Showing posts with label Egypt. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Egypt. Show all posts

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

RLPB 266. June Update, Incl. Laos, Iraq, Jordan, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Sudan, Vietnam

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 266 | Wed 25 Jun 2014

By Elizabeth Kendal

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

JUNE 2014 UPDATE -- During June we prayed concerning ...

* LAOS (RLPB 263), where persecution continues to bring great suffering to Laos' small but growing Christian community.

UPDATE: NOT EVEN IN DEATH
In recent months, Mrs Chan and her eight children (four who are married) became the fifth family in the Saisomboon village to embrace the Christian faith. When Mrs Chan died on 22 June, the family sought permission to give her a Christian burial. The authorities would only grant permission if the family renounced its faith in Christ. So the family held a private ceremony, while waiting for permission to bury Mrs Chan on the family property. The next day, 24 June, the village police and military arrested Mrs. Kaithong, the leader of Saisomboon village church and Mr. Puphet (leader of Donpalai village church), Mr. Muk (leader of Huey village church), Mr. Hasadee (leader of Bunthalay village church,) and Mr. Tiang (a believer), all of whom were present at the ceremony. The village chief then led Buddhist monks and Mrs Chan's Buddhist relatives into Mrs Chan's house. They conducted a Buddhist ceremony and took Mrs Chan's body away to the village cemetery. The five believers arrested are being detained at Bouthong sub-district police station with their hands cuffed and their feet in stocks. [See Human Rights Watch for Lao Religious Freedom (Advocacy Alert No. 04/2014)]

* SCOTLAND (RLPB 264), where a law has been passed mandating that all Scottish children under 18 be appointed a guardian who will monitor their development and report any concerns to the authorities.

UPDATE: Opposition to the 'named person' -- dubbed 'legalised spying' -- is growing. At the very least, a real debate has begun, along with a real struggle. Continue to pray for a great awakening in Scotland.

* UPPER MESOPOTAMIA (RLPB 265)
UPDATE IRAQ
On 12 June, just days after seizing control of Iraq's Nineveh Province, ISIS distributed leaflets calling on families to 'offer their unmarried women so that they can fulfil their duty of jihad by sex to their brotherly mujahideen. Failure to comply with this mandate will result in enforcing the laws of Sharia upon them.' According to the fatwa (religious edict), the women, whether they were virgins or not, will be 'cleansed' through sex jihad.

The Assyrian International News Agency (AINA) reports (23 June) that according to a member of the Iraq High Commission for Human Rights, Dr Sallama Al Khafaji, ISIS members recently entered the home of an Assyrian family in Mosul and demanded jizya (protection money). When the Assyrian family said they did not have the money, three ISIS members raped the mother and daughter in front of the husband and father, who was so traumatised that he committed suicide.

ISIS now controls all the crossings on the Iraq-Syria border. ISIS has also encircled the Haditha dam on the Euphrates River north-west of Baghdad. Haditha Dam makes the largest hydroelectric contribution to Iraq's power system. Meanwhile, in the absence of government engineers, the hastily and poorly constructed ever-fragile Mosul Dam upstream of Mosul on the Tigris River, is more  vulnerable than ever. Collapse of the dam (naturally or otherwise) would be absolutely catastrophic and the death toll would be horrendous.

THREAT TO JORDAN 
On 22 June ISIS militants took control of the Turaibil crossing on the Jordanian border. Whilst the Hashemite Kingdom does have a formidable military and US backing, the regime also faces formidable opposition from Bedouin tribes, the Muslim Brotherhood, and a restive Palestinian demographic majority. Throughout 2012 American and Saudi Arabian elements trained takfiri (anti-Shi'ite) militants (including Jordanians) in Jordanian camps and sent them into Syria to fight Assad. Now the takfiris are back with ISIS via Iraq. ISIS has posted a video on YouTube threatening to 'slaughter' the 'tyrant', King Abdullah, and there is concern that ISIS might have considerable support inside Jordan which has been a 'ticking time bomb' for a long time. Jordan's 145,000 Christians comprise 2.23 percent of the population. They are mostly Eastern Orthodox (Greek, Syrian and Armenian) and Catholic as well as several Protestant denominations.

JUNE 2014 ROUND-UP -- also this month ...

* EGYPT: FIVE YEARS' JAIL FOR CHRISTIAN FREELANCE JOURNALIST 

In 2007 convert Muhammad Hegazy launched a landmark case against the Egyptian government, suing for his right to change his religion. In compliance with Sharia (Islamic) Law, the court ruled against him. Muhammad, who is now known as Bishoy Boulous, was arrested on 5 December 2013 while freelance-reporting on the anti-Christian pogroms in Upper Egypt. The government accused him of spreading 'inaccurate images of oppression' [see RLPB 240 (10 Dec 2013)]. Middle East Concern updates his situation: 'Bishoy Boulous was sentenced on 18 June 2014 to five years' imprisonment for inciting sectarian strife and disturbing public order under Article 176 of the Penal Code. Official publication of the judgment is expected in approximately one month, after which the appeal process can begin, though Boulous' legal team believes an appeal is unlikely to be accepted.'  It appears it is now considered criminal to portray Egypt in a bad light. This will make things extremely difficult for Egypt's human rights and religious liberty advocates.

* INDIA: CHOOSE FAITH OR FOOD

In India's northern state of Chhattisgarh, 52 Christian families in Sirisguda, Bastar town, Jagdalpur, are being denied food rations purely due to their faith. On 16 June around 100 of the Christians approached the food inspector in Jagdalpur, only to be savagely attacked by a Hindu mob. Ten of the Christians required hospitalisation. Some had broken bones and one was in a coma for two days. The village head is proposing that non-Hindus should lose their lands. One Christian told Morning Star News, 'They may kill us, but we are not going to leave  Jesus who loves us.'

* INDONESIA: CHURCHES ATTACKED IN YOGYAKARTA

On 29 May Islamic militants attacked a prayer meeting in the home of Julius Felicianus (52) attended by members of the St Francis Agung Banteng Church. Dressed in robes and armed with knives, the attackers claimed to be loyal to the cleric Jafar Umar Thalib, the former commander of Laskar Jihad. Six of the believers, including women and a child (8) who was electrocuted, had to be taken to hospital. Julius Felicianus's own neighbours were amongst the attackers. They have threatened to return if Christian worship ever takes place in that house again. On Sunday 1 June a Protestant church was attacked in the same area. Fortunately the service had been short and the congregation had already left. The attackers had to content themselves with stoning the property and smashing all the stain-glass windows. Police were present but did not intervene. This was the third time the El Shaddai Pentecostal Church had been attacked since construction began in 2012, before the local authorities sealed the building. Each time the believers have re-opened the church for worship they have faced violence. The fellowship has existed since 1990. The Islamic Jihad Front (FJI), one of the groups involved in the attack, claims to be fighting against 'Christianisation'. 

* PAKISTAN: ASIA BIBI MARKS FIVE YEARS IN PRISON

On 19 June Asia Bibi, a Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy in November 2010, marked five years in prison, away from her husband and five children. On 27 May her appeal to the High Court in Lahore was delayed for the fifth time and no new hearing date was set. It is clear no judge wants to hear this case. For the judge it will be a lose-lose situation: if the judge upholds the death sentence he will attract widespread international condemnation, but if the death sentence is overturned, Pakistan's radicalised Islamic fundamentalists will riot. Asia's life is gravely imperilled. Reportedly one cleric has offered to reward anyone who kills her.

* PAKISTAN: CHRISTIAN MP ASSASSINATED IN QUETTA

On 14 June Handery Masih, MP for Balochistan, was killed outside  his home in Quetta, shot in the head and neck by his own bodyguard. Mr Masih has been described as a committed Christian who was known as an advocate for the rights of religious minorities in Pakistan, in particular, those who are persecuted for their faith. The motive for the killing is not yet known. Local Christians are distraught.

*SUDAN: MERIAM, FAIZA AND COMPULSION IN RELIGION

Meriam Ibrahim, a Christian woman who had been sentenced to death for apostasy, as well as to 100 lashes for adultery [see RLPB 261 (21 May)], walked out of prison on Monday 23 June, into a seriously dangerous environment. Merian's conviction was overturned after an appeal brought by the Commission for the Defence of Women. The family was placed in a safe-house. Along with Islamists across Sudan, Meriam's brother has repeatedly called for her execution.  Dani Wani, Meriam's husband, has long feared for the lives of his family. 'I am scared for all our lives,' Wani told CNN on 1 June, 'me, my wife and my children -- if we have to remain inside Sudan, even a day after her release.' On Tuesday 24 June, the family was preparing to leave the country when they were stopped at Khartoum airport by more than 40 members of the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS). Fundamentalist Muslims were not happy to see Meriam acquitted. At the time of writing, Meriam is being held in a security building at the airport while US officials are getting her papers in order.

