Wednesday, December 8, 2010

IVORY COAST: ON THE BRINK OF WAR

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 085 | Wed 08 Dec 2010

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IVORY COAST: ON THE BRINK OF WAR
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By Elizabeth Kendal


Like Sudan and Nigeria, Ivory Coast is divided by a volatile ethnic-religious fault-line. Whilst the less-developed North has long been predominantly Muslim, the South -- Ivory Coast's economic and political engine -- has historically been predominantly Christian and African Traditional Religion (ATR). Decades of mass immigration (1960-1993) from the neighbouring Muslim states of Burkina Faso, Mali and Guinea might have been great for the economy, but they have tipped the demographic balance so that Ivory Coast -- officially about one-third Muslim -- is actually
majority Muslim.

The civil war that erupted in September 2002 was portrayed by the international media as a crisis of democracy and human rights caused by Southern xenophobia and Islamophobia. In reality, Ivory Coast's crisis is the consequence of decades of Muslim mass immigration coupled with political ambition and an internationally-sponsored Islamic agenda. The civil war was fought essentially between those who want all Ivory Coast's Muslim immigrants naturalised -- giving Ivory Coast a Muslim majority overnight -- and those who do not. Though he denies it, former Prime Minister Alassane Ouattara, a Northern Muslim, was doubtless behind the September 2002 failed coup that triggered the war. Ouattara and his party, the Rally of the Republicans (RDR), have been playing the race and religion cards for political gain. Ouattara's intent has been to have all the Muslim immigrants naturalised (over 4 million: estimated to comprise between 30 and 40 percent of the total population) so that he (their champion) can dragnet the Muslim vote. Ouattara has long had his eye on the presidency.

The civil war left Ivory Coast totally polarised, split between a virtually ethnic-religiously cleansed, rebel-controlled Muslim North and a government-controlled predominantly Christian, non-Muslim South. Since the war the North has been in serious decline with AIDS, poverty and lawlessness increasing exponentially. In November 2004 Ivory Coast's Christian president, Laurent Gbagbo, launched surprise airstrikes against rebel positions in the North in an attempt to reunify the country. However, former colonial power France (which backs the rebels for economic gain) intervened, razing all IC's airforce planes, destroying runways and sending tanks against the Presidential Palace, around which loyalists formed a human shield.

The West had insisted that Ivory Coast could be reconciled, reunified and essentially saved by means of democratic elections, such is their faith in 'democracy' and the inherent goodness of man. In reality, the divisions are so profound and the stakes are so high that, unless genuine reconciliation occurred first, elections could only trigger conflict. Elections were held on 28 November 2010, with both Gbagbo and Ouattara claiming victory. The US, European Union and African Union have recognised Ouattara as the winner and called for Gbagbo to respect democracy and step down. Russia meanwhile is blocking a UN statement that would recognise Ouatarra, saying that this is not the UN's role. Ivory Coast's non-Muslims are traumatised, fearing that their homeland -- once the most prosperous 'Christian' nation in West Africa, home to the region's largest cathedral, home-base to most of West Africa's regional Christian ministries -- is about to come under Muslim political domination.

(COMMENT: Ivory Coast's crisis -- the consequence of decades of Muslim mass immigration -- is a foretaste of what several states in democratic Europe may be facing in a generation or two.)


PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY FOR GOD TO:

* give Ivory Coast's Christian leaders -- pastors and politicians --
great spiritual wisdom and authority.

* bring revival to the Church in Ivory Coast so believers will be
compelled to go out with the gospel in boldness, empowered by the
Holy Spirit, so that Ivory Coast might be spiritually transformed.
For only then will the peoples 'beat their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks . . .' (Isaiah 2:4 ESV)

* intervene in the tense climate by interposing a spirit of restraint,
compelling the people to seek a negotiated solution as a means of
averting another destructive civil war -- a war that would certainly
attract international jihadists.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Iraq & Egypt: al-Qaeda declares war on Christians over the myth of Camilia

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 082 | Wed 17 Nov 2010

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IRAQ & EGYPT: AL-QAEDA DECLARES WAR ON CHRISTIANS
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BACKGROUND IN EGYPT: In July 2010 Camilia Shehata Zakher disappeared after a quarrel with her husband, a Coptic priest in Minya Governorate. Unaware that she was with relatives in Cairo, he reported her missing and accused Muslims of abducting her for forced conversion, a fate not uncommon for Coptic girls in Egypt.

When Egyptian Security Forces found Camilia in Cairo and returned her to her husband, Muslims protested, claiming that Camilia was now Muslim and was being held by the church against her will. One fundamentalist sheikh claimed to have heard her say the shahada, the declaration of Muslim faith. Digitally edited photos purportedly of Camilia in full Islamic dress started appearing on the web. Islamic militants urged that Christian tourists be kidnapped and killed in retaliation. On 1 September a Mauritanian cleric issued a fatwa permitting the killing of Egyptian Copts. Camilia has come to personify the Muslim fantasy of Coptic girls converting to Islam and of the church as a principle cause of fitna or persecution.

Then on 8 September Camilia appeared on national TV denouncing the rumours of torture, drugs and captivity. 'I am appearing,' she said, 'in order to defend my husband, my child, my church and my religion which is Christianity.'

Fundamentalist sheikhs subsequently claimed the woman on the TV was not Camilia, but her 'double'. Egyptian State Security immediately refuted this and the Chairman of the Committee of Declaration of Islam at Al-Azhar University, Sheikh Saeed Amer, stepped in and denied that Camilia ever came to Al-Azhar or that her case ever came before him. Islamist propagandists subsequently asserted that Camilia was kidnapped by State Security forces while on her way to Al-Azhar to formalise her conversion. The Islamists claim therefore the State actually prevented her conversion to Islam.

The truth is: Camilia is a Christian who never converted to Islam. The Camilia of Islamic fantasy -- the convert to Islam who is suffering persecution at the hand of the church -- is a myth. Nevertheless this totally debunked myth is being used as incitement and as an excuse to kill Christians.

INCITEMENT IN EGYPT; DEADLY CONSEQUENCES IN IRAQ.

On 15 September, as religious tensions soared, the former secretary-general of the International Union for Muslim Scholars, Muhammad Salim al-Awwa, raged on Aljazeera international TV, falsely accusing Egypt's Copts of 'stocking arms and ammunition in their churches and monasteries' in preparation for war against Muslims. He also perpetuated the lie that the Coptic Church was holding female Coptic converts to Islam captive in desert monasteries (RLPB 079, 27 Oct 2010).

As the rhetoric escalated, riots multiplied, forcing the government to urge media restraint for the sake of national unity. Then on 31 October ten al-Qaeda militants in Iraq laid siege to a Syrian Catholic Church in Baghdad. Fifty-eight died and more than 70 were wounded in the subsequent massacre. In claiming responsibility, the al-Qaeda-linked 'Islamic State of Iraq' gave Egypt's Coptic Church 48 hours to release from captivity Camilia Shehata and Wafa Constantine, an almost identical case from 2004. Otherwise jihadists would retaliate against Christians everywhere (RLPB 080, 3 Nov 2010). The incitement in Egypt being linked to the massacre in Baghdad and the threat from al-Qaeda shocked Egypt, prompting restraint there and temporarily settling the situation somewhat.

Nothing, however, has settled in Iraq. On 9 November three Christian homes were bombed at night in the suburb of Mansour, western Baghdad. The following morning two Christian homes in al-Dora were hit by mortar fire. Bombs also exploded outside a church in Kampsara and outside about a dozen Christian homes across Baghdad. At least four Christians were killed and dozens were wounded and terrorised. The targeted homes could be seen to be Christians because of funeral notices and visible Christian insignia.

Then on Monday evening 15 November Islamic militants in the northern city of Mosul stormed two adjacent homes of Christian families in the eastern al-Tahrir neighbourhood and killed the two male heads of those households, a Syrian Catholic and an Armenian. Almost simultaneously a bomb exploded outside a Christian home in central Mosul. The next day a Christian man and his daughter aged six were killed by a car bomb in Mosul.

This terror has led to a surge in Christians fleeing Iraq. They will join the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Christians struggling to survive as refugees in Syria, Turkey and Jordan. They no longer see any reason to risk their lives for a state where, even if they survive, they will be condemned to live as second class citizens (dhimmis).

In Egypt, the lives of Copts are conditionally 'protected' as dhimmis. This means they will not be killed and plundered provided they submit to the injustice, persecution and humiliation inherent in abject subjugation under superior Islam. After years of impunity for attacks on Copts, their security is now extremely tenuous.

On Monday 15 November 22 homes, two commercial shops, a bakery, and livestock, all belonging to Copts, were burnt when Muslims -- reportedly nearly 1000 -- rioted in the Upper Egyptian village of el-Nowahed after hearing a rumour that a Christian boy was in a relationship with a Muslim girl. (According to the rules of Islam, a Christian boy may not approach a Muslim girl but must convert to Islam first.)

