Tuesday, December 18, 2012

RLPB 190. Christmas heralds hope for the world

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 190 | Wed 19 Dec 2012

CHRISTMAS HERALDS HOPE FOR THE WORLD

By Elizabeth Kendal 

We are 12 years into the 21st Century; 64 years on from the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; 23 years past the fall of Communism in Europe and the end of the Cold War. Yet the world is not a safer place, especially for Christians. For while positives have progressed, so too have negatives. And while proud, self-sufficient humanity likes to congratulate itself on the positives, it is not very good at tackling the negatives. For decades now, dangerous religious nationalism has been building in post-colonial emerging democracies such as Sri Lanka, and especially India. It is 33 years since the successful Shi'ite Revolution in Iran and the failed Sunni Revolution in Saudi Arabia triggered the Saudi-funded global expansion of Sunni Islamic fundamentalism, which is pro-Sharia, pro-jihad, supremacist, imperialist and intolerant.

Yet these past decades have been decades of phenomenal Church growth, specifically throughout the non-Western world. In 1960 the Church was predominantly white, Western and middle-class. Today the Church is some 80 percent coloured, non-Western and poor. These Christians -- who include many converts -- live as counter-cultural, vulnerable religious minorities in increasingly hostile environments in states with poor human rights records. Yet their numbers still increase as the Church continues to grow despite everything the devil throws at it. And that brings us to the key issue: the escalating persecution we are witnessing is Satan's response to Church growth. 'For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.' (Ephesians 6:12 ESV.) Satan is fighting back as should be expected. So how should we respond to this? We are to respond with endurance (Hebrews 10:35-39), prevailing prayer (Ephesians 6:18) and steadfast faith (Isaiah 30:15) in the one who secured our victory by means of the cross.

This year multitudes of Christians will be celebrating Christmas behind barricades and with armed guards to prevent terror attacks and mob violence. Those of us who are accustomed to worshipping in freedom can hardly imagine such a scenario. This year the Indonesian government will heighten security 'in seven areas believed to be prime targets for terrorist attacks ahead of the Christmas and New Year celebrations'. The areas which will receive special attention are East Java, Central Java, Jakarta, North Sumatra, Central Sulawesi, Bali and Maluku. From 23 December 2012 to 1 January 2013 'police will heighten security at the 38,499 registered churches across Indonesia' (Jakarta Globe). Instead of celebrating Christmas outdoors as they like to do, most Christians across northern Nigeria will remain inside their churches, behind the barricades and armed guards. The general secretary of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Rev. Musa Asake, expressed anxiety about the prospect of Christmas bombings and appealed through CBS News for Christians to pray that 'the Lord will intervene to protect churches'.

One of Iraq's leading Shi'ite clerics, Ayatollah Ahmad Al Hassani Al Baghdadi is currently in Syria, supporting the jihad against Assad. He has just issued a fatwa labelling Iraqi Christians as 'polytheists' [because they worship a trinity] and 'friends of the Zionists'. He has decreed they must choose 'Islam or death' and that 'their women and girls may legitimately be regarded wives of Muslims'. This fatwa may well increase the likelihood of a terror attack against Iraqi Christians this Christmas. Also it is difficult to imagine that foreign jihadis in Syria will let Christians gather and celebrate Christmas in peace and with security when their intention is to eradicate Christianity from the whole Middle East. In totalitarian states such as Eritrea, Algeria and all through Asia, Christians worshipping in unregistered ('illegal') house fellowships will worship, as usual, at risk of arrest. Christians in Pakistan, Egypt, Sudan, Maldives and India will also worship at great risk, while Christians in Somalia, Afghanistan and North Korea will worship in total secret and near silence.

But worship and celebrate we all will, for we celebrate the coming of the one who changes everything: Jesus Christ, son of David, Son of God. He came to redeem his people and establish his Church. What started with a band of disciples -- most of whom were martyred -- he has built into a Church that is hundreds-of-millions-strong. What is more, he is building still and Satan, though he fight with 'the energy of despair', cannot stop him. Though this relentless battle leaves us weary, Christ is resilient. Though we bruise like fragile reeds and fade like spent lanterns, the promise is that Jesus Christ, the Lord of Hosts, will not grow faint or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth (from Isaiah 42:3,4). The one whose coming we celebrate at Christmas is the one who in grace gives strength to those who will trust him, that the battle might be turned back. He is the one in whom we hope. Yes, Christmas is worth celebrating, for Christmas heralds hope for the world.

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A CHRISTMAS PRAYER FOR IMPERILLED CHRISTIANS
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As we lift our hearts and hands to the God of all Creation,
we confess that our hearts are heavy with anxiety for our persecuted fellow believers;
we confess that our hands are empty for there is nothing material that we could offer that could stop the violence.


But come we do, because we know that while we are limited, you our God are not; for you are the Almighty living God (Psalm 77:10-13) and nothing is impossible for you (Luke 1:37). Indeed you are willing and able to do abundantly more than we could ask or even imagine (Ephesians 3:20).
 

We come because we know that you love us with an everlasting love; that you speak, work and rule in our interests; and that you are 'for us' (Psalm 56:9) and one with us (Romans 6:5), having been given to us (the Church) as our head (Ephesians 2:22).

And so we cry to you:
May the Lord of hosts himself guard his churches and secret fellowships this Christmas.
May the Holy Spirit draw all imperilled believers into prayer, trusting that you will answer as soon as you hear it (Isaiah 30:19).
May the name of Jesus Christ be exalted throughout all the nations with songs of praise, of glory to the Righteous One (Isaiah 24:16).


AMEN 


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

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

RLPB 189. Christmas in the free West

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 189 | Wed 12 Dec 2012

CHRISTMAS IN THE FREE WEST
-- where repression looms as God is forgotten
By Elizabeth Kendal 

Secularism essentially mandates the separation of Church and State. It ensures that the Church does not rule over the State (as happened when Popes ruled over states in the Middle Ages) and the State does not rule over the Church (as happens in totalitarian states even today). Traditionally secularism mandates openness wherein all views can be explored and tested in liberty and with security. Movements that seek to eradicate Christianity from the public square are usually driven by cultural totalitarians seeking to remove something they despise and recognise as a threat. Religious repression in the West is mostly led by atheistic humanists who are embarrassed by, ashamed of, or in denial about the West's Christian foundations and heritage. The aggression and shrillness of this intolerant and repressive 'new secularism' leaves many Christians shocked and intimidated. What is required though is courage and conviction: not to cling to tradition; but to assert confidently the value of those Biblical truths that make Judaeo-Christian culture truly great.

In Sweden, whilst public schools are by law non-confessional, Advent services are part of the compulsory curriculum. In an effort to balance Sweden's Christian cultural tradition with the 'new secularism', the government has ruled that Advent services be held -- for the sake of tradition -- but without prayers or any mention of Jesus -- in deference to 'new secularism'.  Because there is as yet no law regulating what a pastor can say inside his own church, the school principal will bear the responsibility. Consequently, if the pastor will not consent to presenting a prayer-less and Christ-less Christmas, the principal must decide not to have the compulsory Advent service in the church.

