Tuesday, March 28, 2017

RLPB 400. March Update. Incl. Egypt, Syria, Eritrea, India, Assyrians in Iraq; Nigeria, Prisoners in Iran and China; Somalia, West Africa

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 400 | Wed 29 Mar 2017

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)


MARCH 2017 UPDATE -- this month we prayed concerning ...

* EGYPT (RLPB 396), after 'Islamic State in Egypt' threatened Coptic Christians in North Sinai and called for IS sympathisers to report the whereabouts of Copts. Seven Copts were murdered in a matter of weeks, triggering an exodus of Copts from the Sinai.

UPDATE: According to the spokesman for the Coptic Orthodox Church, Rev Boulos Halim, an estimated 310 Coptic families were uprooted during the crisis in late February and early March; other sources report higher figures. Whilst around 200 families have settled in Ismailia (on the Suez Canal), other families are settling in Port Said, Asyut, Minya, Sharqia, Gharbia and Cairo. Kasr al-Dobara Evangelical Church in Ismailia has registered the displaced Copts to ensure they receive ongoing assistance. Many believe they will never be able to return to their homes. Despite this being 'the largest wave of collective displacement in Egypt since the June 1967 war' (Al-Monitor, 20 March) the international response continues to be one of stone cold silence. Pray for Egypt and its Church.

* XINJIANG, CHINA (RLPB 397), where a massive security crackdown is under way. Though focused primarily on Islamic jihadists and separatists, the Communist Party is keen to consolidate its control over all of society. Consequently, the Church in Xinjiang -- especially the house church movement -- is experiencing increased repression and persecution.

* EGYPT (RLPB 398), where Coptic Christian girls are disappearing into the hands of Islamic trafficking gangs and sexual slavery at the rate of one girl every two days.

* DAMASCUS, SYRIA (RLPB 399), where a new al-Qaeda-led jihadist coalition known as Hay'at Tahrir al Sham (HTS: 'Assembly for the Liberation of Syria') is threatening security in the capital.

UPDATE: On Tuesday 21 March, HTS fighters staged a car bombing in the Abassiyin area of north-eastern Jobar district. Just 2km from the walls of the Old City, it is the same district HTS invaded on 15 March. As would be expected, the Syrian Army's response has been ferocious. Despite having been driven back, HTS still boasts its ability to strike terror. With HTS threatening Damascus and Hezbollah threatening Israel (from southern Syria), the situation is growing increasingly complicated. Pray for Syria and its imperilled, remnant Church.


MARCH 2017 ROUND-UP -- also this month ...

* ERITREA: IMPRISONED AND ABUSED TO DEATH
click on map to enlarge
Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) reports that two Protestant Christian women who had been detained in Wi'a military camp died in Massawa Hospital on 17 March, five days after being admitted. Imprisoned for their faith, the women had commenced a hunger strike in protest at their treatment. CSW has learned that the women's bodies showed clear evidence of violent sexual abuse. When the women died the authorities confiscated their medical records, doubtless to eliminate evidence of human rights abuses. CSW has also learned that a significant number of Christians were arrested on Christmas Eve and forcibly marched barefoot to an unknown location. Eritrea is one of the most violently repressive and abusive totalitarian states in the world. Christianity has been under sustained and targeted attack since 2002. Pray Psalm 10 for Eritrea; pray the LORD will intervene.

* INDIA: IMPUNITY EMBOLDENS ATTACKERS

On 17 March Assemblies of God pastor Ajay Kumar and Bible college student Assaryav were lured into a trap in Begusarai, Bihar state and then bashed by Hindu militants. Not only did police not intervene, they subsequently arrested the two Christians on charges of 'forcible conversions'. Kumar and Assaryav remained in custody until after midnight when they were released on bail, charged with 'deliberate and malicious intention of outraging the religious feelings of any class of citizens of India' under sections 295/295-A of the Indian Penal Code. A minority comprised mostly of the poor and marginalised, the Indian Church has little voice or influence inside India. The situation is extremely serious.

