Saturday, June 23, 2012

Washington Places 3 Boko Haram Leaders On Global Terror List - Urban Christian News

Washington Places 3 Boko Haram Leaders On Global Terror List - Urban Christian News: "Nigerian troops have arrested a suspect in the Christmas Day bombings that killed at least 44 people, state television reported, as Washington put three Boko Haram leaders on its global terror list.
In the northern State of Kaduna meanwhile, the authorities said late Thursday they had relaxed a 24-hour curfew imposed following clashes that have left scores dead since the weekend."


Appeals Judge in Azerbaijan to Decide Fate of Church

Upset but trusting in God, banned congregation awaits ruling in July.
By Wayne King
Baku skyline
(Photo courtesy Compass Direct News)
ISTANBUL, June 22 (Compass Direct News) – A Christian congregation in Azerbaijan is waiting pensively to see if a judge will uphold a court order that banned its right to meet and “liquidated” the church.
“They are upset, but at the same time they continue coming out hoping for the best,” said Mechti Suleymanov, an elder at Greater Grace Church in Baku, Azerbaijan, which has been meeting for roughly 20 years.
Judge Tahira Asadova of Baku’s Administrative Economic Court on April 25 ordered the Greater Grace Church to be “liquidated” after the State Committee on Work with Religious Organizations (SCWRO) filed suit against it for failing to register with the committee. The liquidation rendered all activities of the church illegal.
The church appealed the decision on May 24 and is waiting for another ruling, scheduled for July 17, from a judge at the Baku Court of Appeals.
“If the court upholds the decision, we will have no right to assemble,” Suleymanov said. “If we continue to meet, then they will come and start harassing us.”
The Greater Grace Church registered with the Justice Ministry in 1993 and gave copies of its registration papers to the SCWRO. According to Forum 18 News, the committee never sent the church a request to re-file a registration with the committee.
Church leaders also said the committee informed them of the need to register only after a committee-set deadline had already passed.
Saving Face
Greater Grace’s problems are part of a larger crack-down on religion in Azerbaijan, according to members of the church.
The population of Azerbaijan is 87.6 percent Muslim, according to Operation World, though the government is secular and freedom of religion is guaranteed by the constitution. But in 2009 the SCWRO required all religious groups to register with the government.
Matti Sirvio, one of the founders of Greater Grace, said he sees the crack-down on Christians as an attempt by the government to save face with Islamic groups within the country.
In December 2011, authorities arrested the pastor of a church in Neftechala that was not registered with the SCWRO. Authorities seized Bibles, books, magazines, audio recordings and videotapes. Initially, authorities also sealed the church building the congregation used. Police interrogated members of the congregation. 
Pastor Telman Aliev was fined but has declined to pay it. He is still leading the congregation.
Only two Protestant churches in Azerbaijan have had their registrations approved. The overwhelming majority of the registrations have been granted to Shia Muslim groups.
Both Sirvio and Suleymanov said recent changes on SCWRO’s board of directors will result in the positive resolution of the court case. Until then, Suleymanov said, his church will wait.
“For the most part, people are quiet,” he said. “They know there is nothing to be done about it. They are just trusting God."

Copyright 2012 Compass Direct News

Friday, June 22, 2012

Christians already leaving Egypt

Protesters already crowd Tahrir Square preparing for election results.

Egypt (MNN) ― Protesters are already in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt. Egypt's Presidential Election Commission announced yesterday they are delaying the results of this week's presidential election indefinitely. The commission says they're investigating election irregularities. Egyptians are in Tahrir Square demanding the results be released.

Rody Rodeheaver, President of IN Network USA, describes the atmosphere. "I'll just quote my director there. He says 'it's just crazy.' He's referring to the atmosphere. He's referring to the confusion. Everything that they thought they had gained has fallen apart."

Rodeheaver says it's not only a confusing time for the average Egyptian, but especially for Christians. He was told that most Christians voted for Ahmed Shafik. "Even though he represents going back to the Mubarak era, they were much more comfortable with him than they were with the Muslim Brotherhood."

Why? Rodeheaver says, "The institution of Sharia Law will basically stymie Egypt's ability economically, politically, and religiously to really have any kind of freedom."

While the elections haven't been announced yet, Rodeheaver says the evangelical church is already feeling the impact. "It was shocking to me when my staff person said, 'In our church, there have been over 60 people who have left Egypt to go to the U.S. to start a new life because of their fear.'"