Last year the Scottish government promoted a 'Winter Festival' program, highlighting the main events of the Scottish winter -- Christmas was not included. In January 2011 the European Union (EU) Commission issued three million secondary school diaries which detailed Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Jewish, Chinese festivities and Europe Day, yet made no reference to Christmas or Easter. Responding to complaints, an EU Commission spokesman said that in the interests of political correctness, future school diaries would make no references to any religious festivals.

Unless there is a return to the Lord, Western civilisation as we know it will perish -- a consequence of forgetting the Lord (Deuteronomy 8:11-20). 'And if you forget the LORD your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish. (v19)' Actually, it would be good to see a spiritual struggle for Europe, for at present Europe is in fact surrendering, ashamed of its own Christian foundations and heritage. Should the West continue down this path, it will reap cultural collapse and chaos, to be countered through desperate totalitarianism and appeasement of the most belligerent. Indeed, the process has already begun. The West urgently needs revival. (See: Not Ashamed)

'For whoever is ashamed of me [Jesus Christ] and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.' (Luke 9:26 ESV)

'So everyone who acknowledges me [Jesus Christ] before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.' (Matthew 10:32,33 ESV)



PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL --

* use this Christmas season and even the 'new secularist' opposition to acknowledging Jesus Christ:
  •  to impassion Western believers, infusing them with a fresh realisation of what they are celebrating, whom they are celebrating and why all this is worth celebrating.  
  •  to awaken Westerners to what they will lose if they do not 'wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die . . .' (from Revelation 3:1-6 ESV)
* in his grace and mercy bless the West with revival, so that Christians might overflow with passion, zeal and boldness to declare, despite hostility and in the face of opposition, '. . . I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes . . .' (from Romans 1:16 ESV)

* accept as an offering the risky, counter-cultural gospel witness of his faithful ones, blessing it and using it as seed for revival and to bring many who are new to the West to faith in Jesus Christ.


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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CHRISTMAS IN THE FREE WEST

Whilst public schools in Sweden are by law non-confessional, Advent services are part of the compulsory curriculum. This year, however, the government has ruled that, though the Advent services are still compulsory, in public schools they must be Christ-less and prayer-less, to try to balance Sweden's Christian cultural tradition with the 'new secularism'.  Last year the Scottish government promoted all Scotland's winter festivals except Christmas. This year the European Union Commission published three million secondary school diaries that detailed the feasts, festivals and holidays of all faiths except Christianity, even omitting Christmas and Easter. The West has forgotten the Lord. Revival and returning to him are urgent or else anti-Christian repression, intolerance and hostility will only escalate.  Please pray for a Christmas awakening in the West.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Announcing: Turn Back the Battle


Elizabeth Kendal's book, Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah speaks to Christians today, is now available on Amazon.

Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today
By Elizabeth Kendal
(Deror Books, 6 Dec 2012)

A website by the same name, Turn Back the Battle, will be up and running shortly.

A Kindle version of the book should be available by the end of the month.

There will be an Australian launch early next year, from which point the book will also be available through Australian Christian booksellers such as Koorong Books, United Christian Broadcasters (UCB) and others.

This book is an offering to the Lord. Please pray that God will take it and use it for the benefit of his Church and the glory of his name.

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The product of nearly four years' labour, Turn Back the Battle arises out of Elizabeth Kendal's passionate interest in and growing concern for how persecuted Christians and their advocates respond to suffering, persecution and existential threat. The book is informed by Elizabeth's nearly15 years of service in the cause of international religious liberty and the persecuted Church.

In Turn Back the Battle, Kendal brings Isaiah 1 - 39 to life and applies it to the 21st Century Church. She juxtaposes Judah's situation in the latter part of the 8th Century BC with our own. For like our own times, the times in which Isaiah lived were times of immense regional volatility, soaring geo-political tensions and gross insecurity. Twice, Judah was invaded by hostile forces threatening occupation, regime change, death and captivity. Indeed it is the politically and militarily-charged context that makes Isaiah's call to trust the Lord so profoundly radical, incredibly challenging and hard to swallow.

But in Isaiah 7 - 39, God gives us not only theory, but precedent. For not only does he commission a prophet to instruct God's people on how they should respond to insecurity and existential threat, he provides a typological drama that illustrates the word and proves the point that God is alive and active in history. Through the historic narrative, which commences in 735 BC with the faithless King Ahaz and the Syro-Ephraimite war and concludes with King Hezekiah and the Assyrian invasion of 701 BC, God illustrates, consolidates and demonstrates everything Isaiah says through his advocacy and his oracles.  

Each chapter concludes with a page of questions for personal contemplation or group discussion, as well as a carefully crafted prayer that applies the key lessons of the chapter.

A few selected quotes from the book:

In these darkening days of escalating persecution and insecurity, the church would do well to remember that real prayer is not only a critical and strategic element of the spiritual battle, real prayer is the highest form of advocacy and God’s ordained means of unleashing the forces of heaven. (From chapter 5)

When Isaiah approached the political powers in Jerusalem, he always did so as Yahweh’s ambassador, as Yahweh’s prophet, and never in the manner of a union representative. Isaiah presented Jerusalem’s political powerbrokers with the clear and simple word of God. He invested no faith in kings or political players per se. Neither did he invest faith in the power of weapons or funds or influence or projects that these political powerbrokers had at their disposal. His faith was in the Lord alone. (From chapter 8)

Christians have a freedom the world can only dream of. Because our God is the living, loving, sovereign, saving and eternally faithful God, the Christian is never condemned to fate. Jerusalem was doomed before Hezekiah prayed. But Hezekiah’s prayer changed everything. Hezekiah’s prayer marks the moment the crown of the Lord of Hosts was put on and the battle was turned back at the gate (28:6). (From chapter 11)

Selected quotes from selected endorsements:

In 'Turn Back the Battle' Isaiah's message comes through loud and clear. . . The lesson to be drawn for Christian work is not to rely on compromised human institutions to bring justice and freedom to a beleaguered humanity but to rely on God alone.
– Michael Nazir-Ali, former Bishop of Rochester and Director of the Oxford Centre for Training, Research, Advocacy and Dialogue

. . . Elizabeth Kendal puts the current awful outpouring of violence, aggression and terrorism against the Body of Christ in its biblical context. She shines the light of God's Word onto the pain, the anguish and the disdain that God's people suffer. This book will reinforce your confidence in God's commitment to liberate his people. It explains why we need to focus on him in our darkest hour . . .
– Timothy O. Olonade, Executive Secretary and CEO, Nigeria Evangelical Missions Association

'Turn Back the Battle' is a timely antidote against the belief that more activism . . . can substantially change the situation of persecuted Christians. Elizabeth Kendal's very readable book applies the message of Isaiah to believers today, to show that our faith must be in God alone, and our focus on obeying him before anything else. . .
– Jos M. Strengholt, Anglican priest in Cairo, Egypt

