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INTERNATIONAL DIGEST: Prayers for Guinea answered, missionaries say; …

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–When Guinea dissolved into violent protests in February, shutting down the country and killing 100 people, Southern Baptist missionaries in the West African nation called for 20 days of prayer.

Now, businesses and schools are reopening and church attendance is growing, despite the fact that the large majority of Guinea’s 9.6 million people are Muslim, missionaries told Mission Network News. People are “flocking to churches in the forest region and Conakry by the droves. Apparently, they are searching for a closer relationship with God,” a missionary reported.

“There are many praying for Guinea, literally around the world and around the clock and God is answering your prayers,” one missionary wrote in a prayer letter. “We have felt God’s presence giving us peace and protection, not just for us but also for local believers.”

Protests against the leadership of Guinea’s president caused him to declare martial law. Two missionary families had to relocate, while others stayed in their homes. “Thank you so much for praying with us,” one missionary said. “We continue to be amazed with the response for our call of 20 days of prayer for Guinea.”

MILITANTS GET JAIL FOR BEHEADING CHRISTIAN GIRLS — Three Islamic militants convicted of beheading three Christian schoolgirls in Poso, Indonesia, in 2005 have been sentenced to prison terms of 14 years to 20 years. While some feared the sentences would spark Muslim retaliation, others said the sentences were too lenient.

“I think these crimes thoroughly justify at least life imprisonment sentences,” Open Doors’ Carl Moeller told Mission Network News. “These are horrific crimes against innocent children who were killed on their way to school and made an example of to the Christian community there with threatening notes that were accompanying the bodies that were found.”

The accused mastermind of the grisly murders received the 20-year sentence. His co-conspirators each were sentenced to 14 years. Theresia Morangkir, Alfita Poliwo, Yarni Sambue and Noviana Malewa were walking to school through a cocoa plantation when they were attacked. Noviana survived the attack and testified against the killers.

PERSECUTION DRIVING IRAQI CHRISTIANS FROM COUNTRY — Though Iraqi Christians make up only 5 percent of their country’s population, they account for almost 40 percent of the refugees fleeing the country, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Of Baghdad’s 80 Christian churches, 10 have closed their doors, and more than half the Christians in Baghdad have left the country.

Churches and Christian homes became targets after the 2003 invasion of Iraq and some militants now force Christians to pay for protection.

“We were here 600 years before Islam and have archaeological sites in Iraq from the first century of Christianity,” Abdullah al-Naufali, head of Iraq’s Christians Endowment, told USA Today. “I’m really surprised when someone asks me why we’re still in Iraq.”

Iraqi Christians forced from their homes have to flee the country, while other Iraqis often merely relocate to another neighborhood, Dana Graber of the International Organization for Migration told USA Today.

“They feel even more vulnerable because they have few, if any, safe communities to where they can escape,” Graber said.

CITING QURAN, JUDGE DENIES ABUSED WOMAN’S PLEA — A judge in Germany placed Muslim custom above European law by denying an abused Muslim woman’s request for a speedy divorce on the grounds that Quran permits husbands to beat their wives. The ruling handed down by Christa Datz-Winter was roundly criticized, even by some Muslim leaders in Germany, who said the judge had misinterpreted a controversial passage from the Muslim holy book.

The judge, who was removed from the case, also said the woman’s situation was not the exceptional hardship required to justify a fast-track divorce, according to the Associated Press.

Germany is in the midst of an ongoing debate about the place of more than 3 million Muslim immigrants in the country.

Wolfgang Bosbach, a lawmaker with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Party, said: “The legal and moral concepts of Sharia (Islamic law) have nothing to do with German jurisprudence. One thing must be clear: In Germany, only German law applies. Period.”

Ronald Pofalla, the Christian Democrats’ general secretary, said: “When the Quran is put above the German constitution, I can only say: Good night, Germany.”

ISRAELI BILL WOULD OUTLAW EVANGELISM — Israel’s ultra-orthodox theocratic party, Shas, introduced a bill in the country’s national legislature March 13 that would completely forbid Christian preaching and evangelism. If the proposal is adopted, violators would face a years’ imprisonment. Under current law, offering money or material products in exchange for religious conversion faces five years in prison or a monetary fine.

The bill reveals an ugly undercurrent that Christians and Messianic Jews face in Israel, Glenn Penner of Voice of the Martyrs told Mission Network News. “We’re not terribly concerned that it will be passed, but it is concerning that it keeps coming up,” Penner said.

For example, he said, every week for the past three years ultra-orthodox Jews have spit on and insulted members of the Messianic Jewish congregation in Arad. Tomatoes and eggs frequently are thrown at their houses. Noisy demonstrations are common, and police merely stand by.

A member of the church was beaten Feb. 25 in the parking lot of his shop, which was firebombed in 2005 because of his evangelistic work.

COURT BAN WIPES OUT OPPOSITION TO PUTIN — Russian President Vladimir Putin further tightened his hold on power March 23 when Russia’s supreme court banned a party that is one of the few in Russia critical of the president. The court said the party had violated electoral law by not having enough members. The result may be that Russia’s next parliament may have no significant opposition to Putin’s initiatives.

The ruling came as democracy activists prepared for another anti-government rally that previously have infuriated Russia’s hard-line authorities, according to a report in The Guardian newspaper. Hundreds of protesters from The Other Russia, a coalition of opposition groups, were expected to demonstrate March 24 in spite of attempts by pro-Putin officials to prevent it.

“The march’s leaders are being called in by police and intimidated. We are half a step away from a police state,” Denis Bilunov, a member of the march’s organizing committee, told The Guardian. “There isn’t much point in talking about democracy in Russia any more.”

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  • Mark Kelly