Wednesday, August 29, 2012

RLPB 174. August Update. Incl. Burma, Sudan, Syria, Pakistan, Somalia, Kenya, Laos

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 174 | Wed 29 Aug 2012
By Elizabeth Kendal


AUGUST 2012 UPDATE -- During August we prayed concerning . . . 

* SYRIA, SUDAN & BURMA (RLPB 170), where wars have displaced hundreds of thousands of Christians. In Syria they are fleeing Islamic jihadists; in Sudan they are fleeing an Islamic, Arab-supremacist regime; and in Burma they are fleeing a Buddhist Burman-supremacist regime. In each case, Western governments ignore the suffering of these 'inconvenient Christians' because addressing their plight would mean risking Western economic and geo-strategic interests. Though Western governments abandon them, God does not (2 Corinthians 4:9) and neither must we.

UPDATE BURMA: REFUGEES EXPELLED FROM CHINA
China has been forcing Kachin Christian refugees back over the border into the war zone. At least 1500 refugees have been forced back in recent weeks and another 4000 were set to be deported last weekend (25-26 Aug).  Because it is the monsoon season, travel is exceedingly difficult, leaving many Kachin stranded in the Burmese jungle amidst armed conflict. According to Chinese authorities, the Kachin are returning 'freely' of their own volition. A Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO) spokesman told The Irrawaddy that returning refugees report that the Chinese are demolishing the camps. The KIO reports furthermore that the Burmese military has been building up troop numbers in Kachin State in preparation for an offensive. The Burmese junta, which despises the Christian Kachin on racial and religious grounds, covets Kachin lands. Please pray.

UPDATE SUDAN: REFUGEE HEALTH 'ALARMING'
Around 170,000 predominantly Christian refugees from Sudan's South Kordofan and Blue Nile States are sheltering in camps in South Sudan's Upper Nile and Unity states. In February we prayed for the God who parted the Red Sea to open an escape route through the besieged Kauda Valley (RLPB 145) -- and he did (RLPB 148)! Consequently, the population of Yida camp in Upper Nile has more than doubled since then to some 60,000. Now we must pray for their provision. According to the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), at least half of the refugees in Upper Nile are under 11. The health situation is described as 'alarming', with rain, cold and lack of sanitation accounting for increases in malaria, diarrhoea and respiratory tract infections. Acute malnutrition is contributing to the shocking mortality rate (double the emergency threshold) of children under 5. Pray for God's provision for the camps and to displaced, imperilled believers still stranded north of the border. HE can do it!

UPDATE SYRIA: 'REBELS' BLOCKADE CHRISTIAN TOWNS
On Friday 24 August, the Syrian Army liberated Rableh killing 60 rebels in the process. Armed opposition groups linked to the Free Syrian Army had isolated and surrounded Rableh, a Christian town west of Qusayr, near Homs in the south of Syria. For two weeks, the 12,000 mostly Greek Catholic residents were besieged, their supplies of food, water and medicines dwindling as rebels enforced a blockade. Snipers killed at least three men: George Azar (20), an unnamed 21-year-old, and Elias Tahch Semaan (35) who was married with four children.  While Rableh has been liberated, Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need is presently trying to get aid to another Syrian village in a similar situation. As in Rableh, bridges have been blown up, power has been cut and rebels are enforcing a blockade. 'We have organised ourselves so we could stand by each other and we are sharing everything so we could survive,' a local priest said. 'We need every help we could get. Please help us.' Pray that the LORD of hosts will intervene for his people.

* EGYPT (RLPB 171), where some 120 Coptic Christian families had been driven from their homes in Dahshur by rioting Muslims. Continue to pray for Egyptian Christians in these days of insecurity.

* IVORY COAST (RLPB 172), where some 5,000 predominantly Christian ethnic Guere had been driven from the Nahibly camp in Duekoue by rioting Muslims who killed 11, wounded dozens and burnt the camp to the ground. Pray for God's intervention and provision.