Due to years of radicalisation and the re-establishment of dhimmitude, the situation in Egypt is now pre-genocidal. Meanwhile the situation in Iraq is undoubtedly genocidal, partly because Iraq has become a base for foreign-sponsored sectarian Islamic militias. Additionally there is the factor that, as a Western experiment in Islamic democracy (like Lebanon previously), the West doesn't want to see or admit failure in Iraq, especially as that would challenge the West's firmly held belief that democracy -- as distinct from the Gospel of Jesus Christ -- is the solution to noble (rather than sinful) humanity's problems.

The West must end the denial and take some responsibility for securing and rescuing Iraq's Christian remnant. Once US troops withdraw and the 'real' war begins, it will be too late.

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY FOR GOD TO:

* level the paths, open the doors and provide safe passage for all Iraqi Christians fleeing Islamic terror and genocide for what may be an extended period of exile.

* draw the hearts and minds of all Iraqi Christians to him, that they might put their faith in him alone, for he is their only hope.

'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to the least of these my brothers, you did it to me . . . Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one the least of these, you did not do it to me.' (From Matthew 25:40,45 ESV.)

* intervene in Egypt, to still the brewing storm; may all Egypt's Christians -- Copts and Arab converts -- look to Christ and put their faith in him alone, for he is their only hope.

* frustrate the plots and programs of the wicked, while pricking the conscience of the alliance states to Christian duty and moral obligation that they might respond with commitment and generosity to the humanitarian catastrophe that is befalling Iraqi Christians.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Christianity in China: the repression and the propaganda

The situation regarding religious freedom in China is complex. While the phenomenal growth experienced in China's state-sanctioned, registered (i.e. legal) churches is encouraging and truly inspiring, the regulations imposed on these churches are for many, simply unacceptable and prohibitive.

Rather than submit to what they regard as unacceptable levels of regulation, the overwhelming majority of Chinese Christians risk serious persecution in order to worship freely. Meeting and worshipping in unregistered (i.e. illegal) house churches -- without Chinese Communist Party (CCP) permission, without CCP supervision, defying CCP restrictions on movement and evangelism etc -- they risk fines and "administrative detentions" (no charge or trial required) of up to15 days in prison or up to three years in Mao's laogai (a "gulag" of more than 900 state-owned, CCP-administered slave labour camps. Of course this is one reason why "Made in China" is so cheap.)

Propaganda Alert!


The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is presently engaged in a strategic global propaganda campaign. The CCP wants everyone to know that it is today a party of suits, not fatigues; advancing prosperity, security and Chinese culture, not revolution.

The CCP's aim is doubtless to bolster nationalistic zeal, delegitimise both domestic and international criticism, and obscure the fact that China remains a totalitarian state.

See: The (propaganda) empire strikes in China
By Kent Ewing, Asia Times on Line, 24 Aug 2010

Included in this propaganda campaign are efforts to present China as a land of great religious liberty where Christianity flourishes, despite regulations.

Chinese authorities recently gave the BBC "unprecedented access" to China's state-sanctioned churches and religious institutions, including Amity House where some 12 million Bibles are published each year (at least 40 percent for export).

Of course the BBC subsequently released a glowing report on the Chinese Communist Party's "commitment to supporting the development of Christianity".

See: China invests in confident Christians
By Christopher Landau BBC News, China, 23 August 2010

"Three decades ago, China's Cultural Revolution saw some of the most dramatic restrictions on the practice of religion ever seen in the modern world.

"But today's communist rulers have radically altered their views about religion and have granted substantial freedom to Christians prepared to worship within state-sanctioned churches.

"Within these boundaries, Christianity is growing in China as never before - and doing so supported by millions of dollars of government funding. . . "

ALSO:
HEART & SOUL, on BBC radio.
Christianity in China
Episode 1
Episode 2

The BBC report was of course picked up by others and quickly multiplied -- its message echoing many times over across the globe.

As exciting as church growth in state-sanctioned churches is, this is not the whole story, indeed, it may be little more than a facade, erected to hide totalitarian repression.

In March 2010, I a highlighted an important lecture by Richard Madsen who comments on the fact that while CCP methods of control have evolved, the CCP still demands the church accept the "government master, religion follower" formula of Imperial China's sacral hegemony.

This is indeed the sense we get from listening to the BBC radio programs. The CCP is clearly more than happy to have the church exist as a "servant" to the state, filling in gaps in social services, helping to keep the masses satiated and pacified. However, the CCP is definitely not willing to have the church to act as "prophet".

Meanwhile, along with its interest in exploiting Christian service, the money-idolising CCP is also seriously interested in seeing if it can exploit the link between Protestant Christianity and economic prosperity. Maybe they are gambling that a carefully measured and closely supervised dose of medicinal Christianity will make CCP-ruled China rich. Of course it is absolutely imperative that this medicinal Christianity be "carefully measured" and "closely supervised", for the CCP is fully aware of the problems that could be triggered by an overdose.

In August, the state-funded Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) released its Annual Report on China's Religions.

See: Academy releases report on religion
Source: Global Times, 13 August 2010

According to the CASS report, China currently has 23.05 million Protestant Christians, of which almost one-third converted since 2003. Furthermore, 60 percent said they turned to Christianity after they or family members suffered from illness, while more than half of Chinese Protestants have not received secondary schooling.

Of course many would dispute those statistics. Fan Yafeng (41) a researcher with the Zhongfu Shengshan Institute and ex-CASS researcher flatly rejects CASS's findings as "ridiculous". A house church member for 13 years, Fan asserts that there are at least 500,000 Protestants in Beijing alone -- five times the figure asserted by the CASS -- and that a lot of them are well-educated professionals and intellectuals.

The aim of the CASS report is doubtless to elevate the role of the CCP in the alleged recent explosion of Christianity -- thereby establishing the church's debt to the regime -- while diminishing the Christians themselves as needy and under-educated, i.e. weak and vulnerable, i.e. not the sort of crowd with which any strong, intelligent and influential individual might wish to identify.

Preserving the CCP

Jamestown's China Brief has published a hugely significant study (in two parts) by Arthur Waldron, in which Waldron analyses an eight-part television series in which Chinese social scientists analyse the fall of the Soviet regime. The series is called "Preparing for Danger in Times of Safety -- Historic Lessons Learned from the Demise of Soviet Communism".

According to Waldron the series attributes the demise of the Soviet regime, not to openness or restructuring, but to very specific failures of the Soviet Union Communist Party (SUCP). Decade-long research has determined that the Soviet regime failed "because," reports Waldron, "it gave up the dictatorship of the proletariat, ceased to practice democratic centralism, criticized Stalin, was beguiled by western concepts such as democracy, and also tripped up by Western propaganda and other operations."

The series adulates Lenin and Stalin, while demonising Khrushchev and Gorbachev. Waldron quotes Chinese social scientists Zhou Xincheng and Guan Xueliang who maintain: "The disorders of the 1980s and 1990s in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe all have a conspicuous characteristic, which is that they were all set in motion by negation of and attacks on 'the Stalin model'." They regard Khrushchev's "secret speech" of 14 February 1956 -- "On Personal Worship and its Consequences", in which he denounced Stalin before the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union -- as the beginning of the end. Waldron notes that even today, no criticism of either Stalin or Mao is permitted in China, although Mao is the subject of considerable public criticism regardless.

The Chinese analysts firmly believe that the situation in the Soviet Union could have been salvaged had the Soviets adopted the path subsequently followed by China: adhered to Marxist-Leninist theory and paths while correctly solving its problems and conflicts, correcting mistakes with courage. They conclude that the Soviet regime fell because, in its attempts to make the system more "humane", it failed to maintain a comprehensive dictatorship. "The consensus is," writes Waldron, "that Gorbachev was beguiled by the siren song of 'humanitarian socialism'."

"Such" writes Waldron," is the Chinese official -- it must be stressed official -- diagnosis of the Soviet failure, and from the diagnosis will flow the policy solution. Perhaps it is not surprising, then, that party discipline and unity are at the top of the list of issues being stressed publicly in China today, and simple repression is regularly employed as a means of dealing with tensions, while relatively less emphasis is placed on how to cope with the vast challenges posed to any authoritarian government by a dynamic, growing, and ever-differentiating society."

Waldron regards China's "concealed history" as a ticking time bomb. "It is a good bet," he reckons, "that someone in [the next] generation of leadership will make a Chinese 'secret speech' and turn to the ideas of humanity in socialism, even though they are today officially excoriated in analyses of the disintegration of the Soviet Union."

Chinese Analyses of Soviet Failure: The Party
Publication: China Brief Volume: 9 Issue: 23
November 19, 2009 By: Arthur Waldron for Jamestown

Chinese Analyses of Soviet Failure: Humanitarian Socialism
Publication: China Brief Volume: 10 Issue: 11
May 27, 2010, By: Arthur Waldron

No matter what happens, the CCP does not have the last word on Christianity in China.

Antonio Weiss writes in the Guardian:"With the state now actively financing Christianity, China could well become the largest Christian country in the world."

Weiss' assessment is only partly correct.

For "Yes", China is set to emerge as the world's largest Christian country. Indeed, China is destined to become the greatest missionary-sending nation the world has ever seen.

But "No", it will not be on account of the Chinese Communist Party.

Rather, all the glory will be God's.
For HE alone is sovereign.
And HE is doing a great work in China.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

"Hezballah's Christian allies": a "covenant with death" if ever there was one.

