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Prayer Focus 07/11

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Prayer Focus 07/11

Country/Region: Pakistan, Nigeria, South and East Asia, Central Asia, Africa, Middle East and North Africa, Algeria, Iraq, Egypt, Cote d'Ivoire, Tunisia, Sudan

 

PAKISTAN – CALL TO BAN THE BIBLE

An important Islamic political party has called for Pakistan’s Supreme Court to ban the Bible. A leader of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, Maulana Abdul Rauf Farooqi, made the appeal at a press conference at a mosque in Lahore on 30 May.

Farooqi described the Bible as “pornographic”. He claimed that “blasphemous” portions had been added, which charged some prophets with “a variety of moral crimes, which undermine the sanctity of the holy figures”. Farooqi said such “insertions” strongly offended Muslims, who hold all prophets and holy books in high esteem. He said that if the Supreme Court did not respond by banning the Bible, Islamic clerics would formally petition the court, and added that the move was an act of revenge against the desecration of the Quran by a church in Florida.

Pakistani Christians have strongly condemned the call. A Christian human rights activist from Lahore said, “It is a dangerous move, and this demand is based on hate. It will further promote religious intolerance in the country.”

There are fears that this attack on the Bible signals an intensification of persecution against Christians in Pakistan, where Islamists are said to have become more extreme in the wake of Osama bin Laden’s assassination.

  • Give thanks to the Lord that His Word is not chained (2 Timothy 2:9). Pray that the Pakistani authorities will resist the call to ban the Bible, and that Muslims who read it will encounter the living Christ in its pages.
  • Pray for the protection of Pakistan’s Christians at this especially dangerous time, and that the persecution they suffer will become less intense.

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ALGERIA – MAGISTRATE GUARANTEES CHURCHES WILL STAY OPEN

A senior magistrate has assured Algerian church leaders that no churches in their region will be closed, despite a recent notice from a local police chief threatening a widespread shutdown (see June Prayer Focus Update). Leaders of the Algerian Protestant Church Association (EPA) met with the Wali of Bejaia, the senior magistrate in the region, on 8 June after a police high commissioner ordered the closure of all unregistered churches. The magistrate assured them that he would personally see to the protection and continuation of the churches’ activities.

The majority of congregations in Algeria are not registered with the authorities. Stringent new regulations were introduced in 2006, designed to restrict the religious activity of non-Muslims, and since then registration has proved impossible. At their meeting with the magistrate the EPA leaders presented documents showing all the efforts they have made to comply with the regulations. Numerous applications have received no response.

In a separate incident, an Algerian Christian has been sentenced to five years in jail after sharing his faith with a Muslim neighbour. Siagh Krimo, who is married with a nine-month-old baby, was accused of blasphemy after passing on a Christian CD. He was found guilty even though the prosecutor failed to produce the neighbour or any other witness or evidence.

The court based its decision on an article of the Algerian Penal Code that criminalises acts that “insult the prophet and any of the messengers of god, or denigrate the creed and precepts of Islam”. Some Algerian Christians believe that the court came under pressure from higher authorities in the government. Krimo was known to hold weekly prayer services at his home.

  • Give thanks that the magistrate has guaranteed that churches in Bejaia can remain open and active, and pray that the authorities will honour his undertaking.
  • Pray for the repeal of the 2006 regulations, and that Christians in Algeria will be free to worship without obstruction and harassment.
  • Pray for Siagh Krimo, that he may soon be set free, and for the Lord to uphold his family during his detention.

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IVORY COAST – TWO BROTHERS CRUCIFIED

Two peasant brothers were brutally crucified after “the example of Christ” on 29 May by forces loyal to the new Muslim president of Ivory Coast, Alassane Ouattara. Raphael Aka Kouame died of his injuries; incredibly his younger brother, Kouassi Privat Kacou, survived the ordeal. The pair were badly beaten and tortured before being crudely nailed to cross-shaped planks by their hands and feet with steel spikes.

The brothers were falsely accused of hiding weapons in their home village of Binkro. The brothers repeatedly denied any involvement, but their pleas were ignored. After crucifying them, Ouattara’s men took them on an extensive search of Binkro, but they found only a store of medical equipment and supplies. The seriously wounded pair were then taken to prison in Oumé, where Raphael died that night.

This is just one of the many atrocities that have been committed in fighting between rival supporters of Ouattara and his ousted predecessor Laurent Gbagbo following the disputed presidential election last November. Christians are seen as supporters of Gbagbo and have been caught up in the conflict. It is reported that Ouattara troops have killed at least 149 real or suspected Gbagbo supporters in Abidjan since 11 April, though the real number may be much higher. More than 200 killings by pro-Gbagbo supporters have also been documented.

  • Pray for the restoration of peace and order in Ivory Coast, and that President Ouattara will bring his supporters under control.
  • Pray for the families, friends and churches of the Christians who have been killed in the violence, and especially the two brothers who were crucified. Pray that Kouassi Privat Kacou may make a full recovery from his crucifixion.

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IRAQ – TWO CHRISTIANS MURDERED IN TWO WEEKS

Christians in Iraq are living in tension and fear as their community continues to be targeted by kidnappers and murderers. On 16 May the decapitated body of Ashur Yacob Issa, a Christian from Kirkuk, was found dumped. He had been kidnapped three days earlier, and a ransom payment of $100,000 was demanded of his family. The 29-year-old was killed when they could not pay the hefty sum.

