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Prayer Focus 06/12

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Prayer Focus 06/12

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Prayer Focus 06/12

Country/Region: South and East Asia, Africa, Middle East and North Africa, Syria, Egypt, India, Europe, Pakistan, Myanmar, Burma, Kuwait, Indonesia, Uzbekistan, Central Asia

“Hear the cry and the prayer that your servant is praying in your presence this day.”
1 Kings 8:28, NIV

 

 

Pakistan - Christian couple cleared of blasphemy

A Christian couple in Pakistan who were sentenced to life imprisonment for “blasphemy” have been cleared on appeal. Munir Masih and his wife Ruqqiya Bibi, who have six children, were acquitted on 17 May following a three-and-a-half year ordeal.

A false blasphemy allegation was levelled at the couple in December 2008, following an argument between their children and some local Muslim children. The Muslim father had Ruqqiya and Munir accused of blasphemy under section 295-B of the Pakistan Penal Code, which concerns desecration of the Quran. Although the prosecution failed to produce a single witness to support the charge, the couple were convicted and given the mandatory life sentence. Munir was granted bail in November 2010, but Ruqqiya was kept in custody.

After their acquittal, a tearful Munir thanked God and, quoting from Psalm 94, said, “But the Lord has become my fortress, and my God the rock in whom I take refuge.”

The couple were assisted throughout their ordeal by CLAAS, a Christian legal organisation in Pakistan supported by Barnabas Fund. CLAAS helped with their defence, provided the family with their basic needs and arranged for the children to visit their mother in prison.

The Pakistani “blasphemy laws” are often used by Muslims to settle personal disputes, and Christians and other non-Muslims are particularly vulnerable to malicious, false accusation (for which there is no penalty). Thomsena Anjum, who had to flee Pakistan to the UK after being shot at by a Muslim cleric following a false blasphemy allegation against her son in 2009, has recently said, “The blasphemy laws of Pakistan hang over Christians and other minorities like a sword on their necks.”

  • Pray for the safety of Munir, Ruqqiya and their children. People accused of blasphemy in Pakistan remain vulnerable to attack by Islamists even after they have been acquitted. 
  • Pray for Christian mother Aasia Bibi, who remains on death row in Pakistan for an alleged blasphemy offence.
  • Give thanks to the Lord for the work of CLAAS, and pray for them in their support of Christians unjustly accused of blasphemy. Pray too for the repeal of the blasphemy laws. Pray for the protection of the staff of CLAAS, who have faced many threats because of the work they do for Christians.

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Egypt - Islamist candidate tops first presidential poll

Christians in Egypt are facing the possibility of an Islamist government as the presidential elections enter their second round. In the first poll on 23 and 24 May, the candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood secured the most votes. He will take part in a run-off on 16 and 17 June against a former prime minister of toppled president Hosni Mubarak.

The Brotherhood, which previously presented itself as a moderate Islamist party, has now reverted to its original, more strongly Islamist stance. Their candidate, Mohammed Mursi, has vowed to apply sharia if elected as president. He said, “We will not accept any alternative to sharia… The Quran is our constitution and it will always be so.” One of his prominent supporters said at a campaign rally, “We are seeing the dream of the Islamic Caliphate coming true at the hands of Mohammed Mursi… The people want to implement god’s law.” A recent poll by the Pew Research Centre revealed strong support in Egypt for this agenda.

The Brotherhood took the most seats in the parliamentary elections last year, and Christians are concerned that if Mursi is elected as president, the country could become a strict Islamic state where their community of around 8 million people would not be welcome. However, they also suffered severe discrimination and persecution under Mubarak, so the alternative choice of his former premier Ahmed Shafiq is also unattractive.

Christians have suffered increasing violence since the fall of Mubarak and the rise of Islamism. In the worst single incident, 27 Christians were killed in a brutal attack on 9 October 2011 by security forces, Islamists and thugs during a protest against the torching of a church building and other injustices. But on 24 April the investigation into the massacre was closed, with judges claiming that they lacked evidence to identify the culprits. Vivian Magdi, whose fiancé Michael Mosad was crushed under a military vehicle, denounced the decision as a “farce”.

  • Pray for God’s overruling in the second round of presidential elections. Pray that the new president will govern in the interests of all Egypt’s citizens and promote the freedom of minorities, including Christians.
  • Pray for those bereaved and injured in the October 2011 attack, that justice will eventually be done for them.

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Syria - Christians forced to flee as militants wreak havoc

Ten Christian families were expelled from their village in Syria by a group of armed militants who seized control of Qastal al-Burg village, 30 miles north-west of Hama, on 10 May. The fighters ordered the families to leave empty-handed and took over their homes. They also occupied the local church building, turning it into their command control centre.

As the uprising against the regime of President Bashar Assad continues, armed groups have taken control of a number of Christian suburbs in Homs, establishing their own police centres and monitoring people's movements. Christian buildings, including a church-run orphanage, have been damaged, and many people have not been paid for months or are without work altogether. Christians have been forced to flee, leaving everything behind, and some are struggling to pay the rent or even to feed their children far from home.

On 10 May a double suicide bomb attack in Damascus left more than 50 people dead. A group called al-Nusra Front, which is suspected of links to al-Qaeda, claimed responsibility; it has also been behind other bombings across the country. Christian areas of Damascus and Aleppo were targeted in March.

A Barnabas Fund contact in Syria said, “In brief the situation is very alarming and catastrophic. Syrians are scared of the escalation of violence to a point of no control and the absence of security in most areas.” Christians are particularly concerned about their future in a country that was, before the uprising, one of the safest places in the Arab world for them.

Barnabas is helping thousands of needy Christians in Syria with food, medicine and other essentials through our partners on the ground.

