Tuesday, February 28, 2012

RLPB 148. Feb. Update; Incl. Burma, Sudan, Syria, Kashmir, Iran, Nigeria, Somalia

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 148 | Wed 29 Feb 2012
By Elizabeth Kendal

"Commit your way to the LORD; trust him, and he will act." (Psalm 37:5 ESV)

FEBRUARY 2012 UPDATE -- During February we prayed concerning . . .

EGYPT (RLPB 144), where Christians, especially indigenous Copts, are facing increasing levels of insecurity as Islam rises and dhimmitude (religious apartheid) returns.

BURMA (RLPB 145), where up to 60,000 displaced Christian Kachin are struggling to survive without aid. [Reminder: Burma Day of Prayer -- Saturday 17 March 2012. Resources.]

UPDATE: God answers prayer! On 24 February an agreement was reached between the UN and Burmese government officials that should allow aid to reach some 45,000 displaced Kachin presently sheltering in camps and churches in areas controlled by the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO). Please persist in prayer for there is no word yet on when the UN aid convoy will depart. Meanwhile, the situation remains dire for some 20,000 displaced Kachin stranded at the China-Burma border.

SUDAN (RLPB 145 & 147), where genocide by the Arab-supremacist, Islamist regime in Khartoum against the predominantly Christian African Nuba of the 'new south', is well under way.

UPDATE: New York Times correspondent Nicholas Kristoff slipped into South Kordofan in late February. He describes the situation as a 'mass atrocity . . . a government starving its people, massacring them, raping them, and bombing them . . .'.

ESCAPE ROUTE OPENED: Since early February we have been praying for God to open the escape route south (see RLPB 145, which uses Exodus 14 as our precedent for prayer). On Sunday 26 February a newly-formed rebel alliance of groups from South Kordofan, Blue Nile and Darfur, the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF; also known as the Kauda Alliance), won their first ever military victory over Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) troops. The SRF liberated Taruje and the strategic SAF garrison at Jau, close to the South Sudan border. According to a spokesman from the Sudan People's Liberation Movement - North (SPLM-N), as well as killing 130 SAF troops, the SRF seized three tanks, some 200 vehicles, hundreds of weapons and dozens of heavy artillery and opened a 'completely clear and safe' route for refugees. Predictably President Omar al-Bashir is blaming South Sudan (which was not involved) and threatening a military response. Tensions are soaring. Please continue to pray. The way has been opened. Now the refugees need to escape and the LORD needs to frustrate any SAF pursuit. Please continue to pray that the LORD will fight for the Nuba (Exodus 14:14) so that all Sudan will know that God is the LORD (Exodus 14:18).

MIDDLE EAST (RLPB 146), where Christians are increasingly persecuted and vulnerable in the wake of the so-called 'Arab Spring'.

SYRIA (RLPB 147), where Christians presently suffering the depradations of war fear outright slaughter if the Assad regime falls.

UPDATE: Syrian sources have told Barnabas Fund that Sunni jihadists are invading and pillaging house after house and that around 70 homes belonging to Christians in Homs have been thus affected. Forced to live in the crossfire, without electricity and with supplies of water, food and medicines declining, Christians are saying they would flee if only there were the opportunity. Two martyrdom brigades of Islamists have formed in Homs this past month: the Al Baraa Ibn Malik Martyrdom Brigade and the Al Nusrah Front to Protect the Levant. The Catholic Archbishop of Damascus, Maronite Samir Nassar, says the situation in the country is spiralling out of control, with Syria becoming an arena of international conflict over competing political, military and economic interests.

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

(Further updating RLPBs 142 & 143) Kashmiri Christians are now being pressured violently to revert to Islam by Islamic fundamentalists committed to ending 'apostasy'. The persecution has forced several local Christian ministries to close and is driving churches underground. Many Christians are fleeing. One madrassa (Islamic school) has boasted it is presently working on 115 Kashmiri Christian converts after having already reverted around 150 converts over recent months. Slanderous, sensational disinformation is proliferating. (See: Kashmiri Christians forced to revert to Islam, by Elizabeth Kendal for Religious Liberty Monitoring (14 Feb 2012)) After undertaking a 10-day investigative trip, the Catholic Christian Secular Forum (CSF) has prepared the report 'Religious Liberty and Persecution in Kashmir' which they will present to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh shortly. CSF is calling on the Indian government to 'put an end to the persecution carried out in the state under the garb of Sharia law'.

According to Iranian sources, a lower court has signed execution orders for Christian Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani (34), making his execution imminent. The government is denying the claim. Arrested in 2009 and sentenced to death for apostasy in 2010, Youcef (married with two young sons) has refused to renounce Christ, even in exchange for his freedom. Other Christian leaders arrested during February include Ms Giti Hakimpour (78) a leader at St Luke's Church in Esfahan and Mr Hekmat Salimi, pastor of the official Church of St Paul in Esfahan. According to Middle East Concern, government officials issued orders on 10 February to Emmanuel Protestant Church and St Peter's Evangelical Church to end their Friday Farsi-language worship services. They were the last two official churches in Tehran offering services on Fridays in the local language.

Whilst the situation is dire, we can thank God that though the two most recent church bombings were designed to cause maximum carnage, to a large degree they were frustrated. The bomb that exploded outside Christ Embassy Church in Suleija on Sunday 19 February was massive, yet no worshippers were killed. One member returning from inside the church to his car noticed a bag placed between his car and the next. Finding it contained a huge bomb he called security. All the worshippers were gathered inside the church while bomb disposal police were called. Around 25 minutes later the powerful bomb exploded, killing five people, mainly spectators across the road. Had the bomb exploded while worshippers were leaving after the service the result would have been devastating. Similarly, in Jos on Sunday 26 February a suicide bomber had planned to ram his bomb-laden car into the front of Church of Christ in Nigeria (COCIN) church to cause total carnage and maximum casualties. However, as he smashed through the church's security gates a tyre blew out, stopping the car, and the gas cylinder needed to maximise the blast fell out of the boot. Whilst three worshippers were killed -- a woman who was struck by the car and a father and son killed by shrapnel inside the church -- the toll would have been ten-fold had the bombing gone to plan.

On 22 February jihadists in Maiduguri murdered a believer, Shetu Haruna Malgwi (79), who was mother of a local pastor. They slit her throat, placed a Bible under her feet and left a note written in Arabic on her chest. The note, believed to be for her son, said, 'We will get you soon.' Strong as Boko Haram is now it is affiliated with al Qaeda, God is still stronger. Please pray for the church in Nigeria. 'The LORD . . . frustrates the ways of the wicked (Psalm 146:9 NIV).

Compass Direct News (CDN) recently reported that on 2 January militants belonging to al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab beheaded yet another Somali believer. He was Zakaria Hussein Omar (26) who worked for a Christian humanitarian organisation recently banned by al-Shabaab. According to CDN, Omar converted to Christianity seven years ago while living in Ethiopia. He returned to Somalia in 2008 and married in 2010. 'For these things I weep; my eyes flow with tears . . .' (Lamentations 1:16a ESV) May the 'God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction' (from 2 Corinthians 1:3,4) bring comfort to the besieged and traumatised church in Somalia.