Meanwhile, Faiza Abdalla (37), a Christian woman arrested on 2 April in similar circumstances, [see RLPB 262 (22 May 2014)] remains in prison accused of adultery (for marrying a South Sudanese Christian) and apostasy (because of her Muslim name). Some years ago, Faiza's husband fled to South Sudan to escape persecution; today South Sudan is wracked with civil war and famine. Alone, without connections, Faiza is at risk of being forgotten and abandoned by the West, which should care as much about her plight as about Meriam's. Faiza's parents, who converted from Islam before she was born, are also at risk.

* VIETNAM: MENNONITES PERSECUTED

Morning Star News (MSN) reports that at 11pm on 9 June, police woke the students of a Mennonite Bible School in southern Vietnam's Binh Duong Province demanding to conduct an 'administrative search'. What followed was a night of violence. According to MSN, more than 300 plain-clothed police and 'citizens' subsequently smashed fences and swarmed into the property. The 76 Christians present were kicked, beaten, hauled away in trucks and detained overnight. In the morning, 20 of the students had injuries requiring medical attention. The process was repeated over the next three nights. MSN believes this is nothing other than a campaign of intimidation against a church group whose leader, Rev. Nguyen Hong Quang, is an outspoken advocate for religious freedom. Even since the initial assault, raids and persecution have continued: the electricity and water have been cut, and phones and motorbikes have been confiscated. Fifty-two students and leaders, including the Rev Quang, were summonsed to appear before officials for interrogation. On 12 June the Mennonite leaders sent the authorities a 'petition of accusation', protesting the abuse. According to MSN, a nearby Catholic church has agreed to provide safe haven for Mennonite victims of persecution if needed. What a wonderful example of risky 'cross-sharing'. May the Lord protect and preserve them all.

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

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

RLPB 240. Egypt and CAR: church exceedingly vulnerable

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 240 | Wed 11 Dec 2013

EGYPT and CAR: CHURCH EXCEEDINGLY VULNERABLE
-- with Christmas approaching

By Elizabeth Kendal

EGYPT: POGROMS & CLASHES IN UPPER EGYPT

El Minya is a sparsely populated region of upper (southern) Egypt. Whilst it has Egypt's highest concentration of Christians, it is also a Muslim Brotherhood stronghold and home to some of Egypt's most militant Islamic sects. Violence broke out on 28 November in two villages. In Nazlet El-Badraman a pogrom erupted in response to a false rumour that alleged a relationship between a Muslim woman and a Christian man. One person was killed and some 18 wounded (four critically), including a 14-year-old girl whose arms were both broken when she was hurled from a building (photo). About 20 homes were burnt.

Nearby, residents of the predominantly Coptic village of Nazlet Ebeid and the predominantly Muslim village of El-Hawarta clashed after Muslims in El-Hawarta shot at a local Christian man for erecting a fence around his own land. Four were killed and dozens wounded. Egyptian security forces made up to 20 arrests (including Copts) and held a 'reconciliation session'. Introduced in 2007 (during the Mubarak era) as a concession to ascendant Islamists, reconciliation sessions conform to Sharia (Islamic Law) which does not permit non-Muslims to testify against Muslims in court. Justice is irrelevant and persecutors are guaranteed impunity. Ministry of Interior spokesperson Hany Abdel Latif told Egyptian media that the clashes are not considered 'sectarian'. Consequently, anyone claiming they are sectarian could be accused of fomenting sectarianism.

Christian journalist Bishoy Armia Boulous (31, formerly known as Mohammed Hegazy) went to El-Badraman to talk to Christian victims. It has been suggested that Bishoy was freelancing in the hope that he could present a report to a satellite channel. Egyptian security forces arrested Bishoy in El-Badraman on 5 December. Accused of spreading sectarianism Bishoy was remanded in custody for 15 days of interrogation and investigation.  In 2007 Mohammed Hegazy became the first Muslim-born Egyptian to sue the Interior Ministry for his right to change his religion from Islam to Christianity. The court ruled in line with Sharia which criminalises the rejection of Islam. Death threats forced Hegazy to change his name and go into hiding; his wife and two children now live overseas. Egyptian authorities accuse Bishoy of spreading 'inaccurate images of oppression' against Copts in Egypt. It is feared he is being beaten and tortured.

CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC (CAR): A SPIRITUAL BATTLE

As French troops started arriving in CAR on 2 December, ex-Seleka fighters began retreating to the bush. In the early hours of 5 December -- the day the UN Security Council would vote to give French and African Union forces their mandate -- 'Christian' militias launched attacks against ex-Seleka rebels and Muslim communities in the capital, Bangui. Ex-Seleka (Muslim) fighters retaliated, going house-to-house through Christian districts, killing anyone whom they assumed to be part of a 'Christian' militia. Before long, some 400 lay dead. Doubtless the 'Christian' fighters had hoped to change the military and political realities on the ground before French troops came and cemented the totally unacceptable status quo. While the Seleka coalition was officially disbanded some months ago, the Sudan-backed rebel leader Michel Djotodia has proclaimed himself president and incorporated his fighters into the CAR army. France has made it clear that French troops will be there to maintain order, not fight terrorism, which is why French and ex-Seleka (Muslim) forces (now legitimised as the CAR army) are both patrolling the streets of Bangui. However, tensions are growing between the French troops and ex-Seleka rebels over who should be in control. On 9 Dec, two French soldiers were shot and killed while attempting to disarm ex-Seleka fighters.

Regional peacekeepers guarded church services on Sunday 8 December. St Paul's Church set up loudspeakers along the Ubangui River and broadcast the service to the overflowing crowd as women sold papaya and dried fish to the hundreds of displaced people camping there. 'We are asking Christians to pursue peace and forgiveness, to not seek vengeance or commit reprisal attacks,' said Bangui Archbishop Dieudonne Nzapalainga.

CAR's population is 76 percent Christian. (Compare: Australia 69 percent; France 61 percent; United Kingdom 59 percent.)  According to the 2010 edition of Operation World, solid foundations have been formed for national level mission, and 'national missionaries and agencies are on the increase' as interest and energy grows for indigenous-led mission to unreached groups. Now, however, local and foreign Islamic rebels, armed and backed by resource-hungry Sudan and Iran, have seized control. Behind the facade, this is primarily a spiritual battle!

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT --

* the Spirit of God will move powerfully amongst all those who call themselves 'Christian' in Egypt and in CAR; may their hearts be drawn to the Lord, so they will take refuge in him and have wisdom, insight, courage and faith from him, so they will know what the Lord requires and be empowered to do it.

'The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him. But with an overflowing flood he will make a complete end of the adversaries, and will pursue his enemies into darkness.' (Nahum 1:7,8 ESV)

* the Lord of hosts will 'flood' into Egypt and into CAR, to reverse fortunes, defend his faithful ones, gather his lost ones, and repel his enemies.

* in the midst of strife and insecurity, God will use the witness of the true Church in Egypt and CAR to bring awakening not only to extended 'Christian' communities, but beyond them; may the 'fire' of the troubles melt away all resistance to the gospel. 'He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.' (Psalm 126:6 ESV)


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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UPPER EGYPT & CAR: CHURCH EXCEEDINGLY VULNERABLE


Christians in El-Minya governorate, Upper Egypt, have been subjected again to violent Islamic pogroms. It seems that Muslim Brotherhood supporters are looking for any excuse to attack the Christians in their midst. For the Christians there is no security while for Muslims there is endless impunity. It does not bode well! In Central African Republic (CAR), sectarian violence escalated ahead of the French military peacekeeping deployment as 'Christian' militias sought to change the realities of the situation by attacking Muslims before the French could stop them. Muslim rebels retaliated by attacking Christians. Before long 400 lay dead. In Egypt and in CAR, churches could well be very vulnerable over Christmas. Please pray that God will intervene in Egypt and in CAR, and protect and uphold his Church.

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

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

RLPB 238. November Update, Incl. Central African Republic (CAR), the LRA, Egypt, Iran, Pakistan-Refugees, Somalia and Syria

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 238 | Wed 27 Nov 2013

By Elizabeth Kendal

' . . . These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open.'
(Revelation 3:7 NIV)

NOVEMBER 2013 UPDATE -- During November we prayed concerning . . . 

* ERITREA (RLPB 235), where persecution continues with more mass imprisonments and deaths in custody; and from where refugees are fleeing at the rate of some 3000 a month.

