Tuesday, December 20, 2016

RLPB 389. Christmas Prayer

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 389 | Wed 21 Dec 2016

Please forward this prayer bulletin widely, and encourage others to sign up to the Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin blog. "The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective." (James 5:16 NIV)


CHRISTMAS PRAYER
by Elizabeth Kendal

Nobody should worry that remembering the persecuted over this busy and joyful Christmas - New Year season might cause joy to be subsumed in sorrow or anxiety. It is with a spirit of brotherly and sisterly love that we remember and lift up the persecuted at this time, confident that such prayers will bring comfort and encouragement to our brethren and will please the Lord who is 'Father' to us all.

CHRISTMAS PRAYER

Almighty God and gracious Father -- in you alone do we trust. For you alone are worthy, being supreme in power, authority, wisdom and understanding, glorious in majesty and perfect in love.  

The whole Body of Christ rejoices in your incarnation, that selfless act of unsurpassed humility through which you came and dwelt among us -- to live the life we could not live and die the death we should have died -- to redeem us for yourself. For this, the greatest gift born of the greatest love, we thank you. 

Grant us, Lord, in your mercy and grace, a fresh outpouring of your Holy Spirit to embolden us in our witness, work in us righteousness, encourage us on our path to the cross, sustain us in our trials, empower our testimony and bind us together. 

May those who are persecuted be palpably aware of the Spirit's eternal presence, Christ's sustaining love, and the Father's unsurpassed power and resolute faithfulness. Lord, we beseech you: fight for them, shield them, carry them and deliver them. To this end, we offer ourselves as your servants. 

And may all who see this recognise that Jesus Christ is Lord.

AMEN

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NEWS & UPDATES

NEWS: This will be the last Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin (RLPB) for 2016. While an urgent prayer alert or request will be issued should the need arise, the next formal RLPB will be the January Update on 25 January 2017.

UPDATES: Please do not be daunted by this non-exhaustive list. Feel free to just pick one nation, one situation or one person either from this list or beyond it and pray through this Christmas season as you feel led. Seek the Lord in this, and trust him to have everything and everyone covered.

NOTE: the high risk season includes Advent, Roman Catholic and Protestant Christmas (24-25 December), New Year, Greek Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Christmas (6-7 January).

Last week we prayed concerning the 11 December Advent massacre in Cairo's St Peter and St Paul church, noting the elevated terror threat over the Christmas - New Year season. The terror threat is extreme in Egypt, Syria (particularly in western Aleppo and Damascus), Pakistan and Nigeria and high in Kenya, Indonesia and Europe. [See: RLPB 388 (14 Dec).] The updates below confirm this assessment.

EGYPT: The SITE Intelligence Group has provided a more accurate translation of the claim of Islamic State (IS) of responsibility for the Cairo church bombing. 'Let all the disbelievers and apostates in Egypt and everywhere know that our war on polytheism is ongoing, and that the State of the Caliphate -- with permission from Allah the Almighty -- will continue to spill their blood and grill their bodies, so that there is no sedition and the religion is all for Allah.' Because Islam views Trinitarian Christianity as polytheism, we can be sure that IS will be at war against Christianity until 'the religion is all for Allah'.

SYRIA: On Friday 16 December Islamic militants strapped an explosive belt to an 8-year-old girl and sent her into a police station in the Al-Midan neighbourhood of Damascus, before detonating the explosives remotely. The girl was the only fatality. The terror threat in Syria is extreme.

GERMANY: On 16 December police arrested a 12-year-old boy accused of twice attempting to detonate a home-made, nail-filled, Improvised Explosive Device in his home town of Ludwigshafen, western Germany. On 30 November the boy, who was born in Germany to Muslim Iraqi immigrant parents, tried to bomb a Christmas market. Then on 2 December he left a bomb outside a high-rise complex comprising City Hall and a shopping mall. Fortunately, both bombs failed to detonate. However, on the evening of 19 December, 12 died and some 50 were wounded when a  presumed Islamic terrorist drove a 7-tonne truck at high speed into one of Berlin's largest Christmas night-markets, the Breitscheidplatz Christmas market, beside the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. Kaiser Wilhelm ruled Germany from 1888 to 1918. An ardent Islamophile (lover of Islam), he maintained close ties to the Ottoman Sultan / Caliph and believed Germany's future lay in a strategic alliance with Islam.
Death and terror in the shadow of the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church,
Berlin, 19 Dec 2016.  image source

This year Germany, France, Belgium, England and much of Europe will celebrate Christmas under unprecedented security. For more information on the threat to Europe see:
Christmas Shoppers in Jihadist Crosshairs,
by George Igler, Gatestone Institute, 18 December 2016


INDONESIA: The blasphemy trial of Jakarta's ethnic Chinese Christian Governor Basuki 'Ahok' Tjahaja Purnama [RLPB 383 (9 Nov)] commenced on 13 December. Ethnic and religious tensions are soaring. On 14 December the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) issued a fatwa (religious ruling) forbidding Muslims from participating in Christmas festivities, particularly the wearing of Christmas-themed accessories. The Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) has been out in force, visiting shopping malls and spreading the word as police watch on, refusing to intervene.

Link includes video
The police also failed to intervene on 6 December to stop the Ahlus Sunnah Defenders (PAS) from forcing the closure of a Carol Service in Bandung, West Java, even though all permit requirements to hold the service had been fulfilled. Without police support, pastor Stephen Tong had little choice but to comply, so the congregation closed with one hymn and a prayer and went home.

RUSSIA: It was indeed an oversight to have left Russia off the list of places where churches face an elevated terror threat over Christmas - New Year. [It was included last year, RLPB 228 (1 Dec 2015).] On 19 December Andrei Karlov (62), a career diplomat and Russia's Ambassador to Turkey, was assassinated while speaking at an art exhibition in Ankara. The assassin (now dead) was a policeman. After shooting the Ambassador he shouted 'Allahu akbar' and (in Arabic), 'We are the descendants of those who supported the Prophet Muhammad, for jihad,' and (in Turkish), 'Don't forget Aleppo, don't forget Syria!' This appalling assassination is a reminder of how much Sunni fundamentalist anger is directed at Russia.

PRISONERS: A significant number of Christians will spend the Christmas season as prisoners, many in truly appalling conditions, none more so than the many thousands of believers detained in North Korea and Eritrea. Some Christians have been in prison for years, such as Asia Bibi in Pakistan, and others in Iran and Laos. Some are more recent prisoners, like those we have been praying for this year in Algeria, China, Iran, Sudan and Vietnam. They are Christian lawyers who defend human rights and religious freedom. They are Christian aid workers who serve the poor and needy. They are pastors devoted to feeding and leading Christ's flock. They are missionaries who risk their lives to 'make disciples of all nations ...' (Matthew 28:19-20a).  They are converts who have chosen to follow Jesus -- no turning back. They are faithful, courageous believers and we are not to be ashamed of their chains (1Timothy 1:15-18).

Norine Brunson overlooks the
Harmandanli Detention Centre
World Watch Monitor
The newest prisoner is Rev. Andrew Brunson, the American Protestant pastor of the Dirilis (Resurrection) Church in Izmir, TURKEY. Brunson (48) and his wife Norine were arrested on 7 October, deemed a threat to national security. Norine was subsequently released, but Brunson was transferred to the Harmandanli Detention Centre where he is being held incommunicado. He faced court on 9 December accused of 'terrorism' and links with the Gulen Movement. The Erdogan government blames the Gulen Movement for July's failed coup attempt and maintains that the US was complicit. Fethullah Gulen has lived in self-imposed exile in the USA since 1999. Turkey is demanding his extradition (so maybe they wanted a bargaining chip). The Brunsons, who have three children studying in the US, have lived in Turkey for the past 23 years. Andrew Brunson's situation is dire.

'Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body' (Hebrews 13:3 ESV).

MISTREATED: Not to be forgotten are captives such as Dr Ken Elliot and Beatrice Stockly [RLPB 341 (27 Jan)] and Father Tom Uzhunnalil [RLPB 368 (27 July)] hostages of Islamic militants in Mali and Yemen respectively. Nor must we forget those forced into hiding in North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Somalia and other places where an expression of faith will cost believers their lives. Also not to be overlooked are the millions of believers who are now displaced, homeless, destitute and grieving -- across Mesopotamia (Syria-Iraq), Burma, Nigeria, Central African Republic, Sudan, South Sudan and elsewhere.

BE ENCOURAGED: For the God of creation, incarnation, resurrection and redemption -- 'nothing will be impossible'. (Luke 1:26-38)

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Elizabeth Kendal is international religious liberty analyst and advocate. She serves as Director of Advocacy at Canberra-based Christian Faith and Freedom (CFF), and is an Adjunct Research Fellow at the Arthur Jeffery Centre for the Study of Islam at Melbourne School of Theology.

She has authored two books: Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today (Deror Books, Melbourne, Australia, Dec 2012) which offers a Biblical response to persecution and existential threat; and, After Saturday Comes Sunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East (Wipf and Stock, Eugene, OR, USA, June 2016).

See www.ElizabethKendal.com

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

RLPB 388. Egypt, and the Christmas-New Year terror threat

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 388 | Wed 14 Dec 2016

Please forward this prayer bulletin widely, and encourage others to sign up to the Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin blog. "The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective." (James 5:16 NIV)


EGYPT, AND THE CHRISTMAS-NEW YEAR TERROR THREAT
by Elizabeth Kendal

El-Botroseye in the foreground,
it's upper windows blown out.
St Mark's Cathedral in the background.
(11 Dec 2016)
TERROR IN EGYPT

On Sunday 11 December the Egyptian Christians worshipping inside Cairo's St Peter and St Paul church (El-Botroseya) were doubtless aware of the elevated terror threat. After all, Christians have been targeted over the Christmas-New Year period before.  On 7 January 2010, seven Coptic youths and one Muslim guard were gunned down as they emerged from a Christmas Eve midnight mass in Nag Hammadi. In the early hours of 1 January 2011, 23 mostly Coptic Christians were killed when an Islamic suicide terrorist detonated his explosive-laden car outside a Coptic church in Alexandria during a midnight service to welcome in the New Year. Consequently, the worshippers inside El-Botroseya last Sunday -- men seated on the left, women and children seated on the right (as is Coptic tradition) -- were doubtless grateful for the armed guards stationed at the door.

blood of the martyrs (11 Dec 2016)
Part of a large Coptic Church compound, El-Botroseya is located adjacent to St Mark's Coptic Cathedral, the most significant Cathedral in the Coptic Church, the Seat of the Coptic Orthodox Pope. Inside El-Botroseya the believers were celebrating Advent -- a time when Christians look forward to the Nativity of Jesus. As it happened, it was also 'Mawlid', the day when Muslims celebrate the birth of Muhammad. As the service drew to a close, a man reportedly entered the church and walked in amongst the women and children where he detonated an explosive vest containing 12kg of TNT. In addition to the bomber, 24 worshippers were killed -- mostly women and children, including several infants -- making it the most deadly attack on Christians in recent years. A further 49 were wounded. Instead of guarding the entrance, the security guards were reportedly sitting in their car.

Among the dead: (L) Marina Helmy (20) & Ensaf  Kamel (37);
(C) Veronia Helmy (18);
(R) Aida Mikhail (60) & Regina Raafat (50)

CCTV footage of blast;
PLUS Yahoo News Photo Gallery: aftermath of Church bombing

The next day (Monday) Egypt's President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi named Mahmoud Shafik Mohamed Mostafa (22, also known as Abu Dajjana al-Kanani) as the bomber. Three other men and one woman have been arrested over the attack. Doubtless embarrassed by the security lapse, President Al-Sisi rushed to exploit the funeral for photo opportunities. While Church and State officials were given passes to attend the State funeral, local Copts -- including the relatives of the slain -- were kept at a distance. It might have made good television propaganda, but Copts told Morning Star News that the funeral left them hurt and angry.

Al-Ahram Photo Gallery: funeral

On Wed 14 Dec, Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility for the bombing, vowing to 'continue its war against polytheism', [by which it means trinitarian Christians]. Islamic State (IS), which is primarily active in Sinai, is the inspiration behind Muslim Brotherhood-linked militant groups that have committed several attacks and attempted assassinations in Cairo over recent weeks. The threat facing Coptic Christians this Advent, New Year and Orthodox Christmas (6-7 January) is extreme.

CHRISTMAS-NEW YEAR TERROR THREAT

Egyptian Christians will not be the only believers facing an elevated terror threat this Christmas-New Year period. The risk will be elevated right across the Middle East, but nowhere more so than in SYRIA, where jihadist groups that are losing territory will be reverting to an angry terrorist insurgency. The liberation of eastern Aleppo might be all but over, but with tens of thousands flooding into western Aleppo [see excellent CNN report], the possibility that jihadists have infiltrated the masses means the terror threat facing western Aleppo must be regarded as extreme. Furthermore, with IS once again in control of the central oasis of Palmyra, the terror threat to Damascus, along with all the Assyrian villages located between Palmyra and Damascus, must be regarded as extreme.

Likewise in PAKISTAN, where the Taliban is ascendant and doubtless keen to make a statement before winter sets in and fighting dies down. In NIGERIA, where Boko Haram (now known as 'Islamic State West Africa Province') might also want to make a statement over Christmas, the terror threat must be regarded as extreme. Other high risk zones include KENYA (which is threatened by al-Shabaab), INDONESIA (where anti-Christian Islamic zeal is boiling) and possibly even EUROPE, where popular resistance to mass Muslim immigration is gaining momentum.

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT: 

* 'the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction,' (2 Corinthians 1:3-4a ESV) will infuse by his Holy Spirit deep spiritual comfort into those now grieving the loss of loved ones so cruelly slaughtered in their place of worship.

* the LORD of Hosts (the commander of heaven's angelic armies) will shield and protect his people (Psalm 17:8-9) and bring the way of the wicked to ruin (Psalm 146:9).

* the Lord would redeem all suffering and every act of terror to awaken the world to truth: humanity needs God. 'Lift up your heads, O gates! And be lifted up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in.' (The Psalm of the King, Psalm 24:7 & 9 ESV)


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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EGYPT, AND THE CHRISTMAS-NEW YEAR TERROR THREAT 

On Sunday 11 December an Islamic terrorist blew himself up amongst Christians celebrating Advent in Cairo's St Peter and St Paul church. Specifically targeting the women and children, he killed 24,  making it the most deadly attack on Christians in recent years. A further 49 were wounded. With Islamic State (IS)-inspired Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated militants escalating their activity, the Christmas-New Year terror threat in Egypt must be regarded as extreme. Similarly, the terror threat is extreme in Syria (from IS and 'rebels'), Pakistan (from IS and Pakistani Taliban) and Nigeria (from Boko Haram). It is high in Kenya (from al-Shabaab), Indonesia and Europe. Pray that the Lord will shield and protect his people (Psalm 17:8-9) and bring the way of the wicked to ruin (Psalm 146:9). Amen.

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Elizabeth Kendal is an international religious liberty analyst and advocate. She serves as Director of Advocacy at Canberra-based Christian Faith and Freedom (CFF), and is an Adjunct Research Fellow at the Arthur Jeffery Centre for the Study of Islam at Melbourne School of Theology.

She has authored two books: Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today (Deror Books, Melbourne, Australia, Dec 2012) which offers a Biblical response to persecution and existential threat; and, After Saturday Comes Sunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East (Wipf and Stock, Eugene, OR, USA, June 2016).

