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Afghanistan

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The Afghan parliament has issued death threats against Christian converts from Islam

Afghanistan is one of the most hazardous countries in the world for Christians. They live in constant danger of violent persecution by armed groups and also by the government, which threatens to wield the death penalty against those who convert from Islam.

In July 2013 Members of Parliament in Afghanistan called for converts from Islam to Christianity to be killed, in accordance with sharia law. The parliamentary speaker ordered the country’s national security services to take serious steps to stop the spread of Christianity, and the Afghan media launched a vitriolic campaign against Christian converts.

Afghan Christians are thought to number around 1,200 and are all converts from Islam or children of converts. Although none has been executed, a number have been arrested and jailed for a time, and on their release many have fled abroad to escape further persecution. There is deep-rooted public hostility to apostates from Islam, leading to discrimination, harassment and occasional violence against them; converts may lose their spouses and jobs and be rejected by their families. The extremist Taliban have also threatened to target Christians.

Most Christians do not state their beliefs publicly or gather openly for worship. There are no public churches or Christian schools, and believers worship alone or in small congregations in private homes. Anyone suspected of involvement in Christian activities is liable to harassment, and any kind of missionary endeavour may attract fierce opposition.

The conditions of Christians have not been much better under the current government than under the Taliban, an extreme Islamist movement that controlled Afghanistan between 1996 and 2001.

Although the Afghan constitution declares that non-Muslims are free to practise their faith, it also states that “no law can be contrary to the beliefs and provisions of the sacred religion of Islam”. In practice a restrictive interpretation of sharia has become the law of the land.

Despite the desperate situation faced by Christians, the Lord is working in remarkable ways in Afghanistan; house churches there are reportedly seeing more people come to Christ. 

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    • The case of an Egyptian Christian man arrested following complaints by Muslim neighbours that he had been using his home as a church without a permit highlights the need of the Christian community for more places of worship. The 55-year-old man from Minya in Upper Egypt, where Christians are particularly vulnerable to persecution, was arrested once before, in 2011, for the same offence. Every church building in Egypt requires a permit, but these are notoriously difficult to obtain. Pray that the authorities will show leniency to the Christian man and that a provision in the new constitution addressing the issue of church buildings will be enacted. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Tue, Sep 2014 00:00

    • Kidnapping for ransom has been a persistent problem for the Christian community in Egypt amid the political upheaval and instability following the “Arab Spring” revolution of 2011. On 14 June, Wadie Ramses, a well-known surgeon, was seized in El-Arish. The assailants opened fire on his vehicle and took him away wounded. They later demanded a ransom of ten million Egyptian Pounds (£800,000; US$1.4 million) for his release. Two days later, Christian merchant Gemal Shenouda was captured near his home in the same city. It is thought that Islamic militants with links to al-Qaeda, who have been behind escalating violence in the Sinai region, are responsible for the kidnappings. Pray for the safe return of our two Christian brothers and that they and their families will know the Lord’s peace. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Mon, Sep 2014 00:00

    • On 18 June, Bishoy Armia Boulous (31) was sentenced to five years in prison and given a fi ne of 500 Egyptian Pounds (US£70; £40) for “disturbing the peace by broadcasting false information” in connection with reports he produced relating to anti-Christian violence in Minya for a Christian TV channel. His lawyer believes that Bishoy has been targeted because of his conversion from Islam. The Christian gained notoriety in Egypt in 2007 as the first person to try to change his religion on his ID card, a case that is still unresolved owing to the political tumult in the country over the last three years. Pray that the Lord will be Bishoy’s strength and shield (Psalm 28:7), and that he will soon be released. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Sun, Sep 2014 00:00

    • “Saudi Arabia remains unique in the extent to which it restricts the public expression of any religion other than Islam.” In its annual report for 2014, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom highlighted the extraordinary restrictions faced by Christians and other non-Muslims in one of the most rigid and hardline Islamic states in the world. No churches exist in Saudi Arabia because of an Islamic tradition that Muhammad said there should be only one religion in the Arabian peninsula. Pray for peace and perseverance for the small number of Saudi converts and the many expatriate Christians practising their faith in this repressive context, and ask that the authorities will yield to international pressure to introduce greater religious freedom. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Sat, Sep 2014 00:00

    • On 23 June, Vahid Hakkani, a Christian convert in prison in Iran, resumed a hunger strike in protest against the refusal of a court to grant him and two other Christians conditional release. Vahid had broken his previous strike in May after another of his fellow-detainees was set free. The prison authorities have reportedly confiscated his personal belongings from his cell and are denying him the right to make phone calls; they have also separated the Christian prisoners from one another. Even before his first hunger strike, Vahid had been suffering from a digestive problem and internal bleeding. Pray that his health may not fail altogether and that his action will secure justice and freedom for him and his friends (Psalm 69:33). Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Fri, Sep 2014 00:00

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