* BURMA (RLPB 236), where the regime continues to wage war against the Christian Kachin, despite peace talks.

* CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC (CAR) (RLPB 237), where sectarian violence is escalating, leading observers to warn of the possibility of genocide.

CAR UPDATE (1): MAY GOD OPEN THE WAY FOR PEACE AND RECONCILIATION.
Writing in The Guardian (23 November) David Smith tells of Muslim rebels slitting the throat of a four-year-old child, razing whole villages, bludgeoning a young mother to death before leaving her crying toddler on the side of the road, throwing one young man to the crocodiles and torturing others. A Christian father whose sons were tortured told Smith: 'The Seleka are criminals. In the beginning, the relations between Christians and Muslims were good here but the Muslims followed the Seleka and now things have changed. The Christians feel betrayed by the Muslims and are starting to feel vengeance in their hearts. This is a very big challenge for the Church.' This challenge must be an issue for prayer. CAR needs peace -- but there will be no lasting peace without truth, justice and reconciliation. May God grace CAR with godly peacemakers.

CAR UPDATE (2): MAY GOD CLOSE THE DOOR ON SUDAN AND IRAN.
According to terrorism analyst Yossef Bodansky, Iran is funnelling weapons into CAR via Sudan as part of a plot by those two states to dominate Central and West Africa and exploit its resources. [See: Central African Republic (CAR): Violence linked to Sudan and Iran. Religious Liberty Monitoring (RLM), 20 Nov 2013.] News of Sudan and Iran involvement in CAR bodes ill for CAR's Christians. Anyone seeking to intervene in CAR will face, not a band of disparate rebels, but jihadist forces backed by Khartoum and Tehran -- desperate regimes fighting to secure the minerals and resources necessary for regime survival. (Pray Psalm 10)

CAR UPDATE (3): MAY GOD CLOSE THE DOOR ON KONY AND THE LRA.
Reports are circulating that the spirit-medium Joseph Kony, the head of the infamous Ugandan terror group the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), is on the verge of surrendering. These reports are without substance. To the contrary, like CAR's self-appointed president Michel Djotodia, Joseph Kony and the LRA are backed by Sudan. According to terrorism analyst Yossef Bodansky, Sudan intends to use the LRA as a proxy to destabilise CAR, South Sudan and Uganda so that Sudan's (and Iran's) interests in the region might be advanced (see above RLM link). UN special envoy Abou Moussa is deeply concerned that Djotodia has sent food, medicines and other supplies to LRA camps in CAR, supposedly in advance of an LRA surrender. Moussa advocates heightening pressure on Kony who is reportedly seriously ill. While many analysts presume Djotodia is being duped, it is not improbable that Djotodia is actually bolstering the LRA for use as a proxy to terrorise and kill Christians, destabilising CAR in pursuit of his own interests, as well as those of Islam, Sudan and Iran. Uganda's New Vision reports that while LRA attacks have recently been reported in South Sudan and Central African Republic, and while Kony is still widely feared, 'defections have increased while the number of attacks is down'. PLEASE PRAY for mass defections of LRA 'soldiers', who are almost all kidnapped children, and for God to close the door on Joseph Kony.


NOVEMBER 2013 ROUND-UP -- also this month . . .

* EGYPT: MAY GOD CLOSE THE DOOR ON ISLAMIC CRIMINALITY

Morning Star News (MSN) reports that three months after the Egyptian Army liberated Delga from militant Muslims, Islamists and criminals are terrorising Christians there and across Upper Egypt. As was noted in RLPB 228 (17 Sep 2013) and the Religious Liberty Monitoring post of 18 September, the Egyptian Army's attack on Islamists in Delga (a Muslim Brotherhood stronghold) was a crackdown on Islamist dissent and it had nothing to do with protecting Christians. The Egyptian military serves its own interests! Today Muslim criminals are extorting and persecuting Christians, demanding jizya (protection money sanctioned by the Qur'an in Sura 9:29). The police and military are not concerned that Islamists are kidnapping Christians, torturing them and demanding massive ransoms. Islamic criminals are discovering they are free to extort and persecute Christians with impunity -- as long as they do not challenge military rule. Christians are facing the return of dhimmitude, their status of being without rights under Islam. Egypt's Christians need our prayers.

* IRAN: MAY GOD OPEN THE WAY TO THE TRANSFORMATION OF IRAN

On 3 November US citizen Pastor Saeed Abedini, whose wife and two young children are resident in the US, was transferred from Evin prison to Rajai Shahr Prison. Rajai Shahr houses Iran's most violent criminals and is a place where prisoners are routinely murdered by other prisoners. In mid-November, prison officials told Abedini's father that Saeed was not permitted any personal possessions, including blankets or prescription medications. At least 40 Iranian citizens are presently incarcerated because of their faith in Jesus or their Christian activities. One is the critically ill Pastor Behnam Irani (43), who also is married with two young children. On 22 November MSN reported the story of a young convert named Armin Davoodi. As a Muslim, Armin had repeatedly dreamed of a shepherd pointing him to the light. Eventually he shared this with a young female convert who explained his dream and introduced him to Jesus. Armin's witness led to imprisonment, torture and beatings. Though his parents paid a lot of money to have him released from prison, when he continued with his faith and witness, ultimately a relative betrayed him. Armin is now in hiding, where he reportedly continues to dream of the shepherd pointing to the light. Pray for Iran's suffering yet growing church.

* PAKISTANI REFUGEES: THE CASE OF RABEEL
 (Update to RLPB 226.)
MAY GOD OPEN DOORS FOR REFUGEES SEEKING SECURITY AND HEALING


As a high achieving university student from a high profile devout Christian family in Lahore, Rabeel (21) was targeted for forced conversion. In August 2012 Rabeel was betrayed by a Muslim friend who gave him into the hands of militants from Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT). They raped and tortured Rabeel over the course of three days before dumping him. They then pursued and threatened the whole family. Since fleeing Pakistan in January 2013, his family has been languishing in a refugee camp, waiting for the UNHCR to assess their claim. As time drags on it becomes increasingly difficult to sustain their finances. Pray that the UNHCR will deal with their claim before closing for the Christmas break. Pray for Christian refugees who, due to systematic discrimination and persecution, often do not have the documentation the UNHCR requires. May the LORD of justice and mercy intervene, be their advocate, and open the doors.

* SOMALIA: MAY GOD CLOSE THE DOOR ON AL-SHABAAB

Morning Star News (MSN) reported on 14 November that on 20 October gunmen carried out their threat to kill Abdikhani Hassan whom they accused of 'spreading wrong religion'. Hassan (35), a pharmacist in Dharkenley District, Mogadishu, was married with two young children. Al-Shabaab is suspected of being responsible. Pray that God will redeem the blood and suffering of Somalia's Christian martyrs. May hearts be softened and opened to receive the gospel.

* SYRIA: MAY GOD CLOSE THE DOOR ON ISLAMIC EXPANSION

Sadad is a Christian village in a desert region of Syria some 100km north-east of Damascus. A coalition of rebel forces invaded and occupied the town on 21 October, seizing control in an orgy of  violence that can only be understood in the context of intensive religious hatred. Survivors told Human Rights Watch that the jihadists would not permit Christians to flee. Some 2,500 families managed to escape before the militants used the remaining 1,500 families as human shields and hostages. Jihadists even held individual Christians as human shields while fighting. According to the Syrian Orthodox Metropolitan of Homs and Hama, Mor Selwanos Boutros Alnemeh, in addition to the 46 residents killed, 30 were injured and 10 are missing. Numerous mutilated bodies were dumped in wells. He says the whole village was completely looted and even the ancient manuscripts have gone from the churches. The Syrian Arab Army liberated the village on 28 October. The rebel operation -- in which a battalion of the Free Syria Army joined forces with al-Qaeda-linked groups such as Jabhat al-Nusra, and the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS) -- was labelled: the 'Battle of God’s Doors Do Not Shut'. Indeed, God's open doors do not shut, but God does shut doors (Revelation 3:7) Pray that God will shut the door on all Islamic jihadists.

* SYRIA: MAY GOD CLOSE THE DOOR ON AL-QAEDA

Stratfor Intelligence reported on 23 November that al Qaeda-linked Islamist rebels had seized the al-Omar oil field, the largest in eastern Syria. According to Stratfor, this would cut off Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's access to almost all local crude reserves and put nearly all of Syria's usable reserves in the hands of the al-Nusra Front and other Islamist units. Please bring this critical situation to the Lord our God, 'who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens' (Revelation 3:7 ESV).

