Tuesday, March 27, 2012

RLPB 152. March Update; Incl. Sudan, Laos, China, Egypt

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 152 | Wed 27 Mar 2012
By Elizabeth Kendal

'Out of my distress I called on the LORD; the LORD answered me and set me free.' (Psalm 118:5 ESV)

MARCH 2012 UPDATE -- During March we prayed concerning . . .

NIGERIA (RLPB 149), after the al-Qaeda-linked terror group Boko Haram declared its intention to 'end the Christian presence' in much of Northern Nigeria by means of co-ordinated terror attacks and the kidnapping of Christian women. Please continue to pray for the Church in Northern Nigeria.

SUDAN (RPLB 149), after Sudan president Omar al-Bashir declared that the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) would 'purge South Kordofan' of 'traitors' (i.e. the non-Arab, non-Muslim, predominantly Christian Nuba). According to Sudan Vision, some 80,000 Islamic volunteer paramilitary 'mujahideen' are ready to fight and die in 'defense of the country and its Islamic belief'.

UPDATE: Khartoum continues to withhold humanitarian aid from hundreds of thousands of Nuba and other non-Arabs fleeing genocide in South Kordofan and Blue Nile. Once the rainy season sets in (April - October) roads will become impassable and delivery of aid impossible. Consequently it is imperative that aid be delivered now if mass starvation is to be averted. The lack of international pressure is difficult to understand. According to reports, Khartoum has bombed the Kauda Valley through which displaced Nuba are fleeing south. Furthermore, on Tuesday 27 March, Khartoum bombed close to the Bentiu oil fields in South Sudan's oil-rich Unity State. There have also been bombings and cross-border clashes at the border town of Jau (formerly held by Khartoum, but liberated by the Kauda Alliance / Sudan Revolutionary Front on 26 February: see RLPB 148). The US government is opposed to regime change in Khartoum, saying it would rather see democratic reforms. May God, who knows that the racist, Islamist regime of Omar al-Bashir is genocidal and treacherous to the core, bring justice and peace to Sudan. (Isaiah 59:15b-19)

Further to this, Easter Sunday (8 April) is the deadline for some 700,000 'Southerners' (i.e. non-Arab, non-Muslims) living in Sudan to register as citizens of Sudan. If they fail to register, they will be treated as foreigners, stripped of their citizenship rights and expelled as illegals. Consequently, thousands of 'Southerners' -- many of whom were born as raised in the north -- are heading for South Sudan despite there being few jobs and limited services.

LAOS (RLPB 150), where Christians continue to suffering serious persecution at the hands of Communist officials and animist villagers.

UPDATE: In Savannakhet province on Sunday 25 March, five Lao Christians from various villages in Palansai district were arrested while worshipping with believers in Boukham village, Ad-Sapangthong district. The arrested Christians have been charged with 'leading a religious movement without official approval'. According to Human Rights Watch for Lao Religious Freedom (HRWLRF) the arrests are part of a wider crackdown against the spread of Christianity in Savannakhet province. Pray for these believers and for all Christians in Laos, for whom the cost of faith can be very high.

MIDDLE EAST (RLPB 151), where the region's Christian minorities -- from Iran through Iraq and Syria to Lebanon -- face the prospect of being trampled by Islamic blocs battling for regional hegemony and Islamic supremacy. Pray for the Christians of the Middle East.

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

On Sunday 18 March, police raided a house church in China's far west Xinjiang province, arresting more than 70 Christians. The church in Aksu prefecture, which has been meeting regularly for nearly 20 years, was gathered for worship in the home of Pastor He Enjun when more than 10 police and Domestic Security Protection agents stormed in. Each believer was photographed before being taken away for interrogation. Some believers were held for two whole days. Everyone's Christian materials were confiscated, without receipts (i.e. they were stolen. Pray that God will put them to good use!). Pastor He Enjun and his wife were threatened and ordered to stop holding 'illegal' meetings.

On 19 March, Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials seized Bishop Peter Shao Zhumin (49) and Father Paul Jiang Sunian of the 'underground' Catholic Church in Wenzhou, whisking them away for 'learning classes'. Government officials have told the church that if Bishop Shao and Father Jiang are 'intelligent enough in their learning,' they will be allowed back soon, indicating that their release will depend on their willingness to accept CCP ideology and serve CCP interests. Similarly, China's Justice Ministry has recently announced that all lawyers obtaining or renewing their licence will now be required to take an oath of allegiance to the CCP. Who will defend the CCP's victims and critics now? (See also SMH and BBC)

Last Christmas the battle between the CCP and Beijing's large, unregistered Shouwang Church intensified as church leaders sought a premises in which to hold Christmas services. While several landlords were initially willing to lease their premises, CCP pressure ensured they eventually backed out. One premises reneged at the very last minute, ensuring that numerous church members arrived for Christmas services unaware they would be met by hoards of police. With Easter approaching, the Shouwang Church is requesting prayer. For a full year now, the believers -- around 1000 mostly young professionals -- have suffered harassment, intimidation and persecution as they make a stand for religious liberty. The CCP, which has seized their property, will not let them gather for worship anywhere! Still, the faithful turn up each Sunday to be dispersed and arrested by CCP agents waging a quiet battle of attrition. Pray for Beijing's Shouwang Church this Easter. May God provide all their needs and bless their witness.
Facebook: prayforshouwang

On Saturday 24 March, Egypt's democratically elected Islamist-dominated parliament appointed a 100-member panel to write Egypt's new constitution. The panel's clear majority of 60 Islamists will ensure that Christian and secularist voices will be inconsequential. Several Christian and secularist members have already resigned from the panel, denouncing it as a farce designed only to legitimise the drafting of an Islamist constitution.

When Pope Shenouda III (88), the head of Egypt's Coptic Orthodox Church, died on 17 March, Salafist clerics responded with a barrage of hateful, offensive, even slanderous insults. Their rejoicing over the death of the 'head of the infidels' has shocked Christians, compounding their sense of vulnerability. Meanwhile, serious anti-Christian violence is escalating. On Sunday 4 March, some 1,500 armed Muslim villagers in Abu Al-Reesh village, Aswan Province, Upper Egypt, launched a pogrom against the Notre Dame Language School. They were responding to calls emanating from local mosques to attack the privately run public school on the false claim that a church was being built there. Two nuns were besieged in the school's guesthouse for some 8 hrs by a murderous mob threatening to burn them alive. The entire property was ransacked and looted. The next day the Muslims returned to terrorise the children. Consequently, school attendance has dropped by at least one third. By 8 March, one of the nuns had suffered a major nervous breakdown requiring hospitalisation. Pray for Egypt's minority Christians.

'Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.' (Ephesians 3:20-12 ESV)