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Prayer vital following death of Osama bin Ladencomment (0)

May 12, 2011

Rallies against the killing of Osama bin Laden flared up in several traditionally Muslim countries following noon prayers May 6. In Abbottabad, Pakistan, where bin Laden was finally tracked down after a years-long manhunt, police struggled to control a rally of about 1,000 men who set fire to tires and blocked main roads. The demonstrators chanted “Terrorists, terrorist, USA terrorist.”

In Cairo, Egypt, soldiers prevented a rally from storming the U.S. embassy. The Islamists shouted “leave, leave” as they neared the embassy.

In Indonesia, about 200 members of a group calling itself Al Kaida Solo vowed, “His fight will not be ending.”

In Nigeria, police deployed in the north states of that country hoping to prevent Islamists from attacking churches.

Al Qaeda issued a public statement May 6 acknowledging the death of bin Laden and urging Muslims to rise up against the United States to “cleanse the shame” of his death.

Bin Laden was the architect of a number of terrorist attacks including the attacks on New York and Washington on Sept. 11, 2001. To many in the West, bin Laden was the embodiment of global terrorism. He was shot dead in a commando style raid by U.S. military forces on May 1.

Still, to many in South Asia, bin Laden was revered as one who fought world powers in the name of Muslim jihad (holy war).

For Southern Baptist representatives living in South Asia, bin Laden’s death and the subsequent calls for retaliation have been reasons to pray. They pray for safety of Americans living through the Muslim world. They pray for local Christians who might be subjected to persecution. And they pray for the doors to open in the Muslim world to the gospel.

Deanna Cassmore, who lives in South Asia, said, “Praying immediately for peace to prevail is the only thing that can keep things under control.

“There is a very real mob mentality that takes over in situations like this, so praying for believers and Americans [in these areas] can save lives.”

Cassmore once visited the area where bin Laden and his colleagues hid out, just outside of Islamabad. She described it as a beautiful city near the mountains.

“I was surprised when they said that was where bin Laden stayed,” she said. “I could picture in my mind many, many places in the tribal areas where he might have hid — mountains, caves, deserted valley — but I never dreamed he would be in the city.”

Goldie Francis said she was “weirdly sad” to receive the news. The American Christian who has lived in South Asia for years had been praying for bin Laden’s salvation.

Cade Rutledge, another American living in South Asia, said he first heard about the death over the loudspeakers at his neighborhood mosque.

“They weren’t talking in an angry way,” Rutledge said. “It feels like a calm before a storm. You just don’t know how people are going to react.”

Those living in Pakistan warned that while the average Pakistani does not support al-Qaida or bin Laden, many in the country were not happy that American soldiers were on Pakistani soil. They fear retaliation will be taken out on local Christians.

Any conflict involving America often implicates local believers. Christianity is associated with America.

“Pray for strength to stand firm in persecution,” Leigh Weil, a Christian who lives in South Asia said. “People are kidnapped and killed every day. Pray that [Christians] will stand firm in their faith.”

A senior U.S. official warned U.S. citizens living abroad to take extra safety precautions this week. Rutledge and other foreign Christians said their national friends often warn them when trouble is brewing.

The International Mission Board urged its representatives to be cautious in their actions and movements.

Darren Cantwell, a Christian leader in South Asia, said when he lived in Pakistan his landlord would tell his family not to go out when unrest was possible. The landlord was so protective that he would even go get groceries or whatever the family needed in an effort to keep them safe.

Rutledge and Weil said it’s often hard for Americans to think of Muslims in this area of the world as “people.”

“Everybody here does not support the Taliban [or al-Qaida],” Weil said. “They’re people. They want peace. They are in a struggle for freedom.

“These are real people, with real issues. Moms. Dads. Looking for jobs. Looking for peace. It’s this internal struggle that everyone has until they find that freedom in Christ,” she continued. “They’re not all scary terrorists.”

Cantwell said now is the time to pray for doors to open in the Muslim world. With the death of bin Laden, the Christian worker asks Christians to pray for Muslims — in America and the rest of the world — to seek truth in a fresh way.

Among the prayer requests of Christian workers in South Asia:

• Pray for security and peace to reign in the hearts of those in countries where demonstrations due to bin Laden’s death are possible.

• Pray for opportunities for Christian workers and local Christians to share their faith with their friends.

• Pray for all, that their hearts be open to the gospel as they contemplate their eternal destination.

• Pray for those who are tired of radical reactions to world events that have led to the death of thousands. Pray that they find peace and the strength to change their communities for the better.

• Pray that national Christians will respond in love and compassion to their Muslim neighbors, no matter what their reaction may be to bin Laden’s death.

Editor’s Note — Names have been changed for security reasons. (BP, TAB)

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