Date:  September 28, 2022

By Elizabeth Kendal

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 664

By Elizabeth Kendal


* PAPUA, INDONESIA [RLPB 661 (7 Sept)], after the Indonesian government added three new administrative divisions into Papua Province against the will of the indigenous ethnic Melanesian, predominantly Christian Papuans. The Papuans suspect the further carving up of their lands will result in more Indonesian military bases, more exploitation of natural resources, more Javanese Muslim troops and settlers/colonisers, more Papuan displacement, more Islamisation, and more human rights abuses. In short, they fear it will hasten the Papuan genocide. Please pray.

* MOZAMBIQUE [RLPB 662 (14 Sept)], where Islamic State jihadists have regrouped after their August 2021 defeat in Mocimboa da Praia and returned to offensive jihad. In September the jihadists struck three times in two districts of Nampula Province, south of Cabo Delgado, including the deadly sacking of the expansive Catholic mission in Chipene. Acknowledging the complexity of the conflict, the RLPB concluded with this warning: ‘Only by addressing the issues at the root of Muslim disaffection in Cabo Delgado – the site of massive oil and gas deposits – can the government make a lie of the victimhood narrative used by Islamists to recruit youths into jihad.’


Msgr Juliasse Ferreira Sandramo, Bishop of Pemba, Cabo Delgado.

Maputo-based Methodist Bishop Dinis Matsolo is regarded as one of the most prominent religious voices in Mozambique. At a conference on 12 September, he told the Southern African Development Community (SADC) that it would be a great mistake if people started believing the problem in Cabo Delgado could be solved by military means alone. The bishop proposed an inter-religious dialogue where leaders of different faiths would demonstrate solidarity in the fight against terrorism. Msgr Juliasse Ferreira Sandramo is the Catholic Bishop of Pemba, in terrorist-infested Cabo Delgado. He likewise warns: ‘The response to jihadists cannot be solely military but it is necessary to give hope to young people who would otherwise be tempted to recruit into jihadist ranks.’ Msgr Sandramo also expressed alarm over the decline in humanitarian aid to Mozambique from the World Food Program since the start of the war in Ukraine, warning: ‘The end of aid puts more than 850,000 displaced people at risk [of starvation].’ He stressed that Mozambique needs to remain a global priority, saying, ‘There can be no first and second-class victims.’ AMEN. Please pray.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God (Matthew 5:9 NIV).

* UGANDA [RLPB 663 (21 Sept)], where ‘Islamic radicalisation and guaranteed impunity have combined to make Uganda an increasingly dangerous place for Christian evangelists, apologists and converts from Islam.’ The impunity is especially shocking when one considers that Uganda is roughly 84 percent Christian with a Christian president (who appears to have lost his way), and a constitution which guarantees religious liberty. A product of corruption, impunity equals permission and is gross injustice; it emboldens criminal Islamists. The trajectory is not good! Please pray.

SEPTEMBER 2022 ROUND-UP - also this month:


Map showing the shelling of Armenian territory from Sokt in the north to Goris in the south. 

Clashes erupted along the Armenia-Azerbaijan border in the early hours of Tuesday 13 September, ending late on 14 September after international mediation. By then, 202 Armenian and 80 Azerbaijani soldiers were dead and many more were wounded. Five Armenian civilians are either dead or missing and at least six are wounded. Some 7600 Armenians have fled their homes. Each state has blamed each other for the clashes. However, as the Armenian Defence Ministry reports, all the fighting took place on Armenian soil as Azerbaijan launched intensive rocket and artillery strikes and loitering munitions against Armenian positions and civilian settlements ‘along the entire border from Sotk to Goris’. Azerbaijan has even occupied some 10 sq km (4 sq miles) of Armenian land.

On 22 September, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan used his address before the United Nations to accuse Azerbaijan of ‘unspeakable atrocities’, including torture and mutilating the bodies of dead soldiers. ‘No doubt, committing such unspeakable atrocities is a direct result of a decades-long policy of implanting anti-Armenian hatred and animosity in the Azerbaijani society by the political leadership.’ On 23 September the sides blamed each other for overnight ceasefire violations. While a new road linking Armenia to Nagorno-Karabakh (N-K) has been opened, there are concerns this road, built by Azerbaijan, is not merely dangerous, but it might not even be passable in winter. Now that the Lachin Corridor (along with its Armenian villages) is in the hands of Azerbaijan, the new road is now the only link between Armenia and the ethnic Armenian ‘island’ of N-K [RFE/RL 3:17 min video (29 June)]. Tensions are soaring, and the risk of renewed conflict is high. Please pray.

- draft law now up for debate

Shenouda (centre) and his adoptive parents.  source:
A case of cruel discrimination has gone viral on Egyptian social media, stimulating debate, arousing grassroots outrage and attracting lawyers to the Christian cause. Four years ago, a Coptic priest found a newborn baby boy abandoned inside his church. He handed the infant into the care of a devout couple from his congregation – a childless couple who for 29 years had never ceased praying for a miracle. Eventually the couple embraced the child as a gift from God. He was baptised, named Shenouda, and granted a birth certificate in the family’s name: Boulos. However, adoption is illegal in Islam; and because Egyptian law must comply with Sharia (Islamic law), adoption is illegal in Egypt [see Coptic Solidarity (6 Sept)].