In this superbly written book, Elizabeth Kendal shows how the wisdom of the prophet Isaiah can equip today's Christians. It serves as a wake-up call for believers tempted by the attractions of an increasingly God-less world, and Christians living under oppression will draw great inspiration from it.
– Peter Riddell, Vice-Principal (Academic), and Dean of the Centre for the Study of Islam and Other Faiths, Melbourne School of Theology

'Turn Back the Battle' is an outstandingly insightful book which exposes global threats to Christian faith, religious liberty and human rights. As the foundation of our civilisation is shaken, and the Church faces life-endangering challenges from within and without, it calls us to ask ourselves in what and in whom do we trust. It proclaims that our ultimate security rests in Christ alone. It invites readers to a radical faith in God. The message of this passionate and prophetically astute book should be heeded by all Christ's faithful witnesses in this the 21st Century.
– Albrecht Hauser, Mission Secretary and Canon of the Evangelical-Lutheran Church in W├╝rttemberg and a Trustee of the Barnabas Fund

Table of Contents:

     Introduction: You will have tribulation        
     John 16:33
1   Who will we trust?            
     Isaiah 2:1–4:6
2   Stand or stumble, the choice is yours         
     Isaiah 7:1–13
3   A paradigm for threatened Christians        
     Isaiah 8:5–17
4   Inquire of the Lord of Hosts                        
     Isaiah 9:13                
5   Forgetting God                                             
     Isaiah 17:1–11 & 28:1–6   
6  Yesterday’s faith is not sufficient for today 
     Isaiah 22:8–11 & 38-39
7   Christian security: not in ‘Man’                    
     Isaiah 22:15–25
8   Christian security: not in the ‘City of Man’    
     Isaiah 24—27
9   Christian security: not in a ‘covenant with death’  
     Isaiah 28:9–22
10 Christian security: not in practical atheism      
     Isaiah 30—31
11 ‘In whom do you now trust?’                    
     Isaiah 36—37
12 Choose this day …                               
     Isaiah 34—35
     Bibliography & Abbreviations

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

RLPB 188. Nigeria: the terror of jihad

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 188 | Wed 05 Dec 2012

NIGERIA: THE TERROR OF JIHAD

By Elizabeth Kendal 

As was reported in RLPB 187 (28 Nov), up to 20 Christians were killed and dozens wounded on Sunday 25 November in a twin suicide bombing at St Andrew's Protestant Church inside the Jaji military barracks in Kaduna. Investigations indicate that the bombers may have been residents of the barracks and might have built the bomb on site, which would explain why they were granted access to the church without being searched. This raises fears that other military establishments could be similarly targeted. That same week Boko Haram gunmen attacked the headquarters of the Police Special Anti-Robbery Squad in Abuja, freeing 30 detainees and killing two policemen. Guards were under strict orders not to shoot. But Nigeria is at war! In Boko Haram's own words (29 November), 'Jihad [holy war] started now, jihad started now, O enemies of Allah.' 

On Saturday night 1 December a band of jihadists attacked Kupwal, a remote village in Chibok Local Government Area (LGA). (That is about 160km south of the Boko Haram stronghold of Maiduguri in Borno, Nigeria's most north-eastern state.) They invaded the Christian district and according to survivors entered 'carefully selected' homes, slitting the throats of the occupants. They then set fire to homes and sacked the whole neighbourhood to chants of 'Allahu Akbar' (Allah is the greatest). [See Qur'an, Sura 7:4 ] At least 10 people were killed whilst dozens escaped with serious and life-threatening injuries. Observers believe Boko Haram was either responsible or at least complicit.

On Sunday morning 2 December, some 50 Islamic gunmen in cars and on motorbikes attacked a police station, immigration and customs offices and three churches in Gamboru Ngala, Ngala LGA. (That is 140km north of Maiduguri, Borno State, near the border with Cameroon.) Before launching their attack, the jihadists destroyed the mobile phone masts to prevent communication and so compound the crisis. With shouts of 'Allahu Akbar' they opened fire on police, killing five. The churches were torched and Christians living and doing business in the border town were targeted. About two weeks earlier, leaflets had been distributed in which the Islamists declared their intention to impose Taliban-style rule, e.g., women were told to wear the veil and cigarettes were banned. A tailor was subsequently shot for continuing to make clothing the Islamists deemed un-Islamic.

In a 30 November column, author and analyst Raymond Ibrahim explained why persecution such as that described above is 'Islam's Achilles' heel'. Persecution committed by dominant Muslims in Muslim communities -- i.e. Muslims who cannot claim to be 'oppressed' or 'aggrieved' -- against vulnerable minority Christians is simply impossible to justify. Such persecution exposes Islam as supremacist, totalitarian, intolerant and imperialistic; as a movement that will not rest until the 'other' is totally subjugated. 'And to Allah prostrates whoever is within the heavens and the earth, willingly or by compulsion, and their shadows [as well] in the mornings and the afternoons.' (Qur'an, Sura 13:15)

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL --

* rise up on behalf of his traumatised and terrorised people and intervene to rout the enemy and deliver his Church.

'And he [King David] said, "The LORD has burst through my enemies [the Philistines] before me like a bursting flood." Therefore the name of that place is called Baal-perazim [the Lord  who bursts  through]' (2 Samuel 5:20b ESV).

* bring healing and comfort to his bleeding, broken and grieving people; may he provide all their needs and make his loving presence felt so as to sustain their sorely-tested faith, that they might be 'more than conquerors through him who loved us' (from Romans 8:31-39 ESV).

* give the Nigerian authorities divine wisdom and insight, strength and commitment that they might excel in their battle against the enemies of the state and the enemies of the LORD.

* re-assure the church in northern Nigeria of his protection who is their 'strong city' (Isaiah 26:1). May the church in the south, and indeed the rest of the world, join this battle by praying for the north (Romans 15:30; 2 Corinthians 1:11).

* bless every Nigerian missionary and every witnessing Nigerian with divine courage and power from the Holy Spirit, for this is first and foremost a spiritual struggle (Ephesians 6:12).


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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THE TERROR OF JIHAD IN NIGERIA

A full-blown Islamic jihad is raging in Nigeria and it is terrifying for the Christians of the north on the front-line. On Saturday evening 1 December jihadists attacked the Christian district of a remote village in Borno State. Entering 'carefully selected' homes, they murdered the occupants before sacking and burning the entire neighbourhood to shouts of 'Allahu Akbar' (Allah is the greatest). Ten were killed whilst dozens fled with serious and life-threatening injuries. On Sunday morning 2 December jihadists attacked another village in Borno close to the Cameroon border. With shouts of 'Allahu Akbar' they opened fire on police, killing five, before torching numerous government facilities and three churches. Only weeks earlier, Christians were threatened with violence if they did not leave the area. Please pray for Nigeria.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

RLPB 187. Nov Update, Incl. Egypt, Eritrea, Sudan and South Sudan, Kenya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Somalia, Zimbabwe

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 187 | Wed 28 Nov 2012

By Elizabeth Kendal

'For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.' (Romans 8:38,39 ESV)

NOVEMBER 2012 UPDATE -- During November we prayed concerning . . . 

