UNDER Indonesian rule since 1963, Papua (Irian Jaya) is now teetering on the brink of serious conflict. The indigenous Papuans are Melanesian and predominantly Christian. They long for self-determination and freedom from oppression. In 2001, the Indonesian government granted them autonomy. However, the government has reneged and now the Papuan people are facing a future of Islamic domination.
The Indonesian military is becoming increasingly provocative, looking for grounds to launch a military assault to eradicate the Papuan people. Since East Timor gained independence, Papua has seen an influx of pro-Indonesia militias and Islamist militant groups such as the Laskar Jihad.
Christian leaders in Papua fear that an ethnic cleansing could be imminent.
Pray: for this situation to be exposed widely, and for international pressure on the Indonesian government to guarantee security, human rights and freedom in Papua; for great spiritual wisdom and courage for Papua’s Christian leaders and pastors, who are a respected voice in Papua. May they be able to keep the Papuan people calm and focused at this tense and frightening time; and for God to overrule and reverse the situation.
THERE are about 42 million families in Russia, over 24 million of them with children. But only in two million families is the income of one working person higher than the living standard (minimum wage). State support is very small.
The difficult economic situation and very liberal laws have fuelled the growth of sexual exploitation of children. According to specialists, 50,000 children aged between three and 14 in Moscow alone are engaged in sexual business.
Pray for the government to take action to end this exploitation. Meanwhile, Compassion Ministry in Moscow, supported by UK-based Eurovangelism, helps desperately needy children. It runs two shelters and a special home for youngsters with AIDS. Pray for this and other such ministry.
THE latest report from the Barnabas Fund confirms that Marian Girgis Makar, a 30-year-old convert to Christianity, was freed after nearly two months of torture and interrogation. Her husband, who was released earlier, said he and his wife were interrogated and beaten while in custody and that she was tortured more than he was. One convert, Issam Abdul Fathre, died recently while being transferred from a police station to the hospital. Praise God for the release of Marian Makar. Pray that Christians in Egypt will continue to courageously and joyfully spread the Good News among their Muslim friends and neighbours.
TURKMENISTAN is a majority Muslim, former Soviet, Central Asian nation. The president, Saparmurat Niyazov, is a totalitarian nationalist dictator who rules with Soviet-style oppression. Only 2.6 per cent of the population are Christian, mostly Russian Orthodox. All religious groups must register with the government, but to do so they must have 500 adult members in a given location.
This makes registration impossible for all but Sunni Muslims and Russian Orthodox. From Nov 10, 2003, a new religion law has made any unregistered religious activity illegal. In past years evangelicals have suffered threats, harassment, fines, beatings, detention, torture and exile. Now they also face criminal charges and imprisonment.
Please pray: for God to change this dreadful situation either through a change of leader or the transformation of President Niyazov; for God to protect His children as they meet together “illegally”.
TWO Coptic Christians jailed by Saudi authorities have been released 17 days after their arrest for establishing an expatriate house church in the capital of Riyadh. They were released by specific orders of Prince Sultan who is the Second Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence. Saudi Arabia strictly forbids Christians and other non-Muslims to meet for public worship, but members of the royal family insist that non-Muslims are free to worship privately within their own homes.
Give thanks to God for the release of these men, and ask Him to bless Prince Sultan, who ordered their release, with the peace only Jesus can give. Pray this decision will make it possible for Saudi believers to meet in private homes without fear.
THOUGH the war in Bosnia ended in 1995, people are still suffering from its legacy. Many still live in refugee camps because their homes were destroyed or are now occupied by other refugee families. In some areas, as much as 90 per cent are unemployed and a lot of people are dependent on soup kitchens for food. In the midst of Bosnia’s turmoil is a tiny evangelical Church estimated at no more than believers out of four million.
Bosnia is one of the least evangelised countries in Europe. But one of the amazing things God is doing through the Church is bringing Serb, Muslim and Croat communities together. Hatred is being replaced by love for one another through coming to know Jesus personally.
Pray for the country, for the small Church to remain faithful, and for the work of reconciliation.
CHRISTIAN workers travel through treacherous waters frequented by pirates and rebels to share the gospel with the Sangil people of the Philippines. These workers live in isolated villages, ministering through community development projects and telling Bible stories. Pray for the Lord to draw the Sangil people to himself – and protect His messengers.
“WE are begging you, the people of the world, help us pray that God will cast all these things away,” said a Nigerian Christian who has suffered at the hands of Muslim extremists. He speaks on behalf of many Christians in the land who struggle against persecution, violence and destruction of their homes and churches. Pray for our brethren in Nigeria.