WELCOME to the 16 intercessors who have joined the list this month.
In conflict zones like the Middle East, the Balkans and Indonesia, the ethnic hostility resulting from long-term ethno-religious conflict can invade the church. This is similar to India where caste prejudice has invaded many churches. As the world suffers growing ethno-religious conflict, believers and churches are increasingly tempted to court ungodly racism and separation. But we are one in Christ, and 'Whoever loves God must also love his brother.' (1 John 4:21 NIV) Pray for great spiritual sensitivity for Christians and churches in conflict zones. Pray especially that pastors and Christian leaders will be led by the Spirit of God for the glory of God. (Romans 12:2 NIV)
DURING FEBRUARY WE PRAYED FOR -
KOSOVO, SERBIA, where ethnic and religious tensions are running high as debate continues on the status of the Serbian province of Kosovo. Albanian separatists and Muslims are insisting on independence (i.e. severing Kosovo from Serbia), but Serbia wants autonomy within Serbia in line with international law.
* UPDATE: ALBANIAN MUSLIM HOSTILITY ESCALATES
Ethnic, mostly Muslim Albanians in Kosovo have been protesting about the UN special envoy's proposal that Kosovo have supervised independence. That doesn't go far enough for them as Kosovo's 100,000 Serbs (Orthodox Christians) could maintain self-rule and administrative links to Belgrade. On 10 February a protest by some 3000 Albanians in Pristina turned violent with two protesters dying in clashes with riot police. On 20 February three UN vehicles were damaged in Pristina by an explosive device. Albanian separatists have claimed responsibility. Early on Monday 26 February an explosion rocked the parking lot of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in Pec, shattering windows and damaging seven OSCE vehicles.
Talks are presently under way in Vienna and on 21 February the senior negotiator in the Kosovo Albanian team, Ylber Hasa, threatened that a new Balkan war would result if Kosovo does not gain full independence. The UN envoy's proposal goes to the UN Security Council in March. Kosovo's ethnic and religious minorities are exceedingly vulnerable.
UZBEKISTAN, where Protestant pastor Dmitry Shestakov (37) of the registered Full Gospel church in Andijan awaits trial on charges of inciting hostility between religions.
PAPUA, INDONESIA, where around 5000 indigenous, mostly Christian Papuans have been ethnically cleansed from some 20 highland villages by the mostly Muslim Indonesian military (TNI). Indonesian soldiers, police and intelligence operatives subsequently occupied the vacated villages. The displaced Papuan families are now trekking through the mountainous jungle in the wet season without food, shelter or medical care. A TNI-engineered humanitarian crisis is unfolding - again.
In Jakarta a Papuan pastor, human rights advocate and mediator, Reverend Isak Ondawame, was amongst 12 Papuans convicted in the Central Jakarta District Court in November 2006 over the fatal August 2002 ambush near the Freeport copper and gold mine. Initial police investigations indicated the TNI was behind the ambush and the trial was allegedly a sham. However the convictions resulted in US military aid being restored to Indonesia. Pray that God will deliver justice for the Papuans.
'Many seek an audience with a ruler, but it is from the Lord that man gets justice.' Proverbs 29:26 NIV
SOME OTHER ISSUES DURING FEBRUARY ---------------------------------
* ERITREA: MORE ARRESTS AND DEATHS IN CUSTODY
Compass Direct (CD) reports that Pastor Habtom Tesfamichel (57), a founder of the Full Gospel Church in Eritrea, was arrested in Asmara on 23 January. He had led the Asmara congregation since its previous pastor, Kidane Woldu, was imprisoned in March 2005. On Thursday 15 February, Magos Solomon Semere (30) died in custody from the effects of physical torture and untreated pneumonia. Arrested twice, each time for worshipping in a Protestant church, he had spent most of the last four-and-a-half years in prison. CD reports that on Sunday 18 February ten more Christians were arrested as they visited a newly married couple after their wedding.
* VIETNAM: GOVERNMENT CRACKDOWN
At the same time as he was being honoured by Human Rights Watch, internationally respected Vietnamese human rights lawyer Nguyen van Dai was being persecuted by the Communist authorities. Harassment started to intensify in August 2006. In January 2007 Dai held Vietnam's first ever forum on human rights. In early February police raided his law office and detained him and a colleague for several days of questioning. Dai, a Christian, has courageously defended Vietnam's persecuted Protestant churches, pastors (including imprisoned Mennonite pastor Nguyen Hong Quang) and believers in court. He is presently under intense pressure due to his active support of human rights, religious freedom and democracy.
In another case some 60 police officers surrounded the Bishop's Palace in Hue on Sunday 18 February. After cutting the phone lines they searched the complex which is home to the bishop and several Catholic priests. Six laptop computers, six cellphones and numerous documents were confiscated. Father Nguyen Van Ly was arrested. He is a vocal advocate for democracy and religious liberty and has spent over ten years in prison. Father Ly was forcibly relocated and is under house arrest. He is accused of 'propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam' and 'undermining national unity'.
'May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.' 2 Thessalonians 2:16,17 NIV
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 RL Prayer List to help individuals and groups pray 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.
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