Tuesday, February 21, 2017

RLPB 395. February Update, Incl. Uganda, China, Egypt, Indonesia, Sudan

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 395 | Wed 22 FEB 2017

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by Elizabeth Kendal

FEBRUARY 2017 UPDATE -- this month we prayed concerning:

* UGANDA (RLPB 392), after a mob of some 90 local Muslims violently attacked a church prayer meeting in Katira village, Budaka District, in Muslim-dominated Eastern Region. Fifteen Christian women were raped and dozens of believers were wounded. The pastor was among nine church members later deemed ‘missing’.

Church leaders gather for prayer
(10 Feb) source: MSN 
UPDATE:  As reported by Morning Star News (MSN) Uganda’s Daily Monitor subsequently issued a false report on the incident. According to the Monitor, residents from neighbouring villages turned up at the church eager to witness what the church promised would be the return of a miracle-working prophet. Only when nothing eventuated did the ‘angry residents’ attack the believers who had made ‘false predictions’. Local church leaders have denounced the article as ‘false and a fabrication’. Such fake news is usually the work of elements more interested in appeasement, political correctness and blame-shifting than in defending constitutional rights. Of the nine believers deemed missing after the attack, only one has been found. Patrick Mbayo told MSN that he had been too afraid to go home after the attack, as he had received death threats for ‘trying to win Muslims to Christianity’. Slandered by the media and abandoned by their government, church leaders and members are praying for courage, perseverance, healing, grace to forgive, and for the safety of those who remain missing.

* BANGLADESH (RLPB 393), where the indigenous non-Bengali, non-Muslim Paharais (hills tribes) of the Chittagong Hills Tracts are suffering as victims of a hidden genocide. The weapon of mass destruction being used against them is government orchestrated, mosque facilitated and military implemented mass migration of Bengali Muslims. Abuses/crimes such as rape, torture, forced Islamisation – including by means of forced marriage and child trafficking – are routine and committed with impunity. The region is closed off to outsiders. The Church desperately needs our advocacy (Proverbs 31:8-9) and our intercessory prayer (i.e. advocacy to the highest authority).

* INDIA (RLPB 394), after Bartu Urawn (50) of Jharkhand joined the company of Indian martyrs; and as persecution escalates in Uttar Pradesh, fuelled by Hindutva forces playing the communal, Hindu nationalist card for political gain ahead of state elections. Results will be announced on 11 March.

FEBRUARY 2017 ROUND-UP -- also this month . . .

* CHINA: 32 KOREAN MISSIONARIES EXPELLED

It has been confirmed that in January China expelled 32 South Korean Christian missionaries who had been working in China’s northeastern Yanji region, near the border of North Korea.  Further to this, it has been alleged that four people, including a Korean missionary and a Korean-American pastor, were apprehended on 9 February by Chinese police in a Yanji hotel. An estimated one thousand Korean missionaries work in China, most along the border with Nth Korea where they rescue, minister to and assist North Korean defectors fleeing persecution, repression and starvation. Pray this is not the beginning of a major crackdown. May God protect and preserve Christian mission along the China-North Korea border.

* EGYPT: ISIS THREATENS COPTS . . . AGAIN

screenshot - source: Al Masdar 
On 19 February, a group calling itself the ‘Islamic State of Egypt’ released a video message entitled ‘Kill All Kuffar’ (infidels). The video shows Abu Abdallah al-Masri – the Egyptian jihadist allegedly responsible for the 11 December church bombing in Cairo [see RLPB 388 (14 Dec 2016)] – railing against Egypt’s Copts (the non-Arab, Christian, indigenous people of Egypt) who he describes as Islamic State’s ‘favourite prey’. Images of the Advent bombing and subsequent funeral then flash across the screen to a soundtrack of jihadi music. Another masked jihadist then threatens the Copts with more deadly attacks, warning that the Advent bombing was ‘only the beginning’.  ‘Oh worshippers of the cross,’ he hisses, ‘the soldiers of the state are watching you’.

This new video, released on SUNDAY 19 Feb 2017, comes at the two year anniversary of the ISIS video, ‘A Message Signed in Blood to the Nation of the Cross,’ released SUNDAY 15 Feb 2015 [see RLPB 297 (Feb 2015) Both videos feature the mass murder of Coptic Christians, and both were issued as a call to jihad against the Copts. [You can find a full analysis of the ‘Message Signed in Blood . . .’ and the events of Feb 2015, in chapter 10 of Elizabeth Kendal’s book, After Saturday Comes Sunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East (Wipf and Stock, Eugene, OR, USA, June 2016).]

