Tuesday, October 30, 2012

RLPB 183. Oct Update. Incl. North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Indonesia, Nigeria, Syria, Egypt

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 183 | Wed 31 Oct 2012

By Elizabeth Kendal

INTERNATIONAL DAY OF PRAYER (IDOP) FOR THE PERSECUTED CHURCH (4 or 11 November)

There is no such thing as a persecution-free day. Consequently, not a single day goes by when persecuted believers are not in need of advocacy in the courts of the Lord. And so we pray as the Apostle Paul exhorted: 'without ceasing' (1 Thessalonians 5:17). However, International Day of Prayer (IDOP) for the Persecuted Church provides an opportunity for believers and churches all around the world to contemplate the reality of persecution, take note of the global situation and respond together in prayer. IDOP is a day when Christian individuals, small groups and Church fellowships join their voices to petition the LORD on behalf of the persecuted Church. Various Christian advocacy groups have resources available -- please seek them out and make use of them. For Critical Prayer Requests (CPR) for the nations see here: CPR

'O my God, incline your ear and hear. Open your eyes and see our desolations . . . For we do not present our pleas before you because of our righteousness, but because of your great mercy. O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive. O Lord, pay attention and act. Delay not, for your own sake, O my God, because . . . your people are called by your name.' (Daniel 9:18,19 ESV)

Please give special attention to the world's most severe persecutors: North Korea and Saudi Arabia.

In NORTH KOREA believers found witnessing or in possession of a Bible are executed while neighbours and other locals are forced to watch. Furthermore, many tens of thousands of Christians, deemed traitors for refusing to worship the Kim family, are perishing in concentration camps, the conditions of which rival Auschwitz. Further to this, tens of thousands of believers struggle with extreme poverty and famine while worshipping in strategically small, highly secretive fellowships. Once known as 'the Jerusalem of the East', this land of Christian revival (10-min documentary) has been captive to darkness for almost 60 years. 

'The earth is the LORD's and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein . . . Lift up your heads, O gates! And lift them up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is this King of glory? The LORD of hosts, he is the King of glory.' (Psalm 24:1,9,10 ESV)

In SAUDI ARABIA Christian witness and apostasy (leaving Islam) are absolutely forbidden. They are capital offences for Saudi nationals. Furthermore, after the failed Sunni fundamentalist revolution of 1979 (the Siege of Mecca), the Saudi royals brokered a survival pact with the Wahhabi (Sunni fundamentalist) clerics wherein the Royals would fund international jihad and the Wahhabi clerics' global dissemination of Wahhabi Islam in exchange for the backing of the clerics. This has facilitated a revival of pro-Sharia, pro-jihad, anti-Semitic, anti-Christian, supremely intolerant and repressive Sunni fundamentalist Islam across the globe: throughout Africa, Asia and South America as well as in the universities and mosques of the West. Accordingly Saudi Arabia (an 'ally' of the West) is directly responsible for the phenomenal escalation of Sunni fundamentalist hostility, repression, terrorism and jihad worldwide, including targeted persecution of Christians.

'In that day the LORD of hosts will be a crown of glory, and a diadem of beauty, to the remnant of his people, and . . . strength to those who turn back the battle at the gate.' (Isaiah 28:5,6 ESV)

OCTOBER 2012 UPDATE -- During October we prayed concerning . . . 

* INDIA (RLPB 179) where unrestrained Hindu nationalism results in unrelenting persecution.

* PHILIPPINES (RLPB 180) where the government has signed a 'framework agreement' with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) which, if implemented, will allow Sharia Law to be broadened and strengthened in a MILF-ruled sub-state on the southern island of Mindanao.

* INDONESIA, PAPUA formerly Irian Jaya, (RLPB 181) where predominately Javanese-Muslim Indonesian forces -- motivated primarily by racial-religious hatred and greed -- have been 'sweeping' Wamena, forcing thousands of indigenous, predominately Christian Melanesian Papuans out of their homes and into the inhospitable bush.

* PAKISTAN (RLPB 181) where another child has been accused of blasphemy. Ryan Stanten (16) and his family fled as soon as Ryan was accused, before Muslim mobs descended on their home in a secure Middle Class district of Karachi and burnt all their belongings.

