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Prayer Focus 04/11

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Prayer Focus 04/11

 

PAKISTAN - CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY GRIEVES FOR MARTYR

Just weeks after retaining his position in a major government reshuffle (see March Prayer Focus Update) Shahbaz Bhatti, Pakistan’s Minister for Minority Affairs, was assassinated as he left his mother’s house. Mr Bhatti was a prominent campaigner for reform of Pakistan’s notorious “blasphemy law”, which he maintained was used to victimise the innocent. He had received death threats because of his campaigning and his support for Christian mother-of-five Aasia Bibi, who was sentenced to death under the law in November 2010. On the morning of Wednesday 2 March, gunmen opened fire on his car as he left for work.

Speaking a month before he was martyred, Shahbaz Bhatti said, “As a Christian, I believe Jesus is my strength. He has given me a power and wisdom and motivation to serve suffering humanity. I follow the principles of my conscience, and I am ready to die and sacrifice my life for the principles I believe.”

The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for Mr Bhatti’s assassination, and in leaflets left at the scene of the murder they promised a death sentence for other government ministers who support legislation that they claim is contrary to Islamic sharia law.

The Pakistan government are now explicitly ruling out any attempts to reform the blasphemy law, and now another Pakistani Christian leader has been receiving death threats for speaking out against the law. Joseph Francis, national director of CLAAS, a Pakistani Christian legal centre, has been targeted by Islamists since appearing on several television programmes about various blasphemy issues.

  • Pray for those who grieve Shahbaz Bhatti and pray that his fight to end the victimisation of minorities will not be in vain. As the Pakistani Christian community feels increasingly vulnerable following the loss of their most prominent member, pray that they will not give way to fear.
  • Pray for the Lord’s protection over Mr Francis, that he will be able to speak out against the blasphemy law without fearing for his life.
  • Pray that the government will do all they can to stamp out such horrific acts of violence. Pray that political leaders will have courage to reform the blasphemy law despite their recent statements.

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EGYPT - NEW CONSTITUTION BACKED BY MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD

Amendments to Egypt’s constitution that were opposed by Christians were passed by 77 per cent of voters in a referendum on 19 March.

Christians had hoped that the proposed amendments would include the removal of Article 2, which states, “Islam is the Religion of the State. Arabic is its official language, and the principal source of legislation is Islamic Jurisprudence (Sharia).” But this was not one of the nine amendments put forward by the committee – headed by an Islamist judge – tasked with drawing up Egypt’s new constitution. In fact, some vocal Muslim spokesmen have publicly declared that the “yes” vote is a clear indication that the majority of Egyptians want an Islamic state.

The outcome paves the way for parliamentary elections, and these could be held as early as September. The main Islamist group, the Muslim Brotherhood, already has organised networks across the country and can rapidly mobilise candidates, while the pro-democracy groups will not have time to organise themselves for an early election. As a result, the Brotherhood is more likely to succeed at the polls.

This prospect spells danger for Egypt’s Christians. They are already treated as second-class citizens, and it is feared that violent attacks against them would only increase under a more overtly Islamist regime. On 8 March at least 13 people died and more than 140 were injured when Muslims attacked a demonstration by thousands of Christians near Mokattam garbage village. The Christians were protesting against the burning of a church by several thousand Muslims three days earlier and also asking that steps be taken to improve the status and quality of life of Egypt’s Christians.

  • Pray that Christians will not be disheartened by the referendum results but will continue to trust in the Lord Jesus.
  • Pray for the future of the Christian community in Egypt; pray that Islamists will not gain a political foothold in the country and so make the conditions for Christians even harder.
  • Pray for Christians who have come under attack in recent weeks in Egypt, that they will know the Lord’s comfort and peace.

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PAKISTAN - TWO CHRISTIANS KILLED IN CHURCH ATTACK

Two Christian men were shot dead in an attack by Muslim youths on a church in Hoor Camp, Hyderabad, on Monday 21 March.

Father of four Yunis Ilyas (47) and newly-wed Jameel Masih (21) were killed on the spot during the incident, which started when Muslim youths began shouting vulgar abuse at Christians who were arriving for a prayer service at the church. The church leader and a number of other Christians remonstrated with the Muslim boys, but they continued insulting the Christian girls. The aggressors left the scene but returned shortly afterwards with pistols and fired at the Christians as they were coming out of the church.

