Wednesday, November 2, 2005

Guinea: Baptism service violently attacked

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin - No. 351 - Wed 02 Nov 2005

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GUINEA: BAPTISM SERVICE VIOLENTLY ATTACKED
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Nzerekore is located in the Forest Region of southeastern Guinea, close to where the borders of Liberia, Ivory Coast and Guinea meet. The region is awash with bored ex-soldiers, illegal weapons and illegal immigrants. The wider region, especially neighbouring Ivory Coast, is simmering with ethnic and religious tensions. Guinea is 85.4 percent Muslim, 9.7 percent African Traditional Religion (ATR), and 4.7 percent Christian. After decades of Marxist, pro-
Islamic persecution of the Church, there is now religious freedom in Guinea. The Guinean Church has embraced mission and in the past decade indigenous workers have begun witnessing cross-culturally to previously unreached people groups. The Guinean Church is growing. But in recent years, as Islam has radicalised worldwide, the Christian minority in Guinea have found themselves increasingly on the painful end of a revived Islamic intolerance.

On Wednesday 19 October, a baptism ceremony in Nzerekore was attacked by Muslims complaining about the music from the service disturbing their prayers at a nearby mosque. Ten people were injured, two seriously, and several houses were sacked. The Muslims rioted again on the Friday evening and razed a local video store. Elite soldiers had to be deployed to restore calm. Several guns were confiscated and a curfew was imposed. Over the weekend some 100 people were arrested, with 56 still detained.

The Christians belong to the Guerze ethnic group which has a long history in the Forest Region of southeastern Guinea. Most Guerze practise Christianity or ATR. The Muslims are Konianke, a sub- group of the strongly Muslim Mandingo (or Malinki) people. The Konianke migrated south from northern Guinea during the late nineteenth century when Guinea was under French rule. There has been ethnic tension ever since, as the tribes compete for land and resources. Religious tension, stemming from ethnic tension, has escalated further as Islam has radicalised and revived its historic intolerance. The ethnic-religious tension has grown to crisis levels since the end of the Liberian War in August 2003, when many hundreds of Liberian Konianke rebels fled into southeastern Guinea, blending there with the thousands of Liberian refugees and protected by their fellow Konianke.

Ethnic-religious violence erupted in Nzerekore on 16 June 2004 when a Guerze youth on a motorcycle accidentally ran into a crowd leaving a mosque. Of the 238 people arrested, 234 were Konianke and 90 percent were Liberian. Two people died in that clash, but the toll would have been much higher had the Guinean security forces not moved so quickly to quell the fighting. The most recent incident - Muslims attacking a baptism ceremony because they could hear church music - has all the hallmarks of intolerant Muslims wanting to establish dominance and even reject religious liberty.

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT:

* God will protect, comfort and preserve the minority Christians of Guinea, especially those in the southeast Forest Region amidst volatile tensions and erupting violence; may he renew their strength and bless their witness, for his glory and Kingdom.

* Christ, supreme over all powers and authorities and sovereign over all creation, will bring a spirit of peace to Nzerekore, severing the spiritual shackles of those bound to darkness while light is in their midst. 'So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.' (John 8:36 NIV)

* pastors, evangelists and all believers will have great spiritual understanding to respond with wisdom and grace to the escalating Muslim presence, dominance and intolerance.

* the government and authorities will continue to protect the security of Christians and uphold justice and religious liberty in Guinea, and especially that God will use President Conte to do his will; may God open his heart to receive the gospel.