In addition, Indonesia's parliament -- the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) -- held its annual session from August 1-10. Several contentious issues were Indonesian Constitution in relation to debated, including whether or not to amend the religion and introduce the "Jakarta Charter" which would require all Muslims to be subject to restrictive Sharia law.
The terrorism began on Sunday morning August 4 when 80 to 100 well-armed jihad militiamen arrived in speedboats at the coastal village of Matako. At least seven people were shot and wounded (including five women) and four others remain missing. The Pentecostal Church, the Presbyterian Church, and 27 houses were burned to the ground.
On August 6, a similar attack was mounted on the village of Malitu. On August 8, unidentified gunmen attacked a bus traveling through Pamona Selatan, Central Sulawesi, riddling it with bullets and killing an Italian tourist.
Chief Welfare Minister Jusuf Kalla invited Christian and Muslim leaders to meet for peace negotiations on August 11. However, most Christians boycotted the talks in protest of the many violations of the peace accord and because many leading Christian figures were busy dealing with the 7,000 refugees who have been forced to flee the recent religious violence. A BBC report of August 13, states: "Though Christian groups said they accepted local Muslims were not involved in the murders, they said there were still people trying to foment sectarian hatred. "
The August 13 violence in Poso, about 1,000 miles northeast of the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, left at least six people dead, hundreds of houses and two churches torched in three villages around Poso. The Jakarta Post reports, "The road to long-lasting peace there appears to have gotten longer as armed assailants, believed to being carrying automatic guns, roam the area with impunity.
This violent jihad against the Christian population is receiving very little coverage in the international secular media. The allegation that Indonesian security forces are complicit in the violence is extremely serious and very disturbing. The global Christian body wants to know who is terrorizing Sulawesi, and is the Indonesian government willing and able to guarantee the security of Christians who are defenseless, having surrendered their arms in accordance with the Malino Declaration peace agreement signed Dec. 20, 2001. If you would like to write a letter expressing your concern for the security of Christians in Central Sulawesi, contact details of the Indonesian Embassy can be found at http://indonesia.elga.net.id/address.html. Please keep letters short, concise, polite and diplomatic.
On August 20, eight Filipinos were ambushed and kidnapped as they traveled through Patikul town in Jolo Island in the Southern Philippines. Later, two men were released and two men were beheaded, while the four women were kept as captives. There is a general consensus that the perpetrators of this insidious crime were the infamous Islamic militia - Abu Sayyaf.
The two men released are Muslim, while the six captives kept were/are Jehovah's Witnesses. Of these six, the men (described in the Philippine news as "preachers") were quickly executed without any ransom demand being issued. The severed heads were wrapped in plastic and one was left near the army base
In Jolo town on August 21, and the second near the main market on August 22. Protect these captives from all harm and danger. Speak to them with your truth.
The situation in Nigeria is worthy of considerable apprehension and close attention. Religion became a hot and divisive issue after the February 1999 presidential elections resulted in a Southern Christian being democratically elected as president after decades of military rule, predominantly by Muslims from the north. Presidential elections are due again in early 2003. These may be Nigeria's first elections where religion is a major election issue in this nation split almost 50 / 50 between Muslims and Christians.
Reports chronicle escalating violence in the central regions of Nigeria.
Bishop Ben Kwashi of Jos (capital city of Plateau) wrote, "We are facing a new Muslim onslaught. Terror has been released on the majority Christian population of the Plateau." The General Secretary of the Nigerian Evangelical Missions Association, Timothy Olonade, confirms that the Church in Jos is suffering increased persecution. Josiah Fear on is the Bishop of Kaduna in central Nigeria. Kaduna State, which borders Plateau State, was the scene of horrendous Sharia riots in February 2000. Bishop Fearon sees the tension and hostility through central Nigeria as predominately an ethnic conflict being played out in a religious dimension primarily because the opposing ethnic groups are of different religions and because those desiring power are willing to manipulate the conflict and capitalize on it for their own purposes. "In Jos you have people from Bauchi and other northern states, Hausa and Fulani people, who came to Jos years ago for business, and their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren have grown up there," says Bishop Fearon. "But now they are being told by the indigenes, 'You don't belong here.' But they have no other place to go! They are predominantly Muslims while the indigenes are predominantly Christian.
"However, I also want to identify with the people of Jos. They have said, 'If you live here, you have to abide by the rules and adjust to the culture, but unfortunately the Hausa have often tried to lord it over the people and it has been very difficult. The solutions lie predominantly in governance," says Bishop Fearon. "The government needs to make sure the development is evenly distributed. Nigerians, in the central parts in particular, need to learn to accept one another again. Central Nigeria has always had a culture of accommodating people from other parts of the country, but suddenly that has all changed, and it is frightening. The whole climate has changed. Power is the real issue here. "It is naive to say the problems are purely religious.
