Tuesday, December 17, 2013

RLPB 241. Praying for the persecuted church with the hope and joy of Christmas

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 241 | Wed 18 Dec 2013

PRAYING FOR THE PERSECUTED CHURCH WITH THE HOPE AND JOY OF CHRISTMAS
By Elizabeth Kendal

It is Christmas, and we want to celebrate. We want to marvel at the incarnation, and in awe and wonder contemplate what it means: what it says about God's love and what he values; what it says about God's means and how he works. This is a time for joy, not lament! We want to sing 'Joy to the World' with joy in our hearts! So how do we pray for the persecuted over Christmas?

We know that multitudes of Christians will be suffering severe persecution and great hardship this Christmas. In Syria, those who have survived the year's deadly violence now have to survive another freezing winter without access to heating or medications. In such conditions, escaping pneumonia can be just as difficult as escaping jihadis, bullets or shrapnel (which is becoming more difficult as the al-Nusrah Front is now systematically targeting Christian villages).

In Central African Republic (CAR), Christians displaced by Seleka terror may have found refuge in church compounds or jungles, but they are dying of malaria for want of nets and medications.

In mid-November the Government of Sudan escalated its genocidal campaign against the predominantly Christian non-Arab Africans of the Nuba Mountains with a vow to 'eliminate rebel groups' by 'the end of next summer'. Because of insecurity some 165,000 Nuba children will not receive their polio vaccinations.

In Iran, Eritrea, Pakistan, Nigeria, Indonesia and Egypt Christians wonder what terror might await them on Christmas Day -- a police raid, a bombing, a massacre, a pogrom? Will those in prison receive extra aggression? Will all those who go to church come home again? Will all family members still be alive at the end of the day?  

We know that many Christians hold grave fears for what awaits them in 2014. In India, the results of four provincial State elections held in November-December have been announced. The Hindu nationalist BJP retained power in Madhya Pradesh, picking up 22 seats to win 165 of 230 seats. In Chhattisgarh, the BJP won with 49 of 90 seats. In Delhi the BJP picked up 9 seats to win 32 of 70 seats while the AAP, the new, anti-corruption party won 28 seats, giving Delhi a hung parliament. In Rajasthan, the BJP picked up a massive 84 seats to win 162 of 199 seats (updating RLPB 239, 4 December.) The results bode ill for India's Christians.

Many Christians in the Philippines hold grave fears too, as the government of President Aquino lurches closer to a peace deal with the separatist, jihadist Moro Islamic Liberation Front. If achieved, the deal will establish a MILF-ruled sub-state on Mindanao which will trigger conflict with dissenting groups. Three of four annexes have now been signed and the parties want the final annex on 'normalisation' (which will deal with rebel disarmament) signed by the end of January 2014. Will MILF jihadists be absorbed into the police force?

Christians in Iraq are deeply concerned about the escalating sectarian violence tearing their country apart. Some have only returned to northern Iraq this year, having been forced out of their refuges in Syria. The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS: 'al-Sham' Syria) is carving out a base across the north of both states; their fight is set to escalate in 2014.

What might 2014 hold for Afghanistan?
What might 2014 hold for North Korea?

With unprecedented levels of persecution and trauma afflicting the Church, how can we pray for persecuted and threatened Christians at Christmas while still maintaining our Christmas hope and joy?

Isaiah foretold of the coming of Christ, adding that he will be called 'Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.' (See Isaiah 9:1-7) 


THEREFORE WE PRAY:

Dear Sovereign Lord,
We rejoice in Jesus Christ: the child who was born, the son who was given.
We rejoice that the burden of governance is upon his shoulders.
Because he reigns, we can lift up to him all who suffer and are persecuted on account of his name.
May Christ the Wonderful Counsellor give wisdom and guidance to all who seek him.
May Christ the Mighty God (el-gibbor: literally the warrior God) defend and fight for his people.
May Christ the Everlasting Father comfort and care for his precious children.
And may Christ the Prince of Peace establish and uphold his Kingdom -- overcoming all opposition -- as he zealously spreads justice and righteousness throughout the world.
For the sake of his Church and for the glory of his name,
AMEN

(Prayer based on Isaiah 9:6-7)

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SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE

Instead of a summary, please publish the prayer for use in church services, small groups and individual devotions over the Christmas period.

This is the final RLPB for 2013. The next weekly RLPB will be issued on 8 January 2014.

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