Wednesday, March 30, 2011

101. March Update. Inc. Ivory Coast, Lebanon, Pakistan,

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 101 | Wed 30 Mar 2011

By Elizabeth Kendal

MARCH 2011 UPDATE -- During March we prayed for . . .

EGYPT, after the Egyptian Army fired live ammunition against the community of St Bishoy Monastery in Wadi al-Natroun before using tanks and bulldozers to destroy the monastery's security wall -- all that protected the monastery from Arab raiders and jihadists.

* UPDATE (1): ARMY AS MUTAWEEN (Islamic religious police). Amnesty International reports that after the military cleared Tahrir Square on 9 March, officers of the Egyptian Army took at least 18 women into military detention where male soldiers were permitted to photograph them being beaten, stripped and electrocuted. Whilst torture and degradation in Egyptian prisons is not new, what happened next is. In what is nothing short of sexual assault, the women were also forcibly examined to see if they were virgins. Those who failed the 'virginity tests' were threatened with prostitution charges. Further to this, Middle East analyst Barry Rubin reports (28 March) that a text message circulating widely in Egypt is demanding all women, Christians included, adopt proper Islamic dress. Will the Army defend the rights of women or the dictators of Islam?

* UPDATE (2): RECONCILIATION EGYPTIAN STYLE. On 20 March in the village of Qana, Upper Egypt, Muslim fundamentalists torched an apartment belonging to Coptic Christian teacher Ayman Anwar Mitri (45) because they claimed he had leased it to 'prostitutes'. When Mr Mitri arrived at the scene he was taken away and attacked by a gang of 12 Islamic fundamentalists. Claiming they were applying Sharia Law, they beat him and sliced off his right ear. They also cut into his neck, other ear, face and arm while shouting religious slogans and threatening to kill him. When they had finished torturing him, they called the police who took Mr Mitri away and coerced him into accepting 'reconciliation'. (Sharia Law does not permit Christians to testify against Muslims. This is the most dangerous element of 'dhimmitude' or 'state of subjugation'.) When threatened with the kidnap of his daughters, Mr Mitri agreed to drop the charges. The 'reconciliation' was conducted in the presence of Colonel Ahmed Masood, vice military ruler of Qena.

ETHIOPIA, where a massive Islamic pogrom in Muslim-majority Jimma Zone in Oromiya regional state had at least 59 churches, a Bible school and an office razed, with more than 4000 Christians displaced.

* UPDATE: According to Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, the pogrom was incited by preachers from the Islamist Kawarja sect and other 'extremists'. Some Christian victims reported that those who torched their homes and tried to kill them had been their neighbours and friends. One victim heard Islamic leaders shouting that any Muslim who did not join in the pogrom was not a true Muslim. Kawarja, which seeks the establishment of an Islamic state, has reportedly been preaching intolerance and hatred in the area for several years. Some 100 attackers have been arrested. Still, relations have soured and tensions remain high.

SOUTH SUDAN, where Khartoum-backed militias and heavily armed soldiers of the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) have invaded, razed, fortified and occupied several villages in the northern Abyei region, forcing some 45,000 Southerners (Ngok Dinka) to flee south for refuge.

* UPDATE: The regime in Khartoum appears to be incrementally invading and occupying the resource-rich, contested border region of Abyei. Recent satellite images show that at least three more villages have been occupied by the SAF, and that massive troop deployments and air-power has been brought in. Clearly any Southern resistance to the SAF advance will trigger a huge conflagration. Further to this, South Sudan faces an implosion along tribal lines. Five Southern rebel/opposition forces have now allied under the leadership of General George Athor to fight against the main Southern force, the Dinka-dominated SPLA.

NIGERIA, where pre-election violence is mounting. Tensions are soaring, especially on the ethnic-religious fault-line, and most notably in flashpoint Jos where the political stakes are particularly high. The Nigerian elections are: 2 April -- National Assembly (parliament); 9 April -- Presidential election; 16 April -- State Assemblies and governorships. Please pray for Nigeria.


MARCH 2011 ROUND-UP -- also this month . . .

