Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 368


Date:  July 27, 2016

JULY 2016 UPDATE - this month we prayed concerning ...

* RUSSIA (RLPBs 364 and 365), where President Putin has defied the advice of 
business and church leaders and even his own advisors and signed into law a 
controversial 'anti-terror' package which includes anti-mission measures that 
eviscerate religious freedom. We now wait to see how the law will be applied 
and how it might be challenged.  

* EGYPT (RLPB 366), where Egypt's indigenous Christian Copts face escalating 
violent persecution at the hands of local radicalised Muslims increasingly 
confident they will never be charged.  


LUXOR: Morning Star News reports that at 2:30am on 16 July Copts in 
Al-Madamoud in Luxor Governorate were woken by the sound of flames ripping 
through the roof of the Church of the Archangel Michael. An iconographer, who 
was sleeping in the church while he worked restoring the church's religious 
paintings, was trapped inside and had to be rescued by local residents. 
Firefighters arrived two and a half hours later, after the building had been 
thoroughly gutted. Local Copts suspect arson.  

MINYA: Shortly after 9 pm on Friday 15 July Muslims in Abu Yacoub village, 
Minya, attacked the homes of Copts, enraged by a rumour that a church might 
be constructed in the area. Five homes were torched and several Copts 
received minor injuries. On Sunday evening 17 July a group of Muslims armed 
with knives and batons attacked the families of two local Coptic priests in 
Tahna al-Gabal. The attack came after a group of four local Muslims harassed 
and threatened Pastor Matta'os' son, Mikhail (7), as he played outside the 
house under the watchful eye of his grandfather. When the grandfather 
protested, the Muslims became violent, attracting more Muslims. The 
grandfather Naguib Hanna (80) was stabbed several times in the face, as were 
Malak Aziz Hanna (40, the brother of another local priest) and a female 
Christian neighbour Azza Gouma (35). Mr Fam Mari Khalaf (27) was stabbed 
repeatedly in the chest and died.  

* TURKEY (RLPB 367), where President Erdogan is exploiting the failed coup as 
an opportunity to eliminate his opponents, tighten his grip on power, advance 
his personality cult and further his dangerous Islamo-Turkic nationalism. The 
threat facing alleged 'enemies of the state' - i.e. Gulenists (liberal 
Islamists), Kemalists (secularists), as well as all non-Turks and non-Muslims 
- is now greatly heightened.  

JULY ROUND-UP - also this month ...


Maya Karmokar (45) lives with and cares for her elderly mother in the village 
of Kajura, Jessore District (south-west Bangladesh). A devout Catholic, she 
works as a nurse in a local Catholic medical facility. On the night of 9 July 
Maya was asleep in her bed when Muslims broke into her home, poured gasoline 
over her and set her alight. Alerted by her screams, neighbouring relatives 
rushed to her aid. Unable to afford specialist medical care, Maya was in 
hospital for just one day before being released to the care of her local 
doctor, despite receiving burns to most of her body. According to the parish 
priest, Fr Ananda Gopal Biswas, Maya is respected and has no enemies. 
Christians, Hindus, atheists and foreigners are increasingly being targeted 
by fundamentalist Islamists. In some areas, Hindu and Christian businesses 
have reportedly received anonymous pamphlets ordering them to observe Sharia, 
respect Islam and obey Muslims.  


On Tuesday 26 July two knife-wielding men pledging allegiance to Islamic 
State (IS) stormed a Roman Catholic church in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, 
Normandy, northern France, during a celebration of the Mass. A nun who fled 
the scene told French TV that she saw the attackers force the priest, Rev 
Jacques Hamal (85) to his knees before slitting his throat. Another believer, 
whose throat was also slit, remains in a critical condition. French police 
shot the two Islamic terrorists as they left the church. One of the killers, 
Adel Kermiche (19), was known to French intelligence services as he had 
previously been arrested trying to join the jihad in Syria. IS has taken 
credit for the attack, via its Amaq news agency. This is the first Islamic 
terror attack on a church in Europe and cannot be expected to be the last. 
Pray for revival in Europe. 


The Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI) reports that on Sunday 3 July a 
group of 12 to 15 Sikh men violently attacked Sikh convert pastor Satpal 
Singh (48) along with his elderly mother, son and nephew. The family was at 
the church early with a group of around 15 church women making preparations 
for the luncheon that was to follow the worship. While the church women were 
able to flee, the pastor and his family were trapped, abused and beaten. 
Pastor Singh's 90-year-old mother was struck on the forehead with a brick and 
required hospitalisation. Pastor Singh told EFI that their church in Mallian 
village, Gurdaspur District, Punjab Province, has a congregation of some 60 
members, all from different faiths. 'While we have a good testimony in our 
neighbourhood, these eight Sikh families have come together and have been 
threatening us for more than a year now for spreading the Word and conducting 
Church and prayer services in the village.' Please pray for Pastor Singh, his 
family, his congregation and his ministry. Pray also for his attackers that 
they will repent and believe.  