* PAKISTAN (RLPB 173), where hundreds of Christians have been driven from Islamabad's Mehrabad slum by rioting Muslims, after an illiterate, mentally-impaired 11-year-old girl, Rimsha, was accused of burning paper with Qur'anic verses on it. Rimsha was arrested on 16 August.

UPDATE: THE SHAME OF PAKISTAN
Rimsha is being held in solitary confinement in the high security Adiala Jail, the same jail housing Mumtaz Qadri, the bodyguard who assassinated Punjab governor Salman Taseer in revenge for his campaign against the blasphemy law. Rimsha's legal team has not been able to meet with her. Christian activist Xavier William visited Rimsha during the week and confirmed that she had been severely assaulted by the mob. He said she is in 'very bad shape' with 'bruises on her face and on her hands'. She would not speak or make eye contact. 'She was frightened and traumatised,' he said.

Hafiz Mohammed Khalid Chishti, a local imam in the Mehrabad slum, insists that his efforts to have Rimsha arrested actually saved the girl from a lynching. It is to Pakistan's shame that he is right. The whole family has been taken into 'protective custody' for their own safety and the Interior Ministry has asked the Islamabad police to oppose bail on the pretext that Rimsha's release would put the lives of the whole family in danger.

Imam Chishti maintains that the incident only arose because Muslims had not stopped the 'anti-Islam activities' of local Christians who 'caused antagonism by playing music in services at their makeshift church'. He says that though he warned the Christians at Christmas, they did not stop their 'vulgarity'. He regards it all as a 'conspiracy' and maintains that Rimsha knew exactly what she was doing. During his Friday sermon (24 August) he declared that it was 'time for Muslims to wake up' and defend their Qur'an. On the day of Rimsha's arrest he threatened to have all the Christians burnt alive. However, he will not face justice and neither will those who violently assaulted the family or burnt and looted Christian homes. That is because the Interior Ministry has asked the Islamabad police not to arrest anybody involved in the anti-Christian violence that swept over the slum at the time of Rimsha's arrest.

On 20 August, while the controversy over Rimsha's arrest raged, an 11-year-old Christian boy named Samuel Yaqoob disappeared from the Christian colony in Faisalabad, Punjab Province, on his way to the market. On 22 August his body was found dumped in a drain. He had been so severely tortured, mutilated and burnt that his family could only recognise him from a mark on his forehead. There had not been any ransom demand and detectives in Faisalabad are investigating whether accusations of blasphemy had been made against the boy.

'Arise, cry out in the night, at the beginning of the night watches! Pour out your heart like water before the presence of the Lord! Lift your hands to him for the lives of your children . . ." (Lamentations 2:19 ESV)

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

* SOMALIA: AL-SHABAAB SQUEEZED; CHRISTIANS ABDUCTED
On 27 August US-backed Somali, Kenyan and African Union forces liberated the port of Marka, 70km south of Mogadishu, from al-Shabaab. Despite gains, Christian aid workers remain at risk in Somalia. On 11 July three Kenyan nationals (including one woman) serving with International Aid Services were kidnapped by Islamic militants, possibly with the backing of al-Shabaab, in Somalia's Puntland region. The militants are reportedly seeking a prisoner swap for alleged pirates being held in Kenya. Please pray.

* KENYA: MUSLIMS RETALIATE AGAINST CHRISTIANS
On Monday 27 August Sheikh Aboud Rogo Mohammed, an al-Qaeda-linked radical cleric recently designated by the US as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist, was assassinated in Mombasa. He had been responsible for raising funds and recruiting Kenyans for al-Shabaab. Francis Auma, from the local organisation Muslims for Human Rights, subsequently heard the imam of a local mosque shouting through the speaker: 'blood for blood'. Muslims retaliated against Christians, whom they doubtless view as supportive of the US-driven anti-terror laws that Muslims complain discriminate against them. Two churches were burnt and looted while at least four other churches were vandalised. Riots continued on Tuesday. One policeman was killed and 16 wounded when a grenade was thrown at police racing to save a burning church. Islamic leaders are calling the assassination an attack on Islam. Al-Shabaab has called on Kenyan Muslims to 'take the matter into their own hands, stand united against the kuffar (unbelievers) and take all necessary measures to protect their religion, their honour, their property and their lives from the enemies of Islam'. In particular they are calling for Muslims to boycott Kenya's presidential elections on 4 March 2013. Tensions are escalating.

