Church members were enjoying a quiet dinner together in the Uzbek town of Jizak in celebration of the Harvest Festival when their meal was disrupted by the ordinary police, the Secret Police and officials from the Public Prosecutor's office. These officials claimed that the meal was "religious activity" and since the group (Full Gospel Church) was not registered (of course, they aren't registering churches in Uzbekistan any more, but what's ignoring facts among friends, right?) they couldn't meet.
Iskander Najafov, the church's lawyer, told Forum 18. "It turns out that believers are not even allowed to visit each other." Najafov believes that an anti-Christian campaign is underway, with less violence than in the past but using other methods to pressure churches and individual believers. He said his Church has received reports from various parts of the country that the police are visiting church members' apartments and conducting "so-called preventative discussions in which they question people about their faith".
Recently, another group, the Subbotniki, Christians who retain some Jewish traditions and meet on Saturdays (not to be confused with Seventh Day Adventists) were denied the right to hold a rite for a deceased member.
Pray for these believers to stand strong despite the persecution.
Follow Up - Indonesian beheadings
On Saturday 29th October a group of Christian school-girls in Indonesia were attacked, apparently by Islamic militants. Three were beheaded and a fourth was severely wounded.
At 7.00 a.m. the girls were making their way to their Christian school through a cocoa plantation, a mile from the village of Sayo, near Poso city, Central Sulawesi. They were set upon by a group of men who attacked them with machetes. Half an hour later the three decapitated bodies were discovered. Later in the morning one head was found outside a church, eight miles from the scene of the attack (leading many to suspect a religious motive to the murders) and the other two heads were found near a police station five miles from Poso.
The murdered girls were Theresia Murangke (14), Ida Lambuaga (15) and Alfina Yarni Sambue (15). Another girl, Noviana Malewa (14) was able to escape the attack, though receiving severe machete wounds to her face. She is under guard in Poso General Hospital.
ANTI-CHRISTIAN VIOLENCE IN CENTRAL SULAWESI
Central Sulawesi, and in particular the Poso area, has been the scene of much anti-Christian violence since 1998 with Islamic militants coming to the region from all over Indonesia. Many Christian villages have been systematically burned. A government-brokered agreement in December 2001 eventually led to a decrease in violence, but it has never ceased. The highest loss of life in a single incident this year occurred when two bombs exploded in a market place in the mainly Christian town of Tentena, killing at least 20 people. Many individual murders of Christians have also occurred, especially those in leadership positions; for example, in July 2004 a pastor was shot dead while preaching in Palu.
CONDEMNED BY THE PRESIDENT
Indonesian President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, publicly condemned the attacks and called an immediate cabinet meeting, which resulted in two very senior individuals in the police and intelligence being dispatched to Poso. But some Indonesian Christians are doubtful about how much will be achieved, given the security forces’ record of reluctance to protect Christians or to bring their attackers to justice. Indonesian church leader Rinaldy Damanik was released from prison in November 2004 after serving nearly two years on a trumped up charge, simply for trying to publicise the anti-Christian violence in Central Sulawesi.
* Pray for the devastated families and Christian community, who are coming to terms with the loss of these three girls. Pray for their heavenly Father to sustain them in their grief, and that the knowledge that Theresia, Ida and Alfina are now with Him will be a comfort and source of peace to them.
* Pray for Noviana as she recovers in hospital. Pray for healing for her physical wounds, and also for the psychological trauma of the attack and loss of her friends.
* Pray that the Indonesian government and security forces will follow through their verbal promises by actively pursuing the murderers andensuring real justice is served. Pray they will also act to protect Christians in Indonesia from further violence.