The Special Tribunal for Lebanon -- the International Court set up in May 2007 by the UN Security Council to investigate the February 2005 assassination of former Lebanese premier Rafiq Hariri and 22 others -- will soon deliver its findings. Expectations are running high that the tribunal will indict Hezballah, Syria and heads of Lebanon's intelligence agencies.

Reports and movements on the ground in Lebanon indicate that if the tribunal does indict Hezballah, then Hezballah will stage a coup or a policy-reversing blitzkeig similar to the one it staged in Beirut in May 2008 in which it laid siege to the homes of Sunni leader Saad Hariri (son of the assassinated Rafiq Hariri) and Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, and won, through force of arms, the right to share power and veto government decisions.

"What is beyond doubt," writes Zvi Mazel in the Jerusalem Post, "is that both Hizbullah and Syria will do all they can to prevent the court from fulfilling its mandate. If the court does not desist one way or another, fighting will probably erupt in Lebanon."

Tensions soar

If the Special Tribunal on Lebanon (STL) rules, as is expected, that Hezballah, Syria and the heads of Lebanese intelligence agencies are complicit in the assassination of Rafiq Hariri, then the issue of Hezballah's arms would most certainly be back on the table. As Elias Youssef Bejjani reports, Hezballah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah has vowed not to abide by the court's rulings, having tagged the tribunal an Israeli-American conspiracy and a tool of treason against Lebanon established on the fabrications of false witnesses in a bid to have the "resistance" cornered, framed, dismantled and disarmed. Nasrallah, determined to prevent any ruling that could lead to calls for Hezballah's disarmament, is threatening violence.

Once again, Lebanon teeters on the verge of civil war. The pressure has been such that Prime Minister Saad Hariri has been forced to retreat. Realistically, what else can Hariri do? For PM Hariri has no means to fight Hezballah, especially now the US has no influence in the region, Iran is ascendant, and Saudi Arabia (Hariri's natural ally) is more interested in improving ties with Sunni-majority Arab Syria in the vain hope that it can lure Syria out of Iran's Shi'ite-majority Persian embrace.

Even after his March 14 Alliance won the June 2009 elections, Hariri was forced to accommodate Hezballah by inviting them into a government of national unity. Thus Hezballah secured through terror, not only a share of power and the right to veto parliament, but control of the foreign affairs, health, communications, energy and industry portfolios as well.

The situation has not changed. In the absence of meaningful international support (i.e. something other than mere words), Lebanon's national security will remain dependent upon perpetual accommodation and appeasement of Hezballah.

In September, Syria's President Bashir summonsed PM Hariri to meet with him in Damascus. Upon his return, Hariri echoed the sentiments of Hezballah's Nasrallah and cast suspicions on the ability of the STL to make a right judgement. Hariri suggested that the tribunal had been deceived and that this had led to a deterioration of relations between Lebanon and Syria. Next month Hariri will play host Iranian President Ahmadinejad. Clearly, to a threatened man without means of resistance, the gravitational pull of the Iranian axis is irresistible.

Sami Gemayel, a Maronite Christian, is the son of former president Amin Gemayel, brother of assassinated MP Pierre Gemayel, and nephew of assassinated former president-elect Bachir Gemayel. As a strong Lebanese nationalist, he is a staunch critic of Hezballah. Consequently, Gemayel objected vehemently to PM Hariri's u-turn on the STL, going on to accuse Hezballah of collaborating against Lebanon's interests. Nasrallah responded by posting a grim threat on Hezballah's website -- the Islamic Resistance Forum -- in which he denounced the Christian leader as an Israeli spy and called for his "crucifixion on a pole in the Pride and Dignity Square in Beirut".

Hezballah's Christian allies

At the time of the 2005 elections, around 70 percent of Lebanon's Christians supported the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) of General (retired) Michel Aoun. On 6 February 2006, Aoun signed a "Memorandum of Understanding" (MOU) with Hezballah leader Hassan Nasrallah in a ceremony in Mar Mikhail Church, just a few blocks from Hezballah's headquarters in Beirut's southern suburbs. Doubtless Hezballah was seeking to secure Christian allies who could support their causes in parliament. Nasrallah may have even been betting that the March 8 opposition could ride to power on the FPM's coat-tails. Meanwhile, the highly ambitious Aoun had his eyes on the presidency (reserved for a Christian) and was doubtless betting (as were many Christians) he could secure political power, liberty and security for Christians through a pact/covenant with the toughest boys on the block.

Back in June 2006, after I wrote a piece entitled "Lebanon Falls" in which I was critical of Hezballah's May 2008 violent seizure of Beirut, I was chided by some well known Lebanese evangelicals who accused me of misrepresenting Hezballah. After commenting that they and virtually all Lebanese Christians shared Hezballah's anti-Israel stance, they insisted that Hezballah was most definitely not anti-Semitic, not anti-Christian, and not a terrorist organisation. On the contrary, they told me, Hezballah was in fact an ally in the quest for religious liberty, political power and equality, citing the MOU as "proof".

I said at the time, and still maintain today, that this alliance with Hezballah will be for Christians nothing other than a "covenant with death" (Isaiah 28:15-22).

By the time of the June 2009 elections, suspicion was simmering throughout the Christian heartland north of Beirut where Hezballah's establishment of military outposts was causing alarm. Consequently, a significant number of Christians deserted Aoun on polling day, and Aoun could not deliver to Hezballah the numbers he had projected.

Today, reports and movements on the ground suggest that Hezballah is preparing to stage a coup and co-opt its Christian allies to fight its Christian opponents.

Elias Youssef Bejjani reports: "Well-informed Saudi sources have confirmed to the 'Beirut Observer' that . . . information became available to them indicating that an imminent Hezbollah coup is in on the horizon." According to reports, Hezballah's strategy will be similar to that enacted in the May 2008 blitzkrieg, in that militants will simultaneously take control of roads, media and state institutions, and besiege the homes of government officials, effectively placing them under house arrest until they are subdued.

(Of course there will be no need to besiege Walid Jumblatt's home this time, as he switched sides after the June 2009 election in order to align himself with the ascendant force. For along with the fact that Hezballah has proved itself to be the strongest military force in the country, despite losing the election 70 to 58 seats, the Hezballah-led March 8 opposition did win 55 percent of the vote.
See: How will Jumblatt’s split affect March 14?
By Maya Khourchid, NOW Lebanon, 6 August 2009
AND: Walid Jumblatt in Closed-Door Meeting with Druze Sheikhs: 'We Have No Choice But to Coexist with the Shi'ites'. MEMRI June 2009. )

According to reports, Hezballah's Christian allies have conspired with Hezballah to this end, and have served as intermediaries enabling Hezballah to purchase real estate in Christian regions loyal to PM Hariri and the March 14 Alliance. It has been confirmed that Hezballah has deployed some 3,500 armed militiamen along the Mediterranean coast and throughout the Christian regions north of Beirut, including through the cities of Junieh, Tabarja and Batroun. These militants, having taken up residence in chalets and apartments deep inside Christian areas, simply await the green light. Consequently, in the event of conflict, Hezballah will be positioned to besiege the homes of Dr. Samir Geagea (head of the Christian Lebanese Forces Party) and Amin Gemayel (head of the Kataeb Christian Party) and subdue the Christian regions by force. As in May 2008, Hezballah is not expecting any resistance from the clearly partisan Lebanese Army.

Further to this, Hezbollah is reportedly counting on General Michel Aoun's military aid in the Christian regions, where Aoun's role allegedly will be to contain and abort by force any resistance from the Lebanese Forces and the Phalanges Parties.

This sets up a conflict scenario where Hezballah's Christian allies (backed by Hezballah of course) will be pitted against Hezballah's Christian opponents in a military conflagration where ultimately the only real winner can be Hezballah. A "covenant with death" indeed.

See also:
Hariri case 'could cause civil war'
Politician warns of sectarian violence if UN-backed tribunal indicts members of Hezbollah movement.
Aljazeera, 24 Sep 2010

Lebanon's hour 
of reckoning
Claude Salhani, Khaleej Times, 25 September 2010

Syria, Saudi seek to calm tensions in Lebanon
By Rita Daou (AFP), 24 Sept2010

Fear and Loathing in the Levant
By Zvi Mazel for the Jerusalem Post, 21 Sept 2010.

Hezbollah's looming Coup Scenario
Elias Youssef Bejjani, International Analyst Network, 24 Sep 2010

Geagea accuses rivals of plotting 'coup' over STL
FPM raps LF chief’s ‘isolationist policy’
By Wassim Mroueh, Daily Star, 27 September 2010

Hizbullah reasserts right to defend itself against 'politicized' STL
By Elias Sakr, Daily Star, 27 September 2010

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

ALGERIA: arrest warrant issued amidst escalating repression

A judge in the Algerian coastal city of Tizi-Ouzou has issued an arrest warrant for Ali Arhab, the Algerian-born director of the France-based Christian satellite ministry Channel North Africa.

What initially appeared to be a simple case of mistaken identity has developed into something decidedly more sinister. The concern is that the Algerian government might be wielding a false criminal charge against Mr Arhab as part of its anti-missionary, anti-fitna, Islamist-appeasement campaign, the effect being that Mr Arhab will be unable to return to Algeria without risking imprisonment.