Then on the morning of 30 May Arkan Jehad Jacob was shot dead while driving to work in Mosul. He was killed instantly by unidentified gunmen who fired at him repeatedly. It appears that they had been lying in wait to execute the married father of four.

Arkan Jehad Jacob, the deputy director of a cement factory, had twice been targeted by kidnappers who were seemingly trying to extort ransom money from his family. A relative told Barnabas Fund that the first time his family paid $80,000, and the kidnappers broke Jacob’s legs and then released him. The second time they took the ransom and beat him. This third time they killed him.

A senior Iraqi Church leader said that since Jacob’s death more Christians had said that they wanted to emigrate, but that this was difficult because of the political crisis and uncertainty in neighbouring countries such as Syria, where Christians have historically been welcomed as refugees.

  • Pray for our brothers and sisters in Iraq as they face these violent attacks, that the Lord will give them courage and hope in their ordeal. Pray that they may have grace to forgive their persecutors.
  • Pray that the murderers of Issa and Jacob will come to realise that killing Christians does not please God.

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EGYPT – ISLAMIST PARTIES GEAR UP FOR ELECTIONS

The Muslim Brotherhood, the leading Islamic party in Egypt, has formed a political alliance with Jama’a al-Islamiyya, a radical group that was behind a number of terrorist attacks in the 1990s (though it has recently renounced violence). The two groups announced that they will form a coalition to contest September’s parliamentary elections, in order to combat secular forces in the country.

Jama'a al-Islamiyya spokesman Osama Hafez underlined the parties’ commitment to upholding the place of Islam in Egyptian society: “Allah’s words must rule and Islam must be in the hearts of the citizens.”

Another political party has been formed by Salafist groups. Salafism is an ultra-conservative, strict and puritanical version of Islam related to Wahhabism, the official state creed of Saudi Arabia. The party says that if they gain power, Christians will be given “the right to refer to their religion”, but “the higher reference will be for Islamic sharia”.

There are real concerns that the Muslim Brotherhood might become the ruling party in Egypt, which would make life very difficult for the churches. A Jama'a al-Islamiyya leader recently called on Christians to secure their own safety by submitting to the god of Islam (by becoming Muslims). And Salafists were behind assaults on two churches and homes in Imbaba district, Cairo, in May in which 12 people were killed and scores injured. This is only one of a barrage of attacks that Christians have suffered since the revolution. Their position is precarious.

  • Ask the Lord of the nations to thwart the attempts of Islamist parties to make Egypt a more Islamic state. Pray for positive political change in the country.
  • Pray for Egypt’s Christians, that they will stand firm in the Lord as they face hostility and violence.

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NIGERIA – ANTI-CHRISTIAN VIOLENCE RAGES ON

A Nigerian missionary pastor in Bauchi State has been tortured and murdered by a group of Muslims after refusing to renounce his faith in Christ. The pastor was travelling in a van when it was pulled over by Muslims posing as police. They asked if anyone in the vehicle was a Christian, and the pastor said that he was. The men pulled him out of the van and told him repeatedly to renounce Christ. When he refused, they first beat him, then gouged out his eyes, and finally killed him and burned his body. He has left a widow and eight children.

Also an entire Christian village in Kaduna State has been burned to ashes by a mob of Muslim militants and its water supply contaminated. On 18 April the village of Ung. Kerau was attacked by more than 300 men armed with various weapons. The Christian villagers fled, and the mob torched the village. A local church leader said that the mob threw pepper, clothes, firewood and rubbish into the village’s two wells. He added that the villagers “were attacked simply because they are Christians”.

Christians and churches in Northern Nigeria have come under sustained attack since the re-election of the country’s Christian president in April, from supporters of the defeated Muslim candidate. Around 200 churches have been burned or destroyed and over 1,200 houses razed, and at least 800 people are estimated to have been killed.

  • Pray for the widow and eight children of the murdered pastor, that the Lord will give them His comfort and peace in their grief and loss.
  • Pray for the villagers of Ung. Kerau, that they may be able to rebuild their village and their lives, and that they may suffer no further violence.

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TUNISIA – CHRISTIANS FORCED TO FLEE AFTER ISLAMIST THREATS

Some Christians in Tunisia who have tried to share their faith after the uprising earlier this year have been forced to flee the country or move to a safer location after receiving threats from Islamists. There are also signs that the influence of radical Islam is increasing across the country, raising fears that it is hijacking the revolution. Ennahda, Tunisia’s largest Islamist party, looks set to become the largest group in the new constitutional assembly following elections to be held on 23 July.

  • Pray for the elections in Tunisia on 23 July, that Islamist parties will not gain significant political power as a result. Pray that the new constitution will benefit Tunisia’s Christians.

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SUDAN – SOUTH TO BECOME INDEPENDENT

Following a referendum in January, the mainly Christian South of Sudan will become independent of the predominantly Muslim North on 9 July.

  • Pray that independence will bring lasting peace to the Christians of South Sudan and the opportunity to rebuild after the long civil war. Pray too for protection for the small Christian minority in the North; the Northern government threatened to make their lives even more difficult if the South went independent.

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Prayer Focus 07/11

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