  • Pray for the families of both these men and for all those who are grieving their loss. Pray that they will experience the Lord’s presence and comfort.
  • Pray for the church leader as he seeks to lead his congregation in a godly response to this tragedy; pray that he will have wisdom and strength.
  • Give thanks that the police have registered a case against the suspected culprits and are pursuing them. Pakistani Christians are often denied justice; pray that this case will prove to be different.

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ETHIOPIA - CHRISTIANS FLEE MUSLIM RAMPAGE

An estimated 10,000 Christians fled their homes in western Ethiopia following a spate of attacks by Muslim extremists, which appeared to be systematically organised. The violence started in Asendabo, Jimma Zone, on 2 March when Muslims accused a Christian of desecrating a copy of the Quran. Security forces sent by the authorities were initially overwhelmed by the mob, who rampaged through five districts in the predominantly Muslim area, looting property and torching 67 churches and dozens of Christian homes. Three Christians died, and dozens more were injured. Barnabas sent an immediate grant to provide emergency aid for the displaced families.

The recent violence has been described as part of a wider campaign to “clear Christianity from the land by [the] sword”. A Christian minister in Ethiopia said the country was being targeted by Muslim fanatics with a strategy to Islamise the Christian-majority nation and so gain control of the entire Horn of Africa.

  • Pray for those who were bereaved, injured or lost property in the attacks, that the Lord will comfort, heal and provide for them. Give thanks that Christians in Jimma city were able to help their brothers and sisters in Asendabo at their time of need.
  • Pray for those who committed the violence, that the Lord will touch and change their hearts.
  • Pray that the Lord will intervene to protect His people from further attacks.

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LAOS - CHRISTIANS FORCED FROM THEIR VILLAGE FACE STARVATION

Local authorities have destroyed crops and are preventing food from reaching a group of 18 Christian families in Laos, leaving them on the brink of starvation. The families had been driven from their village at gunpoint over a year earlier for refusing to give up their faith. They have been living in a temporary camp outside Katin village, Saravan province, and were threatened with death by village officials if they returned to their homes – even if they were moved back by the government.

Since their expulsion, the Christians have lacked adequate shelter, food and water, and now village officials are refusing to allow them to enter the village to farm their land, while an area that had been farmed around the camp has been destroyed. Families in the surrounding villages have been instructed not to help or provide food to the Christians, who also lack access to sanitation facilities and medical treatment. The Christians believe that these tactics are an attempt to starve them into giving up their faith.

  • Pray for the Christians of Katin village, that they will depend on the Lord Jesus to provide for all their needs and that they may be allowed to return to their homes without fear and practise their faith in peace.
  • Pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters in Laos, that God will give them strength and perseverance in their trials.

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NIGERIA - CONCERNS FOR CHRISTIANS IN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS

On 9 April, Nigeria will hold presidential elections. Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian from the south, has been leading the country since the death of President Umaru Yar’Adua (a Muslim) in May 2010. But Nigeria is a country where the religion of the candidates often takes precedence over their political agenda. Among them is Muhammadu Buhari, a Muslim who does not hide his intention to use his power to promote Islam, should he be elected.

Christians already suffer frequent mob violence at the hands of Muslim extremists in some parts of Nigeria, especially in Plateau State, and there are concerns that anti-Christian attacks could increase if Buhari were to be elected. This area has seen a number of violent incidents since December 2010, including the murder of a mother and her children after a pre-dawn attack by young Muslims in a predominantly Christian village near Jos, Plateau State, on 28 February.

  • Ask that the Lord will overrule in the upcoming presidential elections and that a just and righteous leader will be elected who will guarantee religious freedom and security for all in Nigeria.
  • Pray for the Christians of Jos, who are being targeted because of their faith, that the Lord will rescue them and protect them. Pray for those who have been injured or bereaved in anti-Christian violence.

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JAPAN - THOUSANDS AFFECTED BY THREEFOLD DISASTER

On Friday 11 March a massive 9.0-magnitude earthquake struck just off the north-eastern coast of Japan, triggering a devastating tsunami which is now known to have killed over 10,000 people. At least 16,000 people are still missing, and more than 190,000 are living in temporary shelters in areas that were destroyed in the catastrophe. But the deadly combination of events also knocked out the power at the Fukushima nuclear plant and damaged back-up generators, prompting a potential nuclear crisis. More than two weeks after the overwhelming trio of disasters, the authorities are still desperately trying to cool overheating reactors and curtail any nuclear meltdown and dangerous radioactive fallout.