UPDATE: ANOTHER CHRISTIAN ACCUSED. On 1 October, Barkat Masih, a sweeper and cleaner who is married with five children, was arrested in the eastern city of Bahawalpur on charges of blasphemy after two Muslim co-workers registered a complaint against him. The Muslims had asked Barkat to hand over keys to a shrine he was cleaning so they could retrieve the property papers. Barkat knew the men were seeking to seize the land illegally, so he refused. The Muslims vowed revenge and now Barkat is in jail, his life ruined.

* TANZANIA (RLPB 182): Where Islam is becoming increasingly intolerant, aggressive and assertive. On 10 October, after a child was accused of desecrating a Qu'ran, Muslims in the Mbagala Ward of Dar es Salaam rioted, and five churches were attacked. Such appalling criminal behaviour cannot be justified; it is pure intimidation. Pray for rule of law to prevail in Tanzania.

'And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.' (Acts 4:29,30 ESV) 

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

* INDONESIA, ACEH: MORE CHURCHES CLOSED

In RLPB 169 it was reported that in April 2012 local officials in Aceh's Singkil Province (in the far south) had yielded to Islamist pressure and ordered the closure of some 20 mainly Protestant unlicensed house-churches. Most did not comply and some were subsequently attacked by armed militants. In mid-October, local government authorities in Banda Aceh (in the far north) ordered the closure of nine unlicensed churches and six Buddhist monasteries, warning that if they remain open the authorities will not guarantee their security. Nico Tarigan, the pastor of the Indonesian Bethel Church (GBI) which has been operating in Banda Aceh for eight years, said, 'We have 80 members who don't know where to pray.' Semi-autonomous Aceh is 98 percent Muslim. To get a licence to operate a place of worship in Aceh, a group needs the signatures of 150 members, plus 120 other local people (Muslims) who approve of the church's presence in their community. For most Christian groups, such requirements are unachievable. Because the house-churches do not have local licences, Indonesia's Home Minister defended the decision. The Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) has vowed to make sure the churches comply. The Islamic fundamentalists are determined to eliminate visible Christianity in Aceh, and the authorities are unable and/or unwilling to resist them.

* INDONESIA, CENTRAL SULAWESI: TERROR RETURNS

Indonesian Military (TNI) troops have been deployed to the Christian-majority regency of Poso, Central Sulawesi, following several terrorist attacks that included bombings and the murder of police officers. There are concerns the presence of the TNI might actually be counterproductive; many are anxious. Jamaah Ansharut Tauhid (JAT) extremist group in Poso is believed to be behind the recent terror. On Monday 22 October at 2 am, unidentified people spread gasoline over the Pantekosta di Indonesia church in Madale village, on the outskirts of Poso, and set it on fire, possibly in the hope of triggering a sectarian clash. However, local Muslims and Christians worked together to fight the flames until the fire brigade arrived. The re-emergence of terrorism in Central Sulawesi is of great concern, for as the Jakarta Post notes: 'A re-emergence of the conflict would also serve to fire up Muslim extremists across the country to wage war against Christians.'

* NIGERIA, KADUNA: ANOTHER CHURCH BOMBING

On Sunday 28 October a suicide bomber drove his SUV full of explosives to St Rita Catholic Church in Malali, a minority Christian enclave of in Kaduna North Local Government Area. When he could not gain access, he accelerated forward through the security checkpoint. He then drove his vehicle straight through the brick wall of the church right behind where the choir was situated, killing 10 and wounding 145. Parish Priest, Rev Fr Bonny Bazah had just finished delivering a sermon on exercising faith and was preparing to serve Holy Communion when the bomber struck. Fr Bonny has been hospitalised with facial injuries. According to one of the victims the bombing occurred 'when everybody was kneeling down. We were praying . . .' Nigerian Muslims are turning to Christ and an incredible spiritual battle is under way. We wrestle not against flesh and blood . . . (Ephesians 6:12).

* SAUDI ARABIA: updating RLPB 175. In July a 28-year-old Saudi convert to Christianity named Maryam fled the country. Subsequently, her boss, Henna Sarkees (51), a Christian Lebanese national, was charged with abusing his position to coerce her to convert, and an un-named Saudi national was charged with helping her leave the country clandestinely. On 14 October their trial was deferred yet again, to an unknown date in November.

* SYRIA: IS THE CHURCH FACING GENOCIDE?

