Wednesday, July 27, 2016

RLPB 368. July Update, Incl. Egypt, Bangladesh, France, India, Iran, Nepal, Nigeria, Syria, Yemen

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 368 | Wed 27 July 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)


NEW BOOK: Elizabeth Kendal's new book, After Saturday Comes Sunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East (Wipf and Stock, Eugene, OR, USA) was released in June 2016 is now widely available. For more information, including purchasing options see www.ElizabethKendal.com.

PLEASE PRAY that God will use this book to awaken and embolden and facilitate engagement -- for the Christians of the Middle East need all the help they can get. What's more, as the book makes clear, this battle will not be confined to the Middle East, for Mesopotamia (Syria-Iraq), long known as the cradle of civilisation, is but ground zero in a battle for civilisationPLEASE PRAY that God will bless and use this book for the benefit of his people and the glory of his name.


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

* RUSSIA (RLPBs 364 and 365), where President Putin has defied the advice of business and church leaders and even his own advisors and signed into law a controversial 'anti-terror' package which includes anti-mission measures that eviscerate religious freedom. We now wait to see how the law will be applied and how it might be challenged.

* EGYPT (RLPB 366), where Egypt's indigenous Christian Copts face escalating violent persecution at the hands of local radicalised Muslims increasingly confident they will never be charged.

UPDATE: CHURCH BURNED; COPTS STABBED


Burned: Church of the
Archangel Michael, Luxor.
LUXOR: Morning Star News reports that at 2:30am on 16 July Copts in Al-Madamoud in Luxor Governorate were woken by the sound of flames ripping through the roof of the Church of the Archangel Michael. An iconographer, who was sleeping in the church while he worked restoring the church's religious paintings, was trapped inside and had to be rescued by local residents. Firefighters arrived two and a half hours later, after the building had been thoroughly gutted. Local Copts suspect arson.

MINYA: Shortly after 9 pm on Friday 15 July Muslims in Abu Yacoub village, Minya, attacked the homes of Copts, enraged by a rumour that a church might be constructed in the area. Five homes were torched and several Copts received minor injuries.

Stabbed: Naguib Hanna (80)
wataninet
On Sunday evening 17 July a group of Muslims armed with knives and batons attacked the families of two local Coptic priests in Tahna al-Gabal. The attack came after a group of four local Muslims harassed and threatened Pastor Matta'os' son, Mikhail (7), as he played outside the house under the watchful eye of his grandfather. When the grandfather protested, the Muslims became violent, attracting more Muslims. The grandfather Naguib Hanna (80) was stabbed several times in the face, as were Malak Aziz Hanna (40, the brother of another local priest) and a female Christian neighbour Azza Gouma (35). Mr Fam Mari Khalaf (27) was stabbed repeatedly in the chest and died.

* TURKEY (RLPB 367), where President Erdogan is exploiting the failed coup as an opportunity to eliminate his opponents, tighten his grip on power, advance his personality cult and  further his dangerous Islamo-Turkic nationalism. The threat facing alleged 'enemies of the state' -- i.e. Gulenists (liberal Islamists), Kemalists (secularists), as well as all non-Turks and non-Muslims -- is now greatly heightened.

JULY ROUND-UP -- also this month ...

* BANGLADESH: CATHOLIC NURSE BURNED

Maya Karmokar (45) lives with and cares for her elderly mother in the village of Kajura, Jessore District (south-west Bangladesh). A devout Catholic, she works as a nurse in a local Catholic medical facility. On the night of 9 July Maya was asleep in her bed when Muslims broke into her home, poured gasoline over her and set her alight. Alerted by her screams, neighbouring relatives rushed to her aid. Unable to afford specialist medical care, Maya was in hospital for just one day before being released to the care of her local doctor, despite receiving burns to most of her body. According to the parish priest, Fr Ananda Gopal Biswas, Maya is respected and has no enemies. Christians, Hindus, atheists and foreigners are increasingly being targeted by fundamentalist Islamists. In some areas, Hindu and Christian businesses have reportedly received anonymous pamphlets ordering them to observe Sharia, respect Islam and obey Muslims.

