By Elizabeth Kendal
MAY 2014 UPDATE -- During May we prayed concerning ...
* CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC (CAR) (RLPB 259), where anti-balaka militias are still driving local Muslims out of the capital Bangui, while ex-Seleka Islamic rebels are still terrorising Christian communities across the north. The country is tearing apart. Pray that God will bless the Church's peace-making efforts.
* KOREA (RLPB 260), where tensions are rising and rhetoric is increasingly belligerent, leading the North Korean regime to tighten controls and increase isolation, escalating the suffering and the risk for the North Korean Church.
UPDATE: On 13 May, a 23-storey apartment block in the capital Pyongyang collapsed, entombing more than 80 families. Despite a public apology from senior regime figures, locals are 'disappointed' and resentful, blaming regime corruption for both the collapse and the high death toll. There is considerable fear that other apartment blocks throughout the city might not be safe. Additionally, it has emerged that in March the regime executed Ri Kyung Ho (49), a stage-lighting engineer from the remote northern border city of Hyesan. Ri had been caught speaking by mobile phone to relatives in South Korea. Under interrogation, he allegedly revealed that he was assisting defectors. His family has been condemned to the gulag. The Church in North Korea needs our prayers.
* SUDAN (RLPB 261), where 8 months pregnant Meriam Ibrahim had been sentenced to death for apostasy, as well as to 100 lashes for adultery (after the court refused to recognise her marriage to a Christian man).
UPDATE: IT'S A GIRL In the early hours of Tuesday 27 May, in the Health Centre Clinic of Omdurman Federal Prison for Women, Meriam gave birth to a baby girl, naming her Maya. Neither her husband Daniel, nor her lawyer have been permitted access to see them.
ANOTHER APOSTASY CASE: Morning Star News (MSN) reports (27 May) that Sudan has imprisoned another Christian woman, similarly accused of apostasy and adultery. Faiza Abdalla (37) was arrested on 2 April after Immigration/Citizenship officials questioned her right to a Christian identity on the grounds that Abdalla is a Muslim name. On 8 April, a Sudanese court annulled Faiza's marriage to a South Sudanese Catholic and accused her of adultery. Faiza's parents converted before she was born, meaning they too might yet be accused of apostasy.
More on Sudan below.
[NOTE: Islam rejects the UN's definition of religious freedom, maintaining it is nothing more than a 'secular understanding of the Judeo-Christian tradition' (which it is) that violates Sharia Law.]
MAY 2014 ROUND-UP -- also this month ...
* GIRLS AT RISK
As fundamentalist Islam takes root in many Muslim majority communities and nations, female children are increasing at risk of under-age forced marriage to Muslim men. It also means that Christian girls being kidnapped for forced conversion and marriage -- trafficked across religious lines -- will be younger as well.
In Pakistan, the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII -- a Sunni, government-funded advisory body) has decreed that Pakistan's marriage laws are 'un-Islamic'. The CII is recommending that the minimum age for girls to marry be abolished, saying girls may be married 'if the signs of puberty are visible'. The ruling has sparked intensive debate in Pakistan (including satire!).
In Iraq, the minimum age of marriage for girls is set to be lowered from 18 to 9 in accordance with Shia Islam. In February, the Maliki government approved a draft law, allegedly for political gain ahead of elections. Known as the Ja'afari Personal Status Law, the draft law says girls reach puberty at age nine and are therefore ready for marriage. It also states that a girl under nine may be married with the consent of her male guardian, for a price. [The law would also legalise marital rape and unrestricted polygamy (not requiring consent).] Now that the elections are over [30 April] and the Maliki regime is back in power, the stage is set for the law to be enacted.