See www.ElizabethKendal.com

Monday, December 5, 2016

RLPB 387. China: persecution set to escalate in 2017

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 387 | Wed 07 Dec 2016

Please forward this prayer bulletin widely, and encourage others to sign up to the Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin blog. "The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective." (James 5:16 NIV)


CHINA: PERSECUTION SET TO ESCALATE IN 2017
by Elizabeth Kendal

Since the 1980s, the legitimacy of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has come less from ideology than from its ability to generate wealth. Consequently, the present economic downturn poses a threat to CCP legitimacy. Analysts have forecast that 2017 will be a particularly difficult year for the CCP, as China is faced with sky-rocketing corporate debt, an increase in bankruptcies, slowing housing, construction and manufacturing sectors and now the prospect that the US will place massive tariffs on Chinese goods. Anticipating escalating social and political unrest, the CCP has been reviving ideology, bolstering its power and consolidating its control over every element of society, including China's rapidly growing Church. [See also: RLPB 379 (12 Oct)]

On 7 August 2014 China's long-disappeared, internationally acclaimed Protestant Christian human rights lawyer, Gao Zhisheng, was released from secret 'black jail' detention. Tortured and emaciated, after three years in solitary confinement, Gao struggled to string a sentence together. As was clear to this writer at the time [see RLPB 275 (27 Aug 2014)], in releasing Gao in such a state, the CCP was sending a message that 'this is what happens to those who challenge the CCP!' More than a provocative act, it was also an experiment. If the CCP could do this to the high-profile Gao Zhisheng (52) without consequences, it could do it to anyone. Likewise, the persecution of the Church in Zhejiang, in particular in Wenzhou ('China's Jerusalem'), has been an experiment. If the CCP can remove the Cross and rein in the Church across China's Christian heartland without consequences, it can do it anywhere in China.

The CCP is cracking down on unregistered (illegal) house churches, while at the same time reining in the State-approved, registered 'Patriotic' churches. As reported in previous RLPBs, several leading CCP-recognised Protestants -- pastors with the CCP-approved Three Self Patriotic Movement and leaders in CCP-approved China Christian Council -- now languish in prison on serious corruption charges, simply for criticising the CCP's religious policy. Meanwhile, leading Christian human rights lawyers have also 'disappeared' into detention.

Cardinal Joseph Zen (84)
On Wednesday 30 November two Chinese Catholic bishops were ordained with joint Beijing-Vatican approval, indicating that CCP-Vatican rapprochement is making headway.  Cardinal Joseph Zen -- the former  Bishop of Hong Kong and the most senior Chinese cleric in the Catholic Church -- has urged the Vatican not to go through with the 'landmark agreement' that would see the Vatican recognise only those bishops already approved by the CCP-approved Catholic Patriotic Movement. Such an agreement would necessitate the Vatican severing ties with the underground Catholic Church, which Zen notes would betray the faithful and fuel repression.

There is still no word on the whereabouts of Christian human rights lawyers Zhang Kai (re-arrested on 31 August [see RLPB 377 (27 Sept)]; and Jiang Tianyong (believed to have been abducted into secret detention on 21 November) [see RLPB 386 (30 Nov)]. Furthermore, over the weekend of 26-27 November, Chinese security officers raided the Gospel Drug Treatment Church in Guangdong, which specialises in helping people with addictions free of charge, through its Christian rehabilitation centres. Many of its members are former patients whose lives have been transformed by treatment and by the Gospel. Computers and literature were seized and the church's leaders, Hong Kong residents Mr and Mrs Lin Haixin, were arrested, presumably for conducting unregistered (illegal) religious activities. Their whereabouts remain unknown.

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT: 

* the ever-present Spirit of God will minister to Zhang Kai, Jiang Tianyong, Mr and Mrs Lin Haixin, and all other Christian leaders and lawyers presently languishing in Chinese prisons.

 '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)

* the Lord will grant divine wisdom to all Christian figures and Church leaders, local and foreign, seeking to engage or negotiate with the Chinese Communist Party; may their eyes be open to reality and not be deceived; may they walk in obedient faith, trusting only in the Lord.

* the Lord will continue to build his Church in China, refining her, moulding her and sanctifying her in preparation for the day of her freedom.

Pray for China: Psalm 146
Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation (v3) ...
[The Lord] executes justice for the oppressed ... The Lord sets the prisoners free; the Lord opens the eyes of the blind ... but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin (from vv 7-9).


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
------------------------------------------------------------ 
PERSECUTION IN CHINA SET TO ESCALATE IN 2017

Anticipating that economic downturn will result in escalating social and political unrest, the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has been reviving ideology, bolstering its power and consolidating its control over every element of society. Confident it can commit extreme human rights abuses with impunity, the CCP will doubtless move to persecute the Church into submission nation-wide. Numerous Christian leaders are already in prison, mostly on bogus corruption charges. There is still no word on the whereabouts of Christian human rights lawyers Zhang Kai (re-arrested on 31 August) and Jiang Tianyong (abducted on 21 November). Meanwhile, Hong Kong residents Mr and Mrs Lin Haixin were arrested in late November for running an unregistered Christian rehabilitation ministry in Guangdong. Their whereabouts are unknown. Please pray for China and its Church.

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Elizabeth Kendal is the author of Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today (Deror Books, Melbourne, Australia, Dec 2012) which offers a Biblical response to persecution and existential threat; and, After Saturday Comes Sunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East (Wipf and Stock, Eugene, OR, USA, June 2016).

See www.ElizabethKendal.com

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

RLPB 386. November Update; Incl. Syria, Indonesia, Sudan, Nigeria, China, Iran, Uzbekistan, Vietnam.

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 386 | Wed 30 Nov 2016
by Elizabeth Kendal

Please forward this prayer bulletin widely, and encourage others to sign up to the Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin blog"The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective." (James 5:16 NIV)


NOVEMBER 2016 UPDATE -- this month we prayed concerning ...

* ALEPPO, SYRIA (RLPB 382), where the Battle for Aleppo is in its final days. Turkey's invasion and advance in the direction of al-Bab (just 36km from rebel-held eastern Aleppo) has forced the Syrian government's hand.

UPDATE: As the Turkey-backed, al-Qaeda-aligned 'rebels' come under intensive pressure, thousands of Aleppo residents, long-held as human shields, are now escaping eastern Aleppo for the safety of government-held areas. Reports are surfacing of conflict erupting between rebel groups as hardline jihadists seek to stem the exodus of disaffected fighters and civilians. Those who have escaped confirm that rebels have terrorised residents, executing those suspected of disloyalty and keeping snipers posted at all possible exits. Pray this bloodshed will end soon. Pray for the Church in Syria.

* JAKARTA, INDONESIA (RLPB 383), where Islamic clerics have accused Jakarta's incumbent ethnic Chinese Christian Governor Basuki 'Ahok' Tjahaja Purnama of blasphemy in the hope they can prevent him from contesting Jakarta's February 2017 gubernatorial elections.

'Penjarakan Ahok' (imprison Ahok)
UPDATE: Having concluded their investigations, police have named Ahok as a blasphemy suspect, confirming that the case will go to trial. Islamic fundamentalists are now protesting that Ahok has not been arrested and detained as is the normal protocol in blasphemy cases in Indonesia. This is a watershed moment for Indonesia.

For a full analysis see: Indonesia: Ahok's 'Blasphemy',
By Elizabeth Kendal, Religious Liberty Monitoring, 30 Nov 2016

* SUDAN (RLPB 384), where the Islamist and Arabist Government of Sudan (GoS) continues its war on dissent and its persecution of the Church while preparing for a dry season resumption of its genocidal jihad against the African Christians of the Nuba Mountains.