'I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.' (Psalm 121:1-2 ESV)

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath (c),
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (r).
UTTAR PRADESH ELECTIONS (update to RLPB 394): The Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has secured a landslide win in Uttar Pradesh. Opting to ride to power on the popularity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who campaigned on a platform of economic development, the BJP did not even name a candidate for Chief Minister. Only when it had won a majority -- securing 225 of the 403 seats -- did the BJP name hard-line Hindu cleric Yogi Adityanath (44) [click here for profile] as the new Chief Minister. A New York Times editorial described this as 'a shocking rebuke to religious minorities', adding that 'nothing stands in the [BJP's] way of realising its long-held dream of transforming a secular republic into a Hindu state'. Pray for India and its Church.

* IRAQ: DISPLACED ASSYRIANS NEED ONGOING AID

Sources have told World Watch Monitor that the supplies sustaining displaced Assyrian Christians in northern Iraq could run out 'within weeks'. However, they do note that the UN agencies which have long ignored the Assyrians have changed their outlook since US President Donald Trump threatened to reduce US funding to the UN, and are now pledging more assistance. Without ongoing aid, the remnant Assyrians -- whose numbers have fallen from 1.4 million in 1987 to around 200,000 today (most of whom are displaced and destitute) -- 'could disappear within the next six to 12 months'. They are indeed 'a threatened people on the verge of extinction, the victims of horrific genocide'.  Pray that the Lord will supply all their needs, realising that while God does work miracles, more often than not he works through his Church, through us, his  'human instruments'. [See www.ElizabethKendal.com/Action ]

* NIGERIA: CHRISTIANS KILLED AS FULANI EXPAND SOUTH

Christians continue to be killed and driven from their homes and farms by southward migrating Fulani Muslims who appear to be guaranteed impunity. Morning Star News reports that on 11 March suspected Muslim Fulani herdsmen killed at least six Christians in Tombo-Mbalagh, Benue state, bringing the total number of Christians killed in rural areas of Benue so far this year to 29. In neighbouring Nasarawa state, more than 200 have been killed and 500 wounded since the start of this year, while homes and farms have been destroyed. Two Christians (including a village chief) were killed and hundreds displaced when Fulani attacked a local congregation of the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) in Oshugu village on Sunday 19 March. Commenting on the constant state of insecurity one survivor lamented, 'no one is doing anything about it'. Pray for God to intervene in Nigeria.
 
* PRISONERS ALERT: IRAN AND CHINA

Iranian Christian convert, Maryam Naghash Zargaran, is again in urgent need of medical care [RLPB 372 (24 Aug 2016)]. Maryam, an evangelist who has been incarcerated in Tehran's notorious Evin Prison since March 2013, suffers with Atrial Septal Defect, a congenital heart defect also known as 'hole in the heart'. Due for release in July 2017, Maryam is struggling with serious depression and weight loss, along with other symptoms consistent with a deteriorating heart condition. Please pray.

Pastor Yang Hua
See: China Aid Association
ALSO in urgent need of medical care is Yang Hua, pastor of the 700-member, Protestant Living Stone Church in China's Guizhou Province. Arrested in January 2016, Yang -- who had been resisting pressure to register the church with the Communist-controlled Three Self Patriotic Movement -- was sentenced on 26 December to two-and-a-half years in prison for allegedly 'divulging state secrets'. Today Yang Hua's legs are so severely inflamed that he is at risk of paralysis. Without treatment his condition could require amputation. He has been given pain killers, but not the prescribed penicillin or specialist care. Denial of medical care is in reality a form of torture. Please pray. 