ALEPPO: government forces are fighting to regain control of two Christian districts recently seized by rebel fighters. Kurds are also fighting to retake their territory back from rebel forces. Unlike the Arabs, who emanate from the Arabian Peninsula, Christians are indigenous to Syria and the wider region. Despite this, rebel Abu Mahar, who claims to control 200 fighters, says he does not regard Christians as true Syrians at all: 'Christians have no connection with the country,' he told AFP.

DEIR EZZOR: On Saturday 27 October a car bomb exploded outside the only Syrian Orthodox Church in the town of Deir Ezzor [or Deir el-Zour] in eastern Syria near the border with Iraq, damaging it severely and killing five local residents. In September the same church was desecrated and vandalised by Salafi groups reported to be operating freely. Deir Ezzor is currently under the control of the Free Syrian Army.

DAMASCUS: PASTOR TORTURED TO DEATH
On 19 October kidnappers seized Father Fadi Jamil Haddad, pastor of the Greek Orthodox church of St Elias in Qatana, Damascus, demanding his family and church pay a ransom of 50 million Syrian pounds (over 550 thousand euro). On 23 October kidnappers (possibly the same ones) kidnapped and killed the brother and cousin of another pastor, Father Salameh Salameh, of the Greek Catholic congregation in Damascus. On 24 October, the body of Fr Fadi Jamil Haddad was found not far from where he had been taken. An associate of the pastor reports: 'His body was horribly tortured and his eyes gouged out. It is a purely terrorist act. Fr Haddad is a martyr of our church.'

* EGYPT: INTOLERANCE ESCALATES

Assyrian International News Agency reports  that on Sunday 28 October a large mob of bearded Salafi / Wahhabi Muslims attacked St Georges Church in Tala village, in Beni Suef Governorate. The mob assaulted Coptic Christians as they left the church, five of whom were hospitalised with broken bones. Cars were torched. The pastor, Father Cheroubim Chehab, was besieged, unable to get out of the church for hours. Though he had contacted police, they did not respond until the head of the Egyptian Union of Human Rights Organization, Dr Naguib Gabriel, complained to the Ministry of Interior, telling them, 'I want the whole world to know that a priest and his congregation are presently held captive in their church, afraid of the Salafi Muslims surrounding the church.' The Salafis subsequently attacked believers in their own homes. The Muslims had demanded that the church only be used by local Christians (who comprise eight percent of population of the village) and were objecting to Christians travelling in from surrounding villages that do not have a church. Of course what they really want is closure of the church.

FOR YOUR ENCOURAGEMENT:

What do Egyptian Christian youths do when faced with existential threat? They gather in the desert for three days of prayer and worship. (See: SAT7 footage of 'OneThing 2012', 4-6 October.) Remember them next time you hear of intolerant fundamentalist Islam taking hold in Egypt.

'For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare [i.e. mission and prayer] are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.' (2 Corinthians 10:3,4 ESV)

'Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD of hosts.' (Zechariah 4:6b ESV)

Monday, October 22, 2012

RLPB 182. Tanzania: Christians threatened by Islamisation

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 182 | Wed 24 Oct 2012

TANZANIA: CHRISTIANS THREATENED BY ISLAMISATION

By Elizabeth Kendal

Tanzania's population is 31 percent Muslim and 54 percent Christian, although church attendance is only about eight percent (Operation World 7th Edition). According to the Catholic Bishop of Kondoa Diocese, Bernadin Mfumbusa, Islamisation is advancing. Since the mid-1980s, itinerant preachers from Saudi Arabia and the Sudan have been entering the country and spreading intolerant, fundamentalist Islam. Consequently, Muslims are becoming more assertive with their political demands and more aggressive with their verbal attacks. Demands are growing louder for Sharia Law and Kadhi (Islamic) Courts, for Fridays to be public holidays and for Tanzania to join the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation (OIC). Bishop Mfumbusa recently told the Catholic Charity, Aid to the Church in Need, that there has been a marked increase in veiled women and Qur'anic schools (madrassas), adding, 'In the church schools, which are also attended by Muslim children, we must be very sensitive and cautious to avoid any undesirable incidents.'

As in Kenya, US-mandated anti-terror laws enacted post 9/11 have fuelled division along religious lines. Christians are generally supportive and Muslims strongly object, claiming the laws purposely target them. In the lead-up to the 2005 elections the Christian-dominated Revolutionary Party, Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM), successfully wooed the Muslim vote by promising to establish Kadhi (Islamic) courts. However, after winning the election CCM shelved its promise. Religion has since come to dominate Tanzanian politics. Tensions are rising.