* LAOS: PERSECUTION FOLLOWS REVIVAL
On 6 August Mr Tongkoun Keohavong was summoned before the village chief of Nahoukou village to explain why around 30 locals had embraced Christianity since February. He explained that the Lord had been healing diseases and liberating the people from evil spirits in response to prayer: 'We cannot deny the reality of God's power,' he said. The believers have been ordered to renounce their faith or face expulsion from the village. Similarly, Mr Bountheung, who had been living as a Christian in Nongpong village for 10 years, is also being persecuted. In May of this year, around 300 residents of Nongpong village decided they would embrace the Christian faith and worship the Lord  as did Mr Bountheung. As leader of the village church, Mr Bountheung was summoned three times to explain to the authorities why people in his village were embracing a banned 'foreign religion'. On 3 August the believers were given until 10 August to recant their faith or be expelled from the village. After refusing to recant on 10 August, Mr Bountheung was told he had a week to sell his possessions. On 20 August he was arrested and taken to prison. Conditions in Lao prisons are severe and torture is routine. Please pray for the Church in Laos.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

RLPB 173. Pakistan: intolerance grows; child accused of blasphemy. (plus Iran update)

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 173 | Wed 22 Aug 2012

PAKISTAN: INTOLERANCE GROWS; CHILD ACCUSED OF BLASPHEMY
(plus IRAN: Nadarkhani update)

By Elizabeth Kendal

Pakistan celebrated its 65th birthday on 14 August. Founded by Muhammad Ali Jinnah, a member of the Shia religious minority, Pakistan was initially established on a foundation of secularism and equal rights for all. Today, however, after decades of Saudi-sponsored Islamisation, Pakistan is the exact opposite of what it was founded to be. Abductions of Christian and Hindu girls are on the rise. According to the parents, these young girls are being forcibly converted to Islam and married off to Muslim men. According to the Islamists, none of the conversions have been forced. The rise in incidence has triggered debate in the media and a Hindu exodus from Sindh Province, prompting President Zardari to call for a law banning forced conversions. Sunni jihadist violence against the Shia minority has also increased. On 16 August a bus en route to Gilgit was stopped by men in military uniforms just 100km north of Islamabad. The 'officers' then dragged at least 20 Shi'ites from the bus and executed them. It was the third such attack on that road in six months. As a minority throughout the South Asian sub-continent, Christians are the most vulnerable of all.

In June 2009 a Christian woman Asia Bibi (41, married mother of five) was abused before being accused of blasphemy and arrested. In November 2010 a court sentenced her to death by hanging. Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer and Minorities Minister Shahbaz Bhatti (a Christian religious freedom activist) were both assassinated in early 2011 (January and March respectively) for opposing the blasphemy law and publicly supporting Asia Bibi.

On Thursday 16 August 2012 Rimsha (11), daughter of Misrak Masih, a resident of the Meherabadi Christian slum colony on the outskirts of Islamabad, was arrested on charges of blasphemy. Initially, police had been reluctant to act on the complaint because the accused is merely a child. However, after hundreds of enraged local Muslims surrounded the police station, blocked the Kashmir Highway for hours and threatened to take matters into their own hands, police took Rimsha, her mother and her sister into 'protective custody' -- they had been severely beaten by the mob. Not only is Rimsha a juvenile, she is illiterate and mentally impaired. Her mental impairment has left her unable to go to school or mix with other children. Consequently Rimsha spends her days wandering through the slum. Reportedly, locals complained that Rimsha had been 'moving suspiciously' in the district, carrying a 'shopping bag'. Actually she had been collecting papers from garbage bins to use as fuel in the family's stove. When suspicious Muslims entered Rimsha's home, they allegedly found her holding burnt pages which had Islamic text and Qur'anic verses printed on them. (They were pages from the Noorani Qaida, a Qur'an reading education program.) At that point, Syed Muhammad Umma was sent to register a complaint against the child.

