Persecution News and Action Plan
January 24, 2002

“If one part of the body suffers, every part suffers with it. If one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.”
(1 Corinthians 12:26-27).

SAUDI RED TAPE DELAYS FOREIGN CHRISTIANS' RELEASE
Six of 14 foreign Christians scheduled to be deported from Saudi Arabia have been released during the past 10 days, reports Flash News from Compass Direct. But another eight prisoners and their families remain entangled in a process that could take weeks to resolve.
From Eritrea, India, the Philippines, Ethiopia and Nigeria, the foreign nationals were jailed in a rash of arrests that began last July and lasted into September. Although all had legal residence and work permits in Saudi Arabia, local authorities have refused to give any reason for their detention.
Another five Christians left the deportation center last Friday, Jan.18, and were successfully processed through the airport immigration services to board flights back to their home countries.
Formal charges were never filed against the foreign Christians, who were refused all diplomatic access until their transfer to a deportation center in late December. While under arrest, the men were interrogated about their involvement in Jeddah in private "house church" meetings, which are prohibited under the kingdom's strict version of Islamic law. After being held incommunicado a number of weeks, they were allowed limited family
visits.

TURKMENISTAN: FURTHER FINES ON BAPTISTS
Felix Corley, Keston News Service, 23 January 2002
Six members of a Baptist congregation in the town of Khazar (formerly Cheleken) were fined in mid-January for holding "illegal services", Keston News Service has learned. The instruction to fine them came from the political police, the KNB (former KGB), the six were told. The Turkmen authorities routinely fine members of unregistered religious congregations for holding religious meetings, even if such meetings take place in private homes. According to an 18 January statement from local Baptists, passed to Keston by the German-based Friedensstimme Mission, the six were summoned to an administrative commission at the hyakimlik (local administration) on 9 January. "There it was explained to them that an instruction had arrived about them from the KNB to take punishment measures against them in connection with illegal meetings they had conducted," the local Baptists reported. "They suggested that they should register the community, if they could collect 500 believers from the whole of Turkmenistan." Each of the six - named in the statement as V. Portnov, N. Popova, M. Kichibayeva, E. Zabibulayev, S. Nuriyeva and L. Bibartseva - was fined 250,000 manats (50 US dollars or 35 British pounds at the official exchange rate - about one week's wages) under Article 205 of the Administrative Code, an article dating back to the Soviet period that punishes those participating in unregistered religious activity. "The believers refused to sign the record and to pay the fines." The Khazar Baptist church - like all congregations of the Council of Churches of Evangelical Christians/Baptists - refuses to register with the authorities, believing that this would lead to unacceptable state control.

CONGOLESE CHRISTIANS NEED RELIEF HELP TO RECOUP HUGE LOSES
(Congo, Mission Network News)--, thousands are hungry today as many Congolese are dealing with an onslaught of lava that's destroyed entire villages. Baptist World Aid, the relief arm of Baptist World Alliance, is gearing up to assist the needy. BWA's Paul Montecute says many indigenous groups have been hard hit. "We've had news that one of the Baptist groups has lost everything. The Verunga Hospital is gone, their headquarters have gone, the school has gone, the residences in which some of the staff lived have gone. It's just been an absolute devastating experience for them. And, it's going to take a long, long time for them to recover." Montecute says they've made an initial emergency grant of 10-thousand dollars. He says to be an effective witness for Christ they're empowering the local church. "They have the ability. We know that. They've done so much in the last decade. We know they can do it. What we need to do is to provide them with the resources, and the resource which can be used best is of course money." Go to their web site:
www.bwanet.org to help.

PERMISSION TO SHOW JESUS FILM REVOKED IN RUSSIA
(Russia, Mission Network News)-- Keston News reports that the city administration in Tula, Russia barred the screening of the Jesus Film Project in municipal buildings. The decision revoked the permission obtained by a coalition of five of the area's Protestant churches to show the film. Local believers attribute the change to pressure from a local Orthodox priest. Protestants in the city of Kirov have also reported that they have had screenings of the Jesus Film restricted. The film is a dramatization of the Gospel of Luke.