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

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

RLPB 235. Eritrea: persecution fills prisons, fuels refugee crisis

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 235 | Wed 06 Nov 2013

ERITREA: PERSECUTION FILLS PRISONS, FUELS REFUGEE CRISIS
Plus -- tensions high in Egypt and Pakistan
By Elizabeth Kendal

In 2001 the Eritrean government cancelled elections, arrested political opponents and closed down independent media. Determined to eliminate anything that could threaten national cohesion, the regime extended the repression in May 2002 to 'foreign' and 'non-traditional' religious groups. That meant all except the state-sanctioned Muslim, Eritrean Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Lutheran denominations were banned. Since then, many thousands of mostly evangelical Christians have suffered severely at the hands of a regime known for its human rights abuses, appalling prison conditions and widespread use of torture. Even teenagers are not spared and must complete military service in military training camps before they can graduate from school. Separated from their parents, religious persecution in these camps is systematic and severe. (See RLPB 221, Eritrea: systematic persecution of Protestant youths, 30 July 2013).

World Watch Monitor reports that during the week of 14 October, Wehazit Berhane Debesai, an Eritrean Christian woman in her 30s, died in custody after a year of harsh imprisonment. Wehazit died of pneumonia after being denied medical treatment because she refused to deny her faith. On 28 October Eritrean security forces raided a prayer meeting in Maitemenai, a suburb north of the capital Asmara. They arrested between 70 Christians (as reported by Open Doors) and 185 Christians (according to Release International). Where they are is not yet confirmed. The total number of Eritrean believers currently incarcerated for their faith is estimated at 1500.

On 24 October the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea, Sheila B Keetharuth, raised the issue of Eritrea's human rights in the UN General Assembly. She noted that serious human rights abuses are behind the flight of up to 3000 Eritreans each month. 'The current human rights picture is desperately bleak,' she told journalists. 'People feel trapped in a long hopeless situation.' Later, several NGOs jointly hosted  a side meeting on Eritrea at which five Eritrean victims gave their personal testimonies. Elsa Chyrum, Director of Human Rights Concern Eritrea, noted: 'Although the human rights situation is extremely alarming in Eritrea, this is the first time that it has been brought to the attention of the General Assembly by the UN-appointed Special Rapporteur. It is clear the recent Lampedusa tragedy which resulted in the loss of over 350 lives, the vast majority of whom were Eritreans, has had an impact on the consciences of many state governments, leading to questions being asked relating to the root causes of those who were fleeing.' Indeed, not only were most of the refugees involved in the Lampedusa tragedy Eritreans, but according to Father Mussie Zerai, Chairman of the Habeshia Agency which works on behalf of these migrants, the majority of those Eritreans were Christians.

According to a recently published report from the Feinstein International Center, Tufts University, Massachusetts, USA, those fleeing Eritrea usually employ people smugglers to take them north through Sudan to Libya before they embark on the dangerous voyage across the Mediterranean to the EU. Alternatively they may go north through eastern Sudan and Egypt to Israel, or south into Ethiopia, South Sudan and beyond. The route through eastern Sudan is especially high risk. Increasingly Bedouin traffickers are kidnapping Eritrean refugees straight out of Sudanese refugee camps. The Eritreans are then taken to concrete bunker torture chambers in the Sinai (Egypt) where they are tortured while money is extorted from their relatives via mobile phone. A Catholic nun who serves the Eritrean community in Israel says they recently heard that 'with God's help, 150 people escaped from the torture camps, as a result of the chaotic situation prevailing in the Sinai following the attacks by the Egyptian army. But the escapees have disappeared; we do not know what has happened to them.'

The trafficking of Eritrean refugees has become an extremely lucrative business. As noted in RLPB 205 -- Egypt: evil thrives in lawless Sinai (10 April 2013) -- the corruption trail stretches right back to Eritrea where the regime is busy not only creating refugees but in profiting from their misery.

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL --

* break the arm (the mechanism of action) of the wicked (Psalm 10:15) who profit from misery. Lord, eliminate the demand by destroying the Bedouin trafficking rings and Sinai torture chambers. Lord, eliminate the corruption by heaping consequences on those who profit from human suffering. Lord, eliminate the supply by bringing radical change to Eritrea so that the flow of refugees might cease at its source. 

* break the arm of the wicked who inflict violence and torture on the Lord's beloved. Lord, convict them of sin, soften their hearts, restrain or remove them.

Break the arm of the wicked and evildoer;
    call his wickedness to account till you find none.
(Psalm 10:15 ESV)

* protect, sustain and comfort his suffering people, providing them with all their needs.

* bring revival to Catholic, Orthodox and Lutheran state-sanctioned churches, so that disunity will dissolve and believers will love, care for and cover one another; may the Lord so work in the Eritrean Church that she is refined as pure silver for future ministry and for the glory of God.


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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ERITREAN PERSECUTION FILLS PRISONS, FUELS REFUGEE CRISIS


Up to 3000 Eritreans flee persecution every month. Their extreme danger was shown by the recent Lampedusa tragedy. The vast majority of over 350 lives lost were Eritreans, most of whom were Christians. Those fleeing for asylum via Israel risk falling into the hands of Bedouin traffickers in eastern Sudan. These victims of the Bedouin are tortured so as to extort money from their relatives. Despite the risks, the situation in Eritrea is so horrendous that the flow continues. Some 1500 Christians are currently incarcerated in Eritrea purely because of their faith. On 14 October another young Christian died in captivity. On 28 October a prayer meeting was raided and over 70 believers were arrested. Please pray for God to intervene in Eritrea.

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Also, TENSIONS ARE HIGH IN:

* Egypt, where the trial of Mohamed Morsi has began. Minutes into the first session (3 November) the trial was adjourned to 8 January 2014, due to courtroom chaos. Pray that God will surround his people and protect Christian churches, schools, hospitals and other property from reprisal attacks by Muslim Brotherhood supporters.

* Pakistan, after the 1 November drone assassination of Hakeemullah Mehsud, the emir of the al Qaeda-linked Tehreek-e-Taliban.  Pray that God will surround his people and protect Christian churches, schools, hospitals and other property from Taliban reprisal attacks.

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

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

RLPB 234. October Update, Incl. India, Iran, Syria, Brunei, Egypt, IDOP

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 234 | Wed 30 Oct 2013

Supporting International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church
IDOP 2013: Sunday 3 Nov
See: Critical Prayer Requests (CPR)

By Elizabeth Kendal

OCTOBER 2013 UPDATE -- During Oct we prayed concerning . . . 

* INDIA (RLPB 230), where the Hindu nationalist BJP has appointed Hindutva ideologue Nahendra Modi as its presidential candidate for the April-May 2014 elections.

see also: The Modi Operandi of Nahendra Modi (Religous Liberty Monitoring, 2 Oct 2013)

UPDATE: Indian political analyst R Jagannathan writes (17 October 2013), 'By all indications, the 2014 election is the BJP's to lose. Thanks to the Narendra Modi effect and the Congress's continued dalliance with desperate political and economic moves, the momentum is clearly in the BJP's favour . . . [and] the momentum is just beginning to build.' Jagannathan expects the BJP will 'comfortably notch up its highest tally ever . . . [and for] the seat tally for 2014 between Congress and BJP to be exactly reversed – with the BJP crossing 200 and the Congress falling to the low 100-plus levels.' [272 seats are required for a majority.] Hindutva is supposed to replace racial apartheid (i.e. the caste system) with religious apartheid (Hindu supremacy). In reality, India under the BJP would doubtless suffer a mixture of both, as caste is so deeply ingrained. The rise of political Hindutva is a very serious threat to Indian Christians.

* SYRIA, IRAN and the SHI'ITE CRESCENT (RLPB 231)

Saudi Arabia's plan to advance Sunni Arab interests by getting its ally, the USA, to shatter the Shi'ite Crescent has come unstuck. Sensing that Syria is becoming a hot-bed of Salafi jihadism, the US is seeking rapprochement with Iran, the only force in the region strong enough to tackle the jihadist threat. Without US backing, the Saudi regime's survival is tenuous. All its oil is in its Shi'ite-dominated Eastern Province, where Shi'ites have long suffered crippling discrimination and persecution. If Iran finds it can expand its influence with impunity, the Wahhabi-inspired, hate-mongering Saudi regime could find its days are numbered. It is urgent that Iran's belligerent, anti-Semitic clerical regime be removed and that Iran return to being a modern state, an ally of Israel and a friend of the West. May God hasten Iran's Christian awakening. Continue to pray for the region's gravely imperilled Christians.

