Christian mother of five, dipped her cup into a bucket of drinking water. When Muslim women subsequently complained that the water was now contaminated (by being touched by a Christian) the offended Bibi commented derisively that Muhammad was no prophet. Consequently she was jailed for blasphemy. The death sentence she received on 8 November 2010 attracted international outrage. Even if she were to be pardoned, Aasia Bibi's life would still be seriously imperilled as Christians accused of blasphemy are usually killed by Islamic vigilantes who enforce Sharia with impunity. However, top Deobandi and Barelvi clerics have joined forces in warning President Asif Ali Zadari against granting Bibi a discretionary pardon, saying that 'such a decision will lead to untoward repercussions'. The organisations represented and influenced by these clerics control many thousands of Islamic seminaries across Pakistan, mostly in Punjab. The situation in Pakistan is explosive. Please pray. 

Over recent years the number of Iraqi Christian refugees in Syria has boomed. Consequently numerous foreign Christian humanitarian ministries -- mostly American and South Korean -- have entered Syria to respond to the desperate need. Now the regime in Damascus has introduced repressive measures, supposedly to counter Protestant proselytising. According to Ya Libnan (Lebanon), the main trigger for the crackdown was Syrian Catholic and Orthodox leaders' complaints about Protestant 'sheep stealing'. The delicately positioned Alawite-led government is desperate to preserve 'religious harmony' (read: the political status quo) and so is appeasing Muslim, Catholic and Orthodox resentment. Hence the government is not renewing the visas of foreigners serving Protestant churches; is closing down independent local and foreign-sponsored Protestant worship held in 'unsanctioned' premises and is cancelling Protestant events. Please pray for wisdom, grace and courage. 

'Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.' (Matthew 10:16 ESV)