Showing posts with label Ethiopia. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ethiopia. Show all posts

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

101. March Update. Inc. Ivory Coast, Lebanon, Pakistan,

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 101 | Wed 30 Mar 2011

By Elizabeth Kendal

MARCH 2011 UPDATE -- During March we prayed for . . .

EGYPT, after the Egyptian Army fired live ammunition against the community of St Bishoy Monastery in Wadi al-Natroun before using tanks and bulldozers to destroy the monastery's security wall -- all that protected the monastery from Arab raiders and jihadists.

* UPDATE (1): ARMY AS MUTAWEEN (Islamic religious police). Amnesty International reports that after the military cleared Tahrir Square on 9 March, officers of the Egyptian Army took at least 18 women into military detention where male soldiers were permitted to photograph them being beaten, stripped and electrocuted. Whilst torture and degradation in Egyptian prisons is not new, what happened next is. In what is nothing short of sexual assault, the women were also forcibly examined to see if they were virgins. Those who failed the 'virginity tests' were threatened with prostitution charges. Further to this, Middle East analyst Barry Rubin reports (28 March) that a text message circulating widely in Egypt is demanding all women, Christians included, adopt proper Islamic dress. Will the Army defend the rights of women or the dictators of Islam?

* UPDATE (2): RECONCILIATION EGYPTIAN STYLE. On 20 March in the village of Qana, Upper Egypt, Muslim fundamentalists torched an apartment belonging to Coptic Christian teacher Ayman Anwar Mitri (45) because they claimed he had leased it to 'prostitutes'. When Mr Mitri arrived at the scene he was taken away and attacked by a gang of 12 Islamic fundamentalists. Claiming they were applying Sharia Law, they beat him and sliced off his right ear. They also cut into his neck, other ear, face and arm while shouting religious slogans and threatening to kill him. When they had finished torturing him, they called the police who took Mr Mitri away and coerced him into accepting 'reconciliation'. (Sharia Law does not permit Christians to testify against Muslims. This is the most dangerous element of 'dhimmitude' or 'state of subjugation'.) When threatened with the kidnap of his daughters, Mr Mitri agreed to drop the charges. The 'reconciliation' was conducted in the presence of Colonel Ahmed Masood, vice military ruler of Qena.

ETHIOPIA, where a massive Islamic pogrom in Muslim-majority Jimma Zone in Oromiya regional state had at least 59 churches, a Bible school and an office razed, with more than 4000 Christians displaced.

* UPDATE: According to Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, the pogrom was incited by preachers from the Islamist Kawarja sect and other 'extremists'. Some Christian victims reported that those who torched their homes and tried to kill them had been their neighbours and friends. One victim heard Islamic leaders shouting that any Muslim who did not join in the pogrom was not a true Muslim. Kawarja, which seeks the establishment of an Islamic state, has reportedly been preaching intolerance and hatred in the area for several years. Some 100 attackers have been arrested. Still, relations have soured and tensions remain high.

SOUTH SUDAN, where Khartoum-backed militias and heavily armed soldiers of the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) have invaded, razed, fortified and occupied several villages in the northern Abyei region, forcing some 45,000 Southerners (Ngok Dinka) to flee south for refuge.

* UPDATE: The regime in Khartoum appears to be incrementally invading and occupying the resource-rich, contested border region of Abyei. Recent satellite images show that at least three more villages have been occupied by the SAF, and that massive troop deployments and air-power has been brought in. Clearly any Southern resistance to the SAF advance will trigger a huge conflagration. Further to this, South Sudan faces an implosion along tribal lines. Five Southern rebel/opposition forces have now allied under the leadership of General George Athor to fight against the main Southern force, the Dinka-dominated SPLA.

NIGERIA, where pre-election violence is mounting. Tensions are soaring, especially on the ethnic-religious fault-line, and most notably in flashpoint Jos where the political stakes are particularly high. The Nigerian elections are: 2 April -- National Assembly (parliament); 9 April -- Presidential election; 16 April -- State Assemblies and governorships. Please pray for Nigeria.

MARCH 2011 ROUND-UP -- also this month . . .


