Tuesday, December 15, 2015

RLPB 340. December Update, Includes Ireland, Pakistan, Uganda, UK, UK-Northern Ireland, Vietnam, Yemen

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 340 | Wed 16 Dec 2015

By Elizabeth Kendal

This is the final RLPB for 2015. Regular RLPBs will resume on 27 January 2016. However, brief alerts will be issued for urgent prayer needs as required.

It is a great honour for me to serve not only the Lord's precious persecuted church, but the Lord's vast global army of faithful intercessors through the weekly provision of these Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletins. So until 2016:

'Come, behold the works of the Lord, how he has brought desolations on the earth. He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the chariots with fire. "Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!" The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.' (Psalm 46:8-11 ESV)

DECEMBER 2015 UPDATE -- During December we prayed concerning ...

ADVENT (RLPB 338), noting that Christmas is a time of elevated risk of terrorism. Please continue to pray that plots will be thwarted, that would-be terrorists seeking divine empowerment will instead find the Lord and that God will prepare us for whatever lies ahead, working all things together for good 'for those who are called according to his purpose' (Romans 8:28 ESV).

WHAT THE PERSECUTED MIGHT HOPE FOR THIS CHRISTMAS (RLPB 339), noting that, while celebrating the coming of Christ, millions of believers will be hoping not for mince tarts and new gadgets, but for peace, security, religious freedom and the return of captive and imprisoned loved ones. Give the persecuted a gift: recruit another intercessor who will join us in prayer for those things hoped-for.

DECEMBER 2015 ROUND-UP -- also this month ...

* IRELAND: NO MORE RELIGIOUS EXEMPTIONS
On Tuesday 1 December the Dail (Irish parliament) voted unanimously to pass the new Equality (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill which replaces the Employment Equality Act, and which comes without religious exemptions.  Previously, specific exemptions gave 'religious, educational or medical institutions' the right to act 'in order to maintain the religious ethos of the institution'. Without these exemptions, religious, educational and medical institutions will be obliged, by law, to respect and advance 'diversity'. The move is profoundly discriminatory, for while political institutions will be permitted to act to preserve their ethos, religious institutions will not. Whilst LGBTI employees in religious institutions will be able to 'come out' without fear of retrenchment, religious institutions will not be able to preserve their own values without fear of a law suit. As well as being anti-religion, the law is also anti-diversity, for it will ultimately result in the loss of distinctively Christian schools and hospitals. According to Ireland's equality minister, this measure will not be the last, and is but one of many reforms to come. The move is indicative of rising hostility against Biblical Christianity in Ireland.

* PAKISTAN: CLEANSING ISLAMABAD OF POOR CHRISTIANS
Between 2007 and 2012 some 100,000 settlers arrived in Islamabad from Taliban-infested, war-ravaged Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), as well as from Balochistan and Punjab. This pushed Islamabad's population to two million, with the growth occurring predominantly in slums. In July Pakistan's Capital Development Authority (CDA) launched a demolition campaign. Citing the threat of terrorism, the CDA demolished a mostly Pashtun [Muslim] slum, triggering an outcry. In August, the Supreme Court issued a stay order, stopping the demolitions. Since then the CDA has changed its strategy.

On 4 December the CDA told Pakistan's Supreme Court, 'Most of these katchi abadis [slums] are under the occupation of the Christian community. It seems this pace of occupation of land by the Christian community may increase. Removal of katchi abadis is very urgent to provide a better environment to the citizens of Islamabad and to protect the beauty of Islam.'

Poor Christian slum dwellers worship the Lord in Islamabad
[photo: Muhammed Muheisen/AP]
Impoverished and persecuted, Christian families migrate to Islamabad in search of work and security.  Some 80,000 Christians live in Islamabad's Christian colonies/slums, comprising 4 percent of Islamabad's population. Many of these colonies have existed for 15 to 50 years. As the CDA presents its case for demolition to the Supreme Court, residents of about 30 Christian colonies have been issued with eviction notices. Should the demolitions proceed, these many tens of thousands of poor Christians will have nowhere else to go. Please pray for the Christians of Islamabad. Pray that the Supreme Court will rule justly and wisely and that Muslims will not respond to any incitement to take matters into their own hands.

* UGANDA: YET MORE MARTYRS IN EASTERN PROVINCE
'We need prayers,' a source tells Morning Star News (MSN), 'as the Muslims are out to destroy people who converted to Christ in this area, especially those of us who have sacrificed to share the love of Christ to our fellow Muslims.' Patrick Ojangole (43), a Christian convert from Islam, cared not only for his own five children, but for ten convert children rejected and abandoned by their Muslim families. On the night of Wednesday 2 December Ojangole and a companion went to the aid of two burka-clad women only to find it was a trap. The women drew swords and handed them to the Muslim attackers who killed Ojangole. His companion who escaped said one of the attackers was berating Ojangole for his refusal to stop his Christian activities. On Tuesday 8 December a mob of more than 20 Muslims similarly entrapped, ambushed and murdered Ismail Kuloba (43), a policeman who had left Islam for Christianity and was leading other Muslims to Christ. On 9 December a group of Muslims kidnapped three children aged five, seven and ten  from the home of Madengho Badir (42), another Christian convert from Islam. Unable to trace his children, Badir is distraught. 'I know the Muslims are doing this to frustrate my hope in Christ and to make me return to Islam ... my only hope is in Jesus.'

* UNITED KINGDOM (UK): GOVERNMENT PROPOSES REGULATING RELIGION
Ofsted (the Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills) is a non-ministerial government department responsible for inspecting schools and regulating services to ensure they conform to 'British values' (by which is meant the Equality Act, which equates British values with moral and cultural relativism). Ofsted inspections have threatened a number of Jewish and Christian schools which, despite their academic excellence, have been deemed to be failing to promote 'British values'. Now the UK government has proposed that Ofsted be given powers to investigate non-school settings, i.e. anywhere children are taught or trained, including church camps, Sunday schools and youth programs. All out-of-school educational settings would have to register with the authorities and submit to routine inspections. 'Undesirable teaching' that 'undermines or is incompatible with fundamental British values' would be banned and those guilty of undermining 'British values' would be sanctioned. As the Christian Institute notes, this would turn Ofsted into a 'state regulator of religion'.

Though designed to rein in the promotion of 'extremism' in fundamentalist Islamic schools and youth programs (which is a serious problem), rabid secularists with their own agendas are exploiting the inspection regime to attack Christianity. This is exactly what we observe in Central Asian states like Uzbekistan, where laws designed to rein in militant and revolutionary Islam are exploited to suppress evangelical Christianity. The UK Department of Education has launched a consultation (which closes on 11 January) and the Christian Institute is spearheading the response (click here for details). Pray for revival in the UK, and that religious freedom will be preserved.