On 10 October Zakaria Hamisis Mbonde (12) was walking home from Qur'anic school, carrying his Qur'an, when he came across his Christian friend, Emmanuel Mwinuka (13). When Emmanuel asked Zakaria if he could see his Qur'an, Zakaria warned him that the Qur'an had the power to turn anyone who defiled it into a dog or a snake. An argument ensued, prompting Emmanuel to disprove Zakaria's claim by urinating on his Qur'an. Naturally Zakaria's parents wanted to know what had happened to his Qur'an. As word spread through the Mbagala Ward of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania's largest city, tensions soared. To appease the mobs police arrested Emmanuel, taking him to the police station for questioning and keeping him there for his own safety. After Friday prayers on 12 October masses of enraged Muslims laid siege to the police station, demanding Emmanuel be handed over to them so they could behead him. When the police refused, the Muslims rioted, setting fire to Mbagala's Agape Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania. Over the next few days more churches, including an Anglican and a Church of Christ, were attacked: two in Kigoma and one in Zanzibar. Cars were also smashed and burnt. Subsequently, 86 were arrested for rioting and 32 for destroying church properties. Sheikh Ponda Issa Ponda, the secretary general of the Council of Islamic Organisations, was arrested for inciting the violence which he blamed on the police, saying that if the police had given the matter 'its due weight' then Muslims would not have felt so 'sidelined'.

But is it a crime in Tanzania to blaspheme, defile a Qur'an or hurt a Muslim's feelings? I don't think so! Yet on 23 July 2012 a judge in the coastal town of Bagamoyo sentenced Christian teen Eva Abdullah (17) to two years in prison after Islamic fundamentalists falsely accused her of defiling the Qur'an. Eva, who had been driven from her home after converting to Christianity, had been resisting pressure from Islamic fundamentalists to return to Islam. After falsely accusing her, these radicals allegedly bribed the judge to punish Eva. Fear of the Muslims reportedly has kept local Christians from getting involved. Eva thanks the Lord that he has provided her with kind and sympathetic prison guards who are caring for her and protecting her.

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL --

* convict, motivate and embolden Tanzanian leaders, so they will rise to defend human rights, liberty and rule of law rather than appease the belligerent for false peace and short-term gain; may they clearly understand what is at stake.

* bring revival to the Tanzanian Church, so she might 'wake up, and strengthen what remains' (Revelation 3:2), and take the life-transforming gospel of grace to Muslims before Muslims impose repressive Islam on Tanzania.

* comfort and protect Emmanuel Mwinuka (13) and his family as they face mass Islamic wrath over a childish prank, as well as Eva Abdullah (17) as she suffers purely because of her love for the Lord Jesus; may God supply their every need.

SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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CHRISTIANS IN TANZANIA THREATENED BY ISLAMISATION


Tanzania's population is 31 percent Muslim and 54 percent Christian, although only about eight percent attend church. Fundamentalist Islam has advanced as preachers from Sudan and Saudi Arabia spread their radical creed. Muslims are becoming more assertive with their political demands and in their attacks. On 10 October reports spread in Dar es Salaam that a 13-year-old Christian boy had desecrated a Qur'an. To appease the mobs, police arrested the boy. After Friday prayers on 12 October Muslims besieged the police station, calling for the boy to be handed over for beheading. When the police refused the Muslims rioted, burning five churches. In July Eva Abdullah (17), a convert from Islam, was imprisoned for two years after Islamic fundamentalists falsely accused her of desecrating a Qur'an. Please pray for Tanzania.

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With persecution escalating and intensifying globally, please consider participating in International Day of Prayer (IDOP) for the persecuted church in the week 4-11 November. 
'For we wrestle not against flesh and blood . . .' (Ephesians 6:12).

See: Critical Prayer Requests (CPR)

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

RLPB 181. Papua (formerly Irian Jaya), Eastern Indonesia: Sweeping Wamena

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 181 | Wed 17 Oct 2012

PAPUA (formerly Irian Jaya), EASTERN INDONESIA: SWEEPING WAMENA

-- plus URGENT UPDATE on Pakistan

By Elizabeth Kendal

The Dutch first brought the gospel to Dutch (West) New Guinea, along with health care and education, gradually transforming the coastal towns. When Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) USA arrived in the mid-1900s, the previously inaccessible interior was opened to pioneer missionaries, several of whom lost their lives in the service of the gospel. In a relatively short space of time (in history), endless tribal war and shamanism came to be replaced with worship of the Lord -- Papua was transformed. (For an interview with one of those pioneer missionaries, see here: Peace Child.)

