Middle East: Christian Minorities Caught in “Cartoon Intifada” plus more…


Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin – No. 365 – Wed 15 Feb 2006

plus update on India; Pakistan

While the Danish cartoon controversy has triggered protests all
across the Muslim world, political factors put Christians in the
Middle East at particular risk of ‘cartoon intifada (uprising)’

There are multitudes of pictures of Mohammad in the world: in text
books, history books, art works, and even cartoons. The present
‘cartoon intifada’ has been incited by Islamic clerics, the Arab
League and the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC). It is in
essence an intifada against Western press freedoms and reluctance
to honour Islamic standards, along with implicit demands for
special protection and concessions for Islam. But as this is not
the first time Mohammad has appeared in art – even offensive
cartoon art – why this uprising now?

The June 2005 democratic elections in Lebanon saw the militant
Islamic terror group Hezbollah make considerable gains. Then in
November 2005, the banned Muslim Brotherhood, running its members
as independents, made significant gains in Egypt’s elections. But
when the January 2006 election in the Palestinian Territories ended
the dominance of the secular-Fatah party and put the Islamic
terrorist organisation Hamas in power, that really sent a great
shockwave through the dictatorial regimes of the Arab world.

Radicalised, and tired of the depressing, repressive status quo,
Muslim populations throughout the Middle East are massively
deserting Arab nationalism, hoping for relief through Islamism.
When given the opportunity to choose their leaders, they are
increasingly choosing Islamists in preference to the ‘secular’ or
‘moderates’. Secular and moderate Arab regimes are now having to
compete with militant Islamist forces for the affections of their
people. These politically threatened regimes are boosting their
Islamic credentials and currying favour with their angry,
radicalised masses by supporting and even owning this ‘cartoon
intifada’. The days of ‘moderation’ are coming to an end and
Christians in the Middle East risk being treated as scapegoats for
anti-West Muslim rage.

** TURKEY: On Sunday 5 February a teenage gunman shouting ‘God is
great!’ shot and killed Father Andrea Santoro (59) at the entry
to the Santa Maria Catholic Church in the northern city of Trabzon
after Sunday mass. Days later, a group of youths entered St
Helen’s monastery in Izmir and attacked Fr Martin Kmetec, a
Slovenian Franciscan friar. They grabbed him by the throat and
shouted, ‘We will kill you all,’ and then beat him.

** LEBANON: On Sunday 5 February some 20,000 protesters rioted in
the Christian Ashrafiyeh district where the Danish Embassy is
located, overturning cars, throwing rocks and smashing windows.
The Embassy was torched while the Mar Maroun Church in Gemayzeh
was attacked and vandalised. (More than half of those arrested
were Palestinian and Syrian.)

** GAZA: Islamic militants have ordered the Bible Society to
cease working in Gaza. They have instructed the landlord to evict
the Bible Society from its premises by 28 February, threatening to
bomb the building on 1 March.


* God to mercifully and wonderfully protect Christians who are
without security in the midst of Islamic protests and rage. ‘For
in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he
will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle and set me high
upon a rock.’ Psalm 27:5

* God to intervene and block those seeking to exploit people’s
frustrations to whip up emotion and incite hatred and violence
for their own ends. See Psalm 9:15,16




Present political dynamics in the Middle East mean Christians there
are particularly at risk of ‘cartoon intifada (uprising)’ violence.
As recent elections have shown, depressed and repressed Arab
Muslims, sick of the status quo, are massively rejecting secular
Arab nationalism and turning to Islamism. To win the hearts and
minds of these hostile masses, threatened Arab regimes are boosting
their Islamic credentials by supporting and feeding off this
‘cartoon intifada’. This is why anti-West violence has been so
destructive in countries like Syria, Lebanon, and the Palestinian
Territories. Christians risk being scapegoats of Muslim rage. In
Turkey a priest has been murdered and another beaten. In Lebanon a
church was attacked and vandalised when Muslims rioted through a
Christian district. Militants have ordered the Bible Society to
close its shop and cease working in Gaza. Ask God to protect his



* DANGS, Gujarat, northwest India: The Shabri Kumbh Mela has passed
without a violent pogrom, and for that we thank our God who hears
and answers prayers. However, Dangi Christians fear about their
future. A torrent of toxic anti-Christian hate propaganda has
saturated the district and is being spread across north India.
Please watch and pray, for while the festival has ended, the Shabri
Kumbh Mela was really launching a serious, ongoing assault on the
Church in the north India tribal belt.

* PAKISTAN TOO: Tuesday 14 February ‘cartoon intifada’ riots
descended into violence and destruction across Pakistan. Western
Christian sites have been attacked. Christians in Pakistan are
facing much the same situation as Christians in the Middle East.

On Tuesday 7 February the government gave support to an opposition
private member’s bill seeking to repeal Pakistan’s Islamic
Hudood Laws. The Hudood Laws strip women of security and rights
before the law and Christian women are especially vulnerable. The
National Assembly is now debating the bill, which appears to have
the numbers to pass. Please pray that it will be carried.

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RL Prayer is moderated by Ron Clough, a commissioner
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Elizabeth Kendal researched and authored this message.