On Friday 17 August the court ruled that Rimsha be remanded in custody for 14 days, pending further investigation. Understandably, Rimsha is confused and traumatised. Death threats from fundamentalist Muslims have driven over 300 members of the neighbourhood's Christian community to flee for their lives. (Some reports put the figure as high as 1000.) The All Pakistan Minorities Alliance (APMA) is providing assistance to the displaced Christians. Paul Bhatti, the National Harmony Minister, APMA Chairman and brother of the martyred activist Shahbaz Bhatti, has appealed to Islamic clerics and police to bring the situation under control as there has been widespread looting.

Leading political figures such as President Asif Ali Zardari and opposition politician Imran Khan have spoken out against the 'shameful' and 'un-Islamic . . . abuse' of the blasphemy law. Whether they are courageous enough to take on the Islamists who have martyred previous anti-blasphemy advocates is another matter. However, this is not just about law. The problem is profound, deeply ingrained, ideological, religious hatred. Rimsha and her family -- like Asia and her family -- will need asylum in the West if they are to survive this. 

For more on the plight of Pakistan's religious minorities, visit:
Heart And Soul (BBC radio)
"The Trouble with Pakistan's White Stripe"
Mobeen Azhar looks at the growing persecution of minorities and the power of fundamental Islamists in Pakistan. (Two excellent 28 minute audio programmes)

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT THE LORD WILL --

* be a very real and present source of strength, comfort and protection to young Christian girls who have been abducted, forcibly converted to Islam and married off to Muslim men; may they not lose faith or hope; and may the LORD rescue and restore them for his name's sake.
'For the LORD is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him.' (Isaiah 30:18b ESV)

* intervene for Asia Bibi and her family and for Rishma and her family, so these gravely imperilled believers might be free to live in security.

* redeem all this appalling suffering, and use it to shame and awaken Pakistani Muslims to the ugliness that has engulfed them, softening their hearts to the Good News so that they and even their whole communities can be radically transformed. (Isaiah 2:2-4)

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PAKISTAN: INTOLERANCE GROWS; CHILD ACCUSED OF BLASPHEMY


Decades of Saudi-sponsored Islamisation have turned Pakistan ugly. Violence against religious minorities is constantly on the rise. There has been an increase in the number of young Hindu and Christian girls being abducted, forcibly converted and married off to Muslim men, whilst the blasphemy law continues to be wielded as a weapon of persecution. On 16 August, an illiterate, mentally impaired 11-year-old girl, Rimsha, burnt papers collected from local bins as fuel in the family stove. She was arrested because the papers reportedly bore Qur'anic verses. Rimsha, her mother and sister have been taken from their home in a Christian colony on the outskirts of Islamabad into 'protective custody', pending investigation. Pakistan is simmering with religious hatred. Please pray for Pakistan's besieged and imperilled Christians.

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IRAN: URGENT UPDATE ON PASTOR NADARKHANI
Reportedly, Christian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani (34, married with two sons), who was sentenced to death for apostasy in 2010, will be re-tried on 27 August (although some reports say 8 September). This time the charges are 'banditry and extortion'. The regime is possibly seeking to convince Nadarkhani's supporters that he is a criminal unworthy of their support. Alternatively, by launching a new trial with unprovable accusations, the regime may be seeking to 'wash its hands' publicly of Nadarkhani and release him to the Islamists and secret police while declaring itself 'innocent of this man's blood' (after the manner of Pontius Pilate in Matthew 27:24, as has happened before in Iran). No matter what happens, Youcef Nadarkhani and his family will be greatly in need of our prayers. Please pray for Iran's Christian prisoners.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

