Tuesday, April 22, 2014

RLPB 257. Nigeria: Boko Haram raids Christian enclave; 187 teenage girls still missing from Chibok

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 257 | Wed 23 Apr 2014

NIGERIA: BOKO HARAM RAIDS CHRISTIAN ENCLAVE
-- 187 teenage girls still missing from Chibok, Borno.
PLUS: urgent update on the Battle for Aleppo
By Elizabeth Kendal

On 25 February 2014 Boko Haram militants slaughtered at least 59 teenage boys boarding at the Federal Government College in Buni Yadi, Yobe State, Nigeria. After rounding up the female students, the militants sent them off with orders to abandon their education and get married [See RLPB 249 Feb Update]. According to Morning Star News, in a subsequent video released on March 23, Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau threatened to kidnap schoolgirls. Escalating violence across Borno had already forced the temporary closure of the state's 85 secondary schools.

At 11pm on Sunday 13 April, Boko Haram militants invaded the Christian enclave of Chibok in the south of Borno State. After looting and burning shops and homes, the militants attacked the local Government Girls Secondary School where some 300 girls aged between 16 and 18 were sleeping, having come to sit for a physics exam. The attack, which lasted until 4am Monday, culminated in the abduction of around 270 girls, some of whom managed to escape as they were being sped away in open trucks. The Rev Titus Pona, chairman of Borno State Chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) told Morning Star News most of the kidnapped girls were members of the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria (EYN). Christians in Borno are at a loss to explain how such violence and terrorism can continue with impunity in a state under emergency rule.

When Borno governor Kashim Shettima later visited Chibok, parents presented him with a list of 234 names of missing girls. Distressed and frustrated from lack of action, parents and volunteers formed a search party on Maundy Thursday (17 April) and set off on some 1500 motorcycles to storm Sambisa forest where it is believed Boko Haram is hiding and where it is presumed the girls are being held captive. Deep in the forest they found makeshift camps and met people who claimed to have seen their daughters. Eventually they came across a man who confirmed that the base camp was near, but warned them that the militants were heavily armed and would not hesitate to kill. Without military back-up, there was nothing the parents and volunteers could do. Returning to Chibok empty-handed, they appealed to Governor Shettima to deploy security forces and rescue the girls.

On Easter Saturday (19 April) Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau released a video in which he claimed responsibility for the 14 April terror attack at the Nyanya Motor Park in the national capital, Abuja, which claimed at least 75 lives and left over 120 wounded. He said the bombing was a 'tiny incident' compared with what was coming. Chuckling and tapping his chest, he said, 'This is me, Abubakar Shekau whose turban you don't like seeing; whose armoured shirt you so much hate; this is my usual gun with which I kill. Get more annoyed, because I am still here; yes, I am the Shekau that does not like Christians, and I don't like Muslims that relate with Christians. We have been commanded by Allah not to associate with infidels because they cannot be trusted until they accept your religion. So you cannot say you are a believer and then go and follow democracy; we cannot allow you to ridicule the religion of God; never!' [See Qur'an, Suras 3:118 & 5:57]

On Easter Sunday (20 April) the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Borno state chapter, announced three days of prayer and fasting for the immediate release of the abducted schoolgirls. On Tuesday 22 April, parents confirmed that more than 40 girls had escaped and 187 were still missing. Grave concerns are held for the girls' welfare as they are doubtless being used as human shields and possibly also as wives or slave-girls/possessions with whom sexual relations are lawful according to Islam [Qur'an Sura 23:1-7].  Please pray!

The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit. (James 5:16b-18 ESV)

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT OUR FAITHFUL GOD WILL --

* protect and sustain the captive girls spiritually, emotionally and physically, and give special grace to those who know him so they will encourage, care for and witness to the girls who do not. May God be glorified!

* open the way for the girls to be liberated and reunited with their families. May God be glorified!

* call to account Boko Haram's wicked, arrogant leader Abubakar Shekau [see Psalm 10]; may Boko Haram become leaderless and the militants be beset with confusion.

* cause Nigeria's Muslim masses to reject violence and intolerance, and may the wisdom and beauty of the Gospel of Jesus Christ be evident to all. May Christ build his Church and may God be glorified!

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Update SYRIA: THE BATTLE FOR ALEPPO

With the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) ascendant in the south, the rebels are escalating their attacks in the north -- seizing Kessab (see RLPB 253) and escalating the Battle for Aleppo. Christians in Aleppo are again facing siege conditions as rebels advance, cutting supplies to government-held areas and leaving Christians without food, water and electricity. By Maundy Thursday (17 April) one Christian pastor in Aleppo was expressing his fear that the Battle for Aleppo would result in the Christian quarter being overrun by Islamists. This pastor was so concerned for people's safety that he chose not to advertise Easter services. However, on Good Friday some 100 people braved the rockets and mortars to come to his church telling the pastor, 'We would rather die worshipping in our church than sitting in our homes.' A local doctor told World Magazine reporter Mindy Belz that the endless bombing and rocket fire has felt 'like an earthquake'. Dozens have been killed. By Easter Sunday the SAA had reportedly regained control of al-Ramouseh road, restoring some supplies. The fighting continues and the trauma is profound, as is the danger. Pray that the Lord of Hosts will protect and provide for his faithful people in Aleppo. May God bring peace to Syria.

