Wednesday, October 26, 2011

131. Oct Update; incl. Papua (Eastern Indonesia), Libya, Malaysia, Tunisia, Kazakhstan, Maldives, Somalia, Sudan

By Elizabeth Kendal

OCTOBER 2011 UPDATE -- During October we prayed for . . .

IRAN (RLPB 128), where repression is escalating and Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, who has been sentenced to death for apostasy, awaits the 'opinion' of the supreme leader Ayatolla Ali Khamenei. Please continue in prayer. Any resolution will be posted to Religious Liberty Monitoring.

RUSSIA (RLPB 129), where proposed amendments to the Law on the Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organisations (1997) threaten to impact non-Russian Orthodox denominations negatively and significantly restrict religious freedom.

EGYPT (RLPB 130), where Copts are reeling from the 9 October Maspero Massacre, when Egyptian security forces attacked Coptic Christians (and sympathetic Muslims) who were peacefully protesting against religious discrimination. Twenty-six people -- mostly Christians -- were killed and over 300 were wounded as the army beat, shot and drove armoured vehicles into the protesters whom they abused as 'infidels' and 'sons of dogs'. The military has assumed control of the investigation. The Copts are the indigenous people of Egypt and the descendants of the Pharaohs. The Copts have been Christian for 2000 years. A full report is available on Religious Liberty Monitoring.


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

* INDONESIA: DEATHS IN PAPUA (formerly Irian Jaya)

Some 5000 Papuans from across the Eastern Indonesian province gathered in Jayapura for the third Papuan Congress from 17 to19 October, its 50th anniversary. The Congress opened with prayers and included several church leaders amongst the speakers, including Rev Benny Giay, Rev Socrates S Yoman and Rev Yemima Krey. By 8am on 19 October the streets were lined with some 3100 military and police officers wearing full combat gear and holding assault rifles. Armoured vehicles and police trucks were also out in force. As in past Papuan Congresses (1961 & 2000), a declaration of independence was read and the Morning Star flag raised. The police responded by storming the Congress ostensibly to put down the 'coup'. More than 300 Papuans were arrested, dozens wounded and six killed. The Melanesian Christian Papuans seek an end to the racial-religious discrimination and persecution they suffer at the hands of Javanese Muslims and the Indonesian government. Please pray. (For extended reports, see Religious Liberty Monitoring: 26 Oct 2011 & 10 Nov 2011.)

* LIBYA: SHARIA TO RULE NEW LIBYA

On Monday 24 October, National Transitional Council leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil declared Libya to be 'liberated'. Operating free of any democratic constraints, Jalil also declared that the law against polygamy will be repealed (bad news for women), Islamic banking will be adopted (bad news for the economy) and Sharia (Islamic) Law will form the basis for all Libyan law (bad news for all who desire religious liberty). As has happened in Iraq and Afghanistan, any concession to religious freedom will be rendered void by the supremacy of Sharia which prohibits fitna (anything that could shake the faith of a Muslim), especially proselytism (Christian witness), blasphemy (criticising Islam) and apostasy (leaving Islam). Please pray for the Church in Libya.

* MALAYSIA: ISLAMISTS DEMAND END TO APOSTASY

On 3 August Islamic religious leaders and police raided the church of Pastor Daniel Ho, ostensibly to prevent 'apostasy'. Whilst Muslims were present, the meeting was actually a dinner for people involved in the church's welfare programmes, including single mothers and HIV/AIDS victims. The raid caused a stir in Malaysia. On Saturday 22 October an Islamist non-government organisation, with permission from the ruling Umno and police, held an anti-apostasy rally in Shah Alam on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur. An estimated 5000 slogan-chanting Muslims attended, though the organisers had hoped for a million. BN-Umno (which rules, but with a greatly reduced majority) doubtless supported the event hoping to dragnet the Muslim vote. This can only embolden Malaysia's intolerant Islamist forces.

* TUNISIA: ISLAMISTS EMERGE VICTORIOUS

Tunisia's once-banned Islamist 'Ennahda' party has claimed victory in the first democratic elections of the 'Arab Spring'. Ennahda party officials have said they are prepared to form an alliance with two left-wing secularist parties, the Congress for the Republic and Ettakatol. Early results indicate that Ennahda will win more than 40 percent of the 217 seats. The anti-Islamist Progressive Democratic Party (PDP) will lead the opposition. Ennahda leader, Rachid Ghannouchi, recently returned from 22 years in exile in the UK. Prior to the elections, the formerly-banned party opened offices across the nation and flooded it with fliers, though where the funding came from is unclear. The Ennahda-dominated national assembly will have one year to draft a new constitution. Pray for tolerance and religious freedom to survive in the new Tunisia.