* IVORY COAST: CIVIL WAR ERUPTING

(For background see: RLPB 085, 'Ivory Coast: on the brink of war', 8 Dec 2010)

As noted in RLPB 085, Ivory Coast (IC) is so profoundly divided that it was never going to be unified by such high-stake elections. After dealing with gross irregularities emanating primarily from the unmonitored north, IC's Constitutional Council declared Gbagbo the winner. Despite this, the 'International Community' remains firm in its support for Ouattara.

The high stakes in IC relate not only to race ('Ivorite' v immigrant) and religion (Christian v Muslim), but also to Ivorian independence v French neo-colonialism. Ouattara is essentially France's man in Ivory Coast. Through him, France will maintain its exploitative, colonialist hegemony over Ivorian amenities, including the banks. On the other hand, Gbagbo is fighting to end French colonialism, especially French control of Ivorian funds. (The colonial pact brokered in the 1960s mandates that 65 percent of the foreign currency reserves of former French colonies in Africa go into the French Treasury, while a further 20 percent of reserves go to cover 'financial liabilities'. Did you ever wonder why Francophone Africa was so poor?) This is one reason why US-educated, former IMF official Alassane Ouattara -- a Muslim who plays the race-religion card for political gain, who triggered a civil war with a failed coup in 2002, who is backed internationally by Islamic states and organisations -- is so favoured by the West. It is all about 'interests'. But as rebel forces advance on Abidjan, IC's non-Muslims know they stand to lose more than just their prosperity. IC's traditional religious liberty and security will be a thing of the past if Islam takes control of IC.

* LEBANON: CHURCH BOMBED IN THE BEKAA VALLEY

Early on Sunday 27 March a 2kg bomb ripped through the front of the Church of Our Lady in Zahle industrial zone in the Bekaa Valley. Several homes and cars in the vicinity were also damaged and one man suffered shrapnel injuries. This bomb, remotely detonated in the church entrance, was intended to send a threat. Despite this, Father Georges Bahy assured journalists that the Christian community would 'fix the church and continue as normal'. The bombing came only days after seven Estonian cyclists were kidnapped in Zahle. Former President and current Phalange party leader, Amin Gemayel, is concerned that the Zahle church bombing may herald a wave of persecution.

* PAKISTAN: KILLINGS CONTINUE

(1) ASSASSINATED! On 2 March Pakistan's first Christian cabinet minister, Shahbaz Bhatti, the Minister for Minorities, was assassinated on his way to a cabinet meeting. Militants from Tanseem Al Qaeda and Tehrik-e-Taliban Punjab drove into Islamabad's secure diplomatic area, gunned down the MP and drove away, leaving many suspecting that members of the security forces were complicit. Bhatti, a Catholic and long-time religious liberty advocate, was killed for his courageous public stance against the blasphemy law and as a protest against the government's appointment of a 'disbeliever' to the cabinet.

(2) MURDERED? Qamar David, another Christian victim of the blasphemy law, died in Karachi Central Jail on 15 March. Whilst authorities maintain he died of natural causes, his family and supporters are convinced he was murdered. Charged in June 2006, David was sentenced to life in prison in February 2010. He had faced endless threats on his life since his arrest.

(3) SHOT! On 21 March in Hyderabad a group of Muslims were harassing Christian women entering the church, so four Christian men came out to request respect. The Muslims left but returned with guns and four Christians were shot. Younis Masih (47, married father of four) and Jameel Masih (22, married a month ago) died instantly. The Christians had to protest for hours, blocking the main road with the two dead bodies, just to force the police to file their report.

