AUSTRALIAN  PRAYER  NETWORK  NEWSLETTER

  • IRANIAN CHRISTIANS FACE ‘SYSTEMATIC’ PERSECUTION AND PROSECUTION
  • A YEAR OF PRAYER FOR AFGHANISTAN AND PAKISTAN
  • CHRISTIAN GUESTHOUSE OWNERS DENY LESBIANS A BED CREATING FURORE IN NEW ZEALAND
  • MUSLIM MILITANTS TURN NIGERIA INTO A CHRISTIAN KILLING FIELD
  • MALI EMERGES AS A NEW FRONT OF PERSECUTION
  • CHURCH OF SCOTLAND APPROVES HOMOSEXUAL MINISTERS
     

IRANIAN CHRISTIANS FACE ‘SYSTEMATIC’ PERSECUTION AND PROSECUTION

Iran’s treatment of its Christian minority has come under fresh scrutiny in recent months with damning verdicts on the country’s human rights record. Reports from the UK’s Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) and New York-based International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran (ICHRI) cite evidence of”systematic persecution and prosecution “of Protestants and Christian converts, as part of a widespread violation of international laws. Iran is under increasing international pressure to improve its human rights record or face continued sanctions – sanctions ICHRI says are impacting the welfare of the Iranian people.

The UN Special Envoy on Human Rights in Iran, Dr. Ahmed Shaheed, notes that more than 300 Christians have been arrested and detained since 2010, with 41 detained for periods ranging from one month to over a year, sometimes without official charges. Mansour Borji, a human rights advocate said.”Arbitrary arrests and imprisonment, severe restrictions on worship services in the Farsi language, a ban on the publication of Bibles and Christian literature in Farsi, harassment of evangelical church leaders, and continued attempts to confiscate church properties – are all pieces in the puzzle.

Iranian Protestants face the “most severe” restrictions on religious practice and association, through arrests and detentions, state execution and extrajudicial killings.  “There is a systematic attempt to deprive churches of literature, leadership training and development, and communion with other Christians around the world.” The number of Christians in Iran was recorded in 2010 as fewer than 300,000 (0.36% of the population).”Ethnic Christians” from predominantly Armenian or Assyrian descent comprised the majority of this figure, while fewer than 70,000 were Protestants, the bulk of which are understood to be converts from Muslim backgrounds.

It is impossible to know the precise number of Christians in Iran but the figure seems likely to be significantly larger than recorded. Some Christian organisations, claim the number of converts alone could be as high as 500,000. Many Christians in Iran attend underground house churches, which have grown in popularity since 2001.  British Foreign Secretary William Hague claims that all citizens have certain “unalienable universal rights”. These rights include freedom of religion. This encompasses not only the freedom to hold a belief but also the freedom to share it.

The bulk of arrests of Iranian Christians are political. The most common charges include “propaganda against the regime”, “acting against national security” and “contact with a foreign enemy.” Apostasy remains “uncodified” in the Iranian constitution, which instructs judges to utilize Islamic legal sources where crimes are not covered by the code, leaving it open for relying on sources that hold apostasy to be a capital crime.” The UN Special Envoy has called on Iran to improve its human rights record by putting a stop to “continued widespread discrimination against Christians. “Christians should not face sanctions for practising their faith,” said Dr. Shaheed.

“Christian interviewees consistently report being targeted by authorities for promoting their faith, participating in informal house-churches with majority convert congregations, allowing converts to join their church services and congregations, and/or converting from Islam. A majority of interviewees that identified themselves as converts reported that they were threatened with criminal charges for apostasy while in custody, and a number of others reported that they were asked to sign documents pledging to cease their church activities in order to gain release.”

Source: World Watch Monitor

 

A YEAR OF PRAYER FOR AFGHANISTAN AND PAKISTAN

PRAYING FOR AFGHANISTAN

Recovery and rebuilding are occurring in many sectors of Afghan society. Among nationals, there is a real mix of optimism and pessimism as to whether genuine improvements can be made.

Please pray for the following issues:

*  Billions of dollars in foreign aid are being poured into the country – especially by the NATO countries, China and India. Over 1,500 NGOs are registered – only 350 of them are foreign. Inefficiency and corruption are very real threats, but the recent implementation of tighter government regulations has forced NGOs to be transparent and efficient with their funds and activities. Pray that foreign involvement in Afghanistan will be positive and productive undermining the corruption of the past. Pray that the withdrawal of coalition forces will not result in a return to old ways.  

*  Sixty percent of Afghans are under the age of 20 and have known nothing but war; they long for opportunities in education and employment and some freedom of choice. Up to 4.5 million Afghans have returned after fleeing the country when it was under Taliban control. Many of them bring financial resources, international connections and an entrepreneurial spirit to help establish new businesses. Pray that the youth of Afghanistan will bring change to this disturbed land. Pray they will stand against the influence of warlords and radicals who have exerted so much control of the country in the past.