(For background see: RLPB 085, 'Ivory Coast: on the brink of war', 8 Dec 2010)

As noted in RLPB 085, Ivory Coast (IC) is so profoundly divided that it was never going to be unified by such high-stake elections. After dealing with gross irregularities emanating primarily from the unmonitored north, IC's Constitutional Council declared Gbagbo the winner. Despite this, the 'International Community' remains firm in its support for Ouattara.

The high stakes in IC relate not only to race ('Ivorite' v immigrant) and religion (Christian v Muslim), but also to Ivorian independence v French neo-colonialism. Ouattara is essentially France's man in Ivory Coast. Through him, France will maintain its exploitative, colonialist hegemony over Ivorian amenities, including the banks. On the other hand, Gbagbo is fighting to end French colonialism, especially French control of Ivorian funds. (The colonial pact brokered in the 1960s mandates that 65 percent of the foreign currency reserves of former French colonies in Africa go into the French Treasury, while a further 20 percent of reserves go to cover 'financial liabilities'. Did you ever wonder why Francophone Africa was so poor?) This is one reason why US-educated, former IMF official Alassane Ouattara -- a Muslim who plays the race-religion card for political gain, who triggered a civil war with a failed coup in 2002, who is backed internationally by Islamic states and organisations -- is so favoured by the West. It is all about 'interests'. But as rebel forces advance on Abidjan, IC's non-Muslims know they stand to lose more than just their prosperity. IC's traditional religious liberty and security will be a thing of the past if Islam takes control of IC.


Early on Sunday 27 March a 2kg bomb ripped through the front of the Church of Our Lady in Zahle industrial zone in the Bekaa Valley. Several homes and cars in the vicinity were also damaged and one man suffered shrapnel injuries. This bomb, remotely detonated in the church entrance, was intended to send a threat. Despite this, Father Georges Bahy assured journalists that the Christian community would 'fix the church and continue as normal'. The bombing came only days after seven Estonian cyclists were kidnapped in Zahle. Former President and current Phalange party leader, Amin Gemayel, is concerned that the Zahle church bombing may herald a wave of persecution.


(1) ASSASSINATED! On 2 March Pakistan's first Christian cabinet minister, Shahbaz Bhatti, the Minister for Minorities, was assassinated on his way to a cabinet meeting. Militants from Tanseem Al Qaeda and Tehrik-e-Taliban Punjab drove into Islamabad's secure diplomatic area, gunned down the MP and drove away, leaving many suspecting that members of the security forces were complicit. Bhatti, a Catholic and long-time religious liberty advocate, was killed for his courageous public stance against the blasphemy law and as a protest against the government's appointment of a 'disbeliever' to the cabinet.

(2) MURDERED? Qamar David, another Christian victim of the blasphemy law, died in Karachi Central Jail on 15 March. Whilst authorities maintain he died of natural causes, his family and supporters are convinced he was murdered. Charged in June 2006, David was sentenced to life in prison in February 2010. He had faced endless threats on his life since his arrest.

(3) SHOT! On 21 March in Hyderabad a group of Muslims were harassing Christian women entering the church, so four Christian men came out to request respect. The Muslims left but returned with guns and four Christians were shot. Younis Masih (47, married father of four) and Jameel Masih (22, married a month ago) died instantly. The Christians had to protest for hours, blocking the main road with the two dead bodies, just to force the police to file their report.

(4) THREATENED! Death threats have been made against Joseph Francis, the director of the Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS) in Pakistan. These death threats started after Mr Francis spoke publically about the misuse of the blasphemy law. Despite the dangers, Mr Francis is refusing to back down. He simply requests prayers for himself and the entire staff of CLASS.


But I say to you, 'Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes the sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.' (Matthew 5:44,45 ESV)

This verse is quoted fully appreciating that this is doubtless one of the most difficult things Christ requires of us. Lord help us!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

098. Ethiopia: Muslims stage massive pogrom

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 098 | Wed 09 Mar 2011


-- 59 churches and 28 homes torched; more than 4000 Christians displaced, one killed.

