Persecution and Prayer Alert
"'Help us, O Lord our God, for we rest on You, and in Your name
we go against this multitude.' ...Through the Lord's mercies we are
not consumed, because His compassions fail not."
2 Chronicles 14:11; Lamentations 3:22 (NKJV)
Sources: Human Rights Watch, Barnabas, Assist News
The innocent people of this country need our prayers.
Photo: Flickr / hdptcar
Christians in the Central African Republic are being targeted by Islamist militants who violently seized control of the country on March 24th. Although many have been killed or seriously wounded in the violence, others are being tied up, beaten and forced to hand over money to save their lives.
A pastor reports that this "reign of terror" is being conducted against Christians by the Seleka rebels. The church leader further explains that the rebels have a hit list of pastors and other Christian workers, and that places of worship are being attacked. Christian property is also being looted. As a result of the persecution, many Christians have fled to the countryside and are too fearful to return to their homes. More than 200,000 people are internally displaced, while 49,000 refugees have been registered in neighbouring countries.
On May 10th, Human Rights Watch released a report citing "grave violations" committed by the Seleka rebels against civilians, including pillage, summary executions, rape and torture. The organization also made reference to an attack on a funeral procession on the Ngaragba Bridge in Bangui on April 13th. As Seleka forces opened fire on the grieving crowd, a church leader was killed as he appealed for peace. An eyewitness vividly recalls the horrific event: "[The pastor] walked toward the Seleka elements on their pick-up, raising a Bible in his hand and calling to stop shooting.... [He] was shot dead by two Seleka fighters."
The crisis in the Central African Republic has largely slipped under the radar of the world's media, and the predominantly Christian population there feels abandoned by the international community.
Thankfully, God is aware of this serious situation, and He is calling us to intercede on behalf of the people in the Central African Republic. May all who have been victimized by the brutal attacks receive His healing, peace and comfort. Let us also pray for the perpetrators, who themselves are being wrongly influenced by 'the enemy of our souls' ...the one ultimately seeking to destroy all of God's creation. May they come to realize the serious consequences of their actions if they don't repent and turn from their wicked ways. (We invite you to pray with others online by posting your prayers at our Persecuted Church Prayer Wall.)
Source: Forum 18 News Service
Sharofat Allamova, a Protestant from Urgench in northwestern Uzbekistan, has been given one and a half years of corrective labour, after being convicted under criminal charges for the "illegal production, storage, import or distribution of religious literature."
As a result, the convicted Christian woman will be placed in a low-paying state job, her salary being further reduced by having to pay 20 percent of it to the state during her sentence. She will only be permitted to travel within Uzbekistan with written state permission and is banned from leaving the country. It has been stated that the NSS secret police compelled witnesses to make false statements against Sharofat.
In other cases, fines have been imposed on believers in the capital of Tashkent for meeting in private homes and for having Christian literature, which includes carrying a personal Bible or New Testament. For previous reports and video footage on the plight of Christians in this nation, please go to the Uzbekistan Country Report.
May Sharofat and the other convicted believers experience an extra measure of God's grace as they face these challenges, seizing them as opportunities to serve as vibrant Christian witnesses and thus reveal the character of Christ through their Godly response and attitude. Pray that He will help these believers to remain steadfast in their faith (Philippians 4:12-13), causing them to triumph. Ask the Lord to also work mightily in the hearts of the country's citizens, including the governmental leaders, in order to bring about genuine religious freedom to Uzbekistan. In the meantime, may the members of the church continue to spur each other on spiritually, wholeheartedly worship the Lord and eagerly learn from His Word.
Sources: Assist News Service, The Hindustan Times, VOM reports
The Staines family before
the tragedy took place
Fourteen years after Australian missionary Graham Staines and his two young sons were burnt to death by a right-wing mob, two more suspects were recently arrested from Odisha's (formerly known as Orissa) Keonjhar district.
It is reported that long-sought fugitives Ghanshyam Mahanta and Ramjan Mahanta were finally arrested on May 17th during a raid by CBI officials and the Keonjhar police. A third individual has still not been located.
At the time of the horrific incident, Graham Staines, 58, and his sons Philip and Timothy were burnt to death on January 22nd, 1999, by a mob led by Bajrang Dal activist Dara Singh. Graham and his sons were asleep in their station wagon in front of a church in Manoharpur village in Keonjhar, about 400 kilometres northwest of Bhubaneswar.
According to recent news reports, numerous people had been previously arrested for their involvement in the crime, while the search continued for the remaining three perpetrators. In 2003, a Central Bureau of Investigation court in Bhubaneswar initially sentenced Dara Singh with the death penalty and the others to life imprisonment. In 2005, the Odisha high court commuted the activist leader's death sentence to life imprisonment.
While we can be thankful that justice is being meted out on behalf of the Staines family, may the Lord continue to use their testimony in the lives of all they so lovingly served in India. Pray that He will continue to nurture the seeds of the Gospel that have been sown through this family's strong Christian witness and the forgiveness extended by Graham's surviving wife Gladys and their daughter Esther. As a result of His ongoing work, may these seeds bear much good fruit in the lives of the people within this community and beyond.