International Institute for Religious Freedom
Bonn – Brussels/Geneva – Cape Town – Colombo – Brasília
The Algerian government has been appeasing Islamists since early 2008 by implementing its 2006 'Presidential Order Concerning Religion' and repressing Christian worship and practice. Habiba Kouider (35) was charged with 'practising non-Muslim religious rites without a licence' after police found Bibles in her handbag on 29 March. Her case is so controversial that on 27 May the court postponed its verdict. On 1 June police harangued Habiba in the street for two hours. Then on 3 June, four Algerian Christians got suspended jail sentences and fines for 'attempting to shake the faith of Muslims'. The government asserts that religious liberty is part of a foreign conspiracy to colonise Algeria. But many Algerians are not buying that and voices for liberty and justice are being raised in Algeria. Please pray for Algeria and its Church in this time of trial and debate.
Eritrea, one of the world's worst abusers of religious liberty, has been listed by the US Commission of International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC) since 2004 -- and the situation is worsening. Some 2000 mostly Protestant Christians are imprisoned for their faith in appalling conditions, and the regime of dictator-president Isaias Afwerki has taken control of the influential Eritrean Orthodox Church. The regime's gross human rights violations have created a refugee crisis in the region. But in June, Egypt forcibly returned some 1000 refugees to Eritrea. Libya too is said to be about to mass-deport Eritrean refugees. A number of refugees returned to Eritrea have reportedly been incarcerated, tortured or shot dead. Please pray for the Church in Eritrea, for Eritrean refugees, and for freedom for Eritrea.
"Religious freedom" that is conditional on being a member of the State religion is clearly not religious freedom. "Religious freedom" that does not permit conversion is not religious freedom. Likewise, "religious freedom" that is conditional on political allegiance is not religious freedom.
On Monday 9 June 2008, the Indonesian government issued Joint Ministerial Decree Number 199/2008 that imposes restrictions on members of the Ahmadiyya sect of Islam, banning them from spreading their religious practices and interpretations, on the pretext that they deviate from orthodox Islam. Anyone who violates the ban risks a five-year prison sentence. However, Islamic hardliners from the Islamic Defender Front (FPI) and Hizb'ut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI) continue to agitate for a total ban on the sect.
Vietnam's Christian history dates back to the 16th Century, but still struggles over freedom of religion. Despite some recent positive steps with national decrees supporting religious freedoms as well as the government recognising some denominations and churches, difficulties persist. Security officials put believers under close surveillance, exert pressure to sign pledges to abandon the Christian faith, impose arbitrary fines of up to half-a-year's wages, confiscate properties and arrest those found meeting for worship and prayer. Believers from ethnic groups such as the Montagnards and Hmong especially suffer such treatment and imprisonment. Please pray for the Vietnamese Church amidst these challenging circumstances to express love, wisdom and vigilance to those in authority and to the communities which it faithfully serves.
Discipleship is an important part of Jesus' Great Commandment and is a key to further church growth and spread of the Good News inside any nation and across its borders. A Church completely obedient to Christ will make training new disciples a priority.
long ago became a normal part of daily life. Problems and disasters come like water in waves, each new wave bringing more suffering and stealing hope.
Pioneer American missionary Adoniram Judson arrived in Burma in 1813. He was 24 years old and Burma was a hostile place. Judson laboured for six years before seeing even one convert. In 1828 a former slave and hardened criminal named Ko Tha Byu became the first ethnic Karen to receive Christ. By God's grace Ko Tha Byu became a mighty evangelist. After 18 years of ministry Judson observed in 1831 that a 'spirit of inquiry' was spreading across the whole land. Operation World (2000) estimates that Burma is now 8.7 percent Christian. The 70 percent Burmese majority is strongly Buddhist, whilst the ethnic minorities are predominantly Christian.
When Indonesia declared its independence from Holland in 1949, the Dutch insisted that West Papua (West or Dutch New Guinea) not be considered part of Indonesia as the Papuans were Melanesian and predominantly Christian, while the Indonesians were Malay and Asian and predominantly Muslim. So the Dutch remained in the hotly contested territory, preparing the people for independence. The Dutch era was marked by openness and the Papuans, who were evangelised mostly by Australian and American pioneer missionaries courtesy Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) USA, turned from shamanism, headhunting, cannibalism and internecine tribal war to Christ.
Since the 2003 fall of Baghdad, ascendant Iran has been forcefully spreading its tentacles. Iran's Shi'ite dictators are moving to replace the Sunni Arab dictators as the leaders of the Muslim world and to replace the US as the dominating power in the Middle East.