* UK: NORTHERN IRELAND
Rev. James and Margaret McConnell
Update to RLPB 320 (28 July). The trial of Pastor James McConnell (78) began on Monday 14 December and is expected to last three days. McConnell was charged with improper use of a public electronic communications network and causing a grossly offensive message to be sent by means of a public electronic communications network, after a sermon in which he criticised Islam was broadcast on the internet. McConnell had been responding to the death sentence for apostasy handed down in Khartoum to Christian convert Meriam Ibrahim. The case revolves around McConnell's words: 'I don't trust them [Muslims],' which the judge asserts is akin to vilifying all Muslims as liars, something McConnell strongly rejects. McConnell's accuser, Dr Raied Al-Wazzan of the Belfast Islamic Centre, was not called on to give evidence, for he has since discredited himself by commending Islamic State's rule in Mosul.

* VIETNAM: CAMPAIGN OF INTIMIDATION AGAINST CHRISTIAN ADVOCATE
Nguyen Van Dai, 6 Dec 2015
Radio Free Asia
On Sunday 6 December internationally acclaimed Christian advocate Nguyen Van Dai was attacked while returning to Hanoi after running a human rights information session in Nghe An Province.  Some ten masked assailants -- security personnel on motorbikes -- ambushed Dai's taxi. Dai, his three colleagues and the driver were dragged out of the car and beaten with clubs. Though his colleagues managed to escape and make their way back to Hanoi, Dai (the main target) was beaten severely, robbed and left on a bench. A passerby lent Dai his phone so he could call for help. Friends collected him and provided first aid. After being alerted that police were lying in wait to ambush Dai yet again, his friends drove him back to Hanoi by an alternative route.  In May 2014 Dai was beaten by plain-clothed security personnel while he was meeting with colleagues and students. A courageous religious liberty advocate and devout Protestant Christian, Nguyen Van Dai has already spent five years in prison for 'propagandising against the state of Vietnam'.

* YEMEN: CHURCH GRAVELY IMPERILLED
Church of the Immaculate Conception,
Aden, in better days.
 Independent Catholic News
Two Christian converts from Islam have been murdered in Taiz, south-west Yemen, both of whom had reportedly been professing Christ openly. One of the Christians was assassinated, shot multiple times by an AQAP (al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula) operative. Details surrounding the killing of the other Christian, who was shot to death in his home, are as yet unconfirmed. The martyrs' names have not been released. Yemen has grown increasingly lawless due to war and is essentially a failed state. The killings, which occurred in September and October, have shaken the convert community in Yemen, contributing to a growing sense of vulnerability and insecurity. In September masked assailants believed to be linked to AQAP torched St Joseph's Catholic Church (built 1855) in Aden. On Wednesday 9 December militants detonated explosives in the Church of the Immaculate Conception (built 1960s) in the Al-Ma'ala area of Aden. The church and adjoining priests' residence were totally destroyed. Christians in Yemen are mostly foreign aid workers, African refugees (many Eritreans) and converts from Islam. Pray for this gravely imperilled Church.

------------------------------------------------------------

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

Her second book, ‘After Saturday Comes Sunday’: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East, will be published by Wipf and Stock (Eugene, OR, USA) in early 2016.

Monday, December 7, 2015

RLPB 339. What Might the Persecuted Hope For This Christmas?

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 339 | Tue 08 Dec 2015


WHAT MIGHT THE PERSECUTED HOPE FOR THIS CHRISTMAS?
-- a call to love, solidarity and action. 
By Elizabeth Kendal

This Christmas, Christians in Nigeria will doubtless be hoping for an end to Islamic jihad and terror. Thousands of Christian families will be tearfully hoping for the return of their captive children and with more than a million displaced, a multitude will be hoping for a return to homes, churches and communities. Across Syria and Iraq, hundreds of thousands of remnant Christians displaced by Islamic jihad will be hoping for the same. Mince tarts dusted with icing sugar will be far from their hearts and minds.

In Iran, Pakistan, China and Laos (amongst others) Christian families and local churches will be hoping for the release of loved ones imprisoned for their faith, while praying for their humane treatment. Meanwhile, prisoners like Behnam Irani (pastor, married father of two, imprisoned in Iran), Asia Bibi (Christian wife and mother of five, on death row for alleged blasphemy in Pakistan) and Zhang Kai (Christian attorney in defence of the cross, 'disappeared' into a 'black jail' for interrogation in China) will cling to life in the hope that they might be reunited with their families and friends yet again.

In India, Christians will be hoping for a reversal in the trend of Hindu nationalism. In Burma and Papua, the Christian ethnic peoples will be hoping for an end to military violence. Christians in North Korea and Eritrea will be quietly hoping against hope for something really big -- a brand new government that respects the lives and human rights of its citizens. But with corruption and wickedness penetrating through to the core across so many institutions and at so many levels, such a thing is seemingly impossible. Our hope comes from the words the angel gave Mary: 'For nothing will be impossible for God.' (Luke 1:37 ESV).

In Saudi Arabia and the Middle East, in Bangladesh and the South Asian subcontinent, in Egypt and all North Africa, in Indonesia and all South East Asia, in Uzbekistan and all Central Asia, in Sudan, Somalia and along the Swahili Coast -- wherever Muslims dominate -- Christians will be hoping for a special visitation of God's Holy Spirit to open Muslim eyes, awaken Muslim minds, soften Muslim hearts and break through the bulwark of Muslim fear.

For the first time in my lifetime Christians in the largely post-Christian West may well be hoping their worship services and festivities will not be targeted by terrorists. Whether the Church hopes for it or not, the thing the Western Church most desperately needs is revival, loving the Lord her God with all her heart, soul, mind and strength, ready and able to give a reason for her hope, to love as Christ loves (with grace and sacrifice), to have courage to stand firm and walk by faith as a counter-cultural force for good in a culture that is de-civilising at a rapid rate.

More than 2000 years have passed since the birth of Jesus. So why is the world in such a mess? Did Jesus fail? No, the resurrection proved Jesus' victory. The transformation of the world has begun and what started as a little movement in Jerusalem and Antioch has spread across the whole world. The times in which we live are days of phenomenal church growth, principally in the non-Western world and due primarily to the emergence of indigenous missions. Because of this the Church's centre of gravity is shifting from the northern hemisphere to the southern, from the West to the East. But this is not the end. Rather, God is doing something new: refining and sanctifying the West through judgement while raising up the East to declare his glory. What we are witnessing is an immense spiritual battle as Satan fights desperately to resist his inevitable demise. The days might be dark, but they are still days for hope, faith and endurance. What is more, they are days for Christian love, solidarity and action. For in these dark days before the dawn, persecuted Christians need all the help they can get.

To that end, please forward these RLPBs to others (but not as spam!) and encourage them to join the mailing list. Consider it a gift to the persecuted church.

~ ~ ~ ~

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL

* grant all suffering, anxious and grief-stricken persecuted Christians a powerful, palpable and undeniable affirmation of his presence this Christmas, so they might be comforted by the assurance that the Christ is with them and their loved ones.

'For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord' (Romans 8:38-39 ESV).

* grant revival to the Western Church, even if it be by means of the judgment coming upon the largely post-Christian West; awaken our minds to the plight of the lost (which is tragic, not just in death but in life); and soften our hearts towards the suffering of his people that we might be 'one' (John 17:20-26).

* refine and sanctify all his people, that we might endure our trials with dignity, grace and faith, and with boundless Christian love and courageous solidarity, 'that all the kingdoms of earth might know that you alone are the Lord' (from the prayer of Hezekiah, Isaiah 37:14-20).