While that is bad news, Rodeheaver says there has been some good news with all this uncertainty. IN Network has seen growth in leadership, discipleship, and evangelism training. "There has been this period of ability to do ministry unimpeded. The fear now is that that door will shut."

Rodeheaver is asking you to pray for safety for young people as they travel to and from summer camp. He's also asking you to pray for Egyptian churches. "If you're part of a congregation and all of a sudden you realize that 60 people are no longer there, that creates an emotion and psychological barrier." Pray that God will assure Christians that He is at work and that they can stand strong.

If you'd like to help IN Network share Christ, click here. 

Released Christian finds kids missing

Kids of wrongfully imprisoned
 Christian father are missing. (Photo
 courtesy of Colleen Taugher)

Ethiopia (MNN) ― Tamirat Woldegorgis, a Christian in southern Ethiopia falsely accused of desecrating a Qur’an, has just been released after serving two of his three sentenced years in prison.

However, Tamirat has lost more than just two years of his life in prison. Due to cramped and harsh conditions, one of his legs is now paralyzed.

Furthermore, when he returned home, Tamirat discovered that his two children, ages 6 and 15, are missing.

"I have been trying to locate my children, but all in vain," says Tamirat. "My life is ruined--I have lost my house, my children, my health. I am now homeless, and I am limping."

According to Voice of the Martyrs, Canada’s source Compass Direct News, Tamirat is staying with a friend in an undisclosed town. Tamirat believes Muslims from his area may have taken his kids to restrict his influence.

Tamirat used to work in a cloth-making business before his arrest. When Tamirat was arrested back in August 2010, it was because his co-worker found that Tamirat had written “Jesus is Lord” on a piece of cloth.

Tamirat’s co-worker further accused him of writing “Jesus is Lord” in the cover of a Qur’an, but with no evidence. But Tamirat was still sentenced to three years in prison on November 18, 2010 for desecration of a Qur’an, a serious offense according to Muslim Shariah law.

Ethiopia is nearly 35% Muslim. Jijiga, the town where Tamirat was imprisoned, is the capitol of Ethiopia’s Somali Region Zone Five, which follows Shariah principles.

Persecution of Christians in Ethiopia is only getting worse. Ethiopia moved up to #38 on the World Watch List of countries with the worst Christian persecution, where last year it was #43.

Pray for the safety and salvation of Tamirat’s children, and for reunion with their father. Pray for courage among persecuted Ethiopian Christians and for the spread of the Gospel there.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Nigeria imposes curfew to stem religious violence

Ministry to Fulani in Nigeria (File footage by Christian Aid Mission)

Nigeria (CAM/MNN) ― Two cities in Northern Nigeria remained under curfew Wednesday after rioting and reprisal killings followed deadly church bombings on Sunday.  

Kaduna and Damaturu were under lock down 24-hours-a-day, while soldiers patrolled the nearly deserted streets.

The Sunday bombings struck three churches in Kaduna State, killing at least 21, presumably all of them Christians. 

Boko Haram claimed the attacks, saying they're fighting for an Islamic state under Sharia law. The extremist group does not recognize the Nigerian government or the constitution. The group is also well-funded and organized. According to Christian Aid Mission, the government is ignoring the threat.

The church bombings are a serious threat to the stability of Nigeria due to the current religious divisions. The danger is that this week's retaliatory attacks will continue, spiraling out of control.

Rae Burnett, Africa director for Christian Aid Mission, says the good news is that missionaries of the indigenous Nigerian ministries they help have not been directly targeted by Boko Haram. However, several supporters have been murdered, and random terrorist shootings have come close, too. Burnett goes on to note that these missionaries have not involved themselves at all in politics, only the Gospel, and they have kept a low profile until now.

Burnett shares a dispatch she just received from a *ministry leaderwho has been her friend since 1996.

Terrorists have struck again. This time we had to evacuate our missionaries from Kandawa fields as Muslim militants discovered the work and threatened them. Right now, we need your prayers as Chris (the overseer of all ministry work in the northern Islamic area) is still trapped in the fields with several missionaries, some with infants.

On Sunday, three churches were bombed in Kaduna and Zaria, killing several people. This led to reprisals and killings all over the place. Yet the government is doing nothing.

More than 65 people are already confirmed dead. A 24 hour curfew has been declared, and we do not know how to reach the converts in the war zone.

Before today, Boko Haram had not done so much damage to us in this part of the country. We are appealing for funds to buy mattresses, blankets, mosquito nets, and food for our converts that are about to move out.

