Tuesday, January 15, 2019

RLPB 485. Uganda: Minority Christians Under Pressure

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 485 | Wed 16 Jan 2019

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UGANDA: MINORITY CHRISTIANS UNDER PRESSURE
by Elizabeth Kendal

According to Uganda's 2014 census, Christians make up 84.5 percent of the population and Muslims 13.7 percent. On 24 December, the Washington Times (WT) published an article with the following headline: 'Ugandan Christians live in fear of minority Muslims on quest for conversions'.  However, the WT headline is misleading, for the pressure and persecution described in the article is taking place in Uganda's Eastern Region where Uganda's Muslims are concentrated and where Christians are a minority. The WT article retells the story of 12-year-old Emmanuel Nyaiti (see Morning Star News (MSN), October 2018) who was walking home through predominantly Muslim Kaderuna Sub-County, Budaka District, at around 9 pm when he was ambushed by four Muslims eager to force him to convert to Islam. For resisting, Nyaiti was beaten, strangled and left for dead. Nyaiti's father, Kauta Yokosofat -- a member of Kiryolo Church of Uganda -- had previously been warned that if he did not convert to Islam his family would be forced to leave the village. When Nyaiti did not arrive home, his father gathered some neighbours and set out in search. He eventually found his son unconscious and half-dead in a cassava plantation. The attack sent shock-waves through the vulnerable, minority Christian community.

Today, unprecedented numbers of Ugandan Muslims are rejecting Islam and embracing life in Jesus Christ. Eager to retain their influence and eliminate 'fitna' (the strife that comes from doubting Islam), local imams are leading efforts to crush Christian witness in Eastern Region (e.g. see MSN 30 Nov). Deborah Gimbo of Budaka Town, Budaka District, meets for prayer with two other Christian women three evenings a week. On the afternoon of 20 December, four Muslims burst into her home as she was praying alone. They warned her to stop praying aloud in Jesus' name. When Gimbo refused, the intruders beat her with sticks until neighbours came to the rescue and took the battered and bleeding woman to hospital. Gimbo, who was discharged two days later, told MSN that 'a local sheikh (teacher) had instructed the assailants that people who pray in Jesus' name should be fought and pressured until they accept only worship of Allah, or else be killed.' Previously, on 10 October, Muslims in neighbouring Kibuku District tore down a church building established by Pastor Mustafa Waseke for his congregation of converts from Islam. Pastor Waseke told MSN that the Muslims, led by an imam, razed the building while shouting, 'Allah Akbar  [Allah is the greatest], away with this church and Pastor Mustafa Waseke. No more prayers in this place, or else you will all lose your lives.' A secret believer has since informed Waseke that Muslims are plotting to kill him and his family. Pastor Waseke told MSN, 'I am at a crossroads of not knowing what to do. My church members are scattered like sheep without a shepherd ... Please pray for us.'

Muhamud Gusolo of Masaba village, Sironko District, Eastern Region, abandoned Islam and put his faith in Christ in late 2017. In October 2018 he started hosting evening Bible study and worship in his home, meeting with other former Muslims. First, his father denounced, disowned and disinherited him. Then, on 7 December, a Muslim mob, led by a mosque leader, destroyed his banana plantation. With his livelihood destroyed and his life in danger, Gusolo decided to leave the village; his wife, however, was too afraid to join him. Having lost his home, wife and six children; his parents, inheritance and livelihood; Gusolo (28) appealed to the local authorities for help. 'This,' he says, 'this has fallen on deaf ears.' 

Uganda is a majority Christian country with a secular constitution that guarantees religious freedom. However, Uganda is also Africa's most decentralised country and its roughly 130 districts are largely self-governing. If the central government does not enforce the law nationwide and insist that all districts abide by the constitution, then Uganda will eventually end up like Nigeria where Muslim-majority regions observe Sharia law in defiance of the constitution to the detriment of national unity, human rights in general and Christian liberty and security in particular.

