Tuesday, February 28, 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
-------------------------------------------------------
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.

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

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.

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

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, February 21, 2017

RLPB 395. February Update, Incl. Uganda, China, Egypt, Indonesia, Sudan

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 395 | Wed 22 FEB 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)
 
by Elizabeth Kendal

FEBRUARY 2017 UPDATE -- this month we prayed concerning:

* UGANDA (RLPB 392), after a mob of some 90 local Muslims violently attacked a church prayer meeting in Katira village, Budaka District, in Muslim-dominated Eastern Region. Fifteen Christian women were raped and dozens of believers were wounded. The pastor was among nine church members later deemed ‘missing’.

Church leaders gather for prayer
(10 Feb) source: MSN 
UPDATE:  As reported by Morning Star News (MSN) Uganda’s Daily Monitor subsequently issued a false report on the incident. According to the Monitor, residents from neighbouring villages turned up at the church eager to witness what the church promised would be the return of a miracle-working prophet. Only when nothing eventuated did the ‘angry residents’ attack the believers who had made ‘false predictions’. Local church leaders have denounced the article as ‘false and a fabrication’. Such fake news is usually the work of elements more interested in appeasement, political correctness and blame-shifting than in defending constitutional rights. Of the nine believers deemed missing after the attack, only one has been found. Patrick Mbayo told MSN that he had been too afraid to go home after the attack, as he had received death threats for ‘trying to win Muslims to Christianity’. Slandered by the media and abandoned by their government, church leaders and members are praying for courage, perseverance, healing, grace to forgive, and for the safety of those who remain missing.

* BANGLADESH (RLPB 393), where the indigenous non-Bengali, non-Muslim Paharais (hills tribes) of the Chittagong Hills Tracts are suffering as victims of a hidden genocide. The weapon of mass destruction being used against them is government orchestrated, mosque facilitated and military implemented mass migration of Bengali Muslims. Abuses/crimes such as rape, torture, forced Islamisation – including by means of forced marriage and child trafficking – are routine and committed with impunity. The region is closed off to outsiders. The Church desperately needs our advocacy (Proverbs 31:8-9) and our intercessory prayer (i.e. advocacy to the highest authority).

* INDIA (RLPB 394), after Bartu Urawn (50) of Jharkhand joined the company of Indian martyrs; and as persecution escalates in Uttar Pradesh, fuelled by Hindutva forces playing the communal, Hindu nationalist card for political gain ahead of state elections. Results will be announced on 11 March.

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

* CHINA: 32 KOREAN MISSIONARIES EXPELLED

It has been confirmed that in January China expelled 32 South Korean Christian missionaries who had been working in China’s northeastern Yanji region, near the border of North Korea.  Further to this, it has been alleged that four people, including a Korean missionary and a Korean-American pastor, were apprehended on 9 February by Chinese police in a Yanji hotel. An estimated one thousand Korean missionaries work in China, most along the border with Nth Korea where they rescue, minister to and assist North Korean defectors fleeing persecution, repression and starvation. Pray this is not the beginning of a major crackdown. May God protect and preserve Christian mission along the China-North Korea border.

* EGYPT: ISIS THREATENS COPTS . . . AGAIN

screenshot - source: Al Masdar 
On 19 February, a group calling itself the ‘Islamic State of Egypt’ released a video message entitled ‘Kill All Kuffar’ (infidels). The video shows Abu Abdallah al-Masri – the Egyptian jihadist allegedly responsible for the 11 December church bombing in Cairo [see RLPB 388 (14 Dec 2016)] – railing against Egypt’s Copts (the non-Arab, Christian, indigenous people of Egypt) who he describes as Islamic State’s ‘favourite prey’. Images of the Advent bombing and subsequent funeral then flash across the screen to a soundtrack of jihadi music. Another masked jihadist then threatens the Copts with more deadly attacks, warning that the Advent bombing was ‘only the beginning’.  ‘Oh worshippers of the cross,’ he hisses, ‘the soldiers of the state are watching you’.