This is urgent. We have dispatched three other staff, but there is no access to the area. Fighting and fighting. Please we need your prayers for Nigeria. I am writing this in the midnight asking for all our friends to pray and help. You can also send support to them. Our staff for the first time are affected in this kind of killing. Help and ask believers to pray and support. We need your support and we need your prayers.

The converts too need prayers. We do hope you will pray for Nigeria now.

We need to relocate quickly. I am currently in Abuja (the capital city) and will go to Kebbi state to rescue our staff as soon as possible, but no going in or out of the area for now. We want to be ready immediately when they can escape with their converts.

We are so grateful for the property Christian Aid enabled us to buy, but we must have resources to build our simple headquarters and a place to help these victims of terrorism.

Thanks for your prayers for Nigeria and others around us.

This indigenous Nigerian ministry has experienced tremendous open doors for the Gospel in Islamic strongholds that have never before been evangelized. However, because of Boko Haram, they have to move their headquarters from an Islamic state where they have been in peace for more than 25 years, to a centralized and neutral place better suited to direct the work.

Christian Aid has provided the land, but $35,000 is needed to provide a simple headquarters building where the leader and staff would also live.

After so many years, the work is well-known and could be targeted at any time. Please pray for these heroes of the faith as they continue to press forward with the Gospel in this time of extraordinary danger.

*The ministry name is not mentioned for security.

Clock ticking for Senate resolution

Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani
 (Photo courtesy of Open Doors USA)

Iran (MNN) ― The U.S. resolution calling for the release of Iranian Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani is now one step closer to a vote in the U.S. Senate.

Senate Resolution 385 was passed unanimously by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this past Tuesday, June 19.

When Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani was arrested in Iran on October 2009, it was on the charge of apostasy. Lyndsay Vessey with Open Doors USA says that while the case has gone up and down, Nadarkhani remains steadfast behind bars. “He’s been in prison for well over a year, but he’s been told that if he recants his faith and returns to Islam, he will be released. But he’s not been willing to do that.”

Senate Resolution 385, drafted by Sen. David Vitter, R-LA “condemn[s] the Government of Iran for its continued persecution, imprisonment, and sentencing of Youcef Nadarkhani on the charge of apostasy.”

The resolution is partnered with House Resolution 556 which passed on a unanimous vote earlier this year. The Senate resolution was introduced the same day the House resolution passed.

The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), an organization that fights religious discrimination, says this Senate resolution “could not come at a more important time with Pastor Youcef's attorney continuing to face imprisonment himself.”

Nadarkhani’s lawyer, Mohammed Ali Dadkhah, is facing nine years of jail time after being sentenced with “acting against the national security.” Dadkhah has not been granted trial.

The clock is ticking for this resolution to go to the Senate for a vote before control switches hands in the upcoming election season. If the Senate resolution is not completely passed through all the systems and signed into recognition before a new Senate session begins at the end of the presidential elections, the resolution will start back again at square one.

Some may wonder whether a resolution from the United States can really make a difference in Nadarkhani’s case and call Iran to accountability. Vessey considers, “When the U.S. government speaks out, it does let the Iranian government know that they are being watched. And it also, I think, gives hope to those who are suffering persecution.”

Pray for Senate Resolution 385 to be put to a vote in the Senate quickly and pass through with little trouble. Pray for courage for Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani and his family, and for religious persecution in Iran to diminish in the face of the Gospel.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Convert from Islam in Sudan Loses Wife, Children