* EGYPT (RLPB 184), where Salafis (hard-line fundamentalist Muslims) are kidnapping Coptic girls for forced conversion and marriage to Muslims. Surely this is every Christian parent's and every Christian girl's worst nightmare. Please pray against this evil.

UPDATE: Morning Star News (MSN) reports on another trend of Islamic fundamentalist women wearing niqabs (a black face covering, with only a narrow slit for the eyes) attacking Coptic girls and women on trains. MSN knows of three incidents in the past month. In one attack, a 16-year-old Coptic girl was attacked on her way to school by two niqab-wearing women who cut off her hair. About a week later, a 13-year-old girl was attacked in the same way. Then on 10 November two of these women attacked Nareman Smoul (30) as she was travelling to collect her daughter from an evangelical school. After abusing her as an 'infidel', the Muslim women pushed Nareman to the floor, cut off her hair and then kicked her off the train causing her to break her arm. Of course the criminals cannot be identified because they were wearing niqabs.

* ERITREA (RLPB 185), after another Christian prisoner died in custody. We also prayed for Christians caught up in the refugee-trafficking crisis.

UPDATE: On 21 November Christian Solidarity Worldwide reported that Philemon Semere (22), an practising Christian Eritrean refugee, was abducted by traffickers in Sudan while en route to Israel. Philemon is being held by Bedouin traffickers in one of several purpose-built torture-extortion centres operating with impunity in the Sinai. He is being beaten and tortured by captors who are demanding US$25,000 ransom while threatening to take a kidney from him if the money is not forthcoming. According to CSW, 'When payments are not forthcoming, vital organs are illegally harvested in unhygienic conditions, generally resulting in the death of the person concerned.' Pray that Egypt will be forced to stamp out this obscene criminal activity. (Pray Isaiah 59:15b-19.)

* SUDAN (RLPB 186), where President Omar el-Bashir is waging a genocidal jihad against the predominantly Christian Africans (non-Arabs) of the 'new south' (Abyei, South Kordofan and Blue Nile). This obscene genocide, which employs aerial bombardment, ethnic cleansing, government-engineered famine and denial of humanitarian aid, attracts virtually no international attention. It is quite unbelievable that the international community can stand idly by while this Islamist and racist regime bombs and starves its citizens, killing tens of thousands and displacing hundreds of thousands.  Pray for God himself to intervene directly. (Pray Psalm 10.)

UPDATE: Between 20-22 November the Sudan Air Force bombed civilian targets in South Sudan's northern Bahr El Ghazal State, killing at least seven people. According to Persecution Project, 16 people were killed and many more were wounded. Sudan Tribune reports that thousands of terrified civilians have deserted their villages and are fleeing towards the state capital, Aweil. Whilst Khartoum denies bombing the South (witnessed by Reuters journalists) it has not responded to the South's accusation that Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) troops are massing along the border near Raja in Raja County in Western Bahr el Ghazal. The SAF may well be ethnically cleansing the area ahead of a military incursion aimed at capturing it. South Sudan's army is on high alert.

NOVEMBER 2012 ROUND-UP -- also this month . . .

* KENYA: TERROR ESCALATES

On Sunday 4 November Islamic militants launched a grenade at 10 am into the church in the Administrative Police compound in Garissa. The grenade hit Chaplain Julius Mukonzi in the head, exploding and killing him instantly. Eleven others were injured, three critically. Police suspect militants from Somalia's al-Shabaab are responsible. Morning Star News reports: 'The Garissa Pastors Fellowship released a statement saying that more than 20 Christians in the city have recently lost their lives to Islamic terrorist attacks.' On Sunday 18 November a bomb filled with ball-bearings exploded on a bus in Eastleigh, the commercial centre of Nairobi's ethnic Somali population, killing nine. Almost immediately ethnic Kenyans were rioting, attacking ethnic Somalis in the street, accusing them of being aligned with al-Shabaab. Security is deteriorating and tensions are soaring.

* NIGERIA

KADUNA: TWIN CHURCH BOMBING KILLS ELEVEN
On Sunday 25 November a bus and car drove into the Jaji military barracks in Kaduna, after convincing the guards they were conveying equipment to the church. The bus drove up to the wall of St Andrews Protestant Church and exploded just as the service was ending; there were no casualties. Ten minutes later, however, as worshippers gathered around the bombed-out bus, the car exploded nearby, killing at least 11 people (possibly as many as 20) with some 60 wounded. The church, which serves military personnel and their families as well as civilians in Jaji, is about 40km north of Kaduna City. Morning Star News adds that Rev. Titus Sambo and Israel Olaleye, both students at the Baptist Theological Seminary in Kaduna, were amongst those killed.

KANO: A MISPRONUNCIATION LEADS TO RIOTS
On 22 November an Igbo tailor working in the town of Bichi near Kano in the north, mispronounced the Hausa name for a popular garment. [Igbos are southerners and mostly Christian.] The Hausa [northern Muslims] who heard it were incensed and rioted claiming it was a blasphemy. The Igbo tailor was macheted to death and then seven churches, eight businesses and a house were torched.

* PAKISTAN: ACCUSED OF BLASPHEMY WHILE PREACHING

Morning Star News reported on 9 November that Karma Patras (55), an evangelist from Nankana District in Punjab Province, has been languishing in prison since his arrest on 13 October over a gospel message that offended Muslims. Patras was addressing a Christian funeral gathering when some Muslims in attendance objected to his reference to the sacrificial death of Christ. [Islam not only maintains that Jesus was not crucified, it states that Jesus, when he returns, will wage war against those who say he was.  Quran, Sura 4:157-159] Patras narrowly escaped being beaten but was arrested at his home later that day. A Muslim mob subsequently besieged the Sangla Hill Police Station, demanding that Patras be turned over to them so they could lynch him. However, Patras had already been transferred out of the area. Due to death threats, Patras' extended family, which includes many children, has been forced to flee.

* SOMALIA: YET ANOTHER MARTYR

On Friday 16 November Al-Shabaab militants publicly beheaded Farhan Haji Mose (25) after accusing him of being a spy and leaving Islam to embrace the 'foreign religion of Christianity'. According to Morning Star News, Mose had converted to Christianity in 2010 during time spent in Kenya. Pray for the church in Somalia.

*  ZIMBABWE: GOD BREAKS THROUGH

Harare's Anglicans returned to their churches on Sunday 25 November after the Supreme Court ruled that the excommunicated pro-Mugabe bishop Nolbert Kunonga, who had seized control of the properties by force some five years ago, must return the properties to the Anglican Church. Anglican spokesman Mr Precious Shumba said they had not met any resistance from most priests aligned to Kunonga. Some renegade priests even expressed repentance and have sought re-integration into the Anglican Church. This will require a process of truth, reconciliation, re-education and re-commitment. Kunonga had incurred bills amounting to some $300,000.  The legitimate Bishop of Harare, Bishop Chad Gandiya, praised God for this breakthrough.
Let us also give thanks!
For background, details and updates see:
'Zimbabwe: let justice roll on'
Religious Liberty Monitoring, 20 Nov 2012.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

RLPB 186. Sudan: who cares about genocide?

