Tuesday, June 21, 2016

RLPB 362. Central African Republic (CAR): Church at risk from Fulani, Seleka & LRA

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 362 | Wed 22 Jun 2016

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CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC (CAR): CHURCH AT RISK FROM FULANI, SELEKA & LRA
By Elizabeth Kendal

Seleka rebels/jihadists
CONTEXT: In March 2013 France and the West stood back and watched as Central African Republic (CAR) -- which is French-speaking and 76 percent Christian (mostly Protestant) -- fell to Seleka, an exceedingly well armed and funded alliance of mostly Arabic-speaking local and international Islamic jihadists. The conquest of the capital, Bangui, was but the climax of Seleka's jihadist advance southward that involved massive looting, destruction, killing and sexual violence against the mostly Christian population. Thousands were killed and around one million displaced. Many Muslims sided with the rebels against their Christian neighbours, shattering decades of peaceful co-existence. 
anti-balaka 
Local village defence militias (the 'anti-balaka') -- originally designed to protect villages from 'balaka' (machete) wielding criminals -- went on the defensive. Though identifying as 'Christian', the anti-balaka are in no way connected to the Church, which denounces their retaliatory violence. Only when anti-balaka militias started driving Seleka jihadists (and many other mostly-immigrant Muslims) out of Bangui, did French and UN peacekeepers intervene. The peace-deal signed in July 2014 was totally meaningless and unenforceable [see RLPB 279, (24 Sept 2014)], leaving the Islamic rebels free to re-organise in the north. Many suspect they plan to partition the country. Consequently, recent eruptions of violence in north-west CAR and in Bangui are cause for concern. 

NORTH-WEST CAR: In Ngaoundaye, about 500 km  north-west of Bangui, clashes between local anti-balaka militias and Fulani cattle herders backed by former Seleka rebels have claimed at least eleven lives. According to reports, well-armed former-Seleka and Fulani fighters recently attacked the north-western town of Ngaoundaye, killing six, after the local inhabitants refused to let the Fulani lead their cattle through the town. Peacekeepers have been deployed to the region. According to Fides newsagency, the Islamic rebels who attacked Ngaoundaye did not return to their base near Paoua, but withdrew to Kollo on the border with Chad, from where they issued an ultimatum -- pay protection money or expect another attack. Much of the population of Ngaoundaye is now hiding in the bush. According to a priest in the area, tensions are soaring and armed gangs are re-forming. The Church is appealing for more peacekeepers.

Bishop Nzapalainga in Bangui.
BANGUI: Tit-for-tat sectarian violence erupted in Bangui on Sunday 12 June and has escalated to claim several lives. On Sunday 19 June heavily armed Seleka rebels abducted six police officers as gunfire rang out around the capital. The Catholic archbishop of Bangui, Bishop Dieudonne Nzapalainga, has appealed for calm and for help.

SOUTH-EAST CAR -- THE LRA RISES: Founded in Uganda in the 1980s, the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) is an occultic militia aided and protected by Sudan's Islamist regime, which has long used it as a proxy against its Christian neighbours. Thriving on insecurity, the LRA will soon also benefit from the withdrawal of Ugandan forces from CAR. The withdrawal of Ugandan forces, announced on 10 June, will give the LRA virtual free reign in predominantly Christian CAR. Buoyed with renewed confidence, the LRA has dramatically escalated its attacks in recent months. This has specifically included kidnappings, with 252 abductions in the first three months of 2016, compared with 113 during all of 2015. It seems the LRA is replenishing its ranks. Last week the LRA kidnapped 29 people from two villages in south-east CAR. 

MAP (source: World Watch Monitor, July 2015)
edited to show locations of June 2016 clashes/crimes and the
alleged location of LRA leader, Joseph Kony.


PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT

* our sovereign God, the King of kings, will intervene to ensure that Central African Republic receives all the diplomatic, military and humanitarian assistance it needs to resist Islamic jihad, eradicate foreign militants and defeat the LRA, while liberating its captives.

'May the Lord answer you in the day of trouble! May the name of the God of Jacob protect you! May he send you help from the sanctuary and give you support from Zion!' (Psalm 20:1-2 ESV)

* God our merciful and compassionate Father will hear and answer the prayers of his traumatised and fearful children; may he protect and deliver them from all the evil plots of men and the devil.

* the Spirit of God will work powerfully and effectively through all CAR's Christian leaders -- political, civic and religious -- giving them great spiritual wisdom and insight to know how to respond to their country's crisis; may all CAR's Christians, especially Christian leaders, commit themselves to prayer.

'Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.' (Psalm 20:7 ESV)

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REMINDER: Pray for Muslims during RAMADAN, 6 June to 5 July. See http://pray30days.org/

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SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC CHURCH AT RISK FROM FULANI & LRA

Central African Republic (CAR) is French-speaking and 76 percent Christian. In March 2013 CAR was overrun by foreign-backed, Arabic-speaking Islamic rebels from the north. Thousands were killed and around one million displaced. Only when local non-Muslim militias started driving the rebels (and other Muslims) out of Bangui did France and the UN intervene. A meaningless peace deal was brokered which allowed the rebels to re-organise in the north. Clashes between local residents and rebel-backed Fulani Muslims have erupted in the north-west, while tit-for-tat religious clashes in Bangui have also escalated. Meanwhile, the occultic Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) is rising in the east, replenishing its ranks through a dramatic escalation in kidnappings, ahead of the withdrawal of Ugandan troops. CAR's Christian leaders are appealing for calm and for help. Please pray.

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(Deror Books, Melbourne, Australia, Dec 2012) which offers a Biblical response to persecution and existential threat.