Religious Liberty in Algeria

According to The Constitution of the People's Democratic Republic of Algeria (approved by Referendum on 28 November 1996) Algerian citizens are free to observe their own religion.

"Freedom of creed and opinion is inviolable" (Article 36).
"The right to create associations is guaranteed" (Article 43).

However, unlike Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 36 of the Algerian Constitution does not make any reference to an individual's right to change their religion. Furthermore, Article 2 states "Islam is the religion of the state", and Article 9 prohibits "practices that are contrary to the Islamic ethics and to the values of the November Revolution". Together these render religious liberty illusory. (NOTE: the "November Revolution" marked the beginning of Algeria's war of independence, the goal of which, according to the Front de Libération Nationale (FLN), was the establishment of Algeria as an independent sovereign state "within the framework of the principles of Islam" (Front de Libération Nationale, 1 Nov 1954).

Moustafa Bouchachi, President of the Algerian League for the Defense of Human Rights, recently protested the criminalisation of eating during Ramadan on the grounds that "The Algerian constitution prescribes freedom of religion. . ." Yet clearly the reality is more complicated.

See: Algerian men put to justice for breaking the Ramadan fast
By David E. Miller / The Media Line, Jerusalem Post, 7 Sept 2010

As David Miller of the Jerusalem Post reports, police in the Algerian province of Bejaya, in the Kabylie region east of the capital Algiers, recently arrested ten young men as they sat in a closed restaurant, charging them with eating in public in violation of the sanctity of Ramadan. The police were allegedly responding to complaints from locals who, they claim, had reported the "public desecration".

The men faced court in the town of Akbou on Monday 6 September but the verdict will not be known until early November. If convicted, the offenders face up to 2 years in jail.

As Miller notes, the incident reflects the growing trend amongst Muslim governments to cater to devout public sentiment in the Muslim world. (See here for a report on Morocco's persecution of fast-breakers.)

Protesting the charges against the alleged fast-breakers, Moustafa Bouchachi, President of the Algerian League for the Defense of Human Rights noted: "There is no law in Algeria prohibiting eating on Ramadan, only one banning 'mocking Ramadan'. We believe that this lawsuit is unfounded. The Algerian constitution prescribes freedom of religion, so we think this is an affront to people's basic right, which we condemn."

Mouloud Benkadoum, a lawyer representing the owner of the restaurant, claims his client is being unjustly discriminated against. "The large hotels serve alcohol and meals in broad daylight during Ramadan," he told reporters.

According to Sallah A-Din Belabes, executive editor of Al-Watan, the arrests are simply a means by which the Algerian government can display some Islamic zeal and score points with Islamic fundamentalists. He believes that the fact that the arrests took place in the region of Kabylie, which he describes as "less religious than other parts of Algeria" (i.e. less Islamic fundamentalist), is significant. Doubtless the men were arrested to make a point locally -- that Islam will be observed in the Kabylie region "willingly or unwillingly" (Qur'an Sura 13:15) -- while scoring points with Muslim fundamentalists everywhere.

UPDATE: (22 Sept 2010)

Two Christian construction workers appeared in the provincial court in Ain El Hammam (50 km south of Tizi Ouzou) on Tuesday 21 Sept, charged with in eating during the daylight hours of Ramadan.

Hocine Hocini and Fellak Salem, both in their 40s, had been working on a private construction site when they ate their "illegal" lunch on 13 August.

"I am optimistic... I have no regrets, I am a Christian" Hocine Hocini, told AFP. "We are innocent, we have not hurt anyone. We are Christians and we did not eat in a public place."

Meanwhile, lawyers defending the two men have demanded their acquittal. They argue that existing Algerian laws do not prohibit citizens from breaking the Ramadan fast.

The police however, argued in favor of legal provisions that protect religious precepts from being disobeyed.

See:
Algeria: A disturbing trial of Christians over Islamic Ramadan fast
Afrik-News, Wednesday 22 Sept 2010,

Christians and liberal Muslims repressed to appease Islamists

Appeasement of Islamists was doubtless the primary motive behind the draconian March 2006 religion law that imposes severe restrictions on non-Muslim worship and has seen several Algerian Christians dragged before the courts for praying together or possessing Christian literature.

Algeria's March 2006 religion law was adopted as a presidential order (without debate) less than six months after some 10,000 condemned Islamists were amnestied. Most probably the amnesty involved some quid pro quo wherein the government agreed to repress Christianity and advance Islamisation in exchange for "peace". If there was no quid pro quo, then the March 2006 religion law might simply have been the government's attempt at pre-emptive appeasement through the removal of a "provocation". Whatever is the case, it does appear that religious freedom may have been the price the government paid for peace with fundamentalist and militant Islamists.

See Algeria: severe new penalties for 'proselytising'
WEA Religious Liberty News & Analysis by Elizabeth Kendal, 24 March 2006

Algeria: Christians and the extremist threat.
WEA Religious Liberty News & Analysis by Elizabeth Kendal, June 2007

And Christians in Algeria – witnessing in difficult times
Aid to the Church in Need, 27 Aug 2010

When the 300-member "Tafat" ("Light" in Kabyle) Fellowship in Tizi-Ouzou (100km east of Algiers) came under attack in December 2009, the Algerian government blamed the victim. Maintaining that Islam is inherently tolerant and peaceful, the authorities insisted that the violence must be due to factors other than Islam: such as non-compliance with the law, political opponents out to discredit or destabilise the government, foreign conspiracies, or provocative Christian evangelism.

See: Nous ne sommes pas contre la construction des églises
El Watan 29 Dec 2009. Translation (google)

ARREST WARRANT ISSUED IN ALGERIA FOR ALI ARHAB

In March 2010, Ali Arhab received a phone call in France from his parents in Algeria, alerting him to the fact that a judge in his home city of Tizi-Ouzou had issued an arrest warrant for "ALI ARAB" on charges of "fraud" (swindling). The warrant would have been of no concern to Ali Arhab if it had not been for the fact that his parents were named on the warrant.

After some investigation, a lawyer hired by Mr Arhab's parents determined that the warrant was doubtless intended for a building contractor by the name of Ali Arab who, it appears, has several complaints of swindling registered against his name. With this established, the lawyer pressed to have the case cleared only to be shocked when the authorities chose instead to amend the nationwide arrest warrant to read "ALI ARHAB".

The lawyer is concerned that the judge and the public prosecutor might be acting on behalf of higher authorities who might be plotting against Mr Arhab on account of his Christian activities in serving Algerian churches. Mr Arhab has reason to believe that he has been under surveillance ever since the Religion Law was passed in March 2006.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Turkmenistan: mounting repression


Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 072 | Wed 08 Sep 2010


---------------------------------
TURKMENISTAN: MOUNTING REPRESSION
---------------------------------

In 1985 USSR president Mikhail Gorbachev appointed a colourless Soviet apparatchik Saparmurat Niyazov to head the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Turkmen Soviet Socialist Republic. When Turkmenistan became independent in 1991, Niyazov -- who automatically became president -- transformed into an eccentric and reclusive megalomaniac. Under Niyazov, Turkmenistan became one of the world's most repressive and Stalinist states. The all-pervasive cult of Niyazov -- rivalled only by North Korea's cult of Kim -- led to jokes about 'Weirdistan'. But life under Niyazov was anything but a joke. Suffocating religious repression, backed up with violent systematic persecution, was the norm.

When Niyazov died suddenly on 21 December 2006, many Christians hoped that a new era had dawned. Initially the signs were positive, and relief mingled enthusiastically with hope. (Rigged) elections were held in February 2007. There was constitutional reform. The 'elected' president, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov (formerly Niyazov's dentist), was talking to the West. There was a new openness.

However, as time has passed it has become increasingly evident that the only difference between Niyazov and Berdimuhamedov is that Berdimuhamedov is a smarter politician. He immediately moved to erect facades and create illusions so as to attract investment and avoid sanctions. However, as new (post August 2008) geo-strategic realities kick in, he realises he no longer needs to play these games.

As Turkmenistan's President for life, Berdimuhamedov violates the constitution with impunity. According to Annasoltan, the 'neweurasia' chief blogger for Turkmenistan, the cult of Niyazov is being replaced with the cult of Berdimuhamedov. While the famous rotating gold statue of Niyazov was recently dismantled, a larger and more expensive new monument devoted to Berdimuhamedov will soon be erected in another part of the capital. Niyazov's portraits are being replaced with portraits of Berdimuhamedov, who presents himself as the divine saviour of all Turkmen. World leaders, he maintains, are insanely jealous. Accordingly, everything 'foreign' and non-traditional is treated as seditious.

Despite being gas-rich, the country is wracked with poverty. Yet Berdimuhamedov invests in grandiose building projects designed to create the illusion of success and prosperity. (Currently planned is a $2 billion Olympic Village in Ashgabat -- not that the Olympics are coming to Ashgabat any time soon.) Criticism is treason. All religion that is 'foreign', non-traditional and not centred on Berdimuhamedov is repressed and persecuted, most commonly through the imprisonment of religious leaders on false criminal charges. There can be no justice for, in violation of the constitution, Berdimuhamedov has personally appointed the judiciary to do his bidding.

