Published: 00:00 GMT Standard Time - Tuesday 01 December 2009
Prayer Focus 12/09
RUSSIA - CHRISTIAN LEADER MURDERED IN HIS CHURCH
A prominent Russian church minister has been murdered in his church in Moscow. Danil, 34, was approached on the night of 19 November by a masked gunman who checked his name and then shot him in the head and chest. A choirmaster was also injured in the attack and is recovering in hospital.
Danil had been active in evangelistic outreach to Muslims. In February 2008 he stated on a television programme that he had received threats via email that he would have his head cut off if he did not stop preaching to Muslims. Many people think that he may have been killed because of this ministry to Muslims. His widow Yulia commented that he "expected the death some years prior to its happening; he always wished to receive a martyr's crown, and the Lord has given him this crown ... He said that he would be killed."
There are 30 million Muslims in Russia, including a large Muslim population in Moscow, who currently enjoy much favour from the government.
• Pray for those who mourn the loss of Danil, especially Yulia and their three children and his congregation, that they will find comfort in the Lord Jesus at this terrible time.
VIETNAM - CHRISTIAN DENOMINATION AWARDED OFFICIAL RECOGNITION
The Vietnamese government has awarded official recognition to the Assemblies of God, which, for the past 20 years, was an illegal Christian denomination. The director of Ho Chi Minh City's Committee for Religious and Ethnic Affairs said, "Before the recognition it was an illegal religious organisation and we had warned them for their violations." However, the church had never been punished because Vietnamese laws were unclear on how they should be treated. It is expected that it could take up to a year before the organisation's status becomes fully legal.
The Vietnam Law on Religion, which was passed in 2007, required all denominations to apply to the Committee on Religious Affairs to obtain legal recognition. The Assemblies of God has been active in Vietnam since 1989, with over 40,000 members. Without recognition under the 2007 law, Christian groups would have difficulty building churches or organising religious gatherings.
• Praise the Lord for this piece of good news in Vietnam. Pray that the authorities will be prompt in progressing the paperwork to make the church fully legal.
• Pray for a complete end to the persecution of Christians in Vietnam.
IRAQ - BOMBS EXPLODE IN CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY
At least six bombs were detonated across Iraq on Thursday 26 November, killing five people and wounding at least 28. Two Christian buildings were targeted in the city of Mosul. A senior Iraqi church leader reported that the bombs "caused major damage and we cannot pray there." Although there were no casualties at the Christian sites, another Iraqi church leader commented that "these attacks are aimed at forcing Christians to leave the country." At the time of the 2003 US-led invasion, around 800,000 Christians lived in Iraq. But their number has shrunk by a third or more as members of the community have fled the violence and persecution directed towards them.
• Pray for all those injured and bereaved in the recent spate of bombings and that peace and stability will be established in Iraq.
• Pray for Christians in Iraq, that they will find strength and support in our faithful Saviour, and that they will continue to meet together to worship Him in spite of the recent attacks on their churches.
EGYPT - "MASSIVE CHAOS" AS VIOLENCE ERUPTS BETWEEN CHRISTIANS AND MUSLIMS
Christians in Egypt have become targets of violence yet again in the early hours of Saturday 21 November, as a Muslim mob attacked Christians and Christian property in the town of Farshoot and neighbouring villages, forcing Christians to seek refuge indoors.
The violence was prompted by reports of sexual abuse against a Muslim girl by a 21-year-old Christian on 18 November. Witnesses say that up to 3000 Muslims gathered outside the police headquarters in Farshoot where the alleged attacker was being detained, pending the results of an investigation and forensic tests, in an effort to kidnap and murder him.
Ten pharmacies and 55 Christian-owned shops and businesses were looted, vandalised and burnt, cars were attacked and some Christian families were thrown out of their homes. At least seven Christians were injured in the violence, including one Christian leader who is currently in hospital with a fractured skull. The mob made wooden crosses and burnt them in the street. According to one witness, "We have never been so frightened and humiliated in all our lives ... our religion, and our Lord, were openly insulted."
Although security forces were deployed, witnesses report that they took no action to stop the violence and were stationed simply to protect the Farshoot police headquarters after the angry mob showered it with stones, entered and attacked officers.
No Sunday services were held on 22 November in the area owing to concerns over the safety of Christian congregations. Christians condemn the alleged rape and protested at the scale of the retaliation. One prominent Christian leader reported that the attacks were apparently pre-planned, which would suggest that the allegation of "rape" was used as a pretext. He also commented, "An individual incident does not call for an attack on masses of peaceful Christians."
• Pray for the Christians in Farshoot and neighbouring villages, that they will be able to rebuild their lives without fear of further attacks.
• Pray that the attackers will turn from their violence and come to know and love the Lord Jesus.
• Pray that the Egyptian police will protect all citizens from violence, whatever their religion.
CHINA - CHRISTIANS PERSEVERE IN MEETING FOR WORSHIP DESPITE ALL OPPOSITION
Members of Wanbang Missionary Church had to meet outdoors for worship on Sunday 22 November after having been forcibly evicted from their church building earlier that month. On Thursday 12 November Chinese Public Security officials sealed off the doors and locked the church.
