Wednesday, March 21, 2012

RLPB 151. Middle East: Islamic blocs to trample minorities

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 151 | Wed 21 Mar 2012

By Elizabeth Kendal

The Middle East is undergoing a massive upheaval wherein Islamist powers are struggling for regional and Islamic supremacy. According to terrorism analyst Yossef Bodansky, the 'buffer' that prevents the Islamic blocs from 'fratricidal violence' is the 'Fertile Crescent of Minorities' (Defense & Foreign Affairs Strategic Policy magazine (2/2012)). Thus it is in the interests of these blocs as they struggle in their quest for supremacy over the others that the 'Fertile Crescent of Minorities' be crushed. Unfortunately the West is so committed to majority rule that it cannot see that, by being complicit in the crushing of the region's minorities, it is actually setting the stage for a regional war of cataclysmic proportions.

* THE SUNNI ARAB AXIS (led by Saudi Arabia, backed by the West)

A Kuwaiti Member of Parliament, Osama Al-Munawer, has announced plans to submit a draft law that would ban the building of new churches while permitting existing churches to remain. On Monday 12 March a Kuwaiti delegate questioned Saudi Arabia's Grand Mufti, Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah, on the matter. The Grand Mufti responded by citing Muhammad's command: 'Two deens [religions] shall not co-exist in the Arabian Peninsula.' (Al-Muwatta Hadith - 45.18. Note that 45.17 uses the broader phrase 'in the land of the Arabs'.) Therefore, said the Sheikh, it is actually 'necessary to destroy all the churches of the region'. The Grand Mufti is Saudi Arabia's highest official of religious law. He is also the head of the Supreme Council of Ulema (Islamic scholars) and of the Standing Committee for Scientific Research and Issuing of Fatwas. Consequently his decree could unleash a tsunami of persecution. Beyond the Arabian Peninsula, Christians in the Arab lands of Egypt and Lebanon have expressed alarm and anxiety over the decree.

On Sunday 18 March militants in Yemen's southern city of Taiz shot and killed an American English-language teacher. Al Qaeda-linked Ansar al-Sharia (Partisans of Islamic Law) claimed responsibility for the targeted assassination, describing the victim, Joel Shrun (29), as 'one of the biggest American proselytisers'. Shrun had lived in Taiz with his wife and two children since 2010. Church leader Ulf Edström told reporters that threats against the school had increased of late. 'Al-Qaeda is searching for Westerners,' he said. Yemen is home to some 41,000 Christians, more than half of whom are expatriate workers. Local believers, generally converts from Islam, are mostly 'underground'.


In Iran, security officials in Isfahan have arrested 12 Christian converts over the past month as part of a wider crackdown on Christian symbols and conversions. As repression and persecution escalate, some local church leaders allied to the regime are publicly distancing themselves from their suffering brothers and sisters. (This is a common problem in highly dangerous non-free states.) See Mohabat News

In Syria (where the struggle is currently centred) recent bombings have hit Christian districts. On Saturday 17 March simultaneous suicide bombings in Damascus targeting government facilities killed 27 and wounded more than 100. One car bomb was detonated as the bomber drove through the Christian neighbourhood of al-Qassa. The 'martyrdom' group al-Nusra Front to Protect the Levant (see RLPB 148) claimed responsibility. Then on Sunday 18 March a bomb was detonated near a Latin church and two primary schools in Aleppo's Sulaymaniyeh neighbourhood, a district heavily populated with Christians. A security guard and a Syrian-Armenian woman were killed and thirty people were injured.

In Iraq (which was formerly ruled by Sunni Arabs but is now ruled by Arab Shi'ites under Iranian hegemony) another church has been attacked. Baghdad's Syrian Orthodox Church of St Matthew was one of some 20 sites targeted in a nation-wide simultaneous bombing campaign on 20 March, the ninth anniversary of the US invasion. (At the time of writing, no group had claimed responsibility.)


* preserve a remnant of his people in their homeland; may he be their refuge, provider and deliverer, bringing guidance, healing, comfort and strength, along with justice and recompense.

'. . . 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 fulfills his purpose for me. [God] will put to shame him who tramples on me.' (Psalm 57:1b,2,3b ESV)

* facilitate the escape of those who are seeking and needing an escape route; may asylum be granted without delay.

* draw his people ever closer into communion with him, increasing their faith so they will know they are never alone, but have as their ally the sovereign creator of the universe, for whom 'nothing will be impossible' (Luke 1:37).


The Middle East's minority Christians are being trampled as the region's Islamic blocs compete for regional hegemony and supremacy. On Monday 12 March the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia decreed that, in line with the teaching of Muhammad, all the region's churches should be destroyed. Days later, an American Christian English-language teacher was gunned down in Yemen. Repression and persecution are escalating in Iran with 12 believers arrested in Isfahan in the past month. In contested Syria, recent bombings in Damascus and Aleppo struck predominantly Christian districts. In Iraq, Baghdad's Syrian Orthodox Church of St Matthew was one of some 20 sites attacked on 20 March as bombs were detonated simultaneously across the nation. Please pray for the Church in the Middle East.