Tuesday, September 20, 2016

RLPB 376. Central African Republic (CAR): Another Massacre

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 376 | Wed 21 Sep 2016

First, a bit of trivia. This is the 900th religious liberty prayer bulletin: 524 were issued under the banner of World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty Commission (WEA RLC) and 376 have been issued since this ministry operated separately from WEA in April 2009. The religious liberty prayer bulletin exists to facilitate strategic intercessory prayer. 'The Lord waits to be gracious to you ... blessed are all those who wait for him.' (Isaiah 30:18 ESV)

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CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC (CAR): ANOTHER MASSACRE
by Elizabeth Kendal

In March 2013 Bangui -- the capital of predominantly Christian (some 76 percent) Central African Republic (CAR) -- was overrun and seized by 'Seleka' -- a foreign-backed alliance of well-armed local and foreign Islamic militias [RLPB 210 (May 2013)]. Seleka's advance and rule were brutal.  But for CAR's Christians the worst was how so many of their Muslim neighbours celebrated Seleka's arrival, even rushing to loot the homes of their now imperilled Christian neighbours. Trust was shattered. Eventually, in January 2014, Seleka was driven from the capital along with its supporters and indeed any hapless Muslim who could be found [RLPB 243 (Jan 2014)]. At that point, France and the UN intervened; now the conflict is frozen with nearly half the state under the control of Islamic militants.

Violence and insecurity persist, especially on the 'front-line' [see RLPB 362 (June 2016)]. The freezing of the conflict has left Christians whose towns and villages are now in rebel-held territory in a precarious position. The Islamic rebels (and their foreign backers) want CAR formally partitioned so the north might become an independent Islamic State [RLPB 259 (May 2014)] – complete with its diamonds [map].  Determined to preserve the de-facto partition, Islamic militants are undermining all the government's efforts to promote reconciliation.

map showing Kaga-Bandoro
Kaga-Bandoro, the capital of the Nana-Grebizi economic prefecture, is a market town in the northern Central African Republic, some 245km north of the capital, Bangui. A mostly Christian city, Kaga-Bandoro is also home to many thousands of displaced Christians from across the north-central region. But Kaga-Bandoro is in rebel-controlled territory, meaning its mostly Christian residents are essentially being held hostage. According to the local media organ, Radio Ndeke Luka, 'anti-Balaka' fighters [village defense militias] from various villages across the region had gathered in the village of Ndomete, some 10km from Kaga-Bandoro. They were allegedly plotting to liberate the city and drive the Islamic militants out.

However, on the evening of Friday 16 September, ex-Seleka fighters under the command of General Alkatim Mahamat swept through Ndomete, going door-to-door killing Christian villagers. According to Radio Ndeke Luka, 19 were slaughtered while dozens were injured. The spokesman to the Presidency, Albert Mokpeme, called it a 'massacre'. The next day clashes erupted in Kaga-Bandoro where at least five more were killed. An aid worker was seriously wounded. The rebels rampaged, looting the radio station, local businesses, aid agencies, as well as the Church of the Nativity which hosts and supports a large population of displaced Christians. Peacekeepers from the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) were deployed to the area. Having separated the parties, they are now keeping the 'peace' and calling on the belligerents to lay down their weapons.

Local Christian leaders are sceptical. 'If the government is not going to beef up the security, then we are going to defend ourselves,' one church leader told Morning Star News. 'We shall not keep quiet as our brothers are dying.'

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY FOR GOD TO 

* intervene in Central African Republic (CAR), giving great wisdom, strength, courage and authority to all who work for peace and reconciliation, especially President Faustin Archange Touadera and all CAR's Church leadership.

* rise up on behalf of the Church in CAR, so that all foreign Islamic militants will be driven out and the borders secured; may the Lord bring healing to CAR.

* influence CAR's Muslim minority, causing them to tire of violence and chaos and to withdraw their support from the rebels, who have only brought them trouble, displacement and poverty; may their hearts be open to the Gospel.


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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ANOTHER MASSACRE IN CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC (CAR) 

Central African Republic (which is 76 percent Christian) remains divided with the north largely under the control of foreign-backed local and foreign Islamic militants. Christians whose towns and villages are in rebel-held territory live with terrible insecurity. Hundreds of thousands are displaced and the 'front-line' is perpetually volatile. On 16 September an Islamic militia swept through the mostly Christian village of Ndomete north-central CAR, killing 19 residents and wounding dozens. The government has labelled it a 'massacre'. The next day clashes erupted in nearby Kaga-Bandoro claiming at least five more lives. UN peacekeepers were deployed to the area and are now maintaining the 'peace'. Please pray that God will intervene in this forgotten, continuing conflict to bring about peace, justice and liberty. Please pray for CAR and its 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; 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, September 13, 2016

