Tuesday, June 26, 2012

RLPB 165. June Update; Incl. Burma, Egypt, Nigeria, Sudan, India, Iran, Laos

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 165 | Wed 27 Jun 2012
By Elizabeth Kendal

JUNE 2012 UPDATE -- During June we prayed concerning . . . 

NIGERIA & SUDAN (also Tunisia) (RLPB 162)
EGYPT (also Nigeria) (RLPB 163)
BURMA & SUDAN (also Nigeria) (RLPB 164)

UPDATES --

* BURMA: EYEING US-MYANMAR MILITARY TIES
On 2 June US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta intimated that political reforms underway in Burma (Myanmar) could pave the way for 'US-Myanmar' military ties. This fits in perfectly with the new US strategy of developing stronger ties with Asia Pacific militaries. Timothy Heinemann, a retired US Special Forces Colonel who works with war-affected ethnic minority communities in Burma, argues that US-Myanmar military ties would be 'wrong', both 'morally and practically', particularly while the Burmese Army 'is attacking Kachin villagers'. He argues that Kachin civilians would face increased aggression if the US were to empower the Burmese Army. Siege of Kachin State: 2012 (16mins) is an excellent new short film by Scott Johnson.  Pray for the Christian Kachin.

[NOTE -- What Heinemann describes above is exactly what US-Indonesian military ties have done to the Papuans: military violence escalates but is covered up for economic and geo-strategic gain. (See RLPB 119, and Religious Liberty Monitoring: label Papua.)]

* EGYPT: ISLAMIST MORSI ELECTED PRESIDENT
On Sunday 24 June Egypt's electoral council declared Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood the President of Egypt, elected with 51.7 percent of the vote (in a turnout of only about 50 percent). Egypt is now profoundly divided. Most Christians fear that an Islamist president will further Islamise Egypt, causing persecution to escalate. According to Isobel Coleman of the Council on Foreign Relations, Morsi 'represents the older, more conservative wing of the Brotherhood and openly endorses a strict Islamic vision'. According to Eric Trager of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Morsi has been 'an icon of the extremists in the Muslim Brotherhood', pushing for an 'extreme agenda'. Morsi's power to implement his Islamist vision will, however, be severely curtailed due to the military's 'soft coup'. (See Religious Liberty Monitoring for details.) How the Islamists cope with that remains to be seen. Pray for the Church in Egypt.

* NIGERIA: CHURCH BOMBINGS AVERTED
After three consecutive weeks of Boko Haram terror, Sunday 24 June passed without a church bombing. Police uncovered a plot to bomb churches in Jos, the capital of the Middle Belt state of Plateau.  While police intensified security, most churches in Plateau urged their members not to attend their worship services.  In Kaduna State, an alleged attempt to bomb a church in the Sabon Gari area of Zaria, was foiled. Boko Haram did, however, successfully attack Yobe prison on Sunday, shooting police and freeing 40 inmates. 

* NIGERIA, JOS: CHRISTIAN FAMILY MURDERED
On Saturday 23 June some 30 ethnic Fulani Muslim herdsmen stormed into Tidiu Village in Mangu Local Government Area of Plateau State around 3.30am, armed with guns and machetes. They slaughtered six members of the Dakibang family in their sleep, while two other family members were wounded as they fled and four villagers were wounded as the killers made their get-away. The victims, aged between  six months and 70 years, had reportedly been living peaceably amongst their Fulani neighbours. One local resident commented that 'the killing was professionally carried out with military precision'. Pray for the Church in Nigeria.

