Published: 12:00 GMT Standard Time - Wednesday 30 November 2011
Prayer Focus 12/11
- Kenya – Two killed in attack on church
- North Africa – Tunisian victory expected to define “Arab Spring” elections
- Iran – Supreme leader calls for "Islamic power-bloc"
- Indonesia – Mayor blocks roads to prevent church holding services
- Vietnam – Violent attack on church
- Azerbaijan – Tough new penalties proposed for religious activities
- Nigeria – Church bombings leave two Christians dead
- India – Pastor arrested over conversion of Muslims
- Pakistan – “Jesus Christ” censored from text messages
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”Philippians 4:6
Kenya – Two killed in attack on church
A church compound in Garissa, Kenya was attacked with a grenade on Saturday 5 November. The explosion hit a house belonging to a church elder, killing the elder’s son and a member of the church choir. A woman and her two grandchildren were also injured in the blast.
One witness said that she heard the attackers say after the explosion, “It is just the beginning.” Police said that the attack in the predominantly Muslim town could be religiously motivated and al-Shabaab sympathisers may have been responsible.
- Pray for those who lost loved ones and those who were injured. Pray that the Lord will give them grace to forgive the attackers.
- Pray that God will strengthen and bless his people in Kenya as they face violence and drought. Pray that He will watch over them and provide for all their needs.
A formerly banned Islamist party has been successful in elections in Tunisia, where the Arab Spring began, perhaps setting the tone for other nations involved in the 2011 uprisings.
The Islamist Ennahda party, outlawed under President Ben Ali, emerged from Tunisia’s elections on 23 October with the largest share of the vote, gaining over 40% of the seats in the national constituent assembly.
Tunisia has long been recognised as one of the most Westernised, secular and liberal Arab nations. If Islamists have been victorious there, it is even more likely that they will triumph in Egypt (where voting started on 28 November) and in the 2012 elections in Libya. The ousted leaders of all three countries had been able to restrict the strongly Islamist parties, but these have gained more influence in the wake of the revolutions.
At the time of writing, Egyptians were voting in the first stage of an election process that will extend until March 2012. Prior to the elections, thousands of Islamist protestors had occupied Tahrir Square, calling for an Islamic state. The Muslim Brotherhood, the country’s leading Islamic party, has formed an alliance with a radical Salafist party to contest the elections. One spokesman said, “Allah’s words must rule and Islam must be in the hearts of the citizens.”
On 22 October Mustafa Abdel Jalili, the leader of Libya’s Transitional National Council, said, “We are an Islamic country. We take the Islamic religion as the core of our new government. The constitution will be based on our Islamic religion.” Jalili’s statement was greeted with cries of “Allahu Akbar” (“god is great”).
- Anti-Christian hostility has increased markedly since the revolutions, particularly in Egypt. Pray for our Christian brothers and sisters in the region and ask that the Lord will grant them strength and protection in these times of political turmoil.
- Pray that the Lord will guide voters in Egypt and Libya and ask that He will bring positive change and greater freedom for the Christian communities in the region.
Iran – Supreme leader calls for "Islamic power-bloc"
In a message to more than 2.5 million Hajj pilgrims in Saudi Arabia on 5 November, Iran’s supreme leader called on the world’s Muslim-majority nations to form an “international Islamic power-bloc”, laying down an ominous challenge to Western powers. Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei said that Islamic countries should “make the most of [the] opportunity” created by the Arab Spring, as well as the anti-capitalist movement across the world.
According to the Ayatollah, Islam has become the guiding principle of the Arab uprisings despite the efforts of secular rulers to curtail the influence of religion in their countries. Pointing to the victory of the Islamist Ennahda Party in Tunisia’s recent elections, he predicted similar outcomes elsewhere, saying, “Without doubt, free elections in any Islamic country will hardly result in anything except what happened in Tunisia.”
Heralding a global power shift and issuing an ominous challenge to Western powers, the Ayatollah said that “the West, the United States and Zionism are weaker than ever before”. He urged the entire umma (Islamic nation) and especially the revolutionary nations to continue to be vigilant “against the plots of arrogant international powers”.
- Pray for Christians in the Middle East and North Africa, as they are often associated with the West. Pray for protection for the Christian community, who are already feeling vulnerable as a result of the Arab Spring.
Indonesia – Mayor blocks roads to prevent church holding services
Members of Yasmin Church (GKI) in Bogor were forced to meet in one of the member’s homes on Sunday 13 November after they were denied access to their site by security forces and Muslim extremists.
The congregation had been holding services on the street in front of its half-constructed church since its building permit was revoked in 2008. On 9 October, Mayor Diani Budiarto sent security forces to the area after the congregation gathered for their regular outdoor Sunday service. He warned the Christians that he would deny them access to the streets around the building to prevent them from meeting. Less than a month later, in defiance of a Supreme Court order issued in December 2010 that the church be reopened, he carried out his threat and blocked all roads to the church.
Mayor Budiarto is coming under mounting pressure over his refusal to uphold the court ruling in favour of the church. The head of the Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle (PDIP)’s Religious Affairs Commission said that the mayor had violated the constitution and abused the rights of the members of Yasmin Church. The president of the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation has written to the Indonesian President asking him to enforce the law, and Muslim professor Azyumardi Azra, dean of the Ciputat State Islamic University (South Tangerang), condemned the “inertia” of the government in pursuing the Mayor of Bogor, who, he said, should be put on trial over his treatment of the church.
