Wednesday, August 31, 2011

123. August Update; Incl. Iraq, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Zimbabwe

AUGUST 2011 UPDATE

By Elizabeth Kendal

'Then I said, "I will appeal to this, to the years of the right hand of the Most High." I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your wonders of old. I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds . . . You are the God who works wonders.' (Psalm 77:10-12,14a ESV)

AUGUST 2011 UPDATE -- during August we prayed for . . .

INDONESIA (RLPB 119), where Christians are facing escalating violent persecution fuelled by impunity, primarily in Papua and West Java, especially the Bogor and Bekasi districts. It is reported there were 64 violent attacks on religious freedom in 2010, up from 18 in 2009 and 17 in 2008.

UPDATE: In December 2010, Indonesia's Supreme Court and Ombudsman Commission ruled in favour of the Taman Yasmin Indonesian Christian Church in Bogor, West Java, confirming the legality of its building permit. Despite this, the church remains sealed and Bogor authorities continue to obstruct and threaten the members. Now the mayor of Bogor, Diani Budiarto, is pushing for a law to forbid churches opening on streets bearing Islamic names. The Yasmin church is on Jalan Abdullah bin Nuh, a street named after the noted Islamic cleric Abdullah bin Nuh (died 1987). President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is remaining silent on the issue. If mayor Budiarto can defy the courts with impunity, the law will be rendered meaningless. Pray for Indonesia.


SUDAN (RLPB 120), where the predominantly Christian Nuba peoples of South Kordofan are facing starvation at the hands of a genocidal regime.

UPDATE: On Tuesday 23 August, while visiting Kadugli, the capital of South Kordofan, Sudan's President Omar el-Bashir announced a two-week ceasefire. He also confirmed that no humanitarian aid groups would be permitted to enter the war-ravaged region where hundreds of thousands of predominantly Christian Nuba have been displaced. The Secretary-General of the SPLM-N, Yasir Arman, is accusing Bashir of 'using food as a weapon'. Arman regards Bashir's declaration of a ceasefire as nothing more than a 'public relations stunt'. He believes Bashir is actually preparing for a major military offensive in South Kordofan. Despite the ceasefire, bombing is reportedly continuing. Pray for God to intervene for his people.


VIETNAM (RLPB 121), where religious persecution is escalating against Christian activists in the cities and the ethnic minority Christians in the Central Highlands.

UPDATE: AsiaNews reports (29 August) that the disappeared Catholic activists are imprisoned in Hanoi and will go on trial shortly. They are charged with attempting to 'overthrow the people's administration', under Clause 2, Article 79 of the Vietnam Penal Code. Sources told AsiaNews the prisoners have been allowed to receive food and clothing but not prayer books. The fate of two Protestants arrested at the same time is unknown. In the coming weeks, Vietnamese Christians across the nation -- Catholics and Protestants -- will hold candlelight prayer vigils for religious freedom. Pray in solidarity with them.

PAKISTAN (RLPB 122), where Christian security is increasingly tenuous.

UPDATE: As noted in RLPB 122, anti-blasphemy law campaigner Salman Taseer was assassinated on 4 January. Now his son Shahbaz Taseer has been kidnapped, seized in an ambush on 26 August. Some experts believe Shahbaz might be used as a bargaining chip by militants seeking the acquittal of Salman Taseer's assassin, Mumtaz Qadri. Meanwhile, in increasingly Islamised and Talibanised Karachi, a virtual war between militias backed by political parties and sectarian groups has left some 400 dead. The violence is also hastening the ethnic-religious polarisation of the city. Christians are especially vulnerable amidst such lawlessness. Christian homes and churches have been threatened and pelted with rocks recently in Karachi, mostly by the ethnic Pashtuns. They are backed by the Taliban and live in Pashtun-dominated districts near the Christian colony. Pray for all Pakistan's Christians and religious liberty advocates.