'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)

* SOMALIA: MORE CHRISTIANS ASSASSINATED 

Morning Star News reports that one night in February, armed militants from al-Qaeda affiliate al-Shabaab broke into the home of a Christian convert family in Afgoi, in Somalia's Lower Shebelle Region. Shouting 'Allahu Akbar' they shot converts Suleiman Abdiwahab (38), his wife Faduma Osman (35) and their son Ahmed Suleiman (11). Neighbours rushed in to find Suleiman critically wounded with bullet wounds to his chest; his wife and son dead. Three other children aged 13, 9 and 7 managed to escape. The neighbours took Suleiman to hospital; the family has since been relocated. May God bring healing to this grieving and traumatised family and protect and preserve his imperilled Church in Somalia.

* WEST AFRICA: JIHADIST COALITION FORMED
Just as it has done in Syria, al-Qaeda is advancing its strategic policy of jihadist unity in West Africa. On 2 March four jihadist entities -- Ansar Dine, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) Sahara branch, Al Murabitoon and the ethnic Fulani 'Katibat Macina' -- announced they had merged to form Jama'at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (the Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims). The Mali-based coalition is loyal to al-Qaeda chief Ayman al Zawahiri and AQIM head Abdelmalek Droukdel. This is bad news for the Church and all Christian people-groups across West Africa. It further raises the stakes in volatile IVORY COAST which was recently rocked by mutinies in the former rebel capital of Bouake and at a Special Forces base in Adiake just 90km east of the port city of Andijan. [See Ivory Coast: Troubles Far From Over, by Elizabeth Kendal, 9 March 2017.] May God protect and preserve the Church in West Africa.

'Put not your trust in princes ... Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God ... The Lord loves the righteous ... but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.' (From Psalm 146)

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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, March 20, 2017

RLPB 399. Syria: Jihadists Threaten Damascus

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 399 | Tues 21 Mar 2017

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)


SYRIA: JIHADISTS THREATEN DAMASCUS
by Elizabeth Kendal

A NEW COALITION FORMS: In late January Jabhat Fath al Sham (JFS -- formerly Al Nusrah Front) and four other jihadist groups announced the creation of Hay'at Tahrir al Sham (HTS), the 'Assembly for the Liberation of Syria'. The new coalition is headed by Aleppo-born Abu Jaber, a seasoned jihadist and former emir of Ahrar al Sham (aka the Syrian Taliban). Jaber issued a rallying cry on 9 February, claiming great gains and stressing the urgency of defeating the Shi'ites who, he warned, seek to 'enslave the region'. HTS is known to be training a new type of weapon: suicide bombers known as 'inghimasi'. As highly skilled, well-trained guerrilla fighters armed with automatic weapons and grenades, the 'nghimasi will fight their way through to a target. On 25 February an inghimasi penetrated security at the Military Security and National Security branch in Homs and fought his way into the office of General Hassan Daabul, the head of military intelligence for the city of Homs, where he detonated his vest. As medics and security personnel rushed to the scene, improvised bombs planted around the site claimed more casualties. More than 40 were killed and 50 wounded in what was a highly sophisticated assault.

Bombings of 15 March 2017
BOMBS IN DAMASCUS: On 11 March at least 40 mostly Iraqi Shia pilgrims were killed and 120 wounded in a twin bombing near the Bab al-Saghir cemetery in Damascus; HTS claimed responsibility. On 15 March at least 30 died when one suicide bomber detonated himself inside a restaurant in the Al-Rabweh area and an inghimasi dressed in full military uniform launched an attack on the Palace of Justice in central Damascus, timed to kill as many lawyers and judges as possible. In a broadcast on 18 March HTS chief Abu Jaber boasted of having a plan that should succeed, adding, 'We will escalate our attacks in coming days.' The next day, Sunday 19 March, HTS jihadists launched a surprise military attack on the densely populated area of Al-Abbasiyeen near Jobar, just 2km east of the Old City, having entered the area through tunnels. Long an oasis of relative normality, central Damascus came under heavy rebel shelling. Syrian forces responded with air strikes, shelling and sniper fire which eventually drove the jihadists back. This is the closest the jihadists have come to the city centre and their 'success' will doubtless attract more fighters.