* SUDAN: PROTESTS ROCK KHARTOUM
Since South Sudan seceded in July 2011 Sudan has been blighted with soaring food inflation and a weakening currency.  Now students from the University of Khartoum are hoping to trigger an 'Arab Spring'. Protests commenced on 16 June and escalated after President Bashir's 18 June announcement of tough austerity measures. The protests have spread beyond the capital, causing considerable disruption but not as yet close to overthrowing the regime. However, as Sudan expert Eric Reeves notes, with a disillusioned and angry civilian population reeling from price hikes, and a dispirited military reeling from heavy losses being inflicted by rebel forces in South Kordofan and Blue Nile, the threat to the regime is very real.  But this is a brutal regime and the crackdown has begun. The situation increases the risk for Southerners who will doubtless be blamed for the economic crisis when, in reality, the responsibility lies with the corrupt, incompetent, belligerent, racist, Islamist regime in Khartoum. Aljazeera reports: 'There have been calls on social networks for a mass nationwide protest on [Friday] June 29'. Pray for the Church in Sudan (using Psalm 10).

JUNE 2012 ROUND-UP -- also this month . . .

* INDIA: LIVING 'IN A CLIMATE OF TERROR'
Christians account for only 3 percent of the population of India's north-eastern state of Assam; about one third of them are indigenous tribals. According to the president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), Sajan George, the situation for tribal Christians in Assam is 'intolerable', for they are living 'in a climate of terror'. On Friday 8 June a group of Hindus met Bhageswar Rabha, a Christian from the village of Deuphaniin, Assam, and forced him to convert to Hinduism. Then around midnight a mob of about 40 militant Hindu nationalists burst into the home of another Christian, Manesor Rabha, and dragged him outside with his wife Mala and two other believers, Michael and Prashanto Rabha. Though they were threatened, intimidated, beaten and ordered to convert to Hinduism, the believers stood firm and refused to renounce their Lord. On the Sunday morning Mala, Michael and Prashanto were taken to Satribari Christian Hospital to receive treatment for their injuries. Two other Christian families subsequently fled the village. Such violent persecution is commonplace across India. It is a very serious situation, inspired by unchallenged Hindu nationalism and fuelled by impunity. Pray for the Church in India.

* IRAN: AUTHORITIES CLOSE TEHRAN CHURCH
In line with its policy of eliminating the Farsi-speaking church of ethnic Persian converts, the regime has closed down another Farsi-speaking congregation. On 5 June the Intelligence branch of Iran's Revolutionary Guard, a military force tasked with defending the Islamic Revolution, issued orders to close down the 70-strong Assemblies of God (AOG) Church in Tehran's north-western district of Janat-Abad. According to Compass Direct News, only three churches in Tehran continue to offer Farsi-language services: the AOG Central Church of Tehran, Emmanuel Protestant Church and St Peter's Evangelical Church. More than 20 believers are in prison for their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, including death-row prisoner Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani whose health is reportedly deteriorating. Please pray.

* LAOS: STILL WORKING AT ELIMINATING CHRISTIANITY
On 6 June Laotian police arrested Asa, a 57-year-old Lao pastor, at his home in Peeyeur village, Luang Namtha Province, on charges of leading people to Christ. He was immediately transferred to the provincial prison, some 50km away from his family. On 16 June Lao officials arrested two Lao and two Thai Christians in Luang Namtha, charging them similarly with 'spreading the Christian faith without official approval'. (The communist regime is unashamedly committed to eliminating Christianity and therefore never gives approval for Christian witness!) A local resident had called the police when he saw the two Thai Christians -- brothers Jonasa and Phanthakorn Wiwatdamrong -- explaining Bible passages to enquirers in a private home. The two Lao and two Thai Christians arrested were taken directly to the Luang Namtha provincial prison. Torture, including the use of stocks, is routine in Lao prisons which are amongst the worst in the world. Pray for these prisoners, and for the Church in Laos.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

RLPB 164. Burma & Sudan: warfare against Christians (plus Nigeria)

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 164 | Wed 20 Jun 2012

BURMA & SUDAN: WARFARE AGAINST CHRISTIANS (plus Nigeria)
By Elizabeth Kendal

Earlier this month two horrendous wars marked one year since the breakout of hostilities. The Islamist Arab-supremacist regime in Khartoum, Sudan, began its genocidal campaign against the predominantly Christian Africans of the Nuba Mountain, South Kordofan, on 5 June 2011. The Buddhist Burman-supremacist regime in Naypyidaw, Burma (Myanmar), launched its military campaign against the Christian Kachin of Kachin State in northern Burma on 9 June 2011. In fact these are only the most recent episodes in two long histories of military brutality, ethnic cleansing and even attempted genocide. Despite the enormity of the human suffering, the 'international community' and the mainstream media are largely uninterested, for these conflicts -- one a declared Islamic jihad, the other a blight on the Burmese fairytale -- are just too hot to handle, too politically incorrect to touch. Furthermore their poor Christian victims are actually an inconvenience to those who make decisions based on economic and geo-strategic interests, as distinct from righteousness and justice. These 'inconvenient' Christians -- victims of greed and racial-religious hatred -- need our prayers.

BURMA (Myanmar): ETHNIC CLEANSING OF THE KACHIN

UN figures put the total number of Internally Displaced People (IDPs) in Kachin State at over 62,000 with some 24,000 in camps in government-controlled areas. Another estimated 40,000 are in areas controlled by the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) where government blockades ensure that humanitarian aid (including food and medical supplies) is scarce. The KIA puts the number of IDPs at closer to 100,000. Well over 7,000 refugees have fled across the border into China. Medics fear that without mosquito nets the rainy season will herald an explosion of malaria cases. Further to this, a Human Rights Watch consultant and Burma specialist, Matthew Smith, warns that 'the IDP camps are essentially pools of prey for human traffickers'. (See Smith's report for HRW: 'Untold Miseries', 20 March 2012.) Military violence has left some of the IDPs severely traumatised (e.g. speechless, incontinent). Churches throughout the state who are providing for and sheltering hundreds of IDPs each are struggling greatly, especially as Burmese soldiers routinely intimidate pastors and attack churches. The Kachin are a Christian people with a distinctly Christian culture and Burma's Buddhist Burman-supremacist regime wants to exploit their resource-rich ancestral lands.

SUDAN: GENOCIDE OF THE NUBA

Hundreds of thousands of displaced predominantly Christian Africans in South Kordofan are facing a slow and agonising death by starvation due to famine engineered with genocidal intent by the National Islamic Front / National Congress Party regime in Khartoum. The Nuba are a predominantly Christian African people and the Islamist Arab-supremacist regime in Khartoum is in the process of annihilating them so it can control their resource-rich ancestral lands. In refugee camps in South Sudan, some of those who have survived the long trek from South Kordofan and neighbouring Blue Nile State have been dying from dehydration, diarrhoea and sheer exhaustion. The Jamam refugee camp in South Sudan's Upper Nile State holds some 20,000 refugees. An aid worker from Oxfam, Peter Struijf, told Associated Press (18 June) that children are already perishing and the camp will be out of water in a week. Whilst the impending rainy season will provide much needed water for refugees, it will exacerbate the plight of the estimated 40,000 IDPs still trekking south.

'For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the whole armour of God . . .praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.' (Taken from Ephesians 6:12-18 ESV.)

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT --

* Jehovah-Jireh (the Lord who provides) will provide Kachin and Sudanese refugees with all their needs; may the Holy Spirit strengthen their hearts, keeping faith and hope alive, so they will seek the Lord and experience his grace and power.

* Yahweh Sabaoth (the Lord of hosts / the commander of heaven's angelic armies) will intervene for his people to deliver vengeance to their enemies and recompense to the victims (Isaiah 35:4; also 40:10).

PRAYER: 'O LORD, you hear the desire of the afflicted; you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.' (Psalm 10:17,18 ESV.)

