Nagorno-Karabakh Christians experience “ethnic cleansing at warp speed”; Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe raises concerns of “intolerance against Christians”; Christian politician escapes assassination attempt in Punjab, Pakistan; Muslim man given life sentence for 2020 murder of Pakistani Christian woman; Extremists attack Christian village in Egypt
- The Christian population of Nagorno-Karabakh “is experiencing ethnic cleansing at warp speed”. That is the view of David J. Scheffer, a Senior Fellow at the Council of Foreign Relations. Almost all of Nagorno-Karabakh’s 120,000 people were forced to flee their homes in the Christian enclave and seek refuge in Armenia after an invasion by Muslim-majority Azerbaijan on 19 September. Ask that the Lord will provide both physically and spiritually for those who have fled Nagorno-Karabakh, and the handful who remain there.
- The US Ambassador to the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), Michael Carpenter, drew attention to the “many harrowing personal stories” and “haunting images” from Nagorno-Karabakh in a statement on 5 October. Separately, Tatjana Peric, the OSCE Adviser on Combating Racism and Xenophobia, warned, “Intolerance against Christians continues to be a concern across the OSCE region today.” OSCE comprises 57 member states from Europe, North America and Central Asia. Pray that increased awareness of anti-Christian persecution and discrimination will result in appropriate action being taken.
- A Christian politician in Punjab, Pakistan, was thankfully unhurt after gunmen opened fire on the car he was travelling in with his nephew. Ejaz Alam Augustine was previously Minister for Minority Affairs and Human Rights in the Punjabi provincial government. The shooting took place in Lahore on 11 October. In 2011 Shahbaz Bhatti, then national Minister for Minority Affairs, was shot dead by Islamist extremists who described him as “a Christian infidel”. Give thanks that our brother Ejaz and his nephew were not hurt, and pray for an end to anti-Christian attacks in Pakistan.
- A Muslim man in Pakistan has been given a life sentence for murdering a Christian woman who refused to convert to Islam and marry him. On 30 September the Islamabad Sessions Court sentenced Muhammad Shahzad to 25 years’ imprisonment (considered a life term under the Pakistan Penal Code) for the murder of Sonia Allah Rakha (Bibi). Sonia died on 30 November 2020 after being shot by Shahzad on an Islamabad street. Give thanks for this just verdict and ask the Lord to minister His peace and a sense of closure to Sonia’s parents, both suffering health issues, and her five siblings. Pray that the sentence will serve as a deterrent against attempts at forced marriage and conversion of Christian girls and young women in Pakistan.
- Extremists in Abu-Qurqas, Minya, Upper Egypt, attacked the home of a Christian, Emad Wagih Emad, as a result of false rumours that the Christian community were building an unlicensed church. Local Christians have applied for a license for a new church. Separately, building work was taking place on a new house. The attackers cut off supplies of electricity to the village and set fire to Emad’s home. Give thanks that nobody was hurt, and pray that this situation will be resolved peacefully. Pray that the church building licence will be granted.