Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin - No. 371 - Wed 29 Mar 2006
WELCOME to the 14 intercessors who joined the list this month.
DURING MARCH WE HAVE PRAYED FOR -
BURMA, where ethnic minorities with large Christian populations face brutal repression at the hands of Burma's military regime and contracted Buddhist militias.
BELARUS, where Pastor Georgi Vyazovsky of the Minsk-based Christ's Covenant Reformed Baptist Church had just served a ten-day prison sentence for leading illegal worship: some 20 people had been found 'reading the Bible, praying and singing hymns in his house' without the applicable government permission. Charges have been leveled too against Pastor Sergei Tsvor, Pentecostal bishop of Minsk region and pastor of the registered 200-strong Minsk-based Good News Church. Also a presidential election was approaching.
* UPDATE: Pro-Soviet dictator Lukashenko has been re-'elected', and whilst courageous protesters continue to take to the streets the police action against them is becoming increasingly violent. Hundreds have been arrested. Belarus needs a new Glastnost (openness). Continue to pray for God's intervention, and that he will continue to build and sanctify his Church despite Lukashenko's repression. (Matthew 16:18)
On 24 March police raided a Christian businessmen's seminar on 'A Biblical view of history' being held in a private cafe in Minsk. Religious liberty lawyer Sergei Shavtsov was arrested for organising an illegal religious event. Shavtsov had applied for permission but it had been denied. He is serving ten days in prison after being charged under the Code of Administrative Violations for 'carrying out unauthorised mass activities'. Sergei Shavtsov's wife, Dina, told Forum 18, 'The authorities in any case look at Protestants as an organised group that presents a danger.'
AFGHANISTAN & INDIA: The trials of Abdul Rahman and Rev Dr Samuel Thomas.
* UPDATE: AFGHANISTAN - ABSOLUTE COMPULSION IN RELIGION
The Afghan government is desperate to appease its Western allies and wants the apostasy case against Abdul Rahman dropped. Under great pressure, the Courts have returned the case to the prosecutors with the request that Rahman be assessed for mental illness. On Friday 24 March local Muslim leaders warned they would incite people to kill Abdul Rahman themselves if he does not return to Islam, while Mujahadeen leaders from all over Afghanistan met in Kabul to work out a unified strategy should Abdul Rahman be released. Late Monday night Abdul Rahman was released from prison into the custody of his family. His whereabouts are unknown. In Mazar-i-Sharif, clerics and students protested the decision to release Rahman. They marched shouting 'Death to Christians', 'Death to America' and 'Death to the convert Abdul Rahman'. A Taliban council has issued a fatwa (religious decree) saying Abdul Rahman must be killed.
There are believed to be some 10,000 Afghan Christians inside Afghanistan, many of whom are recent converts. Compass Direct reports that since Rahman's case became public, two other converts have been arrested, one other convert has been beaten and several more have been harassed and threatened. Rahman's trial is a revealing and defining moment for Afghanistan and for the rest of the Muslim world whose silence reveals volumes. In these days of Taliban resurgence, a cleric-led Muslim uprising against 'Western interference' would have horrific consequences for the Afghan Church. Pray for Abdul Rahman and the seriously threatened Afghan Church.
'Christ Jesus, who died - more than that, who was raised to life - is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.' Romans 8:34
OTHER ISSUES IN MARCH ---------------------
* ALGERIA: REPRESSIVE LAW, SEVERE PENALTIES
On 4 March the Algerian government began releasing from prison an estimated ten thousand Islamists who have renounced violence (but not ideology) in exchange for amnesty under President Bouteflika's Charter for Peace and National Reconciliation. Then on 15 March the Algerian Parliament approved a Presidential Order giving the government the right to regulate every aspect of Christian practice. Penalties of up to five years' imprisonment will apply to those guilty of using any means to 'shake the faith of a Muslim' or possessing any materials that might do so. Organisations that breach the law may be heavily fined, banned or dissolved and have their assets confiscated. Convicted foreigners will be expelled after serving their prison term. Whilst the law's main aim is to target Christian 'missions of proselytism', house fellowships and informal gatherings will also be illegal. Evangelicals as well as Christian aid, relief and development ministries will be under close surveillance. Pray for the Algerian Church.
* INDONESIA: REPRESSIVE LAWS HIT CHURCHES
In February Indonesia's Supreme Court rejected a legal challenge to the charges against Rebekka Zakaria, Eti Pangesti and Ratna Bangun. The panel of judges ruled that introducing Christianity to Muslim children is a crime under the Child Protection Act and that this ruling does not contradict Indonesia's Constitution which guarantees religious freedom. The Court ruled that the women will remain in prison and serve their sentences. Then in March the review of Joint Ministerial Decree (SKB) No 1 1969, was completed. Many hoped this law at the centre of the recent wave of persecution against churches would be repealed. However the review has only worsened the situation. All groups meeting for worship must seek a permit from the local government. But to apply for a permit a church or house fellowship must have a minimum of 100 members and their plan should be approved by at least 70 local residents who are not Christians. This will be quite unattainable for small fellowships in staunchly Muslim districts.
* TAJIKISTAN: REPRESSIVE LAW DRAFTED
Religious liberty monitors Forum 18 report that the Central Asian nation of Tajikistan will soon debate a draft new repressive law on religion. It outlaws missionary activity and all 'unregistered' religious practice. To be registered, a religious association will require an application from ten founding members as well as the signatures of 200 adult members to support forming the religious association in any given town or settlement. This would put registration way beyond virtually all Protestant fellowships. (Tajikistan is 90 per cent Muslim and most Christians are Russian Orthodox.) The draft law also bans all religious education in private homes and teaching religion to children under seven. Only trained specialists with permission from the state agency for religious affairs could teach religion. This agency would also approve all curricula. Foreigners could not be teachers or leaders in religious associations. <http://www.forum18.org>
We usually provide a summary to use in bulletins unable to run the whole RLP. As that is not practicable with these monthly update postings we suggest using one of the above paragraphs which are about the same length as a summary.
Please send this RLP to others, with attribution to World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) Religious Liberty Prayer List <[email protected]> ----------------------------------------------------
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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