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Prayer Focus 04/09

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Prayer Focus 04/09

PAKISTAN - CHRISTIANS TARGETED AND ATTACKED BY MOB

UK - CHRISTIAN MINISTER ATTACKED WHILE IN LONDON

THE UN - PROPOSED NEW RESOLUTION COULD BE A DANGER TO GLOBAL FREE SPEECH

INDIA - CHRISTIANS SUFFER EXTREMIST ATTACKS DURING CHURCH SERVICE

CHINA - CHRISTIAN PRISONER HELD FOR 14 MONTHS

NIGER - ISLAMIC PREACHERS BANNED FROM BROADCAST MEDIA AND PUBLIC PLACES

 

PAKISTAN - CHRISTIANS TARGETED AND ATTACKED BY MOB

In early March 2009, the peace and quiet of the small village of Sangowali in the Punjab province of Pakistan was broken by a gang of Muslims who descended on the village. The 25-strong mob targeted local Christians, breaking down doors and forcibly entering their houses and beating them with clubs and iron rods. Women tried to protect their sons and husbands, but the mob was indiscriminate in their attack. A number of Christians were injured, three of them severely, and one woman died of her injuries. The wounded were rushed to hospital, but their journey was delayed as the gang blocked the road shouting abuse and firing their guns.

It is thought the attack was intended to punish the Christian community living in the village because of the actions of a 16- year-old Christian boy. Prior to the attack, he had been sexually harassed by local Muslims and had pressed charges against his attackers at the local police station.

The families of the injured Christians are struggling to obtain justice for their relatives from the local police, as the accused are very influential in the area. A charge of murder has been registered, and ten Muslim men have been named, but as yet no one has been arrested.

• Pray for the Christians injured or bereaved in this attack, that the Lord will heal and comfort them at this time.

• Ask the Lord Jesus to change the hearts of the men who carried out the attacks and pray that the police will act to ensure justice for Christians.

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UK - CHRISTIAN MINISTER ATTACKED WHILE IN LONDON

The Rev. Noble Samuel, a Christian minister at a United Reformed Church in West London, has been attacked by three men on his way to the TV studio where he films a Gospel programme. Mr Samuel was born in Pakistan and moved to Britain 15 years ago. He presents an hour-long live Asian Gospel Show on satellite television. He does not set out to be confrontational, but in recent weeks his views have been aggressively challenged by Muslim callers in a broadcast phone-in.

The incident, which has been described as a "faith hate" crime by police, happened when a car pulled in front of Mr Samuel and a man came over to ask for directions. The attacker opened the car door and started punching Mr Samuel and trying to hit his head on the steering wheel; he then grabbed Mr Samuel's cross and pulled it off, throwing it to the floor. Two other men stole his laptop and Bible. The assailants warned Mr Samuel, "If you go back to the studio, we'll break your legs." Following the attack, Mr Samuel went ahead with his show at studios that are owned by local Muslim businessman Tahir Ali, who went on air later that day to condemn the attacks.

Earlier this year, the plight of Asian Christians in Britain was highlighted during a meeting at the General Synod of the Church of England. An Asian Synod member, Mrs Zahida Mallard, noted, "We are very much aware of the persecuted Church in Iraq, Palestine, Pakistan and other places where to own the Name of Christ is to invite suffering, stigma and social isolation - but the persecuted Church is a reality not just in these foreign lands but in our cities." Particularly vulnerable are British-born Asians who have converted from other faiths to follow Christ and are often treated as traitors by their friends, relatives and community. A minute's silence was held at the meeting in February 2009 in honour of persecuted Asian Christians in England.

• Thank God that Mr Samuel faced his attackers with courage and continued with his work for Christ following the attack.

• Pray for the Lord's protection of Mr Samuel's family, and that their faith in the Lord Jesus will keep them from fear.

• Pray that "faith hate" crimes will be taken seriously in the UK and that the police will deal with such crimes appropriately.

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THE UN - PROPOSED NEW RESOLUTION COULD BE A DANGER TO GLOBAL FREE SPEECH

A new United Nations Resolution has been proposed that represents a dangerous threat to global religious freedom, human rights and free speech. Entitled "Combating Defamation of Religions", the resolution stresses the need to "effectively combat defamation of all religions and incitement to religious hatred in general and against Islam and Muslims in particular". The resolution has been penned by Pakistan and circulated by the Muslim countries that dominate the Human Rights Council. It seeks to criminalise "defamation of Islam" and to define any questioning of Islamic beliefs as a human rights violation. No other religion is mentioned explicitly.