- Give thanks for the support shown by a number of organisations for the congregation of the Bogor church. Pray that the mayor will allow the Christians to meet for worship and fellowship in their church building.
- Give thanks that the congregation continue to meet despite the pressure and lack of meeting space. Pray that they may know the Lord’s peace in their struggles.
Vietnam – Violent attack on church
Twelve Christians were seriously injured during a violent gang attack on an unregistered house church in Vietnam.
The raid on the meeting at the home of Pastor Nguyen Danh Chau in Hanoi took place on the morning of 13 November. Five men, four women and three teenage children were injured. The pastor was beaten unconscious, and the gang threatened to kill him if he continued to organise house church meetings.
During the attack, gang members ran outside and tried to implicate “the Christian pastors”, shouting that they were the ones “savagely beating people up”.
The raid followed an attack on a house church in Quang Nam province that belonged to a recognised denomination, where a gang of 20 thugs threatened to destroy the church and kill all of the members. It is thought that the Vietnamese authorities sometimes employ gangs to carry out attacks on churches; the perpetrators are rarely prosecuted.
- Pray for those who were attacked by the gangs. Pray that they may know the Lord’s comfort and healing as they recover from their ordeal.
- Pray for endurance for Christians in Vietnam, and ask the Lord to give His people strength to withstand persecution.
Azerbaijan – Tough new penalties proposed for religious activities
People could face harsh fines up to 9,000 Manats (£7,110; US$11,430) or up to five years in jail for producing or distributing religious literature that has not been vetted by the state, under proposed changes to legislation in Azerbaijan.
Religious literature is already subject to censorship in Azerbaijan, but the proposed amendments create new penalties or increase the severity of existing punishments for a range of religious activities. The proposals use vague and wide-ranging language, which observers say may be designed to broaden the possibilities for the suppression of religious freedom.
The amendments have already been approved by two parliamentary committees and are expected to be passed by the full parliament before the end of the year. Azerbaijan has repeatedly amended its laws to restrict the exercise of religious freedom and other human rights. The country’s Religion Law, which was first adopted in 1992, has been amended 13 times.
- Praise the Lord that, despite these restrictions on religious activity, the Church is growing.
- Pray for the churches in Azerbaijan as they face more limitations; pray that the authorities will recognise the right to freedom of religion and that all restrictions will be eased.
Nigeria – Church bombings leave two Christians dead
Two Christians were killed and at least 12 injured in an armed raid on a church in Tabak village, Kaduna State, Nigeria. Worshippers were at a prayer meeting on 3 November when gunmen burst into the building as the meeting was drawing to a close and fired at the congregation, which consisted mainly of women and children.
The Reverend Yunusa Nmadu, secretary of the Kaduna State Chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria, condemned the attack and expressed concern that the incident had happened “in spite of the heavy presence of soldiers in the area”.
The following day, a series of deadly bomb and gun attacks rocked Yobe and Borno states, leaving around 150 people dead. The militants mainly targeted the security forces, police stations and an army base. Churches were also attacked; six were bombed in a mainly Christian neighbourhood of Damaturu called Jerusalem in Yobe state. Boko Haram, a militant Islamist group, has claimed responsibility for these attacks. Their spiritual leader, Abubakar Shekau, has urged followers to carry out more assassinations and bombings, saying, “Whomever we kill, we kill because Allah says we should kill and we kill for a reason.”
- Pray for peace and comfort for the loved ones of those who were killed in the attack, and pray for healing for those who were injured.
- Pray for our brothers and sisters in Nigeria, who experience so much targeted violence. Pray that they will stand strong in their faith.
India – Pastor arrested over conversion of Muslims
An Indian pastor who baptised converts from Islam was arrested and his church raided following a sharia court hearing.
Rev. Chander Mani Khanna was called to a sharia court on 8 November by Kashmir’s Grand Mufti, Mohammed Bashiruddin, to explain alleged forced conversions of young Muslims, after a video appeared on YouTube showing the pastor baptising seven adult converts from Islam. He was accused of converting Muslims in exchange for money. The seven men and women who were baptised by Mr Khanna were also arrested and allegedly beaten by police in a bid to get them to testify against him.
Muslims responded angrily to the footage, threatening to burn Mr Khanna to death, kill all Christian missionaries and burn their buildings, schools and churches.
Following Mr Khanna’s arrest, Indian Christian leaders have questioned why the authorities are siding with the sharia court in a country with a secular constitution, which guarantees all citizens the “right freely to profess, practice and propagate [their] religion”.
- Give thanks that Mr Khanna has been released on bail. Pray that he may know the Lord’s guidance and wisdom. Pray for healing for the converts and pray that they may remain firm in their faith.
Pakistan – “Jesus Christ” censored from text messages
The Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) has banned the words “Jesus Christ” from use in text messages.
The PTA wrote to Pakistani mobile phone companies on 14 November ordering them to start blocking messages containing nearly 1,700 banned words and expressions. The letter accompanying the dictionary of terms said that the move was legal under the Pakistan Telecommunication Act 1996, which prohibits people from transmitting messages that are “false, fabricated, indecent or obscene”. It also stated that free speech can be restricted “in the interest of the glory of Islam”. Christians have reacted angrily to the inclusion of “Jesus Christ” on the list, which also features obscenities and sexual references.
The PTA has previously blocked websites deemed pornographic or offensive to Islam, but this is its first attempt to censor text messages.
- Ask the Lord to strengthen Pakistani Christians so that they may remain faithful to Him in the face of discrimination and harassment. Give thanks for the faith and perseverance of His people in that country.