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

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   for the Persecuted Church
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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).