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Prayer Focus 06/09

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Prayer Focus 06/09

 PAKISTAN - CHRISTIANS FLEE VIOLENCE IN SWAT

 UZBEKISTAN - CHRISTIAN LITERATURE BANNED

 IRAN - IRANIAN CHRISTIANS FOUND GUILTY

 EGYPT - ENFORCED SLAUGHTER OF PIGS DAMAGES LIVLIHOODS OF LOCAL CHRISTIANS

 PAKISTAN - FIRE DEVASTATES HOMES OF CHRISTIAN CONVERTS

 PAKISTAN - CHURCH VANDALISED IN BANNU

 VIETNAM - PRAYER VIGIL TO HALT CONSTRUCTION

 EGYPT - UPDATE ON CONVERSION CERTIFICATE FOR LOCAL CHRISTIAN

 

 


PAKISTAN - CHRISTIANS FLEE VIOLENCE IN SWAT

Aid groups estimate that nearly 2 million people have been displaced by fighting between the Taliban and the Pakistani military in Swat, North West Frontier Province, Pakistan. Hundreds of Christian families are amongst the displaced people and are in particular need of assistance because of the discrimination they suffer in daily life and even now as refugees. Pakistani Christians, who are often poor day labourers, are particularly vulnerable in the mass exodus as prices of transport and products rise sharply. Some families have had to flee the valley on foot as they had no money for transport, and they were unable to stock up on resources before escaping the war-ravaged area. Most of the displaced people who have fled Swat are in temporary shelter and the numbers of families arriving at the makeshift camps are increasing with each passing day. In some areas, government relief workers have forbidden Christians and other minority faiths from setting up tents or eating with Muslim refugees. Local Christian schools have dismissed their students early to make room for the displaced people, opening their doors to the evacuated Christians because of the government attitude towards religious minorities.

• Pray for all the families who have fled their homes in Swat. Pray especially for Christians and other non-Muslim minorities that discrimination against them in the refugee camps will cease.
• Pray that the Christians will find strength and hope in the Lord Jesus and will be able to bring comfort to others.
• Pray for the aid that Barnabas Aid is sending through the churches and for all the aid being sent to help the displaced people, that all who are in need will be assisted.

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UZBEKISTAN - CHRISTIAN LITERATURE BANNED

In Karakalpakstan, state controls on religious activity are among the tightest in Uzbekistan which, despite officially being a secular state, is one of the worst countries for religious freedom in Central Asia. In May 2009, the senior religious affairs official for Karakalpakstan announced they were banning the Bible, the film "The Passion of the Christ" and other religious literature, including a hymn book, a Bible encyclopaedia, a Bible dictionary and a children's Bible, for "import, distribution or use in teaching." The authorities in Karakalpakstan routinely confiscate religious literature that they find when raiding the homes of local Christians. For example, a Bible was confiscated when police ransacked the home of Polat Smetullaev without a warrant. Government officials insisted the raid had been justified as Smetullaev's mother is known to host a Bible study for Christian women twice a week. Officials warned that if she carried on her Christian teaching without the approval of a registered, centralised religious organisation, she could face administrative punishment or even criminal prosecution. In April 2009, Valeri Adamia was found guilty of "illegal production, import, storage or distribution of religious literature" after his home was raided and a number of Bibles and other Christian literature were confiscated. Once seized, the literature is held for "expert analysis", on which the government officials make an assessment of what should be banned in the region. It is unclear what further action the authorities will undertake in the wake of the recent bans on specific works.

• Pray that the Lord will touch the hearts of government officials in Karakalpakstan, that they will see the importance of religious freedom.
• Pray for Christians in Uzbekistan, that they will remain strong in their faith and find courage to continue to meet together to share God's Word.
• Pray that those whose Bibles and other Christian resources have been taken will be reminded by the Holy Spirit of all that they have read and learned previously. (John 14:26)

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IRAN - IRANIAN CHRISTIANS FOUND GUILTY

In May 2008, three converts from Islam and their families were arrested and subjected to hours of interrogation about their faith and house church activities. Gholamzadeh and his wife, and Anari and his wife, were arrested at Shiraz airport as they were on their way to attend a Christian conference in Dubai. Two hours later, local police invaded the home of Hamid Hussein and arrested him and his three adult children. Charges were brought against Hussein, Gholamzadeh and Anari and nearly a year later, after six separate court sessions, the court in Shiraz found the men guilty of cooperation with anti-government movements and propagation of the Christian Gospel. The men have each been given an eight-month suspended prison sentence and five years probation, but they have been instructed by the judge that if they are found to be continuing "with their Christian activities and if they ever speak of their faith and propagate the Gospel, their suspended sentence will be enforced and they will be arrested and tried as apostates". The three men are also forbidden from contacting each other during this time. Christian converts from Islam are subject to mistreatment if arrested and bail is often set at an extremely high level. Further detention or formal criminal prosecution is threatened if converts are caught worshipping or spreading their faith.

• Pray for protection for Iranian Christians and for an end to the persecution that they face on a regular basis.
• Thank the Lord Jesus that groups of Iranian converts to Christianity are doubling in size every six months, as confirmed by one of the Christian house-church movements.
• Pray that the upcoming Iranian Presidential elections (June 12) will yield a President who will let Christians worship and witness without being monitored, harassed or arrested.