The problems are very complex. But having said that, we do know that there are Muslims who have plans to divide the nation-there's no doubt about it." Pray that Satan's stranglehold in Nigeria will be broken. "For nothing is impossible with God." Luke 1:37
Four days after an attack on a Christian school in Murree killing six people, three men with grenades attacked a Presbyterian hospital. Three nurses were killed and 23 others were injured. The attack happened on August 9 in Taxila, about 12 miles west of the capital, Islamabad. The hospital staff members were filing out of the chapel after a morning prayer service when three men carrying bags approached and began to throw grenades. Those killed were Alishma Masih, Naziran Masih, and Bushra Masih. One of the attackers was also killed in the explosions. Four days earlier, a school in Murree,
Also near Islamabad, was attacked and six were killed. That attack appeared to be aimed at foreigners, since the school was primarily for foreign students. While the Taxila hospital does receive support from western Christian sources for its work, it specializes in treating eye diseases common among poor Pakistanis and all the victims were Pakistanis. In speaking to the British Broadcasting Corporation Samuel Azariah, the Presiding Bishop of the Church of Pakistan said, "Whatever decision you take in the West, has an effect on the Christian community here".
Pray that those responsible for these attacks be brought to justice and knowledge of Jesus as Savior. Ask that the work being done by Christians in serving the people of Pakistan be able to continue.
BLASPHEMY CONVICTION OVERTURNED
In April 2000, General Pervez Musharraf attempted to amend the blasphemy laws but quickly was forced to back down after noisy street protests led by Pakistan's Islamist clerics. Since September 11 Musharraf has defied the clerics through his alliance with the USA and by cracking down on terrorist groups and militant Islam.
Ayub Masih, a Pakistani Christian who has been in prison since 1996 accused of blasphemy, has had his conviction overturned. On August 15 the Supreme Court in Islamabad ordered his immediate release. The three presiding judges resolved that the whole case had been fabricated for personal gain. Ayub has been taken into hiding as Islamists are threatening to kill him. Ayub, now in his early thirties, has been under sentence of death for four years.
At least seven other Christians are currently in prison in Pakistan on the charge of blasphemy, including Pervez Masih, the principal of a Christian school. He was accused of blasphemy by the principal of a Muslim school.
We praise God for justice being done in Ayub's case and for the courage of the judges. We ask that General Pervez Musharraf be moved to re-address the issue of the blasphemy law.
Hundreds of thousands of North Korean refugees are in hiding in northeast China, living in fear of deportation back to a country gripped by a grotesque dictatorship and a famine that may have claimed two million lives. The Chinese government has taken drastic action to stem the flood of desperate refugees seeking asylum in foreign embassies in Beijing. Sensational headlines have accused overseas hostile forces, and in particular Christians, of being involved in a "conspiracy" to destabilize the North Korean regime. The Chinese-language newspaper "Youth Reference" on June 19 claimed that a "South Korean body with links to the Christian church" had masterminded a recent asylum incident. The result: South Korean evangelism and discipleship ministries in China are at risk in the atmosphere of surveillance and paranoia.
Churches are thriving in independent Mongolia, but the church worldwide often forgets neighboring Inner Mongolia, a part of China with over 4 million Mongol residents that by Chinese authorities tightly control. The Protestant church in Inner Mongolia is small but growing rapidly, with 172,000 believers and over 1,000 official churches and meeting points, according to official reports. However, the church faces two major obstacles: persecution and cults. Churches have been demolished in some areas of Inner Mongolia by hostile local authorities. Because of the lack of trained pastors, cults have made easy inroads. "Inner Mongolia is one of the most backward areas in terms of gospel witness," laments a house church leader.
LORD, see how my enemies persecute me! Have mercy and lift me up from the gates of death that I may declare your praises in the gates of the Daughter of Zion and there rejoice in your salvation. Ps 9:13-14
A mob led by priests of the Orthodox Church attacked and killed an evangelical Christian pastor in his home in Merawi, in northwestern Ethiopia. Brother Dantew, a teacher and leading elder in the Full Gospel Church, was fatally injured on July 17, several hours after he had asked for police protection. His two teenage sons, 15 and 17, witnessed the murder. The homes of eight other evangelical families also came under attack that night, leaving their furniture and belongings destroyed. Local police failed to intervene in the attack, later declaring that the situation was "beyond their capacity."
But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one. II Th 3:3
India's ruling political party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has gone public with its anti-Christian agenda. On July 29, BJP Vice President Kailashpati Mishra accused Christian missionaries of provoking large-scale violence in the North Indian state of Jharkhand that left five people dead and hundreds injured. Riots followed passage of the state's new domicile policy, which bars employment for those who settled there after 1932.
