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.