Faith in Christ leads judge to annul marriage, forbid seeing kids.
By Simba Tian
KHARTOUM, Sudan, June 19 (Compass Direct News) – A year ago Mohammed Khidir Khalil was glad his family had obtained refugee status in Egypt after fleeing Islamic hostilities in Sudan.
The 38-year-old Christian was also heartened that his formerly unbelieving wife was attending church with him.
Today the convert from Islam is back in Sudan fighting to recover his family after his in-laws compelled his wife to claim she was Muslim and divorce him. A Sudanese court automatically granted her custody of their two sons and forbade him to see them, he said. He fears that if he persists in his legal battle, he faces the threat of being accused of “apostasy,” or leaving Islam.
It was last August that his Muslim mother-in-law visited them in Egypt.
“Without my knowledge, she took my wife and children back to Sudan,” Khalil said.
The couple had fled Sudan just before the South Sudan vote for independence on Jan. 9, 2011, after threats from the couples’ Muslim families and others intensified, Khalil said. In Egypt, they reported their case to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and won asylum.
In emails to friends back in Sudan, Khalil freely shared his Christian experience and pointed out what he termed as contradictions in Islam.
Hearing nothing from his family after his mother-in-law took his wife and two sons back to Sudan, on Christmas Day Khalil decided to return to an undisclosed town in Sudan to search for them. He was shocked to discover that his wife, Manal Hassan, had filed for divorce on grounds that she was a Muslim and he a Christian.
Khalil, who converted to Christianity in 2001, had met Hassan in 2007. At that time shesaid she was neither a Christian nor a Muslim, and they married in a non-religious wedding. The bride’s Muslim family learned that Khalil was a Christian but had no objection to the marriage, he said.
By 2010 the couple had joined an undisclosed church and had become visibly active in it; opposition from their families grew, leading to the couple’s flight to Egypt in early 2011.
Last February, Khalil decided to appeal the divorce ruling. His wife had presented a copy of the UNHCR certificate showing Khalil’s testimony as a Christian, however, and that was proof enough for a judge to rule in March that the marriage be annulled and the children automatically handed over to the spouse professing “the popular religion” – Islam, the supposed faith of Hassan.
In spite of the court’s ruling that Khalil did not have a right to even visit the children, in April he decided to try to see them. His former wife’s family threatened to call police if he persisted.
“I am very upset with courts like this that bar one from seeing one’s children,” he said. “I have to appeal against this.”
Asked what risks he might incur by appealing, Khalil said it could lead to a case against him for apostasy – punishable by death in Sudan, where sharia (Islamic law) is established as a primary source of legislation.
“They might take the case to a prosecution court, which might lead to my sentencing to death according to Islamic apostasy law – but I am ready for this,” Khalil said. “I want the world to know this. What crime have I done? Is it because I became a Christian? I know if the world is watching, they will be afraid to do any harm to me.”
Khalil was a practicing Sufi Muslim when he began studies at a university in Alexandria, Egypt, in 1998. By the time he graduated in 2000, he had left Islam; he returned to Sudan an atheist.
After his return to Sudan, Khalil came into contact with a U.S. pastor who inspired him with his Christian faith.
“He was very calm and confident,” Khalil said.
He recalled that the pastor made reference to the Nubian people of southern Egypt and northern Sudan calling themselves “sons of the Nile,” the river being considered the source of life, and connecting that idea with the Son of God likewise coming from God as the source of all life. References to Jesus as the Good Shepherd whose Father was the God of love also moved him. Khalil decided to visit the pastor’s church, and he entrusted his life to Christ in 2001.
He stayed with the pastor for three months before he left to his home village. The pastor paid him visits, and when his family realized that Khalil had embraced the Christian faith, his father threatened to shoot him. Khalil fled home.
He was later baptized in a historically Nubian area near his home village. Khalil began winning friends to Christ, and persecution intensified; family members reported him to the police, and he fled his country.
“Life became unbearable, and I decided to flee to the United Arab Emirates, where I was received by a Sudanese family in 2001,” he said.
He remained there until the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement between north and south Sudan in 2005, and then decided to return to Sudan with the hope of serving his community. He became an English teacher, at the same time developing programs to promote Nobiin, one of the Nubian languages, and its cultural heritage. Building a literacy program for children in Nobiin, he also wrote poetry in the language and translated several hymns and Bible verses into it.
Along with his other challenges, Khalil is working toward publishing his sundry manuscripts in the Nobiin language, in spite of financial constraints. A deacon at his church summed up: “Mohammed needs prayers and support at this trying moment.”
Copyright 2012 Compass Direct News

Is Egypt on the brink of civil war?

Scene from 29 January. Photo: 3arabawy.

Egypt (MNN) ― The world expects to see some kind of violence despite the official outcome of Egypt's election. The country's presidential election results are expected tomorrow, but the country appears to be equally divided between the Muslim Brotherhood candidate, Mohammed Morsi, and the secular candidate, Ahmed Shafiq.

According to reports, protests were called across Egypt on Tuesday against the ruling military council's bid to grab new powers. Meanwhile, the United States and Britain wants a swift transfer of leadership once the announcement is made.
Tom Doyle with e3 Partners says Egypt is a tinder box. "If the situation isn't figured out soon, I mean there could be a very strong civil war that could last a very long time in Egypt. We already know that there was a whole bunch of corruption in the midst of this election, so politically it's an absolute mess."

Doyle agrees that it doesn't matter who wins the election. "Shafiq, if he's declared the winner, no question I think there's going to be riots. If the Brotherhood wins, Christians, born again believers, nominal Muslims -- all of them live in fear. And I think there will be a lot of activity, too -- a lot of protests, probably rioting -- just like we saw during the revolution."