Please pray for one Christian Brother who represents so many others: Pastor Sagar Kumar Daniel lives in Sonepur district in Western Orissa. In 1995 five men from Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in Pulsagora, Kantamal Block, Boudh Distr., 30 km from Sonepur beat him. In November 1999, dragged to a jungle and again beaten brutally. August 2000 saw his house stoned by miscreants and in July 2001 the house was stoned continually for 15 days. In September 2001, he was imprisoned for 35 days on false charges and in July 2002 was threatened that he be burnt alive like Graham Stains and his two sons.
For more information and a photo go to the news section of http://www.efionline.org. To respond to the plight of Daniel, please send a fax expressing your concern to: The Chief Minister of the state, Mr. Navin Patnaik: 91-674- 590844 or District Magistrate & Collector Office: 91-6654-20345.
Pray that those Indian Christian brothers and sisters living under anti-Christian rule may continue to be salt and light to their neighbors.
Numerous foreign religious workers have been refused entry to the Russian Federation in recent years, but Tibet's fourteenth Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso has managed to obtain a visa to visit Russia's "Buddhist republics" of Buryatia, Kalmykia and Tuva this September. However, following the stripping of visas from both Catholic Bishop Jerzy Mazur and Fr Stefano Caprio in April 2002, on August 2 yet another Catholic priest working in Russia has been refused visa renewal. Fr Stanislav Krajnak, a Slovak, has worked for the past two years in the town of Yaroslavl, 175 miles north east of Moscow. Still serving in his parish, he will have to leave Russia by the end of August, when his current visa expires. Also some Protestants from the USA, who have worked in Russia for several years, have been told that their visa renewal was refused "for reasons of the security of the State."
We do not understand your ways, O Lord, but trust in your mighty love.
The conflict / jihad in Sudan has reached what analysts say is its "deadliest phase" ever, due to the increased acquisition of lethal weapons by both sides. The issues of religious freedom and autonomy for the predominantly Christian Southern Sudanese remain the primary sticking points in the peace process. Two million Southern Sudanese have already died and millions more have been wounded and displaced. The Southerners are starving and suffering severely. Many analysts believe the window of opportunity for peace is closing fast, especially as there appears to be little international will to assist and give leverage to the peace process.
Please pray for God's intervention. "...Justice comes from the Lord." Prov 29:26
There has been a shocking surge of anti-Semitic attacks across Europe. Violence against Jews has been reported from the Ukraine to the UK.
On 19 July, the New York Times (NYT) reported the desecration of the Jewish section of the historic Verano cemetery in Italy. In all, 34 graves were desecrated and one coffin was partly ripped open.
Tullia Zevi, the former president of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities, is quoted in the NYT article as saying, "It's a very complex phenomenon. Is it the old anti-Semitism nurtured for centuries, or is it something that is linked with the Middle East situation?"
On July 11, vandals broke into a synagogue in Swansea, Southwestern Britain. Mike Whine of the Community Security Trust, which oversees security in Jewish communities, told the Associated Press, "There was a big sign saying 'T4,' which we believe is a reference to the Nazi euthanasia program in the Concentration camps. Excrement was left, and there was a failed attempt to set fire to the place." A green swastika was painted on the rabbi's lectern, an ancient scroll was destroyed and the prayer shawls hurled to the floor.
The European governments have been quick to denounce anti-Semitism. On July 21, France's Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin, pledged to catch and punish anyone found complicit in anti-Semitic attacks.
Turkish security police ordered a Protestant Christian congregation meeting for 40 years in the southeastern port city of Iskenderun to close its doors in mid June, declaring the church had "no legal basis" and that its activities were harmful to society.
The security police of Hatay province to close and stop all activities of the New Testament Church in Iskenderun served Pastor Yusuf Yasmin, 71, official notice.
Iskenderun is located just 25 miles from Antakya (ancient Antioch), where the New Testament says Christ's followers were first called Christians. With a population of 160,000 populations, Iskenderun still bears the name of its 4th century B.C. founder, Alexander the Great.
Soon after Serbian Orthodox priests and monks left a ruined monastery in southwestern Kosovo where they had conducted the liturgy, two surviving monastery buildings were set on fire by unknown attackers.
The July 14 liturgy was also disrupted by abuse from local people. It was the first service held at the site of the demolished church in the monastery at Zociste (Zozishte in Albanian) in the three years since Yugoslav forces withdrew from Kosovo and the monastery was largely destroyed.
As part of an international plan to support the return of expelled Serbs to the area, the site is due for reconstruction. Remember those believers in Kosovo who have suffered so much for their faith. May their witness bring many to know you as True God?