ALSO --

* KAZAKHSTAN: On 13 October President Nursultan Nazarbayev signed into law two amendments that will effectively repress all non-officially sanctioned expression of religion. The new laws came in to force on 24 October. (See RLPB 127, 29 Sep 2011).

* MALDIVES: Any lingering hopes for reform may be discarded as Maldivian authorities expel an Indian teacher accused of spreading Christianity after he was found with a Bible in his house. The Ministry of Islamic Affairs is signalling its intention to enforce fully the Protection of Religious Unity Act (1994) which bans the promotion of any religion other than Islam or any opinion that disagrees with Islamic scholars. This is the result when reformists hold power only by means of alliances with Islamists as it gives Islamists the balance of power, the most powerful position.

* SOMALIA: It was recently reported that Guled Jama Muktar, a 17-year-old Somali Christian, was kidnapped from his home and beheaded by al-Shabaab militants in Hudur City in south-western Somalia last month. After quickly burying their son, Guled's parents, also Christians, fled for their lives. Nobody has heard from them.

* SUDAN: On 12 October the president of Sudan, Omar el-Bashir, announced that Sudan will go ahead with plans to adopt an entirely Islamic constitution and strengthen Islamic law. Meanwhile authorities in Omdurman, on the Nile River opposite Khartoum, have threatened to demolish three churches in the Madinat al Fath area if they continue to conduct worship services. One Christian leader told Compass Direct News he fears that 'evil plans' are being directed against the churches and against Christianity in Sudan. The Islamic jihad continues in South Kordofan and Blue Nile where the SPLM-North is fighting for the survival of the Christians and non-Arabs of Sudan's 'new south'. Humanitarian corridors remain closed.

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Please join with multitudes around the world for International Day of Prayer (IDOP) for the Persecuted Church on 13 November 2011 .

I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the LORD,
who made heaven and earth.
(Psalm 121:1,2 ESV)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

130. Egypt: Islam, Dhimmitude and the Maspero Massacre

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 130 | Wed 19 Oct 2011

EGYPT: ISLAM, DHIMMITUDE & THE MASPERO MASSACRE

By Elizabeth Kendal

Islam is a political religion that aims to achieve dominance -- demographically or through military or political conquest -- so that Muslims might rule and Sharia (Islamic Law / the law of Allah) might be applied. Where Islam is dominant, atheists and polytheists have two choices: convert to Islam or die. Jews and Christians (the People of the Book), however, have a third choice: dhimmitude -- they may pay for their 'protection' (i.e. their right to life) with 'jizya' ('tax': religiously sanctioned extortion) and by submitting to total subjugation and abject humiliation (Sura 9:29). The people subjugated are known as dhimmi (singular) and dhimma (plural). The state of subjugation -- dhimmitude -- is one of immense insecurity, vulnerability, perpetual anxiety and psychological trauma. The agreement between Muslims and the dhimma is known as the dhimma pact. If the dhimma pact is violated, then 'protection' ends and jihad resumes. Europe's rise and Islam's decline -- commencing in the late 17th Century and culminating in defeat for Islamic forces in the 20th Century's two world wars -- saw dhimmitude wane. Today, however, Islam is back and so too is dhimmitude -- and nowhere is this more evident than in Egypt.

On 30 September thousands of Muslims went on a pogrom in Elmarinab village in Egypt's Aswan Province after being incited in their mosques during Friday prayers. The military watched on without intervening while the Muslims destroyed St George's Church and other properties owned by Coptic Christians. State-run media subsequently whitewashed the incident. (NOTE: The Copts are the indigenous people of Egypt, the true descendants of the Pharaohs. They have been Christian for 2000 years.) The Muslim pogrom was launched in response to church renovations. Though the Christians had legal permission to repair their dangerously dilapidated church, church repair is nevertheless something clearly prohibited by the dhimma pact, for the Christians must be seen to be humiliated.