For the sake of the children, the Church must pray for a great awakening amongst Muslims; may the light of Christ break through the darkness. (John 1:5)
* CHINA: WENZHOU CHURCHES UNDER FIRE
Updating RLPBs 255 & 258 (April 2014)
On 20 May China Aid Association (CAA) published a list of 64 churches across China's eastern business hub of Wenzhou city that have been 'rectified', demolished or issued notices since the crackdown began in February. In virtually every case it is the cross that is deemed offensive and 'rectification' usually involves the cross being removed. So this has nothing to do with building regulations: the authorities are not opposed to having impressive buildings in their city; they are only opposed to the crosses that identify those buildings as places of Christian worship. These 'rectifications' are about de-Christianising the skyline before people get the impression that Christianity is acceptable, inviting and growing. In addition, some 40 people have been summonsed by police or detained in connection with the protest at the Sanjiang church demolished on 28 April (RLPB 258). A serious battle has begun. Please pray, ' For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood . . .' (Ephesians 6:12-18 ESV)
* IRAN: SAEED ABEDINI BEATEN IN HOSPITAL, RETURNED TO PRISON
Pastor Saeed Abedini (34) is a US citizen who has been imprisoned in Iran since September 2012. In March (prior to Iran's nuclear talks with the US) Abedini was admitted to hospital for treatment for stomach injuries sustained during prison beatings. On 21 May (just after nuclear talks concluded) Abedini was seized violently and dragged out of the hospital by agents who beat and electrocuted him in front of distressed family members. Abedini has been returned to the maximum security Rajai Shahr Prison which houses violent criminals. [See RLPB 238 (26 Nov 2013).] In the US, Abedini's wife, Naghmeh, and advocate Jay Sekulow of the American Centre for Law and Justice told Fox News (news video) they feared that Iran is using Abedini as a political pawn.
* MOZAMBIQUE: SEEKING FIRMER FOUNDATIONS
Operation World lists Mozambique's population as being 46 percent Christian (half Catholic, half Protestant), 32 percent ethno-religious, and 19 percent Muslim. Mozambique's amazing church growth has come in the wake of decades of suffering. Mozambique has had religious freedom only since 1990 when it was written into the new constitution after decades of civil war and brutal Marxist repression and persecution. Christian leaders in this emerging democracy have drafted a submission to the national parliament requesting the formulation of a specific law to protect freedom of religion and worship. The aim is that 'the churches will have a better legal framework in which to operate'. They request our prayers. May God bless their efforts, build his Church and heal their land.
* SOMALIA: CHURCH LEADER MARTYRED
On 23 September 2008 Mansuur Mohammed (25), a humanitarian aid worker, became Somalia's first indigenous Christian martyr when al-Shabaab Islamic militants declared him a 'murtid' (traitor to Islam) and publicly beheaded him for refusing to renounce Christ. He had been a Christian for just three years. Since then, al-Shabaab has hunted down and executed dozens of Somali believers. On 23 May Morning Star News reported that a prominent convert, Abdishakur Yusuf, who oversaw five underground Christian fellowships, had been assassinated at his home on the outskirts of Mogadishu on Sunday 16 March. Mogadishu's gravely imperilled underground Christian community is absolutely shattered. For months after Yusuf's assassination they were too traumatised and afraid to speak out, but now they are requesting our prayers. Yusuf leaves a widow and three young children. Pray for the Church in Somalia.
* SUDAN: CHRISTIAN HOSPITAL BOMBED
The Government of Sudan (GoS) continues its aerial bombardment of displaced Nuba. On 1 May citizen journalists from NubaReports were filming a worship service at the Mother of Mercy Hospital in Gidel -- the only hospital in the Nuba Mountains -- when it came under aerial bombardment. [See film here]. The five bombs dropped on 1 May were followed by more the next day. While nobody was killed, hundreds disappeared into the bush, several sustained serious shrapnel injuries and buildings were damaged. In the days before the bombings, drones were observed flying over the area three times. As noted by Tom Catena, a US doctor with the Catholic Medical Mission Board who serves as the hospital's director, the bombing serves no other purpose than to disperse the Nuba and destroy their only hospital. Then on Monday 26 May GoS war-planes dropped eight bombs on the compound of the Nuba Relief, Rehabilitation and Development Organization (NRRDO). Though there were no casualties, the buildings sustained significant damage. [NRRDO's projects serve over 650,000 Nuba citizens living in areas controlled by the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement - North (SPLM-N).]
Lift your hands and pour out your hearts to the one who has real power and genuine interest!
'The Lord looked and was displeased that there was no justice. He ... was appalled that there was no one to intervene; so his own arm achieved salvation for him, and his own righteousness sustained him. [...] According to what they have done, so will he repay . . . From the west, people will fear the name of the Lord, and from the rising of the sun, they will revere his glory. For he will come like a pent-up flood that the breath of the Lord drives along.' (From Isaiah 59:14-19 NIV)
Elizabeth Kendal is the author of
Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today
(Deror Books, Dec 2012).