Wednesday, July 28, 2010

066. July Update; Incl. Kenya, Pakistan, Russia (Nth Caucasus), USA

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 066 | Wed 28 Jul 2010

'. . . let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, . . . looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame . . .' (Hebrews 12:1,2 ESV)

JULY 2010 UPDATE
-- During July we prayed concerning . . .

INDONESIA / WEST JAVA, where Islamic fundamentalists in the Bekasi Regency on the outskirts of Jakarta have called for Sharia law to be enacted; for apostasy to cease, specifically conversions to Christianity; and for Muslims to be mobilised ready for jihad.

* UPDATE: On Monday 19 July public order personnel supported by Bogor police officers demolished a house in a village in Limusnunggal village, Bogor Regency, on the southern outskirts of Jakarta, because the Narogong Pentecostal Church had been worshipping there without a permit. Ten Christians were arrested after clashes erupted between police and distressed church members seeking to defend their church. The church had began meeting there in 2006, with the acceptance of local Muslims. However, in 2008 a group calling itself the Forum of the Muslim Brotherhood of Limusnanggal started mounting opposition. Church leaders believe the police simply gave in to pressure from the group. The church plans to take legal action against the Bogor administration.

EGYPT, where religious discrimination and persecution of Christians is escalating against Egypt's indigenous Christian Copts and an increasingly visible and therefore undeniable presence of converts from Islam. The whereabouts of converts Nagla al-Imam and her children are still unknown.

INDONESIA / PUNCUK JAYA, PAPUA, where Indonesian forces are 'sweeping' the Puncuk Jaya region of the Central Highlands, hunting for 'separatists', leaving behind them a trail of razed villages, dead livestock, burned and confiscated churches, and displaced and tortured Papuans.

* UPDATE: On 22 July, US defence secretary Robert Gates announced that the US will restore ties with Kopassus, Indonesia's notorious special forces known to have committed gross human rights violations in Papua, including the November 2001 political assassination of Theys Eluay. Doubtless the US is doing this to prevent China gaining a foothold in the region, but it is a no-win situation for the Papuans. At a Pacific Islands Forum summit meeting due to be held in Port Vila, Vanuatu, on 3-6 August, Vanuatu will support the indigenous Papuans' right to self-determination. The bipartisan motion was put to Vanuatu's Parliament after a petition of the people of Vanuatu called for a clear foreign policy on Papua.


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

* KENYA: 4 AUG REFERENDUM COULD SPLIT CHURCHES AND TRIGGER VIOLENCE

Kenyan churches are united in their support for constitutional reform, but not in their support for the draft constitution that will go to a referendum on 4 August. Most churches are advocating a 'NO' vote because the draft constitution makes abortion more accessible; it entrenches Kadhi (Islamic) courts; and it advances ethnic federalism which many fear could trigger ethnic violence. Six died and over 100 were wounded on 13 June when a church-run 'NO' rally in Nairobi was bombed (see RLPB 060, 16 June 2010). The Kenyan government (and the US government) want the constitution passed. Some senior church figures advocating a 'YES' vote have called for Christians to boycott churches that 'peddle lies'. Church leaders in the 'NO' camp have received phone threats. A renegade 'pastor', John Kamau, and two accomplices were arrested on 17 July and charged with possessing explosive materials and for plotting to bomb a 'NO' campaign rally in Mombasa.

* PAKISTAN: ESCALATING CRISIS

Compass Direct reports that on 13 July Dr Abdul Jabbar Meammon and five other men beat, tortured and gang-raped Christian trainee nurse Magdalene Ashraf before attempting to kill her by throwing her from a window of Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Center. Whilst Magdalene has spoken to police and the Christian Lawyers Foundation, she is in a critical, life-threatening condition. Sharia law discriminates against women and against non-Muslims, meaning violent crimes of religious hatred may be committed with impunity. Such is the phenomenally vulnerable state of dhimmis. Brothers Rev Rashid Emmanuel (32) and Sajid Emmanuel (30) were shot dead on 19 July by five masked gunmen outside the Faisalabad courthouse. Their bodies showed signs of having been tortured in police custody. The brothers had been deliberately framed by predatory Muslims and falsely accused of blasphemy. Reportedly it was widely expected they would be exonerated as the evidence was clearly in their favour. However, Muslims had been demonstrating and calling for the death penalty.

