Thursday, September 29, 2011

127. Sept. Update; Incl. Algeria, Indonesia, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Sudan

By Elizabeth Kendal

'What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called the Christ?' Pilate asked. They all answered, 'Crucify him!' (Matthew 27:22 NIV) 'If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.' (John 15:18)

SEPTEMBER 2011 UPDATE -- During September we prayed for . . .

NIGERIA (RLPB 124), where ethnic Muslims in the volatile ethnic-religious fault-line city of Jos have been raiding ethnic Christian communities at night, inflicting terror by slaughtering unarmed civilians in their beds, doubtless with the aim of triggering an exodus. This is nothing short of ethnic cleansing. Those who commit these night-time invasions -- which are like the night-time invasions that characterised the 1990s jihad in Algeria -- doubtless justify their actions from the Qur'an: 'How many a township have we destroyed! As a raid by night, or while they slept at noon, our terror came unto them.' (Sura 7:4.)

UPDATE: NIGERIAN JIHAD

TERROR IN KADUNA STATE
. On Sunday 18 September some 20 Fulani herdsmen stormed a Christian farming community in Bitaro village, Jaba Local Government Area of southern Kaduna state about 1am as the villagers slept. Armed with machetes and knives, the Muslims killed two men (both husbands and fathers) and a 13-year-old girl and wounded at least 10. Though notified immediately, police arrived too late to apprehend the attackers. Soldiers have been deployed to guard the area.

TERROR IN NIGER STATE
. About 8pm on Thursday 22 September suspected Boko Haram militants converged on shops owned by Christians in Madala. Demanding the Christians recite verses from the Qur'an, the militants shot and killed those who could not. Five Christian traders were murdered.

TERROR PLANNED FOR ABUJA. On Saturday 1 October Nigeria will celebrate 51 years of independence. Boko Haram has vowed to attack selected high profile targets in the federal capital.

SOMALIA (RLPB 125), a land of terror and martyrdom, where the al-Qaeda-linked jihadist group al-Shabaab is systematically eliminating Somalia's Christians.

IRAN (RLPB 126), where state belligerence and persecution are escalating.

UPDATE ON PASTOR YOUCEF NADARKHANI: The trial court has ruled that, whilst Youcef Nadarkhani was not a practising Muslim before his conversion to Christianity, he is an apostate because of his Muslim ancestry. The Supreme Court has given Youcef four opportunities to renounce Christ and return to Islam, once daily on 25, 26, 27 & 28 September. Youcef will be executed if he does not comply. [Watch Religious Liberty Monitoring for an update.]

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

* ALGERIA: CHRISTIAN APPEALING FIVE-YEAR JAIL TERM

RLPB 110 (1 June 2011) reported the14 April arrest of Algerian Christian, Krimo Siaghi, on charges on illegal proselytism and insulting Muhammad. At his 25 May trial the judge imposed a severe five-year jail term along with a massive fine. Krimo's appeal will be heard on Thursday 29 September. Please pray. The verdict will indicate the degree to which the state is or is not prepared to protect religious liberty.

* INDONESIA: CHURCH SUICIDE BOMBING IN SOLO, CENTRAL JAVA

On Sunday 25 September the second worship service at the 700-strong Bethel Full Gospel Church (Gereja Bethel Injil Sepenuh) in Kepunton ended as usual at 11am. At the moment the believers started moving out a suicide bomber detonated his explosives by the main glass doors of the sanctuary. Twenty-two believers were injured -- eleven seriously and one has died in hospital. The bomber was reportedly a member of an Islamist militant cell in Cirebon, West Java. Security has been heightened and police will now screen all church visitors.

* KIRKUK, IRAQ: THREE CHRISTIANS KIDNAPPED

On 21 September, Muslim gunmen abducted three Christian men near Fakhira village, southern Kirkuk. The Christians were ambushed when returning home to Arfa, northern Kirkuk, from a regular hunting trip. The militants killed the Christians' hunting dogs and torched their car before taking them to an unknown location. Iraqi security forces are searching for them. As tensions mount in flash-point Kirkuk, Christians are becoming increasingly vulnerable to ethnic-religious hate crimes, Islamic terrorism and opportunistic criminality including kidnappings. Please pray for God's protection of Iraq's Christian remnant.