PRAISE GOD that earlier this month the Syrian Arab Army broke through the rebel encirclement of Aleppo and supplies are making their way into areas long-besieged.

* KAZAKHSTAN and CENTRAL ASIA (RLBP 232), where religious repression is escalating.

* THE BIG PICTURE (RLPB 233; for IDOP 2013)


OCTOBER 2013 ROUND-UP -- also this month . . .

* BRUNEI: TO ENACT SHARIA CRIMINAL LAW

Commencing April 2014, Brunei will enact Sharia criminal law, including amputation, lashing, stoning and execution. The Sultan signed the bill on 22 October. As reported by the Jakarta Post, 'Hudud crimes cover areas including theft, illicit sexual relations, making unproven accusations of illicit sex, causing physical hurt, drinking intoxicants, apostasy, and acts contrary to Islamic belief.' The laws supposedly will apply only to Brunei's Muslims (about 65 percent of the population). However, wherever Hudud laws are enforced, Christians especially become extremely vulnerable to rape and other violent crimes. If they report rape they risk being punished for making 'false' claims as they will not be able to get four adult male Muslim eye witnesses required to corroborate their claim. The Sharia criminal penalty of death for apostasy will remove any pretence of religious liberty, making witness and conversion even more dangerous than it is already. Pray for the Church in Brunei.

* EGYPT: CHRISTIANS GUNNED DOWN AT A WEDDING

In suburban Cairo on 20 October, as families were gathering for the wedding of two young Christians, two men on a motorcycle drove up to the entrance of the church and sprayed the crowd outside with automatic rifle fire. At least four Christians were killed, including two young children, while 17 people were wounded, many critically. Also two children have been reported missing. The couple went ahead with their wedding later that evening, dressed in mourning black. Pray for Egypt's threatened Christians.

INTERNATIONAL DAY OF PRAYER (IDOP)
FOR THE PERSECUTED CHURCH (3 November)


PRAY FOR AWAKENINGS


In Egypt, Pakistan, Northern Nigeria and elsewhere where Christians are being murdered by Muslims, reports are emerging about local Muslims polarising. Some who have been radicalised are becoming more militant, while others who are appalled are increasingly demonstrating solidarity with Christians. The long-prayed-for awakening is under way, albeit at great cost in Christian lives. Likewise, many Muslims who have lived under extreme repression and with shocking violence in states such as Iran and Afghanistan are turning to Christ, mostly where they have taken refuge. In the 'free' world, the growth of ethnic churches consisting of Muslim converts is a definite and observable trend. Please keep praying for awakenings -- amongst all persecutors -- and that God will sustain his Persecuted Church.

'Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain.'  (1 Corinthians 15:58 NIV)

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

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

RLPB 228. Egypt: settling into a deadly cycle

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 228 | Wed 18 Sep 2013

EGYPT: SETTLING INTO A DEADLY CYCLE
By Elizabeth Kendal

When the military ousted the government of President Morsi on 3 July, it triggered an explosion of violence against Copts (the Christian, indigenous people of Egypt) as Muslim Brotherhood (MB) elites and supporters blamed them for the coup (see RLPB 218, 10 July 2013). The situation then settled somewhat as the MB prepared to challenge the military head on. Two 'sit-ins' in Cairo drew thousands of MB supporters to camp in the streets for six weeks. On 14 August, the military moved in and dispersed the protesters, massacring over 900 Egyptians in four days and triggering another explosion of Islamic violence against Coptic Christians -- the worst anti-Christian violence Egypt has seen in contemporary times. A state of emergency was declared. (See RLPB 224, 21 Aug 2013.)

Whilst violence was recorded across the state [See Egypt: Mass Attacks on Churches, Human Rights Watch (22 Aug 2013)], Minya province in Upper Egypt was hardest hit and Delga, the town closest to the main highway, bore the brunt of the violence. [Delga / Delgia, mentioned in RLPB 218, is home to 20,000 Christians.] Samir Lamei Sakr, a prominent Christian lawyer, told The Guardian: 'As soon as the crackdown in Cairo started [14 August], all the loudspeakers at the main mosques in Delga issued calls for jihad.' Christian properties were marked. Sakr's home was attacked and he was hit with 13 shotgun pellets. Worse still, his cousin was killed by Islamists who then tied his body to a tractor and dragged it around the town. Bishop Macarius told The Guardian that though they called for help, 'no one answered. Not the police, not the army, not the fire service'. Even churches within sight of the provincial police headquarters were burnt. More than 100 forcibly displaced Christian families fled Delga with nothing and have nothing to return to.

On 5 September Egypt's Interior Minister narrowly escaped a serious assassination attempt in Cairo. On 12 September the state of emergency was extended by two months. On Monday 16 September heavily armed Egyptian troops stormed into Delga, arresting 56 and liberating the town from two months of Islamist control. According to Stratfor Intelligence (16 September), the military could have liberated Delga from as early as 22 August, but instead spread 'exaggerated rumours about the persecution of Copts to justify operations'. But as was flagged in RLPB 224, it is more probable that the military chose to exploit the very severe persecution (as distinct from exaggerate it), 'rather than prevent it, to legitimise military violence, military rule and requests for military aid'.

Though Christians are understandably relieved, Egyptian human rights lawyer, Ahmed Salah, believes the crackdown is less about protecting Christians and more about exploiting the state of emergency to take revenge on those who have attacked police and stolen their weapons. Officials from the Interior Ministry confirmed that the military action had nothing to do with protecting Christians. The New York Times (16 September) reports: 'Interior ministry officials said the [military] expedition was an attempt to capture a single fugitive Islamist, and it may depart soon. The overwhelming force, they said, was merely for self-protection [as] the surrounding province of Minya is still considered a bastion of Islamist support for Mr. Morsi.'

The violence in Egypt is settling into a deadly cycle: (1) The MB challenges the military (resisting the coup); (2) the military responds with force; (3) MB supporters react with violence against Coptic Christians (whom they blame for the coup). Then the cycle starts again. The military cares nothing for Christians and, with money coming from Saudi Arabia, it has no interest in protecting Christians but only in protecting itself and crushing the MB. The military would kill Christians without a second thought if it felt it were in its interests to do so, as it did in Maspero, October 2011. With the MB recruiting jihadis in Algeria and beyond, it can only be anticipated that terrorism against the State and genocidal violence against the Coptic Church will increase. Egypt's Christians need our prayers. 

For more details: see Religious Liberty Monitoring 19 Sept 2013

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT --

* God, 'the hope of all the ends of the earth', will intervene in Egypt and 'still . . . the tumult of the peoples' (from Psalm 65).

* the Holy Spirit will move powerfully amongst Egyptian Christians, enabling them to stand firm in faith (Isaiah 7:9b) with confidence and assurance (Hebrews 10:35-39), so they might live radically counter-cultural lives, loving their enemies and praying for those who persecute them (Luke 6:27-36); not fearing what people fear, but honouring the Lord in all circumstances and knowing his presence according to his promise (Isaiah 8:11-15).

* the Holy Spirit will bring awakening to Egyptian Muslims, convicting multitudes of 'sin and righteousness and judgement' (from John 16:7-11); as Egypt is 'shaken' may Islam be brought down and the Lord exalted (Isaiah 2:7-21 and Hebrews 12:26-29).


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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EGYPT SETTLING INTO A DEADLY CYCLE


The violence in Egypt is settling into a deadly cycle: (1) The Muslim Brotherhood (MB) challenges the military; (2) the military responds with force; (3) MB supporters react with violence against Coptic Christians (whom they blame for the coup). Then the cycle starts again. The military is exploiting sectarian violence for its own ends and cares nothing for Christians. With money coming from Saudi Arabia, it has no interest in protecting Christians but only in protecting itself. The military would kill Christians readily if it felt it were in its interests to do so. With the MB recruiting jihadis in Algeria and beyond, it has to be  anticipated that terrorism against the State and genocidal violence against the Coptic Church will increase. Egypt and its Christians need our prayers. 

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

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

RLPB 225. August Update, Incl. Syria, Kazakhstan, Egypt, Iran, Russia, Somalia

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 225 | Wed 28 Aug 2013

By Elizabeth Kendal

'And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.' (Matthew 28:20b ESV)

AUGUST 2013 UPDATE -- During August we prayed concerning . . . 

* SYRIA (RLPB 222), where Christians in the north face siege (in Aleppo) and ethnic-religious cleansing (across the north-east).

