Wednesday, September 29, 2010

075. September Update: Incl. Algeria, China, India, Iran, Lebanon, Pakistan

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 075 | Wed 29 Sep 2010

SEPTEMBER 2010 UPDATE -- During September we prayed concerning . . .

USA, where a church in Florida had globally advertised an 'International Burn a Koran Day' for 9/11.

* UPDATE: We praise and thank God that the event did not go ahead, not because we regard the Qur'an as sacred (for in fact it underpins an ideologically and politically dangerous, false religion that must be refuted), but because it was to be a deliberately provocative act that would have impeded mission and needlessly imperilled the lives of multitudes of already traumatised Christians throughout the Muslim world. Now Randall Terry and other Christian activists plan to hold a 'Hear Muhammad Speak' event on 6&7 October, where they will read Qur'anic exhortations to violence before tearing up the texts as rubbish. They plan to do this outside Cordoba House (the proposed 'ground zero' mosque) and at various other sites around the US. Whilst we may affirm their aims -- to provoke debate, expose inconsistency and highlight persecution -- once again the method is highly questionable.

'In everything, do to others what you would have them do to you . . . ' (Matthew 7:12 NIV)


TURKMENISTAN, where persecution and repression of Christianity is escalating as President Berdimuhamedov becomes as totalitarian and cultish as his predecessor, Niyazov.

INDONESIA, where one Bekasi pastor was stabbed and another bludgeoned as Islamic intolerance escalates with impunity.

SOMALIA, where Christians continue to be martyred at the hands of Islamic militants intent on turning Somalia into a fully Islamised and Talibanised state and safe-haven for international terrorists. (They are not far from achieving that goal.)


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

* ALGERIA: CHRISTIANS FACE JAIL AS ISLAMISATION ADVANCES

In March 2006 only six months after it granted amnesty to some 10,000 condemned Islamists, the Algerian government passed a religion law that seriously represses Christianity. The law is doubtless part of a quid-pro-quo deal with the Islamists whereby Islam is advanced and Christianity is repressed in exchange for 'peace'. This Ramadan, a number of people were arrested for eating during daylight hours even though there is no law against it. Two of those charged are Christian construction workers Hocine Hocini and Fellak Salem. Further to this, Algerian authorities have issued an arrest warrant for Ali Arhab, the Algeria-born, France-based director of Channel North Africa gospel satellite broadcasts. The warrant -- on bogus charges of 'swindling' -- prevents Mr Arhab (a dual national) from visiting family and friends in Algeria. Mr Arhab is doubtless being targeted because of his service to the Algerian Church. (For more details see Religious Liberty Monitoring)

* CHINA: PERSECUTION CONTINUES BEHIND WALL OF PROPAGANDA


The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) still operates a Mao-era 'laogai' of nearly 1000 state-owned slave-labour camps. Anyone the local authorities deem a problem can be sent without charge or trial to the laogai for up to three years of 'administrative detention' in what is portrayed as a pre-emptive rather than punitive measure. (This is one reason why 'Made in China' is so cheap.) When their house church in Xuchang, Henan province, was raided by police in March, Liu Yunhua, Gao Jianli and others refused to pay 'fines' (i.e. bribes) and were consequently detained for 15 days. On 25 March Liu and Gao were sentenced to one year of 're-education through labour' in the laogai. They have appealed, claiming the authorities were acting illegally. On 20 September several of their relatives and supporters were arrested (including Pastor Zhang Mingxan) while attending their second hearing. Three of the Christians were issued with administrative orders for 15 days detention. While this is all very normal and routine for China, the CCP has been escalating its propaganda campaign, even inviting the BBC to tour and marvel at the CCP's 'commitment to supporting the development of Christianity', and the 'millions of dollars of government funding' for state-run churches which have 'substantial freedom'. The CCP is doubtless hoping to discredit the suffering of the persecuted house churches. (See Religious Liberty Monitoring)