Forum 18 reports that on 22 July Turkmen police raided a church-run summer youth camp in Sekiz-Yab, taking 47 Christians into custody on the pretext of investigating a local murder. Once inside Geoketpe police station the pretext evaporated, Bibles were confiscated and the believers were interrogated about who converted them and who funds their activities. They were photographed and fingerprinted while copies were made of their passports. After being detained overnight, the group left feeling greatly intimidated.

Also in July, members of a Baptist church in Dashoguz (or Dashhowuz) were pressured to sign statements that they would no longer attend the church. Elsewhere, two Protestant Christians were sacked from their employment because of their faith. On 27 August Protestant pastor Ilmurad Nurliev was arrested and charged with swindling more than US$2.4 million from three church members who were coerced into making false statements against him. Large-scale swindling attracts a sentence of up to five years' imprisonment. Another church member, Kristina Petrova, has been ordered to testify against Pastor Nurliev or else her husband (who is not a church member) will lose his job, leaving them destitute.

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL:

* provide Pastor Nurliev with words in court and in detention that will bring glory to God; may he know peace through trusting God, and may God bring justice and glory into the situation.

'You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.' (Isaiah 26:3 ESV)

* draw close all those Christians who have been threatened, intimidated and afflicted by the regime; may they grow in faith and sanctification as they find sanctuary in God's presence.

* use these situations, where injustice and cruelty are juxtaposed with innocence and grace, to awaken many Turkmen (89 percent Muslim) to the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the transforming power of the Holy Spirit.

* intervene and deal with President Berdimuhamedov and his repressive regime, that religious liberty might become a reality in long-suffering Turkmenistan.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

RAMADAN & PROVOCATION IN THE U.S.A.


RAMADAN . . .


Laylat al-Qadr (lit. Night of Destiny) is the anniversary of the night Muslims believe the first verses of the Quran were revealed to the Islamic prophet Muhammad. While the Quran does not provide a specific date, Laylat al-Qadr is traditionally believed to be found in the last 10 nights of Ramadan. Most Muslims observe Laylat al-Qadr or 'Night of Power' on the 27th night of Ramadan. The Quran describes Laylat al-Qadr as, 'better than a thousand months', for on that night the angels and the Spirit have God's permission to come down in answer prayer (Sura 97). This year, the Night of Power falls on or around the night of 5/6 Sept.

Throughout Ramadan, Muslims are not permitted to eat, drink, smoke or have sexual relations between sun-up and sun-down. The rigors of Ramadan elevate stress, frustration and Islamic zeal. In lands with pre-existing religious tensions, the last days of Ramadan can be days of extreme tension.

In pre-Islamic times, Ramadan was officially a month of peace when caravans could travel unarmed. With the Muslims in decline, Muhammad decided to reverse his flagging fortunes by attacking an unarmed caravan during Ramadan. When the Arabs protested, saying that warfare in the sacred month was a 'great transgression', Mohammad had a 'revelation' and declared that fitna (anything that could shake the faith of a Muslim) was worse than bloodshed (2:216-217). According to Muhammad biographer Husein Haykal, 'This revelation brought the Muslims relief, and the Prophet accepted his share of the booty' (Haykal p 210). Henceforth, Islamic fundamentalists from Egypt to Pakistan to Indonesia; and jihadists from Algeria to Kashmir to Thailand, routinely emulate Muhammad by escalating their jihad during Ramadan.

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT:
  • our LORD Jesus Christ will surprise many Muslims this Laylat al-Qadr (Night of Power) by revealing himself as the Way, Truth and Life (John 14:6)

  • our Sovereign God and Father will watch over and protect his children during these tense days, and 'frustrate the ways of the wicked' (Psalm 146:9 NIV).
. . . & PROVOCATIONS IN THE U.S.A.

This year, just as Ramadan reaches its conclusion, a church in USA, plans to hold an 'International Burn a Qur'an Day'. The day chosen for this event is 11 September, in commemoration of the thousands murdered by Islamic terrorists on 11 Sept 2001.

The church, Dove World Outreach in Gainesville, Florida, claims to be making a statement against Islam which it denounces as false religion, unable to save. While the statement is fine, the means is provocative in the extreme and not in the spirit of Christian grace. It is one thing for a Muslim convert to Christianity to burn his/her Quran as a sign of liberation. It is quite another thing for Christians to burn something precious and sacred to Muslims in the full knowledge that it will cause hurt and outrage. Muslims who have been spiritually searching will doubtless be repelled. Meanwhile, Muslims looking for a reason to kill Christians will be presented one on a platter.

There is already an enormous amount of momentum building for a violent response. Muslims have posted threats to jihadist websites expressing their intention to martyr themselves as bombers in the church. Members of the Al-Falluja jihadist forum (Iraq) have threatened to 'spill rivers of your (American) blood' and 'a war the likes of which you have never seen before'. In Indonesia, the Islam Defenders Front (FPI) has vowed to retaliate if the event goes ahead. On Friday 27 Aug, Muslims holding banners reading 'Destroy burners of the Quran' and 'Answer the Quran burning with Jihad', protested outside the US embassy in Jakarta. According to Roni Ruslan of Indonesia's Hizbut Tahrir, 'No one will be able to control this reaction.'

See:
International Protests Begin Ahead of Sept. 11 Koran Burning Event in Florida
FoxNews.com, 27 August 2010

Florida church plans to burn Quran on 9/11 anniversary
AFP, 1 Aug 2010,

FPI vows to retaliate over Koran burning
Ridwan Max Sijabat, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta, Fri, 27 Aug 2010

Planned holy Quran burning protested by Indonesian Muslims
Ahlul Bayt News Agency, 29 Aug 2010

Also -- 2 appeals from INDIA:
"The MBMC, FMSA and AMU community strongly condemns the call given by the Dove World Outreach Centre, Florida which may throw the world into turmoil."
AND
Two Christian human rights activists in India, J. G. Anthony and RL Francis, have appealed to United States ambassador to India in New Delhi, urging that President Obama intervene to halt the Qur'an burning event, which they believe could trigger religious conflict around the world.

IkhwanWeb.com, the website of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), reports that Dr. Diaa Rashwan, the MB's expert at Egypt's Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies, describes the Qur'an-burning event as "exceedingly dangerous", adding that "a serious crisis will arise and extremism will be initiated in the Muslim world. . ."

See: Burning of Quran evident aggression against Muslims
IkhwanWeb, The Muslim Brotherhood's Official English web site, 4 Aug 2010

Of course Dr. Rashwan's assertion that the event would be a violation the rights of Muslims is rubbish. There is no such right as the right not to be offended. The Qur'an-burning event will be wrong not because it violates Muslims' rights, but because it violates Christ's law of love.

FOR:
Jesus said: "So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets." (Matthew 7:12).
AND:
when Lawyer asked Jesus, "'Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?' . . . [Jesus] said to him, 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.'" (Matthew 22:36-40)

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT:

* Terry Jones, pastor of Dove World Outreach, might be sensitive to the Spirit's call for means consistent with the gospel of grace -- for the sake of witness, and so that others might not have to suffer the consequences of his deliberately provocative action.

"For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: 'You shall love your neighbour as yourself.'" (Galatians 5:14)

(Bible texts from English Standard Version)

By the way:

The guys from Acts 17 Apologetics have released a brilliant YouTube film entitled, The Original Burn the Quran Day which recounts the unconvential manner in which the modern Qur'an was compiled. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Islamic intolerance is devouring Pakistan

Islamic intolerance is escalating unchecked across Pakistan as Islamic fundamentalism emanating from mosques and madrassas cultivates hatred which is then fuelled by the impunity the persecutors enjoy.

As chaos and lawlessness escalate, religious intolerance and hatred are unleashed without restraint, and the situation for Christians deteriorates.

The following reports represent the tip of the iceberg. All are recent.
(Credit to Compass Direct News for their phenomenal reporting on the plight of Pakistan's minority Christians.)


KYBER PAKHTOONKHWA (formerly North West Frontier Province).

On 14 June, Samuel John, a Christian psychology professor at the University of Peshawar, was savagely bashed outside his home by a group of five students for refusing to convert to Islam. When his wife rushed to his aid, she too was beaten. Both required hospitalisation, with the professor in a critical condition. The police refuse to register a First Information Report (FIR), and John continues to be threatened with death unless he converts to Islam or leaves the University.

PUNJAB PROVINCE.

Sunil Masih, Shazia Masih and Nasir Naeem, three Christian 8th grade students in Danna village, southern Punjab, have long faced pressure from teachers to convert to Islam. On 16 June, after their parents complained, the principal backed his staff, agreeing that the students should convert to Islam or leave the school. When the police refused to help, the three Christian families fled the area.

On 19 June, Rehmat Masih (85), a Christian of Faisalabad district, was arrested and jailed after a hard-line Muslim named Muhammad Sajjid Hameed filed a false blasphemy charge against him. Hameed and Masih had both made application for the same parcel of land.