RLPB 375. Russia, Jordan, Uzbekistan: Pray for 'those in authority'

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 375 | Wed 14 Sep 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)


RUSSIA, JORDAN, UZBEKISTAN: PRAY FOR 'THOSE IN AUTHORITY' 
by Elizabeth Kendal

'I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people -- for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Saviour, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.' (1 Timothy 2:1-4 NIV)

While God offers salvation to all people freely, lack of religious liberty and security make Gospel witness and conversion incredibly costly. In many places the Church is forced 'underground', depriving those who are perishing of life-saving witness. In the days when the cruel despot Nero ruled over the Roman Empire, the Apostle Paul urged the church to pray for 'all those in authority' to the end that we might live openly as Christians sharing the Gospel freely. Paul declares such liberty to be 'good', something that 'pleases God our Saviour, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth' (1 Timothy 2:1-4 NIV). With this in mind, let us pray for religious liberty and security in two states heading into elections, and one undergoing political transition.

RUSSIA: LOWER HOUSE ELECTIONS, 18 SEPTEMBER


Russians go the polls on Sunday 18 September to elect a new 450-seat Duma (legislative assembly, lower house). The Russian Duma is a diverse house, comprising 'progressives', traditionalists, Communists, nationalists, 'hawks' and 'doves'. Western sanctions have brought great economic hardship to Russia. This has empowered the 'hawks' within Russia's ruling United Russia party which is now slumping in the polls.  On Tuesday 6 September, President Putin told the party that the deeply unpopular anti-terror laws -- which include shocking anti-mission measures -- may need to be 'adjusted to not put people in a difficult position' (Stratfor Intelligence, 8 September). Pray for President Putin and Prime Minister Medvedev and for God to intervene in Russia to guide the electorate and all those in authority to the end that religious liberty might be restored.

JORDAN: LOWER HOUSE ELECTIONS, 20 SEPTEMBER

Jordanians go to the polls on 20 September to elect a 130-seat lower house by means of a new electoral law. Though the new voting system is expected to lead to increased Islamist representation in parliament, the system has been designed to ensure the Islamists are diluted in a pool of some 50 parties. With a large Palestinian minority and many thousands of Iraqi and Syrian refugees, Jordan is volatile. The monarchy hopes the new voting system will give the government greater legitimacy. Christians in Jordan are free to worship openly, but not to witness to Muslims. Pray for King Abdullah and for God to intervene in Jordan to guide the electorate and all those in authority to the end that Christian liberty and security might actually be enhanced.

UZBEKISTAN: GOVERNMENT IN TRANSITION 

On 2 September, Uzbekistan's long-time autocratic ruler, Islam Karimov (78), died of a stroke. Prime Minister Shavkat Mirziyoyev (58) will serve as Acting President until a presidential election takes place sometime within the next three months. Uzbekistan's repressed and persecuted 0.75 percent minority Christians do not expect their situation to improve -- some fear it might get worse. Officially secular, Uzbekistan is 90 percent Muslim and the threat posed by Islamic jihadist and revolutionary movements is real. Laws designed to clamp down on these movements are also used to persecute Christians and repress Protestant Christianity which the government regards as a 'foreign' and destabilising force. Please pray for Acting President Shavkat Mirziyoyev and all those in authority in Uzbekistan to the end that the Church may be free to worship, minister and witness.

GENERAL PRAYER

God our Father,

As we come with our requests we are acutely aware that we fall short in so many ways. And so we pray with the mind and heart of your servant Daniel, and appeal for your action and plead for your intervention, not because we deserve it, but because you are merciful (Daniel 9:16-19). 

Because you, O Lord, have compassion for the 'harassed and helpless' who live like 'sheep without a shepherd'; and because you, O Lord, long to see more workers in your harvest field (Matthew 9:35-38) we ask that you would intervene in states where religious liberty is not respected, and where Christian ministry, witness and conversion are prohibitively costly.

Intervene, Lord, directing the hearts of 'kings' (Proverbs 21:1), raising up Cyrus-like figures (Isaiah 45) -- leaders whom you will lead in the interests of your Church and for the blessing of the world. May enemies be stripped of their power and may doors be opened (Isaiah 45:1) so that people might come to a knowledge of the truth (1 Tim 2:1-4) whereby righteousness might flourish and salvation sprout (Isaiah 45:8) in Russia, in Jordan, and in Uzbekistan -- indeed in all the world 'as the waters cover the sea' (Isaiah 11:9, Habakkuk 2:14).

AMEN


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE

Please take any one of the three paragraphs here -- Russia, Jordan or Uzbekistan -- for use in church bulletins and for your prayer focus of the week.

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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; 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