Published: 00:00 GMT Standard Time - Monday 28 February 2011
Prayer Focus 03/11
- AFGHANISTAN - PRAISE THE LORD, SAID MUSA RELEASED!
- EGYPT - CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY UNDER GROWING THREAT
- UZBEKISTAN - BIBLES SEIZED AND CHRISTIAN ORGANISATION FINED
- NIGERIA - WOMEN PROTEST AGAINST ATTACKS
- PAKISTAN - CHRISTIAN MINORITIES MINISTER RETAINS GOVERNMENT POSITION
- INDONESIA - CHURCHES ATTACKED BY MUSLIM MOB
- PAKISTAN - CHRISTIAN MAN ALLEGEDLY MURDERED BY MUSLIM EMPLOYERS
AFGHANISTAN - PRAISE THE LORD, SAID MUSA RELEASED!
After months of prayer and advocacy, in public and behind the scenes, Afghan convert to Christianity Said Musa has been released from prison where he was under threat of execution for apostasy. Said was arrested last May as part of a crackdown on Afghan converts. He was tortured and abused in prison but remained strong in his faith. It is believed that he is now safely out of Afghanistan.
However there is still concern for other Afghans in prison for their faith including Shoaib Assadullah, who is also facing possible execution for apostasy.
- Give thanks for the wonderful news that Said Musa has been released from prison. Pray that the Lord will heal him from any physical or emotional trauma that he may have suffered and that he will soon be reunited with his family.
- Pray for all others who are imprisoned for their faith, including Shoaib. Pray that the international pressure on Afghanistan over Said and Shoaib will lead to full religious freedom in the country so that those who choose to follow Christ may do so in freedom.
EGYPT - CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY UNDER GROWING THREAT
Christians and church leaders have come under attack in Egypt in recent days. On Wednesday 23 February, church leader Dawoud Botrous was found stabbed to death inside his home in Assuit. Concern was raised after he failed to turn up to preach on Sunday 19 February.
That same day, Egyptian armed forces stormed the 5th century St Bishoy monastery in Wadi el-Natroun, 110km from Cairo. Eight Christians were wounded and rushed to hospital. Armed forces stormed the main entrance gate using tanks and a bulldozer to demolish a fence erected by the monastery for protection against lawlessness during the civil unrest in January. One of the monks said, “The army was shocked to see the monks standing there praying, ‘Lord have mercy’ without running away. This is what really upset them... As the soldiers were demolishing the gate and the fence they were chanting ‘Allahu Akbar’ [the traditional Islamic war cry, meaning ‘god is great’] and ‘Victory, Victory’.”
Christians also found themselves targeted as Islamists took advantage of the mayhem and lack of police protection during the chaos and civil unrest that brought down the government in January. On 30 January, two Christian families were massacred in their homes in Minya Province, Upper Egypt. Eleven people, including four children, were killed and four others seriously injured when two Islamist groups – aided by Muslim neighbours – accessed houses owned by Christians.
- Pray for all those who mourn the loss of Dawoud Botrous and the eleven Christians from two families killed in Minya Province, that they will know the Lord’s comfort and peace.
- Pray that those injured in the attack at the monastery and in Minya will experience the Lord’s healing.
- Ask the Lord to bring peace and stability to Egypt after the departure of Hosni Mubarak. Pray that radical Islamists will not be able to capitalise on the crisis to seize power.
UZBEKISTAN - BIBLES SEIZED AND CHRISTIAN ORGANISATION FINED
On 12 January, Natalya Pitirimova, Accountant for the Bible Society of Uzbekistan, was fined for “violating procedures” over the import of two shipments of Bibles and children’s Bibles. Ministry officials ordered the Bible Society to return the Bibles to Russia at their own cost, saying, “There is no need to import Bibles into Uzbekistan since there’s an electronic version on the internet.”
Nearly 15,000 copies of the Bible in Uzbek and Karakalpak were seized by Tashkent City Customs in 2008 and 2010 and the State Religious Affairs Committee has refused to release the Bibles, despite a number of appeals from Christian churches.
Pitirimova received a phone call from Judge Suleymanov on 12 January summoning the Bible Society to the hearing that same day. She informed the judge that the Director was away and requested that the hearing be postponed, saying that she “could not appear before the court as I do not hold a leading position.” However the judge decided he would hear the case in their absence.
Uzbekistan is one ofthe worst countries in Central Asia for religious freedom, and people of various faiths and denominations are regularly imprisoned for their religious activities.
Christian leader David (Dmitri) Shestakov was released on 21 January after four years in prison but news has emerged that he has been placed under “administrative supervision”, which includes a curfew and a ban on visiting certain public places. In addition, he cannot leave his home city without prior police permission, and must report to the regional police at least three times a month. Local Christians fear the police will do all they can to bring another case against him and send him back to prison.