What's Doyle's prognosis? "I think it's just beginning in Egypt to really unravel with more protests and riots and killings."
While many would believe the evangelical church is stymied, Doyle says the uncertainty has "actually accelerated things. When we were in Egypt, we were hearing stories of more Muslims coming to faith in Christ this year than in any of the Christian leaders could remember in several years past."

e3 Partners supports the church in the Middle East, including Egypt. Your support is vital to providing them the resources they need to help with evangelism and discipleship. Doyle says they also need your prayers. "Pray for boldness for opportunities. And pray that God would stem the tide -- that He would just push it back so there wouldn't be this regional war because it would be very ugly if it breaks out."

If you'd like to support the work of e3 Partners, click here. 

Missionaries in crossfire of ethnic tension

(Photo courtesy of GFA)

South Asia (MNN) ― Heated ethnic tensions in an undisclosed country in South Asia have missionaries and Bible College students trapped.

Gospel for Asia (GFA) reported word from their missionaries in that country last Friday saying an ethnic war has been escalating for over three weeks now.

It started on May 28 after a young woman there was brutally raped and killed. The perpetrators belonged to an opposing ethnic group.

The community the young woman was from became enraged and struck back. They attacked a bus on June 2, killing 10 people.

As each ethnic group tries to retaliate, the violence has spread across local villages. GFA says mobs are roaming the area, burning homes, and attacking villagers. Many people can’t even leave their homes to buy food during the day for fear of their lives.

A GFA missionary in the country writes, “At this very moment, the groups are attacking homes and killing each other. Many local people are coming to our church building and staying together with great fear.”

A group of Bible College students with GFA are even prevented from going back to school in the area because of the violence.

Pray for the peace and protection of the Lord over the missionaries there. Pray that others would come to find the peace of Christ in this dangerous time.

Churches respond to third week of Nigerian church bombings

The bombed Shalom Church in Kaduna (Compass Direct photo)

Nigeria (MNN) ― For the third consecutive weekend, Nigerian churches faced a series of bombings, resulting in at least 50 deaths. Over 100 more were injured.

Three attacks occurred on Sunday, June 17. Two suicide bombings happened near churches within Zaria. Compass Direct News reports that a blast at the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) killed 24, while an attack at a Catholic Church killed 16.

Thirty minutes later, a Pentecostal congregation called Shalom Church near Kaduna was bombed, killing at least 10.
Compass Direct News reports that a majority of those killed and injured in the attack series were children.

Terrorist group Boko Haram claimed responsibility for the June 3 and June 10 bombings, and sources say the group has now owned up to the June 17 attacks as well. Boko Haram has been clear about its intentions to wipe Christians off the map of northern Nigeria.

"It's becoming more and more the norm when Christians gather for worship to have bombings and car bombings in northern Nigeria," says Todd Nettleton with Voice of the Martyrs.

Nettleton says as a result, churches are upping their security. "More and more of the churches in Nigeria are posting guards at the gate. They are building gates to the church property. They are trying to minimize the danger that they face from this type of attack. At the same time, the very message of the Gospel is a message for everyone."

It's difficult to think this way when families are in danger, though. Some believers are going as far as to retaliate. Reuters reports that after the Kaduna bombing, Christian youths blocked the highway. Witnesses claim the young people were pulling Muslims out of cars and killing them.

Nettleton notes, "It's easy to sit in a comfortable church in the United States and feel safe and say, ‘They really shouldn't strike back. They really shouldn't try to get vengeance.' But if you think about it, if your family was being attacked, if your wife, if your children are being attacked, the drive to protect them and the drive even toward vengeance would be very strong."

But of course, that drive doesn't negate Christ's command to turn the other cheek. Nettleton says the most significant need now is for prayer.

"One of the ways that I think is really important for us to pray is for wisdom for the Christians in northern Nigeria, and especially the leadership within the churches to know how to respond, and to know how to lead their people to respond to these kinds of attacks. We're called on to pray for those who persecute us. We're called on to love our enemies as followers of Christ. That's a very hard thing to do when you go to church on Sunday realizing that there's a very real danger that there will be a bombing and you or some of your family won't make it home safely after the service."

Pray that the Holy Spirit would intercede to allow believers to love their enemies, to reach out with the Good News, and to keep from striking back.

VOM Medical responds to victims of attacks like these. Click here to help them. 