Archbishop Samir Nassar
In recent years the population of Damascus has swelled from less than two million to well over four million as Syrians, including hundreds of thousands of Christians, have sought sanctuary inside the city’s security cordon. On 1 March the Maronite Archbishop of Damascus, Archbishop Samir Nassar, released a statement entitled 'A Very Bitter Lent'. He describes 'an apocalyptic scene', and laments the shattering of families, the ruination of children, the decimation of parishes and the struggle for survival. Noting that only the Church can 'lead the way towards Christ Resurrected', he exhorts the faithful not to give up, but to heed the words of Christ the 'Light of the world', who says, 'Come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest' (Matthew 11:28). With jihadists now threatening the capital, Lent in Damascus may prove even more bitter than the Archbishop had imagined.

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY FOR GOD TO

* rise up against those who seek to erase liberty and annihilate the Church. 'Break the arm [mechanism of action] of the wicked and evildoer; call his wickedness to account till you find none.' (Psalm 10:15 ESV)

* protect, preserve and sanctify his precious Church, the light and future hope of Syria.

* draw his beloved faithful children close to him in prayer and worship, so they might know that precious 'rest' that comes from Christ alone; may the Church find hope in 'Christ Resurrected'.

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

* redeem all suffering for the saving of many lives; 'that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone are the Lord' (Isaiah 37:20 ESV).


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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JIHADISTS IN SYRIA THREATEN DAMASCUS

A new al-Qaeda-led jihadist coalition, Hay'at Tahrir al Sham (HTS), recently perpetrated several devastating attacks deep inside Damascus. On 19 March HTS launched a massive military assault just 2km from the walls of the Old City, having entered the area through tunnels. Whilst they were eventually driven back, it is the closest the jihadists have come to the city centre. In recent years the population of Damascus has swelled from less than 2 million to well over 4 million as Syrians, including hundreds of thousands of Christians, have sought sanctuary inside the city's security cordon. The Maronite Archbishop of Damascus, Samir Nassar, writes of 'a very bitter Lent', while proclaiming 'Christ Resurrected' and encouraging the faithful not to give up. Please pray for Syria and its Church.

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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

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

RLPB 398. Egypt: Bring Back Our Girls

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 398 | Wed 15 Mar 2017

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: 'BRING BACK OUR GIRLS' 
by Elizabeth Kendal

Hanan Girgis (18)
World Watch Monitor
On the night of 26 January the Girgis brothers went out to irrigate crops. However, one brother, Rezeiky, remained at home to watch over his wife, elderly mother and sister Hanan (18) who was engaged to be married. At about 10:30pm a Muslim neighbour came to the house and told Rezeiky that a thief had been seen lurking around their livestock shed. Believing he had been duly warned, Rezeiky bedded down in the shed to protect the family's livestock and equipment while the women slept soundly in the house.

When the Girgis brothers returned home at around 3am they found the front door open and Hanan missing. Whilst one slipper was found by the door, her clothes, jewellery and Identity Card were still in her room. For two days the family searched for Hanan to no avail. Suspecting their Muslim neighbour had lured Rezeiky to the shed purposely so the women would be alone and Hanan could be abducted, the family accused Mohamed Ahmed Nubi Soliman (27), a criminal and cousin of the neighbour, of abducting their daughter. Although Soliman admitted to the police that he was indeed involved, he was not arrested.

The Civil Status Authority at Esna Police Station told the family that national security services had issued Hanan a new Identity Card. The family then headed off to the national security headquarters in Luxor, only to have officers there deny having any knowledge of Hanan's whereabouts. Frustrated and desperate, the family then staged a peaceful protest outside the security offices. The police responded violently, leaving the 23-year-old Girgis brother with a broken leg. The family's lawyer, Barsoum Wahba, has accused the police of 'complicity and apathy'. 

The worst thing about this horror story is that it is not unusual. Every year, hundreds of Coptic girls are either kidnapped or seduced by fundamentalist Muslims, before being violently raped, terrorised, forcibly converted and married off to Islamists. Essentially these girls are being trafficked into Islam and sexually enslaved. Because the organised Islamisation rings operate with the tacit consent and overt co-operation of Islamic clerics, law enforcement officers, local government officials and prosecutors, most of these girls never see their families again.

The situation has deteriorated markedly in recent years. Not only are the Muslim masses more radicalised, but during the years of 'Arab Spring' insecurity (from January 2011 through to the ouster of Morsi in July 2013) many thousands of Islamists -- including at least 500 members of the terrorist group Al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya -- either escaped or were released from Egyptian prisons. Ebram Louis, the founder of the Egyptian Association of Victims of Abduction and Enforced Disappearances (AVAFD), commented in June 2014: 'Before the revolution five or six girls would disappear each month. Now the average is 15.' That is one girl every two days! Of some 550 disappearances AVAFD investigated between 2011 and 2014, only ten girls were recovered.

The only difference between what happens in Egypt (and Pakistan) at the hands of local Muslims, and in Iraq at the hands of ISIS, or in Nigeria at the hands of Boko Haram, is that in Egypt (as in Pakistan) the sexual enslavement is quietly unspectacular and occurs one girl at a time. To Islamists, Christian girls are legitimate booty and halal (permissible).  Meanwhile, the thousands of parents of these girls are weeping and lamenting, crying 'bring back our girls'. It is difficult to imagine a scenario more challenging to one's faith.

Two thousand years ago King Herod tried to thwart God's purpose, causing weeping and lamentation in Egypt (Matthew 2:16-18). Today, as Islam does likewise, know it will fail just as dismally. 'Among those who know me I mention Rahab [Egypt] ...' (from Psalm 87) and 'Blessed be Egypt my people ...' (from Isaiah 19:16-25). And so we pray...


PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY FOR GOD TO

* intervene in mercy and with power for the Girgis family and all Coptic and Christian families suffering the devastating effects of Islamic human trafficking and sex slavery. Please, dear Lord our Redeemer, bring back their girls.

* pour his Spirit into the hearts of all who are victims of, or threatened by, Islamic trafficking and sex slavery; although their faith be tested in the hottest of fires, may their eyes be fixed on Jesus and their entreaties directed to him. 'For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.' (1 Peter 3:12 ESV)

* put into the heart of Egypt's President al-Sisi a burning desire to crack down on this evil trade which brings nothing but suffering and disgrace to Egypt. 'On that night the king could not sleep ...' (from Esther 5:9 to 6:11 ESV)


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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COPTIC CHRISTIAN GIRLS ABDUCTED IN EGYPT

Every year, hundreds of Coptic Christian girls are kidnapped by fundamentalist Muslims and then violently raped, terrorised, forcibly converted and married to Islamists. From January 2011 to the ouster of President Morsi in July 2013 (the 'Arab Spring'), thousands of Islamists, including many hundreds of terrorists, either escaped or were released from prison. As a result, Egypt has seen a marked escalation in the number of Coptic girls being trafficked into Islam and sex slavery. It has risen from 5 a month before January 2011 to 15 a month by 2014 -- one girl every two days! Because the Islamisation rings operate with the support of Islamic clerics, local police, government officials and prosecutors, most of these girls never see their families again. Please pray for Egypt and its Church.

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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

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

RLPB 397. China: Massive Crackdown in Xinjiang

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 397 | Wed 08 Mar 2017

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: MASSIVE CRACKDOWN IN XINJIANG
by Elizabeth Kendal

click on map to enlarge
Authorities in China's volatile north-western Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region have banned all Christian activities not linked to state-approved churches and launched a region-wide crackdown under the guise of 'anti-terrorism'. Churches have been targeted in the capital Urumqi and across Xinjiang. China Aid reports that at least 80 believers have been arrested and interrogated; some have even been sentenced to 15-day administrative detention and fined. Most of those arrested belong to the Fangcheng Fellowship, one of China's largest house church networks. A resident of Shayar county in Aksu prefecture told Radio Free Asia (RFA) that churches in the cities of Aksu and Korla have stopped meeting altogether and that local believers have been warned not to meet privately for worship. 'We don't dare gather for worship now,' the church member said. 'The police are saying it's part of terrorism prevention in Xinjiang, and that they won't allow gatherings of even a few people. . . The police want our church to join the Three-Self Patriotic Association.' [Churches in the Communist Party controlled TSPA are subject to unreasonable restrictions.]