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

* IRAQ: MANY CHURCHES BOMBED IN KIRKUK

On Monday 15 August a bomb exploded outside Saint Ephrem's Syrian Orthodox Church in Al Ummal Square, central Kirkuk, causing major damage but no casualties. It was the third church bombing in Kirkuk in two weeks. The previous night, four bombs exploded simultaneously inside Kirkuk's Saint Afram Syriac Orthodox Church. Whilst there were no casualties, it was the first time insurgents had managed to detonate bombs planted inside a church. On 2 August, 15 people were wounded including church staff when a car bomb exploded about 5:30am outside the Holy Family Syrian Catholic church in Kirkuk. Bombs were subsequently found and defused outside the Saint Giwargis Church of the East and the Evangelical Presbyterian Church in the Almass district. Kirkuk Archbishop Louis Sako told Aid to the Church in Need, 'This is only happening because we are Christians. Maybe the people responsible want to empty the city of Christians. Please pray for us. Pray for peace and stability. We are afraid.' Pray for Iraq's besieged Christians.


* IVORY COAST: ONGOING DIRE SITUATION FOR CHRISTIANS

The UN peacekeeping mission in Ivory Coast is deeply concerned about continuing serious human rights abuses in Ivory Coast. From mid-July to mid-August the mission documented 26 extra-judicial killings, 85 illegal arrests and 11 rapes, all committed by the former rebels who now make up the official army of Ivory Coast. According to the acting human rights chief in the UN Operation in Côte d'Ivoire (UNOCI), Guillaume Ngefa, predominantly Christian ethnic groups continue to suffer cruel and inhumane treatment and violation of property rights at the hands of pro-Ouattara Islamic forces. Pray for the Christians of Ivory Coast.


* NIGERIA: CHRISTIANS TARGETED IN PLATEAU STATE

Twenty-four Christians were killed in Plateau State during August in targeted attacks by Islamic militants in collusion with uniformed Muslims from the Nigerian Army. Ratsa Foron village was attacked on 11 and 15 August: 6 dead. Chwelnyap community in Jos was attacked on 14 August: 2 dead. Heipang village was attacked on 15 August leaving 10 dead, including 9 members of one family. Kwi, Loton and Jwol villages were attacked on 21 August: 6 dead. In each attack uniformed soldiers of the Nigerian military, including those from the Special Task Force (a unit tasked with stopping sectarian attacks), accompanied the militants and even participated in the killings. Plateau governor Jonah Jang has called for immediate withdrawal of the Nigerian Army because, he said, Muslims in the army are taking sides with the Islamist assailants. This situation is extremely serious.

Gada-biu is the Christian-dominated district of North Jos Local Government Area where multiple bombs exploded on 24 December 2010 resulting in around 90 deaths. (Boko Haram claimed responsibility -- see RLPB 088.) Consequently, local Christians did not want Muslims celebrating Eid-el-Fitri (end of Ramadan) in that area and so made a formal request that they celebrate elsewhere. On Monday 29 Aug 2011 strife erupted between the district's local ethnic Christians and Muslims going down Rukuba Road to celebrate Eid-el-Fitri in the sensitive area. The clash left 20 people dead and more than 100 wounded. Reportedly 'most' of the dead and wounded were shot by soldiers firing indiscriminately. At least 50 vehicles, 100 motorcycles and two shops were torched. Accounts vary widely about who provoked whom and what actually occurred. Tensions are high. Please pray for Nigeria.


* ZIMBABWE: ANGLICAN PASTORS EVICTED

On 4 August Zimbabwe's Chief Justice issued a temporary ruling placing all Anglican properties under the control of excommunicated, pro-Mugabe bishop Norbert Kunonga. (See 'Zimbabwe: Chief Justice grants excommunicated Kunonga control over Anglican properties', Religious Liberty Monitoring, 17 Aug). According to The Zimbabwean (27 August) Kunonga's thugs have evicted 27 Anglican pastors and their families violently from their church-owned homes since the ruling was issued. Reverend Jonah Mudowaya was severely beaten in Chinhoyi on Wednesday 24 August by a Kunonga gang. In a bid to stop the evictions, lawyers representing the Anglican Diocese of Harare have filed a Constitutional appeal against the Chief Justice's ruling on the grounds it was issued while the matter was the subject of a Supreme Court appeal. The Chief Justice has noted the Constitutional appeal but says it will not interfere with his order. While the Anglican Church awaits the Supreme Court ruling, the excommunicated Kunonga is exploiting the opportunity this gives him to seize the church's assets. Please pray for justice in Zimbabwe.