* KAZAKHSTAN: NEW LAW WILL HURT MINORITY PROTESTANTS

On 21 September Kazakhstan's Lower House passed the controversial Law on Religious Activity and Religious Associations. Foreign missionaries will now have to re-register annually and anybody who fails the 'theological examination' or is deemed to pose a threat to 'public peace' will be expelled. In a land without a history of religious liberty or tolerance, such a law could cripple Protestant missions as Protestantism is considered 'new' and 'foreign'. Furthermore the law requires churches to have 50 adult members to be registered as a legal 'local' entity. That will be a problem for many small Protestant fellowships as Protestants account for less than one percent of the population. Unregistered worship will be illegal. Also banned is religious observance -- in particular prayer -- in all state institutions. According to the government, the legislation is designed to 'protect the people of Kazakhstan from pseudo-religious movements and cults'. The Senate is expected to approve the law and President Nursultan Nazarbayev reportedly plans to sign it. Protestants are already facing escalating repression, with one Baptist pastor lamenting to Forum 18: 'A new wave of persecution has begun once more.' Please pray that God will grant Kazakhstan's Christian leaders courage, faith and divine wisdom to face the storm.

* SUDAN: WAR ESCALATES IN BLUE NILE

[Updating RLPB 124 (7 September) and Religious Liberty Monitoring 'Sudan: War spreads across "new south" into Blue Nile' (13 September)]. The Arab-supremacist Islamist Government of Sudan has been bombing the Blue Nile capital, Kurmuk. Humanitarian agencies have been targeted, including the office of Save the Children. Insecurity has forced the state's only hospital to close. Satellite Sentinel Project imagery reveals a massive mobilisation of Sudan Armed Forces -- including some 3000 troops along with tanks, artillery, and helicopters -- travelling south from Khartoum to Blue Nile. Everything indicates a major military invasion is imminent. Without international action to disable Khartoum, civil war will engulf the country and impact the whole region. Sudan and South Sudan are accusing each other of supporting the other's rebel forces. Tensions are high. Please pray for the Church in Sudan.

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Thursday, September 22, 2011

126. Iran: State violence & persecution escalating

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 126 | Wed 21 Sep 2011

IRAN: STATE VIOLENCE & PERSECUTION ESCALATING;
pray for Youcef Nadarkhani trial verdict 25 September.

By Elizabeth Kendal

Under President Mahmud Ahmadinejad Iran has become more assertive in its quest to lead the Muslim world in Islamic Revolution. The regime has been greatly aided towards this by the war in Iraq which has dramatically altered the balance of power in the Middle East. To woo Arabs and Sunni Muslims into its axis, ascendant Iran is cranking up its anti-Israel and anti-US rhetoric while taking every opportunity to demonstrate its superior Islamic credentials. Support for international terrorism, state violence and religious persecution are at an all-time high. The American Centre for Law and Justice reports at least 285 Christians were arrested in 35 cities in Iran during the first six months of 2011 without any public reaction.

It is in this climate that Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani's 25 September trial court review will be heard. Youcef (32) was arrested in October 2009 while trying to register his church. He has been in prison since October 2010, when the trial court found him guilty of apostasy and sentenced him to death by hanging. On 28 June 2011 the Supreme Court in the Shia holy city of Qom upheld the apostasy conviction and death sentence but returned the case to the trial court for a final review. If on Sunday 25 September the trial court deems Youcef Nadarkhani was indeed a Muslim before his conversion -- and it may well determine he was a Muslim at birth -- the apostasy conviction and death sentence will stand and the court will be free to execute him.