By Elizabeth Kendal

On Wednesday 2 March a massive pogrom erupted in Asendabo, Ethiopia, some 280km (175 miles) south-west of Addis Ababa. International Christian Concern and Compass Direct News report that local Muslims attacked Christians after some Muslims accused a Christian of desecrating a Qur'an. As the violence escalated, Christian leaders called for extra security. However, the security forces the authorities dispatched were simply unable to rein in the rampaging mob of some 10,000 enraged Muslims. After two days of violence in Asendabo, Muslims attacked the surrounding villages of Chiltie, Gilgel Gibe, Gibe, Nada, Dimtu, Uragay, Busa and Koticha. By 7 March the toll on the Christian community stood at 59 churches, one Bible school and 28 homes torched, with more than 4000 Christians displaced and one dead. A Christian pastor in Addis Ababa told Compass Direct News on 7 March, 'The atrocity is still going on, and many more people are suffering.'

To have such momentum, the pogrom appears to have been planned, incited and orchestrated by hostile elements. The claim a Qur'an was desecrated is suspect, being a common pretext for a terror campaign, aimed at putting the Christians in their place. According to the Qur'an they are to be 'utterly subdued' and realise their lives are in the hands of the Muslims:'Fight against [them] . . . until they pay tribute out of hand and are utterly subdued.' (Sura 9:29). This may be a result of local radicalisation in the ravaged Jimma Zone (Oromiya regional State). Jimma Zone is 83 percent Muslim where persecution with impunity is escalating. However, it could also be that Muslims, led by local fundamentalist clerics, have been influenced by events in Pakistan and were keen to make a statement of their own. The violence could also have been in retaliation for the Ethiopian army's involvement in the current military offensive in Somalia.

Deeply concerned by Somalia's deteriorating security and the corresponding escalation in piracy, Western powers have been pouring large sums of money into Somalia's UN-backed Transitional Federal Government (TFG) specifically to boost its military. During the last week of February the TFG unleashed its long-awaited military offensive against al-Qaeda-backed al-Shabaab and its ally Hizbul Islam, launching a co-ordinated offensive on three fronts simultaneously: (1) in Mogadishu, where Africa Union peacekeepers are fighting house-to-house, pushing back insurgents but suffering heavy losses; (2) in Beledweyne (alt. Belet Weyne), Central Somalia, where Ethiopian-backed TFG and allied Alhu Sunnah Wal Jama'a (ASWJ) forces remain locked in battle with al-Shabaab; (3) in Bulo Hawo (alt. Belet-hawo), Southern Somalia, which TFG and ASWJ forces have wrested from al-Shabaab control, but only after the Ethiopian military shelled the area in defence of besieged Ethiopian-trained TFG forces.

Like the government, the Ethiopian Army is dominated by Ethiopian Orthodox Christian ethnic Tigrayans. As such, many Oromo Muslims tend to regard Ethiopia's involvement in Somalia as having both ethnic and religious overtones, when really it is a simple matter of regional security. Ethiopia's ethnic Oromo are doubtless further agitated by the army's recent arrest of 110 Oromo Liberation Front separatist guerrilla fighters in the border town of Moyale. With Islam rising, with ethnic federalism consolidating and with war raging, Ethiopia is fast becoming a deeply divided state where Christian minorities are increasingly at risk.


* that God will still the violent sectarian storm in Jimma Zone, Oromiya, Ethiopia (Psalm 65:5-8).

* that the massive violence will result not in Muslim superiority and domination (as is intended) but in shame and repentance (as it should). 'With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.' (Matthew 19:26 ESV)


* that Yahweh Sabaoth (Lord of Hosts, the commander of heaven's forces) will intervene to protect and deliver his imperilled Church; and to fight and bring down all those who want her dead , for his glory, for the sake of his Church, and for the sake of the millions of impoverished, war-weary Somalis who desperately need her (Jonah 4:11 ESV).