On Sunday 9 October Christians, along with numerous sympathetic Muslims, peacefully protested outside Cairo's Maspero building, the home of Egyptian state television and radio. They were calling for an end to religious discrimination, but to demand equity and justice instead of accepting subjugation and humiliation is to rebel against the dhimma pact. This time the reprisal came first and foremost from the Egyptian military. As violence escalated outside Maspero, state media falsely reported that armed Coptic protesters had attacked the military, killing three soldiers, and issued an appeal for loyal Muslims to rise up to defend their military. Thousands of angry Muslims responded. So that the truth could not be reported the military attacked the studios of al-Hurra (The Free One) TV, targeting Christian reporters and forcing its closure.

The Maspero Massacre left 26 dead and more than 300 wounded. Eye witnesses have testified that soldiers and police chased, shot and beat Christians while abusing them as 'infidels' and 'sons of dogs'. Whilst the state media did apologise for its false report (blaming a 'nervous reporter') the military publicly denied they had killed any Christians, despite volumes of video and mobile phone footage showing armoured vehicles running down Christians and crushing them amidst cries of 'Allahu Akbar' (Allah is great). On Sunday 16 Oct, Magdy Fahim Mosaad became the 27th Christian protestor to die when he succumbed to the injuries he received on Sunday 9th when he was run over by an armored personnel carrier.

The ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) has taken control of the investigation. SCAF will doubtless call for 'reconciliation' whereby the military makes peace with the Christians in exchange for the Christians dropping all charges. Such 'reconciliation' appeases the short-sighted, 'can't-be-bothered' West and satisfies Egypt's Islamists because the dhimma pact prohibits Christians testifying against Muslims. The rise of intolerant Islam, the return of dhimmitude and the guarantee of impunity for acts of violent persecution bode ill for Egypt's Christians.

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL --

* comfort those who mourn and bring peace to those who fear by confirming his presence and everlasting love, wielding his right arm of justice. '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)

* bring down the idol of Islam in Egypt and draw Egyptians to look beyond all idols -- Islam, the military, political leaders -- to the Living God; may the LORD make himself known to the Egyptians (Isaiah 19).

* awaken all who support human rights worldwide to the reality of Islamic religious apartheid and the gross affront of dhimmitude to universal human rights; may a cry go out around the world against it. 'For nothing will be impossible with God.' (Luke 1:37 ESV)

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SUMMARY TO USE IN BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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EGYPT'S COPTIC CHRISTIANS AND THE MASPERO MASSACRE

On Sunday 9 October Egypt's indigenous Coptic Christians protested peacefully outside Cairo's Maspero building, the home of Egyptian state television and radio, calling for an end to religious discrimination. Eventually the Egyptian military intervened violently crushing the protest. Video footage shows military armoured vehicles running down unarmed Christian citizens, crushing and killing them amidst cries of 'Allahu Akbar' (Allah is great). Eye witnesses testify that soldiers and police chased, shot and beat Christians while abusing them as 'infidels' and 'sons of dogs'. State media issued false reports about what was happening and called for Muslims to rise up against the Christians to defend the military. The military has whitewashed the massacre which claimed 27 lives and left more than 300 wounded. Please pray for Egypt's imperilled Christians.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

129. Russia: proposed amendments to the Religion Law

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 129 | Wed 12 Oct 2011

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RUSSIA: PROPOSED AMENDMENTS TO THE RELIGIOUS LAW SIGNIFICANTLY RESTRICT RELIGIOUS FREEDOM
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By Anneta Vyssotskaia
-- a religious liberty advocate with a particular concern for and involvement in Russia and the
former USSR.

On Thursday 6 October the Russian Ministry of Justice made known to the public the proposed new amendments to the Law on the Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organisations (1997) and allowed its Russian citizens to discuss them only until Monday 10 October. If accepted, the proposed amendments will restrict religious freedom in the country significantly.

The most restrictive effect of the amendments will be on unregistered religious groups which currently have the freedom to meet for worship and provide religious instruction to their followers. At present such groups comprise 20-30 percent of religious congregations in Russia. The amended version of the law, after removing their present right to exist and be involved in religious activities, will require them to apply for registration. At the same time the amendments also introduce a new article in the law setting up State religious expertise and providing more grounds for it to refuse registration.

Another restriction affects the rights of the registered local religious organisations that do not provide documentary proof of being a member of a large centralised religious organisation. Lev Levinson, an expert with the Institute of Human Rights, says they will not be permitted to have their own educational institutions or Sunday schools, or to create foreign entities. They will not be allowed to perform religious ceremonies in hospitals, prisons or orphanages, nor to print and distribute religious literature and mass-media for ten years. They will not be able to invite overseas visitors for professional ministry. All these activities would be restricted to organisations like Russian Orthodox Church parishes that are part of a centralised body. In Levinson's opinion it would prevent any alternative religious movement while spiritual and religious development is prohibited. However, it would benefit large church structures by protecting them from groups splitting off.

The proposed amendments force independent congregations to become part of centralised church unions.

Active State Advisor of the Russian Federation, Class I, and religious rights expert Dr Andrey Sebentsov says: 'The purpose of the proposed law is to create new hindrances for the activities of associations of the "non-traditional" religions. The exclusion of religious groups from the [religious] law will in fact create a situation that prohibits religious activities without registration, and all the other proposals contradict the spirit of the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights to such an extent that it is just amazing how we [i.e. Ministry of Justice] can manage to create precedents that aggravate the problems under the pretense of solving them.'

The Russian Minister of Justice, Alexander Konovalov, studied theology in Svyato-Tikonovskii Orthodox University and is a committed supporter of the Russian Orthodox Church. Since he became Minister of Justice, his Ministry has made several attempts to introduce amendments to the Law on Religion intended to regulate strictly the activities of the religious organisations and groups. In 2009 the Ministry of Justice proposed a separate law to regulate missionary activities but it was rejected by all religious organisations.

Dr Roman Lunkin and Dr Inna Zagrebina from the Guild of Experts on Religion and Law posted an appeal to all Christians in Russia on the Guild's website. In it they call the proposed amendments the first serious attempt of the judicial authorities to change radically the existing Religion Law in Russia. They provide a detailed analysis of the proposed amendments. Home meetings of unregistered religious groups and especially missionary activities, as well as religious education of believers without registration, will be considered illegal. They will be punishable by fines and prosecution. All religious organisations will have to apply for registration through a filter of religious expertise conducted by Expert Council for Conducting State Religious Expertise under the Russian Ministry of Justice. This is led by a Russian Orthodox Church expert, Alexander Dvorkin, who is an active opponent of minority religious groups and specially targets Protestant churches. Believers, religious organisations and literature will be checked with double vigour for extremism. A discriminatory ten-year period will be applied to groups not belonging to large centralised organisations.

Lunkin and Zagrebina say: 'The prosecution of any unregistered religious activity, an increase of the opportunity for abused discretion through expertise and checking for extremism place Russia among the countries violating religious freedom and their own Constitutions and opposing the international norms and standards in the area of freedom of religion and beliefs.'

[Sources include http://www.portal-credo.ru , http://religionip.ru , http://www. interfax.ru/ , http://www.sclj.ru/ , http://www.ng.ru ]

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY FOR --

* the Russian Government, the Ministry of Justice and its minister, Alexander Konovalov, to respect and protect people's constitutional rights regardless of their religion.

* God's protection for all his people in large and small, registered and unregistered churches, and for God's wisdom, guidance and unity for church leaders.

* wisdom and protection of the religious and human rights experts in Russia, for unity between them and practical assistance to the churches at this difficult time.

The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. (James 15:16b, NIV)

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SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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RUSSIA PROPOSING CHANGES TO RESTRICT RELIGIOUS FREEDOM

The Russian Ministry of Justice allowed its citizens to discuss proposed amendments to the religious law only from Thursday 6 October to Monday 10 October. If adopted, they will restrict religious freedom in the country significantly. The amended religious law would make it illegal for unregistered religious groups to meet for worship or instruction, or be involved in any other religious activities, including hospital and prison chaplaincies. Their literature and other material would be banned. To be registered, small groups of churches and independent congregations would have to be part of large centralised organisations, effectively impossible. The amendments are obviously designed to serve the interests of large, traditional churches. Please pray for religious freedom and God's protection and blessing on all believers in churches large and small, registered and unregistered.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

128. Will Iran risk this execution?

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 128 | Wed 05 Oct 2011

WILL IRAN RISK THIS EXECUTION?

By Elizabeth Kendal

As was reported in RLPB 127 (28 Sep 2011) 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. As mandated by the Supreme Court, Pastor Nadarkhani was brought before the trial court on 25, 26, 27 & 28 September and provided with a daily opportunity to renounce Christ and return to Islam. Those who maintain that this blatant disregard for religious liberty is contrary to Islam are wrong. Some schools of Islamic jurisprudence maintain that three opportunities should be provided on the grounds of Sura 4:137. Other schools of Islamic jurisprudence maintain that no opportunity should be given on the grounds of Sura 2:217 that deems fitna (anything that shakes the faith of a Muslim) worse than killing. Also the Hadith (sayings of Muhammad) is very clear: 'He who changes his [Islamic] religion, kill him.' (Sahih Al-Bukhari (9:57)) This is about Islam and politics: sanity has really nothing to do with it. Meanwhile, standing firm in his faith, Youcef Nadarkhani has refused each opportunity to renounce Christ and return to Islam.

The case has caused an outcry in the West -- not 'internationally', as is widely reported -- with Western leaders decrying the situation as appalling and demanding Pastor Nadarkhani's immediate release. But, it must be noted, no such outcry is emerging from the Muslim world or from the regimes behind emerging powers such as China or Russia, or from the UN. Furthermore, as noted in RLPB 126 (21 Sep), Iran is working hard to exploit the Arab uprisings with the aim of drawing Sunni Arab Islamists into the Iranian (political) axis. As Islam rises and Western leverage and influence declines, the Iranian regime may decide that a stand for Islam in defiance of the West can only profit them.

Now that the court has confirmed Nadarkhani is an apostate and sentenced him to death, the regime has three options. It may: (1) defiantly execute Pastor Nadarkhani for apostasy, making a stand for Islam in defiance of the 'colonialist' and 'Christian' West; (2) condemn Nadarkhani's apostasy, confirm his death sentence and then release him in a very public 'humanitarian' gesture before making sure he is quietly eliminated by the secret services. This is exactly what Iran did in 1994 in the case of Pastor Mehdi Dibaj. The Church will get the message, even if the Western political and journalistic elite do not. Or it may (3) change the charge to one that otherwise discredits the accused and evokes revulsion (such as rape), and for good measure throw in a charge that, according to the constitution, is punishable by death or life imprisonment (such as treason).

Presently it appears Iran is considering using strategy (3): the false charge -- used against Christianity from its earliest days. Today, all over the non-free world, the false charge remains the most common means of removing 'problematic' Christians. Christians currently languish in prisons in China, Vietnam, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and elsewhere after being falsely charged and slandered as drug traffickers, swindlers, rapists, blasphemers and threats to national security.

The West needs to talk to Russia, Iran's Orthodox ally, to ensure that if any harm comes to Nadarkhani severe sanctions will make it costly for Iran. The Iranian regime will only execute Nadarkhani if they believe that in doing so they stand to gain more than they would lose. If Pastor Nadarkhani were executed or assassinated, it would indicate that the Iranian Church is facing a whole new level of defiant, politically motivated, unrestrained persecution by the regime.

Further to all this, Christian Solidarity Worldwide reports that on 14 September eleven Iranian Christians who had previously fled Iran received emailed threats from a group calling itself 'The Unknown Soldiers of the Hidden Imam [the Mahdi: the Shi'ite Messiah]'. The letter -- presumed to be from the Iranian secret police -- demanded that the Christians repent and return to Islam, warning that if they refuse they will be killed. The threats are being taken very seriously.

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY --

* that God will redeem the suffering of Iran's Church, so that this persecution will actually have the opposite effect to what is intended. 'For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.' (Habakkuk 2:14 ESV)

Lord, have mercy on Iran.
Awaken its people to the truth: for the sake of the Church;
for the sake of multitudes who are lost;
and that God might be glorified throughout the world.

* that God will fill Youcef Nadarkhani, his family and church with a powerful outpouring of his Holy Spirit, that they will boldly exercise faith, know his peace, display his grace and reveal his majesty.

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SUMMARY TO USE IN BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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WILL IRAN RISK THIS EXECUTION?

From 25-28 September Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani resisted four opportunities to renounce Christ before an Iranian court and return to Islam. He therefore stands condemned as an unrepentant apostate sentenced to death. Due to the outcry emanating from the West, Iran is now considering altering the charge to rape and treason so they can maintain that nobody is being executed for religious belief. The Iranian regime will execute Pastor Nadarkhani only if they believe that would gain them more than they will lose: influence in the Islamic world versus sanctions. Furthermore eleven Iranian Christian refugees living abroad have received letters, presumably from the Iranian secret police, threatening them with death if they do not repent and return to Islam. Please pray for the Nadarkhani family and for the Church in Iran.