All Youcef Nadarkhani has ever had to do to leave the brutal and inhumane conditions of prison, avoid the gallows and return to his wife and children is renounce Christ and 'return' to Islam. Youcef's lawyer, the notable human rights attorney, Mohammad Ali Dadkhah, has been sentenced to nine years jail for defending Youcef and some 20 others charged with apostasy. No doubt all Mohammad Ali Dadkhah has to do to stay free is to abandon the apostates. Avoiding persecution can be easy and very tempting. Perseverance, however, requires immense conviction and inner strength. The spiritual battle must surely be intensive.

If Iran defiantly executes Youcef Nadarkhani and is not affected by Western threats or sanctions, the life of every Farsi-speaking Christian convert from Islam will be imminently imperilled. Over the weekend of 25 September President Ahmadinejad will be in New York to attend the UN General Assembly. Whilst UN matters will doubtless absorb the media -- particularly the proposed bid for Palestinian statehood -- Christians worldwide must not forget the Nadarkhani family and the Christians of Iran.

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL --


* fill Youcef Nadarkhani, his wife Fatemah and their two young sons with an overwhelming sense of his love and presence (Romans 8:38,39).

* comfort and assure Pastor Youcef's congregation and indeed the whole Iranian Church that while 'to live is Christ . . . to die is gain' (Philippians 1:21 ESV), for through Christ 'death is swallowed up in victory' (1 Corinthians 15:54).

* receive as a fragrant offering the faithfulness of Iran's martyrs and persecuted Church, blessing it for the furtherance of the gospel in Iran and in the world. 'Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labour is not in vain.' (1 Corinthians 15:58 ESV.)

* intervene to direct the thinking of Iran's judiciary so that Youcef Nadarkhani will be delivered and restored -- however humanly impossible that seems. 'You are the God who works wonders; you have made known your might among the peoples.' (Psalm 77:14 ESV)


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STATE VIOLENCE & PERSECUTION ESCALATING IN IRAN

The Iranian regime of Grand Ayatollah Khamenei and President Ahmadinejad seeks to lead the world's Muslims in Islamic Revolution. To woo Arabs and Sunni Muslims into its axis, Iran is cranking up its anti-Israel and anti-US rhetoric and taking every opportunity to demonstrate its Islamic credentials. Religious persecution is escalating. According to the American Centre for Law and Justice at least 285 Christians were arrested in 35 cities in Iran during the first six months of 2011 without any public reaction. In October 2010 Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani was convicted of apostasy and sentenced to death. This death sentence has been delayed for a final review of the case due to be heard on Sunday 25 September. Please pray for this case and the Church in Iran.

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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

125. Somalia: a land of terror and martyrdom (update Nigeria)

By Elizabeth Kendal

Christ has a Church (a people) in war-ravaged, famine-wracked Somalia. This Church consists almost entirely of Somali converts from Islam. Al-Shabaab -- the Islamic fundamentalist al-Qaeda affiliate that controls most of Somalia -- is committed to extinguishing this Church. At least 25 Somali Christians have been martyred since September 2008, when Mansur Mohamed (25), a Christian for three years, became the first to be executed by al-Shabaab. Each of these believers could have saved their lives by simply renouncing Christ and returning to Islam. Yet in each case these believers chose Christ over life, submitting their bodies to the Islamic sword in full assurance that their death would immediately be 'swallowed up in victory' (1 Corinthians 15:50-59). [For more on Somalia's martyrs, see here. ]

On 2 September the body of Juma Nuradin Kamil was found decapitated and dumped on the outskirts of Hudur City in south-western Somalia. A local Christian told Compass Direct News, 'It is usual for the al-Shabaab to decapitate those they suspect to have embraced the Christian faith, or sympathisers of Western ideals. Our brother accepted the Christian faith three years ago and was determined in his faith in God. We greatly miss him.' Witnesses saw three militants whom they suspect were members of al-Shabaab ambush and kidnap Kamil on 21 August. Local Christians say the abduction was so efficient that al-Shabaab must have been closely monitoring Kamil for some time.

