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Religious Liberty: February 2007 Update

February 28, 2007

WELCOME to the 16 intercessors who have joined the list this month.

In conflict zones like the Middle East, the Balkans and Indonesia,
the ethnic hostility resulting from long-term ethno-religious
conflict can invade the church. This is similar to India where
caste prejudice has invaded many churches. As the world suffers
growing ethno-religious conflict, believers and churches are
increasingly tempted to court ungodly racism and separation. But we
are one in Christ, and \'Whoever loves God must also love his
brother.\' (1 John 4:21 NIV) Pray for great spiritual sensitivity
for Christians and churches in conflict zones. Pray especially that
pastors and Christian leaders will be led by the Spirit of God for
the glory of God. (Romans 12:2 NIV)

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DURING FEBRUARY WE PRAYED FOR -

KOSOVO, SERBIA, where ethnic and religious tensions are running
high as debate continues on the status of the Serbian province of
Kosovo. Albanian separatists and Muslims are insisting on
independence (i.e. severing Kosovo from Serbia), but Serbia wants
autonomy within Serbia in line with international law.

* UPDATE: ALBANIAN MUSLIM HOSTILITY ESCALATES

Ethnic, mostly Muslim Albanians in Kosovo have been protesting
about the UN special envoy\'s proposal that Kosovo have
supervised independence. That doesn\'t go far enough for them as
Kosovo\'s 100,000 Serbs (Orthodox Christians) could maintain
self-rule and administrative links to Belgrade. On 10 February a
protest by some 3000 Albanians in Pristina turned violent with
two protesters dying in clashes with riot police. On 20
February three UN vehicles were damaged in Pristina by an
explosive device. Albanian separatists have claimed
responsibility. Early on Monday 26 February an explosion rocked
the parking lot of the Organization for Security and
Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in Pec, shattering windows and
damaging seven OSCE vehicles.

Talks are presently under way in Vienna and on 21 February the
senior negotiator in the Kosovo Albanian team, Ylber Hasa,
threatened that a new Balkan war would result if Kosovo does not
gain full independence. The UN envoy\'s proposal goes to the UN
Security Council in March. Kosovo\'s ethnic and religious
minorities are exceedingly vulnerable.

UZBEKISTAN, where Protestant pastor Dmitry Shestakov (37) of the
registered Full Gospel church in Andijan awaits trial on charges
of inciting hostility between religions.

PAPUA, INDONESIA, where around 5000 indigenous, mostly Christian
Papuans have been ethnically cleansed from some 20 highland
villages by the mostly Muslim Indonesian military (TNI).
Indonesian soldiers, police and intelligence operatives
subsequently occupied the vacated villages. The displaced Papuan
families are now trekking through the mountainous jungle in the
wet season without food, shelter or medical care. A
TNI-engineered humanitarian crisis is unfolding - again.

In Jakarta a Papuan pastor, human rights advocate and mediator,
Reverend Isak Ondawame, was amongst 12 Papuans convicted in the
Central Jakarta District Court in November 2006 over the fatal
August 2002 ambush near the Freeport copper and gold mine.
Initial police investigations indicated the TNI was behind the
ambush and the trial was allegedly a sham. However the
convictions resulted in US military aid being restored to
Indonesia. Pray that God will deliver justice for the Papuans.

\'Many seek an audience with a ruler, but it is from the Lord that
man gets justice.\' Proverbs 29:26 NIV


SOME OTHER ISSUES DURING FEBRUARY
---------------------------------

* ERITREA: MORE ARRESTS AND DEATHS IN CUSTODY

Compass Direct (CD) reports that Pastor Habtom Tesfamichel (57), a
founder of the Full Gospel Church in Eritrea, was arrested in
Asmara on 23 January. He had led the Asmara congregation since its
previous pastor, Kidane Woldu, was imprisoned in March 2005. On
Thursday 15 February, Magos Solomon Semere (30) died in custody
from the effects of physical torture and untreated pneumonia.
Arrested twice, each time for worshipping in a Protestant church,
he had spent most of the last four-and-a-half years in prison. CD
reports that on Sunday 18 February ten more Christians were
arrested as they visited a newly married couple after their
wedding.


* VIETNAM: GOVERNMENT CRACKDOWN

At the same time as he was being honoured by Human Rights Watch,
internationally respected Vietnamese human rights lawyer Nguyen van
Dai was being persecuted by the Communist authorities. Harassment
started to intensify in August 2006. In January 2007 Dai held
Vietnam\'s first ever forum on human rights. In early February
police raided his law office and detained him and a colleague for
several days of questioning. Dai, a Christian, has courageously
defended Vietnam\'s persecuted Protestant churches, pastors
(including imprisoned Mennonite pastor Nguyen Hong Quang) and
believers in court. He is presently under intense pressure due to
his active support of human rights, religious freedom and
democracy.

In another case some 60 police officers surrounded the Bishop\'s
Palace in Hue on Sunday 18 February. After cutting the phone lines
they searched the complex which is home to the bishop and several
Catholic priests. Six laptop computers, six cellphones and numerous
documents were confiscated. Father Nguyen Van Ly was arrested. He
is a vocal advocate for democracy and religious liberty and has
spent over ten years in prison. Father Ly was forcibly relocated
and is under house arrest. He is accused of \'propaganda against the
Socialist Republic of Vietnam\' and \'undermining national unity\'.

\'May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us
and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope,
encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and
word.\' 2 Thessalonians 2:16,17 NIV

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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.