On Wednesday 2 March a massive pogrom erupted in Asendabo, Ethiopia, some 280km south-west of Addis Ababa, after local Muslims accused a Christian of desecrating a Qur'an. The violence spread to surrounding villages and after five days of Islamic rioting -- involving some 10,000 enraged Muslims -- the toll on the Christian community stood at 59 churches, one Bible school and 28 homes torched, with more than 4000 Christians displaced and one dead. The police have been unable to contain the ongoing unrest. Ethiopia includes some large, restive Muslim tribes now emboldened by ethnic federalism. As Islam rises, so too does persecution of Christian minorities, who are increasingly without remedy in what is fast becoming a more profoundly divided and conflicted nation. Please pray for the Church and the nation.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

096. February Update. Incl. Afghanistan, Indonesia, Macedonia

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 096 | Wed 23 Feb 2011

By Elizabeth Kendal

Let those who fear the LORD say, 'His steadfast love endures forever.' (Psalm 118: 4 ESV)

FEBRUARY 2011 UPDATE -- During February we prayed for . . .

ARAB STREET, where minority Christians wait to see what will emerge out of the chaos.

* UPDATE (1): POLISH PRIEST MURDERED IN TUNISIA. On Friday18 February Tunisia's caretaker government approved a general amnesty of political prisoners, some 2,500 of whom were convicted under the former regime's tough anti-terrorism laws. The same day Polish priest Father Marek Rybinski (34), missing for several days, was found dead in a garage at the Salesian school in the Manouba district of Tunisia where he had worked since 2007. No group has yet claimed responsibility and the government is reporting the slaying as a crime of 'fascist terrorists'. Motivated by the brutal murder of Father Rybinski, around 15,000 pro-secular Tunisians rallied in Tunis last Saturday 19 February. Waving banners bearing slogans such as 'Jews, Christians, Muslims: all Tunisians', they called for Tunisia to remain secular and tolerant. The battle for Tunisia has begun.

* UPDATE (2): UNRELENTING VIOLENCE AGAINST COPTS IN EGYPT. On 8 February in Elias Hanna, Minya Province, where there is no church for some 600 Copts, a mob of around 80 Muslims attacked a small group of Copts praying together in a house owned by the Diocese, injuring five. In Rafah (near Gaza) the Church of St George was torched on 16 February. Walls left standing bore graffiti saying, 'No to Christians in Muslim Land.' The next day Christians in El-Hathatah, Minya Province, huddled together inside Saint George's Church as Muslims surrounded and stoned the building. Police did not respond to calls for help, leaving Coptic youths to defend the property. On 18 February Islamic militants broke into the home of the Coptic building contractor who built St Mary and St Michael church in Talbiya. After scrawling 'Islam is the solution' and 'The Church has to be demolished' across the walls, they abducted his 18-year-old daughter, Nesma Sarwat.

ETHIOPIA, where the federal government, due to ethnic federalism, seems unwilling or unable to intervene as Christians living in majority Muslim autonomous regions suffer rising levels of Islamic intolerance, violence and imposition of Sharia Law.

INDIA, where the dangerous ideology of fascist Hindutva (radical, militant Hindu nationalism) advances unchallenged.

* UPDATE: HINDU NATIONALISTS REAP REWARDS IN MADHYA PRADESH. As reported in RLPB 095, the combined Hindu nationalist forces, the Sangh Parivar, held a social kumbh in Mandla, Madhya Pradesh, over 10-12 February. Christianity was vilified and Christian 'missionaries' were portrayed as blood-sucking bed bugs that must be killed. Militant Hindu nationalism was proffered as the only path to equity, prosperity, harmony and national security, although these are the exact opposite of what Hinduva actually delivers. On Thursday 17 February by-elections were held for the Assembly seats of Kukshi and Sonkutch, two of Madhya Pradesh's long-time Congress strongholds. In a crushing blow for the Congress Party, the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) wrested both from it. State BJP president, Prabhat Jha, said the results showed that the Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Castes were 'drifting away from the Congress', adding, 'This has given us enough fuel to work more vigorously towards the welfare of tribals and SCs in the state and associating them with the party in a major way.'

-- also this month . . .


