AUSTRALIAN  PRAYER  NETWORK  NEWSLETTER

  • 500 CHURCHES RESTORED IN SOUTHERN SUDAN
  • CHRISTIAN PERSECUTION ON THE RISE IN BUDDHIST DOMINATED SRI LANKA
  • MORSI SUPPORTERS ATTACK CHRISTIAN TARGETS IN EGYPT AFTER REMOVAL OF PRESIDENT
  • MORE THAN 100 MUSLIMS ATTACK CHRISTIANS IN BANGLADESH
  • NEW IRANIAN PRSEIDENT SAID TO BE MORE MODERATE THAN PREDECESSOR
  • PAPUA (INDONESIA) – FROM MISSION FIELD TO KILLING FIELD
     

500 CHURCHES RESTORED IN SOUTHERN SUDAN

Hundreds gathered at the Akuem Cathedral in South Sudan recently to celebrate and thank God for the rebuilding of more than 500 churches destroyed as a result of the two-decades-long civil war in Sudan. A total of 512 churches were built under a Church Reconstruction Program, that began in 2005 as a partnership between Samaritan’s Purse and local Churches. Church members worked hard to gather raw materials and form bricks or cement blocks, which often took them several months. They also fashioned doors and windows. Samaritan’s Purse designed the structures; supplied steel trusses, roofs, benches, and pulpits; and helped with construction.

“A rebuilt church represents bringing the hope of Christ back to these areas after war,” said Bishop James Lagos Alexander of the African Inland Church. “It’s not just a church being built, it’s a restoration of hope, a restoration of Christian dignity, and a restoration of our commitment to the Lord.” The majority of the churches were constructed in what is now South Sudan, both before and after it gained independence in July 2011. About a third were built in the Nuba Mountains region of Sudan, all while Sudan and South Sudan were still one nation.

During the celebration event filled with prayer and song, Samaritan’s Purse staff member Scott Hughett recounted some history behind the work. “In 2005, I received a message from Samaritan’s Purse President Franklin Graham,” Hughett said. “He told me, God has put a burden on my heart to rebuild the churches that have been destroyed. When I think back, I didn’t think it was possible. There were so many problems. But with God all things are possible.” The program was not successful because of the resources brought bySamaritan’s Purse, but because of the Spirit, the enthusiasm, and the work of the Church here. It was a partnership.”

Hughett also read a letter from Graham in which he thanked the Lord for the churches of South Sudan and the fruit their work is bearing. Graham emphasized the importance of the Gospel and asked God to strengthen the churches in order that they can continue to build on the rock of His salvation. Denominational representatives from South Sudan as well as Samaritan’s Purse staff touched on many of these same topics in a series of encouraging messages addressed to those gathered for this historic event. Bishop Anthony Poggo of the Episcopal Church of Sudan thanked Samaritan’s Purse supporters worldwide for their partnership in the project.

“In addition to building these physical buildings, you have helped us build the lives of the people” Bishop Poggo said. Edward Densham, Samaritan’s Purse Director of International Projects, picked up on that theme. “Why did God have these churches built in South Sudan? Why did God keep the churches strong during persecution?” Densham asked. “Please remember that He has planted you to bring glory and honour to His Name. This is only the beginning; this is not the end. If God has given you one church, go and make five. The churches that have been built are tools for God’s glory, and God wants you use to use these to reach everyone in Southern Sudan for Christ.”

Source: Samaritan’s Purse

 

CHRISTIAN PERSECUTION ON THE RISE IN BUDDHIST DOMINATED SRI LANKA

Four years after its military victory over Tamil Tigers, Sri Lanka appears to be seeking to establish social and political supremacy of the Sinhala Buddhist majority instead of bringing about reconciliation. And this post-war resurgence of nationalism no longer threatens only the Tamil minority, but also religious minorities, particularly Christians and Muslims. The increasing incidence of Christian persecution has received little attention internationally. The Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) and the Sinhala Ravaya (Sinhala Echo) – Buddhist Right-wing groups seeking to protect the country’s Sinhalese-Buddhist character – have led numerous attacks on Christians and churches.

So far this year at least 30 churches have reported being attacked. Last year, Sri Lanka witnessed 52 incidents of Christian persecution. Authorities are also targeting churches. Many churches have reported that administrative and police officials have ordered them not to operate any longer because they have not been “authorized” by the state. Registration of religious organizations is not yet mandatory in Sri Lanka however the government is contemplating introducing such a regulation. Churches have received a circular stating that all new constructions or continuation of places of worship will need prior approval from the Ministry of Religious Affairs.