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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

122. Pakistan: legal discrimination & impunity fuel persecution

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 122 | Wed 24 Aug 2011

PAKISTAN: LEGAL DISCRIMINATION & IMPUNITY FUEL PERSECUTION

By Elizabeth Kendal

Sharia Law prohibits Christians testifying against Muslims in court. Consequently, in an Islamic state Muslims are essentially guaranteed impunity for crimes committed against Christians. As would be expected, impunity and legal discrimination then fuels further persecution. The resulting profound insecurity is doubtless the most devastating aspect of dhimmitude (subjugation under Islam). Furthermore, as Islamic fundamentalism rises in constitutionally secular Muslim-majority states, Sharia provisions are increasingly being enforced to appease politically powerful hardline Islamists, even though these provisions conflict with the law of the land. Weak and fearful governments are increasingly opting for 'reconciliation' and 'harmony' over justice. As the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) recently noted, 'Legal discrimination against religious minorities and the failure of Pakistan's federal and provincial governments to address religious persecution by Islamist groups, effectively enables atrocities against these groups and others who are vulnerable.'

The police are now seeking to whitewash the 2 March 2011 assassination of Minorities Minister Shahbaz Bhatti (a Christian) by shifting the blame from those who claimed responsibility -- militants linked to the Tehrik-i-Taliban -- to Bhatti's Christian relatives. Bhatti died because he was defending Asia Bibi, a Christian woman jailed in June 2009 on a charge of blasphemy. Asia has been languishing on death row since her conviction in November 2010. Her refusal to convert to Islam had earned the hatred of her Muslim co-labourers. One day they refused to drink the water she delivered, claiming it was contaminated because Asia was an infidel. Asia responded that her Jesus was the Son of God while their Muhammad was no prophet. After her arrest, a local Muslim leader offered to pay US$6000 to anyone who killed her. Two of the three MPs who have risen to defend Asia have been assassinated, leaving the remaining MP, Sherry Rehman, fearing for her life. Not safe even in the local jail, Asia has been transferred to Multan Prison. Her husband, Ashiq, and five children have been driven into hiding.

Mukhtar Masih is an ordained pastor of the Full Gospel Assemblies of Pakistan. While running a small fellowship from his house in Gloria Colony, Sheikhupura, Punjab, he also established and ran the Good Shepherd High School. Islamic fundamentalists complained about the school's Christian activities whilst other Muslims coveted the school's land. Eventually these hostile forces used Islamic militants to threaten and terrorise Mukhtar Masih until he fled Pakistan for his life, taking his daughter Mary with him. Mukhtar's sons, Samuel and Emmanuel, and his brother Araf Masih then took on running the school. Directed by Muslim lawyer Muhammad Ashraf, the Islamic militants eventually forced Mukhtar's relatives to sign over the property and make the Muslims shareholders in the business. Mukhtar's relatives have also had to sell their homes to meet the Muslims' extortion demands. Muhammad Ashraf has occupied the school and changed its name to Focus School System.

The National Director of the Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS), Joseph Francis, brought the case before the local court, which cancelled the agreement and ordered the return of the property. Muhammad Ashraf responded by sending armed militants to kill Mukhtar's relatives, who fortunately managed to escape. Now he has started filing false charges against the Christians, including robbery and murder. From experience, the great danger is that they will be accused of blasphemy also, an emotive charge that carries a mandatory death sentence.

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT --

* God will anoint more Pakistani MPs, lawyers, writers and artists to speak up for justice to great effect for the sake of Pakistan's besieged Church.