(4) THREATENED! Death threats have been made against Joseph Francis, the director of the Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS) in Pakistan. These death threats started after Mr Francis spoke publically about the misuse of the blasphemy law. Despite the dangers, Mr Francis is refusing to back down. He simply requests prayers for himself and the entire staff of CLASS.

~~~~

But I say to you, 'Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes the sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.' (Matthew 5:44,45 ESV)

This verse is quoted fully appreciating that this is doubtless one of the most difficult things Christ requires of us. Lord help us!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

100. Nigeria: the elections and the battle for Jos

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 100 | Wed 23 Mar 2011

NIGERIA: THE ELECTIONS AND THE BATTLE FOR JOS

By Elizabeth Kendal

Nigerians will go to polls three times during April 2011: 2 April to elect their National Assembly (parliament); 9 April to elect their President; 16 April to elect State Assemblies and governors. The leading candidates are the incumbent, Goodluck Jonathan (People's Democratic Party), Ibrahim Shekarau (All Nigeria Peoples Party), Muhammadu Buhari (Congress for Progressive Change) and Nuhu Ribadu (Action Congress of Nigeria). Inaugurated as Vice President in 2007, Jonathan (a Southern Christian) took up the presidency in February 2010 when President Yar'Adua (a Northern Muslim) resigned suffering terminal illness. Jonathan, the front-runner, is favoured to win. Shekarau, the governor of the Northern Sharia State of Kano, will campaign on the usual conservative Islamic platform of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP). Former military dictator Gen. Buhari, another Northern Muslim, was the ANPP's unsuccessful presidential candidate in 2003 and 2007. Ribadu, a Southern Muslim and anti-corruption crusader, is running on a Muslim-Muslim ticket. Some stakeholders in the North are agitating for a strategic alliance between Buhari, Shekarau and Ribadu as the only way to rout Jonathan. Political violence is escalating.

Nowhere will poll results be contested more fiercely than in flashpoint Jos, the capital of Plateau State in Nigeria's volatile Middle Belt. In1991 military dictator General Babangida, a Northern Muslim, decreed that Jos be divided into two smaller administrative units: Jos North and Jos South, with the actual city / CBD going to the Hausa Muslim 'settler' dominated Jos North. It is generally believed Babangida created Jos North specifically to empower the growing Hausa Muslim community. The battle for Jos has intensified over the past two decades, with attacks on the Christian community escalating markedly. Tensions are soaring in advance of the elections. On 11 March Special Task Force officers seized a truck laden with ammunition and sophisticated bomb-making equipment as it crossed from Kaduna into Plateau bound for Jos. Investigations are under way.

On Sunday morning 20 March two Hausa Muslim would-be bombers died when three of the bombs they were transporting exploded en route. The massive blast occurred at Dualla junction in Nasarawa, Jos North Local Government Area, destroying shops and rocking the nearby ECWA (Evangelical Church Winning All) and COCIN (Church of Christ in Nigeria) churches which are known now were the intended targets. The regional headquarters of the Mountain of Fire and Miracle Ministries (MFM) was also targeted, only that bomb failed to detonate and was removed by the bomb squad.

The Dualla junction explosion disrupted a Hausa service and an English service and sent worshippers fleeing in panic. Doubtless the Hausa service was comprised of mostly converts from Islam, whilst the English service was probably mainly ethnic-religious minority Christians. Two others died in the subsequent chaos. As analysts universally note, the battle for Jos is between 'indigenes' and 'settlers'. However, it cannot be denied that the battle is exacerbated by the settlers' increasingly fundamentalist, intolerant Islam, which demands they resist assimilation (because they are 'superior') while pursuing political domination and territorial expansion.

For further background see: Why is Jos such a tinderbox - Religious Liberty Monitoring.

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL --

* deliver his people from those who are conspiring violence against them; may the wicked fall into their own nets (Psalm 141:9,10).

* raise up political and community leaders of great wisdom and immense courage, so that intolerant, fundamentalist Islam might not only be stopped in its tracks but actively rolled back so that all Nigerians might enjoy their constitutionally guaranteed right to religious liberty.

* abundantly provide for and bless all the mission organisations and ministries taking the gospel to Muslims across Northern Nigeria; may the Spirit of God breathe life and power into a new generation of prayer warriors and missionaries committed to minister to the Muslims of hostile, predominantly Muslim, Northern Nigeria.