* RUSSIA: PASTOR ASSASSINATED IN DAGESTAN, NORTH CAUCASUS

Pastor Artur Suleimanov (49), a convert from Islam, was assassinated on 15 July as he got into a car outside his Hosanna House of Prayer Church in Makhachkala, the capital of the North Caucasus Republic of Dagestan. He leaves behind a wife, Zina, five children, and one of the largest Protestant congregations in the Republic. It is not yet known whether Pastor Suleimanov was targeted by officials, Islamists or mafia, any of whom could have had issues with his Christian ministry. Dagestani authorities reportedly had recently become more hostile to the church's various humanitarian ministries. Meanwhile the Islamic insurgency continues to wreak havoc across the North Caucasus, with analysts commenting recently that Dagestan 'increasingly appears to be the new focal point of insurgent activity'. (The Jamestown Foundation, 18 June.)

* USA: TWO MORE CASES OF DISCRIMINATION SET PRECEDENTS


The University of Illinois sacked Professor Kenneth Howell on 9 July after he was accused of 'hate speech'. Professor Howell, a respected Christian who had been teaching at the university for nine years, offended a student from his class, 'Introduction to Catholicism and Modern Catholic Thought'. During the spring semester, he explained in an email to the student that according to Catholic doctrine, 'A homosexual orientation is not morally wrong just as no moral guilt can be assigned to any inclination that a person has. However, based on natural moral law, the Church believes that homosexual acts are contrary to human nature and therefore morally wrong.' The offended student complained and the professor was sacked. Meanwhile Jennifer Keeton (24), a graduate student pursuing a masters degree in school counselling at Augusta State University, has been told she will be dismissed from the program unless she is prepared to alter her 'central religious beliefs' concerning homosexuality. Miss Keeton, a Christian, has been ordered into a 'remediation' program and to undergo 'diversity training' where supposedly she will be 'sensitised'.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

065. Papua (formerly Irian Jaya), Indonesia: tensions high as military 'sweeps' Puncak Jaya.

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 065 | Wed 21 Jul 2010

PAPUA (formerly Irian Jaya), INDONESIA: TENSIONS HIGH AS MILITARY 'SWEEPS' PUNCAK JAYA.

Since late May TNI (Indonesian military) and BRIMOB (militarised police) forces have been conducting 'sweeping operations' in the central highlands Puncak Jaya region of Papua (formerly Irian Jaya). This was ostensibly to flush out the 'separatists' they blame (without evidence) for two recent attacks. Indonesia keeps Papua closed to international media and human rights organisations. However, news is leaked out at great personal risk and on 18 June the West Papua Advocacy Team (WPAT) issued a report with details of the crisis in Puncak Jaya.

WPAT reports that during early June the BRIMOB seized a church in Kayogwebur district Tingginambut for use as a headquarters. In the district of Kampong Tinggineri Tingginambut, BRIMOB officers raped a pregnant Papuan woman. In Gwenggu Pilia twelve houses and two churches were burned by security forces. In several villages all the livestock have been killed. On 11 June the BRIMOB conducted a residential 'sweep' search of all houses on the road between Ilu and Mulia, detaining anyone without identification and taking them away on army trucks. (Most highland Papuans do not even speak Indonesian let alone carry Indonesian ID cards.) Papuans have reported being abused and tortured while in custody. Locals are now too afraid to leave their homes to harvest vegetable gardens or attend to business. Further to this, the TNI has been forcing local Papuans to undertake tasks for the military, such as building landing pads for military helicopters after first clearing the land of crops. Pacific Scoop (New Zealand) has an unconfirmed report of at least seven dead in the Jambi, Sinak Ilu and Tingginambut districts of Mulia.