'Thus says the LORD to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have grasped . . .
to open doors before him . . . I call you by your name, I name you, though you do not know me . . . I equip you, though you do not know me, that people may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is none besides me; I am the LORD, and there is no other.' (From Isaiah 45:1-6 ESV)

* the Holy Spirit will draw all the Church in Pakistan to rely on God who raises the dead and delivers his people in answer to prayer (2 Corinthians 1:8-11).

* God will provide all the needs of Asia Bibi, Mukhtar Masih and their families and deliver them from evil; may the Lord's 'own arm' deliver justice against the wicked and recompense for the persecuted.

Say to those who have an anxious heart, 'Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.' (Isaiah 35:4 ESV)
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LEGAL DISCRIMINATION & IMPUNITY FUEL PERSECUTION IN PAKISTAN

Sharia Law prohibits Christians testifying against Muslims in court, effectively guaranteeing impunity for those persecuting Christians. With Islamic fundamentalism rising, Pakistan wants to appease the politically powerful Islamists and so is permitting the use of such Sharia edicts. This impunity and legal discrimination only fuels more persecution. Police are now trying to whitewash the assassination last March of the Christian MP and Minister for Minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti. Mother of five, Asia Bibi whom he was defending, has languished on death row, convicted of 'blasphemy', since November 2010. Persecuted, threatened pastor Mukhtar Masih has fled from Pakistan, and his relatives back in Punjab are gravely imperilled. Desperation to keep fundamentalist Muslims pacified prevents the authorities from pursuing justice for those being victimised and persecuted. Please pray for the Church in Pakistan.

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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

121. Vietnam: State repressing Christians violently

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 121 | Wed 17 Aug 2011

VIETNAM: STATE REPRESSING CHRISTIANS VIOLENTLY

By Elizabeth Kendal

The Montagnard / Degar people are the indigenous inhabitants of Vietnam's Central Highlands. After the French left Indochina in 1955, the Vietnamese authorities -- who demean the Montagnards as 'Moi' (savages) -- sought to seize, colonise and exploit the Montagnard's resource-rich lands. During the Second Indochina War, the Montagnards fought alongside the Americans in a struggle for human rights and autonomy. Under the Communists, religious freedom has become a major issue. Predominantly Protestant, the Montagnards are resisting government efforts to force them into Communist Party-controlled, State-sanctioned organisations. The Communist authorities, fighting everything they cannot control, accuse the church of being a front for the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and for 'reactionary', 'evil' and 'separatist' forces.

In March 2011, Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a most significant report,
'Montagnard Christians in Vietnam: A Case Study in Religious Repression'. Repression and violent persecution are escalating, according to HRW. More than 70 Montagnards were detained or arrested in 2010 alone and over 250 are known to be imprisoned on national security charges. Furthermore, at least 25 Montagnards have died from beatings, torture or illness while in custody.

The HRW report states that mobile police units have been patrolling the Central Highlands, harassing the people and forcing them to renounce 'Dega Protestantism' publicly. In just one of dozens of cases cited by HRW, the provincial Gia Lai government-run newspaper, Bao Gia Lai, reported in October 2010 that 567 households affiliated with 'Dega Protestantism' in the Krong Pa district were renouncing the religion. Furthermore, the commune chief was making daily visits to pressure 15 more households to abandon the faith.

The Montagnard Foundation reports that on 7 July 2011, Vietnamese security forces and police surrounded the village of Buon Kret Krot in Gia Lai Province while the villagers were attending a Christian evening prayer service. At the appointed time, the authorities charged and violently assaulted the believers. Twelve men and four women were beaten severely, whilst others were detained and tortured. Of those who were beaten, 12 were left unconscious. Ten of them were young men aged 19-29, one was a 53-year-old woman and the other was a 15-year-old girl. Victims of other extreme police brutality included girls and boys aged from 13 to 16. The villagers have been warned that if they continue to worship independently of Communist control they will all go to prison.

Meanwhile, repression and persecution continue to escalate too in the lowland cities, mostly against Vietnamese Catholics who include lawyers, bloggers, human rights activists and priests. Catholics in Vinh City, south Vietnam, recently took to the streets to protest the government's refusal to return confiscated land to Cau Ram parish. Furthermore, eight devoutly Catholic university students and young laymen have been arrested recently without cause, their whereabouts unknown. Candlelight vigils for the Catholic detainees have been held in Vinh Diocese.

