Published: 16:34 GMT Standard Time - Monday 01 February 2010
Prayer Focus 02/10
- UK - NOISE NOTICE WITHDRAWN FROM CHURCH
- NIGERIA - VIOLENCE RAGES BETWEEN MUSLIMS AND CHRISTIANS
- MALAYSIA - CHURCHES FIREBOMBED FOLLOWING CONTROVERSIAL RULING
- PAKISTAN - CHRISTIANS ATTACKED WHILE WATCHING JESUS FILM
- ALGERIA - CHURCH DESTROYED IN ARSON ATTACK
- USA - CONVERT ALLOWED TO REMAIN WITH CHRISTIAN FOSTER FAMILY
- EGYPT - CHRISTIANS FEARFUL FOLLOWING WEEKS OF TARGETED VIOLENCE
UK - NOISE NOTICE WITHDRAWN FROM CHURCH
Lambeth Council has withdrawn the noise abatement notice issued to All Nations Church in Kennington in September 2009 following complaints from neighbours.
The church, which has been in its current location for 45 years, was ordered not to amplify its music or sermons. Following the issue of the notice, the church installed triple glazing, sound insulation and new doors at the suggestion of a consultant hired to review noise levels. When the council carried out a further inspection in January 2010, they withdrew the notice, having been satisfied that the church had met the conditions.
In October 2009, a church in Walthamstow had a similar notice served on them after complaints from one Muslim neighbour who would stand at the church's main entrance door shouting his complaints and demanding that the Pastor come out to speak to him during the sermon. At the time of writing, this notice has not been withdrawn, despite the fact that the church has taken measures to minimise noise.
• Praise the Lord for good news for the church in Kennington, but please continue to pray for the church in Walthamstow. Pray that the British authorities will apply the law impartially and will not give in to objections from the Muslim community.
NIGERIA - VIOLENCE RAGES BETWEEN MUSLIMS AND CHRISTIANS
Just over a year after terrible violence in Jos, the capital of Nigeria's Plateau State, bloodshed has again struck the town. According to local Christian sources two hundred Muslim men gathered to renovate a house belonging to a Muslim on Sunday 17 January in the Nasarawa Gwong area of Jos and began chanting intimidating slogans. Muslim youths nearby interpreted these as a call to arms and attacked a church during a worship service. They destroyed the church and went on to loot and burn Christian homes, church buildings and shops.
Although there has been no official figure from the Nigerian government, there could be around 300 people dead; it is not known how many Christians or how many Muslims died in the fighting. Thousands have fled their homes; some reports put this figure as high as 18,000. Nigerian Church leaders have received distress calls from all over Jos from people fleeing the violence. The whereabouts of the Nigerian President, who has been in hospital in Saudi Arabia, is now unknown.
Christian leaders in Nigeria acknowledge that some Christians have retaliated and do not condone their actions, but the State Police Commissioner, Mr Greg Ayanting, said in a media interview that the attack by Muslim youths on the church was unprovoked. Since then, Nigerian news sources have reported that Mr Ayanting has been redeployed. Christians believe he has been targeted because of his frankness.
Local Christians believe that the military assisted the Muslim youths by supplying them with military uniforms to facilitate the attacks. They point out that the senior officers now in command in Jos are Muslims. Christian leaders also think that Muslims have carried false reports about the conflict to the international media in order to discredit the church.
Some Nigerian Christians have expressed concern that, like the rioting of November 2008, this was a premeditated attack, and that it may even be part of a "grand plan" to "stifle" Christians and Christianity in Nigeria.
• Pray for all who have suffered in this violence, for those who were injured, those who have lost loved ones and those who fled their homes.
• Please pray that Christians will cease to retaliate and that they will depend on our Lord and Saviour for protection and strength.
• Pray for Christian leaders in Nigeria as they strive to be heard.
MALAYSIA - CHURCHES FIREBOMBED FOLLOWING CONTROVERSIAL RULING
At least nine churches and a Christian school in Malaysia were attacked with firebombs in early January. Eight people have been arrested in connection with the attack, which left one church partly gutted. Thankfully the remaining buildings suffered little damage.
The attacks were in response to a controversial court ruling on 31 December 2009 by a Malaysian judge, who declared that a Malaysian Christian newspaper had the right to use the word "Allah" when referring to God. ("Allah" is the word for God in the Malaysian national language, the language that all Malaysians are encouraged to use. Previously non- Muslims were banned from using the word "Allah".) On 14 January, the lawyers representing the Christian newspaper in their legal fight discovered that their office had been ransacked and a laptop stolen.
There have been illegal demonstrations by Muslim groups over the "Allah" controversy; however one source states, "The government said it could not stop popular protests held inside mosques. As a result, fiery speeches were delivered from within mosque compounds."
• Pray that the church attacks will not begin a trend of anti-Christian violence in Malaysia.
• Thank the Lord for the court ruling, but pray that it will now be upheld. The government is taking its case to the Appeals Court, which is expected to include a majority of Muslim judges.