* FRANCE: CATHOLIC PRIEST SLAUGHTERED 

Pastor and marytr:Rev. Jacques Hamal
On Tuesday 26 July two knife-wielding men pledging allegiance to Islamic State (IS) stormed a Roman Catholic church in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, Normandy, northern France, during a celebration of the Mass. A nun who fled the scene told French TV that she saw the attackers force the priest, Rev Jacques Hamal (85) to his knees before slitting his throat. Another believer, whose throat was also slit, remains in a critical condition. French police shot the two Islamic terrorists as they left the church. One of the killers, Adel Kermiche (19), was known to French intelligence services as he had previously been arrested trying to join the jihad in Syria. IS has taken credit for the attack, via its Amaq news agency. This is the first Islamic terror attack on a church in Europe and cannot be expected to be the last. Pray for revival in Europe.

* INDIA: SIKH CONVERT PASTOR ATTACKED
Pastor Singh's mother (90)

The Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI) reports that on Sunday 3 July a group of 12 to 15 Sikh men violently attacked Sikh convert pastor Satpal Singh (48) along with his elderly mother, son and nephew. The family was at the church early with a group of around 15 church women making preparations for the luncheon that was to follow the worship. While the church women were able to flee, the pastor and his family were trapped, abused and beaten. Pastor Singh's 90-year-old mother was struck on the forehead with a brick and required hospitalisation. Pastor Singh told EFI that their church in Mallian village, Gurdaspur District, Punjab Province, has a congregation of some 60 members, all from different faiths. 'While we have a good testimony in our neighbourhood, these eight Sikh families have come together and have been threatening us for more than a year now for spreading the Word and conducting Church and prayer services in the village.' Please pray for Pastor Singh, his family, his congregation and his ministry. Pray also for his attackers that they will repent and believe.

* IRAN: MERCILESS OPPOSITION

NADARKHANI: Having already endured several years in prison -- between October 2009 and December 2013, including a death sentence for apostasy, subsequently overturned -- Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani is again being threatened by the Iranian regime. On 13 May the pastor and his wife, Tina, were temporarily detained after Iranian Security Service (VEVAK) officers raided their home in Rasht as part of a series of raids targeting approximately ten Christian households [see RLPB 358 (May Update)]. On Sunday 24 July Pastor Nadarkhani was summoned to the 13th Branch of the Revolutionary Court in Rasht. He was formally charged with 'acting against national security' and accused of Zionist activities and evangelism. He has been given until 31 July to raise 100 million Toman (US$33,000) bail or face arrest.

MARYAM: Though granted medical furlough in June 2016, gravely ill Christian prisoner Maryam Naghash Zargaran was escorted back to Evin Prison on 27 June after the court ruled she must continue serving her four-year prison sentence on charges of 'acting against national security' [see RLPB 363 (June Update)]. Still gravely ill and suffering both physical pain and psychological distress, Maryam commenced a new hunger strike on 5 July, demanding 'immediate and unconditional release'. An Iranian court has rejected her demand at the request of the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence (MOIS). Prison medical staff who examined Maryam on 20 July report that her blood pressure is very low and that she has pains and numbness in her feet; possibly early signs of multiple sclerosis. Please pray for Maryam and for the Church in Iran.

* NEPAL: EVANGELISTS CHARGED

source: World Watch Monitor

Eight Christian teachers/counsellors charged in June with proselytising will soon face court. The seven men and one woman (pictured) were arrested on 9 June for distributing religious booklets in a Christian school [see RLPB 363 (June Update)]. In April the Himalayan Times reported that Christian-run orphanages with access to foreign funds are 'preaching Christianity to young minds'. Like schools, orphanages are in the firing line, and in the past few weeks a number of Christian social workers who run orphanages in Nepal have been arrested for proselytising and charged with human trafficking. Chinimaya Blown runs a children's orphanage in the capital, Kathmandu, and prays with the children in her care. She was arrested on 24 June and is currently being held in a Kathmandu jail facing charges related to human trafficking. On 19 July police in Chitwan (about 160km south-west of Kathmandu) arrested Pratik Sunar and his wife whom they accuse of running an unregistered children's home where they engage in 'unnecessary promotion of Christianity'. Whilst Mrs Sunar was freed after objections from local residents, Mr Sunar remains in police custody. Pray for the Church in Nepal.

