Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 409

Source:  http://rlprayerbulletin.blogspot.com

Date:  May 31, 2017

by Elizabeth Kendal

'When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.' (Psalm 56:3 ESV)

MAY 2017 UPDATE - this month we prayed concerning ...

* PAKISTAN (RLPB 405), where the brutal lynching of Muslim university student 
Mashal Khan - on campus in broad daylight - had reignited the debate around 
the infamous blasphemy law.  

UPDATES

PAKISTAN: LAW REFORM STALLS WHILE ISLAMISATION PROGRESSES 
Ever since Marshal Khan was accused of blasphemy and lynched, his sisters 
have been receiving death threats. On 4 May some 500 Muslims in the town of 
Hub, in Balochistan Province, rioted after police refused to hand over a 
Hindu man whom they accused of blasphemy; a ten-year-old boy was killed in 
the melee. Meanwhile, Nabeel Masih - the 16-year-old Christian boy arrested 
in September for 'liking' and 'sharing' a Facebook post which supposedly 
'defamed and disrespected' the Kaaba in Mecca - has again been refused bail. 
Despite doing little or anything to address the blasphemy law, the Senate 
Standing Committee on Religious Affairs  amended the 'Respect for Ramadan' 
law, unanimously approving ten-fold increases in the maximum fines for 
fast-breakers, as well as prison terms of up to three months. Eateries are 
not even permitted to provide food during Ramadan's daylight hours. Rights 
advocates fear the law will hurt non-Muslims and fuel vigilantism. Ramadan 
commenced on 27 May and will continue until 25 June. Pray for the Church in 
Pakistan.  

PAKISTAN: CHRISTIAN LAWYER THREATENED WITH DEATH 
Jacqueline Sultan is a high court advocate and a member of the Karachi Bar 
Council. She is also a human rights activist and the chairperson of the 
Global Human Rights Association Alliance. A Christian, she defends people 
charged with blasphemy and helps victims of forced conversion and marriage. 
In mid-May, a letter was delivered to her chambers in which she was 
threatened with death if she did not stop her work. The Karachi Bar 
Association is taking the threat very seriously and has demanded the state 
investigate and provide Sultan with extra security. Please pray for 
Jacqueline Sultan; may the Lord of Hosts provide all her needs.    

* NIGERIA (RLPB 406), where 82 'Chibok girls' had been released (ransomed) 
from Musab al-Barnawi's Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP). Hundreds 
of girls, mostly Christians, are still captives of ISWAP and Boko Haram.  

* CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC (CAR - RLPB 407), where the de facto partition of 
the state - with Christians in the south and Muslims dominating the north - 
had brought a degree of peace. However, Islamic militias are fighting each 
other now for control of roads, grazing land, water and diamond mines. This 
strife is evolving along ethnic lines. Furthermore, native, non-Muslim 
'anti-balaka' militias have allied with non-Fulani Islamic militias against 
the Muslim Fulani. In retaliation, the Fulani are escalating their attacks on 
Christians.  

UPDATE: CHURCH FACES CRISIS AS VIOLENCE ESCALATES
On 15 May at least 20 were killed, more than 40 wounded and some 20,000 
displaced as rebels clashed in Bria, the capital of central Haute-Kotto 
Province. UN personnel have confirmed that an aid warehouse was pillaged, 
saying: 'There's fighting taking place but we don't know who's fighting 
whom.' World Watch Monitor reports that Baptist pastor Ange-Apol'eon Ngakolada 
(36) was among the dead in Alindao; he leaves behind a wife and eight 
children. It seems Muslims unhappy with his church exploited the chaos of 6 & 
7 May and murdered him in his own home. CAR needs assistance, as it simply 
does not have enough troops to contain the escalating crisis.  

IRAN (RLPB 408), where, faced with a choice between the conservative but 
pragmatic Rouhani and the ultra-conservative hard-liner Raisi, moderate 
Iranians came out en masse on 19 May to vote for Rouhani despite Raisi being 
the regime's preferred candidate.  

UPDATE: EMERGING THREAT 
As is commonly the case in politics today, the election's loser (in this case 
Ebrahim Raisi) has moved straight from campaign mode into conflict mode, 
launching a campaign designed to fire-up supporters, undermine the result and 
discredit and de-legitimise the winner (in this case, Hassan Rouhani). Raisi 
has accused Rouhani of electoral fraud and called for an official 
investigation, even though the Guardian Council has approved the result. 
Hard-liners have vowed to fight Rouhani and press their ultra-conservative 
agenda. If the situation arises where Raisi incites Islamic revolutionary 
rage, and/or President Rouhani feels pressured to appease hard-liners, Iran's 
Christians will suffer as a consequence. Please continue to pray for Iran, 
and for Pastor Victor Bet Tamraz and Amin Nader Afshar as their trial 
continues in Tehran.  


MAY 2017 ROUND-UP - also this month ...

* AFGHANISTAN: AID WORKER KILLED, ANOTHER KIDNAPPED

On 20 May militants broke into a Kabul guest-house run by Swedish-based 
charity, Operation Mercy. A German woman who had been working in Afghanistan 
for 13 years was killed, as was her Afghan guard, who was beheaded. A Finnish 
woman was kidnapped. Both women (who have not been named) were aid workers 
with Operation Mercy. As yet, no group has claimed responsibility. Please 
pray for the captive Finnish aid worker, and for the families and colleagues 
of the deceased. May the Lord have mercy.  