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 186 | Wed 21 Nov 2012

SUDAN: WHO CARES ABOUT GENOCIDE?

By Elizabeth Kendal 

Sudan has been shattered, impoverished and torn apart by systematic racial hatred and religious intolerance. The Islamist, Arab-supremacist regime of President Gen. Omar el-Bashir has little concern for 'infidels' and 'blacks', especially those who oppose and resist Islamisation and Arabisation.

The 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that ended Sudan's civil war mandated that, if South Sudan seceded, the three disputed border regions of Abyei, South Kordofan and Blue Nile would each have the right to a referendum to determine whether they would be part of Sudan or South Sudan. Though geographically linked into the north (Abyei less so), they are culturally and politically aligned with the South because they are predominantly non-Arab and non-Muslim. The regime in Khartoum desperately wants the oil reserves in Abyei and South Kordofan and the water of Blue Nile. What it does not want is the oppositional 'infidels' and 'blacks' who live there to exercise their right to self-determination. Bashir launched his jihad before the secession even took place. Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) ethnically cleansed and occupied Abyei in May 2011. For this crime, Bashir was rewarded with impunity; even UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon refused to call it ethnic cleansing on the grounds that the people might return.

Emboldened, Bashir expanded his jihad into South Kordofan. In early June 2011 SAF-allied Arab militias invaded Kadugli, the capital, having been instructed to 'sweep away the rubbish' (i.e. the Nuba, the 'blacks'). After weeks of terror on the ground in which tens of thousands were killed, the aerial bombardment began. Hundreds of thousands of predominantly Christian Africans were displaced as homes and farms were bombed. Again, Bashir was rewarded with impunity. Further emboldened, he expanded his jihad into Blue Nile. By means of massive population displacement along with systematic destruction of crops and denial of humanitarian aid, the regime is effecting a final solution: the elimination of oppositional 'infidels' and 'blacks' from the resource-rich 'new south'. [When the genocide is complete, Bashir will doubtless organise referendums to be lauded by the West as evidence of his transition to democracy!]

According to the anti-genocide Enough Project, 81.5 percent of families in the Nuba Mountains survive on one meal a day and three percent are classed as having Severe Acute Malnutrition, meaning in the absence of medical intervention they will soon die.  These statistics are moving upwards. Local church groups are struggling just to keep the population alive. Agreements concerning humanitarian aid have been signed but never implemented. Why is this behaviour of Khartoum tolerated? Furthermore, refugee camps just over the border in Unity and Upper Nile states, South Sudan, are struggling greatly to host more than 200,000 refugees. Driven by starvation in the displacement camps, some Dinka Ngok have recently returned to Abyei only to find that everything has been destroyed, even their boreholes.

As reported by Christian media agency Morning Star News (MSN), aerial bombardment of Christian towns across South Kordofan has increased considerably over the past month. MSN cites NubaReports, a network of local citizen journalists committed to providing credible coverage of the atrocities being committed against the Nuba in South Kordofan. It was established by an American aid worker who remained when his Christian aid organisation was forced to evacuate. The reports are shocking and include lists of towns bombed in recent weeks, along with names and ages of victims. Due to the absence of medical aid, many of the injured will ultimately die from infection.

Why is the 'International Community' so indifferent to this genocide? Is it because the victims are predominantly Christians and Christian deaths are less economically and strategically significant as they do not increase the risk of regional sectarian war? Why is the media not interested? Is it because the media is only interested in those conflicts from which they can get sensational ratings-boosting live coverage? Is a double-barrelled racism in play: the victims are black, diminishing interest; the perpetrators are Arab-Muslims, diminishing expectation? But the West, if it is to claim any morality, must care about African genocides and demand more from Arab Muslims. One major problem is that the US and much of the West have 'de-coupled' Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile from Sudan policy. This means 'engagement' with Sudan can proceed without reference to these crises. However,  if the West keeps treating Sudan's threatened non-Muslims and non-Arabs as if they do not exist, then it will not be long before they actually do not exist! So much for 'never again'!


For a 5.46 minute film by NubaReports, on the government-engineered famine stalking South Kordofan: see here: A Hidden Hunger.

Prayer for Sudan: Psalm 10

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL --

* arise and lift up his hand (Psalm 10:12) and intervene for his threatened people, bringing the wicked el-Bashir and his evil regime to account (v15) so that the righteous might be spared and the wicked might 'terrify no more' (v18).

* fan into flame the faith of his people, so that they will look to the LORD for all things, trusting in him and witnessing his provision and deliverance.  '. . . a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice.' (Isaiah 42:3 ESV)

* stir up moral indignation and courage so that the West will act against this evil regime according to the will and directions of the Lord of Hosts.

* fire up brotherly love and spiritual fervour in the Church, so that Christians will not rest from intercession until God intervenes and brings peace. 


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SUDAN: WHO CARES ABOUT GENOCIDE?


Sudanese president Omar el-Bashir's genocidal jihad continues unabated against the non-Muslims and non-Arabs in the 'new south' of Abyei, South Kordofan and Blue Nile. The Islamist, Arab-supremacist regime in Khartoum wants the oil and water in its 'new south' but it just does not want the 'infidels' and 'blacks' who live there defiantly opposing Islamisation and demanding basic human rights. According to NubaReports, aerial bombardment of Christian towns has escalated in recent weeks, famine is spreading and there is still no humanitarian aid. The most shameful thing in all this is the indifference of the West. Why does the 'International Community' -- especially the 'moral' West -- not care about this genocide? The Church must care! Please pray for God to intervene in Sudan. Pray Psalm 10.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

RLPB 185. Eritrea: Christian prisoners and refugees suffering unimaginably

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 185 | Wed 14 Nov 2012

ERITREA: CHRISTIAN PRISONERS & REFUGEES SUFFERING UNIMAGINABLY

By Elizabeth Kendal

Eritrea, in the Horn of Africa on the Red Sea coast, has one of the most brutally repressive dictatorships in the world. The population is equally divided between Christians (90 percent Eritrean Orthodox) who live mostly in the highlands and Muslims who live mostly in the coastal lowlands. Eritrea won its independence from Ethiopia in 1991 and Isayas Afewerki has been the president since independence was declared and internationally recognised in 1993. In 2001, in the wake of a two-year border war with Ethiopia (1998-2000), Afewerki began cracking down hard on anything that could be viewed as a threat to national unity. He cancelled elections and closed all independent media. Opposition figures -- politicians, activists and journalists -- were removed, mostly to underground 'secret prisons' for the 'disappeared'.

In May 2002, reportedly at the behest of the Eritrean Orthodox Church (EOC), the government began cracking down on 'foreign' and 'non-traditional' religion. A Biblical revival and renewal movement had exploded within the EOC. While some priests accommodated or even embraced the movement, others resisted, forcing those desiring a more evangelical Christianity to leave the EOC for Protestant fellowships. The exodus has caused great angst in the hierarchy of the EOC. Now only state-sanctioned Muslim, Eritrean Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Mekane Yesus (Evangelical Lutheran) denominations are legal and worshipping in a Protestant fellowship is a criminal offence. However, by mid-2005 the authorities were oppressing the EOC as well, specifically those EOC priests supportive of the renewal movement and protesting religious persecution. When EOC head, Patriarch Abune Antonios, complained about the persecution of his priests, Afewerki had him deposed, placed under house arrest and replaced with a government administrator.