From the 1950s MAF USA opened up the previously impenetrable mountainous inland of what was then Dutch New Guinea for courageous pioneer missionaries. Annexed by Indonesia in 1969 and occupied by Indonesian armed forces (predominantly Javanese Muslims), Papua is being purposefully and rapidly colonised by Javanese Muslims for political and geo-strategic purposes. The indigenous Papuans, who are ethnic Melanesians and predominantly Christian, are being marginalised and their land is being Islamised. Most Javanese Muslims despise the Papuans as racially and religiously inferior. TNI and BRIMOB officers routinely and freely express their racial and religious hatred for the Papuans in unrestrained violence. The TNI has vast economic interests in Papua, including protection services. Thus the TNI has incentives to provoke incidents that make Papuan 'terrorism' and 'separatism' look like real threats when in reality they are not. Papuan resistance is essentially resistance against racial and religious discrimination, persecution, exploitation, marginalisation, Islamisation and threat of genocide. In 2001 the Indonesian parliament granted the Papua Province a tokenistic 'Special Autonomy' which was never implemented. On 18 June many thousands of brave Papuans rallied in Jayapura, declaring 'Special Autonomy' a failure. They symbolically 'gave it back' to Indonesia and demanded a referendum on independence and renewed dialogue to be mediated by a neutral country. Tensions are extremely high.

Just like some other Christian peoples who have faced or are facing genocide, the Papuans have been betrayed and abandoned by Western human-rights-affirming nations intent on acquiring lucrative mining concessions, arms deals and other economic and political interests.


PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL:

* give the Papuan Church and Christian leaders great wisdom, grace and authority as they lead their people through these dark days -- days where great restraint is required to continually resist provocation aimed at triggering conflict that would 'justify' a massacre.

'Deliver me, O LORD, from evil men; preserve me from violent men, who plan evil things in their heart and stir up wars continually.' (Psalm 140:1,2 ESV)

* provide the displaced Papuans of Pancuk Jaya with security, shelter, comfort and all their material and spiritual needs; may the Holy Spirit draw them into prayer and the presence/sanctuary (Isaiah 8:14a) of the Lord that their prayers might be answered, their faith strengthened, and the Lord glorified.

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If anyone else has a sense of déjà vu, see: Religious Liberty Prayer bulletin | No. 417 | Wed 21 Feb 2007 . The story is virtually identical.

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TENSIONS HIGH IN PAPUA (IRIAN JAYA), INDONESIA

Papuans are ethnic Melanesians and predominantly Christian. Their land, which was annexed by Indonesia in 1969, is being strategically, purposefully and rapidly colonised by Javanese Muslims, resulting in Islamisation and marginalisation. TNI (Indonesian military) and BRIMOB (militarised police) forces are presently conducting 'sweeping operations' in the central highlands region of Puncak Jaya. Thousands have been mistreated and displaced as the Indonesian security forces hunt for 'separatists'. On 18 June many thousands of Papuans rallied in Jayapura to reject Indonesian 'Special Autonomy' status (which has failed) and to call for fresh dialogue. Tensions are high. The Papuans have been betrayed and abandoned by Western human-rights-affirming nations intent on acquiring lucrative mining concessions and other economic and political interests. Please pray for the Church in Papua.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

064. Egypt: persecution still escalating

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 064 | Wed 14 Jul 2010

EGYPT: PERSECUTION STILL ESCALATING

In May 1980 Egypt amended its constitution to elevate Sharia (Islamic Law) as 'the principal source of legislation'. This provision is now common in Muslim constitutions, including the new constitutions of Afghanistan and Iraq. Constitutional guarantees of religious liberty and equality before the law are illusory under Sharia. It forbids apostasy (leaving Islam) and eliminates fitna (anything that could even tempt a Muslim to leave Islam). Sharia also establishes dhimmitude: the subjugation of Jews and Christians as second class citizens; systematic discrimination; religious apartheid.