* INDIA: PASTOR CHARGED WITH FORCED CONVERSIONS

On Sunday 26 September Hindu militants stormed the small, mostly tribal fellowship in Umachagi village, Karnataka, led by Pastor Shivanda Siddi (45) for the past five years. After interrupting prayers they tried to argue with Pastor Siddi while abusing the believers and taking their Bibles. For the next half hour they insulted, beat and stripped the pastor before telephoning the police and falsely accusing him of forced conversions. When the police arrived they arrested the pastor, seven women and two children. Whilst the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) was able to intervene to get the women and children released, Pastor Siddi was tried and charged under Section 295 of the Indian Penal Code, which prohibits 'forced' conversions. Pastor Siddi is being detained in Sirsi prison in Uttar Kananda. This represents the Hindu nationalists' preferred method of repression and persecution and is becoming all too common in 'secular' India. The Evangelical Fellowship of India has recorded 106 such major incidents in 16 states up to August this year, including 37 in Karnataka.

* IRAN: NINE MORE CHRISTIANS ARRESTED

According to the Farsi Christian News Network, authorities in Hamedan arrested nine Christians who have since been charged with carrying out evangelism. This was announced on 10 September by a member of the Iranian Security services via Iran's Fars news agency, which is connected to the Revolutionary Guard. The accused were described as 'Christian Zionists' and 'evangelicals', two of whom were allegedly being sponsored from outside Iran while the other seven were Iranian co-conspirators. Please pray for the Church in Iran.

* LEBANON: HEZBALLAH DEPLOYS 3500 MILITANTS TO CHRISTIAN AREAS

The Special Tribunal on Lebanon, set up to investigate the February 2005 assassination of PM Rafiq Hariri, will soon hand down its ruling. It is widely expected the tribunal will indict Hezballah, Syria and Lebanese intelligence heads. Reports and local evidence indicate that Hezballah is preparing to stage a violent policy-reversing coup (similar to the one it achieved in May 2008) to prevent the tribunal from fulfilling its mandate. Hezballah has reportedly deployed some 3500 militants deep inside the Christian areas north of Beirut. Having taken up residence in homes purchased through their Christian allies in the Free Patriotic Movement, the militants are positioned to besiege the homes of Hezballah's Christian opponents. In the event of conflict, Hezballah's Christian allies will be pitted against Hezballah's Christian opponents in an act of Hezballah-sponsored Christian self-destruction. Please pray that all Lebanese Christians will seek the Lord. (See Religious Liberty Monitoring)

* PAKISTAN: TRAUMA FROM EAST TO WEST


EAST: On 3 September Tariq Gill, in the Christian colony of Mohalla Kalupura, Gujrat district, Punjab, was cleared of charges of blasphemy. Outraged Islamic fundamentalists have attacked the colony more than 10 times since. A mob of some 40 Islamic fundamentalists (including several MPs) armed with guns, axes and clubs attacked the colony on 23 September. Gill's mother was stripped and dragged naked through the streets. Those critically wounded were hospitalised. A local bishop and several pastors have been threatened with death.

WEST: On Sunday morning 12 September, a bomb exploded at the entrance of St Paul's Lutheran Church in Mardan, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (formerly North West Frontier Province). St Paul's belongs to the Church of Pakistan, a Protestant union. Whilst two Christians were injured in the blast, the situation would have been much worse had the timer been set a little later. Locals view the bombing as an act of intimidation aimed at subjugating or driving out the Christian minority. Please pray for Pakistan's besieged Church.


For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him.
He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken.
On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God.
Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.
Selah (Psalm 62:5-8 ESV)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

074. Somalia: Islamic terror surges

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 074 | Wed 22 Sep 2010

SOMALIA: ISLAMIC TERROR SURGES

Civil war erupted in Somalia in February 2006. The 'Islamic Courts Union' (ICU), an alliance of Sharia-enforcers linked to Mogadishu's clan-based Sharia courts, rose up against the 'Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Anti-Terrorism', clan warlords who had been guarding the UN-backed, US-funded Transitional Federal Government (TFG). When Mogadishu fell to the ICU in June 2006, the TFG fled to the regional town Baidoa near the Ethiopian border. After Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, a designated terrorist and the former head of al-Qaeda-linked al-Itihaad al-Islamiya, was subsequently appointed head of the then ICU's Sura Council (parliament) he announced: 'He who does not perform [Islamic] prayer will be considered as infidel and our Sharia Law orders that person to be killed.' Also, Aweys not only threatened Somalis, but as a Somali irredentist (one who seeks a 'Greater Somalia') and an Islamic jihadist, Aweys and his regime were a threat to Ethiopia's national security.