RLPB 172. Ivory Coast: thousands displaced in renewed terror

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 172 | Wed 15 Aug 2012

IVORY COAST: THOUSANDS DISPLACED IN RENEWED TERROR

By Elizabeth Kendal

In early December 2010, disputed elections left Ivory Coast with two Prime Ministers. After Alassane Ouattara declared himself the winner, the Constitutional Council declared Laurent Gbagbo the winner. Alassane Ouattara's rebel forces then moved (with French backing) to take power by force. In March 2011, at the height of the crisis, pro-Ouattara Muslim rebels, whose tribal origins lie in the north, rampaged through western Ivory Coast. They massacred hundreds and displaced tens of thousands of mostly ethnic Guéré, the traditional landowners who are predominantly Christian and supporters of Laurent Gbagbo. By early April 2011, the Catholic mission in Duékoué was hosting more than 27,000 severely traumatised, mostly Christian and ethnic Guéré refugees. 

The displaced Guéré have been unable to return home because their homes have been occupied by 'rebels' -- i.e. by pro-Ouattara militiamen who have since been taken into the new Ivorian Army,  the FRCI (Forces Républicaines de la Côte d’Ivoire). Furthermore, the west remains incredibly dangerous, over-run by armed criminals and undisciplined 'soldiers', as well as with 'dozos' -- traditional hunters who work as mercenary enforcers for the FRCI. While many displaced Guéré have been able to find refuge with friends and family elsewhere, over 5000 have been settled in the nearby Nahibly camp guarded by UN peacekeepers.

On the night of 19 July 2012 four ethnic Malinké (Muslims) were killed during an armed robbery in Duékoué's Kokoma neighbourhood. The next day, a massive crowd of 'dozos' and ethnic Malinké, along with other Muslim tribes, descended on the nearby Nahibly camp supposedly to enact 'revenge'. (Numbers vary widely, but according to Ann Encontre, head of the UN refugee arm UNHCR in Ivory Coast, the attackers numbered around 3000.)  At least eleven Guéré refugees were killed and more than 60 wounded as the invaders, armed with machetes, clubs and rifles, attacked the inhabitants, doused the camp in petrol and burnt it to the ground. The UN 'peacekeepers' have explained that they did not fire on the invaders because they wanted to avoid 'a massacre'. Terrified refugees, who fled to 'peacekeepers' for assistance, report being chased away or pushed into the arms of their attackers who then beat them mercilessly in front of the 'peacekeepers'.  According to the UN, Ivorian security forces are supposed to be responsible for security at the camp but none were present. The attack forced some 5000 predominantly Christian ethnic Guéré refugees to flee into the ungoverned, inhospitable bush.

Bah Léontine, who managed to escape with her family, says the attackers screamed: 'No Guéré moves! No Guéré moves! If you move we will kill you.' She said, 'The war is over, why are you still pursuing us?' They replied, 'We don't want to see Guéré in Duekoue.' Bah managed to get her family safely into the bush, where they hid for three days before finding refuge in the town hall in Duékoué. 'It's God who saved us,' she says. Other survivors fled back to the Catholic mission in Duékoué. However, the priest has reported that the mission has also been threatened by 'crowds of angry youths'. The UN human rights agency has condemned the Nahibly attack which it says was 'clearly ethnically motivated'.

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT THE LORD WILL --

* draw his people close to him, comfort them and increase their faith, answering their prayers and supplying their every need for food, shelter, medical aid, security, wisdom and spiritual guidance.

* revive his Church so that Ivorian Christians will not lose hope but will rediscover the power and grace of God -- the very same God who totally transformed their nation 100 years ago.

In 1913-14, when Ivory Coast's population was estimated at less than one million, the Liberian evangelist William Wadé Harris baptised over 100,000 new converts over 18 months. The population of Ivory Coast today is some 20 million. Pray for revival and that God will send out workers into his harvest field (Matthew 9:38). Pray for two million converts during 2013-14.