NADARKHANI: Having already endured several years in prison - between October 
2009 and December 2013, including a death sentence for apostasy, subsequently 
overturned - Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani is again being threatened by the 
Iranian regime. On 13 May the pastor and his wife, Tina, were temporarily 
detained after Iranian Security Service (VEVAK) officers raided their home in 
Rasht as part of a series of raids targeting approximately ten Christian 
households [see RLPB 358 (May Update)]. On Sunday 24 July Pastor Nadarkhani 
was summoned to the 13th Branch of the Revolutionary Court in Rasht. He was 
formally charged with 'acting against national security' and accused of 
Zionist activities and evangelism. He has been given until 31 July to raise 
100 million Toman (US$33,000) bail or face arrest.  

MARYAM: Though granted medical furlough in June 2016, gravely ill Christian 
prisoner Maryam Naghash Zargaran was escorted back to Evin Prison on 27 June 
after the court ruled she must continue serving her four-year prison sentence 
on charges of 'acting against national security' [see RLPB 363 (June 
Update)]. Still gravely ill and suffering both physical pain and 
psychological distress, Maryam commenced a new hunger strike on 5 July, 
demanding 'immediate and unconditional release'. An Iranian court has 
rejected her demand at the request of the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence 
(MOIS). Prison medical staff who examined Maryam on 20 July report that her 
blood pressure is very low and that she has pains and numbness in her feet; 
possibly early signs of multiple sclerosis. Please pray for Maryam and for 
the Church in Iran.  


The eight Christian teachers/counsellors charged in June with proselytising 
will soon face court. The seven men and one woman were arrested on 9 June for 
distributing religious booklets in a Christian school [see RLPB 363 (June 
Update)]. In April the Himalayan Times reported that Christian-run orphanages 
with access to foreign funds are 'preaching Christianity to young minds'. 
Like schools, orphanages are in the firing line, and in the past few weeks a 
number of Christian social workers who run orphanages in Nepal have been 
arrested for proselytising and charged with human trafficking. Chinimaya 
Blown runs a children's orphanage in the capital, Kathmandu, and prays with 
the children in her care. She was arrested on 24 June and is currently being 
held in a Kathmandu jail facing charges related to human trafficking. On 19 
July police in Chitwan (about 160km south-west of Kathmandu) arrested Pratik 
Sunar and his wife whom they accuse of running an unregistered children's 
home where they engage in 'unnecessary promotion of Christianity'. Whilst Mrs 
Sunar was freed after objections from local residents, Mr Sunar remains in 
police custody. Pray for the Church in Nepal.  


On Saturday morning 9 July Eunice Mojisola Olawale (41), a deaconess in the 
Redeemed Christian Church of God which her husband pastors in a suburb of 
Abuja, went out preaching in the streets of Kubwa as was her routine. That 
Saturday, however, was to be anything but routine for that morning, as Eunice 
preached 'the blood of Jesus', a band of Islamists stabbed the mother of 
seven to death. Eunice had been street preaching for some six years, 
following in the footsteps of her evangelist mother. Though grieving deeply, 
her husband, Pastor Olawale Elisha said his one desire is that 'the killers 
repent and join her in heaven'.  

Meanwhile, many southerners, especially Christians, are concerned that, of 
the 122 government appointments President Buhari has made since being 
elected, 77 posts have gone to northern Muslims. What is more, they are 
highly strategic posts, including Senate President, Speaker of the House of 
Representatives, Chairman of the Electoral Commission, Chief Justice, Chief 
Judge of the Federal High Court, Chief of Army Staff, Chief of Air Staff, 
Defence Minister, Inspector General of Police, Chief of Defence Intelligence, 
Controller of Immigration and more. Continue to pray for Nigeria.


On the night of Monday 18 July a group of gunmen attacked an Assyrian 
Orthodox Church in Watwatiyah District, 13 km north-east of Qamishli city 
which is in north-eastern Syria close to the border with Turkey. The 
militants broke into the church and, after looting it, detonated explosives. 
Though security forces were able to extinguish the fire, the church was 
destroyed. Although the perpetrators have not yet been identified, Assyrian 
activists accused Islamic State militants of being behind the attack. Pray 
for the Church in Syria.  

NOTE: The strategic situation may be about to shift in a way that bodes well 
for Syria. Recognising that it has run out of options, the US has agreed to 
co-operate with Russia in the fight not only against Islamic State, but 
against al-Nusra (al-Qaeda) which has long been protected by its close ties 
with US-backed 'rebels'. Furthermore, Turkey - which has done more to 
facilitate the jihad in Syria than any other state - has buckled under the 
stress of Russian sanctions, apologised for shooting down a Russian jet and 
is seeking rapprochement with Moscow. This could lead to Syria's 
stabilisation and save Syria from a US-Turkey-Arab backed Islamist takeover. 
May GOD bring peace and security to Syria.  


On 19 July a photo appeared on the Facebook account of Father Tom Uzhunnalil 
that appears to be a photo of the kidnapped Indian Salesian priest. Father 
Tom (56) had been praying in the chapel of a Missionaries of Charity care 
home in Aden when it was stormed by Islamic State jihadists on 4 March. Eight 
residents and four nuns were killed, while Father Tom was kidnapped [see RLPB 
348 (16 March 2016)]. Bishop Paul Hinder, the Apostolic Vicar of Southern 
Arabia, believes the photo is authentic and that it is Father Tom. There is 
no indication of who posted the photo or why. Please pray for Father Tom and 
for the Church in Yemen.  

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