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Thursday, March 23, 2006Prayers for March 21, 2006
"Who made heaven and earth,
The sea, and all that is in them?
Who keeps truth forever,
Who executes justice for the oppressed?
Who gives food to the hungry?
The LORD gives freedom to the prisoners,
The LORD opens the eyes of the blind,
The LORD raises those who are bowed down,
The LORD loves the righteous."
From The Voice of the Martyrs
BELARUS (ASSIST News Service)
On March 13th, Georgi Vyazovsky of Christ's Covenant Reformed Baptist Church in Belarus was freed from a Minsk prison on completion of a 10-day sentence for conducting religious worship in his own home. After his release, Pastor Vyazovsky told Forum 18 News Service he felt "splendid" and even joked he had lost weight due to the "good diet." Held in cells with five and later 13 other inmates, he said both they and the warders were "amazed" he was there for religious activity. One of the staff remarked the judge must have gone crazy. To Forum 18's knowledge, Pastor Vyazovsky is the first person to have been imprisoned for religious worship in Belarus for 20 years. When 30 members of various Protestant churches gathered at the prison to meet Pastor Vyazovsky, police roughly moved them some 400 meters away, while some 20 special police officers stood by. Pastor Vyazovsky confirmed there has been no further attempt to prosecute church members since his conviction. However, the Pentecostal bishop of the Minsk region is now threatened with prosecution as well. Sergei Tsvor, who is also first vice-chairman of the Pentecostal Union and pastor of the Minsk-based Good News Church, told Forum 18 that police visited the free-standing residential house where his 100-strong congregation met during a service some six weeks ago. When an officer drew up a protocol against the bishop on the grounds he had no right to lead the gathering under the law on public demonstrations, Tsvor told Forum 18, "I told them that it wasn't a demonstration or a picket, but a worship service." He was summoned to a hearing at Minsk's Moscow District Court on March 9th, but the judge was busy with another case and told him he would be summoned again. He has heard nothing since.
Pray our almighty and all-powerful God will protect His followers in Belarus. Pray every Christian will be a witness of Jesus' persevering love. Pray the Holy Spirit will move in power to bring the light of Christ to all countries with a heritage of communistic atheism.
INDIA (Compass Direct)
On March 16th, Rajasthan state police officers arrested the Rev. Dr. Samuel Thomas, president of Emmanuel Mission International (EMI) and son of Archbishop M.A.Thomas, EMI's founder. The arrest took place in Noida, Uttar Pradesh state. Both Thomas and his father had gone underground after Hindu extremists falsely accused them of distributing a controversial book that alleged defamed their religion and deities. Archbishop Thomas is still in hiding. In the past few months, projects run by the ministry he founded--including orphanages, schools and a hospital--have been targeted for closure by a wide array of Hindu extremists, including some who have offered a reward of $26,000 for the heads of the archbishop and his son. Dr. Thomas, who was accompanied by two lawyers, was arrested in Noida, Uttar Pradesh state, in the driveway of the home of a lawyer who is a senior advocate of the Supreme Court of India. Five or six men, one of whom claimed to be the station house officer of the police station in Kota, Rajasthan state, tried to push Thomas into a car. One of them then put a firearm to the face of one of the lawyers and warned them not to resist the arrest. The officers neglected to follow proper procedure--showing neither their identity cards nor an arrest warrant.
Pray God will protect Dr. Thomas, giving him calm faith and the opportunity to be a witness of the keeping power of his Savior. Pray God will protect the Christian school and orphanage in Kota, Rajasthan. Pray the prayers and written protests of Christians worldwide will force the Indian government to release Dr. Thomas and allow the E.M.I. facility to remain open.
IRAN (Compass Direct)
The lawyer representing imprisoned Iranian Christian Hamid Pourmand has petitioned for his early release from Tehran's Evin Prison this month, during Iran's annual prisoners' amnesty. A lay pastor jailed 18 months ago, Pourmand continues to be allowed regular visits at home with his family for three to five days each month. Hundreds of Iranian prisoners are released each year between the February 11th anniversary of the 1989 Iranian revolution and Iranian Now Ruz (New Year) celebrations on March 21st. "We don't know how the authorities will respond to this appeal," an Iranian Christian in contact with Pourmand's lawyer told Compass. "But, we know the prison officials and guards have extended very good cooperation with Hamid these past months."
Pray God will soften the hearts of the authorities and allow Pourmand's release very soon. Give thanks to the Father for His sustaining power and the good witness Pourmand has been throughout his trial and imprisonment. Pray Pourmand's release will be just the beginning of a movement to allow more religious freedom in Iran.
MALAYSIA (Compass Direct)
Two significant legal developments have left Malaysians hotly debating religious rights and Islamic law (shariah). The first development was the enactment of a new Islamic Family Law in December that made it easier for Muslim men to acquire up to four wives. These men no longer have to prove their financial capacity or ability to treat all four wives equally. The law also made divorce far easier and gave husbands the power to freeze the bank accounts of their former spouses. Under Malaysian law, any convert to Christianity must apply to a shariah (Muslim law) court to legally renounce Islam. Many Christians prefer to remain silent converts rather than take their battle to the shariah courts, where apostasy or conversion out of Islam is punishable by whipping, fines, imprisonment and--in the most extreme application--death.
Pray God will comfort Muslim women in Malaysia with a sense of His presence in their suffering, ultimately bringing them to placing their trust in Him. Pray Christians will reach out to the rejected wives, giving them safe homes and the knowledge of Jesus' love. Pray the Holy Spirit will move powerfully in Malaysia, undermining the efforts of the authorities to make Malaysia an all-Muslim country.
UZBEKISTAN (ASSIST News Service)
The persecution of Protestants continues throughout Uzbekistan, says Igor Rotar, writing for Forum 18 News Service. Recent incidents reported to Forum 18 include the interrogation of a group of 40 Protestants for 18 days, the unlawful imposition of a fine for "security" on one woman, Protestants in a café being ordered by police to state they were in an unauthorized religious meeting, and nine Pentecostals at a social gathering whose permitted religious literature was confiscated (including copies of the New Testament). Fines were also imposed. Christian lawyer Islander Najafov told Forum 18, "No one can prevent people from visiting each other and talking about religious issues!"
Pray God will strengthen and embolden His followers in Uzbekistan. Pray God will direct them exactly when to be subject to the authorities and when to be obedient to His authority. Pray the willingness of Christians to tell of their daily walk with the Lord will lead many to Christ.
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