For a full analysis of the religious liberty situation in Uganda see:
'Uganda Analysis: escalating persecution of Christians in Eastern Region linked to Islamisation, decentralisation and impunity', by Elizabeth Kendal, Religious Liberty Monitoring, May 2017.


PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY FOR GOD TO

* bless the persecuted and threatened Church in Uganda's Muslim-dominated Eastern Region; may the believers have divine wisdom and grace as they navigate a deteriorating situation; may the Lord be their fortress and deliverer, comforter and provider. 'But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.' (Psalm 3:3)

* give President Yoweri Museveni and Uganda's central government the conviction and courage to resist the Islamisation of the Eastern Region and insist that the supremacy of the constitution be recognised uniformly across all Uganda's districts.

* awaken Uganda's majority Christians to the plight of their suffering brothers and sisters in Muslim-dominated Eastern Region; may their hearts break as they see through Christ's eyes and realise the pain in the heart of God; may they fall to their knees as one for the sake of their persecuted brethren and for sake of their country.


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE 
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UGANDA: MINORITY CHRISTIANS UNDER PRESSURE

Uganda is a predominantly Christian country with a secular constitution that guarantees religious freedom. It is also Africa's most decentralised country with some 130 districts that are largely self-governing. In Muslim-dominated Eastern Region, minority Christians are persecuted with impunity. In October, Emmanuel Nyaiti (12) was beaten, strangled and left for dead after he refused to convert to Islam; and the church building established by Pastor Mustafa Waseke for his congregation of converts was razed by a Muslim mob. In December, after losing his home, wife, children, livelihood, parents and inheritance, convert Muhamud Gusolo (28) appealed to local authorities -- but to no avail; and Deborah Gimbo was hospitalised after being violent attacked in her home for praying with other women in Jesus' name. May God intervene for Eastern Region's minority Christians.

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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  

Monday, December 17, 2018

RLPB 484. Iran & China: Herod's Choice

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 484 | Wed 19 Dec 2018


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)


IRAN & CHINA: HEROD'S CHOICE 
-- Elizabeth Kendal

Born in hardship and forged in the flames of persecution, there can be no doubt that the burgeoning Persian and Chinese Churches will have significant and strategic roles in the spread of Christianity through the 21st Century and beyond. Today, however, the spiritual battle is fierce as Satan resists his demise with 'the energy of despair' (Jacques Ellul). The outcome, however, is not in doubt, for victory was secured on the Cross. As Christ builds his Church and as God fulfils his promises to bless the nations and fill them with his glory, the need of the day is that the persecuted church be supported in prayer.

IRAN: PRE-CHRISTMAS CRACKDOWN

More than 140 Iranian believers have been arrested in the lead up to the Christmas season -- 114 in the first week of December alone. Raids have occurred in at least ten cities, targeting a variety of Christian groups. Whilst most of those arrested were released after hours or, in some cases, days of interrogation, those suspected of being leaders remain in detention. All those arrested had their mobile devices confiscated and were ordered to cease contact with Christian groups. Arrested in Ahvaz on 2 December, sisters Shima and Shokoofeh Zanganeh (aged 27 and 30 respectively) were physically assaulted during interrogation, before being transferred to Sepidar Prison. The whereabouts and condition of other prisoners remain unknown. Regime-backed media reported the unsubstantiated claim that some of those arrested were foreign nationals who had taken Iranian names. A rumour such as this is doubtless designed to further the regime's false narrative that Christianity is a tool of hostile foreign powers intent on subverting the state. But, like Chinese Christianity, Persian Christianity is an indigenous movement growing uncontrollably in the virtual absence of foreign missionaries. Linked to the revival in Persian culture (as distinct from Islamic or revolutionary culture), the Persian Church is growing despite all regime efforts to suppress it.