PLEASE PRAY THAT GOD WILL --

* comfort and heal all his people who are suffering physically, materially, emotionally and spiritually due to violent persecution by the Vietnamese Communist authorities.

* bring to those who persecute his children a revulsion against violence and a conviction of sin, so that the extreme violence and appalling injustices and betrayals might cease, praying especially for Vietnam's new ceremonial president Truong Tan Sang (62), elected by the parliament on 25 July and for the more powerful Prime Minister, Nguyen Tan Dung.

* bring many Vietnamese Communist officials -- police, bureaucrats and ideologues -- to faith in Jesus Christ; may the Church in Vietnam be able to rejoice, as did the Churches of Syria and Cilicia, saying, 'He who used to persecute us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.' (Galatians 1:23 ESV)

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VIETNAM REPRESSING CHRISTIANS VIOLENTLY

The Montagnard / Degar people are the indigenous inhabitants of Vietnam's Central Highlands. The Vietnamese Communists covet their resource-rich lands and persecute them on ethnic and religious grounds. Predominantly Protestant, the Montagnards are resisting government efforts to force them into Communist Party-controlled, State-sanctioned organisations. The Communists accuse the 'Dega Protestant' church of being a front for the US Central Intelligence Agency and 'reactionary', 'evil' and 'separatist' forces. Human Rights Watch reports that persecution has been escalating since mid-2010. Mobile police units are running large-scale operations forcing 'Dega Protestants' to renounce their faith. Police brutality and torture have long been an issue. Severe repression has been mounting too in the lowland cities, mostly against Vietnamese Catholics. Please pray that God will intervene for his Church in Vietnam.

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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

120. Sudan: Genocide of Nuba by starvation

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 120 | Wed 10 Aug 2011

SUDAN: GENOCIDE OF NUBA BY STARVATION

By Elizabeth Kendal

[For background see RLPB 113 (22 June 2011) & RLPB 117 (20 July 2011) ]

Daily bombing raids targeting the Nuba populations of South Kordofan have resulted in significant loss of life and destruction of properties, including homes, crops and livestock. While the UN estimates that some 73,000 Nuba have been displaced, the former deputy governor of South Kordofan, Abdel Aziz el-Hilu, estimates the figure is closer to 500,000. Nuba seeking to flee the region are being intercepted and killed at roadblocks. Numerous tens of thousands of Nuba, many of whom are wounded, have been forced to seek shelter in hillside caves where they have nothing to eat but grass and leaves. The rainy season is making survival even more difficult. Furthermore the Government of Sudan (GoS) has sealed off the region so that humanitarian aid cannot get in. Without intervention, mass starvation will be inevitable.

The GoS has considerable experience in waging genocide. Scorched earth warfare followed by denial of humanitarian aid has been used in the Nuba Mountains (early 1990s), Bahr el-Ghazal (South Sudan, 1998) and Darfur to kill many tens of thousands of Africans in just a few months. Yet while Khartoum is engineering a famine in the Nuba Mountains, it is also congratulating itself for pouring aid worth nearly two million dollars into famine relief in Somalia (Sudan Tribune, 28 July). That too is standard for Khartoum which routinely starves its own people while exporting food and receiving food aid. [See 'Why is Akobo hungry?' By Elizabeth Kendal for Religious Liberty Monitoring, 9 April 2010 ]

Whilst the GoS's motive is greed and its goal is the theft of resource-rich land, it recruits fighters amongst Arab-Islamists with the language of Islamic jihad. In April 1992 Muslim clerics in South Kordofan issued a fatwa for the GoS that legitimised killing the Nuba as 'apostates' (Muslims not supporting the regime) and 'infidels' (unbelievers) 'who stand as a bulwark against the spread of Islam'. Today the Nuba are again being labelled rebels and infidels, and are being targeted by Islamic jihad to facilitate the ethnic cleansing of this resource-rich region.