In Egypt, as in virtually every Muslim state, a person's official religion is displayed on their identity (ID) card. According to Sharia, every child born to a Muslim man is automatically Muslim from birth. If a Christian man converts to Islam, his Christian children are automatically deemed Muslim. If a Muslim parent converts to Christianity they lose custody of their children. Sharia mandates that a Muslim girl may marry only a Muslim man, thereby ensuring that her children will be born Muslim. (This is the main reason why some female converts to Christianity dare to adopt falsified ID cards.)

In 2007 a Muslim-born convert to Christianity, Mohammed Hegazi (24), applied to have his ID card changed. Not only did he want to have his ID card reflect reality, he did not want his unborn child to be officially deemed Muslim from birth. When his application was rejected, Hegazi sued the Interior Ministry for his constitutional right to religious freedom (Article 46). The court ruled against Hegazi on the grounds that Sharia prohibits apostasy. Death threats resulting from the publicity drove Hegazi, his wife and new-born daughter into hiding. In August 2008 Maher el-Gowhary took up the same fight for the sake of his daughter, Dina (14). El-Gowhary (55), who had quietly converted to Christianity 35 years earlier, wanted his true religious identity acknowledged and his ID card corrected before his daughter turned 16, when she would be issued her own ID card.

Islamic religious leaders issued fatwas calling for Hegazi's and el-Gowhary's blood to be shed and in September 2008 the men narrowly escaped an assassination attempt. In June 2009 the court ruled against el-Gowhary because Sharia prohibits apostasy and conversions would pose a threat to the 'public order'. When el-Gowhary and his daughter subsequently tried to leave Egypt their passports were confiscated. In April 2010 Dina el-Gowhary was attacked with acid, causing her jacket to ignite. Fortunately she survived unharmed. On 5 July 2010 Maher el-Gowhary was ambushed by two men on a motorbike who abused him as an apostate, shouted 'Allahu Akbar' and stabbed him in the neck. The seriously wounded el-Gowhary is too afraid of the authorities to go to hospital as Egyptian police are infamous for their corruption and brutality.

Nagla Al-Imam (36), an Egyptian attorney, Sharia expert and prominent human rights activist, publicly announced in 2009 that she had converted from Islam to Christianity. In early July 2010 Egyptian security officials detained Nagla, bashed and threatened her. On 8 July she responded by posting an Internet video of herself (battered and bruised) and her two young children singing a Christian lament requesting Christ's comforting and strengthening presence through the high waves of persecution. Shortly after this, Nagla and her children disappeared and the offices of Al-Tarek TV, from where she used to broadcast, were vandalised by Egyptian security forces.

WE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL:

* shield, protect, comfort and strengthen those Egyptian Christians who, while embracing Christian freedom, are risking much to challenge Islamic totalitarianism.

'Deliver me from my enemies, O my God; protect me from those who rise up against me; deliver me from those who work evil, and save me from bloodthirsty men.' (Psalm 59:1,2 ESV)

* redeem this suffering for the salvation of many and for his glory.

'Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labour is not in vain.' (1 Corinthians 15:58 ESV)

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PERSECUTION STILL ESCALATING IN EGYPT

Egypt's Constitution elevates Sharia as 'the principal source of legislation', rendering constitutional guarantees of religious liberty illusory. In 2007 Mohammed Hegazi and in 2008 Maher el-Gowhary courageously pursued the Interior Ministry for their constitutional right to have their conversion from Islam to Christianity officially recorded. They did this for their children who would thus be free to be Christian. The courts, however, ruled that Sharia prohibits leaving Islam (apostasy). Their lives are seriously imperilled with fatwas issued against them. After Nagla al-Imam (36), an attorney and Sharia expert, had publicly announced her conversion to Christianity, police detained, bashed and threatened her in early July. She then posted an Internet video of herself (battered) and her two young children singing a Christian lament. The three have since 'disappeared'. Please pray.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

063. Bekasi (West Java), Indonesia: jihad threat level high

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 063 | Wed 07 Jul 2010

BEKASI (West Java), INDONESIA: JIHAD THREAT LEVEL HIGH

On Sunday 27 June Islamic fundamentalist leaders at the Bekasi Islamic Congress demanded the city administration of Bekasi, West Java, enact Sharia (Islamic) laws so as to 'limit' apostasy. (Sharia limits apostasy by making it a capital offence.) They also proposed that every mosque in Bekasi form its own paramilitary unit ('laskar') that can be quickly mobilised for 'war' against Christians if 'Christianisation' is not halted in line with Muslim demands.