* NIGERIA: EVANGELIST ASSASSINATED 
Evangelist and martyr:
Eunice Olawale.
Morning Star News

On Saturday morning 9 July Eunice Mojisola Olawale (41), a deaconess in the Redeemed Christian Church of God which her husband pastors in a suburb of Abuja, went out preaching in the streets of Kubwa as was her routine. That Saturday, however, was to be anything but routine for that morning, as Eunice preached 'the blood of Jesus', a band of Islamists stabbed the mother of seven to death. Eunice had been street preaching for some six years, following in the footsteps of her evangelist mother. Though grieving deeply, her husband, Pastor Olawale Elisha said his one desire is that 'the killers repent and join her in heaven'.

Meanwhile, many southerners, especially Christians, are concerned that, of the 122 government appointments President Buhari has made since being elected, 77 posts have gone to northern Muslims. What is more, they are highly strategic posts, including Senate President, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Chairman of the Electoral Commission, Chief Justice, Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Chief of Army Staff, Chief of Air Staff, Defence Minister, Inspector General of Police, Chief of Defence Intelligence, Controller of Immigration and more. (Source: Stratfor Global Intelligence). Continue to pray for Nigeria.

* SYRIA: A FIREY MESSAGE TO THE CHURCH IN QAMISHLI 

On the night of Monday 18 July a group of gunmen attacked an Assyrian Orthodox Church in Watwatiyah District, 13 km north-east of Qamishli city which is in north-eastern Syria close to the border with Turkey. The militants broke into the church and, after looting it, detonated explosives. Though security forces were able to extinguish the fire, the church was destroyed. Although the perpetrators have not yet been identified, Assyrian activists accused Islamic State militants of being behind the attack. Pray for the Church in Syria.

NOTE: The strategic situation may be about to shift in a way that bodes well for Syria. Recognising that it has run out of options, the US has agreed to co-operate with Russia in the fight not only against Islamic State, but against al-Nusra (al-Qaeda) which has long been protected by its close ties with US-backed 'rebels'. Furthermore, Turkey -- which has done more to facilitate the jihad in Syria than any other state -- has buckled under the stress of Russian sanctions, apologised for shooting down a Russian jet, and is seeking rapprochement with Moscow. This could lead to Syria's stabilisation and save Syria from a US-Turkey-Arab backed Islamist takeover. May GOD bring peace and security to Syria.

* YEMEN: KIDNAPPED PRIEST MOST PROBABLY ALIVE
On 19 July a photo appeared on the Facebook account of Father Tom Uzhunnalil that appears to be a photo of the kidnapped Indian Salesian priest. Father Tom (56) had been praying in the chapel of a Missionaries of Charity care home in Aden when it was stormed by Islamic State jihadists on 4 March. Eight residents and four nuns were killed, while Father Tom was kidnapped [see RLPB 348 (16 March 2016) includes earlier photo of Father Tom]. Bishop Paul Hinder, the Apostolic Vicar of Southern Arabia, believes the photo is authentic and that it is Father Tom. There is no indication of who posted the photo or why. Please pray for Father Tom and for the Church in Yemen.
------------------------------------------------------------

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). For more information see: www.ElizabethKendal.com

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

RLPB 367. Turkey: Christians Face Elevated Risk

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 367 | Wed 20 Jul 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)


TURKEY: CHRISTIANS FACE ELEVATED THREAT 
by Elizabeth Kendal

Shortly before midnight on Friday 15 July a faction within the Turkish military and Gendarmerie seized control of strategic locations in Istanbul and Ankara. Subsequently, Turkish fighter jets fired at the National Intelligence Organisation, the Presidential Palace and the National Assembly. Soldiers seized control of the national broadcaster, forcing the presenter to read a declaration that the Committee for National Peace had taken charge to prevent any further erosion of democratic and secular values. However, what the faction failed to do was seize control of President Erdogan who was holidaying in the resort town of Marmaris. At 12:30am on 16 July Erdogan issued a live statement via the smartphone app FaceTime, calling his supporters out onto the streets. Islamic religious leaders and mosques loyal to Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP) amplified the call, with mosques repeating the call to prayer throughout the night to encourage people to join the counter-coup. By 2am the coup was falling apart; by morning it was over and the elected government was back in control.

