Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 373


Date:  August 31, 2016

By Elizabeth Kendal 

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

* Islamic State's DABIQ magazine (RLPB 369), the latest issue of which 
targets Christians and Christianity. Titled 'Break the Cross', the magazine 
is sure to fuel anti-Christian hostility in would-be jihadists.  

* SYRIA (RLPB 370), where al-Qaeda-led Jaysh el-Fatah broke through 
government lines and declared its intent to take the jihad into 
government-controlled western Aleppo. This is home to more than a million 
loyalist Syrians - i.e. non-Islamist Sunnis, Alawites and some 40,000 mostly 
Armenian and Assyrian remnant Christians.  

* SYRIA (RLPB 371), where, despite rebel shelling and al-Qaeda-led Jaysh 
el-Fatah being at the gate, the churches of western Aleppo continue to 
minster to hungry and displaced Muslims and Christians.  

UPDATE:  On Friday 26 August US Secretary of State, John Kerry, and his 
Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, met in Geneva for nearly ten hours of 
talks on the Syria crisis. Russia wants America to convince US-backed 
'rebels' to separate themselves from al-Qaeda affiliates so that al-Qaeda 
jihadists can be targeted without hitting US-backed 'rebels'. The US, 
however, has not been able to do this, and this is hampering US anti-terror 
efforts and preventing co-operation with Russia in the battle against 

On Monday 29 August Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, 
lashed out against the rebels who are preventing UN-funded aid convoys from 
delivering food into rebel-held eastern Aleppo. The rebels, who know how to 
fight asymmetrically, want their human shields starving and pitiful for 
propaganda purposes. Also on 29 August Islamic State confirmed that its 
spokesman and chief propagandist, Abu Mohammed al-Adnani (39), has been 
killed in Aleppo. Al-Adnani was the US' second most-wanted IS figure after 
al-Baghdadi. May the Lord intervene in Aleppo to 'frustrate the way of the 
wicked' (Psalm 146:9 NIV).   

* PRISONERS (RLPB 372): in Algeria, where a Christian has been sentenced to 
five years in prison for 'blasphemy'; Iran, where numerous Christians are in 
prison because of their Christian witness; and Sudan, where four believers - 
two Nuba pastors, one Darfuri convert and a foreign (Czech) film-maker - are 
facing national security charges that carry the death penalty.  



Middle East Concern reports that on Friday 26 August five believers were 
arrested as their families picnicked together in Firuzkuh north of Tehran. At 
around 1:30pm, officers from the Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) 
raided the picnic and took the men into detention. The whereabouts of Ramiel 
Bet Tamraz, Amin Nader Afshar, Hadi Askary, Mohamad Dehnay and Amir Sina 
Dashti remains unknown. Ramiel Bet Tamra is the son of Assyrian Pastor Victor 
Bet Tamraz. Pastor Victor and Amin Nader Afshar were arrested over Christmas 
in December 2014 and released on bail in early 2015 pending trial. There are 
grave concerns that the 26 August arrests are part of a MOIS campaign to 
compile 'evidence' against Pastor Victor ahead of the trial. Morning Star 
News notes that  37 Christians were arrested during August alone. The 
spiritual battle is intensive. Please pray.  


The trial of the two Nuba pastors, one Darfuri convert and a Czech film-maker 
resumed on 29 August. The men stand accused of capital crimes associated with 
what the prosecution refers to as the 'fabrication' of 'false' stories of 
Christian persecution and Nuba genocide. Western diplomats and 
representatives of foreign aid groups attended the hearing. Please pray.  

AUGUST ROUND-UP - also this month ...