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
------------------------------------------------------------
WHAT MIGHT THE PERSECUTED HOPE FOR THIS CHRISTMAS? 

This Christmas, millions of Christians across the world will be hoping for an end to the communal pogroms and Islamic jihads that have robbed them of their homes, livelihoods and children. Many will be hoping that loved ones imprisoned for their faith will be treated humanely and soon released. Whether the Church hopes for it or not, the Western Church desperately needs revival. The world is in a mess, not because Jesus failed (the resurrection proved his victory), but because a spiritual battle is raging as Satan resists his demise. These are days for hope, faith and endurance, for Christian love, solidarity and generous, sacrificial action, and for serious intercessory prayer. In these dark days before the dawn, persecuted Christians need all the help they can get.

------------------------------------------------------------

Elizabeth Kendal is the author of
Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today
(Deror Books, Dec 2012).
http://www.turnbackthebattle.com/thebook.html

Her second book, ‘After Saturday Comes Sunday’: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East, will be published by Wipf and Stock (Eugene, OR, USA) in early 2016.


Tuesday, December 1, 2015

RLPB 228. ADVENT: anticipating joy and terror

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 338 | Wed 02 Dec 2015


ADVENT: ANTICIPATING JOY AND TERROR
By Elizabeth Kendal

For Catholic and Protestant Christians, the birth of Jesus is celebrated on 25 December. For Eastern Orthodox Christians, Christmas Day is 7 January. Increasingly it is a season in which we anticipate not only joy, but terror -- for churches and gathered Christians are at a greater risk of terrorist attack over Christmas than at any other time during the year.

Christmas  Day,  Madalla, Nigeria,
25 December 2011.
Obviously the fact that Christmas services and festivities are often well attended, mostly by Christians, means Christmas gives Islamic terrorists an opportunity to maximise Christian casualties. But that is not the primary reason Christmas festivities are targeted -- after all, churches and Christians are increasingly being recognised as low value targets. For whilst Muslims are instructed to 'strike terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve' (Qur'an 8:12) jihadists are discovering that few people or world leaders are terrorised, threatened or even upset these days by the killing of Christians or Jews (who are routinely viewed as religious relics -- they'll eventually evolve, won't they?), or sacrilegious cartoonists and blasphemous bloggers (because they asked for it, didn't they?), or even Russians (because they are the enemy, aren't they?). No, to really grab a nation's attention these days terrorists need to be far more indiscriminate. If they are going to target anyone, it needs to be primarily secular humanists in their environments. Only then can the terrorists make their demands -- no 'blasphemy' (i.e. criticism of Islam), no 'conversion' (i.e. Christian witness), no crosses (too offensive), more Islam etc -- and be likely to get them.

So why do jihadists even bother targeting a church or Christmas festivity? The targeting of a church at any time is largely symbolic: it sends the message that when the new order arrives, Christianity will not be tolerated -- it is essentially a foretaste of what is to come. What needs to be understood is that it is not just the Christianity of the true believer that is in the terrorists' sights but the Christianity of culture, heritage, tradition and foundational values. Unfortunately, not many committed secular humanists realise just how precious these things are. In taking these blessings for granted, most will not realise their value until they are gone. Just as Christianity is being erased in its historic heartland of Mesopotamia, so too will Islamists seek to erase it everywhere -- Mesopotamia is merely 'ground zero' (the point of detonation). This is why it is imperative that everyone understands the Christian crisis in the Middle East, for it will 'be coming to a theatre near you'.

Church in Nag Hammadi, Egypt,
under armed guard after six Christian
youths were assassinated leaving
Christmas Eve service
on 6 January 2010.
source NYT
Each year the list of countries where Christmas services and festivities are at risk gets longer. This year we should anticipate the risk to be highest in Pakistan, Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Nigeria, Kenya and Bangladesh. We should also realise that risk could exist in Indonesia and Jordan (subject to previous plots) and possibly Southern Philippines, Tunisia, Bosnia and Mali (which have seen terror incidents this year). Because the world has changed dramatically during 2015, the risk of a Christmas terror attack is now also high in Russia, which is being threatened by IS and al-Qaeda; the European Union, with 'Rome' being the ultimate terror target, and where unknown Muslim migrants are flooding in at the rate of 5000 per day; Lebanon, which has seen terrorism this year and has been thoroughly infiltrated with IS and al-Qaeda-linked jihadists and sympathisers; and Israel, a high value target which has been infiltrated by IS, although security there is phenomenal. Even where IS and al-Qaeda have not established a presence, their ability to incite impressionable youth through social media and radicalised mentors is significant, thereby increasing the risk even more widely.

Terrorists intending to attack churches and festivities this Christmas will already be plotting, conducting surveillance, gathering materials, rehearsing and training -- preparing themselves logistically, materially, physically, emotionally and spiritually. Consequently, Advent is a great time to be praying for divine intervention for peace over Christmas.


PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL

* 'Break the arm [the power and means of action] of the wicked and evildoer' (Psalm 10:15a ESV); sever their supply lines, communication channels and relationships; remove their funding and leadership; foil their plots and confuse their schemes 'so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more' (Psalm 10:18b ESV).

* infiltrate the hearts and minds of would-be terrorists as they seek their god in preparation for their attack; may the Spirit of the Lord work powerfully to turn them from their path; to convict them of their sin; and even generously reveal himself to lost human beings in desperate need of his grace. (Ephesians 2:8)

'And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?" And he said, "Who are you, Lord?" And he said, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting." ' (Acts 9:4,5 ESV)

* be pleased to use his Church to amplify the gospel of generous grace this Christmas. Prepare us Lord. Increase our faith that we might be living testaments to your generous grace.

'For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.' (John 3:16 ESV)


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
------------------------------------------------------------
ANTICIPATING JOY AND TERROR DURING ADVENT

Churches and gathered Christians worldwide are at a greater risk of terrorist attack over Christmas than at any other time during the year. Whilst the targeting of a church any time is largely symbolic, it sends the message that when the 'new order' arrives, Christianity will not be tolerated -- and not just the Christianity of the true believer but the Christianity of culture, heritage, tradition and foundational values. Terrorists intending to attack churches and festivities this Christmas will already be plotting, conducting surveillance, gathering materials, rehearsing and training: preparing themselves logistically, materially, physically, emotionally and spiritually. Consequently, Advent is a great time to be praying for divine intervention for peace over Christmas. May terrorist plots be thwarted and would-be terrorists seeking supernatural strength find instead the God of generous grace.

------------------------------------------------------------

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


Her second book, ‘After Saturday Comes Sunday’: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East, will be published by Wipf and Stock (Eugene, OR, USA) in early 2016. 

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

RLPB 337. November update. Incl. India, Australia, Bangladesh, Burma, Nigeria, Russia in Syria.

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 337 | Wed 25 Nov 2015

By Elizabeth Kendal

NOVEMBER 2015 UPDATE -- During November we prayed concerning ...

* INDIA (RLPB 334), where violent persecution continues to escalate because of Hindutva (intolerant Hindu nationalism). During the winter sitting of the parliament, Hindu nationalist MPs of both the upper and lower houses plan to introduce a private member's bill banning conversions.

UPDATE: The parliament will sit from 26 November to 23 December, commencing with a two-day discussion on the constitution, to commemorate its adoption on 26 November 1949. The opposition has vowed to raise the issue of 'intolerance' -- an issue the government is dismissing as an illusion created by the opposition for political purposes. With Indian actors and writers increasingly speaking out against intolerance, pray that the plight of Christians will not be overlooked or disregarded.

* CHINA (RLPB 335), where repression is escalating as President Xi exhorts the ruling Communist Party to 'attain the goal of Communism', expecting artists, writers and the Church to serve the Party,  advance its goals and be consistent with Marxist-Leninist thinking.

* IRAN (RLBP 336), where Christians continue to be imprisoned for their faith as the clerical regime continues to intensify pressure on the Church.

* IRAQ (RLPB 336), where a new National Identity Card law allows the forced Islamisation of Christian children in the event that either parent converts to Islam or marries a Muslim. By this means, Islam will strive (through yet more discriminatory laws) to take Christian children captive into a system they will never be free to leave. Pray against this wickedness. May the Lord protect Iraq's Christian children.

NOVEMBER 2015 ROUND-UP -- also this month ...

* AUSTRALIA: LAW AS A WEAPON

click here for pdf
The Australian Catholic Bishops' Conference is to go before Tasmania's Anti-Discrimination Commission charged with violating Tasmania's anti-discrimination law which criminalises speech that could reasonably be anticipated to offend, humiliate, insult or ridicule another person on the basis of several categories, including sexual orientation. The complaint was made by transgender Greens Party candidate, Martine Delaney, who claimed to feel 'offended and humiliated' by Tasmanian Archbishop Julius Porteous' booklet, 'Don't Mess With Marriage' [see blog for link]. Written in defence of traditional marriage and the rights of children, the booklet/pastoral letter was distributed to parents and teachers in Catholic schools as a means of explaining the Catholic Church's position on marriage and family. It is gracious, sensitive, beautifully written and thoroughly inoffensive. Despite this, Tasmania's Anti-Discrimination commissioner, Robin Banks, ruled on 13 November that the Australian Catholic Bishops' Conference has a case to answer. This is a test case for anti-discrimination law in Australia.

* BANGLADESH: ATTEMPTED MURDER OF PRIEST-DOCTOR 

Italian Catholic priest Father Piero Parolari (64) has lived in Bangladesh for 25 years, the past 12 of which have been spent in the north-west district of Dinajpur where he works as a doctor in a hospital run by Christian missionaries. On 18 November, when Fr Piero was cycling down to the St Vincent Hospital after morning prayers at the Suihari Catholic Mission, he was shot several times at close range by three men on a motorbike, who then savagely beat him before leaving him for dead. Islamic State (IS) has claimed responsibility. Fr Piero survived and is recovering in hospital [photos]. Pray for the Church in Bangladesh.

* BURMA (Myanmar): MILITARY ESCALATES ATTACKS ON CHRISTIAN KACHIN
Despite having won Burma's 8 November polls in a landslide, Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) will face major hurdles. The deeply flawed 2008 constitution was written under military rule and serves military interests.  It centralises government and contains 'exception clauses' that give the military the legal right to orchestrate a military coup if the military deems it necessary for the purpose of safeguarding the constitution [see RLPB 236 (13 Nov 2013)]. After independence, Burmese military units throughout the country were required to raise a significant amount of their own revenue to pay salaries and equip themselves. Today, two military-run conglomerates continue to dominate much of Burma's economy. The conflict in Kachin State continues because the Kachin -- a devoutly Christian people -- want greater autonomy with cultural and religious freedom, while the military wants to exploit Kachin lands, which are rich in jade, timber and water for hydro-electricity. The extreme violence meted out by the Burmese Buddhist military to the Christian Kachin is driven not merely by greed, but by toxic racial and religious hatred.

On 15 October (just prior to the elections) the government of President Thein Sein and eight armed groups signed a so-called Nationwide Cease-fire Agreement (NCA), binding those groups to abide by the 2008 constitution. The Kachin Independence Army (KIA) was one of seven groups that refused to sign. After the elections the Kachin observed a massive build-up of Burmese forces around the outskirts of Mohnyin town in south Kachin State. Ground offensives began on 14 November. On Monday 16 November KIA positions were attacked by fighter jets, helicopter gunships and ground artillery. La Nan, who is a local religious leader and Mohnyin resident, told The Irrawaddy that some 300 villagers had fled their homes and were temporarily sheltering in his church. The Rev Lama Yaw of the Kachin Baptist Convention visited areas near Mohnyin and told Morning Star News that Christians in the state capital, Myitkyina, are praying for villagers living near Mohnyin. 'As soon as we heard civilians fled for safety, we held prayer and prayed to God to protect them,' he said. 'We are weak, and what we can do is keep praying and relying on God. We believe that God is capable to protect our people.' Please join in prayer with the Kachin as they pray for peace in Burma. May God shield Mohnyin, home to many displaced Kachin.

Prayer for displaced ethnic Kachin at the Kachin Baptist Convention’s
office in Myitkyina. Morning Star News

* NIGERIA: BOKO HARAM UNDER PRESSURE

Earlier this year, Boko Haram was consolidating its caliphate in north-eastern Nigeria, launching raids into northern Cameroon [RLPB 296 (11 Feb)] and inciting pogroms in southern Niger [RLPB 293 (21 Jan)].  In February the governments of Nigeria, Benin, Niger, Chad and Cameroon agreed to assemble an 8700-strong regional force to destroy the group. In June Nigeria's new President Muhammadu Buhari moved the military command centre from the capital Abuja, to Borno, the centre of the war zone [RLPB 315 (24 June)]. The regional force commenced operations on 30 July. In retreat and under pressure, Boko Haram has escalated its use of suicide bombers, virtually all of whom are young girls. As noted in RLPB 333 (27 Oct), Boko Haram has used 50 girls for this purpose so far this year and it is fair to assume that they were mostly (if not exclusively) captive Christians. At least seven more girls were used as suicide bombers in November, six in attacks on Fotokol, in northern Cameroon on 9 and 21 November, and one in a displaced persons' camp in Maiduguri, Borno, on 22 November. While some captives have been rescued, many hundreds more remain in captivity and many have already been sold into sexual slavery to regional jihadists. Pray for God to intervene in Nigeria and set the captives free. (Psalm 146)

* RUSSIA IN SYRIA: UPDATING RLPB 332 (21 Oct 2015)

Russia entered the conflict in Syria primarily to defend its own strategic interests (in particular its port in Tartus) and fight terrorists (of particular concern are the more than 2000 Russian/'Chechens'). It is in Russia's interests on both counts to preserve the Syrian government, a long-time ally. As Russia has noted, Syria is already providing 'boots on the ground' in the fight against IS and al-Qaeda (just as the Shi'ite-dominated, Iran-aligned, Iraqi army does in Iraq -- with US-support). The Russian intervention has infuriated the US-Turkey-Arab regime-change coalition which is still insisting 'Assad must go', even though IS is poised to fill any power vacuum. That prospect does not bother Turkey, for if the Islamic State of Saudi Arabia is IS's mother -- having nurtured the newborn Islamic State (IS) into being -- then Turkey is IS's father, manager and business partner. US Vice President Joe Biden was absolutely right when he told students at Harvard University in October 2014, 'The biggest problem is our allies.' As Biden went on to explain, Turkey (in particular) has facilitated the flow of thousands of fighters and millions of dollars into the jihad in Syria. Turkey's border is not called the 'jihadi highway' for nothing. Turkey is also a leading purchaser of IS oil.

On Tuesday 24 November Turkey shot down a Russian fighter jet that it claimed had briefly violated Turkish airspace. For the second time in two months, NATO-member Turkey is pressing for a NATO intervention against Russia in Syria. Russian President Vladimir Putin was absolutely right when on 25 November he called the Turkish military 'accomplices of terrorists' and asked, 'Do they want to make NATO serve ISIS?' If NATO intervenes it could facilitate the fall of the Syrian government; a genocide of Alawites, Christians and other minorities, and Syria's descent into a Libya-style chaos. This is precisely what some people and governments actually want. Please pray for God to intervene in Syria, a centre for Christianity for 2000 years, where 'the disciples [followers of Jesus] were first called Christians' (Acts 11:26 ESV).

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

Her second book, ‘After Saturday Comes Sunday’: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East, will be published by Wipf and Stock (Eugene, OR, USA) in early 2016.


Tuesday, November 17, 2015

RLPB 336. Iran and Iraq: pressure mounts on Christians

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 336 | Wed 18 Nov 2015

IRAN AND IRAQ: PRESSURE MOUNTS ON CHRISTIANS
plus - an update on Syria
By Elizabeth Kendal

IRAN: IMPRISONED FOR CHRIST
Maryam Naghash-Zargaran
Iranian authorities first started harassing Maryam Naghash Zargaran (37) in February 2011, angered by her conversion to Christianity and her active involvement in Iran's house church movement. In early 2013 Maryam (also known as Nasim) was charged with 'Propaganda against the Islamic regime' and imprisoned for 19 days before being released on bail. In July 2013 the court pronounced Maryam guilty of waging an 'anti-security agenda to spread Christianity in Iran in order to pervert Iranian society from the way of truth [i.e. Islam]' and sentenced her to four years in Evin prison. Maryam suffers from a congenital heart condition and had surgery nine years ago for Atrial septal defect (ASD) [commonly known as ‘a hole in the heart’].  Maryam's health has deteriorated significantly in prison. On 29 September 2013 she had to be hospitalised for urgent heart treatment. In late October 2015 she was granted medical leave again, but within days was ordered back to prison, mid-treatment. Maryam needs our prayers.

Middle East Concern (MEC) reports that on 1 November security agents raided a house church in Varamin, south-east of Tehran, and arrested at least thirteen of those present. The following day another Christian connected with the house church was arrested at his home in Tehran. MEC reports: 'Many of those arrested were formerly members of Emmanuel Protestant Church in Tehran, which was forced to stop its Farsi-language services in 2012, resulting in the formation of several informal house churches.' The condition and whereabouts of those arrested remains unknown. Family and friends are requesting prayer.

IRAQ: CHRISTIAN CHILDREN AT RISK

The Iraqi parliament has moved to Islamise Iraq further with a new National Card law. According to Article 26.2 of the National Card law, '... children shall follow the religion of the converted parent to Islam.' In other words, if a Christian father decides to convert to Islam -- say, to get a job or a second (Muslim) wife -- then his children will be registered automatically as Muslims. Likewise, if a Christian mother -- maybe a widow or divorcee -- marries a Muslim man, then her children will automatically be registered as Muslims. Considering that Islamic law regards apostasy (leaving Islam) as a capital offence and obliges Muslim women to marry Muslim men, this move is significant. Christian children are at risk of losing their religious freedom purely because of a parent's  decision. Christian and other religious minority MPs proposed the following amendment: 'Minors will keep their current religion until the completion of 18 years of age, when they have the right to choose their religion.' But this was rejected and on 27 October the law was passed in the Iraqi parliament by a vote of 137 to 51. After the vote, religious minority MPs walked out of the chamber in protest.

Christians protest in Arbil
source: Evangelical Focus.
Sign reads:
I am Iraqi
I am Christian.
On 6 November Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako met with Iraqi President Fouad Masoum who acknowledged that elements of the National Card law do conflict with the Iraqi Constitution and said he would try to seek a realistic solution. However, Article 2 of the Iraqi Constitution states: 'Islam is the official religion of the State and is a foundation source of legislation' and 'no law may be enacted that contradicts the established provisions of Islam ...' Because Iraq's laws must not contradict Islam -- which defines religious freedom very differently from how the West defines it -- and because Iraq is now more closely aligned to ascendant Iran than to the declining West, the prospects for a correction seem slight. Chaldean Bishop Rabban Al-Qas of Amadiyah and Zakho, a diocese in Iraqi Kurdistan, predicts that the new law will further accelerate the exodus of Christians. 'We are facing a genocide,' he said, 'in a country that knows only death and liberticidal laws.'


PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT

* the presence of God's eternal and omnipresent Spirit will be palpable inside Iranian prisons -- both to the believers and through the believers; may the Lord our Shepherd guide Iran's at-risk illegal house churches and the Lord of Hosts protect them.

* Jehovah Rapha -- 'the Lord who heals you' (Exodus 15:26) -- will watch over, protect and preserve the lives of his precious, cross-bearing children in Iran and Iraq as they endure war, imprisonment, harsh conditions, displacement and separation from family and church friends because of the name of Jesus. Please pray especially at this time for Maryam Naghash Zargaran -- may the Lord uphold her.

* our sovereign God will intervene to protect and preserve Iraq's remnant Christians, especially vulnerable Christian children; may all wicked efforts to steal Christian children for Islam come to nothing. 'Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.' (Matthew 19:14 ESV)

'Fear not, for I [the Lord] am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Behold, all who are incensed against you shall be put to shame and confounded; those who strive against you shall be as nothing and shall perish.' (Isaiah 41:10,11 ESV)

UPDATE SYRIA: In August, IS forces captured the mostly-Christian town of Qaryatyn and the nearby Assyrian village of Hawwarin, both midway between Palmyra and the strategic Damascus-Homs M5 HWY. Though Christians fled, some one hundred Christian families remain captive in Qaryatyn. [See RLPB 322 (12 Aug) and RLPB 331 (13 Oct).] Stratfor Global Intelligence reports that Syrian government forces have re-taken several villages close to the eastern side of the M5. They are now preparing to defend Sadad (a Christian centre, now largely evacuated), and, with Russian air support, advance on on Qaryatyn and Hawwarin. May God be a shield around the remnant and captive Christians, and may their towns and villages be liberated.

~ ~ ~ ~

SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN WHOLE ARTICLE
------------------------------------------------------------
PRESSURE MOUNTS ON CHRISTIANS IN IRAN AND IRAQ

Pressure is mounting on Christians in Iran and Iraq as Iran ascends and Western influence declines.  In Iran, Farsi-speaking ethnic Persians face imprisonment if they convert to Christianity or participate in Farsi-language witness, or worship in secret house churches. Convert Maryam Naghash Zargaran (37) with a heart condition is part way through a four-year sentence. She urgently needs prayer. Since 1 November 14 members have been detained when officials raided a house church in Tehran Province. Meanwhile, the Iraqi parliament has passed a National Card law mandating that, if a Christian parent converts to Islam or marries a Muslim, their children will be registered automatically as Muslims and subjected to Sharia provisions. Christian children are thus at risk of forced Islamisation. Please pray for Iran and Iraq and their Christians.

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


Tuesday, November 10, 2015

RLPB 335. China: Repression and Censorship; Xi and Mao.

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 335 | Wed 11 Nov 2015

CHINA: REPRESSION AND CENSORSHIP; XI AND MAO.
-- Includes updates on Assyrian captives, and Aleppo crisis.
By Elizabeth Kendal

Zan Aizong (SCMP)
On Tuesday 3 November officers from China's National Security Bureau raided the home of Zan Aizong, a Christian Zhejiang-based writer and member of the Chinese Independent Pen Centre. A former reporter and Zhejiang consultant for China Ocean News, Zan Aizong has been blogging on religious freedom and cross demolitions in the coastal province of Zhejiang, critical of Chinese Communist Party (CCP) policy. Zan was temporarily detained, questioned, intimidated and threatened. 'Please ask for the Lord's mercy,' he wrote upon returning home. 'Today, I was accused on suspicion of subverting national security [an extremely serious charge], and my cell phone, computer, etc., were confiscated. After this matter was recorded, I was free to go home for the time being, but I cannot speak and I cannot post on WeChat again. I would like to thank Jesus Christ for his grace and help ... I do not have any hatred towards any person ...' Zan Aizong is in a very delicate and dangerous position -- as it seems are all who dare criticise CCP policy these days.

Zhang Kai (centre) (RFA)
Meanwhile, Zhang Kai, the Christian attorney who was providing legal counsel to churches in Zhejiang, remains 'disappeared' [see RLPB 325]. He is one of an estimated twenty Christians from Wenzhou and Jinhua (two cities in Zhejiang) to have been taken into China's 'black jails' since 25 August -- and certainly the most high profile. Black jails are secret prisons in unknown locations where high value prisoners are interrogated, abused and tortured while denied access to family, a lawyer or medical care.  On 4 November the family of Zhang Liumao, a human rights activist in the southern province of Guangdong, was informed of his death in custody. According to the CCP mouthpiece, Xinhua, Zhang Liumao was one of seven members of a 'shadow army' plotting 'sabotage activities' against the state. Allegedly their plan was to 'overthrow the current system through armed rebellion to walk the path of a "democratic constitution".' According to Xinhua, Zhang Liumao was 'the explosive expert in the group,' and had 'nasopharyngeal cancer as a result of long-term exposure to chemicals'. Xinhua claims that Liumao 'showed no symptoms during detention until 11 October' and died on 4 November due to a 'massive hemorrhage after treatments failed'. In reality, Zhang Liumao's activities involved publishing a literary magazine funded by the US government. Liumao had been arrested in the crackdown on 15 August and charged with 'creating a disturbance'. Zhang Liumao's family has not been allowed to see his body and it is suspected he was tortured to death. This is the China of President Xi Jinping. China's detained Christians need our prayers!

Pray for President Xi Jinping
and First Lady Peng Liyuan.
President Xi Jinping is what is known as a 'princeling', a descendant of one of the Chinese Communist Party's founding fathers.  As noted by China analyst Willy Lam, Xi has 'masterminded a pronounced shift to conservative ideals that are reminiscent of the Mao Zedong era'. Having openly called for the CCP to 'attain the goal of Communism', Xi is escalating repression at an alarming rate, tightening the noose around writers, lawyers, artists, churches and banning party members from criticising CCP policy. In the spirit of Lenin and Mao, Xi is seeking to have art, literature, media and religion (in reality, everything) serve the CCP. At a symposium on arts and culture in mid-October, Xi told a gathering of artists, actors and writers, that art does not exist for art's sake; rather it should serve socialism and the people and be consistent with Marxist-Leninist thinking. China's First Lady, Pang Liyuan (a former singer and actress) is leading the way by reviving Mao Zedong's favourite musical, the pro-revolution 'White-Haired Girl'. Essentially, all elements of society are expected to unite behind the Communist program.

Under Xi, China is taking a big step backwards. Committed to reviving Maoist ideology, Xi is moving to take control of what the Chinese people hear, read, say and see. Censorship is on the rise. And what is the cross removal campaign in Zhejiang if it is not essentially a campaign of censorship? The CCP might be able to stop Chinese citizens seeing the cross, but how will they stop them hearing of it? The situation in China could get much worse yet.


PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT

* the God of the cross will redeem this campaign of censorship against the cross so it might actually generate interest in the cross; may Christ continue to build his Church in China.

* the Spirit of God will give divine wisdom and guidance to all Christian artists, writers, lawyers and church workers who risk serious punishment if they criticise CCP policy. 'If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.' (James 1:5 ESV)

* the Lord will have mercy on Zhang Kai and all the believers in Chinese prisons and secret 'black jails'. May the Lord's presence be palpable (Romans 8:31-39); may his strength and comfort be sustaining (Isaiah 40:28-31); may he set the prisoners free (Psalm 146).

* just as the Lord redeemed the evil of the Tiananmen Square massacre (4 June 1989) to generate criticism of CCP repression and arouse a wave of interest in Christianity, may he likewise redeem today's escalating repression to generate a whole new wave of interest in the life- and nation-transforming truth of God's word.

'Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, to whom belong wisdom and might.' (Daniel 2:20 ESV)

~ ~ ~ ~

UPDATES TO RLPB 333, October Update (27 Oct)
ASSYRIAN CAPTIVES: thank God that on 7 November, IS released 37 frail and elderly Assyrian captives from Hasakah. Please continue to uphold the remaining captives, and pray for their release.
ALEPPO CRISIS: thank God that on 4 November, with the aid of Russian air cover, Syrian and allied forces regained control (from IS) of the Khanaser-Ethyra highway into government-held eastern Aleppo. Please continue to pray for Syria's Christians.

~ ~ ~ ~

SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN WHOLE ARTICLE
------------------------------------------------------------
REPRESSION AND CENSORSHIP IN CHINA

China's President Xi Jinping has called for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to 'attain the goal of Communism'. Following Chairman Mao's policies, Xi wants all elements of society -- particularly the arts and religion -- to serve the CCP. Criticism of CCP policy is becoming increasingly dangerous. On 3 November Zhejiang-based Christian writer Zan Aizong was detained temporarily, questioned, intimidated and threatened.  He had been blogging on the programme of removal of crosses from roofs of churches in Zhejiang. Meanwhile, Zhang Kai, the Christian attorney who was providing legal advice to churches in Zhejiang, remains 'disappeared', having been incarcerated in a secret 'black jail'. On 4 November one of the human rights activists arrested in the August crackdown died in captivity. Please pray for China and for the Chinese Church.