This new video, released on SUNDAY 19 Feb 2017, comes at the two year anniversary of the ISIS video, ‘A Message Signed in Blood to the Nation of the Cross,’ released SUNDAY 15 Feb 2015 [see RLPB 297 (Feb 2015) Both videos feature the mass murder of Coptic Christians, and both were issued as a call to jihad against the Copts. [You can find a full analysis of the ‘Message Signed in Blood . . .’ and the events of Feb 2015, in chapter 10 of Elizabeth Kendal’s book, After Saturday Comes Sunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East (Wipf and Stock, Eugene, OR, USA, June 2016).]

PLEASE PRAY: 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 hosts), 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

* INDONESIA: JAKARTA GUBERNATORIAL RACE HEATS UP

Jakartans turned out in record numbers (77 percent) on 15 February, to cast their vote for a new governor. As was anticipated, incumbent Governor Basuki ‘Ahok’ Tjahaja Purnama secured the most votes, but not enough to avoid a second round of voting. At the time of writing, results were hovering at around: Ahok, 43 percent; Anies Baswedan, 40 percent; and Agus Yudhoyono, 17 percent. The run-off between Ahok (an ethnic Chinese Christian) and Anies (who is favoured by Islamists) will take place on 19 April. Meanwhile Ahok’s blasphemy trial continues. Islamic hardliners will campaign hard to secure the support of Muslims ahead of the April poll. Their campaign is likely to be dirty, tense and polarising. Pray for Indonesia; pray for Ahok.

* SUDAN: 25 CHURCHES SLATED FOR DEMOLITION IN KHARTOUM NORTH

On 13 January, the out-going Obama administration announced that it was ‘easing sanctions’ on Sudan on the grounds that the Government of Sudan has allegedly shown ‘sustained progress ... on several fronts ...’ [see RLPB 391 (25 Jan)]. By 1 February, land authorities in Khartoum had issued demolition notices to at least 25 churches they accuse of ‘trespassing in residential areas’ mostly in the Sharq al Neel (East Nile area) locality of Khartoum North (Bahri). At a press conference on 11 February, the Sudan Council of Churches (SCC) denounced the order as pure persecution, noting the discriminatory of the order which targets only churches while bypassing mosques, despite their being in the same area. The SCC called on the government to reconsider its decision or provide alternative sites for the churches. Church leaders see the order as part of a wider campaign to drive the Nuba (the non-Arab, African Christians of Sudan’s Nuba Mountains) and Christianity out of Khartoum, and ultimately out of Sudan.

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

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, February 14, 2017

RLPB 394. India: 'I will not deny Christ. . .' Death in Jharkhand; elections in Uttar Pradesh

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 394 | Wed 15 Feb 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)


INDIA: 'I WILL NOT DENY CHRIST ...'
Death in Jharkhand; elections in Uttar Pradesh

by Elizabeth Kendal

According to the Hindu nationalist ideology of Hindutva, India is Hindustan, the land of the Hindus. Hindutva deems all non-Hindus are either corrupted or victims of forced conversion and insists they 'return' to the 'Hindu mainstream' for the sake of Mother India. In truth, Hindutva is pure politics! Once a means of arousing opposition to British colonial rule, it is now a means of drag-netting the majority Hindu vote to perpetuate the power, prosperity and privilege of the high-caste Hindu elite. To rally the Hindu majority, Hindutva groups such as the RSS (a paramilitary organisation founded in 1925) and the VHP (a cultural organisation founded in 1964) whip up communal hatred. Motivated by self-interest, the police and the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP, founded in 1980) of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, guarantee impunity.

Pastor Basavraja;
bashed almost to death
in Karnataka on 25 Jan.
source: EFI
Decades of unchallenged Hindutva has created an environment in which everyone knows that Christians can be persecuted, robbed, raped, assaulted, falsely accused, dispossessed, tortured and killed with impunity.

The Evangelical Fellowship of India's 'Persecution Watch' report for January 2017 details 18 verified incidents of targeted persecution involving physical violence, attacks on church properties, arrests for alleged 'forceful conversions' and intensive harassment and intimidation with serious consequences.

One case in northern tribal-belt, BJP-ruled Jharkhand, resulted in a fatality. Ten years ago, ten tribal families in Kubuaa village, Palamu District, Jharkhand, left their traditional animist religion and converted to Christianity. In recent years, however, the persecution has been so severe that seven of the families have returned to the local Sarna Dharam religion. One family standing firm in faith is the family of Bartu Urawn.