Al-Shabaab includes large numbers of veterans of the Afghan jihad and is affiliated with Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). Al-Shabaab wants to turn Somalia into the next Afghanistan: a base and training centre for international jihad. In December 2010 al-Shabaab merged with Hizbul Islam, a nationalist-Salafist revolutionary group led by Sheik Hasan Dahir Aweys, formerly of the Islamic Courts Union. By doing so, al-Shabaab appeased, secured and strengthened its nationalist faction and broadened its local appeal. Al-Shabaab is actively training local and international recruits for local and international jihad, including militants from Boko Haram (Nigeria) as well as diaspora Somalis travelling on Western and other foreign passports.

International efforts to counter al-Shabaab have been insufficient. The African Union forces that had been fighting for control of Mogadishu are massively under-manned. Al-Shabaab's main weakness lies in its factionalism and tribalism. But even if al-Shabaab were to implode, the alternative US- and UN-backed Transitional Federal Government (TFG) is totally Islamist and committed to the implementation of Sharia Law, including death to apostates. Most Somali Muslims still believe that Islam is the solution to everything. Somalia needs a miracle.

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL --

* have pity on Somalia: may he break through the darkness of Islam (Isaiah 59:15b-19); may the Islamists be ensnared in their own intrigues (Psalm 9:15,16); may the Lord enlighten the eyes of the suffering masses (2 Corinthians 3:14-18).

'And should not I [God] pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left.' (Jonah 4:11 ESV)

* shield and protect his besieged and imperilled believers; may they grow in faith and grace and may God provide all their needs, preserving them as living testaments to his power and love.

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

PLEASE CONTINUE IN PRAYER FOR NIGERIA and SUDAN
[See RLPB 124]

* JOS, NIGERIA: that God will intervene to end the violence. On Friday 9 September in Vwang Fwil Village in Jos South Local Government Area (LGA) all 14 members of the Christian Mallam Danboyi family were massacred in their beds by a mob of Fulani Muslim herdsmen wearing military uniforms. The dead ranged in age from 9mths to 70 years and included a pregnant woman. Then 12 Christians were massacred in midnight attacks on several villages in Barkin Ladi LGA. Around 100 Christians have been killed in this manner in Jos in the past month. Emmanuel Logman, the Chairman of Barkin Ladi Local Government Council, regards the persisting attacks as an attempt at 'ethnic cleansing'. According to police, Northern Muslim youths are being mobilised by text message to come to Jos and support the Muslim struggle. Please pray.

* SUDAN: that God will intervene in South Kordofan and Blue Nile (Sudan's 'new south') where ethnic cleansing continues and mass starvation looms. Please pray.


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SOMALIA: A LAND OF TERROR AND MARTYRDOM

At least 25 Somali Christians have been martyred since September 2008, when Mansur Mohamed (25), a Christian for three years, became the first to be executed by al-Shabaab. On 2 September 2011 local Christians found the decapitated body of Juma Nuradin Kamil dumped in Hudur City, south-western Somalia. Kamil was abducted on 21 August, presumably by al-Shabaab militants who had been monitoring him. A local Christian leader told Compass Direct News, 'Our brother accepted the Christian faith three years ago and was determined in his faith in God. We greatly miss him.' Al-Shabaab, which controls most of southern Somalia, is determined to extinguish Christianity and is actively training local and international recruits for worldwide jihad. May God bring light. Please pray for Somalia's besieged, imperilled Church.

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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

124. NIGERIA: Jos on a knife edge; & SUDAN: war in Blue Nile State

By Elizabeth Kendal

NIGERIA: JOS ON A KNIFE EDGE


Religious tensions soared in volatile Jos, Nigeria, after a sectarian clash in Gada-biu district of Jos North Local Government Area (LGA) on 29 August left at least 20 Christians and 22 Muslims dead. [See RLPB 123 (31 Aug 2011).]