The regional government in Urumqi has published a list of banned activities which, according to those who spoke to RFA, is so detailed and specific that it could only have been drawn up with the aid of government infiltrators. 'Unauthorised editing, translation, publication, printing, reproduction, production, distribution, sale and dissemination of religious publications and audiovisual products' is prohibited. 'Missionary activities ... under the guise of business, tourism, lectures, overseas study, cultural exchange or donations to disaster relief or to fund studies or alleviate poverty and sickness' are also prohibited.

Alimujiang Yimiti (CAA)
The deteriorating situation will not help long-time prisoner, convert from Islam and Kashgar house church leader Alimujiang Yimiti (44). A believer since 1995, Alimujiang was accused in 2007 of witnessing to Muslims. Arrested in 2008, he was sentenced in a secret trial in 2009 to imprisonment for 15 years, charged with ‘unlawfully providing state secrets to overseas organizations’. Alimujiang, his wife Gulineur and their two young children need our prayers.

There is absolutely no doubt that Islamic terror represents a serious and growing threat to China. The threat has escalated in recent years as Uyghur jihadists have moved from Pakistan's tribal regions to Syria, where they have been fighting mostly with al-Qaeda affiliates in Aleppo and Idlib, but also with Islamic State. Keen to counter the threat, Beijing has increased its support for and engagement with Damascus. Syrian-trained Uyghurs are also committing terror attacks further afield, e.g. at the Chinese embassy in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan (30 August 2016) and at a nightclub in Istanbul, Turkey (31 December 2016). Released on 5 March, Issue 20 of the al-Qaeda-linked Turkistan Islamic Party's Arabic language magazine, Islamic Turkistan, urges jihadis worldwide to attack Chinese targets in their countries.

10,000 troops rally in Urumqi (SCMP
On 27 February Islamic State released a sophisticated and bloody, half-hour propaganda video featuring Uyghurs in and from 'East Turkistan' (Xinjiang). The video, in which Uyghur militants vow to plant their flag in China and shed rivers of blood, was released as the Chinese government staged its fourth massive military parade in the capital Urumqi. For its part, Beijing has vowed to use 'thunderous force' against Uyghur terrorists throughout the region. Large detachments of soldiers have been deployed to Aksu, Hotan and Kashgar in the Uyghur heartland.

CPEC into Kashgar, Xinjiang
Security in Xinjiang is no small issue for China, especially as it forges ahead with its China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). CPEC is a 3000 km, $46 billion initiative to create a network of roads, rail and pipelines linking Kashgar, Xinjiang, to the deep-water port of Gwadar, Pakistan. China will not tolerate unrest in Xinjiang and will crack down hard to ensure everyone and everything is subject to its power.

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL:

* grant great wisdom to all Xinjiang's Christian leaders, so they will know what to do and how to respond at this tense and critical time. 'If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.' (James 1:5 ESV)

* bless Alimujiang Yimiti, his wife Gulineur and their two young children; may he preserve, protect and provide for them all. 'The Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one.' (2 Thessalonians 3:3 ESV)

* awaken the authorities in Beijing and in Xinjiang to the fact that Christians are not the enemy and indeed that the Church is deeply patriotic -- always praying for China, eager to bless China.

* break the emotional, spiritual and material connections that exist between Xinjiang's Uyghur separatist and transnational jihadists who are looking for a door into China; may China's Uyghurs find peace, dignity, joy and liberty in Jesus Christ.


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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CHINA: MASSIVE CRACKDOWN IN XINJIANG

Beijing has launched a massive anti-terror drive in its volatile north-western Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, which borders Pakistan, Afghanistan and east Central Asia. It comes as the threat of Islamic terror escalates markedly following threats from al-Qaeda-linked Uyghurs (who have called for attacks on Chinese interests) and Uyghurs with Islamic State (who have threatened rivers of blood). Caught up in the crackdown are Christian groups not linked to state-approved churches. More than 80 believers have been arrested and interrogated. Some have also been detained for 15 days and fined. House church fellowships have either stopped meeting or have gone deep underground. Pray that the authorities will realise that, whilst the Islamic terror threat is real, Christians are not the enemy. Please pray for China and its Church in Xinjiang.

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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

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

RLPB 396. Egypt: Copts driven from North Sinai. plus prisoner update: Niger and Sudan

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 396 | Wed 1 MAR 2017

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 DRIVEN FROM NORTH SINAI
plus: Prisoner update: Niger, Sudan 

by Elizabeth Kendal

As reported in last week's RLPB 395 (22 Feb), on 19 February a group calling itself the 'Islamic State of Egypt' released a video entitled 'Kill All Kuffar' (infidels). It specifically threatened Egypt's Copts, whom it scorned as 'worshippers of the cross'. Analysts surmise that 'Islamic State Wilayet Sinai' (IS in the province of Sinai) has changed its name to 'Islamic State of Egypt' to reflect its intention to spread terror beyond Sinai -- indeed, across all Egypt. Its bombing of Cairo's Coptic Cathedral, in which at least 28 Coptic Christians were killed, was a demonstration of this new strategy.

Critically, the group has also launched a 'Tracking Down the Apostates of Egypt' campaign to enlist the support of IS sympathisers across the country. 'Support the jihadis and report the information of apostates around you, be they soldiers, agents, conscripts, policemen, officers, bank managers, Christian leaders, atheists, crusaders or Zionists who live among you,' it urges its supporters online. In January five Copts were killed in less than two weeks with their throats cut, whilst money and other valuables were left behind. The focus now appears to be Al-Arish (48km from the Rafah Crossing Point) in North Sinai Province where a string of assassinations has triggered a Coptic exodus.

On 31 January Coptic trader Wael Youssef (35) was shot dead in his grocery shop by masked men. On 12 February Coptic veterinarian Bahgat Zakhar (40) was shot dead as he was leaving his private clinic. On 13 February Coptic labourer Adel Shawk (57) was fatally shot in the head.  On 16 February Coptic teacher Gamal Tawfiq (50) was gunned down in a crowded market while on his way to school. On 23 February Copt Kamal Youssef (40) was shot dead in front of his wife and children at his home which the killers then torched. Also on 23 February police found the bodies of Copts Saad Hana (65) and his son Medhat (45) who had been abducted days earlier: Saad had been shot in the head while Medhat had been burnt alive.

Copts from Al-Arish
arrive in Ismailiya (AP) 
The terror is having its desired affect with Al-Arish's remnant Copts fleeing North Sinai. Middle East Concern reported on 28 February that more than 118 of Al-Arish's 160 Coptic families have fled the city, most headed for Ismailiya, in Suez Canal city. Some 250 terrified Copts (around 70 families) have sought aid and shelter at Ismailiya's Evangelical Church. 'They've come running with their children,' said church deacon Nabil Shukrallah. 'It's a very difficult situation. We're expecting 50 or 60 more.'  Other Copts have found refuge in Saint Antonios Church, in the homes of Ismailiya residents or in rented apartments and youth hostels.

By Israeli cartoonist, Yaakov Kirschen,
27 Feb 2017. Dry Bones Blog 
Ominously, as Copts arrived in Ismailiya, pro-IS slogans appeared on the walls at Al-Mamar Square and in the Coptic cemetery. Ismailiya governor Major-General Yassin Taher denounced the graffiti and ordered it be removed immediately. Health Minister Ahmed Emad Eddin has deployed 26 mobile medical clinics to Ismailiya to serve the needs of the displaced Copts.


PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY FOR GOD TO: 

* provide for the displaced Copts seeking sanctuary in Ismailiya so they will receive everything they need; may all who help and serve them be blessed.

* intervene in Sinai to bring an end to the evil that dwells there; may the Sinai no longer be a sanctuary for Islamic jihadists and human traffickers.  '... but he will rebuke them, and they will flee far away . . .' (from Isaiah 17:12-14, emphasis mine)

ALSO, prayer points from last week based on Psalm 141: 8-10 (ESV)

* May the Spirit of God draw the eyes of all Copts and all Egyptian Christians towards our God; may they 'seek refuge' in him. v8

* May Jesus Christ, the Lord of hosts (the commander of heaven's angelic armies), deploy his angels to deliver Egypt's Coptic Christians from the 'traps' set for them, from the 'snares of evildoers'. v9

* May God intervene for his people; 'Let the wicked fall into their own nets, while [God's children] pass safely by.' v10


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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EGYPT: COPTS DRIVEN FROM NORTH SINAI

On 19 February the 'Islamic State of Egypt' released a video entitled 'Kill All Kuffar' (infidels), specifically threatening Egypt's Coptic Christians. The group also launched a 'Tracking Down the Apostates of Egypt' campaign, which calls on IS sympathisers across the country for support by reporting the whereabouts of infidels, including 'Christian leaders ... crusaders [Westerners] or Zionists [Jews] who live among you'. Five Copts were murdered in January and seven Copts have been killed in Al-Arish, North Sinai Province since 31 January. More than 118 Coptic families have fled North Sinai with more on the way. Most have found refuge in churches, hostels and homes in Ismailiya, Suez Canal city. The Health Minister has set up medical facilities to meet the Copts' needs. Please pray for Egypt and its Copts.

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PRISONER UPDATE


Jeff Woodke, Daily Express UK Oct 2016
NIGER: US Christian Jeff Woodke (55) has lived with, served and blessed the nomadic Tuareg of northern Niger since 1992. On 14 October 2016, gunmen shot Woodke's guards and abducted him from his home. They are believed to be affiliated with the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), a splinter group of Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). Nigerian authorities tracked his captors to Mali, where MUJAO is based. No demands have been made and the situation is unclear. In October British media speculated: 'It's thought Mr Woodke could be used as a bargaining chip following a dispute over a stolen drug shipment which is said to involve a local government official.' Jeff Woodke is in an extremely dangerous position. Though he might be a captive to terrorists and traffickers, his life is ultimately in God's hands. Please pray.

Jasek and FM Zaoralek fly home to
Prague, 26 Feb.    More Photos
SUDAN: Update to RLPB 392 (2 Feb 2017). Sentenced on 29 January to life in prison for espionage, Czech aid worker Petr Jasek was freed on 26 February having spent 446 days in prison for standing in solidarity with the persecuted church. After meeting with Czech Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek, Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir used his presidential powers to pardon Jasek and order his release. FM Zaoralek flew out of Sudan with Jasek on 26 Feb. Despite having been incarcerated with Islamic State terrorists who taunted and beat him and, despite losing 25kg, Jasek is remarkably well and profoundly grateful to all who prayed for his release. Voice of the Martyrs testified to Jasek's enduring faith: 'From the earliest days of his imprisonment, Petr said many times, "God holds the key to my cell".' God has answered the prayers of many -- so let us all give thanks! (2 Corinthians 1:11)

Meanwhile, Jasek's co-defendants -- Rev Hassan Abdelrahim Tawor of the Sudanese Church of Christ (SCOC) and Darfuri convert Abdulmonem Abdumawla -- remain incarcerated in Kober maximum security prison. Please pray.

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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