Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | No. 435 | Wed 27 June 2007
WELCOME to the 18 intercessors who have joined the list this month.
IRAQ, where there is ethnic and religious cleansing on a massive
scale, driving (Christian) Assyrians and other Christians into
exile and severe hardship in surrounding countries, as well as
North Iraq where al-Qaeda is active and the relative peace
between Turks, Kurds and Arabs is very tenuous indeed.
* UPDATE: On 12 June the US House Subcommittee on State, Foreign
Operations and Related Programs unanimously resolved to provide
ten million dollars of support directly to religious minorities
in the Nineveh Plain region of Iraq (where most Christians now
are). The Assyrian community is divided on how to respond to
their crisis, with some advocating a protected enclave or
autonomous province and others strongly opposed to separatism.
The immediate need is for divine protection and provision.
Please keep praying for Iraqi Christians.
MALAYSIA, where the apex court has ruled Malaysian Muslims are
subject to Islamic Sharia law. Therefore they do not have the
religious liberty granted under Article 11 of the Malaysian
Constitution. Please continue to pray for fruitful debate and for
enlightenment regarding openness and religious liberty.
MIDDLE EAST - in particular the Palestinian Territories, where for
decades 'secular' Arab nationalist dictators have used Islam to
grow a culture of hate to incite the Arab masses against Israel.
This has had a direct part in radicalising Islam, ultimately
causing a surge of uncontrollable violence as the 'new order'
fights to depose the old. Al-Qaeda has infiltrated Gaza and is
targeting Christian institutions and everything it deems
'un-Islamic'. Meanwhile Hamas militants have been killing anyone
who challenges their extreme pro-jihad agenda.
* UPDATE: MEMRI (Middle East Media Research Institute) reported a
Christian in Gaza has told Arab media he is desperate to leave.
'Someone from the [Hamas] Executive Force tore the crucifix from
my neck saying, "That is forbidden." Then he added, "Islam is the
solution."' A Middle East bishop told TIME magazine (22 June),
'Extremists are very much still in the minority, but the
situation is deteriorating, and there is more and more
intolerance. Being here and listening to others, a similar
picture emerges. The fundamentalists are networking.' Please ask
God to build and preserve his Church. Pray for an Arab awakening.
'. . . I will build my Church, and the gates of Hades will not
overcome it.' (Jesus, Matthew 16:18 NIV)
OTHER CASES IN JUNE
* INDIA: VIOLENT ATTACKS IN BANGALORE
On 8 June in a suburb of Bangalore a mob of Hindu extremists
invaded the home of Pastor Laxmi Narayan Gowda and violently beat
him in front of his wife and two small children. They then dowsed
him with kerosene and tossed a burning Bible onto him. Miraculously
he did not ignite. With the mob growing to about 1000, they
stripped the pastor naked, hung a board around his neck reading 'I
am the one who was converting people', and paraded him through the
streets. Pastor Gowda was hospitalised. Police did not show up
until after the action and nobody was arrested. Also in Bangalore,
on 25 June a young Carmelite priest and his four Christian
companions were waiting for medical check-ups at a hospital when
they were set upon, bashed and thrown downstairs by Hindu
extremists. Attacks like this persist across the country with the
perpetrators confident of impunity. In Andhra Pradesh militants
again beat a Christian worker and burnt his literature in front of
TV cameras. In the clip on
< http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0dT8_Tl7krw > the pastor is the only
one taken away by police.
* UZBEKISTAN: PERSECUTION ESCALATES
Forum 18 reports, 'Pentecostal pastor Dmitry Shestakov (38), given
a four-year sentence in an open work camp on 9 March to punish him
for his religious activity [see RLP 421], has been transferred to
serve the rest of his sentence in a closed labour camp.' According
to F18, Shestakov's transfer to the harsher 'red zone' camp comes
after repeat terms of solitary confinement for alleged 'violation
of the internal regulations'. It appears Shestakov had failed to
'repent of his crimes', even after 'education' sessions. Uzbekistan
is cracking down hard on 'missionary activity'. Foreigners are
being expelled and some churches are closing down saying 'it is too
dangerous to meet'. Please pray for the Church in Uzbekistan.
The persecution is in part political. Uzbekistan has long had a
very poor human rights record. After several years of steady
improvement in religious liberty - primarily due to US engagement -
persecution against Protestant Christians dramatically escalated
after Western governments (mainly the US) criticised and sanctioned
Uzbekistan for crushing an attempted Islamic coup in May 2005. The
armed Islamic militants, who earlier in the day staged a violent
jail-break and torched the courthouse, hid behind a peaceful rights
demonstration and then used the demonstrators as human shields.
This of course led to the deaths of many innocent civilians, a
result the Islamists planned for and then further exploited. The
West's quick and unhelpful criticism and sanctions left the Uzbek
government believing the Protestant West is actually an enemy. Pray
that relationships, confidence and co-operation will be restored
and will benefit the Church.
We usually provide a summary to use in news-sheets unable to
run the whole of an RLP. As a summary is not practicable with
this monthly update posting we suggest one or more of the above
items be used instead.
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The WEA Religious Liberty Commission sponsors this
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specifically and regularly for religious liberty
issues, and in particular to uphold the Church
where it is suffering persecution.
RL Prayer is moderated by Ron Clough, a commissioner
of the WEA RLC and convenor of the Australian EA RLC.
Elizabeth Kendal researched and authored this message.