PLEASE PRAY: Psalm 141:8-10 (ESV)

* May the Spirit of God draw the eyes of all Copts and all Egyptian Christians towards our God; may they ‘seek refuge’ in him. v8

* May Jesus Christ, the Lord of hosts (the commander of heaven's angelic hosts), deploy his angels to deliver Egypt’s Coptic Christians from the ‘traps’ set for them, from the ‘snares of evildoers’. v9

* May God intervene for his people; ‘Let the wicked fall into their own nets, while [God's children] pass safely by.’ v10

* INDONESIA: JAKARTA GUBERNATORIAL RACE HEATS UP

Jakartans turned out in record numbers (77 percent) on 15 February, to cast their vote for a new governor. As was anticipated, incumbent Governor Basuki ‘Ahok’ Tjahaja Purnama secured the most votes, but not enough to avoid a second round of voting. At the time of writing, results were hovering at around: Ahok, 43 percent; Anies Baswedan, 40 percent; and Agus Yudhoyono, 17 percent. The run-off between Ahok (an ethnic Chinese Christian) and Anies (who is favoured by Islamists) will take place on 19 April. Meanwhile Ahok’s blasphemy trial continues. Islamic hardliners will campaign hard to secure the support of Muslims ahead of the April poll. Their campaign is likely to be dirty, tense and polarising. Pray for Indonesia; pray for Ahok.

* SUDAN: 25 CHURCHES SLATED FOR DEMOLITION IN KHARTOUM NORTH

On 13 January, the out-going Obama administration announced that it was ‘easing sanctions’ on Sudan on the grounds that the Government of Sudan has allegedly shown ‘sustained progress ... on several fronts ...’ [see RLPB 391 (25 Jan)]. By 1 February, land authorities in Khartoum had issued demolition notices to at least 25 churches they accuse of ‘trespassing in residential areas’ mostly in the Sharq al Neel (East Nile area) locality of Khartoum North (Bahri). At a press conference on 11 February, the Sudan Council of Churches (SCC) denounced the order as pure persecution, noting the discriminatory of the order which targets only churches while bypassing mosques, despite their being in the same area. The SCC called on the government to reconsider its decision or provide alternative sites for the churches. Church leaders see the order as part of a wider campaign to drive the Nuba (the non-Arab, African Christians of Sudan’s Nuba Mountains) and Christianity out of Khartoum, and ultimately out of Sudan.

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Elizabeth Kendal is an international religious liberty analyst and advocate. She serves as Director of Advocacy at Canberra-based Christian Faith and Freedom (CFF), and is an Adjunct Research Fellow at the Arthur Jeffery Centre for the Study of Islam at Melbourne School of Theology.

She has authored two books: Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today (Deror Books, Melbourne, Australia, Dec 2012) which offers a Biblical response to persecution and existential threat; and, After Saturday Comes Sunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East (Wipf and Stock, Eugene, OR, USA, June 2016).

See www.ElizabethKendal.com

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

RLPB 394. India: 'I will not deny Christ. . .' Death in Jharkhand; elections in Uttar Pradesh

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 394 | Wed 15 Feb 2017

Please forward this prayer bulletin widely, and encourage others to sign up to the Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin blog. "The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective." (James 5:16 NIV)


INDIA: 'I WILL NOT DENY CHRIST ...'
Death in Jharkhand; elections in Uttar Pradesh

by Elizabeth Kendal

According to the Hindu nationalist ideology of Hindutva, India is Hindustan, the land of the Hindus. Hindutva deems all non-Hindus are either corrupted or victims of forced conversion and insists they 'return' to the 'Hindu mainstream' for the sake of Mother India. In truth, Hindutva is pure politics! Once a means of arousing opposition to British colonial rule, it is now a means of drag-netting the majority Hindu vote to perpetuate the power, prosperity and privilege of the high-caste Hindu elite. To rally the Hindu majority, Hindutva groups such as the RSS (a paramilitary organisation founded in 1925) and the VHP (a cultural organisation founded in 1964) whip up communal hatred. Motivated by self-interest, the police and the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP, founded in 1980) of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, guarantee impunity.

Pastor Basavraja;
bashed almost to death
in Karnataka on 25 Jan.
source: EFI
Decades of unchallenged Hindutva has created an environment in which everyone knows that Christians can be persecuted, robbed, raped, assaulted, falsely accused, dispossessed, tortured and killed with impunity.

The Evangelical Fellowship of India's 'Persecution Watch' report for January 2017 details 18 verified incidents of targeted persecution involving physical violence, attacks on church properties, arrests for alleged 'forceful conversions' and intensive harassment and intimidation with serious consequences.