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THOUSANDS DISPLACED IN RENEWED TERROR IN IVORY COAST


In March 2011 tens of thousands of predominantly Christian Guéré were ethnically cleansed from their lands in western Ivory Coast by Muslim rebels loyal to presidential aspirant Alassane Ouattara. The Guéré have never been able to return because their homes have been occupied by Muslims. Some 5000 Guéré who remain displaced have been living in the Nahibly camp in Duékoué, which is protected by UN peacekeepers. A massive Muslim mob stormed the camp on 19 July 2012. Armed with clubs, machetes and rifles, they killed at least eleven refugees, wounded 60 and burnt the camp to the ground, leaving the 5000 mostly Christian ethnic Guéré displaced yet again. The UN has condemned the attack that it says was 'clearly ethnically motivated'. Please pray for Christians in Ivory Coast.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

RLPB 171. Egypt: Christian vulnerability grows as security declines

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 171 | Wed 08 Aug 2012

EGYPT: CHRISTIAN VULNERABILITY GROWS AS SECURITY DECLINES

By Elizabeth Kendal

The rigours of Ramadan observance ensure that as Ramadan progresses frustration accumulates. This, merged with religious zeal, produces an incendiary mix. On Wednesday 25 July a dispute erupted in the village of Dahshur on the southern outskirts of Cairo, after a Coptic launderer inadvertently singed the shirt of his Muslim client. The Muslim agreed to return in the evening to settle the claim but returned in the afternoon with a vengeful mob. With a large crowd of armed Muslims besieging his home and laundrette, the Copt threw a Molotov cocktail from the roof. It hit and severely burnt a Muslim youth passing by. When he died in hospital on 1 August, Muslim Brotherhood clerics, instead of rising up as peacemakers, incited Islamic hysteria and vowed collective punishment. The ensuing Islamic pogrom left 16 Copts injured, numerous Coptic homes and businesses torched and the only church in the village vandalised. This violence included threats to shoot all Christians dead and convinced some 120 Christian families they had no choice but to flee. Only one elderly Christian woman remained, receiving sanctuary in the home of a Muslim neighbour.

Whilst a wide range of independent sources -- local and international, religious and secular -- corroborate this version of events, the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) press release presents a different picture. It denies the pogrom was sectarian, claiming 'the Christian [deliberately] poured acid and gasoline over the Muslim' to kill him and falsely boasts that the MB immediately intervened to 'contain people's anger'. Egypt's Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa said the Copts' exodus from Dahshur should not be considered a 'displacement' as the Copts left their homes willingly! The Shoura Chamber (Parliamentary Advisory Council) is forming a committee to go to Dahshur 'to reconcile the citizens'. But the senior vice president of the National Council for Human Rights, Mohammed Fayek, notes: 'One reason [for] the sectarian tension in Egypt is impunity. The continuation of treating . . . sectarian incidents . . . through what is known to the media as "reconciliation sessions" enables criminals to get away with it and [contributes to] the recurrence of such incidents.' At this point, three Copts and no Muslims have been arrested.

On Sunday evening 5 August some 35 Islamic jihadists raided an Egyptian military base in north Sinai, killing 16 Egyptian soldiers and stealing two armoured vehicles. One vehicle exploded as it crashed into the border fence while the second vehicle, laden with suicide-vest-wearing jihadists,  penetrated into Israel. There it was eventually neutralised by an Israeli Armed Forces air-strike close to the Kerem Shalom border crossing. (Movements through the Rafa Crossing are monitored at Kerem Shalom which is close to where the Gaza, Israel and Egypt borders meet.) President Morsi, who has spent months building bridges with Hamas, had little choice but to close the Rafa Crossing into Gaza. Ridiculously, Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists have accused Israel of staging the attack to force the closure. Anti-Semitism, on the rise in Egypt, goes into overdrive on Egyptian TV during Ramadan. But as anti-Semitism grows increasingly fashionable and is associated with Egyptian nationalism, it will become increasingly difficult politically to counter terrorism.