~~~~

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NIGERIA'S ELECTIONS AND THE BATTLE FOR JOS

The outcome of Nigeria's polls in April will be contested no more fiercely than in flashpoint Jos in Nigeria's volatile Middle Belt. On Sunday morning 20 March two Hausa Muslim would-be bombers perished when three bombs they were transporting exploded prematurely. The bombs were destined for churches in Hausa Muslim dominated Jos North. Both the ECWA (Evangelical Church Winning All) and nearby COCIN (Church of Christ in Nigeria) churches were rocked by the massive explosion. A bomb planted at another church failed to detonate. The battle for Jos is heating up as Hausa Muslim immigrant 'settlers' pursue political domination, with attacks against the indigenous Christians escalating markedly. Please pray for wise and courageous political and community leaders to roll back fundamentalist Islam so that all Nigerians might enjoy religious liberty.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

099. Sudan: serious conflict in south; Abyei attacked

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 099 | Wed 16 March 2011

SUDAN: SERIOUS CONFLICT IN SOUTH; ABYEI ATTACKED

By Elizabeth Kendal

Insecurity in predominantly Christian Southern Sudan has intensified since the 9 January 2011 referendum on Southern self-determination. The Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) has been fighting various southern armed opposition groups, in particular the forces of General George Athor and those of Gabriel Tanginya (aka 'Tang'). These conflicts arise from political and tribal grievances. A fellow Dinka and close aide to the late SPLM/A leader John Garang, Athor has been a strong supporter of Garang's 'New Sudan' vision for a united, secular, democratic Sudan. He opposes the current SPLM leadership but denies he has links to Khartoum. 'Tang' on the other hand has been allied to the National Islamic Front (NIF) in Khartoum (Northern Sudan) since 1984. Khartoum backs Tang's Nuer forces in their fight against 'Dinka domination'. When fellow Nuer, pro-secessionist Reich Machar, split from the SPLA in 1991 over ideological and tribal differences, he aligned with Tang. (After their coup failed in 1991 Machar's Nuer forces massacred some 500 Dinka-Bor civilians, razing their villages and lands so that some 25,000 subsequently died in a NIF-engineered famine. Reich Machar is currently the Vice President of South Sudan.)

On 9 February fighting erupted in Fangak, Jonglei State, between the SPLA and the forces of General George Athor. Two days of fighting left at least 200 dead. On 22 February fighting broke out in Malakal, Upper Nile State, between the SPLA and Tang's forces, leaving some 50 dead. Children taken hostage from a local orphanage were subsequently released. So even within South Sudan, political and tribal divisions are deep and toxic, not least because Khartoum has been fostering the widening of these divisions for decades as part of its divide and rule strategy. However, if there is to be any hope for a brighter future, the Southerners must reject corruption and megalomania and strive for reconciliation in the South. Ultimately it is the masses that suffer. As goes the African proverb: 'When elephants fight, it is the grass that gets hurt.'

The most serious outbreak of all occurred at flashpoint Abyei. Fertile and oil-rich, the Abyei region straddles the North-South border. The people of Abyei were to get their own referendum to decide whether Abyei would be part of the North or the South. Traditionally, Abyei is 'Southern' and predominantly Dinka. But the Islamic regime in Khartoum wants the Misseriya Arab nomads -- allies of Khartoum who traditionally pass through the region each year -- to be given voting rights. Ultimately disagreement forced the referendum's cancellation. Khartoum wants Abyei divided and the US urging the South to 'compromise' for the sake of peace has only emboldened Khartoum in its land-grab.

On 27 February the police station in Todach, Abyei region, was attacked at 6.30am by a 100-strong force comprised of Misseriya Arab militiamen and militants of the Khartoum-backed Popular Defence Force (PDF). Seven police were killed and six wounded. The attacks continued the following day, but included uniformed members of the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) using advanced heavy weaponry. On 28 February an estimated 100 police and civilians (mostly youths) were killed. On 2 March Maker Abior, Abyei region, was attacked by a force of some 1000 Misseriya, PDF and SAF elements, resulting in 33 casualties. Two helicopters deployed from Khartoum evacuated wounded Arab-Muslim soldiers. The Khartoum-led Joint Integrated Units (JIU) did not intervene nor did they warn the Dinka of the looming threat. This violence has triggered a mass exodus of Dinka from Abyei with as many as 45,000 -- mostly women and children -- fleeing south.

According to Sudan analyst Eric Reeves (13 March), there has subsequently been a dramatic military build-up in the area, with the SAF building roads and forward military posts inside Abyei region. They have brought in tanks and advanced weaponry and have occupied and fortified several recently torched villages. The SPLA is also reinforcing its positions. In some places the two forces are only 20km apart. There is concern that Khartoum is preparing to divide Abyei by force. Meanwhile the Government of South Sudan (GoSS) has been holding talks aimed at securing alternative routes for its oil -- routes that would deprive Khartoum of revenue. Surely Khartoum would regard this as a massive provocation. Tensions are soaring.