The next day militants belonging to the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) raided a restaurant in Banyuwangi, East Java, where MPs were running a health bill familiarisation program. FPI secretary general, Awit Mashuri, defended the FPI's actions, telling TVOne that the FPI is not a law unto itself and always 'coordinates' with state apparatus before taking any action. According to Awit, on this occasion the FPI's intelligence came from a 'district military intelligence unit'. The FPI claimed the raid was necessary to destroy an illegal meeting of 'Communists'. Outraged Indonesian legislators called for the FPI to be banned. However, others simply recommended rule of law, noting that if the FPI is banned other groups will just emerge in its place.

This is the watershed issue on which the future of Indonesia hangs: is the government prepared to enforce the law, especially in the context of rising Islamic fundamentalism, belligerence and 'talibanisation'? According to Eva Kusuma Sundari, an Indonesian MP with the Democratic Party of Struggle, 'There is information saying the FPI is a pet of the TNI [Indonesian military], and the police hesitate to deal face-to-face with the military, because police consider the armed forces their elder brother.' Of course the Defence Ministry denied the allegation, maintaining that all TNI were 'professional soldiers who obey the law'. Eva Kusuma Sundari has also learned that the FPI was registered by a decree of the Home Ministry in 2006, so it cannot be banned without an appeal to the Supreme Court.

Last Saturday 3 July some 100 jihadist recruits turned out for an inaugural military training exercise in an open field in Bekasi. The stated aim was to 'strike fear into the hearts of Christians'. 'If they refuse to stop what they are doing, we're ready to fight,' said Murhali Barda, the head of the local FPI chapter. One Bekasi mosque has erected an enormous banner that reads ' Death penalty for Andreas Dusly Sanau . . .' and pictures the local Protestant pastor with his head in a flaming noose.

The government of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is reluctant to act against the Islamic fundamentalists because it is dependent upon the support of Islamic parties in the parliament. With the Islamic parties holding the balance of power, nobody, especially the ruling party, can afford to be deemed 'un-Islamic'.

Many analysts are warning that the situation threatens to deteriorate into religious war similar to that which convulsed Indonesia between January 1999 and February 2002. It must be noted though that those conflicts in Central Sulawesi and Maluku occurred on Indonesia's periphery where the Muslim-Christian demographic is around 50-50. If conflict erupts in Bekasi, which is 98 percent Muslim and only 15km east of Jakarta in densely populated West Java, then it will be a totally different proposition.

WE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL:

* use these tense, dark times to awaken Indonesia's majority nominal Muslims to the inherently intolerant, dictatorial and repressive nature of Islam, exposing it as man-made, self-interested and false; may the darkness only serve to make the gospel truth shine more brightly and warmly.

* watch over and shelter his faithful servants and bring the schemes of the wicked to ruin. (Psalm 146:9)

* give the Indonesian government the moral courage it needs to uphold the rule of law in Indonesia, for the sake of the nation and the persecuted Church.

' . . . I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.' (Matthew 16:18 ESV)

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JIHAD THREAT LEVEL HIGH IN BEKASI, INDONESIA

Bekasi is only 15 km from Jakarta in densely populated West Java and is 98 percent Muslim. On Sunday 27 June Islamic fundamentalists in Bekasi called for the city administration to enact Sharia law and for every mosque to form its own paramilitary in preparation for war against Christians. Last Saturday 3 July some 100 jihadist recruits did military training in an open field in Bekasi with the aim of 'striking fear into the hearts of Christians'. One mosque displays an enormous banner picturing a local Protestant pastor with his head in a flaming noose. The government is reluctant to act against the Islamic fundamentalists because it depends on the support of Islamic parties in the parliament. The situation is extremely serious for the Church in Indonesia. Please pray.