Her new book, After Saturday Comes Sunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East, (Wipf and Stock, Eugene, OR, USA, June 2016) is now available through the publisher and will be available more widely in the coming weeks. Review copies can be requested from Wipf and Stock (USA/international) - OR if in Australia, through their distributor, Morning Star Publishing.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

RLPB 361. Nigeria: Legislation will further Islamise Nigeria

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 361 | Wed 15 Jun 2016

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)


NIGERIA: LEGISLATION WILL FURTHER ISLAMISE NIGERIA
By Elizabeth Kendal

It should come as no surprise that, just one year after the official swearing in of President Muhammadu Buhari, the federal parliament is considering two bills that, if passed, will further Islamise Nigeria. A former military dictator and coup plotter, Buhari had contested the presidency three times prior to the 2015 polls (2003, 2007 and 2011), each time on a pro-Sharia platform -- which was why he always lost as the majority of Nigerians do not want to live under Sharia Law. One reason why Buhari won the March 2015 presidential poll was that he dropped his pro-Sharia stance and took as his running-mate Yemi Osinbajo (55), a Pentecostal pastor from Nigeria's wealthiest and most popular Pentecostal Church. The Christian Association of Nigeria and the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria threw their weight behind the secular, mostly Christian People's Democratic Party and its Christian candidate, Goodluck Jonathan. However, Osinbajo and the new-look Buhari successfully rallied southern Christian youths, helped along by pro-Buhari pastors who assured southern Christians that Nigeria simply cannot be Islamised as Nigerians are 'too educated' and 'too enlightened' for that!  [For background see RLPB 295 (4 Feb 2015).]

Armed Fulani cattle herder
A bill to establish grazing reserves for the Fulani in every state has successfully passed through second readings in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. There is no indication that the government, so keen to advance Fulani cattle herding in the south, has any interest in advancing Christian agriculture in the north or even in protecting farmers -- often poor Christian peasants -- from the destruction caused by Fulani cattle grazing on their crops. The Grazing Reserves Bill envisages the uprooting of 'native communities' and would pave the way for the Buhari government to facilitate Muslim Fulani expansion deep into the Christian south. This is despite knowing that the Fulani have been thoroughly infiltrated by Boko Haram, which uses the Fulani as a means to Islamic expansion. Whilst a majority of northerners are in favour, a majority of southerners are against this extremely divisive and dangerous bill.

A bill proposing to amend the Nigerian constitution to expand the scope and jurisdiction of Nigeria's Islamic Sharia courts passed its second reading without debate on 19 May. At present, Sharia courts of appeal may handle only civil matters -- family, wills, donations and the like. Consequently, any appeal of a criminal case must be heard in a government-run secular court.

Sentenced in a Sharia court to death
by stoning, Amina Lawal's sentence
was subsequently overturned (2003);
 it would not have survived an appeal.  
This is precisely why Sharia penalties such as stoning, flogging, limb amputation and execution are not handed down in Nigeria's Sharia courts -- they would never survive an appeal. That will change if this bill passes. Moreover, Muslims will lose their liberty because apostasy and blasphemy are criminal offences according to Sharia. The bill's sponsor, Abdullahi Salame, an MP from the northern Sharia state of Sokoto, claims that Sharia actually protects Christians. But as is common knowledge, the opposite is true. Legitimising Islamic Sharia Law always fuels Islamic zeal, a consequence of which is violent persecution of Christians.

Most shocking of all is how this bill, which has been shrouded in secrecy, has been quietly and willingly waved through by weak-willed, apathetic and corrupted Christian lawmakers. The job of protesting has been left to students. On 7 June Christian and Muslim youths, under the aegis of the Coalition of Civil Society and Faith-Based Organisations (CCSFBO), rallied peacefully in Abuja to protest a bill they condemn as dangerously divisive and nothing but a blatant attempt to Islamise Nigeria. Quoting the Biblical prophet Amos, Nigerian journalist and commentator Nnamdi Okosieme warns, 'Woe to those who are at ease in Zion ...' (Amos 6:1 ESV). 'Christians,' he said, 'must speak up, they must shout and they must go down on their knees and pray away the looming danger.'


PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL

* awaken, enlighten and embolden the Nigerian Church and Nigeria's Christian legislators, so that plots to further Islamise Nigeria will not proceed, but rather will backfire.

* subvert and defeat this plot to further Islamise Nigeria, redeeming it so that all freedom-loving Nigerians might start questioning the place of Islam and the role of Sharia Law in a secular democracy.

* redeem this situation as a means by which Nigeria's churches and Christians may be able to witness to the truth and wisdom of God as found in the Bible and through Jesus Christ.

'To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness ...' (Daniel 9:9 ESV, from Daniel's prayer for his people.)

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* REMINDER: Pray for Muslims during RAMADAN, 6 June to 5 July. See http://pray30days.org/ 

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SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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LEGISLATION WILL FURTHER ISLAMISE NIGERIA

One year after the official swearing in of President Muhammadu Buhari the government is considering two bills that, if passed, will further Islamise Nigeria. A bill to establish grazing reserves for the Fulani in every state would facilitate Muslim Fulani expansion deep into the Christian south. This is despite knowing the Fulani have been infiltrated by Boko Haram which uses the Fulani as a means to Islamic expansion. A bill proposing to amend the Nigerian constitution to expand the scope and jurisdiction of Nigeria's Islamic Sharia courts passed its second reading without debate on 19 May with apathetic and corrupted Christian lawmakers waving it through. Christian and Muslim students have protested in Abuja against the government's move to divide and Islamise Nigeria. Please pray for Nigeria and for her Church.

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Elizabeth Kendal is the author of 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.

Her second book, After Saturday Comes Sunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East, (Wipf and Stock, Eugene, OR, USA, June 2016) will be available in the coming weeks.