On 20 July 2006 US-backed Ethiopian forces entered Somalia to defend the besieged TFG and oust the ICU. The Islamists responded by declaring jihad. By December 2006 Ethiopia (a vastly superior military force) had ousted the ICU. However, as the US has found in Afghanistan and Iraq, 'victory' simply marks the beginning of a bloody insurgency. Ethiopia's conventional army, burdened with rules of engagement and long supply-lines, never stood a chance against the never-ending supply of well-armed, well-supplied, trained and indoctrinated Somali and international Islamic jihadists. Of all the insurgent groups, al-Shabab is the most radical and aggressive. An offshoot of the ICU, this youthful, al-Qaeda-backed group seeks to establish a Taliban-style Islamic state. Over the next two years, the jihadists regained control over much of southern Somalia.

In January 2009 battle-weary Ethiopia, frustrated by lack of international support, withdrew its forces, allowing the Islamists to flood back into Mogadishu where they continue the fight against the African Union-backed TFG forces. The TFG tried to broker peace by offering to implement Sharia Law, but this was not enough for the jihadists who are now running military training camps and recruiting internationally, including from amongst Somali refugee and emigrant communities, specifically disconnected Somali youths holding foreign passports.

In its campaign to eliminate 'vice', al-Shabab has stoned to death girls who have been raped, shot and killed boys caught watching football and executed many 'apostates'. In September 2008 Mansuur Mohammed (25) became the first Somali Christian to be martyred at the hands of al-Shabab. After being publically denounced as a 'murtid' (traitor to Islam), Mohammed rejected an offer to convert to Islam and be spared, submitting instead to a public beheading, a film of which was widely distributed. In February 2009 al-Shabab militants beheaded Musa Mohammed Yusuf's 11- and 13-year-old sons after he refused to divulge information about a local church leader. On 10 July 2009 seven Somalis were publically beheaded in Baidoa simply for being Christians. To date some 20 Somali Christians -- most of them church leaders -- are known to have been shot or beheaded as al-Shabab systematically targets the Somali Church for elimination.

On 21 July 2010 al-Shabab militants entered Osman Abdullah Fataho's home in Afgoi, 30km from Mogadishu, and shot him dead in front of his wife and children. A long-time Christian, Fataho was targeted because he was a convert from Islam and active in Somalia's underground church. After abducting Fataho's wife and four children, the militants released her but kept her four children aged 5 to 15 to be brainwashed and trained as jihadists.

Al-Shahab has local, regional and international ambitions. Despite some power struggles, al-Shabab remains allied to Aweys' Hizbul Islam. Last weekend they seized radio and TV outlets in Mogadishu. On Monday 20 September a suicide bomber blew himself up at the gates of the TFG Presidential Palace after being shot while attempting to gain entrance. The bomber was a former Interior Ministry security guard who had defected to al-Shabab. Now the jihadists are literally at the gate.

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL:

* surround Osman Abdullah Fataho's widow and all Somalia's grieving, traumatised Christians with his everlasting love and fill them with his peace.

* preserve, comfort and intervene to deliver Ali Daud Fataho (5), Fatuma Safia Fataho (7), Sharif Ahmed Fataho (10) and Nur Said Fataho (15) for the sake of the Church, the children, and their faithful parents -- one a martyr, the other a torn and grieving widow.

