Published: 00:00 GMT Daylight Time - Wednesday 01 April 2009
Prayer Focus 04/09
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.