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Belarus, Iraq: Christians Need Urgent Prayer

October 18, 2006

The plight today of Christians in both Belarus and Iraq requires
urgent prayer.

BELARUS: 180 CHRISTIANS ON HUNGER STRIKE

In November 2002 Belarus enacted a highly repressive religion law.
Minsk\'s 1000-strong New Life church has not been able to achieve
registration, meaning its meetings are illegal. Nor has it been
able to rent a meeting place. The church purchased a disused
cowshed and renovated it as a house of worship. Over recent years
New Life pastor Vyacheslav Goncharenko has been fined many times
for allegedly breaching the Land Code by using a property for
other than its designated purpose. Meanwhile New Life church
administrator, Vasily Yurevich, has been threatened with
prosecution for organising illegal worship. In August 2005 a court
ordered the sale of the property. New Life challenged the ruling
but lost. The authorities, refusing to designate the building as
a house of worship, determined to confiscate the property.

In late September 2006 the authorities made a token payment into
the New Life account and ordered the church to relinquish the
property by 8 October. However the believers are refusing to sign
it over. On 6 October, 17 New Life believers moved into their
church and commenced a hunger strike. By 16 October the number of
hunger strikers had grown to 180. Believers from all over Belarus
and even from Russia have been traveling to Minsk to meet for
prayer and to support and encourage the New Life believers, often
joining the hunger strikers overnight.

As this hunger strike goes on the situation grows more critical.
With the health of some believers deteriorating the authorities are
obstructing the doctors who were initially monitoring them. Church
leaders are concerned especially for those who are senior in years
and refusing water as well as food. The believers are now preparing
themselves emotionally and spiritually for the possibility of the
authorities mounting a violent occupation of their property.
(Charter 97 photographs from 12 October 2006 can been seen at
< http://www.charter97.org/bel/news/2006/10/12/photo >.)


IRAQ: SYRIAN ORTHODOX PRIEST BEHEADED

Iraq\'s new constitution establishes Sharia as the supreme
authority, rendering religious liberty a mere illusion. On top of
that, the security situation for non-Muslims is absolutely
diabolical. The ancient Mandaean sect, whose members claim to
follow the teachings of John the Baptist, are facing total
annihilation. The much larger Christian community is also facing
catastrophe. The violence against them is destined to result in at
least decimation, total marginalisation and abject dhimmitude
(subjugation), or at worst annihilation. Earlier this month 13
Christian Assyrian women were kidnapped and murdered for not
dressing according to Islamic standards. Christians and other non-
Muslims who are able are fleeing, mostly to Syria and Jordan,
putting a huge strain on traditional hospitality. Around half the
pre-war Christian and Mandaean population has either fled or died.
Unbelievably, multitudes of refugees are having their applications
for asylum in the West rejected. Meanwhile, there is no end in
sight to the violence, insecurity and ethnic-religious cleansing.

Reports indicate Mandaean and Christian leaders are being
specifically targeted. Mandaean deacon Ra\'ad Falh Mater Al-Osmani
is one of several senior Mandaean figures murdered in recent
days. He was assassinated on 10 October, the day before a Syrian
Orthodox priest, Father Boulos Iskander (59), was found beheaded
and dismembered in the Tahrir City district of Mosul. The Islamic
militants who kidnapped Fr Iskander told his church that the
ransom for his life would be reduced if the church repudiated the
Pope\'s comments on the unreasonableness of Islamic violence. The
church erected 30 large billboards all around Mosul repudiating
the Pope\'s comments but their priest was murdered anyway. Fr
Iskander leaves a wife Azhar, sons Fadi and Yohanna, a married
daughter Fadiyeh, a daughter Miriam (13), a church in grief, a
people facing annihilation, and a nation in need of a miracle that
only Christ can deliver.

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY FOR:

BELARUS, that God will

* sustain the New Life believers in body, mind and spirit; comfort
them, strengthen their faith and enable them to demonstrate
divine grace as they suffer not only for their church, but for
religious liberty in all Belarus.

* take New Life church\'s courageous act as a sacrificial love
offering for church, God and nation, and bless it with great
effectual power for the sake of his Kingdom and glory.

IRAQ, that God will

* protect his vulnerable and endangered people, increase their
faith, comfort their hearts and give them a vision of his glory
with a deep assurance of his eternal presence and love.

* act on behalf of Iraqi minorities and refugees.

* empower his Church with the wisdom, courage and passion to
rescue and bring security with future hope to those now facing
terror and hopelessness; may multitudes witness the mighty hand
of God at work through the Church of Jesus Christ.

~~~~

SUMMARY TO USE IN BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE:
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BELARUS; IRAQ: CHRISTIANS NEED URGENT PRAYER

In Minsk, BELARUS, 17 believers started a hunger strike in their
New Life church on 6 October, protesting government religious
repression. This has grown to 180, drawing together Christians from
across the nation. Some are now frail. It is possible the
authorities may violently storm and occupy the church. In IRAQ non-
Muslims are suffering diabolically. Around half the pre-war
Christian population has either fled or been killed. Recently 13
Christian Assyrian women were kidnapped and murdered simply for not
dressing according to Islamic standards. On 11 October a kidnapped
Syrian Orthodox priest was found beheaded and dismembered in Mosul.
The situation for many thousands of Iraqi refugees stranded in
Syria and Jordan is also unsustainable. There is no end in sight to
the ethnic-religious cleansing and terror. Iraq\'s minorities are in
urgent need of rescue. Let us pray.

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The WEA Religious Liberty Commission sponsors this
RL Prayer List to help individuals and groups pray
specifically and regularly for religious liberty
issues, and in particular to uphold the Church
where it is suffering persecution.

RL Prayer is moderated by Ron Clough, a commissioner
of the WEA RLC and convenor of the Australian EA RLC.
Elizabeth Kendal researched and authored this message.