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WARFARE AGAINST CHRISTIANS IN BURMA & SUDAN

A war of ethnic cleansing is being waged by Burma's Buddhist Burman-supremacist regime against the Christian Kachin of Kachin State in northern Burma. Up to100,000 Christian Kachin have been displaced, humanitarian aid is routinely blockaded, children are kidnapped and trafficked, and civilians are so brutalised by the military that many are severely traumatised. Meanwhile, genocide is being perpetrated by Sudan's Islamist Arab-supremacist regime against the predominantly Christian African populations of the 'new south' (Abyei, South Kordofan and Blue Nile). The National Islamic Front / National Congress Party regime in Khartoum has engineered a famine that could kill 500,000 in coming months. Whilst hundreds of thousands have escaped into refugee camps in South Sudan, weak and frail children, wounded and elderly are perishing from dehydration and sheer exhaustion. Please pray!
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NIGERIA: TERROR STRIKES AGAIN

On Sunday 17 June Islamic terrorists struck five churches in the central middle-belt state of Kaduna.  Boko Haram has claimed responsibility. The Kaduna state government has imposed a 24-hour curfew. Two churches were bombed in the Muslim-dominated north of the state: the Evangelical Church of West Africa (ECWA) church in Wusasa, Zaria Local Government Area (LGA) and Christ the King Cathedral Catholic church in Sabon Gari LGA, just north of Zaria city. Three churches were bombed in Christian-dominated Kaduna South LGA: the Shalom Church in the Trikania, along with two churches in Nassarawa and Barnawa. Ethnic-Christian youths responded to the massive, multiple bombings at Shalom Church with rioting that claimed seven lives and left dozens wounded. The weekend's toll: at least 52 dead and more than 150 wounded. Please pray for the Church in Nigeria.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

RLPB 163. Egypt: presidential elections (plus Nigeria)

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 163 | Wed 13 Jun 2012

EGYPT: PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION 16-17 JUNE    (Plus Nigeria)
By Elizabeth Kendal

Egyptians are set to return to the polls over 16-17 June to elect their president. The two contenders -- the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohamed Morsi and Mubarak's Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq -- are poles apart and 50 percent of voters did not vote for either of them in the preliminary polls. The youths who led the protests in Tahrir Square feel betrayed by the process. Rather than choose between political Islam and a secular police state -- something one described as a choice 'between two wrongs' -- they are organising a boycott.

On Thursday 14 June Egypt's Supreme Constitutional Court will be ruling on the constitutionality of the Political Isolation Law which the Islamist-dominated parliament passed in April. The law, which bans senior officials of Mubarak's regime from holding political posts, saw Shafiq disqualified from contesting the presidency. However, Shafiq won an appeal against the law which was then referred to the Constitutional Court. If on 14 June the court declares the law valid, then Shafiq will again be disqualified and fresh elections will be called. Whilst the 'revolutionary' forces are hoping for a cancellation that would give them time to re-organise for fresh elections, supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) want the elections to go ahead this weekend as they believe Morsi will have little trouble defeating Shafiq.

To seduce Christians, the MB signed an agreement with Egyptian evangelicals promising to advance religious freedom and equality. When Christianity Today questioned whether the MB could be trusted after reneging on its promise not to field a candidate for the presidency, MB representative Mahmoud Ghozlan responded by saying that the Islamic prophet Muhammad justified reneging on promises when he said: 'If someone swears by his right hand, saying "by God this or that" but then sees something better, he may atone for his right hand and take that which is better.' Ghozlan said the MB promised not to field a candidate before the parliamentary elections showed just how keen the nation is for Islam. After gaining dominance over the parliament, the MB deemed it would be 'better' for democracy if Egypt had a MB president. If the MB win the presidency it will doubtless deem fundamentalist Islam and Sharia Law 'better' than a pact with evangelicals.

The elections could cause a profound fracturing of the state and trigger a spasm of political and sectarian violence. As noted in RLPB 161, Islamists and revolutionary forces have unfairly and unjustifiably attributed the surprise rise of Shafiq (who ran on a platform of stability and security) to a conspiracy by the Coptic Church. Egypt's indigenous Christian Copts could well find themselves being set up as a convenient scapegoat for national anger, no matter who wins. Please pray for God's faithful in Egypt.

For updates on the Egyptian election see: Religious Liberty Monitoring

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL --

* revive Egypt's churches and historically Christian peoples, so that lawlessness and threat will not hinder their preaching of the gospel, their commitment to prayer and their walk of faith: only through Christ shall Egypt be 'blessed' (Isaiah 19).