* ERITREA: NEARLY 100 CHRISTIANS ARRESTED IN MAY

World Watch Monitor reports that on 9 May ten Christians were arrested at a 
home in Ginda, north-east of Asmara having been betrayed by neighbours. On 17 
May more than 35 Christians were arrested from their own homes in Adi Quala, 
after a compulsory survey exposed them as evangelicals. On 21 May 49 
Christians were arrested at a post-wedding celebration outside the capital, 
Asmara. The totalitarian regime of President Isaias Afewerki is one of the 
world's worst persecutors. Since May 2002 thousands of Christians have 
suffered incarceration, hundreds have been severely tortured and at least 28 
have died in custody due to mistreatment. Christians attempting to flee 
routinely fall prey to human traffickers. Eritrean Orthodox Patriarch Abune 
Antonios (89) has been confined to house-arrest for more than ten years; he 
had protested the persecution of 'Medhane Alem', a thriving revival movement 
which exists within the Eritrean Orthodox Church.  

* EYGPT: SHAHADA OR DEATH IN THE DESERT 

On Ascension Day (25 May) a convoy of Coptic Christians en route to the 
Monastery of St Samuel the Confessor was stopped on the desert road some 
220km south of Cairo by a group of around 10 men dressed in military fatigues 
and armed with automatic weapons. Claiming to be security officers, the 
gunmen ordered the Copts out of their vehicles. After separating the men from 
the women and children, the gunmen demanded the men recite the shahada 
(Islamic statement of faith). When the men refused, the militants opened 
fire, but were forced to flee when they noticed cars in the distance. 
Twenty-eight Christians are confirmed dead (including two children) and 23 
wounded. Islamic State has claimed responsibility. The Copts are grieving and 
their grief spans the world. One Coptic Christian living in western Sydney, 
Australia, lost 12 members of his extended family in the massacre. Pray for 
Egypt.   

* IRAQ: CONVERT, BE KILLED, OR PAY JIZYA

Undated footage emerged in early May showing the head of Iraq's Shi'ite 
Endowment Fund, Alaa Abd al-Sahib al-Musawi teaching that 'the people of the 
book must be fought ... to compel their conversion to Islam. Either they 
convert to Islam, or else they are killed, or they pay the jizya.' [Jizya, as 
mandated in the Qur'an Sura 9:29 https://quran.com/9/29 , is a form of 
extortion wherein 'the people of the book' agree to pay for their right to 
life.] Iraq's Christians, most of whom are Assyrian (the indigenous people of 
Mesopotamia), were horrified. A group of 180 Christian families filed a 
lawsuit against Musawi, accusing him of hate speech. Musawi rejected the 
charge, claiming he was teaching on historic matters that are supposedly 
irrelevant today. He claimed the video was leaked by parties resistant to 
Muslim-Christian coexistence - by which he doubtless meant the Assyrian 
Christians lobbying for a 'safe haven' or autonomous province in their 
historic homeland of the Nineveh Plains. By accusing the Assyrians of 
resisting what he calls 'Muslim-Christian co-existence', the cleric has 
knowingly created an extremely dangerous situation.  

* PHILIPPINES: SHAHADA OR DEATH IN MINDANAO 

On 23 May Philippine forces attempted to apprehend Abu Sayyaf chief Isnilon 
Hapilon from his hideout in the 99.6 percent Muslim city of Marawi, Mindanao. 
When Abu Sayyaf called for reinforcements, some 100 Islamic jihadists from an 
ISIS-inspired group known as 'Maute' stormed the city. They attacked St 
Mary's Cathedral, kidnapping 15 believers, including the priest Father Chito 
Suganob, some nuns, and several lay persons who were praying in the church. 
The Cathedral, a Protestant College and numerous other properties were 
torched. A truck transporting nine Christian labourers was ambushed at a 
militant checkpoint. After being pulled from the truck, the men were bound 
and ordered to recite the shahada (Islamic statement of faith). When they 
could not, they were executed. The militants have occupied half of the city 
using their Christian captives as human shields and are engaged in fierce 
battles with the Philippine military. The Maute group has escalated its 
activities over recent months as it seeks recognition from ISIS. President 
Duterte has declared martial law across Mindanao. The Church is pleading for 
the release of the Christian hostages.  

* SUDAN: PRISONERS FREED; CHURCHES DEMOLISHED

On 11 May Christian prisoners the Reverends Hassan Abdelrahim Kodi and 
Abdelmoneim Abdelmoula were released and reunited with their families. 
Incarcerated since December 2015, both men were released with a presidential 
pardon. Their co-accused, Rev Kuwa Shamal and Mr Petr Jasek, were released in 
January and February respectively. Despite this mercy, the Government of 
Sudan's campaign against the Church continues, with 27 churches designated 
for demolition. Of these, two Sudanese Church of Christ (SCOC) buildings were 
demolished in May: one in Algadisia (established in 1983) on 17 May and one 
in Soba Al Aradi (established in 1989) on 7 May. The demolition in Soba Al 
Aradi was particularly significant, for in 2011 Soba Al Aradi had 13 churches 
and today it has none. Pray for the Church in Sudan.  

* UNITED KINGDOM (UK): CHURCHES TO REMAIN ALERT

On 22 May Salman Abedi (22), a British youth of Libyan heritage, blew himself 
up at a pop concert in the Manchester Arena, killing 22 people, including 
young children, and wounding over 100. ISIS claimed responsibility for the 
murders, warning: 'What comes next will be more severe on the worshippers of 
the cross and their allies.' After the attack MI5 lamented being 
overstretched, commenting that security services currently are looking at 500 
different plots and have a list of some 23,000 potential terrorists, 
including a 'top list' of 3,000 deemed high risk. Barnabas Fund UK has 
advised churches across Britain to 'exercise extra vigilance', providing 
guidance on how to reduce risk and how to report suspicious activity to 
police. Pray for a revival of faith and courage in UK. 

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