Wednesday, January 5, 2011

089. Ominous start to New Year

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 089 | Wed 05 Jan 2011


By Elizabeth Kendal

On the evening of 30 December 2010, Islamic militants placed a bomb on the doorstep of a home belonging to a Christian couple in Baghdad (Iraq) and rang the doorbell. Fawzi Rahim (76) and his wife Janet Mekha (78) were killed instantly when they answered the door. Three passers-by were wounded. Seven homes were targeted across Baghdad that night, leaving a further 13 people wounded. (Six were Christian homes and one was Muslim, targeted because of the Christmas tree in its front window.) Al-Qaeda in Iraq (Sunni) declared war on Iraq's Christians in November 2010. However, militant Sunnis are not the only threat for, according to reports, Christians living in Shi'ite-dominated areas are intimidated by Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army (Shi'ite) which pressures them into not celebrating their faith openly.

Early on New Year's Day, a massive bomb exploded outside Saints Church in Sidi Bishr, Alexandria (Egypt), just as Coptic Christians (indigenous Egyptians) were emerging from a New Year mass. The bomb, which killed 21 and wounded 79, was detonated by a suicide bomber who had packed his arsenal with nails, bolts and ball bearings to maximise casualties. Christians protested into the early hours, lifting up wooden crosses, some draped with bloodied cloths. When scuffles broke out between Christian and Muslim groups, the police reportedly sided with the Muslims. Copts are understandably anxious about celebrating Coptic Christmas on 7 January. Last year five Copts, mostly youths, were gunned down as they emerged from Christmas Eve mass at St John's Church in Nag Hammadi, Upper Egypt. A further 11 were critically wounded. Whilst the government has arrested the gunman, he has not been convicted.

Meanwhile, Africa's ethnic-religious fault-line is under immense stress. The political crisis in Ivory Coast is rapidly heading towards civil war. West Africa, France, the USA and the UN have been quick to endorse Ouattara for various reasons ranging from pragmatism to profit, while disregarding constitutional issues. They have also ignored widespread reports of voter intimidation and fraud in the rebel-held Muslim north which, in violation of all peace agreements, has never disarmed. In Nigeria, ethnic-religious tensions are soaring in the Middle Belt city of Jos as Islamic aggression intensifies. Also Boko Haram (now officially affiliated with al-Qaeda) is escalating its terrorism in Borno, north-east Nigeria. Ethnic-religious tensions are soaring in Sudan ahead of the long-awaited referendum on Southern independence on Sunday 9 January. This has the potential to trigger Muslim-Christian and North-South conflict, as well as ethnic-religious cleansing in the North.

Furthermore 2011 may well prove to be a pivotal year for flood-devastated, politically-paralysed, increasingly radicalised Pakistan. On 24 December 2010 many thousands of fundamentalist Muslims joined in a national strike, protesting in Pakistan's major towns and cities against any moves to reform the blasphemy law. In Lahore, a crowd of some 1500 called for 'jihad' and pledged to sacrifice their lives to protect the honour of their prophet Mohammad. The family of Aasia Bibi (45), a Christian mother of five sentenced to death for alleged blasphemy, has fled into hiding because of death threats. Even if Aasia receives a presidential pardon she will remain a targeted woman and the whole family will require asylum in a secret location. On 4 January the governor of Punjab province, Salman Taseer (65), was assassinated by his bodyguard, Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri (26), who labelled Taseer a 'blasphemer' because of his opposition to the blasphemy laws. The brutal assassination has further polarised Punjab's conservatives and moderates. Qadri has become an instant hero to pro-Sharia Islamic fundamentalists everywhere. A fan page established on Facebook is attracting thousands of supporters.


* defend, comfort and lead all persecuted and threatened Christians, that they will know his strength and his love and not lose heart in these faith-testing times.

Behold, the Lord GOD comes with might,
and his arm rules for him;
behold, his reward is with him,
and his recompense before him.
He will tend his flock like a shepherd;
he will gather the lambs in his arms;
he will carry them in his bosom,
and gently lead those that are with young.
(Isaiah 40:10,11 ESV)

* pour out a spirit of intercession upon The Church, so that The Church -- desiring spiritual unity, compelled by brotherly love -- will pray and wait on the Lord, just as he exhorts us.

'. . . praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints . . .' (Ephesians 6:18 ESV)



In the past week six Christian homes were bombed in Baghdad (Iraq) killing two and wounding 16, and a Coptic Church was bombed in Alexandria (Egypt) killing 21 and wounding 79. Religious tensions are soaring on Africa's increasingly stressed ethnic-religious fault-line: particularly in Ivory Coast where civil war looms; in Middle Belt and Northern Nigeria where dozens of Christians were killed and wounded in Islamic terror over Christmas; and in Sudan where the 9 January referendum on Southern independence threatens to trigger renewed conflict. In Pakistan the year opened with mass strikes by Islamic fundamentalists demonstrating in support of harsh blasphemy laws. On 4 January the governor of Punjab province, Salman Taseer (65), was assassinated by his conservative bodyguard for opposing Pakistan's blasphemy laws. In 2011 the Body of Christ must become serious about the business of prayer (advocacy to the highest authority). Let us pray.