Bradford Phillips is the founder and president of Persecution Project Foundation and the director (Sudan) of Voice of the Martyrs. He recently returned from 12 days in the Nuba Mountains. On Thursday 4 August he gave eye-witness testimony to a US House of Representatives subcommittee on Africa, Global Health and Human Rights. To Phillips 'the issue is genocide'. He is gravely concerned about the humanitarian crisis facing Sudan's largest Christian community. 'There are 70,000 to 90,000 people that are probably going to die in the next month to two months,' he warns. Local Nuba told Phillips the GoS views the church as an extension of the Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement which the GoS deems a 'foreign' force, although it is not. Phillips heard stories of pastors being arrested and horrifically tortured by soldiers seeking to extract the names of church members. Refusing to betray their flock, many pastors have been imprisoned, whilst some have died under torture or been executed.

Also testifying before the House Committee was Bishop Andudu Adam Elnail, the Anglican Bishop of Kadugli. Andudu has been told soldiers searched for him house-to-house. He believes that had he not been in the US for medical treatment he would now be lying in a mass grave. Bishop Andudu is pleading for intervention.

Like other Sudan experts Brad Phillips is calling for action that would neutralise/destroy Khartoum's Antonov bombers. Dedicated religious liberty and persecuted church advocate Congressman Frank R Wolf pleaded passionately for the Church to stand up and speak up for its persecuted brothers and sisters in Sudan. As Phillips told a CBN interview on 6 August, the most important thing the Church can do is 'intercede through prayer'.

[For more information on the 4 August hearing with links to transcripts and videos, see Religious Liberty Monitoring ]


PLEASE PRAY THAT GOD WILL --

* draw the Nuba and the global Church into dependent prayer for divine intervention; for the LORD will surely rise to show compassion at the sound of our cry (Isaiah 30:18,19). May Khartoum's bombers be neutralised and Omar el-Bashir's arrogant and racist reign of terror be ended. (Psalm 10)

'Behold, the Lord GOD comes with might, and his arm rules for him; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him. He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.' (Isaiah 40:10,11 ESV)

* provide displaced Nuba with their every need of shelter, food, healing and protection; may he ease their anxiety, bring rest to their souls and increase their faith.

* protect Nuba pastors, hiding them from those who intend to torture and kill them; may those imprisoned be protected and preserved, experiencing God's presence and being assured of his love.

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GENOCIDE OF NUBA BY STARVATION IN SUDAN

Continual aerial bombardment has displaced hundreds of thousands of Nuba, the predominantly Christian African tribes indigenous to the Nuba Mountains in Sudan's South Kordofan State. Furthermore, the Government of Sudan (GoS) is preventing humanitarian aid entering the region. Sudan experts warn that if there is no intervention 70,000 or more Nuba will starve to death within the next two months. This is exactly what the genocidal and racist GoS wants as it pursues total control of the resource-rich Nuba Mts. Eye-witnesses report that Christian pastors specifically are being targeted for arrest, torture and execution, because the Church has been labelled an enemy. Please pray for God to intervene on behalf of his imperilled and besieged people in the Nuba Mts.

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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

119. Indonesia: dangerous days for Christians

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 119 | Wed 03 Aug 2011

INDONESIA: DANGEROUS DAYS FOR CHRISTIANS

By Elizabeth Kendal

China is not landlocked, but it might as well be. China's coast does not open to the Pacific Ocean (where the US Navy is supreme) but opens to the Yellow Sea, the East China Sea, the Taiwan Strait and the South China Sea. To get to the Pacific Ocean, Chinese ships must navigate through archipelagos controlled by various US allies: Japan, the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia. Indonesia is especially strategic, straddling the Pacific and Indian Oceans and controlling some of the world's busiest shipping lanes. Indonesia's geo-strategic value is rising in line with China's economic and military ascendancy. Because Beijing is aggressively courting Jakarta, the US is reluctant to challenge Indonesia over declining religious liberty. Because President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is dependent on Islamist support in parliament, he is reluctant to challenge Islamists over escalating and increasingly violent Islamic intolerance. All this leaves Indonesia's Christian minority increasingly vulnerable.

