Peshawar, Pakistan: 'Let Tears Stream Down' (Lamentations 2:18)
On Sunday 22 September, as some 600 worshippers were mingling at the close of the service, two Islamic militants armed with automatic rifles and grenades stormed All Saint's Church, Peshawar. After slaughtering many, they detonated their explosive vests, triggering two huge explosions that blasted shrapnel through the believers. The death toll, presently 89, continues to rise; more than 150 were wounded, many critically. The internet images are shocking and deeply moving.
Two different wings of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) have claimed responsibility. A spokesman from TTP Jundullah claimed: "They [Christians] are the enemies of Islam, therefore we target them. We will continue our attacks on non-Muslims on Pakistani land." Later a spokesman from Junood ul-Hifsa claimed the attack was in response to US drone strikes. This was the most deadly terrorist attack on Pakistan's Christian community in modern history.
Context: The church massacre comes as the government is reportedly trying to broker peace with the Taliban. The Taliban opposes peace with the government on principle. Meanwhile, senior military figures see peace, which will involve a military withdrawal and the release of militant prisoners, as akin to surrender. It has also been mooted that the peace talks are a farce, designed to demonstrate the futility of peace talks. It is quite possible that Peshawar's Christians may have been sacrificed - the attack was permitted - to legitimise military action and requests for military aid. Pray for the Lord of Hosts to encircle his Church.
In a short BBC news video a grieving father stands over the coffin of his 11-year-old daughter and the reporter tells us "somehow he manages to talk of forgiveness".
"My soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is; so I say, 'My endurance has perished; so has my hope from the LORD.' . . . But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: Th e steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mecies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. "The LORD is my portion," says my soul, "therefore I will hope in him.'" (Lamentations 3:17,18,21-24 ESV)
Indeed, our hope must be in him.
September 2013 update - During September we prayed concerning:
Refugees and Pakistan, when prayer was requested for Rabeel, a Christian university student from Punjab, Pakistan, who had been betrayed by a trusted Muslim friend into the hands of Lashkar e-Toiba militants who tortured him mercilessly for thre e days. The family fled in January 2013 and has since been languishing in a refugee camp. Like most persecuted Christians, they have not been able to get police reports or medical reports to substantiate their case. [We thank God for the ministry of the Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS) and pray God's blessing upon them.] We also prayed for all persecuted Christians who struggle to get asylum for the same reasons. Christian Faith and Freedom (in Australia, where Rabeel's family has relatives) is lobbying to have this case expedited so Rabeel can receive the medical care he urgently requires. Please pray that God will expedite this case.
[Rabeel's relatives in Australia also had five relatives wounded in the Peshawar church bombing; one critically. In this global age, the pain of persecution is felt right around the world.]
Central African Republic, where a humanitarian crisis has been unfolding in this French-speaking predominantly Christian nation since its fall to Arabic-speaking Islamic militants in March 2013.
Update: CAR's Evangelical Alliance has expressed concern that sectarian Muslim-Christian violence could increase. On 8 September pro-Bozize (deposed president) gunmen attacked and killed Muslim civilians in Bossangoa, northern CAR. Seleka, the ruling Islamic rebel coalition, then despatched troops who retaliated by attacking Christians, causing many casualties. This clash left some 100 dead, more injured and over 4500 displaced. Two unexploded grenades were subsequently found in Bossangoa's Catholic Cathedral. The president of the Alliance of Evangelical Churches in CAR, Pastor Nicolas Guerékoyamé, has appealed to all communities of the CAR 'not to yield to the temptation of interfaith divide'. Human Rights Watch has released a new report on CAR: 'I Can Still Smell the Dead', (18 September 2013).Pray for peace in CAR, as well as for justice and liberty .
Egypt, where a cycle of violence is emerging: the Muslim Brotherhood militants attack the military government; the military cracks down with deadly force; Muslim Brotherhood supporters react against Coptic Christians. [For a more detailed report see Religious Liberty Monitoring (18 Sept 2013).] Pray for the Church in Egypt.
Kazakhstan, where Pastor Bakhytzhan Kashkumbaev of Astana's Grace Church (Presbyterian) was arrested on 17 May on charges of 'harming health' (essentially for praying over the sick). He was subsequently removed to the Almaty City Psychological-Psychiatric Assessment Centre with his detent ion extended until 17 September (RLPB 225). According to Forum 18, Pastor Kashkumbayev was transferred in early September, presumably back to Almaty's Investigation Prison, with his detention extended again to 17 October. Pastor Kashkumbaev's family and his congregation remain extremely anxious as nobody has any information as to his actual whereabouts or condition. Pray for Pastor Kashkumbaev and for the Church in Kazakhstan.
Laos: Families expelled from village over Christian faith
Laotians who practice Asian traditional religion believe Christians anger the ancestral spirits, while the Laos government regards Christianity as a foreign religion that threatens social cohesion and national security and as such must be eliminated. On 30 August, village officials in Nongdaeng village, Borikhamsai Province summoned 11 Christian families (50 individuals) to recant their faith and ret urn to traditional religion. The families all refused and on Sunday 1 Sept, they bravely worshipped together as usual, as is their constitutional right. This group has grown from 3 families to 11 families in six months, despite persecution. On 21 Sept, village officials in Huay village, Savannakhet province ruled that village Christians must renounce their faith or face expulsion. These Christians too have rejected the order and are claiming their constitutional right. Human Rights Watch for Lao Religious Freedom (HRWLRF) is urging the Laos government to respect the constitution and punish officials who illegally issue Christians with eviction orders. Pray for the Church in Laos, and that God will bless the HRWLRF's advocacy.
Morocco: Evangelist imprisoned for his witness
On 3 September a court in Taounate, northern Morocco, found Mohamed El Baladi (33), a Christian for seven years, guilty of 'proselytising' and sentenced him to 30 months in prison. Morning Star News reports th at Mohamed had been arrested only one week earlier and had not had time even to find legal representation. Under interrogation, Mohamed gave up names of other converts from Islam who are in no doubt Mohamed was tortured. His friends have since found a lawyer, Aababou Aderrazzak, who has launched an appeal and is pressing to have the appeal heard in Fez where it will be more difficult for local authorities to dominate and influence proceedings. Please PRAY about this. Since 2011 the government has been dominated by the Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD) which controls not only higher education and foreign affairs, but justice. Pray that God will overrule.