According to reports, Said Musa (45), an Afghan Christian imprisoned in Kabul, will soon be executed for the 'crime' of apostasy (rejecting Islam). Musa was one of about 25 Christians arrested on 31 May 2010, after Noorin TV screened scenes of Afghan Christians worshipping the Lord and being baptised. Himself an amputee, Musa has spent the past 15 years working for the Red Cross, fitting amputees with prosthetic limbs. A father to six young children, Musa converted to Christianity eight years ago. He was arrested as he attempted to seek asylum at the German embassy. In jail he is being repeatedly mocked, beaten and sexually abused. No local lawyer will defend him and the government refuses entry to the country for any foreign lawyer who would. In a letter smuggled out of the prison, Musa appeals for believers to pray that he will be transferred to a safer prison and that he will be able to testify to his faith, encourage other believers, and honour Christ as he gives his life.


On 8 February hundreds of enraged Muslim fundamentalists rioted in Temanggung, Central Java, after Temanggung District Court ruled that Antonius Richmond Bawengan, a Christian man convicted of blasphemy, be imprisoned for five years. The mob was demanding he be handed over for execution. Enraged, the Muslims stoned police, stormed the courthouse, bashed a priest and torched two churches and a school. The riot came only two days after a Muslim mob attacked a home in Banten, West Java, where members of the Ahmadiyah Muslim sect were meeting. Sickening mobile phone footage shows three Ahmadiyah men being stripped naked and stoned, stabbed and bludgeoned to death while onlookers cheered and chanted 'infidel' and 'Allah akbar' (Allah is great). Police showed no sympathy, saying they had warned the Ahmadis not to provoke trouble by upsetting the locals. One MP even recommended that Ahmadiyah sect members be relocated to an uninhabited island 'for their own sake'. In Indonesia the Ahmadiyah are the 'canary in the mineshaft' -- it is first the Ahmadiyah, then the Christians. The Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) is planning to hold a mass demonstration outside the State Palace on 1 March to call for an 'Islamic Revolution'.


Plans to build an archaeological museum in the style of a medieval church in Skopje's old Kale Fortress has led to ethnic-religious clashes between ethnic Macedonians, who are mostly Orthodox, and members of Macedonia's large ethnic Albanian minority, who are mostly Muslim. Balkan Insight reports: 'The museum was being constructed on the foundations of a recently excavated 14th-century Orthodox church in the old fortress . . . .' However, Albanian Muslims regard the church construction as an insult and accuse ethnic Macedonians of trying to gain a foothold on 'their' side of town. They said they would only support the project if a mosque were built beside the church, a request that was rejected as the site has no Islamic cultural heritage. On 11 February around 100 members and supporters of the Democratic Union for Integration (DUI) attacked and demolished the partially constructed museum-church and the authorities subsequently abandoned the project. (The DUI is Macedonia's largest ethnic Albanian political party, arising out of the ethnic Albanian National Liberation Army (NLA) which fought Macedonian Security Forces in 2001.) However, on 13 February clashes erupted between groups supporting and opposing the museum-church project. Because Albanians organised further protests for 19 February police have mobilised around the site to prevent further clashes. Tensions simmer.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

094. Ethiopia: persecution escalates in Muslim areas

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 094 | Wed 09 Feb 2011


By Elizabeth Kendal

The simplistic portrayals of Ethiopia as 'Orthodox Christian' or 'a Christian island surrounded by hostile Muslim neighbours' are misleading. These descriptions ignore the reality that Ethiopia is the legacy of a Christian empire that incorporated many diverse peoples. The Tigray-dominated north and the Amhara-dominated central highlands comprise the Christian heartland. These two Semitic tribes together comprise 45 percent of the population and most of the elite. The periphery is highly diverse and includes many animist and Muslim peoples. Unity is fragile and divisive forces are strong.

Before the Communist Revolution of 1974, Ethiopia was an Amhara-dominated kingdom. After Mengistu's Marxist regime fell in 1991, the new Tigray-led government federalised the state, controversially devolving power to nine autonomous, ethnic regions (just as Tito did in Yugoslavia and as has recently been done in Kenya). By enabling a degree of self-determination, ethnic federalism was supposed to prevent Amhara domination, end cultural conflict and diminish divergent forces. In reality (as in Yugoslavia) it has had the opposite effect: it has weakened the state while magnifying ethnic differences and interests. The largest ethnic group, the Omoro (about equal Muslim / Christian), complain of Tigrayan domination and want to secede. In September 2009 the International Crisis Group lamented that the international community was neglecting 'the increased ethnic awareness and tensions created by the regionalisation policy and their potentially explosive consequences'.

