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Project Elijah - A Global Prayer Network
Coupled With Professional Engagement
One mantra that sums up Advocates' approach is that we work relationally, professionally and spiritually. This is especially true on religious freedom issues.
A recent example was seen in Malaysia, a nation of 23 million people where 52% are Muslim, 17% Buddhist, 12% Daoist, 8% Hindu and 8% Christian. This spring the Malaysian government announced a ban on 35 religious books, including the translation of the Bible in the language of Malaysia's largest indigenous group, the Iban people of East Malaysia. A large number of Malaysia's 400,000 Ibans are Christian.
The Christian community in Malaysia - and globally through our Prayer Calendar - immediately began to pray. That's the spiritual component. Several Malaysian Christian lawyers have developed excellent relationships with those in authority, as well as within the bar association - the relational part. They have also established themselves to be highly competent and trustworthy within their profession. One chaired the Human Rights Committee of the Malaysian Bar for nearly a decade - the professional leg.
When the ban was announced, these lawyers and Christian leaders tactfully approached government officials to discuss the legalities of the ban. The Malaysian Bar Association also wrote a letter of concern to the authorities. Within a few weeks the government announced that they had lifted the ban on the Iban Bible. We received the following e-mail from Min Choon Lee, a leading Christian lawyer in Malaysia and the President of Advocates Asia:
"Prayer works! Last weekend, the government announced that they have lifted the ban on the "Bup Kudus" which is the translation of the Bible in the language of Malaysia's largest indigenous group, the Iban people of East Malaysia. The Iban Bible is central to the faith of Iban Christians who have used it for the past 15 years. A large number of Malaysia's 400,000 Ibans are Christians. The ban, if not removed, would have deprived the Iban-speaking Christians of the use and distribution of their Holy scriptures as well as disrupt the practice of the faith of Ibans. As a result of strong protests by the Christian community and prayers from within and without Malaysia, the government has admitted that the Iban Bible should not have been banned in the first place."
To be an advocate for a religious minority in any nation is a lonely - and often unpopular - calling. Networking locally, nationally, regionally and globally with other professionals gives these advocates the courage to face the battles. When the prophet Elijah took on the evil system led by Ahab and Jezebel, he felt all alone until God revealed Himself and told Elijah that there were 7,000 other faithful followers of the LORD.
This summer, Advocates International is launching Project Elijah aimed at encouraging lawyers in 100 nations to link together through e-mails wherever possible so that they can share their needs, activities and joys with one another. We hope to see 7,000 lawyers linked by September 2003 with 75 nations having weekly national prayer calendars. These will be linked with the weekly Advocates' global Calendar, as well as the eight regional prayer calendars for Africa, Asia, Australia, the Caribbean, Europe, India, Latin America and North America.
We invite you to be part of Project Elijah by giving us your e-mail address. You will then receive on a regular basis our global, as well as the regional Prayer Calendars. Through these calendars you will be challenged and encouraged to be in prayer for our network as they work relationally, professionally and spiritually around the globe. I have set out below a few of the recent items reported in the Prayer Calendars from Africa, Asia and Europe, as we continue...
Living in His-Story,
Samuel E. Ericsson
Founder & President
Recent Highlights from the African Christian Lawyers Network
From the Democratic Republic of Congo:Praise God for this good news: Parties to the Democratic Republic of Congo conflict have signed a pact in Johannesburg ending the war and kicking off a two-year transitional period leading to general elections, the first since independence in 1960. Our brother Felicien reports that Christian lawyers in various parts of the country are cooperating and discussing plans for a conference focusing on the theme "The Christian Lawyers' Role in the Consolidation of Peace in Our Country." This is a blessed idea. Pray that the Lord will enable them to overcome obstacles such as finances and travel logistics, now much more complex due to the division of the country. Pray that such difficulties will not keep Christian lawyers from their God-ordained mission.
From Kenya: Edith, national secretary of Kenya Christian Lawyers' Fellowship, writes: "Kenya is going through the process of a constitutional review. In fact a draft constitution has already been published. One of the main issues that have emerged from the draft is that Islam has been elevated above all other religions in Kenya. The Muslims have said that they will not tolerate any amendments to the draft that would involve removal of the Sharia Law. We need serious prayer that God will not allow Sharia Law to find expression in the new Kenyan Constitution."
From Ethiopia: We recently received a report that two Christian leaders, Kiros and Abebayehu, were falsely accused of murder and imprisoned. Nardos, Etenesh, and other members of the Christian Lawyers Committee helped with the case, drafting a petition to Parliament on behalf of the two church leaders. The chairman of the Ethiopian Evangelical Churches Association said he is planning to secure approval by the Association's Board to utilize the Christian Lawyers Committee for future similar cases.