By the end of 2010 an estimated 3000 Eritrean Christians of all denominations (mostly Protestant) were incarcerated purely for their faith; today the number is estimated at around 1500. Whilst most prisoners are held in shipping containers in desert camps, some are kept in underground cells. The conditions are inhumane: children and the elderly are amongst the prisoners sharing skin diseases, dysentery and other horrors in confined, unventilated spaces. Torture is routine. An Amnesty International report published in May 2004 details the tortures suffered by Christian prisoners.Several Christians have died in custody and others have perished in the desert trying to escape.

Because Eritrea has no independent media, news of persecution is difficult to obtain for it must be leaked at great personal risk. Open Doors (OD) reports that on 30 October a Christian by the name of Adris Ali Mohammed (31), a Muslim convert from the town of Tesenai, died in custody. Adris had spent almost two years in a suffocating dungeon located in Eritrea's Aderset Military Camp, where some 100 Christians are believed to be detained. According to sources, Adris had stood firm through two years of terrible suffering and systematic torture aimed at forcing him to renounce his faith. According to OD, 'Military officials secretly buried Adris outside the camp.'

The repression has created a refugee crisis with many Christians amongst them. In July The Guardian reported that the Eritrea military runs a business kidnapping Eritrean refugees out of refugee camps in Sudan and trafficking them into the Sinai where they are sold to Bedouin gangs 'who use starvation, electrocution, rape and murder to extort up to $40,000 from relatives in the Eritrean diaspora for their release'. (See also NYT, 31 Oct 2012, for horrific details.) According to Strategic Policy magazine (4, 2012) Maj-Gen. Tekle 'Manjus' Kiflai has been identified as the 'co-ordinator of the human smuggling operation' which reportedly serves as 'a major revenue source for the PFDJ', the ruling People's Front for Democracy and Justice. This very powerful Maj-Gen. Tekle, an ethnic 'Christian', is rumoured to be a possible successor to Afewerki. Eritrea also funds, arms and trains anti-Ethiopian forces across the region, as well as rebels fighting against the Government of South Sudan.

But change is looming. For many years Afewerki had been funded and propped up by Gadhafi (Libya) and Mubarak (Egypt). With these two backers now removed, Eritrea's principal ally is US-allied, Islamist Qatar which is fully occupied trying to orchestrate regime change in Damascus, Syria. Furthermore, Afewerki is so unwell that when he disappeared in March, rumours circulated that he had died. Eventually he quelled those rumours by making an appearance on State TV on 29 April. Afewerki allegedly has a liver complaint for which he has received medical treatment in Qatar. Whilst Eritrea is ripe for change, the rot runs deep.

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL --

* interpose himself in Eritrea to bring deep and radical change; may he bring judgment on all who trade in suffering and terror and bring an end to belligerence and repression. May he open the door to a new era of justice, liberty and peace, to his glory.

'In my distress I called upon the LORD . . . and my cry to him reached his ears. Then the earth reeled and rocked; the foundations also of the mountains trembled and quaked, because he was angry. He rescued me, because he delighted in me.' (Psalm 18:6,7,19b ESV)

* have mercy on his sorely persecuted Church. Lord, comfort and protect them, sustaining them in body and soul, especially prisoners and refugees. Lord, provide all their needs, fanning their faith into flame so they may not lose hope; may their trust be in you.

* redeem this era of intensive persecution by refining and unifying the Eritrean Church and use their stories of faithfulness to soften the hearts and open the eyes of multitudes.


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CHRISTIAN PRISONERS & REFUGEES SUFFERING UNIMAGINABLY IN ERITREA

Eritrea has one of the most brutal dictatorships worldwide and the repression has created a refugee crisis. Since May 2002 Christians have been severely persecuted and an estimated 1500 are suffering torture and appalling prison conditions today, simply for their faith. With no independent media, news is extremely difficult to obtain. Open Doors reports that on 30 October a Christian Muslim convert, Adris Ali Mohammed (31), died in custody after two years of systematic torture aimed at forcing him to renounce his faith. Christians in refugee camps are no safer as the Eritrean military runs a lucrative operation on behalf of the government, trafficking them to Bedouin gangs in the Sinai. Please pray for Eritrean Christians and that God will effect deep and radical change in Eritrea.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

RLPB 184. EGYPT: what Salafis want from Coptic girls

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 184 | Wed 07 Nov 2012


EGYPT: WHAT SALAFIS WANT FROM COPTIC GIRLS

By Elizabeth Kendal

In Islam, a child is given the religion of the father the day he or she is born. In Egypt, as in most Muslim countries, when children turn 16 they receive a State-issued identity (ID) card with their State-designated religion stamped on it. Those born to fathers registered as Muslim are deemed Muslim regardless of the actual belief of the father or the child because identity / affiliation is far more important than faith in Islam. As Muslims, they are not permitted to leave Islam and they are obliged to live according to Sharia Law: observing food and clothing restrictions, remaining separated from Jews and Christians, and other stipulations. Furthermore a Muslim woman must marry a Muslim man.

Christians who wish to convert to Islam -- as nominal Christians sometimes do, mostly for pragmatic reasons -- find getting a new ID card is easy. However, as Muslims are not permitted to leave Islam, their religious identity may not be changed. In recent years two extremely courageous Egyptian fathers, both converts from Islam, have sued the Interior Ministry for their right to change their religious identity. Both were motivated by concern for their children whom the State deems Muslim. Both cases failed because the courts would not permit apostasy from Islam. Death threats forced both families into hiding. Because their children are deemed Muslim, their daughters will be obliged by law to marry Muslim men and their sons, though free to marry a Christian, would be obliged by law to raise those children as Muslims. 

It is well known that fundamentalist Muslim men are being encouraged to seduce and marry Christian girls. When married to Muslim men, the Christian girls are not only prevented from increasing the Christian demographic, they are actually used to increase the Muslim population. Fearing the influence of Christians, Salafi Muslims (hard-line Sunni fundamentalists) oppose all interfaith marriage and want it criminalised; they also want the legal marriage age for girls dropped from 18 to nine. It is well known that Salafis kidnap Coptic Christian girls for forced conversion and forced marriage to Muslim men to ensure Christian wombs are producing Muslim babies. In these cases the Salafis always insist that the girls have converted freely, ensuring that the girls cannot be rescued. As soon as the Salafis assert the girl is a convert who deserves freedom of religion, the police, local officials and wider Muslim community will rally to hold on to her as one of their own.