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT --

* God will have mercy on the impoverished, long-suffering, war-ravaged masses of South Sudan, especially those who faithfully love, worship, walk with and trust in the Lord. Please LORD, interpose yourself, protecting and delivering your loved ones in answer to prayer.

'The Lord goes out like a mighty man, like a man of war he stirs up his zeal; he cries out, he shouts aloud, he shows himself mighty against his foes.' (Isaiah 42:13 ESV)


* the Holy Spirit will encourage and embolden Christian leaders, pastors and evangelists to preach and demonstrate radical faith despite the circumstances. 'When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.' (Psalm 56:3 ESV) May this radical faith witness effectively to multitudes.

* God will grasp Sudan's leaders by their right hands and, for the sake of the Church, call them by name to do God's bidding, that all the peoples might know that God is the LORD (Isaiah 45:1-7).

~~~~

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CONFLICT THREATENS PEACE IN SOUTH SUDAN

Conflict has increased within South Sudan since the 9 January 2011 Referendum on Southern Self-Determination. During February the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) clashed with forces of the southern opposition figure Gen. Akhor, leaving 200 dead. Some 50 were killed when the SPLA clashed also with the forces of Gabriel Tanginya who is backed by Northern Islamic Khartoum. In the North-South border region of Abyei, 100 Misseriya Arab militiamen and other Khartoum-backed forces massacred police and civilians. On 2 March the same forces, 1000-strong, attacked another Abyei village causing 33 casualties. This violence has triggered a massive displacement of 45,000 Southern Sudanese -- mostly women and children -- fleeing south. Both the North and the South are preparing for conflict. Please pray for the long-suffering, war-ravaged, predominantly Christian masses of South Sudan.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

098. Ethiopia: Muslims stage massive pogrom

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 098 | Wed 09 Mar 2011

ETHIOPIA: MUSLIMS STAGE MASSIVE POGROM

-- 59 churches and 28 homes torched; more than 4000 Christians displaced, one killed.

By Elizabeth Kendal

On Wednesday 2 March a massive pogrom erupted in Asendabo, Ethiopia, some 280km (175 miles) south-west of Addis Ababa. International Christian Concern and Compass Direct News report that local Muslims attacked Christians after some Muslims accused a Christian of desecrating a Qur'an. As the violence escalated, Christian leaders called for extra security. However, the security forces the authorities dispatched were simply unable to rein in the rampaging mob of some 10,000 enraged Muslims. After two days of violence in Asendabo, Muslims attacked the surrounding villages of Chiltie, Gilgel Gibe, Gibe, Nada, Dimtu, Uragay, Busa and Koticha. By 7 March the toll on the Christian community stood at 59 churches, one Bible school and 28 homes torched, with more than 4000 Christians displaced and one dead. A Christian pastor in Addis Ababa told Compass Direct News on 7 March, 'The atrocity is still going on, and many more people are suffering.'

To have such momentum, the pogrom appears to have been planned, incited and orchestrated by hostile elements. The claim a Qur'an was desecrated is suspect, being a common pretext for a terror campaign, aimed at putting the Christians in their place. According to the Qur'an they are to be 'utterly subdued' and realise their lives are in the hands of the Muslims:'Fight against [them] . . . until they pay tribute out of hand and are utterly subdued.' (Sura 9:29). This may be a result of local radicalisation in the ravaged Jimma Zone (Oromiya regional State). Jimma Zone is 83 percent Muslim where persecution with impunity is escalating. However, it could also be that Muslims, led by local fundamentalist clerics, have been influenced by events in Pakistan and were keen to make a statement of their own. The violence could also have been in retaliation for the Ethiopian army's involvement in the current military offensive in Somalia.

Deeply concerned by Somalia's deteriorating security and the corresponding escalation in piracy, Western powers have been pouring large sums of money into Somalia's UN-backed Transitional Federal Government (TFG) specifically to boost its military. During the last week of February the TFG unleashed its long-awaited military offensive against al-Qaeda-backed al-Shabaab and its ally Hizbul Islam, launching a co-ordinated offensive on three fronts simultaneously: (1) in Mogadishu, where Africa Union peacekeepers are fighting house-to-house, pushing back insurgents but suffering heavy losses; (2) in Beledweyne (alt. Belet Weyne), Central Somalia, where Ethiopian-backed TFG and allied Alhu Sunnah Wal Jama'a (ASWJ) forces remain locked in battle with al-Shabaab; (3) in Bulo Hawo (alt. Belet-hawo), Southern Somalia, which TFG and ASWJ forces have wrested from al-Shabaab control, but only after the Ethiopian military shelled the area in defence of besieged Ethiopian-trained TFG forces.

Like the government, the Ethiopian Army is dominated by Ethiopian Orthodox Christian ethnic Tigrayans. As such, many Oromo Muslims tend to regard Ethiopia's involvement in Somalia as having both ethnic and religious overtones, when really it is a simple matter of regional security. Ethiopia's ethnic Oromo are doubtless further agitated by the army's recent arrest of 110 Oromo Liberation Front separatist guerrilla fighters in the border town of Moyale. With Islam rising, with ethnic federalism consolidating and with war raging, Ethiopia is fast becoming a deeply divided state where Christian minorities are increasingly at risk.