From Burundi:Our brother Jonathan sends us this report from Bujumbura: "We thank God that the current president, Buyoya (a Tutsi) has accepted the first part of the transition to hand over office to his vice-president Ndayizeye (a Hutu) for the 18 months before elections will take place. We thank God that eight Christian lawyers are committed to the vision of Advocates International as a result of mobilization. We are now working on a draft of the constitution."
Recent Highlights from Advocates Asia
From Pakistan:Joseph of the Center for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement informed us that in late April they were presented with the case of a 9 year-old girl who had been brutally beaten up by her mistress and was severely injured. The CLAAS team consisted of Joseph, Akbar, Justin, Sunita and Nosheen. When the team visited the girl she was in critical condition. Her right arm was fractured and plastered. Both of her legs were bandaged. Her left eye was badly affected. Her hipbone was also injured on one side. The girl was taken to the United Christian Hospital, Lahore and admitted there by the CLAAS team. CLAAS lawyers filed a writ petition in the Lahore High Court requesting the court to direct the concerned authorities to register a case against the culprits." Please pray for our brothers in CLAAS as they pursue justice for this little girl and let us also pray that incidents like this will not happen again.
From India: India is the "world's largest democracy" with over one billion people. The 30 million Christians in India are facing some of their worst persecution in recent decades. The great news is that the Christian Legal Association in India, which we helped get launched in 2000, started an e-mail Prayer Calendar this month. They hope to link over 700 Christian lawyers in India over the next year. They tell us that there may be 3,000-4,000 Christian lawyers in India! The e-mail network will be very important in helping provide legal services for persecuted believers. Advocates International is funding the $200 per month that it costs to launch and operate this communications network in India.
From Azerbaijan: Asif writes to tell us he is working on the problem of a woman who was abandoned by an Armenian man. He left her with a newborn baby. Since this boy is Armenian, he will have a problem. He is fourteen now. There are problems with his personal documents including his birth certificate, passport and military documents. Asif asks for our prayers as he tries to fix these problems.
From Sri Lanka:Our friends in Sri Lanka report: "An angry mob led by Buddhist monks recently gathered outside the Minneriya Methodist Church and threatened that they would not allow the construction of the new church building. During this incident, some of the mobsters tried to physically harass the church worker, Brother Oscar. The incident was reported to the local police and a court issued a restraining order against the monks and other members of the mob ordering them not to hinder or obstruct the construction work of the new church or the activities of the existing church. On the following Saturday, Brother Oscar was warned by the monks that should believers gather together for Sunday worship they would be physically assaulted. Upon hearing this Brother Oscar and the believers started praying and they boldly conducted the Sunday service at church as usual. Praise God that no one came to assault or even to verbally harass the believers during the service or thereafter. We request you to uphold Brother Oscar and the believers at the Minneriya Methodist Church."
Recent Highlights from Advocates Europe
From Bulgaria:Latcho recently asked us to keep him in prayer regarding the important hearing on various provisions in the new Law on Religion being challenged in Bulgaria's Constitutional Court. 50 Members of Parliament have asked Latcho - most of whom are Bulgarian Eastern Orthodox - to take this case addressing various provisions that these MP's believe violate Bulgaria's Constitution. Your prayers for justice and democracy in Bulgaria through the decision of the Constitutional Court are again appreciated!
From Russia: Our colleague and sister, Katya, has participated in wonderful work to influence her country through her faith and profession. She is teaching Christian leaders how to use Russian law to enable their ministries. She recently wrote that she is launching a Russian/English website with the information about Russian church-state laws, rules and regulations (and later - all of CIS countries) laws, comments and legal forms useful for the life of local religious community and their foreign partners. In this work Katya will have an American lawyer as a partner. Stephanie graduated in 1993 from Regent University School of Law and has a special interest in Eastern Europe and Russia. We can praise God for bringing together the right people at the right time for the right purpose. We pray for perfect collaboration between Katya and Stephanie and for abundant fruit from their work.
From Bulgaria: In late May more than 60 people, including Christian lawyers, judges, a teacher from the Orthodox Ecclesiastical Seminary in Bulgaria and a representative from the Alternative Bulgarian Orthodox Synod, participated in seminars conducted by Advocates' Board member, Chip Zimmer. Chip is the International Director of Peacemaker Ministries. Everyone was hungry to hear and apply the words of Jesus on how to be peacemakers. Participants were willing and eager to be equipped to fill it the large gap in the sphere of conflict resolutions, which exists among Christians in Bulgaria. Please continue to pray that we could see fruit from the Peacemaker ministry in Bulgaria!