Bishop Max Gassis
Source: CBN,
includes 12 minute interview. 
UPDATE: NUBA ABANDONED
According to Nuba Reports, some 230,000 Nuba refugees are languishing in the camps of South Sudan, stuck between two horrendous wars: the GoS genocidal jihad in the Nuba Mountains and South Sudan's civil war. With Europe desperate to curb migration, the US desperate for Sudanese intelligence, China and Russia eager to invest and an array of African states keen to normalise relations, the Nuba are being abandoned. Bishop Macram Max Gassis, the emeritus bishop from the El-Obeid diocese in the Nuba mountain area of Sudan, is appealing for international assistance on behalf of the Nuba. He is requesting specifically that Khartoum be pressured to end its aerial bombardment of civilians and allow the entry of humanitarian aid. '[The Nuba] are our brothers and sisters in humanity,' he told Deutsche Welle. 'If we neglect them, we are responsible in front of Almighty God.' May the Lord intervene for his people!

* NIGERIA (RLPB 385), where Christians in ethno-religious fault-line regions -- specifically at this time in southern Kaduna -- face a resurgence of classic Islamic jihad as Fulani Muslim herdsmen and Islamic militants, backed by Muslim political and military figures, work together to displace them and steal their lands.

UPDATE SOUTHERN KADUNA: MORE ATTACKS 
On Friday 25 November Mile One Village in Tafan District, Jemma Local Government Area (LGA) in Kaduna State's deep south was attacked by 'gunmen' who killed four residents and burned several houses. The residents of Mile One and the surrounding villages of Gidan Waya, Ungwuan Ninzo and Ungwuan Kagoro have all fled. The students of the College of Education, Gidan Waya, spent the night hiding in the bush. Neighbouring Pasakori village came under attack a day earlier. Christian leaders lament and have denounced the on-going ethnic cleansing.

UPDATE KANO: BLASPHEMY KILLERS ACQUITTED
On 2 June Bridget Agbahime (74), wife of Pastor Mike Agbahime (pastor of Kano's Deeper Life Bible Church, Northern Nigeria), was beaten to death at her stall in the Kofar Wambai market by an enraged Muslim mob after being falsely accused of blasphemy. According to reports, her accuser had been 'looking to make trouble' for the Agbahimes (who are Christian Igbos from the south) for some time. On Thursday 3 November a Kano court acquitted the five men arrested over the murder, allowing them to walk free. The ruling has horrified Christians. The Christian Association of Nigeria in the 19 Northern States and Abuja has appealed to the Attorney General.


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

* CHINA: ANOTHER CHRISTIAN LAWYER DISAPPEARS


Jiang Tianyoung (source: RFA)
Beijing-based Christian human rights lawyer Jiang Tianyong (45) disappeared on the evening of Monday 21 November. He had travelled to Changsha, the capital of Hunan Province, to meet with relatives of lawyers detained in the July 2015 crackdown. Having already purchased his train ticket, Jiang was due to leave Changsa for Beijing at 10:53pm that night (21 November). His wife Jin Bianling, who fled China with their daughter some years ago, has had no contact with Jiang since 10pm, 21 November, and holds grave fears for his safety. It is feared that Jiang -- who was abducted and tortured for two months in 2011 -- has again been abducted by security officials. One of China's most prominent human rights lawyers, Jiang has had numerous high profile clients over the years, including tortured Christian attorney Gao Zhisheng.  May God have mercy! Pray for disappeared Christian lawyers Jiang Tianyong and Zhang Kai. Pray for the Church in China.

* IRAN: AZERI CHRISTIANS RELEASED ON BAIL

Update to RLPB 372 (24 Aug 2016): Praise God that Yusif Farhadov (51), Eldar Gurbanov (48) and Bahram Nasibov (37), three Azeri Christians from Baku, Azerbaijan, who were arrested on 24 June while attending a wedding in Tehran, have been released on bail. After two months of solitary confinement and months of hardship in Evin Prison's Ward 350, the men were released on 29 October. They were allowed to return to Azerbaijan on 6 November after paying the full amount of bail. Middle East Concern reports (7 November): 'They faced charges of engaging in missionary activity and propaganda against the regime, but it is hoped that they will be acquitted of these charges.' Praise God for this mercy.

* UZBEKISTAN: PRISONER RELEASED ON BAIL, BUT WARNED


Tohar Haydarov
Source: VOM
Praise God that Christian convert Tohar Haydarov (33) has been released from prison, six years and ten months into his 10-year jail sentence. In early 2010, after local Muslims complained about Haydarov's conversion and witness, Uzbek authorities arrested him, claiming to have 'found drugs' on his property. In March 2010 Haydarov was sentenced to ten years imprisonment. Compounding his grief, his Muslim father died -- allegedly of 'accidental electrocution' --  the very day he was due to testify in court in defence of his son's good character. Haydarov was released on parole on 8 November. He has returned to his home in Gulistan, eastern Uzbekistan. His fellow Baptists told Forum 18, 'We are thankful to everybody who prayed for him and sent letters to him while in prison.' However, they request continued prayer for Tohar, anticipating he will face problems; indeed, he has already been warned. Pray for Tohar Haydarov and for the Church in Uzbekistan.

* VIETNAM: PROBLEMATIC LAW PASSED

On 18 November Vietnam's new Law on Belief and Religion passed in the National Assembly with 84.58 percent approval. Vietnam's Communist Party-run media hailed it as a great leap forward for religious freedom. Whilst the final text has not yet been made public, it is not expected to differ significantly from previous drafts. The draft Law on Belief and Religion started from the position that religion is a threat to national security and social order, a problem to be micro-managed. In hailing the law's passing, the state-run media noted that, whilst guaranteeing religious freedom for all, the law bans religious activity that could (amongst other things) harm social order and/or national unity, or prevent the performance of civil rights and obligations, or offend the honour of any persons. Such vague and subjective parameters ensure the Communist authorities will have plenty of grounds upon which to repress and persecute religious believers. As is common in much of Asia and Africa, the Church is at the centre not only of humanitarian work but of most pro-democracy and human rights advocacy. Please pray for Vietnam and its Church.

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

Elizabeth Kendal is an international religious liberty analyst and advocate. She serves as Director of Advocacy at Canberra-based Christian Faith and Freedom (CFF), and is an Adjunct Research Fellow at the Arthur Jeffery Centre for the Study of Islam at Melbourne School of Theology.

She has authored two books: Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today (Deror Books, Melbourne, Australia, Dec 2012) which offers a Biblical response to persecution and existential threat; and, After Saturday Comes Sunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East (Wipf and Stock, Eugene, OR, USA, June 2016).

See www.ElizabethKendal.com

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

RLPB 385. Nigeria: Church Bleeds Under Fulani Jihad

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 385 | Wed 23 Nov 2016

Please forward this prayer bulletin widely, and encourage others to sign up to the Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin blog. "The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective." (James 5:16 NIV)


NIGERIA: CHURCH BLEEDS UNDER FULANI JIHAD
plus Indonesia Update: Ahok to face court
by Elizabeth Kendal

Fulani cattleman with his herd
During the later half of the 20th Century, modernisation and environmental factors such as drought and desertification left many Fulani and Hausa Muslims struggling to maintain their traditional, nomadic way of life. While many abandoned cattle grazing and migrated into the cities in search of work, others still lead their cattle south in search of food and water. The situation has put immense strain on Nigeria's ethno-religious 'fault-line', where Fulani Muslim 'settlers' from the north and southern Christian 'indigenes' now compete for land, water, jobs and political power. For decades, successive northern Muslim military dictators empowered the Fulani. In today's democratic Nigeria, Muslim fundamentalists -- political leaders, military personnel and Islamic jihadists -- back the Fulani and use them as proxies to expand Islamic territory at the expense of local Christians, a record number of whom are now displaced. The seemingly endless violence perpetrated by Muslim Fulani against Christian indigenous communities across the 'fault-line' and ever deeper into the south needs to be understood in the context of predatory migration, ethno-religious cleansing and classic imperialistic Islamic jihad.