As was expected, Muslim youths immediately plotted revenge, forging plans to attack Christian places of worship the next Sunday, 4 September. However, Jama'tu Nasril Islam and the Council of Ulama Plateau State set up a committee to mediate in the crisis. They managed to convince the Muslim youths to 'sheath their swords' and leave the matter in the hands of the police. Despite this, on Sunday 4 Sept at around 2am a mob of some 30 Fulani Muslims -- reportedly with 'sophisticated weapons' -- crept into Tatu village and forced their way into the home of the Chollom Gyang Christian family. Apart from the couple's fourth child who was away, all eight other family members were massacred in their beds, including a four-month-old baby. Due to rumours that they would be attacked there, most Christians stayed away from their churches all day.

Later that night, Sunday 4 September, mobs of Fulani Muslim tribesmen accompanied by uniformed Nigerian soldiers raided several predominantly Christian villages, shooting sporadically and hacking down those fleeing. Seven people were killed and three injured at Zallaki village near Babale in Jos North (LGA). A 74-year-old man, his wife and two grandchildren were murdered at Dabwak in Jos South (LGA) and ten were injured in nearby Farin Lamba. The al-Qaeda-linked, Maiduguri-based Islamic fundamentalist group Boko Haram has reportedly sent funds, vehicles and trained militants to Jos to help mobilise a 'mass attack'.

Previously a suicide bomber struck the heavily guarded UN offices in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, on 26 August, killing 23 and wounding some 80. Boko Haram claimed responsibility for this their second suicide bombing in the capital (they struck the police headquarters on 16 June. See Nigeria: the Boko Haram threat, Religious Liberty Monitoring, 11 July 2011.) Churches in Abuja are employing security and closing early in daylight hours. Fear and anxiety are rising.

SUDAN: WAR ERUPTS IN BLUE NILE STATE

Abyei, South Kordofan and Blue Nile are three border regions located in the Arab and Muslim-dominated North but are populated by predominantly Christian African tribes. According to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) they were entitled to determine their own futures by means of popular consultations. [See RLPB 117 (21 July 2011).] Fully defying the CPA, the Government of Sudan (GoS) has seized and ethnically cleansed Abyei and is now doing the same in South Kordofan. On 1 September fighting erupted in Blue Nile State as GoS forces attacked the home of elected governor, SPLM-N Chairman Malik Aggar in Al-Damazin, the capital of Blue Nile State. The GoS then launched a full-scale assault on Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) positions. In what is being described as a 'political and military coup', President Bashir subsequently dismissed Governor Aggar, declared a state of emergency and installed Major General Yahya Mohamed Khair as military ruler. Reports are flowing in of military deployments, aerial bombardments and massive displacements across the region in yet another GoS-engineered humanitarian crisis.


PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL --

* bring Nigeria's Boko Haram and Sudan's President Bashir to account (Psalm 10:10-13) sooner rather than later, in answer to the prayers of many (2 Corinthians 1:11).

* grace Nigerian and Sudanese Christian leaders -- both civil and religious -- with great spiritual wisdom and authority so they might rightly lead God's people through this 'valley of the shadow of death' (Psalm 23:4).

* intervene for his suffering people in the ethnic-religious fault-line regions of Nigeria and Sudan, providing all their needs and keeping them safe; may he draw them into prayer, hear their cry and answer it (Isaiah 30:18,19) 'that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone are the LORD' (Hezekiah's prayer -- Isaiah 37:20b ESV).


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CHRISTIANS BESIEGED IN NIGERIA & SUDAN

Christians and Muslims clashed in volatile Jos, Nigeria, on 29 August leaving 20 Christians and 22 Muslims dead. Muslim leaders managed to convince their youths not to retaliate by attacking the churches. However, mobs of Fulani Muslims still proceeded to raid Christian villages on Sunday 4 September, killing 19 and wounding dozens. Pray for the cycles of violence to end, and for God to protect his people. Meanwhile, conflict erupted on 1 September in Sudan's Blue Nile State, in the southern border region that is populated by predominantly Christian African tribes. Government forces attacked the home of the elected state governor, Malik Aggar. Sudan's President Bashir has dismissed Aggar and installed a military ruler amidst reports of aerial bombings and massive displacement of tribespeople. Please pray for Sudan's besieged Christians.

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