On the morning of 22 November, three pastors of Wanbang church were summoned to a Shanghai police station for interrogation on suspicion of "engaging in illegal organisation and activities". They were held until the afternoon. Despite intimidation from local authorities and the detention of the pastors, more than 500 dedicated church members gathered outdoors to continue the scheduled worship services.
Since the building's closure, the authorities have been unsuccessful in preventing meetings of the church. On 15 November ten police officers attempted to obstruct Pastor Cui from attending church. Members also received threatening text messages defaming the church and saying that the service had been cancelled. In spite of this, over 700 people turned up to the outdoor prayer meeting that day.
In preparation for the mid-November visit of President Obama to China, the Shanghai authorities launched a city-wide search for members of Wanbang church, attempting to break up prayer and worship gatherings. All seven pastors were also issued with official notices to stop their "illegal religious activities", which declared their pastoral status as "self-claimed illegal preachers". On 8 November, the church website was forcibly shut down by the government's censorship office to prevent negative reporting prior to Obama's visit.
• Pray for Christians in China, that they will know the comfort and strength of the Lord Jesus at this time, and that they will continue to have the courage to meet in the face of such opposition.
• Pray that the Shanghai authorities will reverse the ban on Wanbang church and stop hounding it.
SUDAN - CHRISTIAN GIRL LASHED FOR "INDECENT" SKIRT
A 16-year-old Christian girl, Silva Kashif, was walking alone near her home in Muslim-majority Khartoum, when she was arrested by police for wearing a knee-length skirt, which is considered "indecent" in Sudanese law. She was immediately presented before a judge, who sentenced her to 50 lashes. Although the law states that under-18s should not be lashed, Silva's parents were not even aware that their daughter had been arrested until after the punishment had taken place.
Silva is originally from the South of Sudan, which is Christian-majority. The skirt and blouse she was wearing were normal for Southern Sudanese. But sharia (Islamic law) is in force in North Sudan, including strict regulations about women's clothing, which are applied to Christians as well as Muslims.
• Pray for healing for Silva and that she and her family will be able to forgive those who imposed and carried out the punishment. Pray that the Khartoum government will soften the impact of sharia for the mainly Christian Southerners who are living in North Sudan.
INDONESIA - CHRISTIAN STUDENTS EVICTED FROM REFUGE
In late October security forces in Jakarta, capital of Indonesia, began evicting hundreds of Christian students from their temporary accommodation in the city. Some 700 were expelled from a municipal building and others from a campground.
The students belong to SETIA Bible College, which was forced to vacate its own campus in July 2008 following a violent attack by a Muslim mob. The college had taken refuge in the temporary locations, which provided housing and classroom space. But recently the Indonesian Supreme Court ruled that the land and buildings belonged to a foundation, and the police moved in to clear the site.
The provincial government has offered to house students at an office building in the city, but SETIA officials said that it was unfit for habitation. "A barn for water buffalo is much nicer than that place," said the college secretary.
• Pray for the students and staff of the college, that satisfactory accommodation will be provided for them, and that they will soon be able to return to their own premises without fear of further violence.
• Pray for Christians in Indonesia facing obstruction, harassment and physical attacks because of their faith.
EGYPT - DAUGHTER OF CONVERT APPEALS TO PRESIDENT OBAMA
Please keep praying for Maher el-Gohary and his 15-year-old daughter Dina, who are now in hiding because of several fatwas calling for a death sentence on Maher, and who have been banned from leaving the country. Dina has written a heartfelt letter to US President Obama asking him to use his influence to help them. Dina writes, "Mr President Obama, we are a minority faith in Egypt. We are treated very badly ... we are imprisoned in our own home because Muslim clerics called for the murder of my father, and now the government has set for us a new prison, we are imprisoned in our own country."
Maher, an Egyptian Christian convert from Islam, applied to have his identity card changed to reflect his conversion. Identity cards are vital in Egyptian society, and being considered legally as "Muslims" creates huge practical problems for Egyptian Christians from a Muslim background. Like all Egyptian converts from Islam, Maher was unsuccessful in applying for the change.
• Thank God for Maher and Dina's strength in the Lord Jesus. They have said they will not revert to being Muslims "even if we have to live on the streets. We love our Lord Jesus and we have left Islam for good." Pray that Egypt will grant recognition of their new faith to converts from Islam to Christianity and will allow Maher and Dina to live openly as Christians.
• Pray that Western political leaders will use their power and influence with political leaders in Muslim countries to work for the good of Christian minorities, particularly converts from Islam.
IRAN - GOOD NEWS STORY
Praise the Lord for the safe release of Maryam and Marzieh, two Iranian Christian women arrested in March for converting to Christianity from Islam. The women were released without bail on 18 November after 259 days in the notorious Evin prison in Tehran. In October the charge of anti-state activity against the women had been dropped by the Revolutionary Court, and their case was transferred to a general court for consideration of the remaining charges: converting from Islam and propagation of Christianity. These charges have not yet been dropped.
Maryam and Marzieh say, "Words are not enough to express our gratitude to the Lord and to His people who have prayed and worked for our release."
• Give thanks for the release of the two women, and continue to pray as they recover from their ordeal and face the future.