Published: 00:00 GMT Standard Time - Tuesday 01 February 2011
Prayer Focus 02/11
- AFGHANISTAN - CONCERN GROWS FOR IMPRISONED CHRISTIANS
- IRAN - DOZENS OF CHRISTIANS ARRESTED IN LATE NIGHT RAIDS
- UZBEKISTAN - PASTOR SHESTAKOV RELEASED!
- GLOBAL VIOLENCE - ATTACKS AGAINST CHRISTIANS IN IRAQ, EGYPT AND NIGERIA
- PAKISTAN - NO CHANGES TO “BLASPHEMY LAW”, SAYS PRIME MINISTER
- VIETNAM - CHRISTIAN LEADER BEATEN AND BIBLE SCHOOL DEMOLISHED
AFGHANISTAN - CONCERN GROWS FOR IMPRISONED CHRISTIANS
Barnabas Aid has received worrying updates on the plight of two men, Said Musa (45) and Shoaib Assadullah (25), who are being held in prisons in Afghanistan because they have left Islam to follow Christ.
Said, a father of six, was arrested in May 2010 as part of a crackdown against Afghan converts to Christianity. He has been tortured and abused in Kabul prison, and his case has been repeatedly delayed. Said’s lawyer was blocked from representing him in court, and another lawyer declined to defend him when Said refused to return to Islam. The lawyer said it was impossible to fight such a case in Afghanistan and that if Said faced a judge he would be given three days “and after that he will execute you”.
Shoaib was arrested in October 2010 for giving a New Testament in the national Dari language to another Afghan. He was due to appear in court on 3 January, but the hearing was postponed while the attorney general looked into the case. He was offered his freedom if he would deny Christ, but he refused. He was then taken barefoot and in chains by police to hospital, where a doctor said that Shoaib was talking nonsense and needed treatment. Fellow believers fear that the doctors may be giving him mind-altering drugs. At one court appearance, the judge gave him one week to renounce Christianity, otherwise he would be killed for his faith. Shoaib has stated that he has given his life completely into the hands of Jesus, saying, “Without my faith I would not be able to live.”
- Give thanks for Shoaib and Said’s steadfast faith in the face of such danger, and pray that the Lord will continue to strengthen and sustain them.
- Shoaib has requested prayer for his family’s salvation, and Said asks us to pray that he will be a bold witness for Christ. Pray that both of these brothers will come to no harm while they are incarcerated and that the authorities will be moved to release them promptly.
- Pray that the Lord will minister to the men and encourage not only them, but also other believers in Afghanistan (Psalm 102:1-2).
IRAN - DOZENS OF CHRISTIANS ARRESTED IN LATE NIGHT RAIDS
More than 70 Christians were arrested in Tehran and the western city of Mashhad in the early hours of 26 December 2010 in a crackdown on Iran’s house church movement.
Armed, plain-clothes special security officers forced their way into the homes of Christians while they were asleep. Dozens of Christians, many of them converts from Islam, were verbally and physically abused before being handcuffed and taken for interrogation. Among those arrested were house church leaders, married couples (two of whom were separated from young children) and a number of young single women.
Some of the detained were later released after signing statements that they would no longer take part in Christian activities. Davood Kaboli (31) said, “They have made it impossible for Christians to gather. They want to create fear so we abandon Christianity.” He was blindfolded and interrogated about the work of churches in Tehran, before being released. Many others remain in prison.
It is understood that another 16 Christians would have been detained but were not at home when the security forces broke in. Their relatives were harassed and ordered to tell the Christians to turn themselves in to the authorities.
The Governor General of Tehran Province, Morteza Tamadon, confirmed on 4 January that a number of Christians had been arrested. He described house church worshippers as “deviants” and “parasites” and warned of further arrests.
- Pray for those who were arrested. Pray that they will recover from the trauma of the raids and that those who are still in prison will soon be released.
- Pray for our Christian brothers and sisters in Iran, that they may be free to worship the Lord without fear of persecution, harassment and arrest.
UZBEKISTAN - PASTOR SHESTAKOV RELEASED!
Pastor David (Dmitri) Shestakov was released on 21 January after serving four years in prison. Following his release, David told Barnabas Aid’s coordinator for the Former Soviet Union that the prayers of Barnabas Aid supporters gave him power to stay faithful.
David was arrested during a Sunday service at his church, and he was found guilty of “incitement to religious hatred” in May 2007. He was sentenced to four years at a remote labour camp, many miles from his home and family. Barnabas Aid supported his family financially and in prayer during his jail term and called for his release through a letter-writing campaign.
David had been active in outreach to Muslims in his community, prompting the authorities to target him and regularly raid Christian gatherings. During his imprisonment, he endured harsh conditions and suffered severe health problems due to lack of food and extreme temperatures. He refused to renounce his faith, despite coming under pressure to do so.
- Give thanks for David’s release, and pray that the authorities will not resume their harassment.
- Pray for David as he returns to his wife and daughters. Pray that he will fully recover from his time in prison and that he will know the support of his family and his fellow believers and, most importantly, the comfort and provision of the Lord.
Anti-Christian violence is often focused on Christian festivals, and 2010-2011 was no exception.