The counter-coup prevails
In pictures: Daily Mail
The details of this coup get murkier the deeper you dig and it may be some time before the truth becomes clear. Whilst it is not the place of the Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin to examine murky details and intrigues [watch the Religious Liberty Monitoring blog for that], it suffices to say that the failed coup seems not to have been a 'Kemalist'/secularist coup as claimed. This is relatively unsurprising as Erdogan -- who is a pro-Muslim Brotherhood conservative Islamist -- had already purged the military of powerful secularists. Rather, it seems the coup leaders are indeed linked to the influential Gulen movement, a liberal Islamist movement that once supported Erdogan -- even facilitating his rise to power -- but is now essentially at war with him and the AKP. Nobody doubts that President Erdogan will use this crisis to tighten his grip on power, advance his personality cult and even further his dangerous Islamo-Turkic nationalism.

As soon as he regained control, President Erdogan set about purging the 'virus' (as he calls it) from society; he has signalled that he is ready to reinstate the death penalty. By Tuesday night 19 July the number of military personnel arrested had risen to some 6,000 (including at least 34 generals), along with nearly 3,000 judges. Furthermore, nearly 9,000 police have been sacked, as have some 1,500 civil servants in the finance ministry and 492 from the Religious Affairs Directorate. More than 1,500 university deans have been ordered to resign and the licences of 21,000 teachers working at private institutions revoked. Twenty-four radio and TV channels have also had their licences cancelled.

Middle East Concern reports that two churches were attacked by Muslim mobs during the counter-coup. At the Catholic church of Santa Maria in Trabzon on the Black Sea coast, windows were smashed before the church's Muslim neighbours repelled the perpetrators and contacted the priest. Likewise, windows and glass door panels were smashed at the Malatya Protestant Church in south-east Turkey.
Taksim Square after the coup
In pictures: Daily Mail
It is of greater concern that the coup and counter-coup have fuelled a dramatic escalation in Islamic zeal and Islamo-Turkic nationalism. Responding to the call to remain in the streets, Erodogan's supporters are out in full force dressed in Islamic (not Western) garb, chanting Islamic slogans in Arabic. This will elevate the threat facing Turkey's non-Sunni Muslims (particularly the Alevis, who are already reporting pressure) and all non-Muslims (particularly Armenian, Assyrian and Greek Christians, and Muslim converts).

Furthermore, because the leader of the Gulen Movement, Fethullah Gulen (77), lives in the USA and because Erdogan believes the Gulen Movement provides a front for the CIA (American intelligence) activities abroad, Erdogan and the AKP have accused the US of being 'behind the coup'. Whether this is true or not, the accusation alone will elevate the threat facing Turkey's Gulenists, Kemalists/secularists, Kurds and Christians, as well as any foreigners perceived to be aligned with the US. The threat facing Turkey's Christians may be greater now than at any time since Kemal Ataturk abolished the Caliphate in 1924.

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT 

* our Father, the Almighty God, will intervene in Turkey to restore peace and order so the Church (the Body of Christ) might be secure. May the Church’s Muslim neighbours reject every attempt to incite violence against Christians, and resist every temptation to exploit the situation to their own advantage.

* the ever present Holy Spirit will grace Turkey’s Christians with holy wisdom in abundance as they seek to navigate the difficult and dangerous days ahead.

* Christ our redeemer will redeem this crisis, subverting and defeating the enemies of the Gospel and sanctifying the Church that the Kingdom of God might grow in grace and number across all Turkey.
 
'Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.' (Ephesians 3:20,21 ESV)


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
------------------------------------------------------------ 
CHRISTIANS FACE ELEVATED THREAT IN TURKEY

The coup attempt of 15-16 July, along with the 'people's counter-coup' that put it down, has fuelled a dramatic escalation in conservative Islamic zeal and Islamo-Turkic nationalism. The threat facing non-Sunni Muslims and all non-Muslims (particularly Armenian, Assyrian and Greek Christians, and Muslim converts) is now greatly elevated.  Furthermore, the failed coup has empowered President Erdogan (a conservative Islamist) and provided him an opportunity to eliminate his opponents, tighten his grip on power, advance his personality cult and even further his dangerous Islamo-Turkic nationalism. The threat facing alleged 'enemies of the state' -- i.e. Gulenists, Kemalists/secularists, non-Turks, non-Muslims -- is now greatly heightened. The threat facing Turkey's Christians may be greater now than at any time since Kemal Ataturk abolished the Caliphate in 1924. Please pray for Turkey and its Church.