Most notably, this resolution strikes at the heart of human rights as it seeks to shelter Islam as a faith and ideology from "question, debate or critical inquiry", as opposed to protecting individual humans. It would make it difficult to critique Islam for its attitude and actions towards women, non-Muslims and apostates who leave Islam. Unfortunately, it is expected that this resolution will be adopted, as Muslim countries make up the majority of the Council.

• Pray for guidance and wisdom for members of the Human Rights Council, that they will see the potential damage of this resolution and that they will have the courage to speak out against it.

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INDIA - CHRISTIANS SUFFER EXTREMIST ATTACKS DURING CHURCH SERVICE

A pastor and several worshippers have been injured following a shooting spree in early March by a man protesting against conversions from Hinduism to Christianity. A bomb was also detonated in the church in India's eastern state of Bihar. The attacker burst into the church during a worship service carrying a pistol, ammunition and anti-Christian pamphlets protesting against what he called "forcible conversions". The 35-year-old pastor, Vinod Bhaskar, was shot in the chest and was rushed to a nearby hospital in a critical condition. At least four other worshippers, including a six-yearold child, were also taken to hospital. The attacker was restrained by a group of the churchgoers and was arrested by the police. It is not clear if the attacker acted alone but there have been no claims of responsibility for the attack. It has been reported that the Christians and pastor have received death threats from nationalist Hindus.

India is a majority Hindu nation with over one billion people. In recent months, Christians have been targeted by those who oppose the spread of Christianity in India. Earlier this month, suspected Hindu militants attempted to break in to the home of a Christian pastor in the state of Uttar Pradesh who has seen a substantial increase in Christians attending the church that he leads.

These attacks come at a time when the government is under increased international pressure to tackle extremism against India's Christian minority.

• Pray for the pastor and those injured in the attack in Bihar, for God's healing hand to be upon them.

• Pray for the attacker of the church in Bihar, that he repents of his actions and comes to know and trust the Lord Jesus Christ.

• Pray that the government of India will have the wisdom and courage to calm the anger among Hindu activists and tackle extremism against local Christians.

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CHINA - CHRISTIAN PRISONER HELD FOR 14 MONTHS

Authorities in the Muslim-majority Xinjiang Uyghur region of China have been detaining a local Christian church leader for over 14 months. His family have not been allowed to see him since his arrest and only limited, restricted access has been given to his lawyer. Alimujiang Yimiti is an ex-Muslim who has been a believer in Jesus Christ for 14 years. According to his wife, "Faith in Jesus has made great changes in Alimujiang's life and has made him really a good citizen who loves his country and his people."

Alimujiang had already been prevented from carrying out his business activities, as he had been accused of using his employment "as a cover to preach Christianity among the people of Uyghur". In January 2008, he was arrested for "endangering the security of the state". At the time of his arrest, his house was searched by police who removed his personal computer, and it is alleged that he was physically abused by the police. Alimujiang's family have attempted to visit him in prison a number of times, but each time they have been turned away. His family have received no news about him and no communication from him for the past ten months. His case was brought to trial in May 2008 but was returned to local prosecutors because there was "insufficient evidence" against him.

• Pray for Alimujiang, that he will be able to communicate with his family and that he will soon be released to return to home and continue the Lord's work.

• Pray for Alimujiang's wife, Guli Nuir, and for his two young sons as they face each day without their father. Thank the Lord for Guli Nuir's strength and persistence in trying to communicate with her husband.

• Pray that the government agencies will handle this case quickly and impartially, and they will give Alimujiang access to his lawyer.

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NIGER - ISLAMIC PREACHERS BANNED FROM BROADCAST MEDIA AND PUBLIC PLACES

On 25 March the religious affairs ministry of Niger announced that some Islamic preachers were to be banned from the airwaves to prevent "religious anarchy". The ministry said in a statement that it had outlawed the broadcasting of preachers and religious debates that were "likely to create ill-feeling and present a severe test of social cohesion". The Religious Affairs Minister, Issaka Labo, said on state television that "some religious circles resort to insults through the media, or broadcast provocative preachers and messages likely to upset the tranquillity between the different Muslim brotherhoods".