Christian policeman Jamshed Masih was recently transferred to the predominantly Muslim Mustafa Colony in Jhelum, south of Islamabad. However, local Muslims unwilling to have the Christian family living amongst them, immediately began conspiring against them.

On 21 June, a mob led by local Muslim religious leader Maulana Mahfooz Khan descended on the family's home after Masih had left for work. Sensing trouble brewing, Masih's wife, Razia, had already phoned her husband and asked him to come home urgently. Khan accused the eldest son (11) of blasphemy, drawing a crowd. As Razia pleaded for mercy someone in the crowd hit her on the head with a hard object, causing her to bleed and her children to cry. The agitated crowd began baying for blood, and by the time Jamshed Masih got home, his wife and four children lay murdered -- massacred. Masih tried to file a complaint, but the Station House Officer refused to register a FIR.

On 1 July Rev. Rashid Emmanuel (32) and Sajid Emmanuel (30), leaders of United Ministries Pakistan, were falsely accused of blasphemy. They were supposed to have written a blasphemous document and signed their names to it (a highly unlikely scenario in any case, except for someone with a death wish).

Over 10 and 11 July many hundreds of enraged Muslims marched through the predominantly Christian colony of Dawood Nagar. Spewing abuse and obscenities, they called for the immediate death of the two Christian brothers. According to Compass Direct News, while Islamic extremists led the protests, most participants appeared to be teenagers who pelted the main gate of the Waris Pura Catholic Church with stones, bricks and shards of glass and pounded the gate with bamboo clubs.

It was widely expected that the brothers would soon be exonerated as handwriting experts had notified police that the signatures on the papers denigrating Muhammad did not match those of the accused.

On 19 July 2010, the brothers were shot dead outside the Faisalabad courthouse by five masked men. The bodied of the slain brothers showed signs of torture. The killings have caused religious tensions in Faisalabad to soar.

In Farooqabad in eastern Punjab, on the night of 21 July, three Muslim co-workers of a Christian man allegedly raped his 16-year-old daughter at gunpoint. Then, on 29 July, after Masih complained to police, two other Muslims who work for his employer, kidnapped him and took him to the employer's farmhouse where they allegedly shackled and tortured Masih, leaving him in critical condition.

In Rawalpindi district, students from the local Jamia Islamia Madrassa have been harassing Christians in the villages around Gujar Khan. According to a local pastor, they routinely beat Christian children and throw stones at the church. 'They openly announce that "the Christians are our enemies, we should not talk to them, eat with them or do business with them".' (NOTE: the Qur'an repeatedly commands Muslims to maintain enmity towards and separation from Christians.) On 22 July, a 12-yr-old girl from a local Christian family was gang-raped by 7 or 8 madrassa students. A teacher who witnessed the incident overheard one of the 16-strong student-mob saying: 'We will teach these Christians a lesson they will never forget'.

When the girl's distraught parents subsequently went to the police station to file a complaint, the officer in charge refused to register it, yielding to local Muslim pressure. According to the Center for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS), 'Such vicious incidents are not being stopped by the government, and day by day the rate of rapes of Christian girls is escalating instead of plunging.' (As would be expected when rape is rewarded with impunity.)

SINDH PROVINCE.

On 13 July 2010, Dr. Abdul Jabbar Meammon, his driver, another Muslim doctor and two other men, beat, tortured and gang-raped Christian trainee nurse Magdalene Ashraf at the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Center, Karachi, Sind Province. In an effort to cover up their crime, the three Muslim men then attempted to kill Magdalene by throwing her out of a window on the hospital's 4th floor. While Magdalene survived the attack, she is a critical condition with serious head and shoulder injuries.

Magdlene told the Christian Lawyers' Foundation (CLF) that a nurse named Sajjad Fatima had set her up, sending her to Dr Meammon's room on false pretenses. When Magdalene entered Dr Meammon's office, he grabbed her. “When I resisted and tried to escape, nurse Fatima slapped both my cheeks and pushed me into Dr. Jabbar,” Ashraf said. “I cried out but no one arrived there to rescue me. They not only gang-raped me, they also tortured me physically and ruthlessly beat me.”

Dr Jabbar Meammon, a known sexual predator, has been charged with attempted murder. No-one has been charged with rape or assault. Meanwhile, as Dr Meammon and his legal team work on his contrary story (where he the victim!), Ashraf's family is receiving threats.

On 15 July, Pastor Aaron John, Rohail Bhatti, Salman John, Abid Gill and Shamin Mall were shot dead -- massacred -- and six others were wounded when a dozen masked men opened fire on them as they exited their church property in Sukkur, Sindh Province.

Students from a local madrassa (Qur'anic school) have been threatening the church since 2008, and according to reports, while the gunmen had young physiques like those of students, their manner of attack indicated they were trained militants.

The church members had been meeting to discuss security in the light of a threatening letter the church had received in May from Islamic extremist group Sip-e-Sahaba warning the Christians to leave the area because they were not welcome and were polluting the land.

The police and ambulance took 45 minutes to arrive.

A church member told Compass Direct News that, not only had the police refused to register a FIR in relation to the threats, they have also yielded to Muslim pressure and refused to register a FIR in relation to the Sukkur massacre.

FLOODS

Pakistan's devastating floods are the result of unprecedented monsoonal rains AND bad governance, for Pakistan has one of the highest rates of deforestation in the world.

Pakistan today has less than 5 percent forest cover. (Five percent is the official government figure, but the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations says forests only amount to about 2.5 percent of the country's total area.)

The floods have wiped out millions of homes AND, accord to TIME magazine, some 17 million acres of agricultural land have been submerged, and more than 100,000 animals have perished.
A humanitarian crisis of monumental proportions is unfolding.

Further to this, Bishop Humphrey Peters of Peshawar warns that aid is unlikely to reach marginalised minority Christians.

Meanwhile, the people's anger, hunger and desperation, combined with the government's virtual collapse in credibility, and the Army's diversion into rescue and relief, provides the al-Qaeda-Taliban with a phenomenal window of opportunity. As TIME magazine notes, it will be difficult -- suicidal in fact -- for the government to crack down on Islamic fundamentalist and militant groups -- like the Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation, an Islamic "charity" with alleged links to the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba -- when these groups are extending aid and assistance to the displaced and are receiving donations from the "urban middle class of Punjab, who are turning increasingly to religious conservatism".

Is the battle for Pakistan essentially already over?

In a 4 Aug 2010 column for Dawn (Pakistan), Rafia Zakaria (a US-based attorney who teaches constitutional history and political philosophy) writes that while the Pakistani army might be having some military successes against the Pakistani Taliban, the Taliban's "social project of producing a radicalised Pakistan attracted to literal and intolerant interpretations of faith is flourishing. Examples of such societal radicalisation abound, a notable one being the lack of public outcry against the rampant persecution of minorities who do not fit into the idealised mould of the Sunni Muslim Pakistani citizen."

See: Everyday intolerance
By Rafia Zakaria, for Dawn, Wednesday, 04 Aug 2010

In lamenting the Islamisation of Pakistan, Zakaria notes not only the persecution of religious minorities -- Christians, Ahmadis and Hindus -- but also the banning of Facebook (deemed blasphemous, the ban was supported by 70% of Pakistanis), and the banning of Teray Bin Laden, a comedy film that pokes fun at Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden and features Pakistani pop star Ali Zafar. "The affinity for bans suggests the increasing prevalence of a worldview that wants to eliminate perspectives that are repugnant, rather than develop intellectual arguments against them."

Zakaria deplores the Islamisation of college campuses, noting that some have banned "Western dress", and decries the rise of Islamic vigilantism.

Zakaria expresses a widely held fear that, "while the Pakistani military may be winning the territorial conflict, the war for the Pakistani psyche may already have been lost."


This post is an extended version of Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 069 | Wed 18 Aug 2010, "PAKISTAN: SITUATION CRITICAL".

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

PAPUA: evidence of human rights abuses


Video sheds light on Indonesia security forces

By ROBIN McDOWELL (AP) 5 Aug 2010
excerpts
The jumpy video shows a prisoner lying in a jungle clearing in eastern Indonesia moments after troops allegedly sliced open his abdomen with a bayonet, sending intestines tumbling from his stomach.

Using the little life he has left in him, Yawen Wayeni lifts his arm into the air, and says weakly, "Freedom! Papua ... Freedom!"

At the sound of his muffled voice, gun-toting, uniformed officers resting in the shade approach.
"Speak up," one taunts. "What? You all are never going to get freedom." [. . .]

The seven-minute video appears to have been made by the Korps Brigade Mobil, or Brimob, the paramilitary police who took part in the arrest. It too has a legacy of abuse in Papua.

It's not clear how the clip made its way to the Internet, and few here have seen it.

The troops caught up with Wayeni at his home in the jungle village of Matembu on Aug. 3, 2009.

Wayeni's wife told the Commission for Disappearances and Victims of Violence that they tied his arms and legs to a log and forced him to chant "Free Papua!" before slicing him in the abdomen with a bayonet.
They all but ignored him as he stumbled to the ground, landing in a patch of rough grass and propping his head up on a log.

"Look, he's tired," one officer says as the prisoner's head lolls back, his eyes rolling.