President Morsi is appealing for tolerance, demanding justice and promising to improve security.  He has labelled the jihadists 'infidels' and appealed to Copts to return to their homes. In a state of chronic decline, Egypt is surviving on aid. It cannot afford to offend donors lest it runs out of money, fuel and bread and erupts in massive internal unrest. As it is, sectarian clashes are escalating, Christians are emigrating, tourism is plummeting, violence (especially against women) is pervasive and the Sinai is slipping out of control. The MB and Salafis will react strongly against the closure of the Rafa Crossing and any attempt to prosecute Muslims for 'punishing' Christians. As poverty and insecurity escalate, the plight of Christians can only deteriorate. 

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT --

* as escalating hardship leads to disillusionment and despair, Egyptians will not turn to rioting and killing their neighbours, but to reflection and a search for truth with open hearts and minds.

* God will bless and multiply all Christian witness and ministry to Arabs through radio, satellite, internet, literature and personal witness.

God has promised that Egypt will know the LORD.  'Among those who know me [Yahweh] I mention Rahab [Egypt] and Babylon . . .' (Psalm 87:4a ESV). Then the LORD will say, ' Blessed be Egypt my people . . .' (from Isaiah 19:25).

* God will draw Egypt's vulnerable Christians close, hear and answer their prayers, provide all their needs and perfect their faith; may the Christians of Dahshur be able to return to their homes in security, and may justice be served on those who incited and led this sectarian pogrom. Pray Psalm 23 for Egypt's Christians.

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CHRISTIAN VULNERABILITY GROWS IN EGYPT AS SECURITY DECLINES


On 1 August a massive Islamic pogrom occurred on the outskirts of Cairo. A Muslim took offence when a Coptic launderer accidentally singed his shirt. Rejecting the Copt's offer of compensation, the Muslim returned with a large mob and attacked his business. The Copt threw a Molotov cocktail, unintentionally hitting a young Muslim bystander. When the youth died a few days later, Islamic clerics incited the pogrom as collective punishment of the Copts. The violence and death threats forced virtually the entire local Christian community of some 120 families to flee. Elsewhere, on 5 August Islamic jihadists based in the Sinai killed 16 Egyptian soldiers and penetrated into Israel. Money, fuel, bread, tourism and security are all in decline in Egypt. Tensions are high. Please pray for Egypt's vulnerable Christians.

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TWO URGENT UPDATES

IRAN: Imprisoned Protestant pastor Benham Irani (41) (see RLPB 169) has developed a blood infection. His life hangs in the balance. Please pray.

NIGERIA: On Monday evening 6 August up to 10 gunmen stormed a Bible study in the Deeper Life Church in Okene, Kogi State, 250km south-west of Abuja, cutting off the lights and opening fire with assault rifles. At least 19 believers including the pastor are dead with many more wounded.  Please pray.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

RLPB 170. SYRIA + Sudan and Burma: the Battles Rage

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 170 | Wed 01 Aug 2012

SYRIA, SUDAN, BURMA: THE BATTLES RAGE

By Elizabeth Kendal

SYRIA
On Sunday 29 July the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's Jim Middleton spoke to Prof. Vali Nasr about Syria's prospects. Nasr confirmed that al Qaeda was indeed gaining ground in Syria. He expressed concern that in the event of regime collapse, it is not clear who would 'prevent a massacre of the Alawites and the Christians and those Sunnis who supported Assad'. He also said it was not clear who would 'prevent al-Qaeda from setting up shop in various little emirates across Syria'. Furthermore, Nasr warned that should the regime fall 'in a bad way' then the whole region -- especially Lebanon, Iraq and Jordan -- will be massively impacted and destabilised.