Authorities are targeting non-traditional or evangelical churches, apparently due to the suspicion that they might become part of the country’s civil society and pose a threat to the incumbent government in the future. According to the 2011 census, more than 70% of Sri Lanka’s population of 20.8 million is Buddhist. Christians are about 7.5%, and Muslims a little less than 10%. About 80% of the Christians are Catholics, and the rest are Protestants. About 40% of the Protestants are ethnic Tamils. Evangelical Christians are being portrayed as enemies of the majority community. The BBS has also sought to turn the Catholic and Evangelical Churches against one another.”

The hate campaign against Muslims and Christians has been so fierce that some people are convinced that religious minorities actually threaten the interests of the powerful majority community. Last month, a 30-year-old Buddhist monk set himself alight to protest against the slaughter of cattle and “conversion of Buddhists” by Christians. Later, 200 Buddhist supporters of the BBS, blocked traffic in Colombo, demanding a state funeral for the monk. Their demand was not met, however they vowed to keep pressure on the government to ensure there were no “unethical religious conversions.”

The resurgence of Sinhala Buddhist nationalism can be attributed to the defeat of the Tamil Tigers in 2009, which was seen by some as a victory of Buddhism over Tamil nationalism. This explains why the government is building Buddhist temples and shrines in Hindu-majority areas where the war took place. The government appears to be desperate to garner popular support by aggressively pursuing Sinhala Buddhist nationalism. If the propaganda against Christians and Muslims carries on unabated and the government continues to provide impunity to Buddhist groups, the space for religious minorities to practise their basic freedoms is likely to shrink much further.

Source: World Evangelical Alliance

 

MORSI SUPPORTERS ATTACK CHRISTIAN TARGETS IN EGYPT AFTER REMOVAL OF PRESIDENT

In scattered locations across Egypt, mobs of hard-line Muslims enraged over the recent deposing of the country’s Islamist president attacked Christian homes, business and church buildings. Angry over what they saw as a coup, the attacks came as part of massive, nationwide protests culminating in a declared “Friday of rage.” Fewer than 12 hours after the Egyptian military announced that it had expelled Muslim Brotherhood-backed Mohamed Morsi and his cabinet members from office, reports of attacks against Christians by Morsi supporters began trickling in.

The attacks picked up steam, and by Friday afternoon (July 5), the national police service notified church leaders to be on the lookout for license plate numbers of several cars that informants said terrorists had packed with explosives, a source who requested anonymity told Morning Star News. The source said police informed Christian leaders that the cars were headed toward churches in Cairo and the surrounding area looking for targets. Christians across the country were uncertain about their future, wondering if the violence would be short-lived or whether the past week was the start of a civil war in which they would be targeted as Christians in Syria are.

“This is just the beginning,” said one Coptic Christian woman from Upper Egypt who requested anonymity for fear of her safety. “They won’t be happy until they steal everything we own and kill us all. How can anyone be full of so much hate? If I took my eyes off God, I would shrink and die.”  The first attack happened in the early morning hours of Wednesday (July 3) in the village of Delgia in Deir Mawas, Minya Governorate. Dozens of Morsi supporters attacked Al Eslah Church, a building that belongs to an evangelical congregation. They fired shots at and looted the church building, sources said.

There were multiple reports that the building had been burned, though that could not be confirmed with certainty. They also attacked some Coptic-owned homes in the area. Witnesses said the mob then moved on to a Catholic church in Delgia, St. George Church, and set aflame a guest-house where a priest lives. The mob also pelted the church building with rocks, fired weapons at it and destroyed the priest’s car. The priest was in the guest-house when it was set on fire, but he was able to make it to a hole in the roof, where a group of Muslim neighbours pulled him out and hid him from the mob.

Source: Morning Star News

 

MORE THAN 100 MUSLIMS ATTACK CHRISTIANS IN BANGLADESH

A group of radical Islamists have targeted and attacked Christians in Bangladesh. Two incidents in recent weeks have left priests and seminary students among those severely beaten. In both incidents, the attackers have operated with impunity. On June 5, Muslim extremists went to the Tumilia mission, a Catholic compound, and physically harmed one of the Priests when he came out of his room. Some say the extremists went simply with the intention of robbing the property; however, other sources confirm that this is “targeted persecution on the Christians by the same group of Islamists.”