* awaken Egypt's Muslims to the fact that Islam is not the solution: though there be pain, may there be healing so that Egypt will 'return to the Lord' (Isaiah 19). [Egypt was overwhelmingly Christian before the Arab-Islamic conquests of the 7th Century.]

* give Coptic and other Christian leaders great spiritual discernment and wisdom to lead the church in faithfulness and hope and according to the will of the Lord.

* be a shield and refuge to those who put their trust in him; may he protect their families and provide all their needs.


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EGYPT: PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION 16-17 JUNE

Egypt's presidential election -- to take place this weekend unless cancelled by the Constitutional Court -- could readily fracture the state by triggering political and sectarian violence. To secure the evangelical vote, the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) -- which has already broken its promise not to field a presidential candidate -- has signed an agreement with Egyptian evangelicals promising to advance religious freedom and equality. Meanwhile they are blaming the Coptic Church for the rise of their opponent Ahmed Shafiq. However, the MB might adhere to its Islamic principles and renege on a pact with evangelicals if it secures the presidency. Also there is great concern that Egypt's indigenous Christian Copts will be made the scapegoat for national anger no matter who wins. Please pray for God's faithful in Egypt.

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NIGERIA: TERROR STRIKES AGAIN

On Sunday 10 June a massive suicide car-bomb ripped through Christ's Chosen Assembly Church in Jos, in the central, middle-belt state of Plateau. The blast occurred around 11am during morning worship and was so powerful the church collapsed. Pastor Monday Uzoka, his wife and two children are amongst the wounded, with Uzoka and one of his elders in a critical condition. Meanwhile, gunmen opened fire inside and around the EYN church in Biu, in the north-eastern state of Borno. [EYN stands for 'Church of the Brethren in Nigeria' in the local Hausa (Muslim) language.] The weekend's toll was at least six believers dead and 52 hospitalised, with many still missing. Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for both attacks and vowed to continue attacking state institutions and churches 'until we achieve our goal of establishing an Islamic state in place of the secular state'.

REMINDER: The National President of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, has declared Saturday 16 June a day of national prayer and fasting for the country. Please continue in prayer for the Church in Nigeria.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

RLPB 162. Nigeria & Sudan: Jihad & Genocide (plus Tunisia)

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 162 | Wed 06 Jun 2012

NIGERIA & SUDAN: JIHAD AND GENOCIDE (Plus Tunisia)
By Elizabeth Kendal

NIGERIA: BOKO HARAM'S JIHAD

At least 15 people were killed and more than 40 seriously wounded on Sunday 3 June when a Boko Haram suicide bomber rammed his car into the checkpoint outside the Living Faith Church in the Yelwa Tudu area of Bauchi metropolis. The blast, that occurred around 9:20am, sent fire and shrapnel burning and slicing through believers who were chatting outside after the church's first worship service. The explosion also rocked Harvest Field Church 25m away  across the road, causing part of the building to collapse on worshippers. The death toll is likely to rise, as some believers are still unaccounted for and many of the wounded are severely burned. The Islamic jihadist sect, Boko Haram, has claimed responsibility. The Pastor of Harvest Church, Mbamingo Godia, has asked Christians not to retaliate in any way but pray to God for peace.

Increasingly Christians in Northern Nigeria are attending worship behind barricades and checkpoints constantly reminding them that jihadists are plotting to eliminate them. Attending worship is done at great risk. A photo obtained by Compass Direct News shows a little girl lying on the ground, covered in blood. Furthermore Muslim mobs are persisting with organised night raids against Christian communities. By murdering Christians in their beds the Muslims aim to instil terror and trigger an exodus that will have the effect of ethnic-religious cleansing. Their primary aim, however, is to pressure the government into acquiescing to their demand for Sharia (Islamic) Law. The murderous night raids have Qur'anic precedent: '. . . Our punishment came to them at night or while they were sleeping at noon.' (Sura 7:4) The National President of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, has declared Saturday 16 June a day of national prayer and fasting for the country.  (Add this date to your diary so we might all pray in solidarity.)