ABDUCTORS WILL MAKE MISSIONARIES HUMAN SHIELD
(Religious News Today)
According to ASSIST News Service (ANS), the abductors of Martin and Gracia Burnham will use the Christian missionaries as human shields when a U.S.-Philippine military joint rescue operation commences. U.S. forces are in the Philippines to rescue the couple from the Abu Sayyaf Group, which has held them since May 27.
Moro (or Moslem) Islamic Liberation Front spokesperson Ustadz Shariff Julabbi told ANS that the Abu Sayyaf will use the missionaries as human shields as their last resort. The MILF and Abu Sayyaf are Moslem rebel groups fighting for a separate Islamic state in the Southern Philippines. The Abu Sayyaf is believed to have strong links with the Al Queada terrorist network. Their 40-year bloody struggle against the Philippine government has so far killed 50,000 human lives including innocent civilians.
According to an ANS source, the Abu Sayyaf is demanding $1 to 1.5 million for the safe release of the missionary couple. Filipino nurse Deborah Yap is also a captive of the Abu Sayyaf.

ACLJ CALLS ON CALIFORNIA SCHOOLS TO PERMIT STUDENTS TO OPT OUT OF ISLAM COURSE
(Religious News Today)
The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) has sent a letter to a California public school district demanding that school officials permit students to opt out of a mandatory course on Islam that requires students to pray in the name of Allah and to "pretend" they are Muslim.
In the letter that ACLJ sent to the Byron Union School District in Byron, Calif., the public interest law firm said the course contains "materials and requirements that impermissibly force certain students to engage in speech and in practices conflicting with their religion, in
violation of the students' free speech."
The letter was prompted by objections from parents to the mandatory three-week course for 7th grade students. According to news reports, the class requires students to pray "in the name of Allah the Compassionate the Merciful," to chant "Praise to Allah, Lord of Creation," to "pretend" they are Muslims, wear Muslim clothing to school, stage their own Jihad, and select a Muslim name from a list to "replace" their own name.
Besides the fact that it is in extremely poor taste to pretend to adopt the practices of any religion, it is a violation of the First Amendment for a public school to have mandatory participation in religious practices or worship.

EGYPTIAN BIBLE SOCIETY FACES ROADBLOCK
(Religious News Today)
The Bible Society of Egypt was all set to offer copies of a specially produced Bible video series at the Cairo International Book Fair that began Jan. 17. But Christian Aid has learned that permission to make the videos available to the public was suddenly revoked just days before the event.
"This is a real blow and we solicit your prayers that either the decision will be reversed or that we will find other ways to distribute 'Abraham' and our other exciting audiovisual products," said Ramez Atallah, the Bible society's general director. "The Book Fair provides an opportunity to spread God 's Word widely to people who would not otherwise have access to it. It is precisely the people at the Book Fair who should be buying audio and
videocassettes."
The Egyptian Bible Society has wide acceptance among churches of all traditions in Egypt. Atallah said he spoke Friday morning in the largest Coptic Orthodox Church in Heliopolis, preached on Sunday morning at the largest Presbyterian Church in Cairo, and that evening spoke in the largest Roman Catholic Church in Heliopolis, in both their Arabic and French
services.
"The Bible is the only cause that truly unites Christians in Egypt," Atallah said. "The unique welcome we have as Bible Society representatives is a remarkable privilege we do not take lightly."

TAKE ACTION
Ayub Masih (information and addresses from Voice of the Martyrs) Country: Pakistan
Background:
Anwar Masih and Ayub Masih were imprisoned in November 1996 for "blasphemy" against Mohammed. Anwar's charges have been dropped. He has been released and is in hiding. Ayub Masih was sentenced in May 1998 to death by hanging; his sentence was suspended pending the completion of his appeal.
Christians are encouraged to continue the barrage of calls, e-mail and letters of concern to the Pakistani government, protesting Ayub Masih's death sentence and the treatment of all Christians in Pakistan: