Tuesday, January 28, 2014

RLPB 245. January Update. Incl. South Sudan, Central African Republic, Sri Lanka, India, Iran, Nigeria, Pakistan, Ukraine

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 245 | Wed 29 Jan 2014

By Elizabeth Kendal

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 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 6:10-12 ESV)

JANUARY 2014 UPDATE -- During January we prayed concerning . . . 

* SOUTH SUDAN (RLPB 242), where many decades of unresolved and repressed ethnic tensions are bringing the new state to the brink of civil war.  

UPDATE: On 23 January a ceasefire was signed in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, between the government of South Sudan and the rebel forces loyal to former Vice-President Riek Machar. The parties agreed to stop fighting, cease hostile propaganda, end violence against civilians, guarantee safe corridors for humanitarian aid and expedite the release of political prisoners. Furthermore, Ugandan forces must withdraw, monitors must enforce the ceasefire, dialogue must continue and an all inclusive National Reconciliation Process must be established. However, there is no guarantee that largely undisciplined ethnic rebel fighters will abide by the agreement. On 28 January Bos News reported that rebel soldiers were attacking churches in Malakal and forcing their priests to flee. Please pray for South Sudan: for peace, and that God will magnify the voices of Christian leaders who can guide this traumatised nation along the path of healing. The spiritual battle for South Sudan continues.

* CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC (CAR -- RLPB 243), where a traumatised population faces huge challenges as it seeks to overcome sectarian tensions created during the Seleka occupation.

UPDATE: The National Transitional Council has elected Catherine Samba-Panza, the mayor of Bangui, as interim president of CAR. Anre Nzapayeke, a former regional banking official, has been appointed Prime Minister. Seleka rebels are fleeing the capital in convoys under the protection of Chadian peacekeepers. According to Human Rights Watch emergencies director, Peter Bouckaert, 'This is the most significant departure of Seleka commanders probably since Djotodia resigned.' Praise God! Amnesty International's Joanne Mariner says the desire for vengeance among the Christian majority was 'palpable' after Seleka's rampage of killing, looting and raping while Djotodia was in power. She has called for peacekeeping forces to do more to stop revenge attacks. Pray for CAR's new leaders, President Catherine Samba-Panza and PM Andre Nzapayeke, and for God to magnify the voices of CAR's Church leaders and Christian peacemakers.

* SRI LANKA (RLPB 244), where on Sunday 12 January Buddhist nationalists attacked three churches, one on the outskirts of Colombo, and two in the southern coastal tourist town of Hikkaduwa. The Galle magistrate called for the arrest of the 26 Hikkaduwa attackers identified to the court, including the 10 Buddhist monks, and reproached police for not arresting them sooner. A court hearing was scheduled for Monday 27 January.

UPDATE: On 26 January police reported they had been unable to locate any of the suspects because they had all allegedly absconded. However, on 27 January 18 suspects including seven Buddhist monks surrendered themselves to the Galle Magistrate Court. Praise God! Colombo Page reports: 'Galle magistrate Gunendra Kumara Munasinghe released all the 18 suspects each on two personal surety bails of Rs. 500,000. The case will be taken up for trial on March 17.' Please pray for justice and for the Church in Sri Lanka.

JANUARY 2014 ROUND-UP -- also this month . . .

* INDIA: HINDU NATIONALIST AGGRESSION

The Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI) reports that on Sunday 29 December 2013 a group of militant Hindu nationalists invaded a worship service in Ranibagicha, Jashpur District of Chhattisgarh (north India), accusing Pastor Palath Dungdung and the Christians there of forceful conversion. The extremists also invaded worship in the nearby house church of Calvary Gospel Mission, accusing Pastor Lalit Kujur of forceful conversion. The police took 25 Christians in for questioning, after which both pastors and seven believers including three women were arrested for breaching Chhattisgarh's mis-named Freedom of Religion Act. The Christians were sent to Jashpur's District Jail, their bail petition being rejected. That same day local Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) leader Ranvijay Singhdev led Hindu nationalists in a one-day hunger strike to protest 'conversions'. A similar incident occurred on 24 December in Tendumudi, Bilaigarh District of Chhattisgarh, where some 150 were celebrating Christmas. In this case, four believers were charged with forceful conversion and sent to Baloada bazar jail.  Fortunately the intervention of Christian leaders resulted in these Christians being released on bail four days later.

In Andhra Pradesh (southern India) on 11 January, four men visited the home of Pastor Sanjeevulu. Claiming to be in need of prayer, they attacked the pastor as soon as he came through the door. Sanjeevulu's wife was injured trying to defend her husband from the militants, who would have killed her too had she not escaped. Pastor Sanjeevulu was admitted to Yashoda Hospital where he subsequently died from multiple stab wounds. Hindu nationalists had previously threatened to kill him.

* IRAN: RAIDS AND ARRESTS

Middle East Concern reports that a number of churches were raided and Christians arrested in Iran over the Christmas - New Year period. The arrested believers, men and women, were beaten and had property confiscated. Furthermore, restrictions have been tightened, banning ethnic Persians from church involvement and banning the use of Farsi in church activities. MEC reports that, besides those arrested on 24 and 31 December, 'Across Iran, at least 40 others are known to be in prison because of their Christian faith or activities.' As US leverage over Iran evaporates, Iran will escalate its repression and persecution in an effort to stem the flow of Persian converts to Christianity. It has been rumoured that imprisoned Christians are increasingly being kept separate, not as punishment but to prevent conversions in prison. God is at work! Pray for Iran.

* NIGERIA: JIHAD CONTINUES UNABATED

Morning Star News reports that on 31 December Fulani gunmen attacked a Christian fellowship celebrating the New Year in a field, killing three of them. It was the second time Faith Kore Usman, a 29-year-old mother of five children, had been widowed by Muslim militants. On 6 January Muslim Fulani gunmen, supported by soldiers from the Special Task Force (STF), killed 33 Christians in Shonong village in Riyom Local Government Area of Plateau State. During January Fulani gunmen also attacked and killed Christians in Kaduna (5 Jan), Borno (12 Jan) and Benue (19 Jan). Then on Sunday 26 January, some 45 Christians were killed when Boko Haram militants attacked a church in Waga Chakawa village, Adamawa State. Twenty-two bodies were recovered from the church, which was attacked with improvised explosive devices and gunfire, while other Christians were killed when trying to escape through the bush. Whilst Boko Haram uses terrorism as a way to pressure the government into giving in to its demands for Sharia Law, the Fulani are waging a jihad to colonise deeper into the Christian-dominated south. Boko Haram is known to arm and support the Fulani in what is essentially a predatory migration. Please pray for Nigeria; may God continue to build his Church.

* PAKISTAN: FEDERAL SHARIA COURT CHALLENGES GOVERNMENT

On 4 December 2013 Pakistan's Federal Sharia Court (FSC) issued orders to remove the provision for life-imprisonment from the Blasphemy Law. According to the court, humiliation of the prophet cannot be tolerated and death is the only punishment mandated by Islam for blasphemy. The FSC has given the Pakistani Government until 4 February to either amend the Penal Code or appeal the order. With US influence declining and Pakistan-China relations improving, the Pakistani Government has nothing to gain from a domestic crisis and so will doubtless opt to appease the Islamists. Regardless of what the government does, the FSC's order will impact realities on the ground by essentially sanctioning the murder of 'blasphemers'. On 23 January a court in Rawalpindi sentenced a British man of Pakistani origin to death for the crime of blasphemy. Muhammad Asghar, a pensioner, stroke victim and schizophrenic, had claimed to be the prophet Mohammed. Pakistan's judiciary is dominated by Islamists and the FSC's order is a direct challenge to the government to establish who makes the rules in Pakistan. Please pray for the Church in Pakistan.