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

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, July 12, 2016

RLPB 366. Egypt: Copts seek justice as violence escalates

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 366 | Wed 13 Jul 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: COPTS SEEK JUSTICE AS VIOLENCE ESCALATES
by Elizabeth Kendal

Violence by Muslims against Egypt's indigenous Christian Copts is escalating at an alarming rate, and, as noted in RLPB 363 (June Update), pogroms are being triggered by mere rumour.
Coptic property destroyed in
al-Bayda, 17 June 2016
The post-Friday-prayers pogrom in al-Karam Village, Minya Province, on 20 May was triggered by the rumour that an elderly Coptic woman's son was in a relationship with a Muslim woman. The Coptic woman was stripped naked and dragged violently through the streets. Likewise, the post-Friday-prayers pogrom in al-Bayda, near Alexandria, on 17 June, in which Copts were assaulted and property destroyed, was triggered by the rumour that a Copt was building a church and not a house as he claimed. [See RLPB 363]

Other recent attacks against Copts include an incident in Damshir Village, Minya, on Thursday 9 June in which four Muslims armed with knives attacked a Coptic man and his family on the basis of a rumour that he was building not a house but a church. The police subsequently ordered the Copt to stop building. On 10 June a man armed with a knife (whose motive was unknown) attacked a nun at a medical centre run by the Coptic Orthodox Church in the town of Biba, Beni Suef Province. On 30 June an enraged Muslim mob torched four homes belonging to Copts in Kom El Loofy village, Samalout city, Minya, in response to a rumour that a local Copt was constructing a church. According to Fides Catholic news agency, other recent attacks in Minya include burning a Christian-run kindergarten and the torching of crops belonging to Copts.

Walking on egg-shells:
Copts leave a church in Minya.
After Coptic homes were torched in Kom El Loofy village, Samalout, the Governor of Minya ordered Christians into a reconciliation session. However, the Bishophric of Samalout refused, insisting that a reconciliation meeting not occur before the rule of law is applied. How Muslims respond to this courageous and principled, albeit risky, stand remains to be seen – for in Egypt, a 'reconciliation session' is actually the means by which Sharia is applied and Islamists are appeased. Sharia (Islamic) Law does not permit non-Muslims to accuse Muslims in court. Thus a typical 'reconciliation session' involves Muslims agreeing to end the violence in exchange for Christian guarantees that all charges will be dropped. Consequently, in Egypt 'reconciliation' is synonymous with Sharia, impunity and injustice. Furthermore, on 10 July His Grace Bishop Anba Makarius, the Coptic Orthodox Archbishop of Minya, launched an appeal requesting that police enforce the law and protect citizens. It is highly unlikely that Muslims will give up their privileges lightly; we should expect Islamic resistance.

 
Rev. Rafael Moussa (46),
martyred 30 June 2016.
source: wataninet 
Further to the pervasive problems of Islamisation and radicalisation, Egypt's Christians also face the threat of Islamic State (IS). On 30 June Reverend Rafael Moussa (46), the priest of Mar Girgis (St George) Church in Al-Arish, northern Sinai, drove his car from the church after celebrating Mass without realising he was being followed. As soon as he stepped out of his car, he was assassinated. Shot through the head, he died instantly. In an online statement of responsibility, IS declared that they had killed Father Moussa because he was 'combating Islam'. The Coptic Orthodox Church is mourning the loss of a courageous and faithful priest. IS, which has established a presence in the Sinai, has previously called for a jihad against the Copts.


PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL

* intervene in Egypt so that police will be compelled to enforce the law and protect all citizens equally.

* work through the Bishophric of Samalout's courageous and principled (albeit risky) stand to insist that justice precede reconciliation; may this principle be accepted, adopted and applied throughout Egypt.