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY:

* that God will still the violent sectarian storm in Jimma Zone, Oromiya, Ethiopia (Psalm 65:5-8).

* that the massive violence will result not in Muslim superiority and domination (as is intended) but in shame and repentance (as it should). 'With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.' (Matthew 19:26 ESV)

PRAY ALSO FOR SOMALIA:

* that Yahweh Sabaoth (Lord of Hosts, the commander of heaven's forces) will intervene to protect and deliver his imperilled Church; and to fight and bring down all those who want her dead , for his glory, for the sake of his Church, and for the sake of the millions of impoverished, war-weary Somalis who desperately need her (Jonah 4:11 ESV).

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MUSLIMS STAGE MASSIVE POGROM IN ETHIOPIA

On Wednesday 2 March a massive pogrom erupted in Asendabo, Ethiopia, some 280km south-west of Addis Ababa, after local Muslims accused a Christian of desecrating a Qur'an. The violence spread to surrounding villages and after five days of Islamic rioting -- involving some 10,000 enraged Muslims -- the toll on the Christian community stood at 59 churches, one Bible school and 28 homes torched, with more than 4000 Christians displaced and one dead. The police have been unable to contain the ongoing unrest. Ethiopia includes some large, restive Muslim tribes now emboldened by ethnic federalism. As Islam rises, so too does persecution of Christian minorities, who are increasingly without remedy in what is fast becoming a more profoundly divided and conflicted nation. Please pray for the Church and the nation.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

097. Egypt: army fires live ammunition at monasteries. (plus Afghanistan and Laos)

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 097 | Wed 02 March 2011

EGYPT: ARMY FIRES LIVE AMMUNITION AT MONASTERIES
(plus Afghanistan and Laos)

By Elizabeth Kendal

The Egyptian uprising has left Coptic Orthodox monasteries exceedingly vulnerable, as the police who normally guard the monasteries have either deserted their posts or been redeployed to the cities. Exploiting the security vacuum, Arab raiders, jihadists and prison escapees have attacked and raided several monasteries. When the monks requested protection at the 5th Century Monastery of St Bishoy in Wadi al-Natroun, some 110km north of Cairo, they were told they would have to fend for themselves. So they built a surrounding security wall, inside their boundary. However, Islamic law mandates that Christians may neither build nor repair churches. (See last week's RLPB 096 for some examples of consequences.)

On 21 February soldiers arrived at the monastery of St Bishoy in tanks and bulldozers. They had not come to protect the community, but to demolish the security wall. After arguing with the monks and workers, the soldiers opened fire with live ammunition, including rocket-propelled grenades. Father Feltaows was shot in the leg and Father Barnabas in the abdomen. Six monastery workers were also wounded, one critically. The wounded are being treated in the Anglo-Egyptian Hospital in Cairo. The army also attacked the Monastery of St Makarios of Alexandria in Wady el-Rayan, Fayoum, some 130km south-east of Cairo. This monastery likewise had erected a security wall after an attack by armed thugs and Arabs left six monks wounded, one critically. Not only did the military demolish the security wall, they 'confiscated' the monastery's building materials.

The demolition at St Bishoy's was filmed (from www.freecopts.net/). The monks did not flee the assault, but held their ground in the midst of the 'war zone' singing and praying 'Kyrie eleison' (Lord have mercy). According to eye witness Father Hemanot Ava Bishoy: 'As the soldiers were demolishing the gate and the fence they were chanting, "Allahu Akbar" and "Victory, Victory".'

As one analyst commented, the security walls threatened nobody but merely breached a rule of fundamentalist Islam. It is most concerning that those excitedly and violently enforcing this repressive Sharia prohibition were not militants nor jihadists nor agitated, incited Muslims. They were the heroes of the 'revolution': soldiers of the Egyptian Army which now rules Egypt.

Also on 21 February the body of Rev Dawood Boutros was found, murdered two days earlier in Shotb, just outside Assiut City, southern Egypt. Journalist Ahmed Zaki Osman reports for Al-Masry al-Youm: 'According to the slain priest's neighbours, four people killed the Coptic cleric in his home while "chanting Islamic slogans".'

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY:

* that the Lord himself -- Yahweh Sabaoth (Lord of Hosts, the commander of heaven's forces) -- will protect the Christians of Egypt, their churches, monasteries and homes during these days of insecurity. 'But on that day I will set apart the land of Goshen, where my people dwell . . . so that you may know that I am the Lord in the midst of the earth. Thus I will put a division between my people and your people.' (God to Pharaoh, Exodus 8:22,23a ESV)

* for a Great Awakening in Egypt: may the Church grow in faith and be sanctified to radiate more brightly; may the gospel message become the hope of many, as social transformation will come not via politics but via spiritual transformation (Isaiah 2:1-4).