'When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her. . .' (Luke 7:13, when Jesus raises a widow's son. See also Philippians 2:27)

* intervene in Somalia's chaos to protect and deliver his Church; may the enemy know only confusion, frustration and failure, being splintered and mortally weakened; may Islam not escape scrutiny; and may the trauma, tears and disillusionment serve to prepare the ground for an awesome work of God.

'For nothing will be impossible with God.' (Luke 1:37 ESV)

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ISLAMIC TERROR IN SOMALIA

Having captured most of southern and central Somalia, Islamic jihadists are now fighting to control the capital Mogadishu. Al-Shabab, the most radical and aggressive of the insurgent groups, is systematically targeting the Church for elimination. Some 20 Christians, mostly church leaders, have been shot or beheaded by al-Shabab over the past two years. On 21 July al-Shabab militants shot dead long-time Christian, Osman Abdullah Fataho, in his home in front of his wife and children. Fataho was targeted because he was an apostate (convert from Islam) and active in Somalia's underground church. The jihadists abducted Fataho's family, later releasing his wife but keeping her four children aged 5 to 15 to be trained as jihadists. Please pray for this family and for the Church in Somalia.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

073. Bekasi, Indonesia: threat level rises

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 073 | Wed 15 Sep 2010

BEKASI, INDONESIA: THREAT LEVEL RISES

The threat level facing Christians in Bekasi Regency, West Java, has been rising continuously since 27 June when Bekasi's Islamic leaders publicly denounced 'Christianisation' of Bekasi (98 percent Muslim) and urged Bekasi Muslims to prepare for jihad.

For more details see Religious Liberty Monitoring:
in particular
http://elizabethkendal.blogspot.com/2010/07/bekasi-west-java-indonesiadhimmitude.html
http://elizabethkendal.blogspot.com/2010/06/indonesia-fitna-and-apostaphobia-in.html

For some 15 years the authorities have refused Bekasi's 1500-strong Batak Christian Protestant Church permission to build a worship centre. Recently the church was told they are not even allowed to worship together in their homes as this would violate new local by-laws. Commencing Sunday 31 July, a core group of members started meeting for prayer and worship in the open air on the church's own land. Each Sunday the small group sings hymns, prays and hears the word while Muslim fundamentalists hurl insults and abuse, shoes and other objects across a police barricade. On Sunday 8 August, some 300 Islamic militants pushed through the police lines and beat the Christians as they attempted to flee. Several believers required hospitalisation. (See RLPB 068, 11 August.) The following Sunday, 15 August, some 1200 representatives of religious minorities rallied in Jakarta to protest government inaction in the face of escalating Islamic intolerance and violence. (See RLPB 070, August Update.) Amongst the churches, Bekasi's Batak Christian Protestant Church has come to embody the struggle and so has received the most media attention. However, it is actually only one of numerous churches being repressed and persecuted in West Java.

On Sunday 12 September, as Pastor Sihombing -- an elder in Bekasi's Batak Christian Protestant Church -- walked toward the church's land, he was ambushed by Islamic militants. When the Reverend Luspida Simanjuntak rushed to his aid, she was clubbed on her face, head and back. Both pastors have been hospitalised, with Sihombing in a critical condition in intensive care suffering multiple stab wounds to the abdomen. It was reported on Monday that the attackers had been identified and that Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) had denounced the violence and was appealing for justice. By Wednesday, nine suspects had been arrested with others evading police. Police have told reporters that, despite all suspicions to the contrary, they do not believe the motive was religious, or that the attack was necessarily premeditated, or that any of the attackers belonged to any 'mass organisation'. Meanwhile President SBY told reporters that the stabbing occurred because the Christians had chosen an inappropriate place to worship, adding that he sees the problem as a difficult one.

President SBY's political alliances leave him dependent on the support of Islamic parties in the parliament. Consequently he will doubtless want the Islamists appeased, which would only further elevate the threat level for Christians. The case must be watched, for right across the Muslim world there are two trends: 'reconciliation', with Christians pushed to accept responsibility and drop all charges in exchange for 'peace'; or whitewashing and scapegoating, by denying religious motivation and finding some low-risk individuals to blame or punish for the crime. Through these means Sharia may be upheld, Islamisation may be advanced and dhimmitude (subjugation of non-Muslims) may be established, all behind a facade of fake civility. These are critical days for Indonesia.