* UKRAINE: ON BRINK OF CIVIL WAR

Protests erupted in Ukraine on 21 November 2013 after the government of Viktor Yanukovich chose not to sign a comprehensive free trade agreement with the European Union, preferring closer economic ties with Russia. When the government introduced anti-protest laws in December, these essentially anti-Russia protests turned violent. President Yanukovich's Party of Regions has a comfortable majority in parliament and consequently does not face a political threat. However, on the streets the right wing, neo-Nazi, anti-Semitic Svoboda Party is taking a leading role in the protests and blaming Russia's 'Jewish' oligarchs for everything. Anti-Semitic slogans are being heard in Kiev and anti-Semitism is rising. On 11 January Hillel Wertheimer, an Orthodox Hebrew scholar, was ambushed and beaten by a mob that followed him home from the synagogue. On 17 January, Dov Baar Glickman was beaten and stabbed while walking home from a Shabbat meal. Elements of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church appear content to ally with Svoboda (note photo), with which they are united by an intensive hatred of everything Russian. [NOTE: At least half of Ukraine is Russian-speaking and Russian Orthodox and just as Germany is no longer Nazi, Russia is not the USSR.] Ukraine is not falling apart -- it is being pulled apart. Fanning the flames in Kiev are outside forces keen to hurt Russia's President Putin, in particular for his 'unco-operative' stance on Syria. It is a disgrace.

Ukrainian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists (UECB) is calling for urgent intercessory prayer, appealing for calm and reconciliation in the country which it warns is 'just a step away from civil war'. Churches maintaining neutrality could find themselves in a dangerous position vis-a-vis the increasingly violent and nationalistic protesters.  Pray for Ukraine, and that God will give guidance and wisdom to the Church.

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

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

RLPB 244. Sri Lanka: buddhist nationalist attack churches in south and west

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 244 | Wed 22 Jan 2014

SRI LANKA: BUDDHIST NATIONALISTS ATTACK CHURCHES IN SOUTH & WEST

By Elizabeth Kendal

On Saturday 11 January police in the coastal tourist town of Hikkaduwa in Sri Lanka's Southern Province, warned Pastor Chinthaka Prasanna that the Buddhist nationalist group 'Hela Bodu Pawura' was planning to protest against the church the following day. As one of three Sri Lankan churches to be attacked on Christmas Eve, this local Assemblies of God church decided to take precautions. So on Sunday 12 January they assembled early before locking the doors and bolting the security gates. Though they had been promised police protection, only three police were stationed outside the gates when some 250 protesting Buddhists (including many saffron-robed Buddhist monks) marched up to the church behind mobile loudspeakers blaring anti-Christian slogans. Instead of standing their ground, the police struggled briefly before melting away. Christians escaped by a rear exit as the Buddhist protesters broke down the gates and invaded the property. They shattered windows, smashed furniture and equipment and burnt Bibles, sheet music and other materials. The mob then moved on to attack Calvary Free Church, just a short distance away, where worship had concluded. As Pastor Ranjan Perumal explained, this was not the first time Calvary Free Church had been targeted either. The protesters then occupied the main Galle-Colombo road, disrupting traffic until police assured the monks that the churches would be closed until 10 February while 'a solution was being sought'.

Though Hela Bodu Pawura maintains the two churches are operating illegally, this is false as both churches are registered and fully legal. Hela Bodu Pawura also accuses the Sri Lankan media of distorting the truth, for according to the monks, the protest was totally peaceful until the Christians came out and attacked the protesters, forcing them to retaliate while the monks tried to prevent violence. Fortunately -- or unfortunately for Hela Bodu Pawura -- both attacks were filmed by private television station Derana and the footage is available on Youtube.
In a separate incident also on Sunday 12 January, a Christian prayer centre in Pitipana, Homagama, on the south-eastern outskirts of Colombo in Western Province, was set alight in the early hours. Fortunately the fire was put out before serious damage was caused. According to Release International, a note left hanging on the gate made serious threats against Christians.

Doubtless fanning the flames of Buddhist nationalist zeal is the fact that in September 2013, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) won 30 of 38 seats in the Northern Provincial Council elections. This sent a loud message to Colombo that the North is still wanting autonomy. The TNA, which maintains ties to the separatist rebel army LTTE, is lobbying to have the constitution's 13th Amendment fully implemented. This amendment enables decentralisation by establishing provincial councils, which the Buddhist nationalists vehemently oppose. The more conciliatory Tamil parties are talking about forming an alliance to create a viable opposition and alternative to the TNA. Provincial council elections will be held soon in the Southern and Western Provinces with 30 January the closing date for nominations. Doubtless the Buddhist nationalists in the Southern and Western Provinces consider this a critical time to raise their profile.

Writing in the Colombo Gazette (16 January 2014), Dharisha Bastians blames the escalating violence on the pervasive Buddhist nationalist hate speech 'which has coloured the teachings and the discourse in every Buddhist temple, from the smallest villages to the largest towns across the island'. She also blames impunity and the silence of political leaders who are unwilling to confront the monks for fear of alienating their Buddhist constituents. Karu Jayasuriya, Chairman of the United National Party's Leadership Council, is an exception. He slammed the monks, pointing out that the majority of Sri Lanka's Buddhists are moderate, peace-loving citizens who are repulsed by this spate of violence against religious minorities. The Galle magistrate appears to agree, calling for the arrest of the 26 attackers identified to the court -- including the 10 Buddhist monks -- and reproaching police for not arresting them sooner. The next court hearing is scheduled for Monday 27 January.

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL --

* enlighten influential Sri Lankan men and women to the threat posed by militant religious nationalism which promotes hate, fuels intolerance and incites violence; may more Sri Lankans raise their voice against violence, communalism, repression and persecution. (Proverbs 31:8-9)

* embolden the Galle magistrate to set a new precedent by ending impunity, delivering justice and condemning violence as criminal and dangerous, unacceptable and intolerable. (Amos 5:24)

* continue to bless and build his Church in Sri Lanka, raising up more pastors and evangelists, and pouring out his Spirit generously on Sinhalese (Buddhists), Tamils (Hindus) and Muslims alike so they might be one in Christ Jesus. 'There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.' (Galatians 3:28 ESV)

SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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CHURCHES ATTACKED IN SRI LANKA'S SOUTH & WEST


Early on Sunday 12 January a church on the outskirts of Colombo in Sri Lanka's west was set on fire. Whilst the blaze was extinguished before much damage was done, a threatening note was left on the gate. Later, two churches in the tourist town of Hikkaduwa on Sri Lanka's south coast were attacked by a mob of some 250 protesting Buddhist nationalists, including saffron-robed monks. The protesters smashed doors, windows, furniture and equipment and burnt Bibles and other literature. Derana TV filmed the attacks (see Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin blog). The Galle magistrate has called for the attackers to be arrested and rebuked police for not arresting them sooner. The court hearing is scheduled for Monday 27 January. Please pray for Sri Lanka, its Church and an end to impunity.

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

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

RLPB 243. Central African Republic (CAR): church and nation face massive challenges

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 243 | Wed 15 Jan 2014

CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC (CAR): CHURCH AND NATION FACE MASSIVE CHALLENGES
By Elizabeth Kendal

On Friday 10 January Michel Djotodia, the former rebel leader and self-proclaimed 'first Muslim president of CAR', conceded to international pressure, resigned his office and left Central African Republic (CAR) for Benin where he has been granted political asylum. Christian celebrations were short-lived, however, as anti-balaka (literally: anti-machete) militiamen, armed predominantly (and ironically) with machetes, rushed to settle scores. Established traditionally as village defence units responsible for protecting villagers from machete-wielding criminal gangs, the anti-balaka militia are now on the offensive with insatiable fury.

As noted in a Religious Liberty Monitoring post of November 2013, the Seleka rebels -- Islamists, local and foreign -- did not rape, loot and kill indiscriminately. Rather, Seleka attacked Christians and spared Muslims. Worse still, local Muslims generally supported Seleka, doubtless anticipating that the rebellion would usher in an 'Islamic' order, elevating their status. Many Muslims wilfully profited from Seleka's crimes, particularly through receiving goods looted from their Christian neighbours. Consequently traditional community trust totally evaporated, creating a sectarian tinderbox. RLPB 238 (27 Nov 2013) quoted a Christian father whose sons had been tortured by Seleka. 'In the beginning, the relations between Christians and Muslims were good here,' he said, 'but the Muslims followed the Seleka and now things have changed. The Christians feel betrayed by the Muslims and are starting to feel vengeance in their hearts. This is a very big challenge for the Church.'

However, ethnic and Muslim/Christian relations will not be the Church's only 'very big challenge'. Whilst Seleka targeted Christians, causing Christians to suffer disproportionate grief and loss, the anti-balaka -- ignoring the Church's appeals for grace and reconciliation -- are now targeting Muslims. The worst post-Djotodia violence has been in the north-west town of Bozoum. On Monday 13 January the Central African Red Cross reported that, commencing Friday, clashes between ex-Seleka rebels and anti-balaka militias had claimed the lives of 97 people, mostly civilians. Furthermore, 107 had been wounded and 14,000 displaced. At least 912 homes had been burnt.

Identified in the mainstream media as Christian militias, the anti-balaka are 'Christian' only in the broadest sense. These angry young men are mostly 'ethnic Christians' -- i.e. those deemed Christian by virtue of their tribe -- and nominal syncretistic Christians who might attend church on Sundays but otherwise practise occultic African Traditional Religion. In the orgy of violence that followed Djotodia's departure, one anti-balaka in Bangui hacked to death a young man on the grounds that he 'looked Muslim'. The attacker claimed to be avenging the deaths of his pregnant wife, sister-in-law and niece, who were butchered by Seleka rebels. After hacking him to pieces, anti-balaka fighters then cannibalised the body -- on a crowded street in broad daylight -- causing onlookers to vomit and screech in horror. This is demonic behaviour routinely seen in occultic violence. Amongst the anti-balaka are doubtless some immature, confused young believers who honestly think they are fighting for the liberty of their country and the security of their families. Most have been thoroughly traumatised by their experiences of Seleka terror through 2013. Not only do these young men carry the burden of having been unable to protect and save their families but they are also resentful of having been betrayed by Muslim neighbours and abandoned by the world. For the Church in CAR -- which has consistently denounced anti-balaka violence -- the challenge of the anti-balaka might actually be the biggest challenge of all.

The head of the 135-member National Transitional Council (CNT), Alexandre-Ferdinand Nguendet, will act as president for the next two weeks before a new leader is chosen later this month. Elections will be held in February 2015. Determined to restore order, Nguendet is recalling CAR's security forces and deploying hundreds of troops issued with shoot-to-kill orders. 'I swear', he said, 'there will be no gunshot in Bangui within a week.' He is also calling for calm and appealing for citizens to forgive each other and reconcile. The humanitarian situation is critical, with around half the population of 2.2 million people in desperate need of basic humanitarian aid. A donors conference will be held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on 1 February.

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GIVE THANKS TO THE LORD that rebel leader Michel Djotodia has resigned and left CAR, taking his dreams of an Islamised CAR with him. 

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL --

* give acting-PM Alexandre Nguendet great wisdom and authority to restore order and remove all belligerent foreign elements; may all wicked plots of greedy foreign powers be thwarted -- may the Lord rebuke them (Psalm 2).

* give all Christian leaders -- civil and religious -- great wisdom and authority to lead the masses through their grief, fear and trauma and along the path of healing and peace through grace by the power of the Holy Spirit. 'Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.' (Matthew 5:8 NIV)

* pour out his Spirit to do a wonderful work in this needy nation; may the citizens of CAR -- specifically those who are not already born again -- learn what it means actually to be a Christian: i.e. a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ.

SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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CHURCH AND NATION FACE MASSIVE CHALLENGES IN CAR


Praise God that on 10 January 2014, rebel leader, Islamist and self-proclaimed president Michel Djotodia resigned his office and left for Benin taking his dreams of an Islamised Central African Republic (CAR) with him. Christian celebrations were short-lived however, as anti-balaka militias armed with machetes rushed to settle scores. Their violence has included cannibalism, a sure sign of occultic participation. Identified in the mainstream media as 'Christian militias', the anti-balaka are 'Christian' only in the broadest sense -- most are tribal, nominal and syncretistic. As if the challenge of ethnic-religious reconciliation is not great enough, the Church in CAR might find the challenge of the anti-balaka to be in fact the biggest challenge of all. Please pray for acting-PM Alexandre Nguendet and for the Church in CAR.

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

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

RLPB 242. South Sudan: crisis could open door for Khartoum

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 242 | Wed 08 Jan 2014

SOUTH SUDAN: CRISIS COULD OPEN DOOR FOR KHARTOUM
-- an extended RLPB to explain a serious crisis
By Elizabeth Kendal

Fighting erupted in Juba, the capital of South Sudan, on Sunday 15 December 2013 within the presidential guard. What followed was a rapid descent into widespread ethnic violence. This is no mere hiccup as this crisis has been brewing for some time. The violence has its roots in decades of unresolved ethnic tensions, in painful memories and wounds buried for the sake of peace. However, buried wounds do not disappear but they fester. Unless there is an immediate cessation of hostilities followed by deep and honest reflection and healing, South Sudan could disintegrate.

All through 2013 tensions were escalating in Juba between President Salva Kiir, a Dinka, and his Vice-President Riek Machar, a Nuer. Long-time a divisive and ambitious figure, Machar had been agitating for regime change in Juba all year, playing the ethnic card to rally his Nuer tribesmen behind him. In April Kiir reined in Machar, stripping him of some of his powers and limiting him to only those powers defined in the constitution.

Meanwhile, tensions were escalating also in Khartoum, Sudan, between the cash-strapped Government of Sudan (GoS) and its disillusioned citizens. Short of funds, the GoS has had no option but to remove the government subsidy on oil. As the price of fuel and food escalated, so too did the people's anger, especially that of Islamists who blame the economic crisis on the secession of South Sudan, which they blame in turn on the government of President Omar al-Bashir. During 2013, with the crisis in Khartoum deepening, the GoS embarked on an unprecedented military build-up, purchasing combat aircraft, upgrading and expanding southern bases and recruiting foreign mercenaries (Strategic Policy 9, 2013). Khartoum has been preparing for war, a war intended to solve its political and economic problems.

On 8 June 2013 Sudan's president suddenly and unilaterally blocked the flow of oil from South Sudan, violating both international and bilaterial agreements and threatening to cripple South Sudan's economy. On 30 June President Kiir sent Vice-President Machar to Khartoum. However, instead of securing Juba's rights, Machar -- a one-time ally of Islamist Khartoum -- negotiated in such a way that Khartoum reportedly told Arab diplomats that it would dialogue with Juba if the government was run by Machar (Strategic Policy 7, 2013). Machar not only failed to get the oil flowing, he presented Juba as weak and divided. The GoS responded on 3 July by launching aerial attacks and ground invasions in South Sudan's Unity and Upper Nile states. Yida refugee camp, where Samaritan's Purse is caring for many thousands of Sudan's Nuba refugees, was targeted. Whilst the SPLA (South Sudan's army) was able to repulse the invading Sudan Armed Forces (SAF), the political damage was done. Machar -- who created the crisis -- demanded Kiir stand down. Opposition to Kiir mounted; the government became paralysed. On 23 July Kiir issued a presidential decree, removing Machar and dissolving the government. Machar's Nuer allies and all other opposition were purged. Tensions soared.

Tensions were soaring also in Sudan where by September 2013 protesters were calling openly for a change of government in Khartoum. A military crackdown over 28 and 29 September left around 150 dead, 750 wounded and saw 2,000 arrested.