PAKISTAN - CHRISTIANS ATTACKED WHILE WATCHING JESUS FILM
A screening of the Jesus film in Sargodha, Pakistan, in early December 2009 was brought to a standstill when a group of 50 Muslim villagers attacked the Christians who had gathered to watch. Armed with clubs, spades and axes, the mob damaged the movie projector, burned reels of film, assaulted the Christians and stole the public address system and the donations collected that evening.
The compound where the film was being shown was crammed with Christians who were clapping as the film showed Jesus' resurrection. Reports suggest this reaction enraged local Muslims who had gathered outside the compound. Several of the Christians were injured, including three evangelists; two sustained serious injuries.
The intervention of the village leader resulted in the surrender of the mob after a two-hour stand-off. It has been reported that officers at the local police station have refused to register a case against the Muslim villagers, as this would "further create a break-down of law and order".
• Pray for healing for those who were injured in the attacks. Pray that they will look to the Lord Jesus for strength and comfort at this time.
• Pray for an end to persecution in Pakistan, that Christians will be able to meet together without fear of attack. Pray that the police will act to protect the rights of Christians.
ALGERIA - CHURCH DESTROYED IN ARSON ATTACK
The meeting place of an Algerian church was looted and burned by a Muslim mob on Saturday 9 January. Reports say that worshippers were forced to flee when a group of anti-Christian protestors descended on their service. The mob set fire to Bibles, Christian literature and furniture belonging to the church.
The 300-member congregation meets in an apartment block in the city of Tizi Ouzou because they have not received official government approval to operate a church. This was a significant factor in why the police did not intervene. Mustapha Krim, the head of the Algerian Protestant Church Association, stated, "Authorities don't want to get involved because they're worried of getting in trouble with the Islamists." This was confirmed by a senior police officer in Tizi Ouzou, who stated, "What happened is appalling, but the apartment wasn't an authorised house to practise a religion".
Such attacks are uncommon in Algeria, and local Christians are concerned that this incident was sparked by the recent spate of anti-Christian violence around the world, including the shooting in Egypt and the attacks on churches in Malaysia. Krim believes the looting shows that "Islamist intolerance considers there is no room for Christian religious practices in Algeria".
• Praise God that the Christians whose church was burnt recently are able to continue worshipping the Lord in spite of the persecution they are facing.
• Pray for Christians in Algeria, that the Lord will strengthen them in number and in their faith in Him.
USA - CONVERT ALLOWED TO REMAIN WITH CHRISTIAN FOSTER FAMILY
A court agreement in Columbus, Ohio, has been reached allowing Rifqa Bary, the 17-year-old daughter of Muslim parents, to remain in a foster home under state custody until she turns 18 in August.
Rifqa, a Muslim who converted to Christianity, fled the family home and took refuge with a Christian family in Florida, fearing for her life. Because she is a minor, the authorities had to decide whether or not to return Rifqa to her parents. She stated under oath that she left home after her father threatened to kill her because she had converted to Christianity from Islam. In the USA, many in the media ridiculed her fears and condemned her supporters as anti-Muslim.
• Praise the Lord that the Ohio court has recognised the very real danger facing those who leave Islam and have chosen to protect Rifqa from possible future harm.
• Pray for a better understanding amongst non-Muslims in the West of the Islamic law of apostasy and of how it has conditioned the minds of zealous Muslims to view converts as traitors.
EGYPT - CHRISTIANS FEARFUL FOLLOWING WEEKS OF TARGETED VIOLENCE
In a previous edition of Prayer Focus Update (December 2009), we reported on the anti-Christian chaos that had erupted in the Egyptian town of Farshoot. But on 6 January, the hostility became more violent, spreading to the neighbouring town of Nag Hammadi. Six Christian worshippers and a security guard were killed when three gunmen stormed a worship service on the eve of the Eastern Christmas Day, which falls on 7 January. This attack followed threats to the church leader, apparently because of his requests for compensation for the Christians who lost property and businesses in November and his outspoken criticism of the Farshoot violence.
On 8 January, the town of Baghoura, near to Farshoot and Nag Hammadi, became the next scene of anti-Christian attacks. A Muslim mob armed with swords and gas cylinders looted and torched homes, shops and cars belonging to local Christians. One woman died when her home was set alight.
Following the violence in Nag Hammadi and Baghoura, dozens of Christian young men, some as young as 16, were arrested without warrant. Their detention was intended to pressure a local church leader to withdraw his statements about the negligence of State Security following the shooting on 6 January.
Two weeks after the church shooting the Egyptian President, Hosni Mubarak, directly condemned the attack in a speech aired on local news stations: "The criminal act in Nag Hammadi has made the hearts of Egyptians bleed, whether Christians or Muslims." Despite his calls "to deter hateful sectarian motives that threaten our social unity", one Christian commented, "When this hype dies down, things will probably go back to normal, until the next catastrophe."
• Pray for those Christians in Farshoot, Nag Hammadi and Baghoura who lost homes, property or loved ones in the recent attacks. Pray that they will forgive those who carried out the violence.
• Pray that the Lord Jesus will protect His people in Egypt, and that they will be able to live their lives as a witness to Christ, without fear of further attacks.
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