New restrictions have also been introduced on Islamic preaching in streets and markets. According to the ministry, Muslim associations must in future have official authorisation to preach in public areas and have to tell the authorities the venue, date and time of any sermon.

The government has tried to regulate Islamic preachers since 2006. It has warned that "tendentious sermons going beyond the instructions of the Qur'an" will not be tolerated.

The vast majority of Niger's population of 13 million is Muslim, mostly moderate Sunnis. There are also very small Christian and Baha'i communities. Despite the rapid progress of Islamisation in recent years, Niger has so far managed to avoid the religious violence that has afflicted its southern neighbour Nigeria and has maintained peace between the country's religious groups. Although the banning of inflammatory preaching by Muslims on air and in public is intended to prevent inter- Islamic quarrels, it will also enhance the security of Niger's Christians.

• Praise the Lord that the government of Niger has taken firm action to maintain public order and peace between the country's religious groups. Pray for the effective implementing of the new restrictions.

• Pray for the small Christian minority in Niger, that it may be kept safe and free, and that the process of Islamisation in the country will be arrested and reversed.

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Prayer Focus 04/09

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    • Heavenly Father, we pray for Kim Jung-Wook, a South Korean Christian who has been sentenced to hard labour for life in North Korea for “spying” and attempting to establish house churches in the country. We thank You that although prosecutors demanded the death penalty, this was commuted, but we pray that Jung-Wook will be sustained by You in his imprisonment and cruel treatment and will soon be released. We pray too for the dozens of North Koreans who were detained after Jung-Wook’s arrest in October on suspicion of helping him, and for the families of any who have already been executed. We pray for political change and religious freedom in North Korea, that it may be made legal to be a Christian and to take part in Christian activity. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed 9 hours ago

    • Two Christian families in Uzbekistan who meet in a private home to read the Bible and pray together have been repeatedly fined and had property confiscated. Alisher Abdullayev and Veniamin Nemirov were originally fined in 2012 for unregistered religious activity and teaching religion “illegally”. They refused on principle to pay, claiming that they had not violated any laws. But earlier this year bailiffs went to their homes and confiscated a car, a mobile phone and household items. The men and their wives were then fined again, ten times the minimum monthly wage. Officers have also raided one of their meetings, filming and harassing those present and seizing religious literature. Pray that the authorities will stop targeting the families and that they will be left alone to study and pray in peace. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Tue, Sep 2014 00:00

    • Leaders imprisoned for up to 60 days and members for up to 45 days; fines, corrective labour or community service: these are the penalties for taking part in religious gatherings in Kazakhstan held without state permission, according to a new criminal code. Those who finance unregistered religious activity will be liable to the same punishments as leaders. In addition, a new Code of Administrative Offences lays down a wide range of penalties for exercising the right to religious freedom. Both codes have been condemned by 119 Kazakh and international human rights groups and individuals. They further tighten controls on religious practice in a context where it is already much restricted. Pray for wisdom and courage for Christians in Kazakhstan as they seek to maintain their worship and witness. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Mon, Sep 2014 00:00

    • Give thanks that 55 Christians, almost all church leaders and converts from Islam, received Bible training at a three-day seminar in Kyrgyzstan that was supported by Barnabas Aid. The participants have virtually no access to Biblical training, and so the studies were a great boost to their faith and ministry. Meeting fellow church leaders, who are all dealing with similar issues, such as isolation and persecution from Muslim relatives and local Muslim communities, was also very encouraging to them and gave them the opportunity to build up a Christian support network. Pray that the Lord will continue to speak to them through the Bible passages they studied at the seminar, and that He will bless their ministries. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Sun, Sep 2014 00:00

    • Christians and other minorities in Burma (Myanmar) are extremely concerned about a proposed religious conversion bill that will require people to seek permission from the authorities before changing religion. It is part of a package of four bills designed to “protect race and religion” in the Buddhist-majority country. The government says it is intended to prevent forced conversions. The draft says that forcing someone to convert would be punishable by a year in prison, while insulting another religion would be punishable by between one and two years in prison. Similar laws in force in several Indian states are used to threaten legitimate evangelism by Christians and as a pretext by Hindu militants to attack Christians, whom they falsely accuse of forcibly converting people. Pray this bill will not become law in Burma. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Sat, Sep 2014 00:00

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