SUDAN: KHARTOUM'S NUBA GENOCIDE

Khartoum's genocide against the non-Arab, non-Muslims of the 'New South' (Abyei, South Kordofan and Blue Nile) has been raging for over a year now and shows no sign of abating. Film footage obtained by Al-Jazeera in late March shows the governor of South Kordofan, the indicted war criminal Ahmed Harun, addressing his soldiers before deployment to Nuba territory. 'You must hand over the place clean,' he says. 'Swept, rubbed, crushed. Don't bring them back alive. We have no space for them.' An army commander standing near Harun then adds, 'Don't bring them back, eat them alive.' (Al-Jazeera, 1 April) This is clearly a call to genocide.

According to the medical charity Medecins sans Frontieres, up to 4,000 people are fleeing into South Sudan every day to escape fighting in Sudan's Blue Nile province, with around 100,000 refugees already in camps across the border in South Sudan's Upper Nile State.

Further to this, famine is starting to set in for the displaced Nuba of South Kordofan. Some 38,000 Nuba refugees have fled over the border into South Sudan's Unity State. Yida refugee camp, which already holds 35,000 refugees, is bracing for an influx as refugees desperately trying to cross the border before the rains make travel impossible. Meanwhile, Khartoum continues its aerial bombardment of refugees and its blockade of humanitarian aid. Reporting from the Nuba Mountains, Nicholas Kristoff says (2 June) that around 800,000 Nuba have completely run out of food in South Kordofan, while some 50,000 are attempting the trek to Yida. However, starvation is taking its toll, with many travellers simply too weak to complete the journey. Samaritan's Purse reports that at least ten percent of the children arriving at Yida are acutely malnourished. Amjuma Ali Kuku, a teacher, says the camp is presently caring for some 2,000 unaccompanied children.

Why is this genocide attracting no attention? Is it because this genocide is an openly declared Islamic jihad and talking about it would risk being politically incorrect? Well, a genocidal Islamic jihad it is! And while the world looks away, hundreds of thousands of predominantly Christian Africans are being deliberately starved to death by the racist, Arab supremacist, Islamic regime in Khartoum.

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL --
  • supernaturally draw the hearts of his people to him so that in their despair and desperation they might look to him for all things without losing heart, without losing faith; may he supply all their needs according to his riches in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19).
     
  • rupture all supply lines feeding weapons, funds and fighters into the various African jihads.
    ' . . . in the name of the LORD I cut them off!' (Psalm 118:10b,11b,12c)
     
  • rise up in wrath and indignation, in justice and righteousness, against the wicked and arrogant regime of Omar al-Bashir in Khartoum. (Pray Psalm 10.)

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NIGERIA & SUDAN: JIHAD AND GENOCIDE


At least 15 people were killed and more than 40 seriously wounded on Sunday 3 June when a Boko Haram suicide bomber rammed his car into the checkpoint outside Living Faith Church in Bauchi city. The blast also rocked Harvest Field Church opposite, causing part of the building to collapse on worshippers. Also Christians are still being murdered by Muslim mobs in night raids throughout Northern Nigeria. In Sudan, meanwhile, the genocidal Islamic jihad being waged by the regime in Khartoum against the non-Arab, non-Muslim citizens of its 'New South' (Abyei, South Kordofan and Blue Nile) advances unchallenged by the international community. Hundreds of thousands of predominantly Christian African Sudanese have flooded into South Sudan while hundreds of thousands more await death by forced starvation. Please pray for God to intervene.

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BREAKING NEWS: TUNISIA.

Not too long ago Tunisia was regarded as the most open, free and progressive of all Arab states. Yet recently released graphic footage filmed in Tunisia and aired on 'Egypt Today', shows a young male convert to Christianity being beheaded by Islamic militants. The militants recite the Qur'an and chant Islamic slogans and curses in Arabic while the 'apostate' -- who has refused to recant and is resigned to his fate -- remains still, quietly mouthing a prayer. Pray for those who have to live with the results of the 'Arab Spring'. (Middle East Forum, 4 June)