*  Establishing well-trained, disciplined, Afghan-national military and police forces is vital. These institutions must build a reserve of trust with the people, but are themselves prone to corruption and infiltration by Taliban sympathizers. Pray for the security of Afghanistan, for those responsible for the military and police force. Pray they will stand strong against corruption and Taliban resistance and be a positive force of healing in this war torn nation.

PRAYING FOR PAKISTAN

Since our last report the elections in Pakistan have been held and Muhammad Nawaz Sharif) elected as the new Prime Minister. There was a mixed reaction to his election in the west and time will tell whether his election will go in any way to resolving the many issues faced by his nation.  One of his first steps after taking office was to call together 300 Christian Leaders from across Pakistan. The  purpose of this meeting was to win the confidenceof the Christian community and assure them of their security and complete freedom to worship according to their beliefs. The Prime Minister also assured the Christian leadership that the government will take care of their interest and provide protection to the Christian community in Pakistan. The Prime Minister also gave an assurance to stop the misuse use of the nation’s blasphemy law against Christians. Those who attended the meeting believed it was a success and felt assured that this Government will work for change and bring peace to the nation.

 

Please pray:

* giving thanks for an election that was able to be held without serious violence.  Give thanks also that the new Prime Minister appears to understand the concerns of the Christian community and has expressed a desire to protect them and encourage their participation in the affairs of the nation.

*  for Prime Minister Sharif that he would keep his promises to the Christian leaders and not be thwarted by militant opposition from those opposed to the Christian faith. Pray also for his protection in a nation that has turned to violence to solve political differences in the past.

*  for the many Muslims who are coming to faith in Jesus. Believers from a Muslim background are in a unique and challenging situation. Islam has grave or deadly punishments for apostates. God is using literature, radio and TV as well as dreams and visions and the witness of Pakistani Christians to reach Muslim people. Some networks of Muslim-background believers are emerging for mutual spiritual support and discipleship. Pray for such networks to spread and fellowships to form for these believers so that they do not easily fall away. Ask the Lord to raise up leaders for these believers, and for their protection. Pray that any such movement will develop solid disciples with hearts to reach other Muslims.

Source: APN and International Prayer Council

 

CHRISTIAN GUESTHOUSE OWNERS DENY LESBIANS A BED CREATING FURORE IN NEW ZEALAND

The owners of a New Zealand guesthouse who refused to let a lesbian couple share a bed are standing firm despite receiving death threats and verbal abuse. Karen and Michael Ruskin, of Pilgrim Planet Lodge, in central Whangarei, say they will not have their beliefs silenced, even if it puts their business at risk. A lesbian couple decided not to stay at the lodge after being told they could only have a room with single beds. They had booked a room with a king-sized bed but Mrs Ruskin said that when the couple arrived they were told the lodge’s policy was for same-sex couples to be put into a room with two king-single beds.

The engaged couple decided not to stay but could not find other accommodation until they got to Waipu. Mrs Ruskin said she was sorry for the couple’s inconvenience but was standing firm on her morals and the sanctityof her home. The Ruskins live in the bed and breakfast-style lodge, where guests share lounge, kitchen and living areas. “It’s our home – it’s not a motel.” The lesbian’s filed a complaint with the Human Rights Commission, because it is illegal to discriminate against someone in the provision of goods and services because of their sexual orientation.

But Mrs Ruskin said there was an exception in the Human Rights Act relating to shared residential accommodation. She said that in 2010 a homosexual couple also complained to the commission after being asked to sleep apart, but that complaint was withdrawn when the exception for shared accommodation came to light. Mrs Ruskin said she and her husband did not hate homosexuals and were happy for them to carry on with their lives. “Everyone knows what homosexual activity is. It’s quite clear if two guys rent one bed you know what’s going to happen. We have to protect our other guests.”

But Mrs Ruskin said the homosexual community had shown nothing but hate toward the Ruskins’ beliefs. “We’ve been threatened to have our place burnt- it’s pretty foul. They have zero tolerance if you say, ‘No, you’re not doing this in my home’.” The Ruskins acknowledged the lodge was a business but said there needed to be a place for morals in business. The couple who are Antioch Orthodox Christian also have a small chapel inside the lodge, but Mrs Ruskin said she did not discriminate against other religions, and Muslims and Jewish people  had stayed in the lodge.