Egypt elections: no clear answers

Open Doors' Carl Moeller.

Egypt (MNN) ― Both parties claimed victory in Egypt's first presidential elections since President Hosni Mubarak was ousted from power. Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Morsi said he received 51%of the vote, while secularist Ahmed Shafiq says he won with 52% of the vote.

While official vote tallies aren't expected before Thursday, President of Open Doors USACarl Moeller says, "The last few days have proven that nothing can be predicted in Egypt."

Moeller says Christians do have some assurances. He says Shafiq "would be more friendly to the Christian community. The unknown factor with the Muslim Brotherhood is, of course, that things would become far more volatile for the Christians."

While reports indicate Egypt's interim ruling military council would hand over power, Moeller isn't so sure. "The military can rightly claim that no one got a clear majority and so therefore they will continue to hold on to power until some other arrangement can be worked out."

Student revolutionaries say the revolution was stolen by Islamists. Moeller says there is some indication that "the Muslim Brotherhood has overreached in their desire to make Egypt a strongly-Islamic state. That said, it's now produced a 50-50 split in the country."

Moeller believes that will produce more unrest and discontent, especially since there's no official national constitution.
For Christians, Moeller says, "The situation for them is grim. They are either faced with embracing a regime that for decades succeeded in persecuting them, or face the prospect of an Islamic-influenced government. The only hope, of course, is in Jesus Christ."

Even though Egypt faces uncertainty, Moeller says the church is strong. "Even in the midst of all of this chaos, the spiritual openness of people to the Good News of Jesus has never been greater in this part of the world."

Open Doors supports Christians in Egypt and other nations where believers are persecuted. Your support is needed now more than ever. "There is fear among Christians. And they need a sense that they are not alone. So it's vital that we meet them in their time of need with food, clothing, and Bibles."

If you'd like to help, click here.

Monday, June 18, 2012

EGYPT: The military versus the Islamists

As protests in Egypt continue, the military
 and the Muslim Brotherhood go head to head
 over parliamentary elections.
 Image by Ty McCormick. Egypt, 2011.
By Elizabeth Kendal

Updating Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin (RLPB) 163 


In April 2012, the Islamist-dominated parliament passed the Political Isolation Law which disqualified senior officials of Mubarak's regime from holding political posts. The law would have prevented Ahmed Shafiq (former air-force chief and Mubarak's last Prime Minister) from contesting the presidency had he not won an appeal against the law. At that point the Political Isolation Law was deferred to Egypt's Mubarak-appointed Supreme Constitutional Court.

On Wednesday 13 June, the day before the Constitutional Court was due to hand down its decision, Egypt's Justice Ministry issued a decree giving military police and intelligence officers permission to arrest civilians suspected of "crimes" such as activities deemed "harmful to the government", destruction of property, "obstructing traffic" and "resisting orders". The decree restores some of the powers of the decades-old emergency law which expired just two weeks ago. Al Jazeera's Rawya Rageh, reporting from Cairo, "said Egyptian activists see the current order as 'much worse than the [previous] emergency law', in that it is seen as expanding the military's power".

Then, on Thursday 14 June, the Constitutional Court -- an institution in which the military maintains significant leverage -- unsurprisingly deemed the Political Isolation Law unconstitutional, thereby freeing Ahmed Shafiq to contest the presidential run-off this weekend. 

In what activists and academics have described as a "soft military coup", the Constitutional Court also ruled the country's parliament illegitimate, paving the way for the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) -- the military body that ruled after the first military coup ousted Mubarak -- to resume legislative powers. 

According to Bloomberg Businessweek, the court found "that part of the law under which the parliament was elected was illegal, as it allowed parties to field nominees for [the one third of] seats earmarked for independent candidates. That ruling is irreversible and means the entire legislature is illegitimate, court spokesman Maher Sami said. . . . The court said parliament has no 'standing under law'."

Former presidential candidate Abdel Moneim Abol Fotouh, an independent Islamist, decried the two court rulings, saying they amount to "a complete coup". Writing on his Facebook page, Fotouh raged, "Keeping the military candidate [in the race] and overturning the elected parliament after granting the military police the right to arrest is a complete coup and whoever thinks that millions of youth will let it pass is deluding themselves," 

See: Egypt Court Dissolves Parliament in 'Soft Coup'
By Tarek El-Tablawy, Abdel Latif Wahba and Mariam Fam
Bloomberg News, 14 June 2012 

Egypt supreme court calls for parliament to be dissolved
BBC, 14 June 2012 

At this point in time, the Islamists are refusing to dissolve the parliament and have vowed to win the presidency. And despite the threat posed by the Justice Ministry's repressive decree, protests have begun and are expected to intensify after Friday prayers and across the weekend.