ALSO: At the behest of Saudi Arabia (the world's leading sponsor of international terrorism) the US is now supplying sophisticated armour-piercing weapons to the 'good' and 'moderate' rebels, despite the fact that the Free Syrian Army openly aligns with the al-Qaeda linked al-Nusrah Front and routinely stages joint operations with their 'brothers in Islam', including against Christian communities. The US is so committed to regime change in Damascus that it seems not to care about costs or consequences. Pray that God will thwart every wicked scheme that threatens his precious children.

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SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE

EASTER TRAUMA IN NIGERIA & SYRIA

Easter was a time of great distress for the parents of 187 teenage girls kidnapped by Boko Haram militants from the Christian enclave of Chibok, in Nigeria's Borno State. On 17 April parents and volunteers on some 1500 motorcycles found the militants deep in the Sambisa forest but without military backing there was nothing they could do. Weeks have passed since the mass abduction and the girls still have not been rescued. Pray that God will liberate these girls. Meanwhile, in Syria, the Battle for Aleppo has intensified. The Syrian Army is fighting rebels who are attempting to invade Christian areas. Shaken by rockets and bombs, traumatised and besieged Christians have been without food, water and medical supplies for weeks. Please pray for the Church in Aleppo.

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Elizabeth Kendal is the author of
Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah speaks to Christians today
(Deror Books, Dec 2012)

Monday, April 14, 2014

RLPB 256. Persecuted because of the Cross

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 256 | Wed 16 Apr 2014

PERSECUTED BECAUSE OF THE CROSS

By Elizabeth Kendal

To those who believe that Jesus of Nazareth was a mere man, the Cross is a symbol of Christian foolishness (1 Corinthians 1:18). 'Jesus was executed,' they scoff, 'and it is ridiculous to suggest that a dead man would rise.'

To Muslims, who believe that Jesus was a mere prophet of Allah, the Cross is a symbol of Christian blasphemy. 'Jesus was never crucified,' they object, 'and it is blasphemous to suggest that Allah would permit such a thing.' (Qur'an, Sura 4:157-159)

To Satan, who knows exactly who Christ is, the Cross is a symbol of his defeat. 'It must not be seen,' he demands, 'and it must not be heard, lest people come to understand what it means.'

To Christians, who believe that Jesus is the Christ (the Messiah), the Cross is a symbol of everything we believe about sin, judgment, justice, redemption, salvation, hope . . . and most of all, love.  'It is in the Cross that God shows his love for us,' we say, 'because while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.' (Romans 5:8)

On 4 November 2013, as part of Australia's 'Festival of Dangerous Ideas', an episode of the ABC program 'Q&A' was broadcast from the Sydney Opera House. [Click here for video and transcript.] Peter Hitchens, the lone conservative and Christian amongst a panel and audience of 'progressives', was laughed at, mocked and pilloried for an hour. Finally the panellists were asked: 'Which so-called dangerous idea do you each think would have the greatest potential to change the world for the better if it were implemented?'

Peter Hitchens responded, 'The most dangerous idea in human history and philosophy remains the belief that Jesus Christ was the Son of God and rose from the dead and that is the most dangerous idea you will ever encounter.'

The panel and audience laughed and cheered until they realised that something must be wrong if they were agreeing with Peter Hitchens! At that point, confusion took over and Peter was asked to explain. 'Because,' he said, 'it alters the whole of human behaviour and all our responsibilities. It turns the universe from a meaningless chaos into a designed place in which there is justice and there is hope and, therefore, we all have a duty to discover the nature of that justice and work towards that hope. It alters us all. If we reject it, it alters us all as well. It is incredibly dangerous. It's why so many people turn against it.'

To fallen humanity, the Cross represents a truly dangerous idea, a dangerous choice. For some the Cross represents a threat to their personal sovereignty, sexual freedom and status in the world. For those in hostile environments the Cross represents a threat to their family, liberty and even life. Across the world, including Kosovo, Egypt, Raqqa (Syria) and Zhejiang (China), crosses have been pulled down and smashed, sending a loud message to the Church and the local population that 'Christianity is not welcome here'.

The Cross will always be a symbol of persecution at the hands of a hostile world that wants to be rid of Christ. But for those who understand and believe, the Cross will always be wondrous, a symbol of divine love, hope and life in all its fullness.

WE THANK YOU LORD
for your amazing love, which led you to the Cross for us.

WE PRAISE YOU LORD
for your perfection, which meant death could not hold you and now cannot hold any who are 'in Christ'.

MAY WE never be ashamed of the Cross of Christ our Saviour.

MAY WE never be ashamed of those who are persecuted because of the Cross of Christ.

LORD GIVE US boldness and faith to exalt your Cross at all times so that peoples and nations might see, hear, understand and believe.

AMEN


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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The Cross of Christ is the most obvious and enduring of all Christian symbols. Satan cannot abide the Cross for it symbolises his defeat. Fallen humanity hates the Cross because it threatens personal autonomy, sexual freedom, power and all that fallen humanity holds dear. In many parts of the world today the Cross is under attack and Christians are suffering persecution because of the Cross of Christ. In Kosovo, Egypt, Raqqa (Syria), Wenzhou (China) and beyond, crosses have been pulled down and smashed to send a loud message to the Church and the local population that 'Christianity is not welcome here'. But for Christians, the Cross will remain a symbol of all we believe and hold dear. The spiritual battle continues -- please pray for the persecuted Church this Easter.

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Elizabeth Kendal is the author of
Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah speaks to Christians today
(Deror Books, Dec 2012)