SYRIA UPDATES

REFUGEES: In the past couple of weeks, thousands have fled north-eastern Syria as violence escalates between Kurds and al-Qaeda-affiliated jihadists backed by Turkey. Christian ethnic Assyrians comprise around 30 percent of the population of north-eastern Syria, which is contiguous with northern Iraq's Nineveh Province. More than 30,000 predominantly Kurdish refugees arrived in northern Iraq from 15 to 20 August, joining the 150,000 refugees already being sheltered there. The exodus continues. The Kurdish Regional Government in northern Iraq describes what is happening in north-eastern Syria as 'genocide'. The UN High Commission for Refugees has said that the latest 'exodus' is 'among the largest we have so far seen during the conflict'. (report, includes video)

CENTRAL SYRIA: On Saturday 17 August gunmen shot dead 15 people -- mostly Christians, including women and children -- who were dining at a roadside restaurant in Wadi al-Nasarra, a region in central Syria known as the Valley of the Christians. The massacre happened on a road in Homs Province that links the two Christian villages of Ein al-Ajouz and Nasrah. Eleya Dhaher, archbishop of the Wadi al-Nasarra region, laments that the killings have reached the very heart of the Christian homeland. 'It seems . . . no area can enjoy peace,' he said.

ALEPPO:  Rebels have tightened the siege on Aleppo in retaliation of the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) retaking territory in the south and centre. Sources report that Christians in Aleppo are growing despondent as they rapidly lose weight, health and hope. Those whose homes have been totally destroyed are now squatting in empty office buildings without amenities or food. Many fear that a rebel invasion is imminent. Last week five bus loads of Armenian Christians left Aleppo for the coast. Subsequently, rebels linked to the Syrian Islamic Front took control of the road to Aleppo, cutting SAA supply lines. Nobody knows what has happened to the Armenians. A Protestant pastor in Aleppo tells how his young son recently asked him when the rebels will come and kill them for being Christians. He says the men of the church are preparing for a rebel invasion and for death. He says Christians are greatly distressed and discouraged by the news that the US is preparing to strike, believing a US strike will advance the cause of jihadists and terrorists and hasten the demise of the Church.

DAMASCUS:  Reports recently emerged of an alleged chemical attack in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta. Previously, US president Barak Obama declared that if the Syrian regime was found to have deployed chemical weapons then it would have crossed a 'red line', triggering US intervention. While the US-led West is rushing to blame the Syrian regime of using chemical weapons, several points should be considered. Who stands to gain from this chemical attack? The SAA has been making great gains against rebel forces, so why would the regime risk everything by deploying chemical weapons against civilians? The chemicals used and the means of delivery are primitive rather than the hi-tech product one might expect from the mighty SAA. According to terrorism analyst Yossef Bodansky, it was in Ghouta that Syrian rebels recently denounced the jihadists and laid down their arms with around a dozen reportedly defecting to the SAA. Interestingly, al-Monitor reports that the Saudis have some 25,000 fighters in Ghouta fighting with the Liwa' al-Islam armed group. Peace activist Walid Shoebat has released video footage showing rebels deploying chemicals, seized chemicals from Saudi Arabia and rebels discussing the use of Sarin nerve gas. In May a member of the UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria, Carla del Ponte, reported that her panel 'had not yet seen any evidence of Syrian government forces using chemical weapons', while there were 'strong, concrete suspicions but not yet incontrovertible proof' that the rebels were using nerve gas. [Note that in asymmetric warfare it is normal strategy for the weaker party to use human shields and 'false flag' operations to create propaganda aimed at securing military aid from a stronger force.]
FOR more details see:
SYRIA: Who is deploying chemical weapons?
-- and the tactics of asymmetric warfare.
By Elizabeth Kendal, Religious Liberty Monitoring, 29 Aug 2013

The consequences of a US intervention on the side of the jihadis would be diabolical, catastrophic for Syria and the whole region (especially for the Church) and detrimental to global security. Furthermore, God will not tolerate the West lending its military might to forces whose agenda includes eliminating the Church from the Middle East. Pray that God will intervene.

* KAZAKHSTAN (RLPB 223), where a Protestant pastor has been arrested on a charge of 'harming health' (by praying with the sick) and has been sent to the Almaty City Psychological-Psychiatric Assessment Centre. Pastor Bakhytzhan Kashkumbaev of Astana's Grace Church (Presbyterian) has expressed concern that the authorities, who are shamed by negative international attention, might seek to whitewash the case by having him declared insane, when he knows he is 'psychologically healthy'. 

UPDATE: Forum 18 reported on 22 August that Pastor Kashkumbayev is still in Almaty Psychiatric Clinic undergoing 'tests'. His detention has been extended until 17 September. Please pray that God will protect and deliver Pastor Kashkumbayev and preserve his church in Kazakhstan.

* EGYPT (RLPB 224), where violence against the Church is escalating.

UPDATE: Terrorism analyst Yossef Bodnasky reports (Defense & Foreign Affairs, 7,2013): 'The Ikhwan [Muslim Brotherhood has] dispatched several leaders -- both religious and former military -- to Arab countries with strong jihadist traditions in order to recruit jihadist volunteers for the Ikhwan's "Free Egyptian Army" to fight the Egyptian military, reverse Morsi's ouster, and unleash a jihad against Israel and for the liberation of al-Aqsa. Algerian security officials warned that the Egyptian recruiters had already signed up a few thousand Algerian volunteers. Among the recruited Algerians are dozens of street leaders and commanders from the Algerian civil war.'

AUGUST 2013 ROUND-UP -- also this month . . .

* IRAN: CONVERT SENTENCED TO TEN YEARS (updating RLPB 220

Mostafa Bordbar, a 27-year-old convert from Rasht, was arrested along with 50 believers on 27 December 2012 at a Christmas celebration in a private home in Tehran. He was detained in Evin Prison and Judge Pir-Abbas (the 'hanging judge') heard his case on 9 June. The judgment and sentence were released on 31 July. Bordbar has been found guilty of being part of an 'anti-security organisation' and of 'gathering with intent to commit crimes against Iranian national security'. He has been sentenced to ten years in prison. Pray for the Church in Iran.

* RUSSIA: FAITHFUL PRIEST FOUND MURDERED

Russian Orthodox Priest Fr Pavel Adelgeim (75), a gulag survivor who ministered in Russia's north-western Pskov region, died on 5 August from blood loss after being stabbed. His death was doubtless hastened by the reluctance of medical services to come to his aid. Fr Pavel was known as a 'dissident priest' because of his fearless criticism of the systemic corruption plaguing the hierarchy of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC). Recently he outraged ROC elite by pointing out that what Pussy Riot had said about church corruption was actually correct; consequently, the church should reflect, humble itself and show grace rather than unleashing mechanisms of state power against them.  Upon hearing of Fr Pavel's death, Archdeacon Andrei Kuraev lamented: 'The last free priest of the Moscow patriarchate has been killed. Which one of the priests, who are married and employed, can now say publicly and not anonymously, "Master, you are wrong"'? Fr Pavel was stabbed to death by a young man from Moscow who had come to him seeking help. Over a thousand attended his funeral at the Church of the Myrrh Bearers, where he served for the last decades of his life. Whilst the incident is being written off officially as the random act of a mentally ill person [article includes photo], circumstances around the killing are mysterious, arousing suspicion. If (as some suspect) corrupt church officials are complicit in the assassination of a faithful dissident, then ROC corruption will become a religious liberty issue.
(translated articles can be found here)

SOMALIA: CHRISTIAN MOTHER OF TWO KIDNAPPED

Morning Star News reports that on 5 August Islamic militants (suspected to be al-Shabaab) abducted Shamsa Enow Hussein (28) and threatened her husband, Mohamed Isse Osman (31), because of their Christian faith. Osman, who has gone into hiding with their daughters aged three and five, has not heard anything from his wife since she was taken. Leaders in Somalia's underground Church confirm that Osman and his daughters are safe, but the family is greatly distressed and girls are constantly crying. Please pray that Shamsa will be freed and reunited with her family and that they will be safe. Pray for the gravely imperilled Church in Somalia.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

RLPB 224. Egypt: a time to weep, mourn and pray

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 224 | Wed 21 Aug 2013

EGYPT: A TIME TO WEEP, MOURN AND PRAY

By Elizabeth Kendal

The present crisis in Egypt is the culmination of several strategic trends, particularly the arrival of 'democracy' after decades of Saudi-sponsored Islamic radicalisation in a State that is hurtling towards collapse. Egypt's population has exploded, doubling in one generation to more than 92 million. With a massive youth demographic, high unemployment (40 percent), high illiteracy (45 percent), critical food and fuel shortages and looming bankruptcy, Egypt is on the brink of becoming a failed State. Saudi money keeps Egypt afloat and the Saudis want their nemesis, the Muslim Brotherhood (which advocates republicanism), not just out of power, but crushed. In this, the interests of the Saudis, the Egyptian military and the Salafis converge.

