Prayer Focus Update - August 2018

6 August 2018

"If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you."

1 Peter 4:14

Iraq – Iraqi Christians suffer discriminatory taxation by Kurdish Regional Government

Business owners in the predominantly Christian neighbourhood of Ankawa in Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan, have been ordered to pay an extra fee when they renew their businesses’ licences. The tax has only been imposed on Ankawa and Semel (a majority-Christian town) but not in places where Muslims form the majority. Local sources have compared the levy to jizya , the traditional tax imposed on subjugated Jews and Christians by an Islamic state, according to classical Islam. Christian residents and business owners claim they are also charged 10% tax when they sell their properties, compared with only 6% in other towns, and say they face other kinds of discrimination including harassment by Kurdish KDP political police.

When Islamic State (IS) took control of parts of northern Iraq in 2014 they displaced thousands of Christians, many of whom took refuge in Kurdish-controlled Erbil. Christians who were unable to escape were murdered, with women and girls taken as sex slaves. IS may still be holding as many as 38 Iraqi Christian women captive. Only seven out of 45 women kidnapped from the Iraqi town of Qaraqosh in August 2014 have returned to their families. Rita, one of those kidnapped, was held for three years: “I was bought and sold four times. They did evil things to us. They beat us and raped us,” she recalled.

Ask that Kurdish authorities will repeal the discriminatory tax which targets Christians. Pray that displaced Iraqi believers will not be discouraged by the treatment they have received, but will stand firm in the truth of Scripture that if they are “insulted because of the Name of Christ, you are blessed” (1 Peter 4:14). Lift up to the Lord Iraqi Christian women still held captive, that their Heavenly Father will be their shield, their glory and the lifter of their heads (Psalm 3:3 KJV).

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Laos – Vague Laos decree leaves Christians and churches vulnerable to prosecution

A new decree issued by the Laos government in December 2017 and now being enforced across the country leaves Christians and churches vulnerable to prosecution. The decree requires “associations”, a catch all term which covers groups from clubs to non-profits, to meet stringent registration criteria. They are also banned from activities that “threaten national security, social order … national, local and ethnic traditions”.

The vagueness of the wording means authorities can use the law against whomever they choose, as they are free to define what constitutes threatening “social order” or other alleged breaches. Although all religious organisations are required to register by the atheistic Communist government, local officials are typically highly suspicious of Christians, and rarely grant approval for Christian activities, while allowing majority Buddhists comparative religious freedom.

Ask the Holy Spirit to convict the Communist government in Laos, so that instead of regarding Christians as a threat, they will permit them to freely practise their faith as law-abiding citizens. Pray that Christians in Laos will follow Jesus’ instruction to be as “wise as serpents, harmless as doves” (Matthew 10:16 KJV) in their dealings with local officials.

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Egypt – Mob attack Christian homes after Egyptian Christian accused of insulting Islam on social media

A Muslim mob attacked Christian homes in the Egyptian village of Menbal in the Minya governorate on 9 July after a member of the Christian community was accused of insulting Islam on social media.

Abdu Adel Ayad, a 40-year-old Christian from the village, was detained by police on 6 July and accused of “disdaining Islam” by posting a link on Facebook comparing Islam to other religions. If found guilty, he could face a five-year jail sentence and a fine of up to 1,000 Egyptian Pounds. Three days after he was arrested, a large mob attacked the homes of Christians in the village, pelting stones and shouting “Allahu Akbar”. Police intervened to protect the Christian community and subsequently arrested 90 Muslims and charged them with mob violence, inciting sedition and attacking police.

Abdu faces potential prosecution under article 98(f) of the Egyptian penal code, introduced in 1981, which criminalises “disparaging or contempt of any divine religion or its adherents”. (“Divine religions” are defined as Judaism, Christianity and Islam.) The law provides protection for Christians as well as Muslims, but is now increasingly being used as tool by those seeking to protect Islam from criticism.

Bring to the Lord in prayer Abdu and his family. Give thanks that police intervened to protect Christian homes, including Abdu’s, but pray for his swift exoneration and release. Pray that the plans of those who would use the law to accuse Christians of insulting Islam will be thwarted, because God is with His people (Isaiah 8:10).

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Egypt – Mob protest against legalisation of church in Egyptian village

Local Muslims held three days of angry demonstrations to protest against the granting of legal status to a church in the village of Sultan Basha, around 150 miles south of Cairo.

Demonstrations began after Friday prayers on 6 July. Local Muslims chanted, “never a church in our midst” and Christians in the village locked themselves in their homes for fear of violence. Local police did not intervene and local Christian leaders have condemned the statement by a police official who told the demonstrators that no church would be permitted in the village. “We are saddened by official appeasement of and acquiescence to demands,” said the Bishop of Minya and Abu-Qurqas.

In April 2018, a 300-strong Muslim mob forced the closure of a church building in al-Kumeira, around 36 miles south of Luxor, after the church was granted official recognition by the government. The building was openly purchased by the Christian community in 2006 and Muslim villagers had even attended Christian weddings there.

Churches across Egypt were destroyed in a wave of violence following the ousting of Islamist president Mohammed Morsi in 2013. Even though President Sisi has pushed through measures to legalise existing church buildings, they still face sometimes violent local opposition.

Call on the Lord to send His angels to guard especially those places in Egypt where His people worship Him (Luke 4:10). Pray that Christians would be wise and patient in their response to aggression (Proverbs 14:49) and in not repaying evil for evil they would be witnesses of Christ’s righteousness to their Muslim neighbours, moving officials and attackers alike to treat Christians with equality.

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Pakistan – Muslims steal building materials and disrupt water supply to sabotage Pakistan church construction

Local Muslims in Muzaffarabad, northern Pakistan, have stolen building materials and cut off Christians’ water supply in an effort to halt the construction of a church. The Christian community have been granted permission by local authorities to build a church, but Muslims started a social media campaign against the construction. Building materials have been stolen and local Muslims also deliberately destroyed a pipe which supplies water to members of the Christian community. Church elders have reported the intimidation to police but, at the time of writing, there has been no official response.

Pakistan’s laws allow Christians to meet freely to worship, but occasionally there are mob attacks on Christian worship services or prayer meetings. Congregations sometimes face local opposition to church buildings, with Muslims often claiming that ownership of church land is disputed.

Pray that the Lord will soften the hearts of the Muslim community in Muzaffarabad toward their Christian neighbours, as they do not repay the evil and insults against them (1 Peter 3:9). Ask that opposition to the building of the church will cease and the construction will go ahead smoothly.

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Related Countries

Egypt, Iraq, Laos, Pakistan