Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Middle Eastern Christians caught in "Cartoon Intifada" (WLC RLP Bulletin)

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin - No. 365 - Wed 15 Feb 2006
plus update on India; Pakistan

While the Danish cartoon controversy has triggered protests all across the Muslim world, political factors put Christians in the Middle East at particular risk of 'cartoon intifada (uprising)' violence.

There are multitudes of pictures of Mohammad in the world: in text books, history books, art works, and even cartoons. The present 'cartoon intifada' has been incited by Islamic clerics, the Arab League and the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC). It is in essence an intifada against Western press freedoms and reluctance to honour Islamic standards, along with implicit demands for special protection and concessions for Islam. But as this is not the first time Mohammad has appeared in art - even offensive cartoon art - why this uprising now?

The June 2005 democratic elections in Lebanon saw the militant Islamic terror group Hezbollah make considerable gains. Then in November 2005, the banned Muslim Brotherhood, running its members as independents, made significant gains in Egypt's elections. But when the January 2006 election in the Palestinian Territories ended the dominance of the secular-Fatah party and put the Islamic terrorist organisation Hamas in power, that really sent a great shockwave through the dictatorial regimes of the Arab world.

Radicalised, and tired of the depressing, repressive status quo, Muslim populations throughout the Middle East are massively deserting Arab nationalism, hoping for relief through Islamism. When given the opportunity to choose their leaders, they are increasingly choosing Islamists in preference to the 'secular' or 'moderates'. Secular and moderate Arab regimes are now having to compete with militant Islamist forces for the affections of their people. These politically threatened regimes are boosting their Islamic credentials and currying favour with their angry, radicalised masses by supporting and even owning this 'cartoon intifada'. The days of 'moderation' are coming to an end and Christians in the Middle East risk being treated as scapegoats for anti-West Muslim rage.

** TURKEY: On Sunday 5 February a teenage gunman shouting 'God is great!' shot and killed Father Andrea Santoro (59) at the entry to the Santa Maria Catholic Church in the northern city of Trabzon after Sunday mass. Days later, a group of youths entered St Helen's monastery in Izmir and attacked Fr Martin Kmetec, aSlovenian Franciscan friar. They grabbed him by the throat and shouted, 'We will kill you all,' and then beat him.

** LEBANON: On Sunday 5 February some 20,000 protesters rioted in the Christian Ashrafiyeh district where the Danish Embassy is located, overturning cars, throwing rocks and smashing windows. The Embassy was torched while the Mar Maroun Church in Gemayzeh was attacked and vandalised. (More than half of those arrested were Palestinian and Syrian.)

** GAZA: Islamic militants have ordered the Bible Society to cease working in Gaza. They have instructed the landlord to evict the Bible Society from its premises by 28 February, threatening to bomb the building on 1 March.


* God to mercifully and wonderfully protect Christians who are without security in the midst of Islamic protests and rage. 'For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle and set me high upon a rock.' Psalm 27:5

* God to intervene and block those seeking to exploit people's frustrations to whip up emotion and incite hatred and violence for their own ends. See Psalm 9:15,16


Update: India, Pakistan

* DANGS, Gujarat, northwest India: The Shabri Kumbh Mela has passed without a violent pogrom, and for that we thank our God who hears and answers prayers. However, Dangi Christians fear about their future. A torrent of toxic anti-Christian hate propaganda has saturated the district and is being spread across north India. Please watch and pray, for while the festival has ended, the Shabri Kumbh Mela was really launching a serious, ongoing assault on the Church in the north India tribal belt.

* PAKISTAN TOO: Tuesday 14 February 'cartoon intifada' riots descended into violence and destruction across Pakistan. Western Christian sites have been attacked. Christians in Pakistan are facing much the same situation as Christians in the Middle East. On Tuesday 7 February the government gave support to an opposition private member's bill seeking to repeal Pakistan's Islamic Hudood Laws. The Hudood Laws strip women of security and rights before the law and Christian women are especially vulnerable. The National Assembly is now debating the bill, which appears to have the numbers to pass. Please pray that it will be carried.

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