Published: 15:00 GMT Daylight Time - Monday 03 October 2011
Prayer Focus 10/11
- Somalia – Christian martyred
- Pakistan/Iran/India – young victims of anti-Christian hostility
- Maldives – government tightens grip on religious affairs
- Indonesia – Suicide bomber targets church
- Egypt – Muslims demolish church and torch homes
- Syria – Threat issued to Christians
- China – Families told to pay for release of house church leaders
- Fiji – Church conference cancelled
Somalia – Christian martyred
The decapitated body of a Christian man killed by Islamic militants has been found in the Bakool region of south-western Somalia on 2 September. Juma Nuradin Kamil, whose head was severed and put on his chest, was killed by the terrorist group al-Shabaab.
Al-Shabaab, a terrorist group linked to al-Qaeda that controls most of southern Somalia, wages war against “enemies of Islam”. The group imposes an extremely strict version of sharia, and in all versions of sharia law, death is the penalty prescribed for adult male apostates from Islam. Many Somali Christians have been martyred by Islamic militants in recent years.
Somalia is almost 100% Muslim, and the small number of Christians, all converts from Islam, are extremely vulnerable. There are no church buildings in the country; Christians meet “underground” to worship. The country is currently in the grip of severe drought and famine, and al-Shabaab is restricting the supply of international aid to the starving population. The group briefly lifted its ban on aid agencies operating in the country, only to re-impose it.
- Pray for those who mourn the loss of our murdered brother in Christ. Pray that his friends and family will find peace and comfort in the Lord.
- Pray for God’s hand of protection over the small Christian community in Somalia.
Three recent incidents highlight how anti-Christian persecution is affecting children and being used against Christian families.
Christian schoolgirl Faryal Bhatti was expelled from her school in Pakistan after an innocent spelling mistake led to an accusation of blasphemy. The grade eight pupil (aged 12/13) in Havelian, Abbottabad, was scolded and beaten by her teacher on 22 September when she accidentally misplaced a single dot in a word while answering a question on a poem about Muhammad; her error turned the word naat, which refers to praise of Muhammad, to laanat, which means “curse”.
As news of the incident spread, enraged Muslims rallied in the streets, demanding that Faryal be expelled from the area and a criminal case be registered against the youngster. Defiling the name of Muhammad carries a mandatory death penalty under Pakistan’s “blasphemy laws”. In their Friday sermons Muslim leaders also called for action to be taken against Faryal and her family.
Despite her apologetic explanation that the misspelling was an error with no malicious intent, Faryal was expelled from her school, and her mother, a nurse, was transferred to another hospital around 40 miles away. The family have also been forced to leave their home. They have received threatening text messages, raising fears of Muslim reprisals among other Christian families in the area. A number of Muslim leaders have, however, come out in defence of the youngster, saying that she should be pardoned because her actions were unintentional.
In Iran, a child was taken hostage by security forces in a bid to coerce the Christian parents to make a statement against believers in prison. The couple had adopted the child after years of waiting for a legal adoption. The security agents threatened them, saying, “If you want your child back you must file a complaint against your fellow Christians in prison.”
And in a third incident, a team of eight young Brethren men who were preaching the Gospel on the streets in Andhra Pradesh, India, were arrested on 25 September. A large and hostile crowd had gathered around the men. The police arrived to try and disperse the crowd, but when their efforts failed, they took the Christians into protective custody. But the mob then pressured the police to take action against the young men, accusing them of engaging in “religious conversion”. They remain in custody.
- Pray for Faryal and her family, that there will be no action brought against her for the innocent spelling mistake.
- Pray that the child in Iran will be returned to its Christian parents. Pray for strength for the parents: the emotional stress of the ordeal made the Christian woman so unwell that she had to be taken to hospital.
- Lift to the Lord the group of Christian evangelists in India, and pray that the case against them will be dropped and that hostility towards Christians in India will cease.
Maldives – government tightens grip on religious affairs
New religious regulations have been brought into force in the Maldives that include a penalty of up to five years in jail for anyone who preaches anything except a version of Islam approved by the country’s Islamic Ministry.
Under the religious unity regulations, which enforce the Religious Unity Act, it remains illegal to spread any religion other than Islam, and to carry, or display in public, books on religions other than Islam. The media is banned from producing or broadcasting any programme “that humiliates Allah or his prophets of the holy Quran or the Sunnah of the Prophet or the Islamic faith”.
Islam is the only recognised religion in the Maldives, which is overwhelmingly Muslim (99%). The very small number of Christians, less than 0.2% of the population, are ostracised, discriminated against and carefully watched. Non-Muslims are precluded from voting and holding public positions. The Maldivian attitude towards Christianity is very negative because of the Western media and the perceived immorality of Westerners, many of whom come to visit the Maldives as tourists.
- Ask the Lord Jesus to change the hearts of those in the Maldivian government, that they will be able to accept that being a citizen of the Maldives need not entail being a Muslim as well.
Indonesia – Suicide bomber targets church
A suicide bomber detonated explosives as worshippers were leaving the Sunday service at the Bethel Injil Sepuluh church in Keputon, Solo, Central Java, on 25 September. The blast, which damaged parts of the church building, left 28 people injured. The one fatality from the incident is believed to be the bomber.