~~~~

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ARMY FIRES ON MONASTERIES IN EGYPT

Criminals and jihadists have been exploiting Egypt's present security vacuum to attack and raid Coptic monasteries. However, on 21 February the Egyptian army moved against two monasteries that had built surrounding security walls inside their boundaries. At the Monastery of St Bishoy, the army used live ammunition against the monastery's monks and workers, wounding several, before sending tanks and bulldozers to demolish the wall. This was not agitated Muslims nor a band of jihadists, but the army -- the hero of the 'revolution', the new ruler in Egypt -- enacting the repressive Sharia prohibition against Christians building or repairing churches. This does not bode well for the future of Christianity in the 'new Egypt'. Please pray for Egypt and for the Church during this insecurity and in the days ahead.

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TWO CRITICAL UPDATES

AFGHANISTAN: Said Musa, the focus of a massive international prayer and advocacy campaign, has been released from detention in Kabul (see RLPB 096, 23 Feb 2011). His whereabouts are unknown. To appease the Muslim masses, the government reported that Musa -- who clung to his faith through months of beatings, sexual abuse, torture and a death sentence -- was released upon his returning to Islam. Recall that Musa was one of around 25 Afghan converts arrested in the May 2010 crackdown (see RLPB 059, 09 Jun 2010). They remain detained, posing a dilemma for the government. These converts all need asylum. Meanwhile, the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) in India has denied refugee status to six Afghan Christian converts seeking asylum in India, meaning they may soon face deportation back to Afghanistan. Why? Probably due to the UNHCR's delicate relationship with India, combined with the UNHCR's blinkered regard for Islam.

LAOS: In January 2010 security forces expelled 11 families (around 48 people) from Katin village, southern Laos, simply because they would not give up their Christian faith (see RLPB 057, 26 May 2010). The faithfulness of the believers despite the persecution led other Katin families to the Lord. After they converted, these families were also expelled (RLPB 083, 24 Nov 2010). Now Compass Direct reports that the 62 exiled believers are at a 'critical stage'. In a last attempt to starve the Christians into abandoning their faith, authorities have commissioned locals to destroy the Christians' food and water supplies, and warned them against giving any assistance to the 'criminal' Christians. These believers desperately need Divine intervention.

Remember: intercessory prayer is advocacy to the highest authority. Please pray.