- Pray that the Lord will guide the Uzbekistan Bible Society in how they deal with the situation regarding the Bibles. Pray that the authorities will have compassion and release the Bibles.
- Pray for all Christians in Uzbekistan, that they may be free to witness and worship. Pray particularly for David Shestakov, that he may be left alone by the authorities and not live in fear of harassment.
NIGERIA - WOMEN PROTEST AGAINST ATTACKS
Thousands of women dressed in black brought the city of Jos, Plateau State, Nigeria, to a standstill on 1 February as they marched through the streets to protest against the on-going violence in Plateau State. The march took place after a series of attacks on Christian villages including one incident where five people died after a group of Muslims attacked six villages overnight on 27 January.
Christians have also come under attack in Bauchi State where a large explosive device was discovered under a pew at a church in Bauchi Town on 30 January. The street was blocked off by police and the device defused by the bomb squad.
- Pray for all those who mourn the loss of family and friends in the recent attacks on Christian villages in Nigeria, that they will know the Lord’s comfort in their grief.
- Pray that the march organised by the women will have an effect on the local government and that the authorities will work to restore peace and order to this troubled land.
PAKISTAN - CHRISTIAN MINORITIES MINISTER RETAINS GOVERNMENT POSITION
Christians have welcomed the news that Minorities Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, a Christian, has retained his position in the Pakistan government following a major reshuffle on 10 February.
Christians in Pakistan have hailed this development as “astounding”; Shahbaz Bhatti received a number of death threats because he had proposed an amendment to the country’s controversial “blasphemy law” in the wake of the Aasia Bibi case. Aasia, a Christian mother of five, was sentenced to death under the law in November 2010 for defiling the name of Muhammad (see Prayer Focus Update, December 2010). The Minorities Minister has openly supported Aasia in her plight and has also requested a pardon for her.
It is thought that the government had come under pressure from members of the international community to retain the Ministry of Minority Affairs in response to the growing violence against minorities in Pakistan. Following the announcement, Shahbaz Bhatti said, “I thank God for giving me this opportunity to continue my struggle for the oppressed minorities in Pakistan.”
- Praise God for the news that Shahbaz Bhatti has retained his position in the government of Pakistan. Pray that the Lord will continue to guide him and give him wisdom and discernment in his work for the oppressed minorities in Pakistan.
INDONESIA - CHURCHES ATTACKED BY MUSLIM MOB
A group of militant Islamists went on the rampage in Indonesia on 8 February demanding the death penalty for a Christian convicted of “blaspheming Islam”. The mob set two churches ablaze and damaged a third.
Antonius Richmond Bawengan (58) had been found guilty of distributing books and leaflets that allegedly “spread hatred about Islam” in Temanggung, Central Java, and was given the maximum sentence of five years in prison. Around 1,500 Muslims protested outside the courthouse, calling the sentence too lenient and demanding the death penalty. The crowd chanted “kill, kill” as they pelted the building with rocks.
The violence then spread to surrounding neighbourhoods, where the mob cried “burn, burn” as they targeted the churches. One minister, who saw his church go up in flames, was beaten up by the mob, and at least nine people were rushed to hospital with injuries. The protestors also threw rocks and other missiles at police, attacked a school building, and torched a number of vehicles.
The violence came two days after three members of a minority Islamic sect were beaten to death by a Muslim lynch mob, who considered them to be heretics. Both these incidents took place as Indonesia started its “interfaith week”, when the country was meant to celebrate its religious diversity.
- Pray for those congregations who have recently lost their churches to arson. Pray that the Christians will still be able to meet together to worship the Lord Jesus.
- Pray for Christians in Indonesia, that they will stand firm in the face of persecution and that the government will provide better protection for the churches against violent attacks.
PAKISTAN - CHRISTIAN MAN ALLEGEDLY MURDERED BY MUSLIM EMPLOYERS
Hundreds of local Christians took to the streets in protest after police refused to register the suspected murder of a young Christian man in Gujranwala district, Punjab Province, Pakistan, on 6 February.
The 24-year-old, who had been married for just eight months, failed to turn up for work as a driver on 5 February because of illness. When he returned to work the following day, he is said to have been tortured and killed by his Muslim employers. They told his father that he had committed suicide.
Following the protests, police did register a murder case against three Muslim men, but it remains to be seen whether or not they will face prosecution for the offence.
A Pakistani church leader said that incidents against Christians are increasing at an alarming rate, especially in Central Punjab, with the perpetrators roaming freely after having killed or robbed. He added, “Most of them have not been reported because of the influence that powerful local landowners have in the areas, and the influence of local MPs. They hold police and judges in the palm of their hands... Christians are not safe.”
- Pray for the family of this young man, especially his bereaved wife. Pray that they will find peace and comfort in the Lord.
- Christians in Pakistan are often denied justice when the perpetrator of the crime against them is a Muslim. Pray that justice will prevail in this case.
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