Kaduna -- one of Nigeria's twelve Sharia states -- sits in Nigeria's volatile Middle Belt with Fulani Muslims in the north, Christian tribes in the south and its divided capital straddling the ethno-religious fault-line. On the evening of Sunday 13 November Fulani herdsmen besieged and attacked five villages -- Kigam, Kitakum, Unguwan Magaji, Unguwan Rimi and Kizipi -- in Chawai Chiefdom in Kauru Local Government Area (LGA) in Southern Kaduna, about 300 km south-east of the Kaduna metropolis. Armed with guns, knives, machetes and explosives, the Fulani killed 45 mostly women, children and elderly Christian residents while wounding dozens more and displacing thousands. Numerous vehicles and over 120 houses (including eight house-churches) were looted and torched. [Photos (graphic)]

According to local eyewitnesses, a Fulani herdsman named Haruna had approached a local farmer in September, requesting permission to graze his cattle on his land. The farmer refused, explaining that he had just finished preparing the land for planting yam in October. Despite this, the cattleman moved his cattle in and even built huts on the farmer's land. Reluctant simply to submit and surrender his land, the farmer eventually called the police who intervened to remove the cattleman and his herd. When the cattleman subsequently returned, local youths chased him away. That was when the Fulani decided to ethnically cleanse the whole area.

Frustrated by the endless carnage, the Chairman of the Southern Kaduna Peoples Union, Solomon Musa, reiterated calls for the establishment of a military base in Southern Kaduna. 'It has now become abundantly clear,' he said, 'to even the worst sceptics, that Southern Kaduna has become a killing field where genocide is taking place unabated.' Most analysts would concur with Musa's analysis that powerful people are sponsoring terrorists to eliminate people.

Church leaders accuse the government of not giving enough attention to security. It is just as the Reverend Zachariah Gado of Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) explains: there is a 'well-funded, organised and executed campaign not only to make life unbearable for the entire Southern Kaduna territory through threats, intimidation and psychological warfare, but also to occupy the land through what can only be described as ethno-religious cleansing by Fulani herdsmen militia.' Whole Christian communities are disappearing, being replaced with Fulani Muslims. The Church is bleeding under this Fulani jihad.

ECWA press conference, 16 Nov 2016 (image source: World Watch Monitor).
For more details on the press conference, and a link to
 the ECWA statement, see Christian Solidarity Worldwide.

PLEASE PRAY THAT THE LORD OUR GOD WILL

* draw very near to the Christians in Southern Kaduna -- in particular (at this time) those in and displaced from Kaura LGA -- as they struggle against fear and despair, and against temptations to hate, to retaliate, and to doubt; may the Lord draw them close and lift their heads, that they will look to him for comfort, justice and security. May the devil have no victory here! May divine grace prove effective as a healer and as a witness.

'But you, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.' (Psalm 3:3 ESV)

* influence the government of Nigeria, in particular President Muhammadu Buhari and Kaduna Governor Nasir el-Rufai, convicting and energising them to act decisively to:
strengthen security in Christian regions;
crack down on the illegal activities of the Fulani; and
smash the nexus between the Fulani cattle herders, the Islamic militants, rogue Muslims in the military, and powerful Muslim fundamentalist figures (clerics and politicians) with Islamic imperialist ambitions.


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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CHURCH BLEEDS UNDER FULANI JIHAD IN NIGERIA

Security is failing in Kaduna, a volatile Sharia state which straddles Nigeria's ethno-religious 'fault-line'. On the evening of Sunday 13 November Fulani Muslims besieged and attacked five villages in Kauru Local Government Area in predominantly Christian Southern Kaduna. Armed with guns, knives, machetes and explosives, the Fulani killed 45 mostly women, children and elderly Christian residents while wounding dozens more and displacing thousands. Numerous vehicles and over 120 houses (including eight house-churches) were torched. Frustrated by the endless carnage, Christian leaders have reiterated the call for more security, including the establishment of a military base in Southern Kaduna. The organised ethno-religious cleansing taking place must be seen in the context of classic Islamic jihad. With whole Christian communities erased, the Church is bleeding. Please pray for Nigeria and for its Church.

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INDONESIA: Update to RLPB 383 (9 Nov 2016)

On Wednesday 16 November police named Governor Basuki 'Ahok' Tjahaja Purnama as a blasphemy suspect, confirming that the case against him will proceed to court. Police are currently working to complete Ahok's case dossier so the trial -- which will be open to the public and televised live -- can commence. Now that Ahok has been named, Islamic fundamentalists are demanding he be arrested and incarcerated as is the tradition in Indonesia. Islamic leaders are organising rallies for Fridays 25 November and 2 December to protest against Ahok's freedom. Police have vowed to disperse any protests that block streets or cause disruptions. This is a watershed moment for Indonesia, as well as for Ahok, whose life, liberty and future are on the line.

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Elizabeth Kendal is the author of Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today (Deror Books, Melbourne, Australia, Dec 2012) which offers a Biblical response to persecution and existential threat; and, After Saturday Comes Sunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East (Wipf and Stock, Eugene, OR, USA, June 2016).

See www.ElizabethKendal.com

Monday, November 14, 2016

RLPB 384. Sudan: Khartoum's jihad to eliminate opposition

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 384 | Wed 16 Nov 2016

Please forward this prayer bulletin widely, and encourage others to sign up to the Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin blog. "The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective." (James 5:16 NIV)


SUDAN: KHARTOUM'S JIHAD TO ELIMINATE OPPOSITION 
by Elizabeth Kendal

The Islamist and Arabist Government of Sudan (GoS) is waging a jihad to eliminate opposition to its Islamist and Arabist policies. The GoS's policy of racial and religious genocide is rooted in an April 1993 fatwa which labelled the marginalised non-Arab Muslims rebelling against the state as 'apostates'. Describing the long-persecuted non-Muslims (mostly Christians) as 'kaffirs (infidels) standing in the way of Islam', it decreed that 'Islam has justified the fighting and the killing of both,' (citing Qur’an, Sura 5:54). Because the US is hungry for Sudanese intelligence on Islamic militant organisations and the EU is desperate for Sudanese co-operation to stem the flow of migrants, the GoS can commit its crimes against humanity with almost total impunity.

The Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) has suspended peace talks with the GoS in response to Amnesty International's 29 September report on the GoS' use of chemical weapons in Darfur. As this Prayer Bulletin has reported previously, the GoS has also used chemical weapons in the Nuba Mountains. The SPLM-N has long maintained that the GoS only engages in peace talks so it can prolong humanitarian crises. Today, with roads becoming passable again now the wet season is over, the SPLM-N warns that Khartoum 'is building up military forces from its militias and army, preparing for a dry-season offensive in the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile.' As we prepare for Christmas, the Christians of the Nuba Mountains are preparing for another season of aerial bombardment and genocidal jihad.

click on map to enlarge
Meanwhile, Christian schools and churches operated and attended by ethnic Nuba and other 'southerners' are coming under increased pressure. In Wad Madani, the capital of Al Jazirah state, a Christian school belonging to the Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church has endured more than two months of intense harassment, intimidation and pressure. Established in Wad Madani (188km south-east of Khartoum) by the American Mission in 1901, the Evangelical Basic School has 1000 students aged 3 to 18 yrs. In September the GoS accused the community of providing material support to the SPLM-N, a charge the school denies. The school was raided three times in two months. The principal, a dozen teachers and another pastor were arrested, questioned and bailed (at great expense). Furthermore, the National Ministry of Guidance and Endowments attempted to take over the school. On 14 November, in response to parent protests, Wad Madani's Appeal Court for Administrative Affairs cancelled the order to close the highly regarded school. This does not mean the battle is over! Meanwhile in Khartoum, five churches have received notifications that their buildings will be demolished -- three belonging to the Sudan Church of Christ (SCOC), one to the Presbyterian Church and the other to the Episcopal Church in Sudan.