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL:

* move President Yudhoyono to make a bold stand in support of justice and Indonesia's constitutional pluralism and religious liberty.

'The king's heart is in the hand of the Lord; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases.' (Proverbs 21:1 NIV.)

* use the evil and hatred inherent in this violence to shock many Muslims, awakening them to the inflexible religious totalitarianism of Islam; may God's intervention ensure that this persecution produces the opposite of what was intended. (See Isaiah 35:5-7.)

* bring peace, comfort, healing and strength to Pastors Sihombing and Simanjuntak, to their ethnic-Batak congregation in Bekasi and to all West Java's repressed and persecuted churches.

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THREAT LEVEL RISING IN BEKASI, INDONESIA

The threat level facing Christians in Bekasi Regency, West Java, has been rising continuously since 27 June when Bekasi's Islamic leaders publicly denounced 'Christianisation' of Bekasi (98 percent Muslim) and urged Bekasi Muslims to prepare for jihad. Christians have since been threatened with death and physically attacked during worship. President Yudhoyono's dependence on Islamic parties in parliament keeps him from intervening. Last Sunday 12 September Pastor Sihombing was ambushed by militants as he walked to the vacant land his church owns and meets on for worship. As Reverend Luspida Simanjuntak rushed to his aid, she was clubbed on the face, head and back. Both were hospitalised, with Pastor Sihombing in a critical condition having suffered multiple stab wounds to the abdomen. Please pray for the Church in Indonesia.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

072. Turkmenistan: mounting repression

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 072 | Wed 08 Sep 2010

TURKMENISTAN: MOUNTING REPRESSION

In1985 USSR president Mikhail Gorbachev appointed a colourless Soviet apparatchik Saparmurat Niyazov to head the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Turkmen Soviet Socialist Republic. When Turkmenistan became independent in 1991, Niyazov -- who automatically became president -- transformed into an eccentric and reclusive megalomaniac. Under Niyazov, Turkmenistan became one of the world's most repressive and Stalinist states. The all-pervasive cult of Niyazov -- rivalled only by North Korea's cult of Kim -- led to jokes about 'Wierdistan'. But life under Niyazov was anything but a joke. Suffocating religious repression, backed up with violent systematic persecution, was the norm.

When Niyazov died suddenly on 21 December 2006, many Christians hoped that a new era had dawned. Initially the signs were positive, and relief mingled enthusiastically with hope. (Rigged) elections were held in February 2007. There was constitutional reform. The 'elected' president, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov (formerly Niyazov's dentist), was talking to the West. There was a new openness. However, as time has passed it has become increasingly evident that the only difference between Niyazov and Berdimuhamedov is that Berdimuhamedov is a smarter politician. He immediately moved to erect facades and create illusions so as to attract investment and avoid sanctions. However, as new (post August 2008) geo-strategic realities kick in, he realises he no longer needs to play these games.

As Turkmenistan's President for life, Berdimuhamedov violates the constitution with impunity. According to Annasoltan, the 'neweurasia' chief blogger for Turkmenistan, the cult of Niyazov is being replaced with the cult of Berdimuhamedov. While the famous rotating gold statue of Niyazov was recently dismantled, a larger and more expensive new monument devoted to Berdimuhamedov will soon be erected in another part of the capital. Niyazov's portraits are being replaced with portraits of Berdimuhamedov, who presents himself as the divine saviour of all Turkmen. World leaders, he maintains, are insanely jealous. Accordingly, everything 'foreign' and non-traditional is treated as seditious. Despite being gas-rich, the country is wracked with poverty. Yet Berdimuhamedov invests in grandiose building projects designed to create the illusion of success and prosperity. (Currently planned is a $2 billion Olympic Village in Ashgabat -- not that the Olympics are coming to Ashgabat any time soon.) Criticism is treason. All religion that is 'foreign', non-traditional and not centred on Berdimuhamedov is repressed and persecuted, most commonly through the imprisonment of religious leaders on false criminal charges. There can be no justice for, in violation of the constitution, Berdimuhamedov has personally appointed the judiciary to do his bidding.