See: Egyptians protest as court dissolves parliament, confirms Shafiq candidacy
Mohammed Morsi: Millions over the weekend will say 'no' to tyrants
14 June 2012 

Stratfor sees strategy

In a report entitled "Egypt's Military Delivers Ultimatum to Muslim Brotherhood" (14 June 2012), Stratfor Global Intelligence surmises that the legal manoeuvres are part of a military strategy to intimidate and contain the Muslim Brotherhood.

"Egypt's military has the least amount of control when the country goes to the polls. Through parliamentary elections the MB, together with Egypt's Salafist faction, the al-Nour Party, came to dominate parliament. And MB candidate Mohammed Morsi had a strong chance of beating Shafiq at the presidential election polls.

"The military's authority instead comes from its institutional leverage. The MB may have had nominal control over the parliament, but the military's influence over the judiciary effectively has nullified any parliamentary move the MB attempted. Similarly, the military is using its institutional strength to keep the drafting of the country's constitution out of the MB's control.

"The SCAF [Supreme Council of the Armed Forces] could not be confident that its preferred candidate, Shafiq, would beat Morsi in the presidential runoff. The SCAF may be contemplating that the best way to protect its authority in the system is to back the MB [Muslim brotherhood] against a wall, first by pushing ahead Shafiq as a legitimate candidate, then by threatening to dissolve the MB-controlled parliament and finally by establishing itself as the final arbiter in the constitution-drafting process.

"The main question moving forward is whether the MB is ready for the grand bargain that the SCAF is trying to impose on the Islamist party. The SCAF appears willing to risk an MB presidency, so long as the MB cedes primary authority to the military in drafting the constitution, which will ultimately decide the balance of power among the military, parliament and presidency. The dissolution of parliament is a threat directed at the MB: If the MB accepts the military's demands on the constitution, then the SCAF could allow the parliament to remain as is; if not, it could dissolve parliament and schedule another round of parliamentary elections. In another round of elections, the MB would likely come out with another strong win. Only this time, the elections would theoretically take place within a constitutional framework shaped by the SCAF."


The first military coup -- in which military power was leveraged to oust Mubarak -- rode on the back of youth-driven pro-democracy protests in Tahrir Square. In this second military coup, military-controlled legal instruments are being leveraged against the parliament while military power will be leveraged against the street with the aim of asserting military control over the Islamists as they stand on the threshold of controlling both the parliament and the presidency.

The battle between the military and the Islamists has begun in earnest, leaving Egyptians who had dreamed of progress and liberty lamenting what might have been and questioning why it was not achieved.

