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
* 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
AFGHANISTAN & INDIA: The trials of Abdul Rahman and Rev Dr Samuel
* 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.’
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. <
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Elizabeth Kendal researched and authored this message.