Petr Jasek (Voice of the Martyrs)
On Trial for their lives.
"[The defendants] stand accused of several
crimes against the State; but their only
 'crime' is standing in solidarity
with the persecuted church in Sudan."
Persecution Project Foundation
Also in Khartoum, the trial of Nuba pastors Rev. Hassan Abdelrahim and Rev. Kuwa Shemaal, Darfuri student and convert Abdelmoneim Abdelmoula, and Christian aid worker Petr Jasek (a Czech national) continues. [For background, see RLPB 372 (23 Aug 2016)].  On 3 November investigator Abdelrahman concluded the argument for the prosecution. Jasek stands accused of giving money to 'some individuals' (ethnic Nuba) which the prosecutor maintains amounts to support for the war against the state. For investigating and reporting persecution, Jasek stands accused of 'espionage' and 'tarnishing Sudan's image internationally'. For speaking at an international conference about the plight of Sudan's persecuted Church, the Reverends Hassan and Kuwa stand accused of 'inciting hatred against the state'. Darfuri convert Abdelmunim Abdelmoula is accused of being an accomplice in these 'subversive activities'. Cross-examination commenced on Monday 7 November and continued on 14 November. The case for the defence has now begun. Doubtless the GoS would like to use this trial as a warning to others, so as to silence all talk of persecution and genocide.

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT: 

* the Spirit of God will fortify all Sudan's pastors, evangelists, teachers and other Christian leaders, providing them with all the wisdom and grace they need to lead Christ's flock through dark and stormy times.

* God, who rules over heaven and earth, will intervene in the trial of the Reverends Hassan and Kuwa, Abdelmunim Abdelmoula and Petr Jasek, comforting, sustaining and equipping the believers, and gracing Khartoum's judges with insight and the courage to deliver justice.

* the Lord of Hosts will deliver Sudan from this evil regime. 'Arise, O Lord; O God, lift up your hand; forget not the afflicted. Break the arm [action and power] of the wicked and evildoer; call his wickedness to account till you find none' (Psalm 10:12, 15 ESV).

Prayer for Sudan: Psalm 10 

'O Lord, you hear the desire of the afflicted; you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.' (Psalm 10:17-18 ESV)


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
------------------------------------------------------------ 
KHARTOUM'S JIHAD TO ELIMINATE OPPOSITION IN SUDAN

The Islamist and Arabist Government of Sudan (GoS) is waging a jihad of ethnic and religious genocide as it seeks to eliminate all opposition to its Islamist and Arabist policies. The African Christians of the Nuba Mountains are preparing for another season of aerial bombardment and genocidal jihad. In the cities, Christian schools and churches operated and attended by Nuba and other 'southerners' are facing increased pressure. Five churches in Khartoum have been slated for demolition, while the trial of the Reverends Hassan and Kuwa (both Nuba), Darfuri convert Abdelmunim Abdelmoula and Czech aid worker Petr Jasek has resumed. For investigating and reporting persecution and supporting the persecuted church, the men stand accused of serious national security offences. Please pray for Sudan and its Church.

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Elizabeth Kendal is the author of Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today (Deror Books, Melbourne, Australia, Dec 2012) which offers a Biblical response to persecution and existential threat; and, After Saturday Comes Sunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East (Wipf and Stock, Eugene, OR, USA, June 2016).

See www.ElizabethKendal.com

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

RLPB 383. Indonesia: 'Blasphemy' fuels tensions

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 383 | Wed 09 Nov 2016

Please forward this prayer bulletin widely, and encourage others to sign up to the Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin blog. "The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective." (James 5:16 NIV)

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International Day of Prayer (IDOP) for the Persecuted Church
IDOP 2016 Sunday 13 November. Resources: http://idop.org/
See also Critical Prayer Requests (CPR) 
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INDONESIA: 'BLASPHEMY' FUELS TENSIONS
by Elizabeth Kendal

Jakarta, 4 November.
source: Antara/Akbar Nugroho Gumay
On Friday 4 November, up to 200,000 Islamic fundamentalists protested in Jakarta, calling for 'Ahok' -- the ethnic Chinese, Christian Governor of Jakarta -- to be prosecuted, imprisoned and even killed for alleged 'blasphemy'. When the protest descended into violence at the end of the day, one man died, at least 160 protesters and 79 police were injured, vehicles were torched, market stalls were looted and the Chinese-majority residential complex where Ahok and his family live was threatened. Organised by the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), it was one of the largest demonstrations in Indonesia for many years.

Indonesia's hardline Islamic fundamentalists have long opposed Basuki 'Ahok' Tjahaja Purnama. Elected as deputy governor in 2012, running with Joko Widodo ('Jokowi'), Ahok ascended to the governorship in the wake of Jokowi's 2014 ascension to the presidency. In a foretaste of things to come, Jakarta's Islamic hardliners -- led by the FPI -- were quick to protest, vowing to resist the 'kafir' (unclean), ‘infidel’, 'devil' governor [see RLPB 282 (14 Oct 2014)]. Refusing to be intimidated, Ahok struck back, calling for the FPI to be disbanded. In January 2015 the Jakarta Globe named Ahok their 'Man of the Year' and 'Indonesia's Shooting Star'.

Whilst Ahok's alleged 'blasphemy' was the pretext for the 4 November protests, the real motivation lies in the 24 September announcement that Ahok -- a Christian -- would be contesting Jakarta's 15 February 2017 gubernatorial election. With polls showing Ahok the clear frontrunner, Islamic fundamentalist clerics moved quickly to remind Muslims that the Quran forbids Muslims from taking non-Muslims as allies or friends -- and therefore governors -- citing verses such as Sura 5:51 ‘... Do not take the Jews and the Christians as allies [awliya] ...’

In a speech to city officials on 27 September, Ahok responded saying 'Ladies and gentlemen, you don't have to vote for me because you've been lied to [or fooled] with Surat Almaidah 51 [Sura 5:51] and the like. That's your right. If you feel you can't vote for me because you fear you'll go to hell, because you've been lied to [or fooled], no worries. That's your personal right ... you don't have to vote for Ahok.' (Translation by Sidney Jones). By 5 October video footage of the speech had gone viral on YouTube and Islamic fundamentalists were claiming Ahok had blasphemed against the Quran and the clerics.

The message from
Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (Syria)
Though Ahok apologised, it was in vain. Having taken up the Sharia cudgel of anti-blasphemy, his opponents were not about to put it down. What is more, they were receiving strong support from transnational Islamists. Indonesia expert Sidney Jones reports that on 29 October, photographs appeared on social media of non-Indonesian and fully armed members of Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, (previously known as al-Nusra Front, al-Qaeda's affiliate in Syria) holding signs that said 'Sentence Ahok or We Will Sentence Him with Bullets', and in front of a large wooden box labelled 'Ahok's Coffin'. On 4 November -- the day of the Jakarta protest -- Islamic State used their messaging services to encourage their supporters to use the rally 'to fan the flames of jihad across the country'.

Ahok after 9 hours of questioning
on Monday 7 Nov.
The police investigation into the alleged blasphemy has begun. Almost 100 lawyers have come forward offering to defend Ahok in the event that he is taken to court for blasphemy. If the case proceeds to trial, President Jokowi -- who has been widely criticised for his silence and for failing to defuse the situation at the outset -- wants it televised live and over in two weeks.