----------------------------------------------------------

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

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

RLPB 334. India: violence escalates as Hindutva takes hold

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 334 | Wed 04 Nov 2015

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Supporting International Day of Prayer (IDOP)
    for the Persecuted Church
IDOP 2015: Sunday 8 November
    See Critical Prayer Requests (CPR)
-----------------------------------------------

INDIA: VIOLENCE ESCALATES AS HINDUTVA TAKES HOLD
By Elizabeth Kendal

Hindutva (Hindu nationalism) arose in the early twentieth century -- first, as a response to British colonial rule, and also in response to the threat of Muslim secession (which would leave millions of Hindus as threatened minorities under Muslim rule). Though India has been independent since 1947 and partition is now an established fact, ambitious politicians in 'democratic' India have fostered Hindutva for political gain. No longer needed to unify Indians against colonial rule, Hindutva today is used to unify Indians behind high caste Hindu elites. Nearly a century after Hindutva activists began their long march through India's institutions, high caste Hindutva protagonists have come to dominate politics, academia, education, media and security. Despite multitudes of Indians being secular and peaceable, Hindu nationalism has captured the imagination. [For a more detailed version of this RLPB that explains the origins of Hindutva and Islam's influence on it: click here, India: Hindutva, Conversions and Violence, by Elizabeth Kendal, Religious Liberty Monitoring, 4 Nov 2015]

Hindutva has turned India into a tinderbox of sectarian tension. Violent persecution is on the rise. The monthly reports from Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI) make sobering reading, covering incidents raging from destruction of Christian property through to mob violence (pogroms), serious assault and murder. The following are a few samples from EFI's October report, all fully verified and acknowledged as 'the tip of the iceberg'. On 8 September a mob of over 50 Hindu radicals attacked a church in Bastar, Chhattisgarh, beating the believers with clubs, sticks and fists after a village council banned all non-Hindu worship. Two Christian women were beaten unconscious. The Christians are being shunned and boycotted, making living in the village close to intolerable. On 22 September Hindus in Kongud, Chhattisgarh, summoned two Christian brothers to the local temple and demanded they renounce Christ. When they refused, the Hindus beat them, accused them of forceful conversions, vandalised their home and drove them from the village. The brothers complained to  the police, who refused to register a case. Despite this, the Hindus are threatening further violence if the brothers do not withdraw their complaint.

Pastor Arvinder Singh
(EFI)
During the first week of October Hindu leaders in Chattarpur, Madhya Pradesh, ordered Hindus to boycott Chattarpur's 26 Christian families, depriving them of water and other basic services. The Christians are also receiving death threats. On 8 October Pastor Arvinder Singh and his family were beaten almost to death in Phagwara City, Punjab, by a Hindu mob which included their own neighbours. Pastor Arvinder (pictured) was beaten unconscious with a metal bar, his pregnant wife was seriously bashed and their 11-month-old baby boy was thrown onto a pile of bricks, causing him serious internal injuries. Nearly a month later, no police report has been registered. On 12 October the mother of a pastor in Dahod, Gujarat, was stoned by a Hindu mob. Her injuries required hospitalisation. On 13 October suspected Hindu nationalists broke into the home of Pastor Chamu Hasda Purty of the Pentecostal Church in Sandih, Jharkhand, and shot him dead. On 17 October Hindu nationalist youths attacked a 50-strong prayer meeting in Rajnandgaon, Chhattisgarh, and beat up the pastor. Police arrived and detained the Christians, who were only released after local Christian leaders intervened. On 25 October Pastor Thomas, his wife and two children were among ten Christians arrested in Junardeo, Madhya Pradesh, on false charges of forced conversions. The children were separated from their parents and from each other. While all the adults have since been bailed, the children remain in detention -- John (14) 174 km away in Narsinghpur and Kezia (12) 471km away in Shahdol.

India's ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) plans to introduce a private member's bill banning conversions to both the upper and lower houses of parliament during the winter sitting, expected to commence on 20 November. The bill will propose that those engaged in conversion be subject to a non-bailable warrant and liable to a ten-year prison term. The situation in India is about to get considerably worse. (Ephesians 6:12-18)

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT

* God will be at work amongst Indians, opening their eyes to truths (e.g. that Christians are doing good works), quickening their minds to discern lies (that Christians are not the enemy), and awakening them to realities (particularly that sectarian bloodshed shames India and threatens the economy); may the people wake up to and reject the self-serving ploys of the Hindu elite.

* Western political leaders and diplomats will not avoid addressing the issue of Hindu nationalism, religious apartheid and escalating religious intolerance and communal violence. [India should stand condemned but currently nobody seems to have an interest in addressing this issue.]

* Christ will build and bless his Church, leading those who need wisdom, comforting those who are traumatised and afraid, providing believers with all their needs, and redeeming all suffering for his good purpose.


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN WHOLE ARTICLE
------------------------------------------------------------
VIOLENCE ESCALATES AS HINDUTVA TAKES HOLD IN INDIA

Hindutva (Hindu nationalism) arose in the early twentieth century primarily as a response to British colonial rule. India has been independent since 1947, but ambitious politicians in 'democratic' India now foster Hindutva for political gain. Instead of uniting Indians against the British, Hindu nationalists are uniting Indians behind a Hindu elite keen to preserve their own power and privilege. By demonising non-Hindus as disloyal and a threat, Hindutva has turned India into a sectarian tinderbox. Violent persecution is escalating and will certainly get considerably worse when the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) introduces an anti-conversion bill during the winter sitting of parliament (expected to commence 20 November). The Indian Church is growing precisely because it is a mission-focused church. Please pray for India and its Church. (Ephesians 6:12-18)

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

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

RLPB 333. October update. Incl, Bangladesh, Assyrians in Sweden, Syria, Germany, Indonesia (Aceh), Nigeria, Uganda

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 333 | Wed 28 Oct 2015

----------------------------------------------
Supporting International Day of Prayer (IDOP)
   for the Persecuted Church
IDOP 2015: Sunday 1 or 8 November
   See Critical Prayer Requests (CPR)
-----------------------------------------------

By Elizabeth Kendal

31 Oct 2015 is the 498th anniversary of the German Augustinian monk, Martin Luther, nailing his 95 theses to the door of Wittenberg Castle, triggering the Protestant Reformation. Luther was protesting the church's corrupt and exploitative practice of selling indulgences. To empower the people and facilitate reformation, Luther translated the Bible into German, thereby making the truth accessible to ordinary people. Martin Luther did not intend to divide the church -- he hoped for reformation, not division. Today we protest wide-scale church indifference to persecution, noting that Christian solidarity in the face of escalating persecution not only saves lives, it is a powerful witness to the world. PRAY for reformation through a return to scripture. PRAY for spiritual unity (John 17:20-23) and brotherly love (John 13:34-35), that we might stand together around the cross.

OCTOBER 2015 UPDATE -- During October we prayed concerning . . .

* BANGLADESH (RLPB 330), where Islamic State (IS) claims to be making inroads amongst the radicalised masses, while a local group boasting links to IS have claimed responsibility for the murders of four local bloggers. After IS claimed responsibility for the assassination of two foreigners -- described as 'nationals of crusader coalition countries' -- a call to prayer was issued on the expectation that the Church could be targeted as well.