In the midst of the 1991 Sudan civil war, Riek Machar split from SPLA leader Dr John Garang (a Dinka), accusing him of being a dictator. Playing on ethnicity, Machar built his own army of ethnic Nuer. He wanted power but believed the Dinka were in the way. On 15 November 1991 Nuer fighters under the command of Machar massacred some 2000 Dinka in Bor, the capital of Machar's home state, Jonglei. Years of Nuer versus Dinka ethnic violence followed. In 1997 Machar allied formally with Islamist Khartoum. Khartoum happily supported Machar in his fight against the Dinka-dominated SPLA which was resisting Khartoum's Islamisation of the predominantly African, Christian southerners. This alliance resulted in the most violent fighting of the war, particularly in Unity and Upper Nile states. After the civil war Machar was absorbed into the government of South Sudan and his various Nuer militias, mostly untrained, undisciplined ethnic fighters, were drawn into the Dinka-dominated SPLA. Whilst this was supposed to foster reconciliation, in the absence of truth and justice it did the opposite.

Fighting broke out in Juba on 15 December 2013 after Kiir ordered that the Nuer members of the presidential guard be disarmed. Nuer soldiers allied to Machar subsequently attacked army headquarters. Dinka soldiers -- with memories of 1991 -- then went on a fear- and revenge-fuelled rampage killing ethnic Nuer. As news of this spread, Nuer in Unity, Upper Nile and Jonglei states responded by killing Dinkas.

Riek Machar appears to be less interested in peace than in power. Consequently, he might not negotiate until he has acquired leverage through the seizing of oil fields or of Juba itself. However, unless hostilities cease immediately, South Sudan's future will be bleak. As reported, Khartoum has been preparing for war. Chaos in South Sudan would present Khartoum with a perfect opportunity to invade and seize the oil fields of Abyei, Unity and Upper Nile.

The duplicitous GoS, which is blocking humanitarian aid to the persecuted Nuba in Sudan, is reportedly sending humanitarian aid to South Sudan. On 6 January 2014 Sudan's duplicitous president Omar al-Bashir met with President Kiir in Juba. According to Sudan's Foreign Minister Ali Karti, South Sudan has requested talks with Sudan on deploying a joint force to secure oil fields (i.e. Kiir might invite the Sudan Armed Forces into the oil fields). However, many observers, including SPLA spokesman Philip Aqueir, believe the GoS has already struck an alliance with Machar. As explained in Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today, any alliance with duplicitous, Arab-supremacist, Islamist Khartoum can only ever be a 'covenant with death' (Isaiah 28). May God have mercy on the long-suffering, mostly Christian peoples of South Sudan.

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL --

* give wisdom and authority to those who mediate this crisis: politicians and community leaders, religious leaders and regional leaders, especially the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD).

* turn the hearts of South Sudan's leaders, changing their direction from self-interest to national interest; from personal power to peace; from revenge to healing; from personal glory at any cost to life and hope for the long-suffering citizens of South Sudan (Proverbs 21:1).

* redeem this crisis for his glory; may it lead to an awakening in the nation for the need of transformational renewal and spiritual revival that leads to genuine reconciliation and long-lasting peace (Isaiah 2:3-4).

SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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CRISIS IN SUDAN & SOUTH SUDAN COULD OPEN DOOR FOR KHARTOUM


The crisis in South Sudan is no mere hiccup. The 15 December 2013 incident spiralled into widespread ethnic conflict there precisely because this crisis has its roots in decades of unresolved, festering ethnic tensions and in painful memories and wounds glossed over in the name of 'reconciliation'. Unless hostilities cease immediately, followed by honest reflection and healing, the new nation of South Sudan could disintegrate. Throughout 2013 Khartoum (Sudan) -- struggling with its own economic and political crises -- has been engaged in an unprecedented military build-up, clearly preparing for war. Chaos and ethnic fighting in South Sudan could open the door for Islamist Khartoum to seize control of South Sudan's oil fields. Please pray for the Church and for peace and reconciliation in South Sudan.

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