For a full analysis see:

Indonesia: Ahok's 'Blasphemy',
By Elizabeth Kendal, Religious Liberty Monitoring, 30 Nov 2016

Update: Indonesian Blasphemy Trial Begins
By Elizabeth Kendal, Religious Liberty Monitoring, 13 Dec 2016


PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY FOR THE LORD TO: 

* protect and sustain Ahok and all Indonesia's Christians and churches -- particularly at this time, those in Jakarta and the ethnic Chinese. 'I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust.' (Psalm 91:2 NIV)

* redeem these tense times so that ever more Indonesians will be awakened to the repressive nature of Islam, so they will resist fundamentalist and militant Islam, rejecting creeping Islamisation and repression, and choose instead equality, justice and freedom.

* intervene in the spiritual battle for Indonesia, so that freedom will advance and the Church continue to grow.

SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
------------------------------------------------------------ 
'BLASPHEMY' FUELS TENSIONS IN INDONESIA

Indonesia's fundamentalist Muslim clerics have accused Basuki 'Ahok' Tjahaja Purnama -- the ethnic Chinese Christian Governor of Jakarta -- of blasphemy, hoping to prevent him contesting Jakarta's February 2017 gubernatorial elections. The clerics assert the Quran forbids Muslims taking non-Muslims as allies (Sura 5:51) and therefore as rulers. When Ahok suggested this was a lie, he was accused of blasphemy. Led by the Islamic Defenders Front, up to 200,000 Muslims protested in Jakarta on 4 November, calling for Ahok to be prosecuted and even killed. Transnational jihadists have threatened to kill Ahok if he is not convicted, and Islamic State is calling its supporters to 'fan the flames of jihad in Indonesia'. A profound struggle is under way, with legal and spiritual dimensions. Please pray for Indonesia and its Christians.

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Elizabeth Kendal is the author of Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today (Deror Books, Melbourne, Australia, Dec 2012) which offers a Biblical response to persecution and existential threat; and, After Saturday Comes Sunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East (Wipf and Stock, Eugene, OR, USA, June 2016).

See www.ElizabethKendal.com

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

RLPB 382. IDOP and Syria: The Battle for Aleppo

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 382 | Wed 02 Nov 2016

Please forward this prayer bulletin widely, and encourage others to sign up to the Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin blog. "The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective." (James 5:16 NIV)

----------------------------------------------
International Days of Prayer (IDOP) for the Persecuted Church
IDOP 2016: Sundays 6 & 13 November. Resources: IDOP
See also Critical Prayer Requests (CPR) 
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IDOP: THE BLOOD OF THE MARTYRS
  plus UPDATE SYRIA: THE BATTLE FOR ALEPPO

by Elizabeth Kendal

'The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.' This famous quote is actually a paraphrase of words penned by the early Church father, Tertullian, in an apologetic he wrote in AD 197 for the provincial governors of the Roman Empire. In what was essentially a plea for tolerance and religious freedom, Tertullian defended Christian faith and morality while assuring the governors that the Empire's Christians were committed to being good citizens. He also pointed out to the governors that, far from destroying the Church, the cruel persecution they meted out to Christians actually served to facilitate its growth. 'The oftener we are mown down by you,' he wrote, 'the more in number we grow; the blood of Christians is seed.' In truth, the reality is a little more complicated ...

To download the full devotional/reflection, 'The Blood of the Martyrs', visit www.ElizabethKendal.com (Devotions & Reflections).

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UPDATE SYRIA: THE BATTLE FOR ALEPPO

As the Battle for Aleppo escalated in July-August, intercessors devoted themselves to prayer. In early August the Syrian government besieged the rebel-held east of the city, opened humanitarian corridors and pressed for a resolution. But it was not to be. Not only did the rebels refuse to surrender the city, they also refused to surrender their human shields. To break the siege, the Idlib-based al-Qaeda-led jihadist coalition Jaysh al-Fatah (Army of Conquest) launched a ferocious assault on Aleppo's south-western front vowing to take the jihad into western Aleppo, home to over a million civilians including some 40,000 mostly Armenian and Assyrian Christians [see RLPB 370 (10 Aug)]. Whilst rebel-held eastern Aleppo is essentially a mini-Islamic state, government-held western Aleppo is free with Sunnis, Alawites and Christians living side by side, and churches operating openly. With the battle literally 'at the gate', and despite rebel shells raining down on them, the churches of western Aleppo were ministering to the displaced, hungry, wounded, homeless and traumatised, using funds donated from Christian charities and churches abroad [see RLPB 371 (17 Aug)].

rebel shelling of western Aleppo
Aid to the Church in Need (13 Oct)
link to letter from Carmelite sisters,
dated 11 Oct.
With the aid of Russian air-cover, the Syrian Army managed to push back the jihadist assault. Subsequently, through September, ceasefires came and went as US efforts to separate 'good rebels' from bad terrorists proved futile. Most critically, Turkey's military incursion into northern Syria takes the conflict to a whole new level [see RLPB 377 (28 Sep)], forcing Syria's hand. Realising this, UN Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, pleaded with the 'rebels' to accept the Syrian-Russian offer that they be allowed to depart eastern Aleppo for Idlib, with their weapons. Mistura even offered to personally escort the nearly 1,000 al-Qaeda-aligned fighters out of the city, thereby guaranteeing their safe passage, preserving what remains of eastern Aleppo and sparing the lives of its 250,000 civilians. Russia suspended its air campaign and humanitarian corridors were opened. But as in August, it was not to be. Yet again, the 'rebels' are not only refusing to leave the city, they are refusing also to let anyone else leave -- a doctor confirming earlier reports that anyone trying to leave is strafed by rebel sniper-fire. On Friday 28 October Jaysh al-Fatah launched a new offensive on Aleppo's south-western front. Mistura said he was 'appalled and shocked' at the rebels' heavy shelling of residential areas that saw 41 civilians (17 children) killed in western Aleppo in 48 hours.

According to recent reports (2 November), the Syrian Army, backed by numerous Shi'ite militias and with Russian air-support, is successfully pushing back against Jaysh al-Fatah. But with Jaysh al-Fatah continuing to threaten western Aleppo and Turkish forces continuing to advance south towards al-Bab (36 km from eastern Aleppo), the Syrian government has little option but to reconquer eastern Aleppo as soon as possible. The jihadists (known in Western media as 'opposition' or 'rebels') comprise mostly Chechen, Uighur, Turkmen, Arab and other foreign jihadists fighting in various al-Qaeda-affiliated militias and Free Syrian Army units. With funding from the Gulf and sophisticated US-made weapons, they will not go down without a serious fight. The re-conquest of eastern Aleppo will be bloody and probably will be launched soon, while the world is distracted by next week's US presidential election.

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT: 

* the Lord of Hosts will send his angels to protect and preserve the imperilled Church in western Aleppo; may the Spirit of God sustain the believers in their faith, embolden them in their witness, and comfort them in their distress. 'And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age,' (the promise of Jesus in Matthew 28:20 ESV).

* God will provide the churches of western Aleppo with all the funds, provisions, personnel and security they need to continue their ministry and witness as agents of grace and light during the darkest of times. 'All things are possible for one who believes,' (the promise of Jesus in Mark 9:23 ESV).

* our Sovereign, merciful God will intervene in Aleppo; may Jaysh al-Fatah be driven back from western Aleppo and may the 'rebels' agree to leave eastern Aleppo for the sake of the 250,000 civilians trapped there. (Jonah 4)


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
------------------------------------------------------------ 
UPDATE ON THE BATTLE FOR ALEPPO

For the second time in three months the 'rebels' controlling eastern Aleppo have refused the Syrian government's offer of safe passage out of the besieged city. Not only are they refusing to surrender the city, they are refusing to surrender their human shields, with a doctor confirming that anyone trying to leave is strafed by rebel sniper-fire. On 28 October the al-Qaeda-led Jaysh al-Fatah coalition launched a new offensive aimed at breaking through into government-held western Aleppo, home to some 40,000 Christians. May the Lord protect, preserve, deliver and build his Church. Meanwhile, Turkish forces have crossed into Syria and are advancing south. If the 'rebels' do not surrender eastern Aleppo soon, the Syrian government will be compelled to reconquer it by force. May the Lord have mercy on Aleppo.