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EGYPT - ENFORCED SLAUGHTER OF PIGS DAMAGES LIVELIHOODS OF LOCAL CHRISTIANS

At the height of the swine flu outbreak in April, local Christians in Egypt and Jordan were deprived of a major source of income. In Egypt, the Health Minister ordered the slaughter of all pigs, approximately 300,000 animals. The rate of compensation was around 25 Egyptian pounds per pig (£2.70 GBP). In Jordan, the government closed down the country's five pig farms, which housed around 800 animals. These measures were completely unnecessary in health terms and, as the Muslim majority neither eat pork nor rear pigs, have served only to damage the livelihoods of local Christians. Some Christians in Egypt believed the authorities were simply taking the opportunity to damage Christian interests, as the instruction was given with no consultation with the local people. A Christian writes from Egypt that the slaughter caused "great distress and loss of livelihood for about 300 families in this one village ... it is also causing the garbage village to fill up with rotting garbage, which had previously been fed to the pigs. Every day the Christians are singing a song based on Habakkuk 3:17-18: though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Saviour."

• Pray for the Christian families affected by the needless slaughter of animals. Pray that they will continue to rejoice in the Lord, even in these difficult times.
• Please pray that they may find an alternative way of making a living, and that the authorities will treat them with greater justice and equity in future.

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PAKISTAN - FIRE DEVASTATES HOMES OF CHRISTIAN CONVERTS

Fire broke out in the village of Jhole, Sanghar District, Sindh on 24 May 2009. At least 15 thatched homes were reduced to ashes and three people died, including an eight-year-old boy. Many people suffered burns as they tried to douse the fire. A local Christian church has launched an emergency response operation to help the people of Jhole, who are all Christian converts from Hinduism. The massive fire not only destroyed homes but also livelihoods - many families lost livestock and large areas of crops were devastated. Barnabas Aid is sending help to at least 100 people in the village. At the time of writing, it was unknown how the fire started, but Pakistani Christians suspect it could have been a deliberate attack because the victims were converts.

• Please pray for the families in Jhole who have lost so much in the fire. Pray that the Lord Jesus will bring His people together in this time of difficulty.
• Pray for the relief effort that the necessities will be provided for the Christians of Jhole.

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PAKISTAN - CHURCH VANDALISED IN BANNU

A local church in the Cantonment area of Bannu, North West Frontier Province, has been ransacked, leaving a trail of debris. Following the regular Sunday service on 10 May 2009, Pastor Ijaz left the building, which was built by British Christians in 1857. When construction workers entered the church on Tuesday morning to continue their work, a scene of devastation met their eyes. Everything in the church had either been burnt or broken. Church furniture was badly damaged and the main cross had been smashed into pieces. The church Bible and other Christian literature had been burnt and musical instruments ruined. The memorial plaque that commemorated the donors who helped provide for the church's building had been covered with white cement. When Pastor Ijaz saw the damage, he was shocked and saddened, and the incident has deeply distressed the Christian community of Bannu, which was considered to be a secure area for Christians. According to Pastor Ijaz, Christians now feel insecure in their homeland. There is concern that this attack is the direct result of the "growing control of fanatic religious groups whose only goal is to harass the peaceful communities to gain control over them".

• Please pray for the Christians of Bannu, that they will find comfort in the Lord and know that His love for His people extends beyond the church building.
• Pray that the police will investigate this incident with fairness and that the investigation will bring justice for the people of Bannu.

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VIETNAM - PRAYER VIGIL TO HALT CONSTRUCTION

About 1000 Vietnamese Christians held a prayer vigil in Hanoi on the night of Saturday 25 April 2009 to protest against construction projects taking place on church-owned land. The church claims to have owned the area in question since 1928, but recently, the communist regime has been seizing land and undertaking various construction projects on it. In support of the Christians, the Hanoi People's Committee have asked government agencies to "stop the implementation of the project and construction works on the land of the Ba Giang lake", where hoardings have been erected indicating that a residential block is due to be built there. Three days after the vigil, the city of Hanoi ordered one of its districts to stop construction work on land owned by the church. It is hoped that this will also lead the district authorities to "strengthen their land management activity, preventing further occupation and ensuring security and discipline in the area", as requested by the Committee.

• Praise the Lord for answered prayer, that government officials ordered the cessation of construction on Church-owned land. Pray for justice for all Christians in Vietnam.

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EGYPT - UPDATE ON CONVERSION CERTIFICATE FOR LOCAL CHRISTIAN

Following last month's report of Christian convert Maher-al-Gohari's efforts to be officially recognised as a Christian, it has been reported that he is in hiding, fearing for his safety and that of his daughter. Al-Gohari travelled abroad to be baptised, obtained a baptismal certificate and presented this to the church in Egypt. The certificate was recognised by the Egyptian church and al-Gohari was issued a letter of acceptance into church membership. This bold move by the Egyptian church has provided al-Gohari with documentary support for his case to have his new faith officially recognised. This has incensed Islamic campaigners and a number of religious edicts have been issued against al-Gohari and the Christian minister who helped him by issuing the acceptance certificate. Al-Gohari has now been in hiding for several months, relying on friends to bring him food and water. Al-Gohari's original case included an attempt to change his daughter's religious status, but this case was dropped. He reports that when radical Muslims recognise his daughter on the streets, they warn her they will kill her father when they find him.

• Pray for safety for al-Gohari and his daughter, that justice will prevail and that they will be allowed to live openly as Christians.
• Pray that he will be granted permission to change his official ID card to show that he is a Christian and that this will set a precedent for other converts from Islam in Egypt.

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