  • Pray for the restoration of order in Syria, and that positive political change will emerge from the current crisis. Pray that the freedoms enjoyed by the country’s Christians will be safeguarded.
  • Pray for Christians caught up in the violence or living far from their homes, that the Lord will be a sanctuary for them.

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Burma - Children from Christian ethnic group gunned down

Two children who were bathing and playing in Ta Li river in Kachin state were shot dead on 5 May by the Burmese military as they continued their offensive against the predominantly Christian Kachin people group. The five- and seven-year-olds were startled by a loud bomb blast, and as they tried to run to safety, Burmese soldiers opened fire, killing them.

Around 75,000 Kachin people, displaced from their homes by the offensive, are staying in overcrowded relief camps, and the Burmese government has blocked aid to troubled areas. Soldiers have attacked villages, razed houses and destroyed churches. They have also tortured people under interrogation and raped women.

The Burmese military is very hostile to non-Burman ethnic minorities. Most Christians in Burma belong to these groups.

  • Ask the Lord to comfort and strengthen the families of the children who were killed. Pray too for the many Christians suffering in the refugee camps.
  • Praise God for recent progress towards political freedom in Burma. Pray that this may be maintained and that it will bring freedom and justice for all Burma’s peoples

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Kuwait - Parliament approves death penalty for blasphemy

The parliament of Kuwait has passed a bill that would make insulting the god of Islam, key Islamic figures and the Quran punishable by death. The amendment, which was intended to strengthen the country’s existing blasphemy legislation, gained overwhelming support in the final vote on 3 May. The bill will now go to the Emir for approval before becoming law.

The offence will carry the death penalty only for Muslims, but non-Muslims will face a jail term of at least ten years. Defendants who repent in court will have their sentence reduced to five years in prison and/or a large fine. The current penalty for defamation of religion is up to one year in prison and a fine.

Since gaining a majority in snap parliamentary elections in February, the Islamist al-Adala (Justice) Bloc has made a number of moves to strengthen Islam. A law to prevent the construction of new church buildings and other non-Islamic places of worship has been proposed, along with constitutional changes to make all legislation comply with sharia law. However the Emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, blocked the recommendation regarding sharia. This suggests that he may also veto the attempt to introduce draconian penalties for blasphemy.

Kuwait has a sizeable Christian community, most of whom are expatriates, comprising nearly 14 per cent of the population. Amendment of the constitution to make sharia the only source of legislation would inevitably make life more restrictive – and perhaps even dangerous – for them.

  • Pray that the Emir will veto the proposed new penalties for blasphemy and that the Islamisation of Kuwait will be checked and reversed.
  • Pray for Christians in Kuwait, that the Lord will sustain them in their discipleship in a hostile and challenging context.

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Indonesia - One church to re-open; others closed

The Muslim mayor who illegally sealed off GKI Yasmin Church in Bogor, Indonesia, has agreed it can reopen, on condition that a mosque is built next door. Presidential advisors brokered the “deal” following a month-long negotiation between the church and the authorities, which ended on 2 May. GKI Yasmin, which has been forced to hold services on the street outside its half-constructed building or in private homes, welcomed the suggestion in principle. A spokesman said, “The most important thing for us is to have our constitutional rights guaranteed and we can go back worshipping at our church again.”

Elsewhere in Indonesia, the authorities have sealed off 17 Christian places of worship in the semi-autonomous province of Aceh. The undungs, which are small buildings not classified as churches, in the Aceh Singkil district were closed in the space of a week, starting on 2 May. The move followed a rally of hard-line Islamist groups on 30 April demanding their closure. The district head claimed that the buildings did not have permits and were drawing complaints from locals. But this is the first time that the authorities have taken action against Christian places of worship, suggesting that they have given in to pressure from the Islamists.

Other Indonesian churches suffered violent attacks in May. A congregation in Bekasi was set upon twice in four days by hundreds of Islamists, who threw bags of urine, sewage, rotten eggs and stones at the Christians. A bomb exploded in a mainly Christian neighbourhood of Ambon, injuring dozens of people, and homes and cars were torched. And the only Christian place of worship in Picuan, North Sulawesi, was also set on fire.

  • Give thanks for the agreement to allow GKI Yasmin to re-open its building, and pray that this will end its difficulties with the authorities. Pray for good relations with the mosque next door when this is built. 
  • Pray for Christians in Aceh, that their buildings will be restored to them. Pray for those congregations that were recently attacked, and for protection for all God’s people in Indonesia.

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Uzbekistan - Christian gathering raided; Christians fined

On 9 April, a court in Uzbekistan punished 14 members of an unregistered church in Yukori-Chirchik for “attracting believers of one confession to another and other missionary activity”. Eight police and security officers had raided a home where the church was gathered on 27 February on the pretext of searching for a bomb. They confiscated a laptop and Christian books. Most of the Christians were given a fine of ten times the minimum monthly salary, while the host of the meeting was fined six times as much again. The judge also ordered that the books be destroyed.

  • Pray for the members of this church, that the Lord will strengthen them to stand firm in Him despite harassment from the authorities.

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India - Names of Christians disappear from electoral roll

A Christian forum in Madhya Pradesh has discovered that the names of up to 20,000 Christians have been deleted from the state’s electoral roll. It is concerned that the Christian community is being deliberately disenfranchised by the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, which is notoriously anti-Christian. Its concerns have been supported by the state’s main opposition party, the Indian National Congress, which has accused the state government of playing dirty politics to disenfranchise Christians. The forum has launched an investigation and intends to approach the electoral authorities.

  • Pray that any electoral malpractice in Madhya Pradesh will be corrected and that all Christians there will be free to participate in the political process.

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Prayer Focus 06/12

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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 11 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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