Born on 1 August 1998 in the town of el-Dabaa, 130km south of Mersa Matrouh (north-east of Cairo), Sarah Ishaq Abdelmalek is only 14. She was last seen on 30 September, entering a stationery shop near her school. After her father filed a missing persons report with the police, he received a call telling him that he will never see his daughter again. According to a school friend, the 27-year-old shop owner -- a Salafist and the son of a local Salafi leader -- had been pursuing Sarah for some time. He nowstands accused of abducting her. On 28 October the Salafist Front issued a statement that Sarah, who they maintain is not under-aged, has converted to Islam freely and married a Muslim man.

The case should prove a serious test for President Morsi, for Sarah is under-age according to Egyptian law which states the marriageable age for girls is 18. Will President Morsi bend for the Salafis out of respect for fundamentalist Islam or will he demand that Egyptian law be upheld and Sarah returned to her parents? Will he follow other precedents and have Sarah placed in a secure Muslim girls home until she is of marriageable age or will he allow Sarah the opportunity to freely declare her true faith and then protect her? Egyptian human rights organisations, including the National Council of Women, are lobbying for Sarah to be reunited with her family without delay. Still the prospects are not good. Surely a more obscene abuse of human rights would be hard to find.

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL --

* comfort, strengthen, preserve and ultimately rescue Sarah Abdelmalek (14); may he have mercy on this family and all families likewise grieving the loss of their abducted daughters.

* redeem this case to draw international attention to the plight of hundreds of Coptic Christian girls who have been abducted, raped and trafficked across religious lines; may the LORD of hosts expose and destroy this obscene trade.

* enlighten many -- Muslims included -- to the terrible implications of Islam's apostasy law: not merely that it mandates death but that it forces people to live their whole lives as prisoners of Sharia, with no means of escape, generation after generation.

'The LORD looked and was displeased that there was no justice. He saw that there was no one, he was appalled that there was no one to intervene; so his own arm achieved salvation for him . . . ' (From Isaiah 59:15b-16.)


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WHAT SALAFIS IN EGYPT WANT FROM COPTIC GIRLS

In Islam, a child inherits the religious identity of the father. If that is Muslim, then it is inescapable because rejecting Islam is a capital offence. This religious designation has huge implications as Sharia covers all of life, including whom you can marry. A girl deemed 'Muslim' must marry a Muslim man so that the fruit of the Muslim womb is always Muslim. However, a Muslim man may marry a Christian. Afraid of Christian influence, Salafis disapprove of all interfaith marriage. Salafis are known to abduct Coptic Christian girls who are then forcibly converted and married to Muslim men. Furthermore, by claiming the girls have freely converted to Islam, they say the case is about religious freedom and not abduction across religious lines. May God bring justice to Egypt.

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With persecution escalating and intensifying globally, please consider participating in International Day of Prayer (IDOP) for the persecuted church on 11 November.  'For we wrestle not against flesh and blood . . .' (Ephesians 6:12). See Critical Prayer Requests (CPR)

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

RLPB 183. Oct Update. Incl. North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Indonesia, Nigeria, Syria, Egypt

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 183 | Wed 31 Oct 2012

By Elizabeth Kendal

INTERNATIONAL DAY OF PRAYER (IDOP) FOR THE PERSECUTED CHURCH (4 or 11 November)

There is no such thing as a persecution-free day. Consequently, not a single day goes by when persecuted believers are not in need of advocacy in the courts of the Lord. And so we pray as the Apostle Paul exhorted: 'without ceasing' (1 Thessalonians 5:17). However, International Day of Prayer (IDOP) for the Persecuted Church provides an opportunity for believers and churches all around the world to contemplate the reality of persecution, take note of the global situation and respond together in prayer. IDOP is a day when Christian individuals, small groups and Church fellowships join their voices to petition the LORD on behalf of the persecuted Church. Various Christian advocacy groups have resources available -- please seek them out and make use of them. For Critical Prayer Requests (CPR) for the nations see here: CPR

'O my God, incline your ear and hear. Open your eyes and see our desolations . . . For we do not present our pleas before you because of our righteousness, but because of your great mercy. O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive. O Lord, pay attention and act. Delay not, for your own sake, O my God, because . . . your people are called by your name.' (Daniel 9:18,19 ESV)

Please give special attention to the world's most severe persecutors: North Korea and Saudi Arabia.

In NORTH KOREA believers found witnessing or in possession of a Bible are executed while neighbours and other locals are forced to watch. Furthermore, many tens of thousands of Christians, deemed traitors for refusing to worship the Kim family, are perishing in concentration camps, the conditions of which rival Auschwitz. Further to this, tens of thousands of believers struggle with extreme poverty and famine while worshipping in strategically small, highly secretive fellowships. Once known as 'the Jerusalem of the East', this land of Christian revival (10-min documentary) has been captive to darkness for almost 60 years. 

'The earth is the LORD's and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein . . . Lift up your heads, O gates! And lift them up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is this King of glory? The LORD of hosts, he is the King of glory.' (Psalm 24:1,9,10 ESV)

In SAUDI ARABIA Christian witness and apostasy (leaving Islam) are absolutely forbidden. They are capital offences for Saudi nationals. Furthermore, after the failed Sunni fundamentalist revolution of 1979 (the Siege of Mecca), the Saudi royals brokered a survival pact with the Wahhabi (Sunni fundamentalist) clerics wherein the Royals would fund international jihad and the Wahhabi clerics' global dissemination of Wahhabi Islam in exchange for the backing of the clerics. This has facilitated a revival of pro-Sharia, pro-jihad, anti-Semitic, anti-Christian, supremely intolerant and repressive Sunni fundamentalist Islam across the globe: throughout Africa, Asia and South America as well as in the universities and mosques of the West. Accordingly Saudi Arabia (an 'ally' of the West) is directly responsible for the phenomenal escalation of Sunni fundamentalist hostility, repression, terrorism and jihad worldwide, including targeted persecution of Christians.

'In that day the LORD of hosts will be a crown of glory, and a diadem of beauty, to the remnant of his people, and . . . strength to those who turn back the battle at the gate.' (Isaiah 28:5,6 ESV)

OCTOBER 2012 UPDATE -- During October we prayed concerning . . . 

* INDIA (RLPB 179) where unrestrained Hindu nationalism results in unrelenting persecution.

* PHILIPPINES (RLPB 180) where the government has signed a 'framework agreement' with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) which, if implemented, will allow Sharia Law to be broadened and strengthened in a MILF-ruled sub-state on the southern island of Mindanao.

* INDONESIA, PAPUA formerly Irian Jaya, (RLPB 181) where predominately Javanese-Muslim Indonesian forces -- motivated primarily by racial-religious hatred and greed -- have been 'sweeping' Wamena, forcing thousands of indigenous, predominately Christian Melanesian Papuans out of their homes and into the inhospitable bush.

* PAKISTAN (RLPB 181) where another child has been accused of blasphemy. Ryan Stanten (16) and his family fled as soon as Ryan was accused, before Muslim mobs descended on their home in a secure Middle Class district of Karachi and burnt all their belongings.

UPDATE: ANOTHER CHRISTIAN ACCUSED. On 1 October, Barkat Masih, a sweeper and cleaner who is married with five children, was arrested in the eastern city of Bahawalpur on charges of blasphemy after two Muslim co-workers registered a complaint against him. The Muslims had asked Barkat to hand over keys to a shrine he was cleaning so they could retrieve the property papers. Barkat knew the men were seeking to seize the land illegally, so he refused. The Muslims vowed revenge and now Barkat is in jail, his life ruined.