Forum 18 reports that on 22 July Turkmen police raided a church-run summer youth camp in Sekiz-Yab, taking 47 Christians into custody on the pretext of investigating a local murder. Once inside Geoketpe police station the pretext evaporated, Bibles were confiscated and the believers were interrogated about who converted them and who funds their activities. They were photographed and fingerprinted while copies were made of their passports. After being detained overnight, the group left feeling greatly intimidated. Also in July, members of a Baptist church in Dashoguz (or Dashhowuz) were pressured to sign statements that they would no longer attend the church. Elsewhere, two Protestant Christians were sacked from their employment because of their faith. On 27 August Protestant pastor Ilmurad Nurliev was arrested and charged with swindling more than US$2.4 million from three church members who were coerced into making false statements against him. Large-scale swindling attracts a sentence of up to five years' imprisonment. Another church member, Kristina Petrova, has been ordered to testify against Pastor Nurliev or else her husband (who is not a church member) will lose his job, leaving them destitute.

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL:

* provide Pastor Nurliev with words in court and in detention that will bring glory to God; may he know peace through trusting God, and may God bring justice and glory into the situation.

'You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.' (Isaiah 26:3 ESV)

* draw close all those Christians who have been threatened, intimidated and afflicted by the regime; may they grow in faith and sanctification as they find sanctuary in God's presence.

* use these situations, where injustice and cruelty are juxtaposed with innocence and grace, to awaken many Turkmen (89 percent Muslim) to the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the transforming power of the Holy Spirit.

* intervene and deal with President Berdimuhamedov and his repressive regime, that religious liberty might become a reality in long-suffering Turkmenistan.

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MOUNTING REPRESSION IN TURKMENISTAN

President Berdimuhamedov ('elected' in February 07), is no different from the totalitarian megalomaniac he replaced, the Soviet-appointed Saparmurat Niyazov. His initial openness and reforms appear to have been a ploy to attract investment and avoid sanctions. With the new geo-strategic realities (post August 2008), he no longer needs to play this game. Slowly the cult of Berdimuhamedov is replacing the cult of Niyazov and everything 'foreign' and non-traditional is treated as seditious. Human rights abuses, including religious repression backed up with violent systematic persecution, are on the rise. Non-compliant, 'foreign' and non-traditional religious fellowships are being targeted for harassment, intimidation and persecution. Protestant pastor, Ilmurad Nurliev, has been falsely accused of 'large-scale swindling', a crime that incurs up to five years' jail. Please pray.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

071. Ramadan and provocation in the USA

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 071 | Wed 01 Sep 2010

RAMADAN AND PROVOCATION IN THE USA


Laylat al-Qadr (literally Night of Destiny) is the anniversary of the night Muslims believe the first verses of the Qur'an were revealed to the Islamic prophet Muhammad. Whilst the Qur'an does not provide a specific date, Laylat al-Qadr is traditionally believed to be found in the last 10 nights of Ramadan. Most Muslims observe Laylat al-Qadr or 'Night of Power' on the 27th night of Ramadan. The Qur'an describes Laylat al-Qadr as 'better than a thousand months', for on that night the angels and the Spirit have God's permission to come down in answer to prayer (Sura 97). This year, the Night of Power falls on or around the night of 5 September.

