The BWA Division on Freedom & Justice urges Baptists around the world to pray for the following situations:
Aasia Bibi & Savan Masih – These two Pakistani Christians have been charged with blasphemy and are currently imprisoned. Bibi has been in prison since 2009 following a conviction for defiling the name of the prophet Muhammad during a dispute with a Muslim coworker, which she denies. She was sentenced to death and has been waiting for the court to hear her appeal. Salmaan Taseer, Governor of Punjab; and Shahbaz Bhatti, a Christian minister, were both killed for supporting Bibi and for demanding a change to the current blasphemy laws of the country. Accustations of blasphemy against Savan Masih were made in connection with the anti-Christian riot in Joseph Colony, Lahore, last year. Please pray for the lives of Aasia Bibi and Savan Masih in light of upcoming court hearings, as well as for Pakistan in general, as there are continued attacks against religious minorities.
Ukraine – Following anti-government protests, the ousting of President Viktor Yanukovych, and the annexation of the region of Crimea by Russia despite sanctions and threats from Europe and the United States, there is a growing concern with escalating tensions in the region. Please pray that no further lives will be lost during this time of political unrest, and for a peaceful solution for this crisis.
Malaysia – Despite a constitution guaranteeing religious freedom, restrictive rhetoric and acts have increased in Malaysia in recent years. All ethnic Malays are Muslim by constitutional definition. Sunni Islam is the official and favored religion, with 60.4% of the population. Hindus, Christians, and Shia Muslims have faced explicit discrimination in cases adjudicated by Sharia courts. Religious literature, including Bibles, is closely monitored, if not restricted, by the government. In August and September of 2013, 20 Shia Muslims were arrested. In October of 2013, a court ruled in favor of the Malaysian Governments case that the use of the word “Allah” is exclusive to Muslims. A federal court will hear an appeal by the Catholic Church on March 5, 2014. On January 2, 2014 the Selangor Islamic Affairs Department (JAIS) raided the Bible Society of Malaysia offices, confiscating over 300 Malay-language Bibles. BSM President and its office manager were detained for questioning. On March 5, 2014, Malaysia’s highest court postponed a decision on whether to hear the Catholic Church’s bid to be allowed to call God “Allah,” something Christians have done for centuries in many Muslim majority countries. The court has given no date for the decision after hearing arguments from both sides.
Syria – Radical Islamist rebels have made the lives of religious minorities unbearable throughout Syria. In several cities religious minorities are forced to either pay the rebels a tax twice a year in order to continue living under their “protection,” convert to Islam, or be killed. The graphic violence taking place in Syria is spilling over into the surrounding countries, causing turmoil and further loss of life. Please pray that this civil war may come to a swift and timely end, and that religious minorities in Syria no longer be exploited and victimized. Please pray for help for the countries surrounding Syria in coping with the influx of refugees and in staving off the encroaching violence.
Venezuela – Pray for peace in Venezuela after the violence following civil demonstrations in in the country, which left around 20 people dead in February alone. There is great concern with the country’s economic instability, food shortages, energy crisis, corruption, and violent crimes. As violence escalates, the economy deflates, impacting not only those living in Venezuela, but those in the countries surrounding it. Please pray for the end of violence and for a peaceful outcome to this unrest.
Central African Republic – Anti-Muslim sentiments are widespread throughout the CAR following widespread atrocities committed by a mostly Muslim rebel coalition that overthrew the president last year. Since the rebels left power, the Muslim minority population has been targeted with revengeful violence by Christians. Despite the presence of peace keepers in the country, Muslims are still at risk of being tortured, raped, and killed. Militias are evolving into criminal gangs that not only slaughter Muslims, but also target Christians and other non-Muslims. There are no repercussions for these blatant human rights violations, as the government is in a state of collapse and there is no place to detain anyone and no functioning judicial system to prosecute the offenders. Please pray for the victims of the conflicts in the country, and for a peaceful settlement of hostilities.
Kenya & Nigeria – Ongoing sectarian violence has once again struck Christian churches in both countries in the past few weeks, killing four people in a church near the Kenyan city of Mombasa , and many others in different villages and cities in Northern Nigeria. Human Rights Watch has put the death toll at more than 700 killed this year in attacks on more than 40 villages. Continue to pray for the end of mindless sectarian violence in these countries.