As noted in RLPB 218 (10 July), the military staged their coup under the cover of anti-Morsi protests, ensuring that anti-Morsi elements would bear the blame and the brunt of reprisals. And 'no soft target so clearly represents opposition to Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) as the Coptic Church'. The military's actions may have halted the Muslim Brotherhood's consolidation of power and guaranteed the flow of Saudi aid, but their actions are making the situation worse. Violence against Christians has exploded. The military may even exploit this, rather than prevent it, to legitimise military violence, military rule and requests for military aid. As the guardians of the Suez Canal and the Sinai, the Egyptian military is essentially a law unto itself, something Morsi and the MB have failed to appreciate.

Meanwhile, the MB will do what it has always done best: play the victim. In late July terrorism analyst Yossef Bodansky reported: 'The Ikhwan's [MB's] spiritual guides are now calling for a violent intifada against the military: a confrontation where the military's superior firepower would create numerous martyrs, thus reinforcing and affirming the Ikhwan's own claim of victimhood.' This provides the context for the recent MB 'sit-ins'. According to Amnesty International, these protest sites were dangerous, violent places, where those who voiced objections were beaten, raped, tortured and killed. The sit-ins comprised bands of violent, armed MB supporters who provoked the military from behind a screen of human shields -- thousands of women and children. What occurred on Wednesday 14 August, when the military went in as promised to disperse the sit-ins and clear the streets, was a massacre, a bloodbath. With some 900 dead it was doubtless much worse than the MB leadership imagined it would be, but a massacre was exactly what they sought, for propaganda purposes. [This is the very essence of Islamic asymmetric warfare.]

MB rage again fell on the Church. Over the next few days, churches, monasteries and other Christian properties, including schools and businesses, were torched and looted by rampaging MB supporters in Sohag, Minya, Beni Suef, Fayium, Asyut, Alexandria, Suez and Cairo. Bible Society bookshops in Assiut and Minia were destroyed. Three nuns taken out of the Franciscan school in Bani Suef were paraded 'like prisoners of war' through mob-filled streets, until a courageous Muslim woman rescued them and took them into her home. Two other Christian women who fled from the school were observed being hit, groped and spat on as they fought their way through the mob.

Emergency Law has been established for one month, military officers have been installed as governors and 14 governorates now have 7pm-6am curfews. A low intensity but extremely violent insurgency will doubtless ensue. There are no good options. Remember, this is the same military that drove tanks into Copts at Maspero in October 2011, killing 28, when the Copts led protests against sectarian violence (see RLM Oct 2011). This is the same military that bulldozed the security walls of Coptic monasteries in the wake of the fall of Mubarak, removing their security so Arab raiders and jihadis could attack and plunder them. General al-Sisi is a Morsi-appointed, pro-Salafi Islamist. To use the language of Isaiah, the convergence of trends has culminated in a 'mighty flood' of trouble. These are days to weep and mourn for Egypt (Ecclesiastes 3:4) but above all -- to pray!


PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT --

* God will pour his gracious love into the hearts of all Egypt's Christians (Romans 5:3-5), that they will respond in a supernatural way, following the teaching and example of Jesus Christ: loving their enemies, doing good to those who hate them, blessing those who curse them and praying for those who abuse them (Luke 6:27-36). [Never underestimate the miracle of this.]

* the Holy Spirit will give Egypt's Christians the grace and courage essential for witness to a confused, desperate, lost yet hope-seeking people, and the faith and hope essential for prayer to a faithful, loving, Sovereign yet prayer-responsive God. (Lamentations 3:55-66)

* by the grace of God, hope-energising righteousness and truth  will shine from the churches (even those reduced to ashes) and from believers (even those reduced to poverty), that there will be a true awakening in Egypt.

* this nation -- which once enslaved God's people, but which then received the Christ-child and the Gospel message of the Apostles, only to be ultimately invaded, conquered and enslaved to Islam -- will be spiritually liberated to receive Christ and his Gospel yet again. (Isaiah 19:16-25)


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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EGYPT -- A TIME TO WEEP, MOURN AND PRAY


The crisis in Egypt arises from the arrival of 'democracy' after decades of Saudi-sponsored Islamic radicalisation in a State hurtling towards collapse. Egypt is kept afloat by Saudi money and Saudi Arabia wants the crushing of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), which advocates republicanism.  In this, the interests of the Saudis, the Egyptian military and the Salafis converge. Fighting back, MB leaders have called for violent intifada against the military, which will create MB victims and 'martyrs' for propaganda purposes. But as the guardians of the Suez Canal and the Sinai, the Egyptian military -- definitely no friend of Christians -- will doubtless be able to do whatever it wants. There are no good options. Christian security is tenuous. These are days to weep and mourn, but above all, to pray!

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

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

RLPB 221. July Update, Incl. Malaysia, Egypt, Central African Republic, Eritrea, India (the Afghan Church) and India (Madhya Pradesh)

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 221 | Wed 31 Jul 2013

By Elizabeth Kendal

For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh.  For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.
(2 Corinthians 10:3-4 ESV)


JULY 2013 UPDATE -- During July we prayed concerning . . .

* MALAYSIA (RLPB 217), where children were put at risk of forced conversion by a draft law that had been submitted directly to Parliament, by-passing the Cabinet where certainly it would have been rejected by non-Muslim members. Doubtless the government hoped it would be approved without scrutiny. PRAISE GOD, the plot failed and the ruling Barisan Nasional was forced to withdraw the Bill so it could be scrutinised by the Cabinet.

UPDATE: THE STRUGGLE FOR CHILDREN CONTINUES
On Thursday 25 July a Malaysian High Court quashed the religious conversion of three children who had been converted to Islam in a Sharia Court in 2009 by their convert father, in their absence and without the consent of their Hindu mother. Justice Lee Swee Seng declared the religious conversions 'unlawful' and 'unconstitutional'. But the four-year legal battle is still not over. The husband, K Patmanathan (now known as Mohammad Ridzuan Abdullah), will appeal the ruling (unless he is found to be in contempt of court). Pray that the court will uphold the rights of children not to be converted to Islam at the whim of a convert parent. [In Islam, conversion is essentially a legal and not a spiritual matter.]

* EGYPT (RLPB 218), where the military had ousted Egypt's first democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi, in a military coup staged under the cover of anti-Morsi protests. This triggered a violent backlash against anti-Morsi forces, particularly the Coptic Church.

UPDATE: The military is pursuing its own interests while deflecting blame onto anti-Morsi protesters. Recently they called for anti-Morsi forces to come out into the streets and provide the military with a mandate to crack down on 'terrorism', i.e., the Muslim Brotherhood. Now the military is using lethal force against Muslim Brotherhood protesters, claiming a mandate from the pro-secular forces. Is the military really trying to set Egypt on a path to civil war? Pray for the Church in Egypt.

* PAKISTAN (RLPB 219) where Muslims in the sectarian hot-spot of Gojra have accused Christians of sending blasphemous text messages by mobile phone. Instead of applying the law, the police and the court are only interested in appeasing belligerent Muslims and clerics. Pray for the Church in Pakistan.

* IRAN (RLPB 220), where persecution -- including the closing of Farsi-speaking fellowships and the imprisonment of converts from Islam -- is continuing under the new president, Hassan Rouhani. Pray for Iran's Christian prisoners.

JULY 2013 ROUND-UP -- also this month . . .

* CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC (CAR): 'DO NOT FORGET US'

A letter from a local believer in Bangui has been forwarded to RLPB. The writer describes the situation as like 'enduring Calvary', adding that it is only 'by the grace of God that we survive'. The picture is one of utter devastation, rampant hunger and widespread terror. 'From what we are currently experiencing we have the impression that it is Islam -- at the expense of Christianity -- that is in the process of settling in our secular country.' [Full text of the letter.] The Catholic Church's Peace and Justice Commission likewise laments the wanton destruction, rampant looting and extreme violence, stating: 'It seems Beelzebub, chief of all demons, now inhabits the hearts of certain daughters and sons of this country.' The Secretary-General of the Central African Republic's Catholic Bishops' Conference, Mgr Doumalo, told CatholicHerald.co.uk that Christians face continual danger and uncertainty. 'This is why we're asking the world not to forget us,' he said.