The police ask Wayeni if he is an atheist and call him a "savage," saying his prayers will never be answered. They then ask how, in his condition, he thinks Papua will ever shake free of Indonesian rule.

"It's equally surreal and horrific watching as the grievously injured Yawan Wayeni answers teasing questions from uniformed Indonesia security forces about his political beliefs," said Phil Robertson, a deputy director at the New York-based Human Rights Watch.

Getting medical help, he notes, seems the furthest thing from their minds.

Despite his suffering, however, the dying man refuses to give in.

"This land was promised by God to us, the Papuan people," Wayeni says. "God, the suffering of the simple people, there are so many! They are crying, oh God!"

  • NOTE: In the video the soldiers refer to Yawen as "orang kaffir". The translation incorrectly translates the term"kaffir" as "atheist". Yet clearly Yawen is not an atheist -- he is cyring out to God. The correct translation would be "infidel", the term used by Muslims of non-Muslims. Thus "orang kaffir" = "this person is an infidel".
Papuan Detainee in Gruesome Video Was Shot, Not Disemboweled: Police
By Farouk Arnaz and Banjir Ambarita,
Jakarta Globe,
August 06, 2010
The National Police have denied allegations that officers disemboweled a Papuan detainee with a bayonet and taunted him, saying his injuries were caused by a gunshot wound sustained during a firefight . . .

MEANWHILE: Rev Sofyan Yoman summonsed

Rev Sofyan Yoman, the chairman of the Central Board of the United Baptist Churches in Papua, has been summonsed to give an account to the police of a statement he recently made regarding actions of the army and police in Puncak Jaya. He is purported to have intimated that the Indonesian military (TNI) has committed human rights abuses and that it does not always report the truth.

"What I was reported to have said is not rubbish. There is good reason for us to have made that statement, we have the data and we have the experience. The government and the security forces misrepresent the situation and they fail to understand us. We are not an ignorant people who are deaf, dumb and blind," he said.

Rev Yoman has declined the summons, saying that the church is not subordinate to the Indonesian government or the security forces. According to Rev Yoman, the church must always and at all times be the voice of its people who are voiceless and oppressed.

"We continue to be amazed that the acts of violence that have been happening since 2004 in Puncak Jaya have continued to this day. . . What we hope for is that the security forces should end this game that is going on in the Land of Papua. . ."

Rev Yoman appealed for the police to stop summoning indigenous Papuans. "Let's live together, side by side, as equals, respecting each other. Don't treat the creatures of the Lord like hunted animals, stigmatised, trivialising the people of God."

While Rev Yoman has rejected the summons, the police are saying they will force him to appear.
The director for criminal affairs Petrus Waine said that Rev Sokrates Sofyan Yoman had created the impression in his speech that the TNI/Polri were responsible for the shootings. He must take responsibility for his remarks, including those about the shooting of civilians and members of the security forces. "He needs to produce data and facts," he said, "and if he fails to do so, it is not ethical."

But according to Gustaf Kawer, a lawyer who closely follows legal affairs in Papua, "Yoman has not committed a criminal offence, and there's no need for a police summons. Criticisms from the people are quite natural in this era of democracy and should not be seen as violations of the law."

Kawer also said that it was within the rights of Sokrates to refuse to respond to a police summons
.

See:
Socrates Yoman rejects police summons; Alleged OPM attack on civilian in Mulia
Bintang Papua, 8 August 2010
Translated by TAPOL
WPapua news: Police will force Sokrates to appear Articles in Bintang Papua
Bintang Papua, 9 August 2010
Translated by TAPOL with abridgements

The reality is, as with all Papuan human rights advocates, Rev Yoman's life is perpetually at risk.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Sharia-phobia?

Kenyans have voted and the new constitution has been accepted.

See:
Kenyans Approve New Constitution
By Jeffrey Gettleman, New York Times, 5 Aug 2010

New constitution for Kenya as 'No' team concedes
By Tom Odula, Associated Press, 5 Aug 2010

No need to apologise, Moi tells clerics
By BEATRICE OBWOCHA and RENSON BULUMA, The Standard, 8 Aug 2010

2010 REFERENDUM PROCESS AND OUTCOMES
PRESS STATEMENT BY THE KENYA CHRISTIAN CHURCH LEADERS
Thursday, 05 August 2010

On the entrenchment of Kahdi Courts

Before the referendum, Kenya's retired Anglican Archbishop David Gitari, head of the Christians for Yes campaign, maintained that Christian fears over the entrenchment and legitimisation of Kahdi (Islamic/Sharia) courts were misplaced. "There is a lot of sharia-phobia in the Christian church," he said.

Sharia-phobia?

International Crisis Group's July 2006 report entitled "Islamic Law and Criminal Justice in Aceh", is worth revisiting, for Aceh can serve as a model for how Sharia not only divides Muslims, but has a tendency to expand once implemented.

The ICG report notes that the Muslim Acehnese have long been divided over Sharia. During Indonesia's battle for independence Acehnese elites clearly expressed their preference for Dutch-style secular administration. Even Aceh's ulama (religious scholars) were divided between those who favoured secular administration and those who wanted an Islamic State based on Sharia Law. ICG notes that for many, the issue had more to do with power than ideology - the elites did not want a religious bureaucracy established that could expand and threaten their authority, while the Islamists were determined to establish a formal religious bureaucracy from where they could expand and advance their influence and power.

ICG notes that the leader of the Acehnese Islamists, Daud Beureueh, led the Acehnese in jihad against the "kafir" Dutch occupier specifically with the aim of achieving an Islamic state. Sukarno courted and rewarded Beureueh with assurances that Indonesia would be built on Islamic principles and Aceh would have Sharia Law. This was radical as Sharia had no historic precedent in Aceh.

After Suharto's downfall, President Habibie offered Islamic Law to Aceh as a political solution to Acehnese unrest and disaffection, which really arose out of neglect and frustration. ICG reports that Jakarta regarded Sharia law as "something the Acehnese wanted (although how much was debatable - after the Indonesian parliament granted it, one Acehnese called it an 'unwanted gift', and he was not alone)". (ICG p 4)

Since Sharia has been legitimised and implemented in Aceh it has expanded considerably, for the religious bureaucracy tasked with codifying and implementing Sharia in Aceh is committed to "its own expansion; a focus on legislating and enforcing morality; and a quiet power struggle with secular law enforcement".

According to ICG, many Acehnese worry "that extension of Shari'a has been taken on as an agenda by conservative organisations. . . Women's organisations have been particularly active in raising questions about proposed changes to the khalwat qanun [laws on relationships between men and women] but in general, the conservatives, who support more extensive Shari'a application, are more vocal than those concerned about its consequences".(ICG p7)

The religious bureaucracy constantly extends the reach of Sharia by revising legislation and increasing the number of crimes that can be dealt with by the Sharia Courts. It has already been proposed that revisions be made to the laws covering khalwat (illicit relationships between men and women) so that any woman who alleges she was raped must follow Sharia protocols and produce four male adult Muslim eye-witnesses to support her claim in order to prove it. If she cannot, she will be found guilty of making a false accusation of rape, guilty of illicit sex, and caned accordingly.

In 2004, Aceh established the highly unpopular vice and virtue patrol, the wilayatul hisbah (WH), which is responsible for monitoring compliance with Islamic law. Not only did Aceh's WH grow from 13 members to 33 in one year, its powers are constantly increasing. What's more, the very presence of the WH is fueling the rise of hard-line Islamic vigilantism.

ICG also notes that as the religious bureaucracy expands it will rely more and more on young recruits who are motivated primarily by their contacts with intolerant radical foreign elements, in particular Wahhabis, jihadists, and groups like Hizb-ut-Tahrir.

----------

Secular law and Sharia law are not parallel systems. Rather, they are conflicting systems that intersect continuously. The question eventually must arise, when the laws conflict, which is supreme?

In secular, free Malaysia the solution has been to give the Sharia Courts jurisdiction over everything pertaining to Islam -- including the right to leave Islam. (Sharia prohibits apostasy, so all requests to leave Islam must be denied.)

See: The Islamisation of Malaysia
By Elizabeth Kendal, WEA RLC New & Analysis, 7 June 2007.

Bid to nullify conversion fails
Straits Times, 4 Aug 2010

In Kano, in secular, free Nigeria, the Hisbah (vice and virtue Islamic police) constantly clash with state police overconflicting issues of morality, including the sale of alcohol.

See: Nigeria: The Battle for Shari'ah Supremacy
by Elizabeth Kendal, for WEA RLC News & Analysis, 20 March 2009

Kano State’s Islamic Police Destroy 80,000 Bottles of Beer
The Nigerian Inquirer, 4 Aug 2010

Now they are entrenched in the constitution of secular, free Kenya, the kadhi Courts are destined to grow in administration and influence. They will be divisive, and a force for Islamic expansion. What will be the situation now for Christians who are apostates from Islam? If a man converts to Islam will he be permitted to take a second wife? What will be the fate of Christian children deemed Muslim by khadi courts on account of the conversion of their father?