On June 6, another attack by the same group of radical Islamists occurred after a Muslim man died from a heart attack during a conflict between Christians and Muslims regarding trespassing. The Christians report that the Muslims continued to trespass on their land to steal mangos and that their requests to cease and desist were ignored. Blaming the Christians for the man’s death, the Muslims staged an attack on the entire village. Two of the Christians fled and sought shelter at the Catholic Church’s mission compound in Dinajpur, in Northern Bangladesh. However, a mob of Muslims numbering over 100 stormed in, armed with local weapons.”

They broke the main gate, destroyed the barb wire fence and entered the compound. They beat up Fr. Uzzal, seminarians and destroyed some parts of the buildings … vandalized and looted everything,” according to one observer.  “The police arrested some of the Christians and took them to the police station but did not take any action against the Muslims who were trespassing on the Catholic compound.” said the observer. “The Muslims wait for any excuse to attack the religious minorities.”  Not one perpetrator has been arrested in either of these cases.

The priests are afraid to do anything against the perpetrators. Most of the time the Muslim extremists are protected by the Muslim ruling party. In Bangladesh, Christians live without any security and protection from the government or law enforcing agencies. Corey Bailey, ICC’s regional manager for Bangladesh, says, “According to the Constitution, there is religious freedom in Bangladesh, but that exists only on paper. Muslims attack religious minorities with impunity. This is outrageous and must end. I urge those interested in religious freedom to contact the embassy of Bangladesh and demand better protection for the religious minorities.”

Source: International Christian Concern (ICC)

 

NEW IRANIAN PRSEIDENT SAID TO BE MORE MODERATE THAN PREDECESSOR

The people of Iran have elected a new leader. President Hassan Rouhani is often portrayed as being a ‘moderate’ Iranian cleric, but because of his loyalty to the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, Christians from the region don’t expect positive changes any time soon.  In pre-election meetings, Rouhani seemed keen to transform the damaged relations between Iran and the West and called for the release of political prisoners. However, in the theocratic country of Iran, it is yet to be seen how much latitude the new President has and what changes – if any – can be expected for the Christian minority when the real power still sits with the country’s Supreme Leader.

An Iranian believer explained to Open Doors, “In the West the candidates are divided into conservatives and reformers, as if there is a choice. But let me tell you this: there is no choice here. All of the candidates are from Ayatollah Khamenei’s team.”  An Open Doors fieldworker said. “We don’t expect significant changes in the countries policies towards Christians.” Christians and other minorities have seen an intensification of religious persecution in Iran since 2005, when former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was elected for the first time. “The situation for the church has remained incredibly difficult,” the fieldworker says.

That not only goes for the house church movement, but also for the churches who have an official registration and property.  Just recently a church building of the Assemblies of God in Tehran was closed following the arrest of one of its leaders. A sign was posted on the door of the church reading; ‘This church is closed due to major repairs. Please do not return!’   One Iranian believer said “Generally speaking, Christians have lost hope for a real change soon. They have been living in these challenging circumstances for many years already and they try to cope with this somehow.  We really don’t know what will be next.”  

PLEASE PRAY

* For peace in the country as Iranians absorb the results of the vote, and that reforms that will ease the government’s hard-line approach to Christians will be passed

* For Christians in prison that they will know the presence and peace of Jesus, and that they will soon be released

* That church leaders in Iran will know God’s wisdom and courage, especially concerning public acts of worship.

Source: Open Doors

 

PAPUA (INDONESIA) – FROM MISSION FIELD TO KILLING FIELD

Since the 1960s, Indonesia has invaded, occupied, annexed, Islamised, militarised and colonised Papua. The predominantly Christian indigenous Melanesians are a suffering and dying people desperately needing God’s intervention to prevent genocide. Recently thousands of Indonesian forces have been ‘sweeping’  the western central highlands of Papua, razing homes, schools, churches and gardens while torturing, mutilating and killing Papuan civilians. 41 people are reported dead and some 30 missing. Thousands have fled into the bush. The Indonesian government is dismissing the reports as ‘rumour’. Please pray for the gravely threatened Papuan Church.

 

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT —

* the Holy Spirit of God will revive and keep the Papuan Church from losing faith.

* the King of kings — who sees all, hears all and knows all — will take up the cause of his people and bring justice, liberty and peace to Papua.

* the Lord of Hosts will intervene against those who have cruel intent; by frustrating their schemes and by visiting them with transforming amazing grace.

Source: Religious Liberty Monitoring