Source: Fairfax NZ News

 

MUSLIM MILITANTS TURN NIGERIA INTO A CHRISTIAN KILLING FIELD

Last year the onslaught of bombings gave Nigeria the sad distinction of being the nation with the highest Christian death toll. More than 900 Christians were killed in Nigeria in 2012, victims of the Boko Haram group and other Islamic militants. “They are so radical they don’t even spare Muslims. If Muslims are sympathetic to the Christians cause, they are also termed as infidels,” Mark Lipdo, representing the Stefanos Foundation, said.In 2013, radicals have killed more than 120 Nigerians, most of them Christians. Gregory Lar, an international human rights attorney, said, “it appears there is a new resurgence, a new Islamic awareness in the need to propagate their religion.”

Attorney Emmanuel Ogebe warns the country may be on the brink of broader conflict. “Because of the population balance between Christian and Muslim in Nigeria, there is no country on earth that is as rich and as ready for a religious war. All the elements are there,” he said. Ogebe’s spoke at a recent conference sponsored by Jubilee Campaign. Some panellists criticized the U.S. State Department’s reluctance to blame the violence in Nigeria on Islamic extremism. “The route they are taking is dangerous. The ultimate aim of this extremism — is not just to wipe out Christians. It will hit here ultimately,” said Ezie Eze Euluchie of Georgetown University Law Centre.

For years, Islamic militants limited their attacks on Christians to the 12 northern Nigerian states where Shariah law is in place. Now, they are pressing into central and southern states where Christians are in the majority. Reporter Mindy Belz said the pattern is all too familiar. “We’ve seen it happening in Sudan, Mali, parts of the Middle East and other parts of North Africa. What is emerging are the seeds of terrorism that is targeting the West.” So, what is the solution? Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has proposed a possible amnesty for Boko Haram terrorists, but Lipdo believes amnesty would be a mistake”

The problem has gone beyond Nigeria alone,” Lar said. “It actually has its roots in Mali and Libya. So, even if the Nigeria situation is well contained and the borders are not secure, you have not solved the problem,” he said. It seems the future is dismal for Christians in Nigeria, but Lipdo suggests Christians united in prayer can make a difference. “What we see is disunitythat has taken on the Church, so the voiceless are not being represented,”Lipdo said. “If we look to the person of Christ and avoid all these differences and come together, we will be able to give a voice to the voiceless and that is what we are called to do.”

Source: CBN News

 

MALI EMERGES AS A NEW FRONT OF PERSECUTION

Until recently, Mali was a relatively stable, constitutionally secular state with a moderate Muslim population. However, following a military coup in March 2012, extremist Islamist fighters and Tuareg rebels seized control of the north. Early this year French troops arrived to back-up the Malian Army however dozens of French forces have now started withdrawing from the country. The circumstances in the North remain volatile. In Timbuktu, banks, restaurants and many other businesses have not opened since they were looted and vandalised during the jihadist occupation. Army vehicles patrol the streets and there is a ban on driving after 6pm.

Large weapons caches are believed to be hidden in the desert and suicide bombings are taking place from time to time. “No one knows if there will be more suicide bombings,” army officials said. “It is possible but all we can do is continue to patrol Timbuktu and be vigilant.”  In the capital Bamakoin the South, security forces have arrested at least eight Islamic militants suspected of plotting an attack in the capital. Malian officials said thearrests were the first sign that Islamist rebels have activated cells in Bamako. The withdrawal of French troops will test the ability of Malian soldiers and their counterparts from neighbouring nations to maintain peace in the area.

Please pray:

*  for the safety of the few Christians that were forced to stay behind in the North of Mali when others fled. Open Doors’ contacts have not had any news from them.

*  for church leaders ministering in the midst of these difficult circumstances. Some congregations have been restarted among the displaced and some pastors have to care for more than one congregation which are distances apart.

*  for all forces working to restore the peace in Mali. Pray that they will be successful. 

Source: Open Doors

 

CHURCH OF SCOTLAND APPROVES HOMOSEXUAL MINISTERS

The Church of Scotland’s General Assembly has passed a historic vote to allow actively homosexual men and women to become ordained ministers. After more than six hours of debate, the Presbyterian church’s 2013 General Assembly voted in favour of homosexual ministers, but agreed to allow parishes that disagree to opt out of the new rules. The decision will now need to be endorsed by the church’s 48 regional presbyteries and, if it survives the regional ratification, will become official at next year’s General Assembly.The church’s new moderator, the Rev. Lorna Hood, said: “This is a massive vote for the peace and unity of the Church.”

The debate over homosexual ministers has been simmering in Scotland for years. It exploded in 2009 when the General Assembly voted to uphold the appointment of an openly homosexual minister, the Rev. Scott Rennie, to Queen’s Cross Church in Aberdeen. That led two congregations and six ministers to leave the Church of Scotland. In 2011, the General Assemblyagreed to allow openly homosexual ministers appointed prior to 2009 to remain in their posts but placed a moratorium on further appointments of any homosexual clergy. Upwards of 60 congregations have already threatened to split from the Church of Scotland.

Source: Charisma News