CHINA: CRACKDOWN IS JUST BEGINNING 


Pastor Wang Yi with wife, Jiang Rong
The leader of Chengdu's Early Rain Covenant Church, Pastor Wang Yi – arrested on the evening of Sunday 9 December [see RLPB 483 (12 Dec)] – is being held in criminal detention without access to family, friends or a lawyer; he has been charged with inciting subversion of state power. His wife, Jiang Rong, is being kept in solitary confinement in 'residential surveillance in a designated location'. The couple's 11-year-old son is with his grandmother, Chen Yaxue (73). Several other church leaders have also been charged with criminal offences. Some 47 students taken from the dormitories of Covenant Seminary were fingerprinted and detained at the nearby Xinjin County Legal Learning Centre (believed to be a re-education facility) before being deported to their hometowns. 

Founded in 1978 by
Pastor Samuel Lamb,
Rongguili Church attracts
5000 worshippers per week.
Now - activities suspended.
source: SCMP, 16 Dec
Since the Chinese Communist Party's (CCP's) new Religious Affairs Regulations came into effect on 1 Feb 2018, persecution has escalated to levels unseen in decades. That said, President Xi's crackdown has only just begun. On Thursday 13 December police raided a gathering of a house church in Sanmenxia, Henan, and arrested three ministers. On Saturday 15 December -- in what is without doubt the CCP's most brazen act to date -- police raided a children's Bible class in Rongguili Church in Guangzhou's Yuexiu district, confiscating property and more than 4000 books.  Previously, the church had been all but untouchable because of its fame and size. Founded in 1978 by 'house church father' Pastor Samuel Lamb (1924-2013), Rongguili Church attracts up to 5000 worshippers a week. Today, entry points to the church have been cordoned off and all its activities suspended.

HEROD'S CHOICE

Two thousand years ago, Magi from the East arrived in Jerusalem seeking 'the one who has been born king of the Jews'. Disturbed by this news, King Herod summoned his chief priests and teachers of the law, who confirmed to him from scripture that the Christ (Messiah) would be born in Bethlehem. Herod had a decision to make. Reasoning 'if he is king then I am not', Herod made the fateful choice many autonomous people make: he rejected Christ. He also made the choice many powerful 'kings' make: he chose violence [Matthew 2]. Herod died, but Jesus lives! [Matthew 28]. Like Herod, the Iranian regime and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) have heard God's word and chosen violence as if through it they will annul divine revelation and cancel divine promise. Like Herod, they are wrong! Their days are numbered; they will die, but Christ will live and 'all the promises of God find their Yes in him' (2 Corinthians 1:20 ESV).


PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY FOR GOD TO

Ebrahim Farouzi
* bless and sustain Iran's persecuted Church and especially those in prison on account of their faith.

Pray especially at this time for the severely persecuted Ebrahim Firouzi (32) who is incarcerated with violent criminals and terrorists in the maximum security Rajaei Shahr Prison in Karaj [see RLPB 416 (26 July 2017)]. Firouzi's ailing mother, Kobra Kamrani (56), died on 3 December. After refusing all requests to permit mother and son to meet one last time, the authorities then also refused to grant Firouzi leave to attend his mother's funeral, thereby compounding his grief. Lord have mercy.

'But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.' (Psalm 3:3 ESV)

* bless and sustain China's persecuted Church and especially those in prison on account of their faith. Pray especially at this time for Pastor Wang Yi and the severely persecuted Gao Zhisheng

* grace the Persian and Chinese Churches with faith to stand firm; grace in abundance, and divine wisdom to know how to navigate these increasingly difficult days.

'If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.' (James 1:5 ESV


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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HEROD’S CHOICE

Two thousand years ago, Magi from the East arrived in Jerusalem seeking 'the one who has been born king of the Jews'. Disturbed, King Herod summoned his religious advisers who confirmed from scripture that the Christ would be born in Bethlehem. Reasoning 'if he is king then I am not', Herod made his fateful choice: rejecting Christ, he chose violence. Like Herod, the Iranian regime and the Chinese Communist Party have heard God's word and chosen violence, breaking up house churches and arresting hundreds in major pre-Christmas crackdowns. Like Herod, they think their violence will annul divine revelation and cancel divine promise. Like Herod, they are wrong! Please pray for Iran and China and the Persian and Chinese Churches this Christmas, particularly those who are in prison because of their faith.

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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