Throughout Ramadan, Muslims are not permitted to eat, drink, smoke or have sexual relations between sun-up and sun-down. The rigours of Ramadan elevate stress, frustration and Islamic zeal. In lands with pre-existing religious tensions, the last days of Ramadan can be days of extreme tension. In pre-Islamic times, Ramadan was officially a month of peace when caravans could travel unarmed. With the Muslims in decline, Muhammad decided to reverse his flagging fortunes by attacking an unarmed caravan during Ramadan. When the Arabs protested, saying that warfare in the sacred month was a 'great transgression', Mohammad had a 'revelation' and declared that fitna (anything that could shake the faith of a Muslim) was worse than bloodshed (Sura 2:216-217). According to Muhammad biographer Husein Haykal, 'This revelation brought the Muslims relief, and the Prophet accepted his share of the booty.' (Haykal p 210.) Thereafter, Islamic fundamentalists from Egypt to Pakistan to Indonesia and jihadists from Algeria to Kashmir to Thailand routinely have emulated Muhammad by escalating their jihad during Ramadan.

This year, just as Ramadan reaches its conclusion, a church in USA plans to hold an 'International Burn a Qur'an Day'. The day chosen for this event is 11 September, in commemoration of the thousands murdered by Islamic terrorists on 11 September 2001. The church -- Dove World Outreach in Gainesville, Florida -- claims to be making a statement against Islam which it denounces as false religion, unable to save. While the statement is fine, the means is provocative in the extreme and not in the spirit of Christian grace. It is one thing for a Muslim convert to Christianity to burn his or her Qur'an as a sign of liberation. It is quite another thing for Christians to burn something precious and sacred to Muslims in the full knowledge that it will cause hurt and outrage. Muslims who have been spiritually searching will doubtless be repelled. Meanwhile, Muslims looking for a reason to kill Christians will be presented one on a platter.

There is already enormous momentum building for a violent response. Muslims have posted threats to jihadist websites expressing their intention to martyr themselves as bombers in the church. Members of the Al-Falluja jihadist forum (Iraq) have threatened to 'spill rivers of your (American) blood' and 'a war the likes of which you have never seen before'. In Indonesia, the Islam Defenders Front (FPI) has vowed to retaliate if the event goes ahead. On Friday 27 August, Muslims protested outside the US embassy in Jakarta holding banners reading 'Destroy burners of the Qur'an' and 'Answer the Qur'an burning with Jihad'. According to Roni Ruslan of Indonesia's Hizbut Tahrir, 'No one will be able to control this reaction.'

IkhwanWeb.com, the website of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), reports that Dr Diaa Rashwan, the MB expert at Egypt's Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies, describes the Qur'an-burning event as 'exceedingly dangerous', adding that 'a serious crisis will arise and extremism will be initiated in the Muslim world . . .' Dr Rashwan's assertion that the event would be violating the rights of Muslims is nonsense -- there is no such right as the right not to be offended. The Qur'an-burning event will be wrong, not because it violates Muslims' rights, but because it violates Christ's law of love (Matthew 7:12).

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT:

* our Lord Jesus Christ will surprise many Muslims this Laylat al-Qadr (Night of Power) by revealing himself as the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6).

* our Sovereign God and Father will watch over and protect his children during these tense days, and 'frustrate the ways of the wicked' (Psalm 146:9 NIV).

* Terry Jones, pastor of Dove World Outreach, will be sensitive to the Spirit's call for behaviour consistent with the gospel of grace -- for the sake of witness, and so that others might not have to suffer the consequences of his deliberately provocative action.

'For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: "You shall love your neighbour as yourself."' (Galatians 5:14 ESV.)

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RAMADAN AND PROVOCATION IN THE USA

Most Muslims observe the 27th night of Ramadan as the 'Night of Power'. Prayer that night (Sunday 5 September in 2010) is supposed to be especially blessed. May our Lord Jesus Christ surprise many Muslims then by revealing himself as the Way, the Truth and the Life. Christian minorities are vulnerable as the rigours of Ramadan cause Islamic zeal to escalate. Meanwhile, the Dove World Outreach in Florida, USA, is planning to hold an 'International Burn a Qur'an Day' on 11 September, to protest Islam as false religion. Islamic groups worldwide are threatening to respond violently. The Qur'an-burning event will be wrong, not because it violates Muslims' rights (for there is no right not to be offended), but because it violates Christ's law of love (Matthew 7:12). Please pray.