One case in northern tribal-belt, BJP-ruled Jharkhand, resulted in a fatality. Ten years ago, ten tribal families in Kubuaa village, Palamu District, Jharkhand, left their traditional animist religion and converted to Christianity. In recent years, however, the persecution has been so severe that seven of the families have returned to the local Sarna Dharam religion. One family standing firm in faith is the family of Bartu Urawn.

In January, villagers tried to torture Bartu Urawn, the family head, into renouncing Christ. They bound Bartu's and his wife's hands behind their backs and put them in a frigid pond with their heads only just above water. All through the wintery night they taunted Bartu to renounce Christ. According to their son, Beneswar, who witnessed the assault, his father reiterated every time, 'I will not deny Christ ... I will continue to believe till my last breath.' Pulled from the water at 10am the next day, the couple subsequently fell seriously ill. While his wife recovered, Bartu developed paralysis brought on by nerve damage caused by the freezing water and died on 20 January, aged 50. At that point, the villagers turned their attention to Beneswar, and the family fled. On 3 February the police -- who had refused even to register the family's complaint -- got the family and the villagers together and made them sign a 'peace agreement'. Whilst the Urawn family has returned home, they are living in fear of their lives.

click on map to enlarge
Meanwhile, elections are presently under way in neighbouring Uttar Pradesh. Known as the king-maker state, Uttar Pradesh is India's largest state with a population of 218 million, including 138 million registered voters. Uttar Pradesh (UP) is around 80 percent Hindu, 19 percent Muslim and one percent 'other', including some 360,000 Christians of various denominations. Dissected by the Ganges River, UP is a key destination for Hindu tourism and pilgrimage, with the city of Varanasi long regarded as Hinduism's spiritual capital. Despite this, UP remains desperately impoverished and backward. Since the early 1990s, UP has been ruled by regional parties: the Dalit-led Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and, from 2012, the Samajwadi Party (SP) which has now forged an alliance with Congress. In the 2014 General Election, the Hindu nationalist BJP swept UP, winning 71 of the state's 80 seats. Buoyed by this result, Hindutva groups have been campaigning hard across UP, causing persecution to escalate markedly. The BJP has not named a candidate for Chief Minister, hoping instead to ride to power on the back of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's popularity and charisma. Final opinion polls indicate that the BJP could win a majority in UP, with the SP-Congress alliance close behind. Polling commenced on 11 February and will conclude on 11 March. BJP rule would be disastrous for the Christian minority in UP.

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY FOR: 

* all the traumatised believers in Kubuaa village, in particular the grieving family of Christian martyr Bartu Urawn (50); may God our Heavenly Father provide comfort, peace and security. (From Isaiah 40:10-11 -- 'He will tend his flock like a shepherd ...')

* India's vulnerable, imperilled Church; may the Holy Spirit embolden the Church to reject the racism of caste and stand as one Body in Christian solidarity while loving her enemies and praying for those who persecute her. (Matthew 5:43-48)

* God to intervene in Uttar Pradesh for the benefit of his vulnerable and imperilled people, and indeed for the sake of all the 'harassed and helpless' citizens of UP. (Matthew 9:35-38)

* the Lord will raise up across India courageous men and women of reason and integrity who will lift up their voices against the racism and inequity of caste, the ideology and violence of Hindutva and the divisive and destructive nature of identity politics.


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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INDIA: DEATH IN JHARKHAND; ELECTIONS IN UTTAR PRADESH

On 20 January Bartu Urawn (50) a believer for 10 years and head of a believing family in BJP-ruled Jharkhand, died as a martyr for Jesus Christ. Hoping to force him to deny Christ, villagers tortured Bartu and his wife. Each time they taunted him, Bartu responded, 'I will not deny Christ ... I will continue to believe till my last breath.' The police refused to register the family's complaint, and instead forced them to sign a 'peace agreement'. The Christian villagers are living in fear of their lives. Meanwhile, elections are under way in neighbouring Uttar Pradesh. Buoyed by the 2014 General Election result, Hindu nationalists have been campaigning hard. Persecution has escalated and will get worse if the BJP is victorious. Please pray for India and its Church.

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Elizabeth Kendal is international religious liberty analyst and advocate. She serves as Director of Advocacy at Canberra-based Christian Faith and Freedom (CFF), and is an Adjunct Research Fellow at the Arthur Jeffery Centre for the Study of Islam at Melbourne School of Theology.

She has authored two books: Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today (Deror Books, Melbourne, Australia, Dec 2012) which offers a Biblical response to persecution and existential threat; and, After Saturday Comes Sunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East (Wipf and Stock, Eugene, OR, USA, June 2016).

See www.ElizabethKendal.com