In Jos, Plateau State, Nigeria, threats to disrupt Christmas celebrations in the area were realised when seven explosions killed 32 people and injured 74 on 24 December 2010. That same day two churches in Maiduguri were attacked. Five people, including the pastor and two choir members, died at one church when a 30-strong mob of Muslim militants armed with guns, knives and petrol bombs attacked. Violence against Christians in Nigeria has continued into 2011 with a brutal assault on the villages of Kuru Station and Fagawon on 11 January. Fifteen people, including women and children, died in the attacks.
In Iraq, explosives were left outside at least six homes belonging to Christians on 30 December. Two people were killed and 14 wounded in the targeted attacks. Four days later, a Christian woman, Rafah Butros Toma (44), who survived the church attack in Baghdad in October, was shot dead in her bed. And on 15 January prominent Christian cardiologist Dr Nuyia was severely injured when he was shot at point blank range outside a private hospital in Mosul.
In Egypt a suicide bomber detonated explosives outside a church in Alexandria, killing at least 21 people and injuring scores of worshippers as they were leaving a service on New Year’s Day. The Western New Year is considered to be a Christian celebration by many people of other faiths. The attack came two weeks after an Al-Qaeda group, the Islamic State of Iraq, posted a statement on its website calling for militants to bomb churches during Christmas celebrations. Two Christians were also murdered when an off-duty police officer opened fire on Christians travelling on a train on 11 January.
Egypt is experiencing large-scale civil unrest and protests fuelled by economic, social and political grievances, but there are growing fears that radical Islamists may capitalise on the unrest and seize power. Christian gatherings and church meetings have been cancelled, with Christians staying in their homes, “praying hard and trusting God” amid the turmoil.
- Pray that the Lord will comfort all those who lost loved ones in anti-Christian violence in December 2010 and January 2011.
- Give thanks that arrests have been made in connection with the drive-by shooting outside an Egyptian church that killed six Christians on 6 January 2010. Pray that the authorities in all three countries will pursue justice for the Christians who have died or been injured so far this year.
- Pray that Dr Nuyia will make a full recovery and that the Lord will be close to him and his family at this time.
- Pray for peace and religious freedom in Egypt, Iraq and Nigeria and other places where Christians were attacked over Christmas and New Year. Pray that our Christian brothers and sisters may continue to be a witness to Christ’s love even as they face discrimination, harassment and violence.
PAKISTAN - NO CHANGES TO “BLASPHEMY LAW”, SAYS PRIME MINISTER
Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Yousuf Raza Gilani, announced at a conference on Tuesday 18 January that the Pakistani government has no plans to amend the country’s controversial “blasphemy law”, but he also warned that they were “not in favour of misuse of the law either”.
This announcement followed a violent attack on two Christian women, a mother and her daughter, who were falsely accused by a Muslim relative of insulting Muhammad in a domestic dispute in Lahore. The pair were so severely beaten that they lost consciousness.
The prime minister’s statement also came in the wake of the assassination of Salman Taseer, governor of Pakistan’s Punjab province and a senior member of the ruling party. Governor Taseer, a Muslim, had spoken out against the country’s “blasphemy law” and campaigned for the release of Aasia Bibi, a Christian mother of five who was sentenced to death under this law in November for defiling the name of Muhammad (see Prayer Focus Update, December 2010).
Taseer was gunned down by one of his own bodyguards on Tuesday 4 January. Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri, a member of the Elite Force, opened fire on the 66-yearold governor at close range. He was immediately arrested and has been charged with murder, terrorism and violence. He told reporters, “Salman Taseer is a blasphemer and this is the punishment for a blasphemer.” Friends of the governor say that he knew he was risking his life by speaking out but he refused to be silenced.
- Pray for the family and friends of Governor Taseer in their bereavement. Pray that his death will not have been in vain and that, despite the prime minister’s statement, the government will listen to those who are bravely calling for the blasphemy law to be abolished.
- Continue to pray for Aasia Bibi and others who have been accused under the blasphemy law. Pray that the healing hand of the Lord will be over the mother and daughter who were badly beaten in Lahore.
VIETNAM - CHRISTIAN LEADER BEATEN AND BIBLE SCHOOL DEMOLISHED
Nguyen Hong Quang was beaten unconscious by police and his Bible school demolished by bulldozers on Tuesday 14 December 2010. He was arrested and detained with five members of his congregation. All were later released.
It is thought that this attack on Pastor Quang was carefully coordinated. In September 2010, a government-owned newspaper published a number of critical reports about Quang and, following the reports, leaders and students associated with Quang were pressured by officials to sever ties with his church.
This is not the first time that Quang, a pastor and human rights activist, has suffered at the hands of the authorities. He was arrested in 2004 and charged with “interfering with officials carrying out their duties” after he called for the release of Christians who had been imprisoned for distributing Christian literature in Ho Chi Minh City. He was freed in 2005.
- Pray for our brothers and sisters in Vietnam and ask the Lord to give His people strength to withstand persecution. Pray particularly for Pastor Quang, that the authorities will stop harassing him and that he will be able to continue his valuable ministry. Pray for his complete healing.
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