On 24 January an Indonesian court sentenced three soldiers to eight, nine and ten months imprisonment for insubordination after video footage emerged showing the soldiers torturing Papuan civilians -- beating, burning, knifing and suffocating them. Whilst the US expressed regret over the leniency of the sentences, they praised the fact that the soldiers were tried at all, hailing it as 'progress'. (Without the trial, the US would have been obliged by its own laws to withhold military aid.) On 6 February a 1500-strong Muslim mob attacked a house in Cikeusik village, Banten Province, West Java, where a small number of Ahmaddiya Muslims -- regarded as heretical by mainstream Muslims -- were meeting for worship. Video footage posted on Youtube and broadcast worldwide shows Muslims hacking and bludgeoning the 'infidels' to death as the assailants' supporters cheer and shout 'Allahu Akbar' (Allah is great). Three Ahmadiyya were killed and five were seriously wounded, and Ahmaddiya property was torched. On Thursday 28 July Serang District Court in Java sentenced 12 of the instigators and killers to prison for between three and six months. As the deputy director for Asia of Human Rights Watch, Elaine Pearson, notes: 'The Cikeusik trial sends the chilling message that attacks on minorities like the Ahmadiyya will be treated lightly by the legal system.'

Religious liberty is seriously threatened in Indonesia and Christian security is increasingly tenuous. West Java is a hotbed of militant Islamic fundamentalism where Christians are less than two percent of the population. As tensions escalate and protection diminishes, Christians in West Java and restive Papua become increasingly vulnerable. In June last year, at the second Bekasi Islamic Congress held in Al-Azhar Mosque, Bekasi, West Java, Muslims there were instructed to form Islamic paramilitaries in readiness for a war against Christians. See 'Bekasi, West Java, Indonesia: Dhimmitude or death' (12 July 2010)

On 23 July 2011 Fides [Catholic] News Service reported they had received an 'SOS' appeal from The Indonesian Christian Church (Gereja Kristen Indonesia -- GKI), a Protestant denomination. This warned of such tension that 'the Christian faithful are at risk of mass persecution'. The GKI cites impunity as a major factor fuelling the Islamic fundamentalist trend towards violence. In Bogor and Bekasi, suburbs of Jakarta, West Java, local authorities are defying the law (including Supreme Court rulings) at the expense of Christians to appease belligerent Islamic fundamentalists. At a recent City Council meeting in Bogor, authorities threatened 'mass mobilisation' against 'the Christians of the GKI'. In other words: submit in silence or risk suffering and death!

Islamic zeal and belligerence will escalate through August as Ramadan progresses . These are dangerous days for the vulnerable Christians of West Java and restive Papua. Though the world's powers abandon them, our supreme and sovereign God never will.

THEREFORE, LET US PRAY THAT GOD WILL:

* draw his people into prayerful dependence, that they might 'wait for him' (Isaiah 30:18) and see his salvation; through it all, may the Indonesian Church -- in grace and by the power of the Holy Spirit -- be light, salt and yeast for the glory of God.

* intervene for the protection of his people and the advance of the gospel in Indonesia.

* expose the intolerance of Islam, while frustrating the schemes of the wicked (Psalm 146:9).

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DANGEROUS DAYS FOR CHRISTIANS IN INDONESIA

Because President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono depends on Islamist support in parliament, he is reluctant to challenge the issue of increasingly violent Islamic intolerance. Because the ascendant China is courting Indonesia, the US is reluctant to challenge Indonesia over its serious decline in religious liberty. West Java is a hotbed of militant Islamic fundamentalism where Christians are less than two percent of the population. Last year Muslims there were called to form Islamic paramilitary forces in readiness for jihad. As tensions grow and protection diminishes, Christians in West Java and Papua become increasingly vulnerable. Islamic zeal and belligerence will escalate as Ramadan progresses during August. A city council has threatened 'mass mobilisation' against the Christian population, for whom these are dangerous days. Please pray for God's intervention and for divine protection.

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