Ethiopia's Constitution (adopted in December 1994) states: 'The Constitution is the supreme law of the land. Any law, customary practice or a decision of an organ of state or a public official which contravenes this Constitution shall be of no effect' (Article 9.1). Complicating ethnic tensions is the trend of rising Islamic intolerance. According to the Ethiopian Islamic Affairs Supreme Council, Saudi-funded entities are exacerbating tensions between traditional Sufis and new Wahhabis, as well as between Muslims and Christians. In recent years Christians living in Muslim-dominated areas have been subjected to escalating persecution and application of Sharia law. To maintain 'harmony' and to appease restive Muslims, the Federal Government made religious incitement and religious defamation criminal offences in 2008. While Article 27 of the Federal Constitution guarantees 'Freedom of Religion, Belief and Opinion' it also provides that religious freedom may be limited by law in the interests of public safety.

In August 2010 Tamirat Woldegorgis (early 30s and father of two), a Protestant Christian in Ethiopia's southern town of Moyale, Oromia region, was arrested after a Muslim co-worker accused him of inscribing 'Jesus is Lord' on a cloth. The accuser changed his statement several times before the local imam testified that Woldegorgis had written the offensive words on a Quran. Despite the absence of evidence, Woldegorgis was sentenced on 18 November 2010 to three years in prison for allegedly defiling a Quran. He was then transferred to Jijiga Prison in Ethiopia's Somali Region Zone Five which is governed according to Sharia. Consequently his life is greatly imperilled. Two friends who recently brought him food were fined for supporting a criminal imprisoned for defaming Islam. Authorities have reportedly offered to release Woldegorgis if he will convert to Islam (Compass Direct News, 29 November 2010).

International Christian Concern (ICC) has reported several violent attacks on Christian leaders in recent months. Of great concern is the report that harassed and persecuted Christians in the southern city of Besheno, Oromia region, have recently had notices posted on their doors warning them to convert to Islam, leave the city or face death. According to ICC, three leading Christians from an evangelical Christian community of about 30 believers have been forced to flee and two have been forcibly converted to Islam.

Intolerant, repressive, fundamentalist Islam is spreading, exerting itself and testing the limits in Ethiopia's autonomous ethnic regions. Are minority Christian groups in restive Muslim-dominated areas going to be protected according to the Federal Constitution, or will they be sacrificed on the altar of political expediency, stripped of their constitutional rights and handed over to the dictators of Islam in exchange for promises of 'harmony' and national unity?


* protect Tamirat Woldegorgis and deliver him safely back to his family; may the family all know the sustaining presence of the Lord, their provider.

* protect the Christians living in restive Oromia and Islamic Somali, particularly the persecuted and threatened Christians in Besheno.

* grant Christian leaders great wisdom to know how to be 'wise as serpents and innocent as doves' (Matthew 10:16 ESV).

* give the Federal Government much wisdom, strength and courage to tackle the issue of constitutional rights and the supremacy of the Federal Constitution over regional Islamic courts.

Please pray for Ethiopia, a state of immense geo-strategic value in the Horn of Africa.



The Ethiopian Government federalised the state in 1996, devolving power to nine autonomous, ethnic regions. Rather than appeasing and pacifying Ethiopia's diverse peoples, this ethnic federalism has only undermined nationhood while magnifying ethnicity and differences. Divisive forces are now stronger than ever. Furthermore Ethiopia's traditional Sufi Muslims are being radicalised by Saudi (Wahhabi) entities, inflaming religious tensions. Protestant believer Tamirat Woldegorgis (30s) is in an Islamic prison, having been falsely accused of defacing a Quran. Also Christians in the southern town of Besheno are being told they must convert to Islam, leave or die. Persecution and application of Sharia law are increasing. Yet the central Government appears loath to intervene lest self-determination, 'harmony' and 'national unity' be undermined. Please pray for the Church in Ethiopia.