It has been suggested that the bombing was a response to clashes between Muslims and Christians in Ambon, one of the Malukus, earlier in September where seven people were killed, scores more injured and homes and vehicles torched. The conflict in Ambon was sparked by false rumours, circulated by text message to Muslims in the area, that Christians had killed a Muslim motorcycle taxi driver; police said he died after losing control of his vehicle and crashing.
- Pray for those who were injured in the church bombing, that the healing hand of the Lord Jesus will be on them.
- Pray that the government of Indonesia will provide better protection for churches against violent attacks, and that those who carry out the attacks will repent and come to know Christ as their Lord and Saviour.
Egypt – Muslims demolish church and torch homes
The century-old church of St George in the village of Elmarinab in Edfu, Aswan province, Egypt, has been attacked by a mob of Muslims following a dispute over the building’s renovation. After Friday prayers on 30 September, the mob took matters into their own hands and descended on the church, demolishing a dome, walls and columns. They then moved to the church depot, where the wood that was to be used for construction was stored, and set fire to it.
The church was rebuilt with permission from the Aswan governor because its dilapidated state made it unsafe to use for services. Local Muslims had made no complaint about the rebuilding until the work was nearly complete and services were being held there. Christians had conceded to demands made at a “reconciliation” meeting on 2 September for the sake of harmony with their Muslim neighbours, but four days later further demands were made, including removal of the domes. The Christians refused, saying that this would cause the building to collapse. Following this disagreement, Muslims barricaded the village, preventing Christians from leaving their homes, even to buy food, until the domes were removed. Security forces were called to intervene and two tanks arrived to protect villagers from violence early on the morning of 9 September. But the Muslims were undeterred by the military presence, chanting “Allahu Akhbar” (“god is great”) and calling for the church to be razed. Three weeks later their threat was carried out.
The latest incident also saw four homes and a shop belonging to Christians torched.
- Pray for the Christians of Elmarinab in Edfu, that the Lord will protect them and provide for them as they experience persecution.
- Pray that the government will uphold the constitutional rights of Christians to freedom of religion and will take action to stop discrimination and violence against them.
Syria – Threat issued to Christians
An influential Syrian sheikh has issued an implicit threat to the country’s Christians, saying that all those who oppose the revolution will be “torn apart, chopped up and fed to the dogs”. Sheikh Adnan al Aroor, who is in exile in Saudi Arabia, has become a key motivating figure of the Syrian uprising. In his speeches broadcast on an Islamic satellite channel that is widely watched in Syria, al Aroor often urges people to continue demonstrating until President Bashar al-Assad’s regime is brought down.
In one sermon, he explains that Syrians can be divided into three groups. The first comprises people who are for the revolution and against Assad. The second group consists of people who are neither for nor against the revolution and can therefore expect no privileges from the new regime. The third group opposes the revolution and backs Assad. This group is likely to be seen as including Syrian Christians because they are assumed to be supporting the government, having been well-treated and given a good measure of religious freedom under President Assad's regime.
Christians, who comprise around 10% of the population, have mostly stayed away from the protests despite pressure to join the uprising. They are fearful of what may replace the government as Islamists gain increasing influence over the demonstrations. A number of Christians have been killed and in some cities, such as Homs, they are afraid to leave their homes. A senior church leader in the area told Barnabas Aid that heavy gunfire had been preventing both church leaders and worshippers from coming to church. According to reports, some church buildings have been burned down, indicating growing anti-Christian hostility.
- Pray for the Christian community in Syria as they face increasing hostility. Pray that the Lord will be their Comforter and Protector.
- Pray for peace in Syria and for an end to demonstrations. Pray a just and righteous government in this country.
China – Families told to pay for release of house church leaders
A group of house church leaders from two remote regions of China were arrested on 26 July when authorities raided a meeting in the city of Wuhai, Inner Mongolia.
The police detained 21 people from Wuhai and Shizuishan, Ningxia province, and confiscated Bibles and other items. The leaders were held on suspicion of “using a cult organisation to undermine national law enforcement”. Following physical examinations, six elderly members of the group who were found to be in poor health were released.
The rest of the group are being held while the authorities try to extort money from their families to secure their release. Families were told their loved ones would be set free if they paid 50,000 yuan (£4,800; US$7,800; €5,745), but when they delivered the money to the prosecutor’s office, they were told that more money was required, and that if it was not paid, the leaders would be sent to labour camps or face criminal prosecution. At the time of writing, it was not known whether the remaining 15 Christians had been released.
- Lift to the Lord those who were arrested. Pray for their speedy release and that the Lord will give them strength in their trials. Pray too for their families, that they will be comforted as they wait for their loved ones to be released.
Around 1,000 delegates had already arrived in Suva, Fiji for the Methodist Church’s annual conference in August when, at the last minute, the country’s military-led government ordered its cancellation. This is the third consecutive year that the church has been ordered to cancel the conference, despite having obtained permission to hold it. The government also issued a directive to the Methodist Church on 26 August banning all church activities except Sunday worship.
The Methodist Church is the largest Christian denomination in Fiji, where about 52% of the population are Christians.
- Please pray for Christians in Fiji in these difficult circumstances. Pray that the authorities will retract the ban and allow our brothers and sisters to continue their ministry without hindrance.
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