Islamists Bomb Three Churches in Kaduna State, Nigeria

Blasts in two churches in Zaria, one in Kaduna city kill dozens of Christians.
By Abdias Pasoville
 The bombed Shalom Church in Kaduna city.
(Photo Courtesy: Compass Direct News)
JOS, Nigeria, June 17 (Compass Direct News) – Suspected Islamic extremists bombed three churches in Kaduna state this morning, the third consecutive Sunday that worship services in Nigeria have ended in lethal bloodshed.
In a predominantly Christian area of Zaria known as Wusasa, a suspected Islamic extremist crashed a car into a barricade at an Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) church at around 9 a.m., setting off explosives that killed at least 24 people and wounded 125, according to one unconfirmed report citing an anonymous state official. A few minutes later, suspected Islamic extremists set off explosives at Christ the King Catholic Church in the Sabon Gari area of Zaria.
An eyewitness told Compass that at least 10 corpses were removed from the cathedral, with dozens of people injured, many critically. At press time the Nigerian Red Cross Society reported the death toll from the blast at the Catholic church had reached 16.
A short while later, a Pentecostal congregation called Shalom Church in the Trikania area of Kaduna city was bombed, killing at least 10, according to the Red Cross. Retaliatory attacks reportedly killed several others.
The attacks were believed to have been carried out by the Boko Haram Islamic sect, which took responsibility for similar attacks in Plateau and Borno states on June 10 and in Bauchi state on June 3.
Andrew Gani-Ikilami, executive director of the Wusasa Business School in Zaria, said many victims were arriving at the area hospital.
“One of the churches is an ECWA church located here in Wusasa where we are, and many children are affected,” he said.
Dr. Taylor Adeyemi, medical director at St. Luke’s (Anglican) Hospital Wusasa in Zaria, confirmed that many of the victims were children.
“40 injured Christians have been brought to the hospital, and the majority of them are children,” Adeyemi said. “Three have died, and others are still being treated.”
John Shiklam, a journalist in Kaduna city, said a 24-hour-curfiew made it difficult to obtain more information on the blast there.
“All I can say is that it is true there were attacks on three churches in the state, and as a result, a fight broke out between Muslims and Christians,” Shiklam told Compass by phone.
Besides the bombing of a church in Jos, Plateau state last Sunday, gunmen also attacked  a church in the town of Biu in Borno state, killing two Christians (see, “Suicide Bombing Hits Another Church in Jos, Nigeria,” June 10).
On June 3 in Bauchi state, a Muslim suicide bomber from the Boko Haram sect attacked the Living Faith church in Yelwa, a Christian settlement on the outskirts of the northern Nigerian city of Bauchi, killing 13, with allegations following that authorities killed eight others who were protesting the lack of security. The blast also collapsed a wall of the nearby Harvest Field Church of Christ, leaving three people in critical condition (see, “Blast Wreaks Bloodshed on Two Churches in Bauchi, Nigeria,” June 3). 
Boko Haram has killed at least 560 people this year alone, according to a county by The Associated Press. Literally meaning “Forbidden Book” and translated as “Western education is forbidden,” the Islamist sect has targeted churches, state offices, law enforcement sites and some moderate mosques in its effort to destabilize the government and impose a strict version of sharia (Islamic law) on all of Nigeria.
Nigeria’s population of more than 158.2 million is divided between Christians, who make up 51.3 percent of the population and live mainly in the south, and Muslims, who account for 45 percent and live mainly in the north. The percentages may be less, however, as those practicing indigenous religions may be as high as 10 percent of the total population, according to Operation World.
Copyright 2012 Compass Direct News

Iran tightens the screws on church leaders

Central Assembly of God, Tehran
 (Photo courtesy Farsi Christian Network)

Iran (MNN) ― Concerns over church growth prompted Iran's Revolutionary Guard to crack down on a government-sanctioned church earlier this month. 

In a country where almost all Christian activity is illegal--especially when it occurs in Persian languages, President and CEO of Open Doors USACarl Moeller says, "Our work in the Persian-speaking world is very involved in supporting churches. The reality is that this church in Tehran--an Assembly of God church--was closed. It's one of the few legally Farsi-speaking churches in all of Iran."

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) says that until the order is reversed, no services will be held at the Janat-Abad area church.

Islam is the official religion in Iran, and everything falls under the interpretation of Sharia law. Moeller adds, "There are religious minorities that have historically been granted permission to worship in Iran: primarily Armenians, who are ethnically Armenian but living in Iran as Iranian citizens. They've been given certain limited permissions to meet." However, over the last year or so, many Christians have reported imprisonment, physical abuse, harassment, and discrimination because of their faith.

Moeller goes on to say that the most disconcerting part of the closure is: "There are few legally-protected Farsi-speaking churches, and yet those few now are coming under extreme pressure, and this one church has been ordered to be closed."  

Last month the leadership of the AOG Central Church of Tehran asked its members to volunteer their names and national ID numbers. Compass Direct News reports that the government move was aimed at limiting attendance by converts from Islam to Christianity, as well as to better monitor its members.

It's more than keeping an eye on Christians, though, explains Moeller. "In much of the country, Christians are being labeled by the government as 'agents of foreign governments' and so forth, and simply as 'spies to the regime.'" 

It's a consistent line of thinking when the Islamic regime's desire is to eliminate Christianity from Iran. "The way in which it seems to make sense, from their perspective, is that Christians, by their definition, are 'foreign agents.' Again, [with] the pressure that they're feeling globally on scrutiny about their nuclear program and the various other pressure that the Iranian government feels it's under, the first easy target for them to go after are Christians."

Disillusionment coupled with fear and social pressure are widening the crack in the regime's façade. Moeller says that their harsh treatment of Christians only further fuels the flames of the Gospel. "Increasingly, the government has to resort to stronger and stronger tactics to control the population. We see this happen as the influence of Christians in the country grows. And as people are more and more emboldened by their Christian faith to stand up against the government, the government is going to crack down even more. "

Open Doors UK/Ireland estimates that are roughly 460,000 Christians (from an Islamic and Assyrian/Armenian background) in Iran. Pray for boldness for believers there. Check our Featured Links Section for more prayer needs around the world.