Long-time intercessors will be familiar with the case of Mohamed Hegazy (34). 
In 2007, Hegazy became the first Muslim-born Egyptian to sue the Interior 
Ministry for his right to change his religion from Islam to Christianity. The 
court ruled against him, affirming the Sharia principle that apostasy is 
impermissible. His family vowed to kill him. With his wife and child safe 
overseas, Hegazy changed his name to Bishoy Armia and in 2011 began working 
as a freelance writer, reporting on the violent persecution of Coptic 
Christians in Upper Egypt. In December 2013, Hegazy was arrested and held for 
15 days [RLPB 240 (10 Dec 2013)]. Re-arrested in June 2014, he was sentenced 
to five years in prison on charges of inciting sectarian strife and spreading 
'misinformation' [RLPB 266 (25 June 2014)]. As reported in RLPB 312 (2 June 
2015), Hegazy has suffered much in prison, including routine beatings and 
intense pressure.  

On 23 July 2016 Mohamed Hegazy was released from prison. On Saturday 30 July 
footage appeared on YouTube showing his conversion to Islam. Made on Friday 
29 July, it shows Hegazy reciting the Shahadah (the Islamic statement of 
faith), apologising to his Muslim family and declaring that he would never 
again speak to the media. Human rights and religious liberty advocates fear 
Hegazy has succumbed to extreme pressure. His lawyer, Karam Ghobria, believes 
Hegazy's 'conversion' is the act of 'a terrified and broken man'. Hegazi has 
been released into the custody of his parents who had previously vowed to 
kill him. Please pray for Mohamed Hegazy.  

'But you, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my 
head.' Psalm 3:3 ESV  


On Sunday 28 August a teenage would-be terrorist launched a failed attack on 
a Catholic priest as he celebrated the Mass in St Yoseph's Catholic Church in 
Medan, North Sumatra. When his home-made bomb detonated but failed to 
explode, Ivan Armadi Hasugian (18) rushed at Rev Albertus Pandiangan (60) 
with a knife and an axe. Parishioners wrestled the attacker to the ground and 
the priest suffered only minor injuries. Hasugian claimed to be inspired by 
Islamic State propaganda (no doubt including DABIQ magazine) and by the 26 
July attack in France [RLPB 368 (27 July)] in which two Muslim youths 
slaughtered a Catholic priest as he celebrated the Mass.  


Pakistan's highest court has announced that it will hear the appeal against 
Asia Bibi's death sentence for blasphemy during the second week of October. 
It is reasonable to expect that, as in the past, this news will trigger 
Islamic protests, sit-ins and calls for Asia Bibi's death. It may also 
trigger anger and mob violence against Pakistan's vulnerable Christian 
communities. As the appeal hearing draws closer, the threat to Asia's life 
will escalate. If acquitted, Asia and her family will need high level 
security immediately, as well as sanctuary in a safe country, if they are to 
be spared vigilante extra-judicial killing. The Church must be praying for 
this whole process.  


On 7 July Russia's President Vladimir Putin signed into law a controversial 
'anti-terror' package which includes anti-mission measures that eviscerate 
religious freedom [RLPB 365 (8 July 2016)]. Five cases came before the courts 
during August. A Hare Krishna devotee was acquitted. Of four Protestants to 
be charged (two of whom are foreigners), three have been fined and one was 
due in court on 29 August. Furthermore, a case was launched on 22 August 
against the director of an Adventist church who stands accused of illegal 
evangelism by sending Christian literature to the leadership of the district 
administration. [See for details.] Pray that the 
anti-mission measures will be either radically amended or repealed.  


The UK Supreme Court has ruled in the case of The Christian Institute and 
others v The Lord Advocate (Scotland). The case concerns Scotland's highly 
controversial and unacceptably intrusive Named Person scheme [see RLPB 246 
(10 June 2014)]. On Thursday 28 July the five judges of the Supreme Court 
ruled unanimously that the Scottish government's Named Person scheme, as it 
stands, is unlawful. There can be no appeal. The scheme would have seen every 
child in Scotland under the age of 18 assigned a state guardian to monitor 
their 'well-being'. Christian Institute director Colin Hart praised the 
ruling as a win for families. However, the Scottish government remains 
'firmly committed' to the scheme while reluctantly acknowledging it would 
have to be optional rather than mandatory. Praise God!  

'Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, 
and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.' 
Joshua 1:9 ESV  

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