THE BATTLE FOR ALEPPO
The battle for Aleppo is a decisive one. With a population of 2.5 million, Aleppo is Syria's second largest city after Damascus, and its commercial hub. Home to swaths of loyalist Sunni Arab and Kurdish business elite, Christians make up some 10 percent of the population of the city. Around half of them are Armenians, with the remainder belonging to the Syrian, Greek Orthodox and Maronite churches. Jihadists are pouring in for the battle. Syrian Sunni jihadists who have been fighting with al Qaeda against US forces in Iraq are returning home in droves. The West called them 'terrorists' in Iraq. In Syria it calls them 'rebels', 'insurgents' and 'opposition'. Furthermore foreign jihadists are coming in from the Caucasus, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Tunisia, Uzbekistan, Algeria and Gulf Arab states as well as Europe, including Britain, Sweden and France. It is not uncommon to see the Islamist black flag flying on rebel vehicles or hoisted in rebel-held areas, yet Western journalists seem as oblivious to this as they are to the Islamist beards, chants and overt threats. Still holding out dreams of 'democracy' these journalists also seem oblivious to the long-term global consequences of Islamist sanctuaries in Syria.

It is reported that Aleppo's Armenian community has hunkered down for the duration.  Other Christians are doubtless doing the same. Some Christians, though, feel their only option is to take up arms to fight for the survival of their family. The battle has not yet reached the Christian quarters. However, a standard tactic in Islamist asymmetric warfare is to use women and children -- and Christians wherever possible -- as human shields and then exploit their deaths for propaganda in the West. Therefore we can expect jihadists will attempt to deliberately infiltrate Christian districts not only to kill Christians (whom they want to eliminate anyway) but also to draw the regime's return fire into those districts. Indeed, only the LORD of hosts can prevent this.

SUDAN AND BURMA
Watching and listening to the news, one could be forgiven for thinking that the Syrian conflict was the world's only war. On the contrary, regimes are waging war against predominantly Christian peoples in South Kordofan, Sudan and in Kachin State, Burma. The difference is, whilst the West is for regime change in Syria, it is against changing the brutal, Islamist, racist, Arab-supremacist regime in Khartoum, Sudan and the brutal, Buddhist-nationalist, racist Burman-supremacist regime in Burma. In each case, the Christians are on the wrong side of Western economic and geo-strategic interests! In each case, Christian peoples -- children, parents, the elderly -- are suffering immensely with hunger, tears, spilt blood and broken bones. However, this is being covered up continuously and without discernment by lazy, conformist media -- apparently ignorant of historical and religious realities -- who are echoing the official line. Surely God is NOT pleased.

For more on Syria, Sudan and Burma see Religious Liberty Monitoring.

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT THE LORD OF HOSTS WILL --

* by the power of the Holy Spirit draw his people close and increase their faith so they will hope in him (Psalm 33:18) and see answers to their prayers (Isaiah 30:19); may the devil have no victory over them.

* rise up to defend, shield and supply his precious people and vanquish their enemies. (Isaiah 40:10,11)

* raise his right arm against all jihadists and jihadist-allied forces in Syria, the regime of Omar el-Bashir in Khartoum, Sudan, and the Burmese junta in Naypyidaw; may those who seek to annihilate God's precious children succeed only in securing God's furious wrath. (Isaiah 31:4,5).

'But my eyes are toward you, O GOD, my Lord; in you I seek refuge; leave me not defenceless! Keep me from the trap that they have laid for me and from the snares of evildoers! Let the wicked fall into their own nets, while I pass by safely. (Psalm 141:8-10 ESV)

With whole Christian communities facing existential threat, consider Psalm 33:8-19.

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THE BATTLES RAGE IN SYRIA, SUDAN and BURMA

The battle for Aleppo is decisive. Jihadists are pouring in from around the world for this battle, fighting not for Syria, but for Islam. The Christians, who comprise about 10 percent of Aleppo's 2.5 million population, are gravely imperilled. Whilst the fighting has not yet reached the Christian quarters, the jihadists doubtless know the propaganda coup they could score by drawing the regime's fire into the Christian districts. Please pray for God's protection. Meanwhile, wars continue to rage against Christian communities in South Kordofan, Sudan and Kachin State, Burma. In all these cases, the Christians are finding themselves on the wrong side of Western economic and geo-strategic 'interests'. Please pray for God to rise up on behalf of his precious people.