* ERITREA: SYSTEMATIC PERSECUTION OF PROTESTANT YOUTHS

In Eritrea, the law requires all citizens between the ages of 18 and 40 to perform national service, comprising 6 months military training and 12 months deployment. It is not uncommon for the deployment to be extended and for conscripts to be exploited as slave labour. Cruelty, including torture, is widespread.  To address the problem of evasion, in 2003 the government ruled that the final year of secondary school be undertaken at the Sawa Military Training Camp (SMTC). Amnesty International reports that some of these students are under 18, with some as young as 15. A student must complete this military service to graduate. Every year reports emerge of Protestant Christian students suffering violent persecution in SMTC. On 25 July Morning Star News reported that 39 school students in SMTC had been excluded from graduation. They were being subjected to beatings and forced hard labour with insufficient food and water, as well as being threatened with prison, simply because they refuse to 'renounce Christ'. Pray for the Church in Eritrea, particularly for these youths.

* INDIA: AFGHAN CHURCH GROWS AMIDST STRUGGLES

Christian converts started fleeing Afghanistan around 2005 as the Taliban gained strength. In May 2009 a Kabul-based television network, Noorin TV, broadcast images taken of a worship and a baptismal service in a Kabul secret house church. A member of the Afghan parliament subsequently called for apostates to be executed. An estimated 100 Afghan Christian converts fled to India in the following months. Afghan converts are still arriving in India, with some 40 up to July this year. The Afghan Church of New Delhi has from 200 to 250 Afghan converts, refugees who have fled religious persecution in Afghanistan. Whilst they are relatively safe now, as Afghans they suffer discrimination in Indian society, as well as hostility from Afghan Muslims who despise them as apostates. Pray that God will bless, protect, provide for and build his Afghan Church in India.

* INDIA: PERSECUTION ESCALATING IN MADHYA PRADESH

Madhya Pradesh (in central India) is ruled by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). It has long had a law requiring that those who convert to anything other than Hinduism must notify the authorities. [Hindu nationalists do not regard conversion to Hinduism as conversion, but as 'ghar vaspi': i.e. 'homecoming' or reversion.] On 10 July the Madhya Pradesh Legislative Assembly voted to increase the repression by passing a bill that requires converts and clergy to obtain permission from the authorities prior to conversion. An application form providing names of converts, as well as the date and venue of any conversion ceremony (baptism), must be submitted to the district magistrate one month prior to conversion. Once a request is submitted, the police may investigate. If the prospective converts are minors, women or members of Scheduled Castes / Scheduled Tribes (Dalits), the legislation stipulates a jail term of up to four years and/or a fine of up to 100,000 rupees (US$1,680).  The law is unconstitutional, breaching the citizen's rights to privacy and freedom of religion. India's BJP-led states are enacting laws that are unconstitutional knowing the Federal Government is unwilling or unable to defend the constitutional rights of citizens. Pray for God's intervention in India.

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

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

RLPB 218. Egypt: Islamic wrath falls on the church

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 218 | Wed 10 Jul 2013

EGYPT: ISLAMIC WRATH FALLS ON THE CHURCH;
plus update on Malaysia

By Elizabeth Kendal

On Wednesday 3 July the Egyptian military ousted the country's first democratically elected President, Mohamed Morsi, and placed him under 'house arrest'. Tanks moved into Cairo, the Parliament was dissolved and the Constitution was suspended. Whilst the military ousted Morsi in pursuit of its own interests, it did so under the cover of anti-Morsi protests, all but guaranteeing that Morsi's civilian opponents will suffer the reprisals. No soft target so clearly represents opposition to Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) as the Coptic Church, making it exceptionally vulnerable. The Coptic Pope compounded this vulnerability when he blessed the coup and supported the suspension of the Constitution. On Friday 5 July MB leader Mohamed Badie addressed a gathering of tens of thousands of justifiably enraged Islamists outside the Rabaa al-Adweya Mosque in Nasr City, Cairo. He slammed the Coptic Pope, condemned the coup and called on Muslims to rise up and not stop fighting until Morsi was returned to office.

UPPER EGYPT: On Wednesday 3 July Islamists in Minya Governorate attacked the evangelical church in el-Saleh, injuring two. In Delgia village dozens of Christian homes were looted at gunpoint and burned by Muslim rioters chanting anti-Christian slogans. Delgia's Coptic Church of St George was set ablaze. The priest survived only because his Muslim neighbours pulled him out of the inferno through a hole he'd made in the roof and gave him refuge. Most Christians have now fled the area. Further south in Qena, Islamic rioters attempted to attack the main Coptic cathedral but were repelled by the military. The rioters then looted and ransacked Coptic homes and businesses. Most Christians have now fled this area. On Saturday 6 July Christians in the village of Nag Hassan in Luxor Governorate came under attack from a Muslim mob; four people were murdered and three others injured while 16 Coptic homes and businesses were torched. The Church of the Virgin Mary was also attacked; most Christians have now fled this area too.

MEDITERRANEAN COAST: On 3 July the military repelled Muslim rioters who were stoning the Church of Holy Virgin in the coastal resort city of Marsa Matrouh, 240km west of Alexandria. On 9 July gunmen opened fire on the Mar Mina Church in Port Said (at the mouth of the Suez Canal); no casualties were reported.
 
SINAI: On 4 July at least two explosions were heard in the Israeli city of Eilat on the Red Sea. Remnants were found of a Grad rocket believed to have been fired by jihadists in the Sinai, Egypt. On 5 July the military opened fire on Morsi supporters who were demonstrating during Friday prayers in the coastal city of el-Arish, North Sinai, wounding at least 21. Jihadists immediately retaliated, expelling the military and raising the black flag of al-Qaeda. Salafi jihadist group, Salafiyya al Jihadiyya, slammed the 'crime' and announced the formation of a new group, Ansar al Sharia in Egypt, which it said was acquiring weapons and preparing to fight.  The next day, gunmen on a motorbike shot dead a Coptic priest, Mena Aboud Sharoben (39), as he was walking through the Masaeed area in el-Arish.

JUST THE BEGINNING: Whilst the military may have ousted an Islamist President, dissolved a Muslim Brotherhood-dominated Parliament and suspended an Islamised Constitution, these actions have actually increased the risk to Egyptian Christians. Military violence -- such as the army's firing on pro-Morsi demonstrators in Cairo on Monday 8 July, killing 51 and wounding more than 300 -- is only further inflaming the situation. The coup will serve to radicalise many MB supporters, especially as Islamic groups from Tunisia to Somalia are citing the coup as proof that democracy does not work and that Islam can be established only by the bullet not the ballot. Al-Qaeda leader Ayman Zawahiri (an Egyptian) has ominously warned: 'The battle in Egypt is far from over, it has only just begun.'

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL --

* pour out his Holy Spirit abundantly on the Church in Egypt, so that the fears of Christians would be calmed and so they will   trust the Lord for their every need.

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

* shield, protect, sustain and deliver all who look to him in faith.

'Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by. I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfils his purpose for me.' (Psalm 57:1,2 ESV)

* use the present troubles to awaken Arabs not merely to the fact that Islam is not the solution, but to the truth that the solution and empowerment for transformation are found in Jesus Christ.

SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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ISLAMIC WRATH FALLS ON THE CHURCH IN EGYPT


Egyptian Islamists are justifiably furious that their democratically elected President Morsi has been ousted in a military coup effected under the cover of anti-Morsi protests. The Coptic Church is clearly a soft target amongst the opposition to Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, making it exceptionally vulnerable to Islamic reprisals. Since the 3 July coup churches have been attacked in the cities of Marsa Matrouh and Port Said on the Mediterranean coast, as well as in al-Arish, North Sinai, where a Coptic priest was assassinated. In Minya and Luxor Governorates, Upper Egypt, many churches have been attacked, four Christians killed and dozens of Christian homes and businesses have been looted and torched by Islamic mobs chanting anti-Christian slogans. Hundreds of Christian families have fled. Please pray for the Church in Egypt.

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MALAYSIA UPDATE

RLPB 217 (3 July 2013) called for prayer against the Administration of the Religion of Islam (Federal Territories) Bill 2013 which would permit the unilateral forced conversion of minors. Praise God: on Friday 5 July, the Cabinet agreed to withdraw the Bill so that it might be reviewed by Cabinet. Groups that have protested the Bill are calling on the government to amend related laws that contain the same wording. Meanwhile, Islamic leaders who maintain that 'there is no need for both parents to consent to their children's conversion if one of the parents has already embraced the Islamic faith' are calling on Muslims to rise up and unite in defence of Islam. Pray that the government will have the courage to protect human rights and implement the law in the face of Islamic challenges.


RAMADAN commenced on 9 July and will run through to 7 August. Please pray for Muslims during Ramadan. For resources, visit 30 Days

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