The rod of repressive Islam might not touch the flesh of Dr David Gitari, but it will certainly strike any Kenyan Muslim who puts their faith in Jesus Christ, and any Kenyan Christian caught up in the web of Islamic family law.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

IRAN: PERSECUTION SURGES

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 067 | Wed 04 Aug 2010

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IRAN: PERSECUTION SURGES
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Biblical revelation preaches freedom in love. Islam -- like all man-made religions -- demands submission to law. While the God of the Bible demands perfection in love, he freely provides a remedy for sin -- Jesus Christ -- and the Holy Spirit as helper. This is indeed Good News! On the other hand, while Islam demands submission to law, it provides no remedy for sin and so can only culminate in failure. Meanwhile, the dictators of Islam employ religious forces -- Revolutionary Guards, Basij, muttawa, hisba, taliban and others -- to police 'vice and virtue'. To protect their own privilege and hegemony they deny Islam's failure and deflect scrutiny from Islam by blaming the victims. Driven by apostaphobia, they strive to eliminate fitna (anything that could tempt a Muslim to doubt Islam). Sunni reformation (as in Saudi Arabia) and Shi'ite revolution (as in Iran) have only produced repressive, totalitarian police states wracked with poverty, cruelty, despair and disillusionment.

In Iran the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) was set up to defend Islam. The Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) was established to eliminate all opposition and dissent which they virtually did through purges, terrors and serial killings. When President Khatami (1997-2004) pressed for reforms in the style of 'glasnost' (openness) and 'perestroika' (restructuring) , Ayatollah Khamenei engineered his removal. Through the presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad since 2005, the hegemony of the blood-stained IRGC and MOIS
hardliners of the 1980s-90s has been restored. The regime has just announced a massive boost in funding for the Basij (state-sponsored Islamic vigilantes) and will establish 7000 new Resistance Bases across Iran. All this is unsurprising, for whilst Christianity requires radical, personal, spiritual transformation, Islam merely demands the enforcement of Islamic law.

Persecution of the Church escalated through 2009, aided because the US no longer has leverage -- due to Iraq, the US now needs Iran more than Iran needs the US. As noted in RLPB 041 (3 Feb 2010), the regime is escalating repression to curtail unrest due to widespread social dissatisfaction and economic distress. A wave of persecution hit the Church in late December 2009 and early January 2010 when many Christians were harassed, interrogated, threatened and arrested. Whilst most have been released on bond, some remain incarcerated and others have been added to their number.

Pastor Behrouz (Marco) Khanjani was arrested on 11 January when he responded to a request from the authorities to come in for questioning in Chiraz. He was bailed on 17 March only to be re-arrested on 16 June. His wife, Fatemeh (Marie) Torkkajouri, was arrested the next day and placed in solitary confinement in Evin Prison. After informing Pastor Behrouz of his wife's fate, the authorities reportedly incarcerated him in 'Plate 100', a dungeon of the intelligence services in Chiraz. Their daughter Esperance is in the care of Muslim family members.

Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani was arrested in Rasht on 13 October 2009 for protesting the regime's plans to force Islamic education on all children in violation of the constitution. He has reportedly been sentenced to death. Furthermore Pastor Yousef's wife, Fatemeh (Tina) Passandideh, was arrested on 8 June 2010 and is in solitary confinement in Evin Prison. The authorities have threatened to put the couple's children, Yoel and Daniel, in an Islamic institution.

A group of 15 new believers were travelling by bus to the provincial town of Bojnoord on 18 July 2010. Security forces were informed and ambushed and arrested them in the city of Mashhad. After a week of harsh interrogation, believers who signed 'confessions' were freed on conditions including due payment of all bail. Mr Reza (48, also known as Stephen) and Mr Ehsan Behrooz (23) refused to co-operate and so remain incarcerated in the 901st branch of the Revolutionary Court in Mashhad.

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT THE SPIRIT OF GOD WILL:

* fill Iranian believers with courage and faith to face persecution in a way that brings glory to God.

* fill persecuted Iranian believers with the inner peace and joy that comes from trusting the LORD, from assurance of salvation, and from the experience of God as 'sanctuary' (Isaiah 8:14a).

* give all Iranian Christians -- especially pastors -- great spiritual wisdom to be 'wise as serpents and innocent as doves' (Matthew 10:16 ESV).

* awaken multitudes of Iranian Muslims to the deficiencies of Islam (and not just Iranian economics and foreign policy) and the Good News of Jesus Christ.

* enlighten especially the Muslim relatives, friends and neighbours of Iran's persecuted Christians that they may be so shocked and challenged by Islamic injustice, and so surprised and moved by Christian grace, that they will seek love over law and find truth in Jesus Christ.

IRAN: Islamic police state escalates repression and persecution

Biblical revelation preaches freedom in love. Islam (like all man-made religions) demands submission to law. While the God of the Bible demands perfection in love he freely provides a remedy for sin -- Jesus Christ -- and the Holy Spirit as helper. This is indeed Good News! On the other hand, while Islam demands submission to law it provides no remedy for sin, and so can only culminate in failure.

Meanwhile, the dictators of Islam employ religious forces -- Revolutionary Guards, Basij, muttawa, hisba, taliban etc -- to police 'vice and virtue'. To protect their own privilege and hegemony they deny Islam's failure and deflect scrutiny from Islam by blaming the victims. Driven by apostaphobia, they wage war against fitna (anything that could tempt a Muslim to doubt Islam).

Sunni reformation (as in Saudi Arabia) and Shi'ite revolution (as in Iran) have only produced repressive, totalitarian police states wracked with poverty, cruelty, despair and disillusionment.

In Iran, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp (IRGC) was established for the defence of Islam, while the Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) was established to eliminate all opposition and dissent -- which they virtually did, through purges, terrors and serial killings.

When President Khatami (1997-2004) pressed for reforms after the manner of 'glasnost' (openness) and 'perestroika' (restructuring), Ayatollah Khamenei engineered his removal. Through the presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (2005 - ), the hegemony of the blood-stained IRGC and MOIS hardliners of the 1980s-90s has been restored.
See:
Iran: The Islamic Revolution is complete.
WEA RL News & Analysis by Elizabeth Kendal 29 Aug 2005
Iran: Old Guards Return.
WEA RL News & Analysis by Elizabeth Kendal 14 Dec 2005

The regime has just announced a massive boost in funding for the Basij (state sponsored Islamic vigilantes) to enable more recruitment and to establish 7000 new Resistance Bases across the state.
See:
Exclusive: Millions allocated to recruiting Bassij militia
Iran Focus, Tehran, 29 may 2010

Commander: IRGC, Basij Forces Ready to Defend Islamic Revolution
Fars News Agency, Tehran, 22 July 2010

Basij Forces Plan 7,000 New Bases
By Arash Aramesh, for InsideIran.org, 29 July 2010

Iran militia murder baker for calling Supreme Leader a dog
Iran Focus, Isfahan, Monday 2 Aug 2010

PERSECUTION

Persecution of the church escalated through 2009, aided by the fact that on account of Iraq, the US now needs Iran more than Iran needs the US -- leaving the US without leverage.

As noted in RLPB 041 (3 Feb 2010), the regime is escalating repression in order to curtail unrest emanating from widespread social dissatisfaction and economic distress. A wave of persecution hit the church in late Dec 2009 and early Jan 2010, during which time numerous Christians were harassed, interrogated, threatened and arrested. While most have been released on bond, some remain incarcerated and others have been added to their number.

Pastor Behrouz (Marco) Khanjani, who was arrested in Chiraz on 11 January after responding to a request from the authorities that he present himself for questioning, was bailed on 17 March only to be rearrested on 16 June. His wife, Fatemeh (Marie) Torkkajouri, was arrested the following day and placed in solitary confinement in Evin Prison. After informing Pastor Behrouz of his wife's fate, the authorities reportedly incarcerated him in 'Plate 100', a dungeon of the intelligent services in Chiraz. Their daughter Esperance is in the care of Muslim family members. Fatemeh was released on bail of $20,000 on 22 July.
See:
Behrouz Sadegh-Khanjani and His Wife Held Incommunicado.
Human Rights House of Iran (RAHANA) 13 July 2010

Christian Citizen Fatemeh Tork-kajouir released on bail
RAHANA 23 July 2010

Meanwhile, Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani, who was arrested in Rasht on 13 October 2009 for protesting the regime's plans to force Islamic education on all children in violation of the constitution, has reportedly been sentenced to death. Furthermore, on 8 June 2010, Pastor Yousef's wife, Fatemeh (Tina) Passandideh, was arrested and placed in solitary confinement in Evin Prison. The authorities have threatened to remove the couple's two children, Yoel and Daniel, to an Islamic institution.

On 18 July 2010, a group of 15 new believers travelling together by bus to the provincial town of Bojnoord were ambushed by informed security forces and arrested in the city of Mashhad. After one week of harsh interrogations, believers who signed 'confessions' were freed on conditions including that bail payment would be forthcoming. Mr Reza (48, also known as Stephen) and Mr Ehsan Behrooz (23) refused to cooperate. They have been incarcerated in the 901st branch of the Revolutionary court in Mashhad.
See:
IRAN- The Mass Arrest of New Christian Converts in Mashhad
Farsi Christian News Network, 2 Aug 2010

For prayer bulletin and preayer suggestion see:
Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin 067 (5 Aug 2010).