There are around 300 Christian congregations in the affected area, many of which have suffered the loss of pastors and church members, and church buildings have been destroyed.

  • Pray that all those who lost loved ones will be comforted in their grief. Japanese Christians are active in assisting disaster victims; pray that they will be distinctively Christ-like in the way they help and care for the suffering.
  • Pray that the Japanese authorities will have wisdom as they attempt to reach those in the greatest need and allocate supplies.
  • Pray that efforts to avert a nuclear disaster at the Fukushima power plant will be successful.

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IRAQ - GIVE THANKS FOR SYMBOLS OF HOPE

The authorities in Erbil, in the north of the country, have said that they will donate two pieces of land for a Christian-run university and hospital. These institutions will provide job opportunities for the thousands of highly skilled Christians who have fled from anti-Christian violence in other parts of the country. A local church leader said that they were intended as “symbols of hope”.

  • Give thanks for this good news from Iraq. Pray that these exciting new ventures will help many displaced Iraqi Christians to rebuild their lives after fleeing the anti-Christian violence in their home towns.

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Prayer Focus 04/11

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    • “This is a war against Christians and democracy and their constitution. Allah says we should finish them when we get them.” The leader of the Nigerian Islamist militant group Boko Haram was speaking in a video that reasserted their agenda and addressed “the people of the world”, saying, “Either you are with us Mujahedeen or you are with the Christians.” The translation of the video was released as scores of people were killed in suicide bombings in May, including at least 118 in a double attack in Jos, Plateau state on 20 May. Pray that Boko Haram’s murderous campaign to establish an Islamic state in Northern Nigeria will not succeed. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed 20 hours ago

    • Pray for Bible school students in Vietnam who were subjected to a terrifying night-time raid by police and hired thugs. On 9 June, officers swooped from adjacent rooftops into the church compound that houses the school, while vehicle-loads of people were brought to the site to vandalise the building with bricks, stones and sticks. The students were beaten, punched and kicked before being taken away for interrogation; 20 were left in need of medical attention but were prevented from leaving to find it. Thugs continued to attack the compound over the next ten nights. Pray for the students as they recover from this brutal assault and that they will stand firm in their faith in the face of intimidation. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Sun, Aug 2014 00:00

    • In an earlier incident in Saisomboon village, three teenage Christian girls were disqualified from taking their final school examinations because of their faith. The village chief said that in following Christianity, Noi (15), Net (15) and Nut (14) had forfeited their right to education. Five families from the village have now converted to Christianity. A spokesman for Human Rights Watch for Lao Religious Freedom expressed the view that the authorities were trying to find every possible way “to stop the spread of Christian religious freedom in the area”. Pray that the girls will be allowed to complete their education and that opposition to the Christians in the village will cease. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Sat, Aug 2014 00:00

    • Five Christians have been charged with murder in Laos after a sick woman sought prayer at her local church, converted to Christianity and later died. Mrs Chan, from Saisomboon village in Savannakhet province, had been ill for two years when she approached the church. Her health improved for a short time, and she and her eight grown-up children came to faith in Christ. The sons and daughters wanted a Christian burial ceremony, but the authorities forbade this unless they renounced their faith, which they refused to do. When Christians in the area protested, five were arrested and subsequently charged with Mrs Chan’s murder. Pray that the God of justice will have compassion on His people (Isaiah 30:18) and ensure their acquittal from this false accusation. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Fri, Aug 2014 00:00

    • A Christian from Loynam village in the Savannakhet province of Laos was arrested on the morning of 29 May and tied to a post before being imprisoned. Two weeks earlier, police and village security officers had gone to Mr Sort’s home and threatened him with eviction from the village and confiscation of all his property if he did not give up his faith. He refused, despite repeated attempts to coerce him. The village chief then seized around £300 of Mr Sort’s money. Give thanks that our brother, who has been a Christian for less than two years, has stood firm in his faith, and ask the Lord to renew his courage and strength (1 Corinthians 16:13). Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Thu, Aug 2014 00:00

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