Wednesday, February 20, 2013

RLPB 198. Libya & Sudan: Christians facing death for their witness

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 198 | Wed 20 Feb 2013

LIBYA & SUDAN: CHRISTIANS FACING DEATH FOR THEIR WITNESS
        -- also, vigilant prayer requested for Tanzania.

By Elizabeth Kendal

Islam is a totalitarian, all-encompassing system of life. Blasphemy (criticism) and apostasy (rejection) are punishable by death for not only are blasphemers and apostates regarded as enemies and traitors to Islam, they are also a source of fitna. Fitna is anything that could test or challenge the faith of Muslims and so cause 'chaos'. Rather than encouraging and equipping its adherents to face, endure and overcome fitna, Islam mandates that fitna be eliminated (Qur'an Sura 8:39). Nothing challenges Muslims to doubt Islam's superiority more than the presence of reasoned, joyful, thriving non-Muslims -- especially apostates. This is why Sharia Law requires Christians to be subjugated and humiliated. This is why Muslim-majority states have long prohibited Christian witness amongst Muslims. This is why in Islamic states apostates may be murdered with impunity (Qur'an Sura 2:190-191).  Jesus said, 'And they will do these things [persecute you] because they have not known the Father, nor me.' (John 16:3 ESV.) Therefore if persecution is to cease it is imperative that Muslims come to know the triune God of the Bible.

LIBYA: FOUR FOREIGN CHRISTIANS ARRESTED

On 12 February four foreigners -- a Swedish-American, Egyptian, South African and South Korean -- were arrested in Benghazi, the capital of Cyrenaica, Libya. They were arrested by Preventative Security, an intelligence unit of the defence ministry, at a publishing house where they were found with 45,000 books about Christianity. The authorities believe that some 25,000 books had already been distributed. As The Guardian reports (17 February), the new, post-'Arab Spring' Libya has retained 'a law from the Muammar Gaddafi era that makes proselytising a criminal offence potentially punishable by death'. 'Proselytising is forbidden in Libya,' explained security official Hussein Bin Hmeid. 'We are a 100 percent Muslim country and this kind of action affects our national security.' [In other words, providing information risks unleashing 'chaos'.] The Christians will face court in the coming days and their prospects are grim. When addressing crowds in Benghazi on 17 February, the president of the General National Congress, Mohammed El Magariaf, promised that the new Constitution would enshrine Islamic Sharia Law as the principal source of legislation. Furthermore, Salafi groups -- who have bulldozed Sufi mosques, destroyed war cemeteries, bombed Red Cross offices, fired shots at a Greek Orthodox church and bombed a Coptic church killing two Egyptian Christians -- will doubtless demand these 'enemies' receive the maximum penalty (death), to make an example of them.

SUDAN: TWO COPTIC PRIESTS ARRESTED

In December 2012 a significant Arab woman fled the country after converting to Christianity. The Islamist regime responded by arresting two Coptic priests who stand accused of baptising her, as well as the six Coptic women they claim were involved in her conversion. Then the regime arrested the Coptic Bishop of Khartoum, Bishop Anba Elia, demanding that he apologise for the 'isolated incident' (as if no other Muslim had ever converted). He refused. Eventually and doubtless under duress, the Coptic bishop of Omdurman issued the apology to secure Bishop Elia's release, preserve 'relations between Muslims and Copts' and 'maintain the security and integrity of the state' (Report in Arabic). The two Coptic priests remain in detention, their condition and whereabouts unknown. Being local citizens, they are without consular access and deportation is not an option, hence their situation is more serious. Furthermore, a little-known group calling itself Al-Qaeda in the Nilien States sent a statement to Sudanese journalists  threatening violence against Copts unless the woman who fled from Sudan is returned, maintaining she has been 'kidnapped' by Christians. This incident comes at a time when Khartoum is escalating persecution (report in Arabic), having promised to incorporate Sharia Law into a new, fully Islamised constitution.


PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT THE LORD WILL --

* fill these prisoners -- the four foreigners in Libya and the two Coptic priests in Sudan -- with spiritual, emotional and physical strength that they might know the powerful sustaining presence and love of Christ amidst this severe trial.

* thwart any wicked plots against his Church: plots by terrorists, totalitarian regimes or intolerant neighbours. 'Break the arm [the means] of the wicked and evildoer . . .' (Psalm 10:15a ESV)

* redeem this suffering to awaken many to the reality of the repressiveness of Islam and of their own 'captivity'. 'Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.' (1 Corinthians 15:58 NKJV)

With this in mind, especially pray for those Libyans who have already received scriptures: 'For the word of God is living and active . . .' (Hebrews 4:12); For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes . . .' (Romans 1:16)


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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CHRISTIANS IN LIBYA & SUDAN FACING DEATH FOR THEIR WITNESS


Four foreign Christians have been arrested at a publishing house in Benghazi, Libya. They were found with 45,000 books on Christianity. Some 25,000 books are believed to have been distributed already. Their situation looks grim, with the new regime promising to incorporate Sharia Law in the new constitution and belligerent Salafi Islamists perpetrating all manner of religious violence with impunity. In Libya the maximum penalty for evangelising Muslims is death. Also, in Sudan two Coptic priests have been imprisoned for their role in baptising a female Arab Muslim convert to Christianity. Their condition and whereabouts are unknown. Because they are local citizens and not foreigners, their plight is particularly serious. Please pray that the Lord will sustain and bless these prisoners and redeem their suffering.

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URGENT UPDATE -- VIGILANT PRAYER NEEDED

TANZANIA: ASSASSINATIONS AND THREATS

As Fr Evarist Mushi was parking his car at the Catholic church in Zanzibar on Sunday 17 February he was ambushed by three men on a motorbike and murdered. This assassination comes after the Christmas Day shooting of Fr Ambrose Mkenda (RLPB 191) who is still in hospital. On 11 February Protestant Pastor Mathayo Kachili was beheaded in the north-western region of Geita, on the Tanzanian mainland (see Religious Liberty Monitoring for details and context). Claiming responsibility for assassinating Fr Mushi, a group calling itself 'Muslim Renewal' has vowed to make this Easter season 'one of disaster'.

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Elizabeth Kendal is the author of
"Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah speaks to Christians today"
(Deror Books, Dec 2012)