* TANZANIA (RLPB 182): Where Islam is becoming increasingly intolerant, aggressive and assertive. On 10 October, after a child was accused of desecrating a Qu'ran, Muslims in the Mbagala Ward of Dar es Salaam rioted, and five churches were attacked. Such appalling criminal behaviour cannot be justified; it is pure intimidation. Pray for rule of law to prevail in Tanzania.

'And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.' (Acts 4:29,30 ESV) 

OCTOBER 2012 ROUND-UP -- also this month . . .

* INDONESIA, ACEH: MORE CHURCHES CLOSED

In RLPB 169 it was reported that in April 2012 local officials in Aceh's Singkil Province (in the far south) had yielded to Islamist pressure and ordered the closure of some 20 mainly Protestant unlicensed house-churches. Most did not comply and some were subsequently attacked by armed militants. In mid-October, local government authorities in Banda Aceh (in the far north) ordered the closure of nine unlicensed churches and six Buddhist monasteries, warning that if they remain open the authorities will not guarantee their security. Nico Tarigan, the pastor of the Indonesian Bethel Church (GBI) which has been operating in Banda Aceh for eight years, said, 'We have 80 members who don't know where to pray.' Semi-autonomous Aceh is 98 percent Muslim. To get a licence to operate a place of worship in Aceh, a group needs the signatures of 150 members, plus 120 other local people (Muslims) who approve of the church's presence in their community. For most Christian groups, such requirements are unachievable. Because the house-churches do not have local licences, Indonesia's Home Minister defended the decision. The Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) has vowed to make sure the churches comply. The Islamic fundamentalists are determined to eliminate visible Christianity in Aceh, and the authorities are unable and/or unwilling to resist them.

* INDONESIA, CENTRAL SULAWESI: TERROR RETURNS

Indonesian Military (TNI) troops have been deployed to the Christian-majority regency of Poso, Central Sulawesi, following several terrorist attacks that included bombings and the murder of police officers. There are concerns the presence of the TNI might actually be counterproductive; many are anxious. Jamaah Ansharut Tauhid (JAT) extremist group in Poso is believed to be behind the recent terror. On Monday 22 October at 2 am, unidentified people spread gasoline over the Pantekosta di Indonesia church in Madale village, on the outskirts of Poso, and set it on fire, possibly in the hope of triggering a sectarian clash. However, local Muslims and Christians worked together to fight the flames until the fire brigade arrived. The re-emergence of terrorism in Central Sulawesi is of great concern, for as the Jakarta Post notes: 'A re-emergence of the conflict would also serve to fire up Muslim extremists across the country to wage war against Christians.'

* NIGERIA, KADUNA: ANOTHER CHURCH BOMBING

On Sunday 28 October a suicide bomber drove his SUV full of explosives to St Rita Catholic Church in Malali, a minority Christian enclave of in Kaduna North Local Government Area. When he could not gain access, he accelerated forward through the security checkpoint. He then drove his vehicle straight through the brick wall of the church right behind where the choir was situated, killing 10 and wounding 145. Parish Priest, Rev Fr Bonny Bazah had just finished delivering a sermon on exercising faith and was preparing to serve Holy Communion when the bomber struck. Fr Bonny has been hospitalised with facial injuries. According to one of the victims the bombing occurred 'when everybody was kneeling down. We were praying . . .' Nigerian Muslims are turning to Christ and an incredible spiritual battle is under way. We wrestle not against flesh and blood . . . (Ephesians 6:12).

* SAUDI ARABIA: updating RLPB 175. In July a 28-year-old Saudi convert to Christianity named Maryam fled the country. Subsequently, her boss, Henna Sarkees (51), a Christian Lebanese national, was charged with abusing his position to coerce her to convert, and an un-named Saudi national was charged with helping her leave the country clandestinely. On 14 October their trial was deferred yet again, to an unknown date in November.

* SYRIA: IS THE CHURCH FACING GENOCIDE?

ALEPPO: government forces are fighting to regain control of two Christian districts recently seized by rebel fighters. Kurds are also fighting to retake their territory back from rebel forces. Unlike the Arabs, who emanate from the Arabian Peninsula, Christians are indigenous to Syria and the wider region. Despite this, rebel Abu Mahar, who claims to control 200 fighters, says he does not regard Christians as true Syrians at all: 'Christians have no connection with the country,' he told AFP.

DEIR EZZOR: On Saturday 27 October a car bomb exploded outside the only Syrian Orthodox Church in the town of Deir Ezzor [or Deir el-Zour] in eastern Syria near the border with Iraq, damaging it severely and killing five local residents. In September the same church was desecrated and vandalised by Salafi groups reported to be operating freely. Deir Ezzor is currently under the control of the Free Syrian Army.

DAMASCUS: PASTOR TORTURED TO DEATH
On 19 October kidnappers seized Father Fadi Jamil Haddad, pastor of the Greek Orthodox church of St Elias in Qatana, Damascus, demanding his family and church pay a ransom of 50 million Syrian pounds (over 550 thousand euro). On 23 October kidnappers (possibly the same ones) kidnapped and killed the brother and cousin of another pastor, Father Salameh Salameh, of the Greek Catholic congregation in Damascus. On 24 October, the body of Fr Fadi Jamil Haddad was found not far from where he had been taken. An associate of the pastor reports: 'His body was horribly tortured and his eyes gouged out. It is a purely terrorist act. Fr Haddad is a martyr of our church.'

* EGYPT: INTOLERANCE ESCALATES

Assyrian International News Agency reports  that on Sunday 28 October a large mob of bearded Salafi / Wahhabi Muslims attacked St Georges Church in Tala village, in Beni Suef Governorate. The mob assaulted Coptic Christians as they left the church, five of whom were hospitalised with broken bones. Cars were torched. The pastor, Father Cheroubim Chehab, was besieged, unable to get out of the church for hours. Though he had contacted police, they did not respond until the head of the Egyptian Union of Human Rights Organization, Dr Naguib Gabriel, complained to the Ministry of Interior, telling them, 'I want the whole world to know that a priest and his congregation are presently held captive in their church, afraid of the Salafi Muslims surrounding the church.' The Salafis subsequently attacked believers in their own homes. The Muslims had demanded that the church only be used by local Christians (who comprise eight percent of population of the village) and were objecting to Christians travelling in from surrounding villages that do not have a church. Of course what they really want is closure of the church.

FOR YOUR ENCOURAGEMENT:

What do Egyptian Christian youths do when faced with existential threat? They gather in the desert for three days of prayer and worship. (See: SAT7 footage of 'OneThing 2012', 4-6 October.) Remember them next time you hear of intolerant fundamentalist Islam taking hold in Egypt.

'For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare [i.e. mission and prayer] are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.' (2 Corinthians 10:3,4 ESV)

'Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD of hosts.' (Zechariah 4:6b ESV)