In February, when the authorities were informed of the illegal adoption [see (4 Sept) for details], they seized the child and transferred him to an orphanage. According to Islam, all human beings are born Muslim. Consequently, even though the infant was abandoned inside a church – doubtless indicating the mother’s wishes – a Christian cannot be entrusted with the care of that ‘Muslim’ child. The state has given Shenouda a new birth certificate with a Muslim name and Muslim legal identity and banned his Christian adoptive parents from seeing him. Understandably, everyone is distraught. However, as Fides reports (17 September): ‘The controversial case of an abandoned child entrusted to a Coptic Christian family reopens the debate in Egypt on the draft [‘personal status’] law [as it relates] to the personal status of Christians and family law, a project long presented to Parliament, which lies awaiting approval.’ Grassroots support for the Boulos family is growing, and lawyers are lining up to defend the Christian cause. Please pray.

MURDER IN SINAI: On 30 August terrorists, believed to be Islamic State, shot dead two Coptic farmers – namely Salama Moussa Waheeb and his son Hany (40) – as they worked in their fields in the Gelbana area of al-Qantara Sharq in mid-west Sinai. The elder Waheeb was a father to five children, two sons and three daughters; while Hany leaves behind a wife and two daughters. Please pray for Egypt’s imperilled, remnant indigenous Christian Copts.


Map showing location of Cilegon. 

Cilegon is a major industrial coastal city in Banten Province, West Java. The city has 382 mosques and 287 other Muslim prayer rooms but no places of worship for other religions. According to the 2010 national census, nine percent of the city’s population of around 375,000 were Christians (i.e. some 33,750); yet even today the city does not have a single church building. The Batak Christian Protestant Church’s (HKBP’s) Maranatha church was founded in 1999 and has 3,903 members who each Sunday make a 40 km round trip to meet in Serang. On 7 September a group of Muslims calling themselves the Cilegon City Local Wisdom Defender Committee, protested in Cilegon demanding the Maranatha church be denied permission to construct a church in Grogol district. They visited Cilegon Mayor Helldy Agustian in his office and pressured him to sign a petition to ban the proposed construction of the Maranatha church. Indonesian Jakarta-based human rights watchdog Imparsial slammed the decision as an ‘unconstitutional move’ and act of discrimination against the city’s minority Christians.

On 16 September Al-Khairiya (another Muslim organisation based in Cilegon) filed lawsuits against Yaqut Cholil Qoumas (Gus Yaqut) – the Minister of Religious Affairs in President Joko Widodo’s government – and Maranatha church’s leaders and construction committee over public statements they made on the matter. Gus Yaqut had scorned the mayor’s decision and labelled the city ‘intolerant’.

As an editorial in the Jakarta Post notes (14 September): ‘The Cilegon government’s refusal to allow a church in the steel town of Banten province does not bode well for Indonesia’s reputation as it prepares to host a major international meeting to discuss peaceful coexistence between religious communities around the world. The Religion 20 (R20) Forum scheduled for November 2 & 3 in Bali is part of the activities of Indonesia’s Group of 20 presidency this year, which will culminate with the G20 Summit in mid-November. R20 will bring in top religious leaders from around the world to discuss problems and grievances in interfaith relations around the world, according to its organisers. If the intention is to showcase Indonesia’s interfaith relations, then the Cilegon church controversy will undermine that claim… The denial is clearly in violation of the Constitution… the central government must intervene…’ As the editorial notes, ‘Cilegon is not an isolated incident’ and if the government cannot find a solution, then it ‘should prepare to face a major embarrassment at the R20.’ Please pray.

- an update to RLPB 660, August Update, 31 Aug 2022

On 8 September the Election Commission of Pakistan postponed by-elections due to be held in 13 constituencies of Sindh, Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on 11 and 25 September and 2 October, because of floods. These by-elections form the immediate context for the marked escalation in rabid anti-Ahmadiyya political rhetoric. As former Prime Minister Imran Khan makes his comeback, both the government and Khan’s party (PTI) are courting the votes of fundamentalist Muslims. Mian Javed Latif, a Federal Minister, told media that Imran Khan ‘betrayed the basic principles of Islam’ by promising Western governments that Ahmadiyyas ‘will be given religious freedom’. Khan’s party responded by hailing Khan’s unimpeachable Islamic credentials. It is horrific to think that in Pakistan today populism entails spewing hatred of religious minorities while accusing your opposition of not being intolerant enough. And hate speech has consequences! On 22 August vandals desecrated 16 graves belonging to Ahmadiyya Muslims in a walled communal graveyard in Chak 203 RB Manawala, Punjab’s Faisalabad. On Friday 23 September a school in Punjab’s Attock district expelled four Ahmadiyya students simply for their ‘heretical’ belief that Muhammad was not Allah’s final prophet. This trend bodes ill for Pakistan’s religious minorities, including her long-persecuted vulnerable minority Christians. Please pray.