When Indonesia gained independence in 1949, the Dutch retained control of Irian Jaya believing the Melanesian Christians were simply too distinct from Javanese Muslims to be under Indonesian rule. Indonesia, however, invaded the resource-rich region in 1961 and, with the complicity of the UN and USA, annexed it in 1969. Ever since, Papua's Melanesian Christians have suffered while their spectacular land has been militarised, exploited, colonised and Islamised.  What we are witnessing is the slow genocide of a Christian people. The West ignores this, deeming good relations with Indonesia to be more in line with Western economic and geo-strategic interests. Surely God is not pleased.

West Papua National Committee (KNPB) is a pro-independence advocacy group committed to peaceful activism. Because 'Special Autonomy' has failed, the KNPB is calling for the UN to oversee a referendum on self-determination. In early June Indonesian soldiers rampaged (photos) though the KNPB stronghold of Wamena, the largest town in the central highlands. Then on 14 June Indonesian police shot KNPB deputy, Moses Mako Tabuni, in a Jayapura street. Shot in the hip, he died in police custody en route to hospital. Police allege Tabuni was 'resisting arrest', but human rights groups doubt this and local witnesses deny it. UK-based Papuan activist Benny Wenda has labelled it an 'assassination'.

On 29 September, after a couple of minor bombing incidents, Indonesian authorities launched a sweep through Wamena and its surrounding villages. They claim they found explosive materials in the homes of KNPB members, nine of whom have been arrested. Papua is a deeply Christianised culture and many Papuan civic leaders are also church leaders. One such leader, the Moderator of the Papuan Baptist Church, Reverend Socratez Sofyan Yoman, is certain the bombings were the work of Indonesian security forces who are now using them to justify launching anti-terror operations against peaceful, pro-independence activists. Human rights monitors agree with that assessment. The director of the Papua branch of Institute for Human Rights Study and Advocacy (Elsham), Ferry Marisan, comments: 'We observed their [KNPB's] activities in Papua . . . they never staged violent acts, let alone kept firearms or explosives.' Actually, it is the modus operandi of the Indonesian security forces that is all-too-familiar. (See TNI 'sweeps' Puncak Jaya, July 2010 & Evidence of Human Rights Abuses, Aug 2010.) Driven by racial and religious hatred and greed, the Indonesian security forces (who make a lot of money in Papua) routinely provoke or fake Papuan separatist incidents to justify launching vastly disproportionate, violent anti-terror measures against the separatists.

Indonesian police, the Australian-trained anti-terrorism squad Detachment 88 and the TNI (Indonesian military) have been sweeping Wamena and surrounding villages, forcing thousands of Papuans to flee into the bush. (See here for 6.29 min news report by ABC's 7.30 Report - 4 Oct 2012 - film and transcript.) On 10 October one pastor, who hopes his presence with the displaced will provide them with a degree of protection and a means of communication, made an urgent appeal for prayer.  Mass rallies protesting Indonesian repression and human rights abuses will be held across Papua on Wednesday 24 October.

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL --

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

* magnify, sharpen and empower the voices of Papuan church leaders who risk their lives to speak out against cruelty and injustice; may their words not only enter ears and be heard, but pierce consciences and compel action.

* effect a breakthrough to prevent genocide and restore the dignity of his people, that the LORD might be praised and glorified in Papua.

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SWEEPING WAMENA (PAPUA, EASTERN INDONESIA)

Papua's Melanesian Christians suffer under Indonesian rule as their land is militarised, exploited, colonised and Islamised by Javanese Muslims. This is the slow genocide of a Christian people. Driven by racial and religious hatred and greed, Indonesian security forces routinely provoke or fake Papuan separatist attacks to justify launching violent anti-terror measures against Papuan civilians. Since June, Indonesian security forces (including Detachment 88) have been 'sweeping' Wamena, the largest town in the central highlands, on the pretext of fighting terrorism. Thousands of Papuan civilians have been driven from their homes into the inhospitable jungle. Nine members of the pro-peace, pro-independence advocacy group, the West Papua National Committee, have been framed as 'terrorists'. Church leaders are appealing for help, and especially for prayer.

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URGENT UPDATE:

PAKISTAN: ANOTHER CHRISTIAN CHILD FRAMED

Ryan Stanten (16) lives in the middle class district of Mobina in Karachi. As the only Christian in his class at school, Ryan is regularly pressured by Muslim classmates to convert to Islam, something he steadfastly refuses to do. On Tuesday 9 October Ryan received a text message on his mobile phone for forwarding to Muslim friends. He forwarded it to his Muslim school friends without bothering to read it and suddenly he was being accused of blasphemy. The family fled that night. The next day local Muslims, led by a local Islamic cleric, thoroughly ransacked the family's home,  dragging out and burning all their property, despite it being in a supposedly secure compound.  No-one has been arrested. The family's name has been put on an Exit Control List so they cannot leave the country. This is NOT the handiwork of the Taliban! It is the work of Muslim school 'friends' and middle class 'neighbours' with the tacit approval of the State. Please pray for Ryan Stanten and his family, and for the Church in Pakistan. 

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With persecution escalating and intensifying globally, please consider participating in International Day of Prayer (IDOP) for the persecuted church in the week 4-11 November.  'For we wrestle not against flesh and blood . . .' (Ephesians 6:12). See: Critical Prayer Requests (CPR)

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

RLPB 180. Philippines: religious liberty in Bangsamoro

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 180 | Wed 10 Oct 2012

PHILIPPINES: RELIGIOUS LIBERTY IN BANGSAMORO
-- plus UPDATES on Iran and Saudi Arabia
By Elizabeth Kendal

On Sunday 7 October the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) agreed to a 'framework agreement' (text) with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). This agreement is not a 'peace deal' inasmuch as it is an agreed framework from which the two parties will work towards a comprehensive peace. The agreement will be officially signed on 15 October. As President Benigno Aquino III said, 'The work does not end here. There are still details that both sides must hammer out.  Promises must be kept, institutions must be fixed, and new capacities must be built nationally and regionally in order to effectively administer the Bangsamoro.' 'Bangsamoro' is the name of the new entity that will replace the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

The Philippines Government created the ARMM in 1989 while it was engaged in a struggle with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF). When the MNLF put down their weapons in 1996, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) -- hardline Islamists who had split from the MNLF to pursue an independent Islamic state -- rejected peace, rejected the ARMM and fought on. Until now, the closest the GRP and the MILF have ever been to peace was the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) of July 2008. The MOA-AD would have replaced the ARMM with a greatly expanded MILF-ruled Bangsamoro Judicial Entity. After learning that they would soon be living in an Islamic sub-state, local Christians petitioned the Supreme Court which ruled the MOA-AD unconstitutional, scuttling the deal. MILF responded with a wave of violence against Mindanao Christians that left 400 dead and some 750,000 displaced. In her quest to add 'peace-maker' to her legacy, President Arroyo and those who supported the MOA-AD had shown little concern for thousands of Christians who did not want to wake up one morning in an Islamic 'Judicial Entity' under MILF rule.  

The new 'framework agreement' is different in that MILF does not make the same territorial demands. Associated Press reports: 'A new autonomous region will take shape in the south, with Moro rebels giving up their quest for independence in exchange for broad powers to govern themselves.' However, as AP adds, while 'Bangsamoro' is 'broadly based on an existing autonomous region, the rebels want it expanded'. Furthermore, the MILF will not be governing 'themselves' but everyone who lives within Bangsamoro, Christians included. According to the 'framework agreement', Sharia Courts will be strengthened and their jurisdiction expanded, although (it is assured) Sharia will be applied only to Muslims. So will Muslim citizens of Bangasmoro be free to appeal to the Supreme Court for their constitutional rights or will the Islamic Courts have jurisdiction over all matters pertaining to Islam?

In every state where two systems of law operate, Muslims routinely find their constitutional rights rendered illusory by Islamic courts that retain jurisdiction over all matters pertaining to Islam: such as whom Muslims can marry, what Muslims can drink, how Muslims must dress, with whom Muslims can mix and suchlike. Would Bangsamoro Muslims be free to leave Islam -- a right guaranteed them in the Philippine Constitution -- or would leaving Islam fall under the jurisdiction of the Sharia Court, as it does in Malaysia (which is mediating the talks)? Concerning religious freedom, the 'framework agreement' states that all citizens are guaranteed the right to 'freedom and expression of religion and belief'; the right to 'freedom of speech'; and the right to 'freedom from religious, ethnic and sectarian harassment' (emphasis mine). As harassment is not defined, this 'right' will doubtless function as the basis for laws that will stifle Christian witness.

As per the 'framework agreement' a 15-member 'Transition Commission' (TransCom) will be created to flesh out the details, propose changes to the constitution as required and then draft a law creating the new Muslim autonomous region. The process is expected to take at least two years. In the meantime the MNLF, believing it has been betrayed, is threatening to sue and is 'warning' of unrest. Along with this, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters has split from MILF vowing to continue the jihad.

[Watch Religious Liberty Monitoring for updates.]

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL --

* expose deceptions and deny the devil a foothold in the transition process, so that peace does not come at the expense of religious liberty and security.

* use this opportunity to make Muslims aware of the great value of liberty, a human right which frees them up to seek truth and follow their conscience -- something they will be deprived of if they are placed under Sharia Law.

* sustain, preserve, protect, bless and build his Church in the Southern Philippines. 'The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.' (Lamentations 3:25 ESV)

SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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PHILIPPINES: RELIGIOUS LIBERTY IN BANGSAMORO

On Sunday 7 October the Government of the Republic of the Philippines signed a 'framework agreement' with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). A 15-member Transition Commission will be established to flesh out the details. It will work towards a comprehensive peace deal and the creation of an Islamic sub-state, to be known as Bangsamoro. It is essentially in the area already known as the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). Sharia Courts will be strengthened and their jurisdiction expanded, seriously curtailing the human rights and religious freedom of both Muslims and Christians. The transition is expected to take several years. Unrest is highly probable. Pray that religious freedom is not traded for a tenuous peace with committed Islamists. Please pray for the Church in Southern Philippines.
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URGENT UPDATES

* IRAN: INJUSTICE AND REPRESSION PREVAIL
Iranian authorities have released Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani but they did not release his heroic Muslim lawyer. Rather, on 29 September, Mohammed Ali Dadkhah was transferred to Ward 350 of Tehran's notorious Evin Prison to commence a nine-year sentence. Dadkhah is charged with 'aiding and abetting' the enemy, spreading propaganda and threatening national security. (Dadkhah provided pro bono legal representation to persecuted religious minorities.) Dadkhah advocated for Nadarkhani. Now we must advocate for him, with prayer to the highest authority.

* SAUDI ARABIA: APOSTASY TRIAL ON 14 OCTOBER
Maryam (28), a Saudi convert to Christianity, remains in hiding in Sweden. Her Christian boss, Lebanese expatriate Henna Sarkees (50), along with his Saudi 'accomplice', will face court in Al-Khobar, Saudi Arabia, on Sunday 14 October. Sarkees is charged with abusing his position of authority to coerce Maryam into converting to Christianity. His Saudi 'accomplice' is charged with facilitating her flight out of the country. Pray for Henna Sarkees and his Saudi associate. Pray also for Maryam. Pray for awakening in Saudi Arabia. (Ephesians 3:20,21)

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With persecution escalating and intensifying globally, please consider participating in International Day of Prayer (IDOP) for the persecuted church in the week 4-11 November.  'For we wrestle not against flesh and blood . . .' (Ephesians 6:12). See Critical Prayer Requests (CPR).

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

RLPB 179. INDIA: unrelenting persecution

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 179 | Wed 03 Oct 2012

INDIA: UNRELENTING PERSECUTION
plus updates on Kenya, Egypt and Pakistan
By Elizabeth Kendal

Persecution of the Church in India is unrelenting, primarily due to the Hindu nationalists' incitement of racial and religious hatred; the impunity afforded to violent persecutors; and the authorities' lack of political will. The following incidents were recorded by the Evangelical Fellowship of India. They are typical -- and the tip of the iceberg.

