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).

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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.