Pray also for Azerbaijan, Egypt, Iraq and Lebanon
– WEA Religious Liberty Prayer September Update
By Elizabeth Kendal
World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty Commission (WEA RLC)
Special to ASSIST News Service
AUSTRALIA (ANS) — “With this in mind [the spiritual nature of our struggle], be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” (Ephesians 6:18)
Please pray for:
AZERBAIJAN: PASTOR APPEALS AGAINST IMPRISONMENT
Baptist pastor Zaur Balaev of the remote village of Aliabad, north-western Azerbaijan, was arrested on Sunday 20 May when police raided what they claimed was an ‘illegal’ religious service. The police accused the slightly built pastor of violently attacking five police officers. Despite numerous witnesses insisting this was not true, Pastor Balaev was prosecuted and sentenced to two years in prison. Forum 18 reports that his appeal is presently being considered. Pray for justice, grace and strength for Pastor Balaev.
Azerbaijan is a religious fault-line country with Sunnis in the north and Shiites in the south. Islamic fundamentalists are infiltrating this Turkic, largely secular society and Christians are caught up in the middle of government efforts to rein in ‘extremism’. Pray for understanding and for religious liberty to be preserved.
EGYPT : THE GREAT APOSTASY DEBATE
Islamic Shar ia law mandates that when a parent converts to Islam the children are automatically deemed Muslim and must be in the custody of the Muslim parent. Mario and Andrew Medhat Ramsis are young Coptic twins who were deemed Muslim when their estranged father converted to Islam and married a Muslim woman. Their custody case started on 3 September but was immediately adjourned. Their lawyer, Naguib Gabriel, in the face of immense opposition, is working to delay the case until after the 17 November retrial of a group of Coptic ‘re-converts’ (see RLP 441). He hopes that the boys may be able to ‘re-convert’ without being charged with apostasy and can therefore stay with their Christian mother. Pray for justice, for the safety of all concerned and that God will use the great apostasy debate in Egypt to turn many hearts towards liberty and towards Christ.
IRAQ : THE GIFT OF TIME?
A referendum on the status of oil-rich Kirkuk was due in November this year. However its postponement until May 2008 has just be en announced. The referendum (or the lack of one) will be incendiary. The issue of the status of Kirkuk is likely to trigger war in the north of Iraq , which is home to most of Iraq ‘s remnant and now displaced Assyrian Christian population. Maybe this postponement is a gift from God, a gift of time; perhaps it is an answer to prayer.
Pray that this time be not wasted and be used profitably to find a solution to the burning issue of the looming genocide of the Assyrians. For them a war in the north would be totally catastrophic, especially as the borders with Turkey and Syria are closing.
LEBANON : ANOTHER CHRISTIAN POLITICIAN ASSASSINATED
Lebanon is existing in a state of ‘cold civil war’. The stand off between the ‘March 14’ faction (Sunni and Christian: pro-West, anti-Syrian) and the ‘March 8’ opposition (Shi’ite and Christian: Hezballah-led, pro-Syrian) has paralysed government. Since February 2005 seven anti-Syrian politicians and one anti-Syrian journalist have been assassinated; s ix of them were Christian. On 19 September 2007 a Christian Maronite lawmaker, Antoine Ghanem (64), was assassinated when a massive car bomb exploded killing Ghanem, his driver, his bodyguard and at least six bystanders in a Christian district of Beirut.
Lebanon ‘s parliament was supposed to be electing a new president this week, but the vote has been postponed until 23 October due to a Hezballah-led opposition boycott which ensured that a quorum could not be formed. The sides are polarised and there is concern that no candidate will be able to get the two-thirds majority required, further entrenching division and fuelling tension.
In 1944 Lebanon was majority Christian and supposedly a showcase of Muslim-Christian harmony. Over recent decades hundreds of thousands of Palestinian and around a million Syrian Muslims have been naturalised and many thousands of Lebanese Christians have emigrated. Today Lebanon is more than two-thirds Muslim, mostly Shia. Hezballah, which refuses to disarm, calls the shots. Pray that God wi ll sanctify the Church – the hope of Lebanon – and empower her as a prophetic voice, peace-maker and healer.
Elizabeth Kendal is the Principal Researcher and Writer for the World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty Commission (WEA RLC)
Elizabeth can be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.