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CHRISTMAS DEVOTION, NOTICES & UPDATES
by Elizabeth Kendal
CHRISTMAS DEVOTION: THE GOD WHO IS WITH US
Unlike all the gods humanity has ever made, YAHWEH -- the true and living Almighty Creator and redeeming Holy God of the Bible -- is with us. That first Christmas, the Son, Jesus, Immanuel, came to us clothed in mortal flesh. Today the Holy Spirit lives within all whom the Son has redeemed. God is with us not only on the mountain top, where the sun is shining and all is well. He is with us in the valley, where the shadows linger, evil lurks and life is uncertain. When we pray for the persecuted we pray to a God who is present in the prison cell, in the war zone, in the displacement camp and amidst all the suffering and evil in this world. God the eternal spirit sees and cares. He speaks, sometimes in a still small voice and sometimes with a roar. He sends his angels to defend and to minister and he intervenes with miracles to ensure the inevitable does not come to pass. While occasionally these miracles are spectacular, most are inconspicuous: the persecutor has a change of heart or health, the gun jams, the detonator fails, the weather changes, the sufferer rallies and quite inexplicably the battle is turned back at the gate.
And so we pray:
* that YAHWEH Sabaoth (the Lord of Hosts, the commander of heaven's angelic forces) will protect churches from attack this Christmas season. 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).
* that God will comfort and encourage every Christian spending this Christmas either in prison or in the custody of Islamic militants [see RLPB 436 (13 Dec)] on account of the name of Jesus. May they experience God's closeness and everlasting love; may they be fully aware that they are in God's 'sanctuary' (i.e., dwelling place, Hebrew: miqdas. Isaiah 8:11-14a).
This will be the last Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin (RLPB) for 2017. Whilst an urgent prayer alert will be issued should the need arise, the next scheduled RLPB will be issued on Wednesday 17 January 2018.
If you have not already done so, please take some time to familiarise yourself with the Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin (RLPB) blog/website. The site contains a searchable archive dating back to April 2009. Furthermore, at the very bottom of the webpage is a keyword search that searches both the RLPB and Religious Liberty Monitoring (News & Analysis) sites combined.
* INDIA: CONGRESS LOSES MORE THAN GUJARAT
-- persecution escalates as darkness sets in.
|Rahul Gandhi campaigning in Gujarat|
|Christians plead for mercy (4 Dec) |
Morning Star News
* MEXICO: MORE NON-CATHOLICS FORCIBLY EXPELLED
Christian Solidarity Worldwide reports that, on 4 December, officials in Tuxpan de Bolanos, an indigenous Huichol community in the north of Jalisco State, forcibly expelled 64 non-Catholics. The group, comprising 22 Protestants (including 15 children) and 42 Jehovah's Witnesses, were dragged from their homes, loaded into trucks and driven into the mountains where they were dumped and abandoned. To deter them from returning, officials also destroyed their homes. The Emanuel Regional Baptist Convention, which oversees Baptist churches in the area, rescued the victims. While the 42 Jehovah's Witnesses are currently in the municipal auditorium in Bolanos, the twenty-two Baptists are sheltering in Puente de Camotlan Church in neighbouring Nayarit State. This is not the first time Protestants have been forcibly exiled from Tuxpan de Bolanos. In January 2016, 28 Baptists (including 10 children) were forcibly trucked into the mountains and abandoned [RLPB 342 (2 Feb 2016)]. May justice and righteousness roll down like a river in Mexico (see Amos 5:21-24).
* NIGERIA: CONFLICT SPREADS SOUTH TO CROSS RIVER STATE
|click on map to enlarge|
* PAKISTAN: CHURCH TARGETED IN TERROR ATTACK
On Sunday morning 17 December, four Islamic terrorists attacked the Bethel Memorial Methodist Church in Quetta, the capital of Pakistan's Baluchistan Province. More than 200 Christians were participating in the 'Sunday School Christmas Program' when gunfire erupted outside. Two gunmen had shot dead church gatekeeper George Masih, paving the way for two bombers to invade. Security guards stationed around the perimeter and on the church roof returned fire, killing one bomber, wounding the other and forcing the two gunmen to flee. Unable to make it inside the church, the wounded bomber detonated his explosive vest outside.
|Bethel Methodist Memorial Church, |
Quetta. Sunday 17 December.
At least nine Christians were killed in the blast and more than 50 suffered wounds either from bullets or from shards of wood and glass propelled by the explosion. Pastor Saimon Bashir Masih told Morning Star News that, had either of the two bombers managed to enter the church, the death toll 'would have been colossal'. Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attack. While we lament and 'weep with those who weep' (Romans 12:15), we thank God that the full extent of evil was not realised.
LATEST: Pakistan: mourners bury 11 killed in Quetta church suicide attack, as 50 injured, World Watch Monitor, 19 Dec 2017
'The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.' John 1:5 ESV
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).