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Radical Islam spreading in troubled North Caucasus

Country/Region: Central Asia

A Russian expert on Islam has raised concerns about the spread of Wahhabism, an extreme and puritanical version of Islam, in the North Caucasus, where Christians have come under attack.

Roman Silantyev said that the number of people "assisting and sympathising" with Wahhabis in the North Caucasus was "in the hundred thousands"; most of the Wahhabis, some 30,000 people, live in Dagestan, with around 10,000 in Ingushetia.

20110422-martyrs-4X3.jpg
Christian pastor Artur Suleimanov
was shot dead in the North Caucasus last July

He said the percentage of Wahhabis among Muslims in the North Caucasus was between 10 and 15 per cent, compared to no more than five per cent among Muslims elsewhere in Russia.

The percentage of radicalised clergy is thought to be much higher because Wahhabis direct their efforts at imams. Mr Silantyev said many imams preached extremists views "out of fear for their life"; dozens of moderate Muslims who have opposed Wahhabism have been killed in the North Caucasus. He said more effective physical protection was required for traditional Muslims as well as more effective force to remove extremists.

Wahhabism is the dominant form of Islam in Saudi Arabia, which is one of the most conservative Sunni Muslim countries in the world. Saudi Arabia propagates Wahhabism vigorously all over the world.

Islamist insurgency

The North Caucasus has been rocked by a growing militant Islamist insurgency; radicals are fighting to establish a separate state ruled by sharia. In January 36 people died in a suicide bomb attack at Moscow's busiest airport. Responsibility was claimed by the leader of the militant Islamist insurgents in the North Caucasus.

Christian leader Artur Suleimanov (49) was gunned down as he got into a car outside his church in Dagestan last July. His assassination was seen as an attempt to intimidate converts from Islam in the strongly Islamic republic. Mr Suleimanov, himself a convert from Islam, was very active in outreach to Muslims.

In November last year, three churches in the Karachayevo-Cherkessia republic were torched by arsonists on the same night. A senior church leader described the attacks as "well-orchestrated provocation" intended to "destabilise inter-religious harmony".

Christians in the North Caucasus face regular harassment, intimidation and discrimination at the hands of the Muslim majority.

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Daily prayer

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  • “Jesus Christ performed tremendous miracles in all our lives through this Shalom Camp.” A pastor spoke of how God had worked through a Barnabas-sponsored weekend Bible camp for persecuted Christians in Sri Lanka. The camp was attended by believers from five different churches that had been the target of threats or attacks by Buddhist or Hindu extremists. The participants heard teaching on the Biblical basis for persecution and took part in group discussions; they came away refreshed and encouraged, and for many the camp was a time of great spiritual renewal. Give thanks to the Lord for the peace He has brought to these persecuted believers, and ask that the weekend will continue to bear much fruit in their lives. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed 23 hours ago

  • Pray for a church leader in Sri Lanka, S.S. Johnpillai, who was threatened at gunpoint by attackers who claimed to be Special Forces officers. The minister was in a hut next to his church building in Guadalupe, Trincomolee when, he said, the men “appeared out of nowhere”. The intruders put a gun to Johnpillai’s head and accused him of holding a Communion service in honour of the founder of the Tamil Tigers, the government’s opponents in the country’s long and bloody civil war. The government had that day made it a criminal offence to commemorate the group. The gunmen ignored Johnpillai’s protests that he had not dedicated Communion to the group’s founder, and they threatened to shoot him. Ask the Lord to support and strengthen Johnpillai as he recovers from this terrifying ordeal. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Tue, Apr 2014 00:00

  • Lift up to the Lord persecuted Christians in Sri Lanka, where at least 65 anti-Christian incidents took place during 2013, including repeat attacks on several believers and their property in October 2013. However, a Sri Lankan government minister from a Buddhist nationalist party denied the accounts, saying that they might be “made up”. The minister claimed that Sri Lankans are “one family … trying to live together after a long civil war”. Pray that the Sri Lankan government will recognise the danger that our brothers and sisters face from militant Buddhists and that the authorities will provide effective protection for vulnerable Christians. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Mon, Apr 2014 00:00

  • Condemned Christian mother Aasia Bibi’s final appeal hearing is scheduled to take place tomorrow (14 April) having been deferred twice. She was sentenced to death for blasphemy in November 2010 having been falsely accused of insulting Muhammad following an argument with Muslim co-workers. Aasia has been languishing in jail since the accusation was made in June 2009. Pray that her appeal will finally go ahead and that the judges will have the courage to acquit and release Aasia; there are concerns that they may give in to pressure from hardline Islamists who have been calling for her execution. Pray that Aasia, her husband and children will know the Lord’s peace as they await the verdict. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Sun, Apr 2014 00:00

  • Indians have started going to the polls this week in a general election that is taking place in phases until 12 May. The ruling, secular Congress party is expected to be defeated by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). This would be an ominous outcome for the country’s Christian minority. The BJP has given support to extremist groups that attack Christians; states under the party’s rule have generally experienced a rise in anti-Christian violence. It has introduced anti-conversion laws on a state level, and has pledged to introduce national legislation to curb "missionary" activity and end proselytising if elected nationally. Pray for wisdom for Indians as they vote and that the outcome will result in a just government that upholds the rights and freedoms of all citizens. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Sat, Apr 2014 00:00

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