Wednesday, May 30, 2012

RLPB 161. May Update; Incl. Mali, Egypt, Indonesia, Kuwait, UK, Zanzibar

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 161 | Wed 30 May 2012
By Elizabeth Kendal

MAY 2012 UPDATE -- During May we prayed concerning . . . 

* AFRICA (RLPB 157), where Christians are at risk from Islamic terrorism from one side of the continent to the other.

UPDATE: Al-Qaeda-linked rebel forces (which includes elements of Nigeria's Boko Haram) that are controlling northern Mali have seized a key underground weapons and ammunition depot of the Malian Army in Gao. A regional security source confirmed the seizure, saying the vast cache of weapons will greatly boost al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb's (AQIM's) striking power, adding that the group 'is today more armed than the combined armies of Mali and Burkina Faso'.  See RLPB 157 for critical prayer points, particularly that supply-lines will be cut off.
For an update on Mali see:
"Islamist's weapons siezure will greatly boost AQIM's striking power "
Religious Liberty Monitoring 6 June 2012

* INDIA (RLPB 158), where militant Hindu nationalism, which is advancing unchallenged and with impunity, is bringing great suffering to the body of Christ.

* ACEH, INDONESIA (RLPB 159), where a new Islamist governor is acquiescing to Islamic hard-line fundamentalists and escalating repression against the church.

* SYRIA & LEBANON (RLPB 160), where sectarian violence is escalating and spreading, leaving large Christian minorities in great need of divine refuge and deliverance.

'The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies.' (Psalm 18:2,3 ESV)

MAY 2012 ROUND-UP -- also this month . . .

Over 23-24 May, Egyptians voted to elect a president from amongst 13 candidates. There was a low turnout of only 46 percent. The two front-runners will go head-to-head in a run-off over 16-17 June. They are the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohammed Morsi who polled 25.3 percent, and Ahmed Shafiq who polled 24.9 percent. Shafiq, a former air force commander, was former president Hosni Mubarak's last prime minister. For many, the run-off presents an unthinkable dilemma: to risk the feared Islamists or to return to the reviled regime? This choice leaves many Egyptians very angry and deeply conflicted. The Islamists are blaming the unexpected rise of Ahmed Shafiq on the 'unfortunate' and 'sectarian' vote of Christians who, they falsely claim, were following directions from Coptic Church leaders. In reality, the Copts were totally free to vote according to conscience and Shafiq -- who campaigned on a platform of stability and security -- won most of his votes in the Delta provinces where Copts number only about 5 percent. As Egyptian media fuel the rumours, the Copts are finding themselves under fire from both the Islamists and the young 'revolutionaries'. On Monday 28 May rioting Egyptian youths ransacked and set fire to Shafiq's campaign headquarters in Cairo. Similar protests erupted in other cities. The fear now is that the run-off will accelerate the fracturing of Egyptian society and that the Christians will be slandered as spoilers of the revolution so that all anger might be deflected on to them. Pray for Egypt's threatened Christians.

On Thursday 17 May, some 100 members of the Philadelphia Batak Christian Protestant Church in Bekasi, a suburb of Jakarta, in West Java, met for prayer and worship, surrounded -- as they are every week -- by a large angry Muslim mob. In direct violation of a Supreme Court ruling, local authorities refuse to let the church construct a building. Consequently the believers are forced to meet in the open air where they are vulnerable to weekly abuse and violence from members of the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI). As soon as Pastor Palti Panjaitan began speaking, the 600-strong Islamist mob began pelting the believers with stones, frogs and plastic bags filled with urine, forcing the believers to disperse. The police on guard did nothing to intervene and nobody has been arrested. Three days later (Sunday 20 May) the Islamists repeated the abuse, throwing mud, rotten eggs and cups of drainage water at the believers, forcing them to disperse after only five minutes.  Pray for the Church in Indonesia.

On 2 February Kuwaitis went to the polls to elect a new parliament. All four female MPs lost their seats and hard-line Islamists (including Salafis and members of the Muslim Brotherhood and conservative Popular Action Bloc) secured 34 of the 50 seats. As reported in RLPB 151 (March 2012) the new parliament is drafting a law that will ban the construction of new churches. On Thursday 3 May, the parliament ruled to amend the penal code to impose the death penalty on any Muslim who insults God, Mohammad and his relatives or the Qur'an. (Such blasphemy is essentially akin to apostasy). If the accused repents, the sentence is reduced to five years in prison plus a fine. Non-Muslims found guilty of insulting Islam will be sentenced to 10 years in prison. Two house-churches affiliated with the National Evangelical Church in Kuwait recently found they were unable to renew their leases. Whilst both have found temporary accommodation, they fear it will be impossible to find permanent meeting places as pressure is applied to landlords not to lease to church groups. Expatriate Christians are beginning to fear for their safety. Kuwaiti converts will doubtless find their already tenuous security diminishing too. Pray for Christians in Kuwait.

After hearing Christian counsellor Lesley Pilkington (61) speak at a Christian conference on sexuality, Patrick Strudwick approached her for counselling. He claimed to be 'a believer' who was unhappy about his homosexuality and interested in the 'reparative therapy' involving counselling and prayer that she had spoken about. After two sessions Mrs Pilkington discovered that Strudwick was actually a fake client: a homosexual activist-journalist working undercover in a 'sting'. After Strudwick's 'story' hit the mass media, Mrs Pilkington was charged with professional malpractice. The British Association for Counselling & Psychotherapy (BACP) has now informed Mrs Pilkington she will lose her senior accredited status as a counsellor. Mrs Pilkington told the Telegraph, 'There is a wider agenda that diversity and equality, which is supposed to be what our society upholds, is upheld for everyone except for those who have traditional Judeo-Christian values. I think that is very disturbing.' As noted by the CEO of the Christian Legal Centre, Andrea Minichiello Williams: 'Lesley has been penalised because she was targeted as a Christian and because she believes that people are free to choose to change their behaviour if they wish.'  

In the UK, as in the USA, Christians unable to affirm homosexual lifestyle are increasingly being forced to choose between their conscience and their jobs. If this situation does not change, then submission to a totalitarian state ideology will ultimately be a requirement that will force many Christians out of many roles and professions. Pray for an awakening, and that Western Christians will stand firm in faith, trusting the Lord in all things. 'If you are not firm in faith, you will not be firm at all.' (Isaiah 7:9b ESV)

Jumuiya ya Uamsho na Mihadhara ya Kiislamu (Swahili for the Association for Islamic Mobilisation and Propagation) is a radical separatist group in Zanzibar.  Muslims belonging to Uamsho rioted in Zanzibar across the weekend of 26-27 May as they called for the release of Mussa Juma, an Uamsho leader. Clashes with police erupted in the historic commercial and tourism centre of Stone Town and two churches were torched. Rev Ambrose Mkenda of St Michael's Roman Catholic Church said rioters invaded the church, poured petrol on the structures and set the place alight, stoking the fire with burning tyres. The church was razed. Bishop Dickson Maganga of the Tanzania Assemblies of God church in Kariakoo said that rioters broke into the church and burnt plastic chairs before setting fire to his car which was 'reduced to a shell'. The police and fire brigade put out the fire before it spread. Senior members of Uamsho were arrested, as were scores of rioters. Tanzania's government has pledged to have a new constitution in place by 2014. Uamsho is demanding a referendum on Zanzibar's secession from Tanzania and this is expected to be a major issue in the constitutional debate. Tensions are high.