UPDATE: Within hours of RLPB 330 being published, news emerged that Bangladeshi pastor Luke Sarker (52) had narrowly survived an attempted beheading. Rescued by family and neighbours, Pastor Sarker sustained wounds to his neck that required stitching but were not life-threatening. Praise and thank God for his merciful intervention! On 24 October Bangladesh suffered its first terrorist attack on Shi'ites when terrorists infiltrated the Ashura procession in Dhaka's Mughal quarter and left improvised explosive devices in the Hossaini Dalan Shi'ite shrine. A teenage boy was killed and some 80 Shi'ite worshippers were wounded in the explosions. Though IS has claimed responsibility, the police and government continue to insist that IS has no presence or influence in Bangladesh. The situation is dangerous. Pray for the Church in Bangladesh.

* ASSYRIAN CAPTIVES (RLPB 331) held by Islamic State (IS) in Syria after videos emerged in early October of captives in Qaryatayn signing dhimma contracts and of three Assyrian captives from Hasakah being executed.

RELATED: ASSYRIAN CHRISTIANS THREATENED IN SWEDEN
Assyrian protest
Gothenburg, Sweden.
Of the 300 Swedish citizens believed to be fighting with IS, at least half of them come from one city: Gothenburg.  [As a comparison, some 250 Americans are fighting with IS, as are around 120 Australians.] Of the 10,000 Assyrians living in Sweden some 3000 live in Gothenburg. On 13 October (just days after the IS videos were released), Assyrians in Gothenburg woke to find threatening messages graffitied on the walls of Assyrian-owned businesses. Messages included 'Convert or Die' and 'The Caliphate is Here', along with the IS logo and/or the Arabic letter 'N' for Nazrani/Nazarene (a follower of Jesus the Nazarene) -- the same symbol IS used to identify the homes of Christians in Mosul in July 2014. Pray for the Assyrian community in Sweden.

* RUSSIA IN SYRIA (RLPB 332), noting that Russia's bombing raids and provision of air cover were helping the Syrian government drive back al-Qaeda-linked Jaysh al Fateh in the north and Islamic State around Damascus, the population of which has swelled from two million to ten million as Syrians have flooded in to find sanctuary from the rebels.

UPDATE: The Syrian government is fighting two main enemies -- al-Qaeda (and its numerous affiliates, some US-armed and trained) and IS. It is also being forced to fight on multiple fronts. Committed as it is to regime change in Damascus -- no matter the cost -- the America-Turkey-Sunni Arab axis has dramatically escalated its support to 'rebels' (most of whom are aligned with al-Qaeda). Weapons are flooding in; in fact rebel use of US-made TOW anti-tank guided missiles has increased 850 percent since the Russian intervention began, causing serious problems for the Syrian government which happens to be the last line of defence for many millions of Syrians, including hundreds of thousands of Christians. Pray for East-West co-operation in the war against Islamic jihadists.   

ALEPPO CRISIS
Because the M5 Highway into Aleppo runs through Idlib, which is under the control of Turkey-Saudi backed, al-Qaeda-linked Jaysh al Fateh, the government has had to gain access to government-controlled western Aleppo via the Ethyra-Khanaser road approaching from the south-east. On Friday 23 October IS forces attacked that road, capturing at least ten government checkpoints and successfully severing the government's supply-line into Aleppo. This is a major catastrophe for government soldiers, Christians and other loyalists now besieged in the city. Pray for the Church in Aleppo, and that the road will be re-opened. Again, pray for East-West co-operation in the war against Islamic jihadists. 

'In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord ... I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your wonders of old ... You are the God who works wonders ...' (from Psalm 77).

OCTOBER 2015 ROUND-UP -- also this month ...

* GERMANY: CONVERT BASHED IN MIGRANT CENTRE
A 24-year-old Iranian national has been seriously bashed in a migrant camp in Hamburg for his 'sin' of converting to Christianity. By the time other migrants managed to restrain the attacker -- an Afghan refugee armed with a telescopic baton -- the Iranian convert was unconscious and seriously injured. Pray for Christians in Europe's migrant centres. Pray for a change in policy and that Christians will be housed separately. Of course this would require the authorities to end their ideological and fear-driven denial and admit that Islam really does endanger Christians. 

* INDONESIA: CHURCHES ATTACKED IN ACEH

photo: World Watch Monitor
On 13 October a mob of some 700 Muslims attacked and torched a Protestant church in Aceh's southern-most district of Aceh Singkil. They had been incited by hard-liners from the Islamic Defenders Front who are demanding that as most of Aceh Singkil's 22 churches do not have permits, they should be torn down. Permits for houses of worship in Indonesia are granted by local religious harmony forums, which tend not to permit churches in Muslim-majority areas. With tensions soaring, the police picked up sledgehammers and axes and tore down at least three more churches, supposedly to 'preserve harmony'. All church members could do was watch and weep. The pastor of one church with over 100 members said they had applied for a permit repeatedly, but were always refused. Ten churches have been listed for closure; some will be dismantled. With text messages circulating calling for Christians to be hunted and churches to be burned, an estimated 8000 Christians have fled across the provincial border into north Sumatra. Some 1300 security personnel have been deployed to the area. Pray for the Church in Aceh.

* NIGERIA: REMEMBERING THE GIRLS
Unbeknown to worshippers, the three veiled girls who entered their Maiduguri mosque on 16 October were strapped with explosives. When their vests were detonated, the explosion ripped through the mosque killing 26 and wounding dozens. Boko Haram, now an Islamic State (IS) affiliate going by the name Wilayat al Sudan al Gharbi, claimed responsibility. It was the second Boko Haram bombing using three girls in the space of three days. Global Stratfor Intelligence commented on Boko Haram's unprecedentedly high use of girls as suicide bombers, noting it had used 50 girls for this purpose so far this year. As Boko Haram comes under increased military stress it is returning to guerrilla tactics and terrorism. In this it is both exploiting its kidnapped girls (who have mostly been kidnapped from Christian communities) and relieving itself of burdensome captives. Pray for God to intervene to end this unmitigated evil. (See Isaiah 59:15b-19)

* UGANDA: INTENSE PERSECUTION CONTINUES
Morning Star News (MSN) reports that the mutilated body of Samson Nfunyeku, a long-time evangelist, apologist and convert from Islam, was found on 23 September not far from his home in Kalampete village, Kibuku District, Eastern Region. After Samson was killed, his brother, George Mwanika, also a convert to Christianity, started receiving death threats. On 19 October Muslims came to George's house, intending to kill him. George was not home, so they dragged his wife, Mamwikomba, out of the house threatening to kill her if she didn't divulged her husband's whereabouts. When George arrived home he found Mamwikomba unconscious in a pool of blood. Neighbours helped George rush her to hospital, but she was dead on arrival. Three of the couple's eight children were home at the time of the attack. The whole family is at risk. 'We really need prayers,' George told MSN.

'I will say to the Lord, "My refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust." For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge.' (Psalm 91:2-4 ESV)

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