On 24 September, 12 Hindu extremists disrupted a prayer meeting in Kandhamal, Orissa, verbally abusing the believers and chasing them out into the forest. When junior pastor Mantu Nayak tripped and fell, the Hindus beat him mercilessly, leaving him with head injuries and fractures in both arms. On 11 September police in Kashganj, Uttar Pradesh, accused Christians of 'forcible conversions'. The next day, a mob of armed Hindus arrived and threatened the believers, demanding they 'return' to Hinduism. Reacting against news of an impending Christian inter-caste marriage, the Hindus drove the bride-to-be and her family out of the area. On 7 September Pastor John Pargy was distributing gospel tracts quietly when he was accused of insulting Hinduism. He was then assaulted and arrested.  On 4 September Pastor Anand Nirala was arrested in Jangir Champa, Chhattisgarh, after Hindus accused him of 'forced' conversions, insulting Hindu deities and disturbing social harmony. On 1 September Hindu extremists in Balod, Chhattisgarh, stoned a church and beat the pastor and believers. The next day, a 600-strong mob returned and terrorised the believers, eventually driving them from their homes. On 26 August a large mob of Hindu extremists burst into a prayer meeting in Kanyakumari, Tamil Nadu, and violently attacked the believers, leaving two Christians seriously injured. Accusing the believers of 'forced conversions', the Hindus rampaged through the village. One local Christian, Edwin Raj, was beaten to death.

On 29 August the Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI) had a minor and partial victory when the High Court of Himachal Pradesh struck out one section of the Himachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act (HPFR Act), a law that regulates conversions. The judge struck out section 4, which mandated that anyone intending to change their religion must inform the district administration 30 days before conversion takes place -- essentially to obtain permission -- or else face a fine. Whilst the judge ruled that section 4 violated a person's right to privacy, he did not agree with the EFI that the HPFR Act, which criminalises religious 'force', 'fraud' and 'inducement', violated the constitutional right to religious freedom. ['Force', 'fraud' and 'inducement' are defined in a way that effectively criminalises virtually all Christian witness. In India, 'freedom of religion' is essentially understood as freedom from religious 'interference'.]

According to the High Court, freedom of religion must be subject to the interests of public law and order. A such, though Christians are said to have full rights, in practice conversions and Christian witness must be restricted if they lead to Hindu rioting. This is exactly the same backward thinking involved in Islamic blasphemy legislation. Confident they will be appeased, religious dictators incite violence, blame the victim and extract concessions. Though governments might find appeasement expedient in the short term, in the long term it is disastrous as it legitimises intolerance, justifies violence and fuels persecution.

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY --

* for God to grace India with awakening, so that Indians will see they are being fed lies and deprived of religious freedom by religious dictators out to perpetuate their own caste privilege.  '. . . let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.' (Amos 5:24 ESV)

* for God to grace the Indian government with discernment, conviction and courage to deal with Hindu nationalist propaganda before it devours the nation.

* that the Church will continue to grow in spite of repression and violent persecution, as God adds to her number daily those who are being saved.

* that the LORD of hosts will be a protective shield and strong, safe fortress to every Indian believer, particularly those pastors and evangelists who risk life and liberty to share the Gospel and serve the people in the name of Jesus.

SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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INDIA: UNRELENTING PERSECUTION


Persecution of the Church in India is unrelenting, primarily due to the Hindu nationalists' incitement of racial and religious hatred, the impunity afforded violent persecutors and the authorities' lack of political will. 'Religious Freedom' laws define 'force', 'fraud' and 'coercion' in ways that criminalise virtually all Christian witness. Such laws are a gift to the Hindu nationalists who incite violence, blame the victims and are appeased with impunity and restrictions on egalitarian Christianity that the high-caste Hindus recognise as a threat to their own caste privilege. The government is reluctant and even afraid to tackle Hindu propaganda. Consequently it advances, fuelling religious hostility and creating an incendiary environment. The situation is extremely dangerous. Please pray for the Church in India.

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URGENT UPDATES

KENYA: TERROR THREAT. On 14 September police in Nairobi uncovered a large cache of weapons, foiling a massive terror plot due to be launched against churches. Tragically, on 30 September a Sunday School class was bombed, killing one child and wounding nine.

EGYPT: EXPULSIONS. Christians have been ethnically cleansed out of the Sinai. What started as jihadists' terror was completed by the government of Mohamed Morsi.

PAKISTAN: BLASPHEMY CASE. The three Muslims who gave sworn testimony against the imam Khalid Chishti have withdrawn their statements, claiming to have been coerced. They had testified that he had tampered with evidence so that the illiterate Christian, Rimsha Masih (14), might be accused of blasphemy and all Christians subsequently driven from the slum (see RLPB 173).
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With persecution escalating and intensifying globally, please consider participating in the International Day of Prayer (IDOP) for the persecuted church between 4 -11 November.  'For we wrestle not against flesh and blood . . .' (Ephesians 6:12). See: Critical Prayer Requests (CPR).