* shield and preserve his precious people so that they will know his loving presence and all will see his powerful hand. 'He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.' (Isaiah 40:11 ESV)


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
------------------------------------------------------------ 
COPTS SEEK JUSTICE AS VIOLENCE ESCALATES IN EGYPT

Violence by Muslims against Egypt's indigenous Christian Copts is escalating. Police are reluctant to intervene against mob violence and perpetrators know they are guaranteed impunity. Once the damage is done, the Copts are ordered into 'reconciliation sessions' where the Muslims agree to end the violence in exchange for Christian guarantees that charges will be dropped. Now the Coptic Bishophric of Samalout city is taking a stand, insisting that reconciliation not occur before the rule of law is applied. How Muslims respond to this courageous and principled -- albeit risky -- stand remains to be seen. Meanwhile, Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the 30 June assassination of a Coptic priest in al-Arish, northern Sinai, saying Father Moussa (46) was killed for 'combating Islam'. Please pray for Egypt and its Church.

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

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

Thursday, July 7, 2016

RLPB 365. Russia: anti-mission measures signed into law

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 365 | Fri 08 Jul 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)  

RUSSIA: ANTI-MISSION MEASURES SIGNED INTO LAW
Updating RLPB 364 (6 July)
by Elizabeth Kendal

On Thursday 7 July Russia's President Vladimir Putin signed into law a controversial 'anti-terror' package which includes anti-mission measures that eviscerate religious freedom. [For detail see RLPB 364]

In signing the 'Yarovaya Law', President Putin has defied the advice of business leaders, church leaders, human rights advocates and even his own presidential advisors. It is a difficult decision to understand and disappointing beyond measure.

We must never underestimate the impact that geopolitics has on religious freedom. The Russian government is not inherently anti-Christian. However, the denominations which will be impacted most seriously by the new legislation are non-Russian Orthodox denominations, in particular Protestants, who in times of extreme East-West geopolitical tensions can be unfairly viewed with suspicion.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists: 'If the law produces any undesired outcomes, the government will introduce measures accordingly by presidential decree.'

While this is a day for mourning, it is also a day for renewed prayer for the whole Russian Church. May the eternal truth that our God is a Redeeming God continue to inspire our prayers.

'You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.' (Joseph to his brothers, in Genesis 50:20 NIV)

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL

* fill Russia's Christian leaders with 'the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so [they will] walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. [May they be] strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy [and thankfulness].' (From Colossians 1:9-14 ESV)

* not permit the repressive anti-mission measures to stand, and that as soon as 'undesired outcomes' emerge, may the measures indeed be 'amended accordingly by presidential decree'. May the Lord guide the President and grant wisdom in this regard. (1Timothy 2:1-4)

Dear God our Father,
We ask you to redeem this wicked attempt to silence the Church. Take that which was meant for harm and redeem it for good.
Though these measures will certainly produce hardship and suffering, redeem them Lord as the means by which the door is opened for public testimony concerning the richness of the wisdom of God and the transformative power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Matthew 10:16-39).
Though these measures have the potential to divide Christians and fuel suspicion and animosity, redeem them Father as the means through which the Holy Spirit will forge unity in the Body.
May Christ -- who is building his Church and shepherding his flock -- sanctify the Russian Church.

May Russia's denominations stand together as one -- united across denominational lines -- not only in defence of religious freedom, but in declaring the value of the wisdom of God and the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 


For the sake of the nation and the glory of God.  AMEN

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

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).  For more information see: www.ElizabethKendal.com 

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

RLPB 364. Russia: anti-mission law looms

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 364 | Wed 06 Jul 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)


RUSSIA: ANTI-MISSION LAW LOOMS
by Elizabeth Kendal

Passed in the Duma (lower house) on 24 June and then rushed through the Federal Council (upper house) on 29 June -- the last day of sitting before the summer break -- a controversial package of 'anti-terror' laws now proceeds to the Kremlin. President Putin has two weeks to either sign it into law or return it to the parliament for reconsideration. The package was initiated by the head of the State Duma's Security and Anti-Corruption Committee, MP Irina Yarovaya, and her counterpart from the Federation Council (FC), Viktor Ozerov. Known as the 'Spring Package' or 'Yarovaya Law', the package expands the state's powers, tightens controls on and surveillance of citizens and limits many civil rights guaranteed by the Russian Constitution. It is a heavy-handed response to an increased risk of Islamic terrorism at a time of elevated East-West geopolitical tensions.