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Elizabeth Kendal is the author of Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today (Deror Books, Melbourne, Australia, Dec 2012) which offers a Biblical response to persecution and existential threat; and, After Saturday Comes Sunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East (Wipf and Stock, Eugene, OR, USA, June 2016).

See www.ElizabethKendal.com

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

RLPB 381. Oct. Update Incl. Russia, China, Germany, Iraq, Prisoners, Northern Ireland (UK)

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 381 | Wed 26 Oct 2016

Please forward this prayer bulletin widely, and encourage others to sign up to the Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin blog. "The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective." (James 5:16 NIV)

by Elizabeth Kendal

----------------------------------------------
International Days of Prayer (IDOP) for the Persecuted Church
IDOP 2016: Sundays 6 & 13 November. Resources: http://idop.org/
See also Critical Prayer Requests (CPR)
-----------------------------------------------

OCTOBER 2016 UPDATE -- this month we prayed concerning ...

* RUSSIA (RLPB 378), where new anti-mission measures -- which have more to do with politics than religion -- are causing grief and stirring debate.

Orthodox 'vigilantes' (Pravmir.ru)
UPDATE: Russia's new anti-mission measures are stirring debate within the Orthodox Church.  On 7 October activists associated with the 'Orthodox Advocacy Analytic Centre' (OAAC) summarily detained and then handed to police eight Jehovah's Witnesses they accused of illegal missionary activity. Russian Orthodox theologian and commentator Sergey Khudiev slammed the action in an article on Pravmir.ru (Orthodoxy and the World website). Khudiev condemned the harmful actions of Orthodox 'vigilantes' who bring 'nothing to the faith, the church, or the salvation of souls, except harm. ... [They] are not a testimony to Orthodoxy. They are testimony against it,' he said, recommending instead 'a ministry of love'. Lawyers from the OAAC went on the attack, publicly criticising Khudiev. Citing a list that includes Baptists and Pentecostals, they referred to the 'sects' as 'wolves in sheep's clothing' who hide 'their evil and violence against people' behind 'Christian symbols and quotations from Sacred Scripture'. Using highly evocative language, the OAAC insisted it has a 'sacred obligation' to 'defend our neighbours from this plague that is vigorously penetrating our country'.

A spiritual battle is under way. Please pray for Russia and its Church. (Romans 8:28 ESV).

* CHINA (RLPB 379), where new regulations targeting churches and lawyers herald dark days for the Church. For a more complete analysis, see: 'Persecution of Church to Escalate as Zhejiang Experiment Goes National', by Elizabeth Kendal, Religious Liberty Monitoring (17 Oct 2016).

UPDATE: China Aid reports that local government authorities in Lishui city in Zhejiang Province have instructed teachers at the Lishui Vocational and Technical College to instil atheism, exclude theism and eradicate religious activity on campus.

ALSO: The four-day 6th Plenum of the Chinese Communist Party's 205-member Central Committee commenced on Monday. By the end of the week President Xi will have been confirmed as the 'core' of the CCP. This will put Xi Jinping on a par with Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping, as a leader whose rule may not be questioned. Pray for China and its Church.

* GERMANY (RLPB 380) where the Church is in decline, Christianity is in crisis and Christian asylum seekers are persecuted with impunity. Without reformation, revival and divine intervention, Germany will be lost.  Pray for Germany on Reformation Sunday, 30 October. [For prayer points see RLPB 380 (19 Oct).]

UPDATE: In addition to the report referenced in RLPB 380, Open Doors has now also released a case study which profiles a refugee centre in the central German town of Rotenburg an der Fulda. Sobering reading, the report includes an open letter and appeal for help from Iranian Christians living in the Rotenburg facility. Appendix 2 calls for an end to the 'integration experience' which is being undertaken at the expense of Christians and appeals for the swift implementation of various protective measures. Critically, the report highlights the role of the local church in supporting Christian refugees, monitoring their situation and advocating on their behalf to bring about change.

Report: 'Attacks on Christian Refugees'. Open Doors, October 2016
A case study: the refugee reception centre in Rotenburg an der Fulda, Hesse.

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

* IRAQ: ELEVATED RISK DURING BATTLE FOR MOSUL 

Despite having been driven from their homes in Mosul and the Nineveh Plains in June-August 2014, the now-displaced Assyrian remnant will face elevated risk during the Battle for Mosul. At present most are hunkered down in Ankawa, on the northern edge of Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan.

The ISIS counter-offensive has included attempts to open new fronts. On 21 October ISIS suicide bombers and snipers attacked the contested but Kurdish-held oil-rich city of Kirkuk. On 23 October ISIS launched a fierce three-pronged attack on Rutba in western Anbar Province.

Church welcomes one of the 'hidden' girls.
photo: Fr. Ammar. (source: WWM)
During the attack on Kirkuk, a group of ISIS fighters (at least one in suicide vest) took up positions inside the home of seven female Christian university students. Unable to escape, the girls hid under their beds, texting their priest in Erbil. He in turn, rallied the church to prayer and notified Iraqi and Kurdish forces. It is nothing short of a miracle that these girls remained undetected and were rescued, not simply alive but unharmed. Priest Ammar told World Watch Monitor, 'It's a miracle. A true miracle. We prayed a lot and God answered.'

Pray for the Christian remnant in Iraq: 'Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings ...' (from Psalm 17:6-9).

* PRISONERS: PRAISE GOD for the release in IRAN of Behnam Irani, pastor of the 300-member Church of Iran in Karaj. During his six years in prison, he had at times been close to death. PRAISE GOD for the release in CHINA of Yang Rongli, pastor of the 50,000-member Linfen Church in Shaanxi province; she had served her full 7-year detention.

PLEASE continue to 'Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.' (Hebrews 13:3 ESV)

* UK: BELFAST COURT RULES AGAINST ASHERS BAKERY

Daniel and Amy McArthur
of Ashers Baking Company
Belfast's Court of Appeal has ruled against Ashers Baking Company deeming its refusal in 2014 to decorate a cake with the words 'Support Gay Marriage' constituted 'direct discrimination'. This was despite recognising that the openly Christian bakery manager, Mr Daniel McArthur, did not refuse the service because the customer, Mr Gareth Lee, was gay; indeed, Mr Lee (a gay rights activist) had been a regular customer at Ashers bakery. 'What we refused to do,' said Daniel McArthur, 'was to be involved with promoting a political campaign to change marriage law.' Northern Ireland's Attorney General John Larkin QC had argued that, 'No one should be forced to be the mouthpiece for someone else's views when they are opposed to their own -- whether in print or in icing sugar,' noting that would amount to 'coerced expression'. Simon Calvert of the Christian Institute agreed, protesting: 'Equality laws are there to protect people from discrimination, not to force people to associate themselves with a cause they oppose.'

The case against Ashers Baking Company was brought by the taxpayer-funded Equality Commission for Northern Ireland, which is now demanding the McArthurs pay costs amounting to more than £88,000 (more than US$107,000). As the McArthurs consider their options, the tide of public opinion is turning. In an on-line opinion poll conducted by The Telegraph, 88 percent of respondents voted 'No' when asked if the court had made the right decision. Pray for the McArthurs and for awakening in the UK.

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Elizabeth Kendal is the author of Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today (Deror Books, Melbourne, Australia, Dec 2012) which offers a Biblical response to persecution and existential threat; and, After Saturday Comes Sunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East (Wipf and Stock, Eugene, OR, USA, June 2016).

See www.ElizabethKendal.com