Buried within the 'anti-terror' package are measures that would eviscerate religious freedom. Missionary activity -- defined so broadly as to mean essentially the sharing of beliefs -- would be limited to inside registered religious facilities by persons certified by a registered religious organisation. Missionary activity (sharing of beliefs) would be explicitly banned from residential areas and from the phone and internet. As noted by Forum 18, previous anti-mission bills, including those put forward in February and April by FC member, Igor Chernyshenko, stalled before reaching the Duma because they lacked government support. By adding the anti-mission measures to the anti-terror package which was then rushed through without consultation, debate or proper scrutiny, hard-line hostile elements have managed to slip the repressive measures through without opposition. Stratfor Intelligence reports: 'Though the legislation passed in both houses, many legislators are now claiming never to have seen the actual documents. Communist lawmakers complained going into the vote that they received drafts only hours before.' All that is required now is the President's signature.

However, a tsunami of opposition is rising against the 'anti-terror' package. Russian businesses, Russian churches, Russian human rights groups and even the President's own advisors are pressuring him not to sign. Russia's four top mobile operators have warned that elements of the bill are 'technically and economically impractical'. Russia's internet ombudsman, Dmitry Marnichev, has described the bill as a 'death sentence' for Russia's telecommunications. On 1 July Mikhail Fedotov, chair of the Presidential Council on Civil Society Development and Human Rights, appealed directly to President Putin, arguing that the Duma had not taken the Human Rights Council's recommendations into consideration and that the amendments restricting sharing beliefs were excessive, repressive, unconstitutional and legally uncertain. The Presidential Council wants to see the anti-missionary measures separated from the anti-terror measures and permitted to go through a full debate procedure as a separate bill. Meanwhile, Russian Jewish, Muslim and a multitude of Christian organisations and denominations are protesting the measures and penning appeals to the President for his consideration. Across Russia, many churches and denominations are engaging in prayer and fasting.

Oleg Goncharov is a leader in the Adventist Church, the co-chair of a council of Protestant churches in Russia, and a member of a Kremlin advisory council on religious organisations. He says that whilst the churches support government efforts to combat extremism and terrorism, the section on missionary activity goes too far. 'The adoption of this legislation would put hundreds of thousands of believers from various denominations in a very difficult position,' he said. He also asserts that the bill's rapid introduction and approval in just three days violated federal law by bypassing required discussions with a State Duma committee on religious organisations and with representatives of religious organisations that would be directly affected by the bill. Goncharov has appealed to President Putin, urging him to return the legislation to the State Duma for revision. 'We continually pray for you, dear Mr President,' he said, 'as well as for all state authorities.'

'First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Saviour, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.' (1Timothy 2:1-4 ESV)


PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL

* fill Russia's Christian leaders with 'the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so [they might] walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. [May they be] strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy [and thankfulness].' (From Colossians 1:9-14 ESV)

* intervene in the Russian political process, so that lawmakers will resist the temptation to legislate in reactionary ways, and/or to be lazy, corrupt or belligerent as they serve in high office; may consciences be sharpened, eyes enlightened and hearts softened.

* guide President Putin to make wise and right choices that serve the nation's spiritual interests. 'The king's heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.' (Proverbs 21:1 ESV) May the 'anti-terror' package be returned to the parliament where the anti-mission measures can be subjected to a thorough debate and proper scrutiny under a media spotlight!

* take this wicked attempt to silence the Church, and redeem it as a means by which the door is opened for public testimony concerning the richness of the wisdom of God and the transformative power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
------------------------------------------------------------
ANTI-MISSION LAW LOOMS IN RUSSIA

Having passed in the Duma (lower house) and the Federal Council (upper house), a controversial package of 'anti-terror' laws now proceeds to the Kremlin. President Putin has two weeks either to sign it into law or return it to the parliament for reconsideration. Buried within the 'anti-terror' package are anti-mission measures that would eviscerate religious freedom. Whilst previous anti-mission bills have stalled due to lack of government support, these measures passed because they were inserted into an 'anti-terror' package which was then rammed through parliament without debate. A tsunami of opposition has arisen from Russian businesses, churches, human rights organisations and even the President's own advisors. May God guide President Putin to choose in the nation's spiritual interests. Please pray for Russia and its Christians. (Proverbs 21:1; 1 Timothy 2:1-4)

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

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).  www.ElizabethKendal.com