In January, villagers tried to torture Bartu Urawn, the family head, into renouncing Christ. They bound Bartu's and his wife's hands behind their backs and put them in a frigid pond with their heads only just above water. All through the wintery night they taunted Bartu to renounce Christ. According to their son, Beneswar, who witnessed the assault, his father reiterated every time, 'I will not deny Christ ... I will continue to believe till my last breath.' Pulled from the water at 10am the next day, the couple subsequently fell seriously ill. While his wife recovered, Bartu developed paralysis brought on by nerve damage caused by the freezing water and died on 20 January, aged 50. At that point, the villagers turned their attention to Beneswar, and the family fled. On 3 February the police -- who had refused even to register the family's complaint -- got the family and the villagers together and made them sign a 'peace agreement'. Whilst the Urawn family has returned home, they are living in fear of their lives.

click on map to enlarge
Meanwhile, elections are presently under way in neighbouring Uttar Pradesh. Known as the king-maker state, Uttar Pradesh is India's largest state with a population of 218 million, including 138 million registered voters. Uttar Pradesh (UP) is around 80 percent Hindu, 19 percent Muslim and one percent 'other', including some 360,000 Christians of various denominations. Dissected by the Ganges River, UP is a key destination for Hindu tourism and pilgrimage, with the city of Varanasi long regarded as Hinduism's spiritual capital. Despite this, UP remains desperately impoverished and backward. Since the early 1990s, UP has been ruled by regional parties: the Dalit-led Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and, from 2012, the Samajwadi Party (SP) which has now forged an alliance with Congress. In the 2014 General Election, the Hindu nationalist BJP swept UP, winning 71 of the state's 80 seats. Buoyed by this result, Hindutva groups have been campaigning hard across UP, causing persecution to escalate markedly. The BJP has not named a candidate for Chief Minister, hoping instead to ride to power on the back of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's popularity and charisma. Final opinion polls indicate that the BJP could win a majority in UP, with the SP-Congress alliance close behind. Polling commenced on 11 February and will conclude on 11 March. BJP rule would be disastrous for the Christian minority in UP.

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY FOR: 

* all the traumatised believers in Kubuaa village, in particular the grieving family of Christian martyr Bartu Urawn (50); may God our Heavenly Father provide comfort, peace and security. (From Isaiah 40:10-11 -- 'He will tend his flock like a shepherd ...')

* India's vulnerable, imperilled Church; may the Holy Spirit embolden the Church to reject the racism of caste and stand as one Body in Christian solidarity while loving her enemies and praying for those who persecute her. (Matthew 5:43-48)

* God to intervene in Uttar Pradesh for the benefit of his vulnerable and imperilled people, and indeed for the sake of all the 'harassed and helpless' citizens of UP. (Matthew 9:35-38)

* the Lord will raise up across India courageous men and women of reason and integrity who will lift up their voices against the racism and inequity of caste, the ideology and violence of Hindutva and the divisive and destructive nature of identity politics.


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
-------------------------------------------------------
INDIA: DEATH IN JHARKHAND; ELECTIONS IN UTTAR PRADESH

On 20 January Bartu Urawn (50) a believer for 10 years and head of a believing family in BJP-ruled Jharkhand, died as a martyr for Jesus Christ. Hoping to force him to deny Christ, villagers tortured Bartu and his wife. Each time they taunted him, Bartu responded, 'I will not deny Christ ... I will continue to believe till my last breath.' The police refused to register the family's complaint, and instead forced them to sign a 'peace agreement'. The Christian villagers are living in fear of their lives. Meanwhile, elections are under way in neighbouring Uttar Pradesh. Buoyed by the 2014 General Election result, Hindu nationalists have been campaigning hard. Persecution has escalated and will get worse if the BJP is victorious. Please pray for India and its Church.

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

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, February 7, 2017

RLPB 393. Bangladesh: Hidden Genocide in Chittagong Hill Tracts

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 393 | Wed 08 Feb 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)


BANGLADESH: HIDDEN GENOCIDE IN CHITTAGONG HILL TRACTS
plus: Jakarta Gubernatorial Elections on Wednesday 15 February

by Elizabeth Kendal

click on map to enlarge.
CHT = green
CHT shares a border with
Mizoram (87% Christian)
and Chin (90% Christian).
On 1 January police raided a hotel in Bandarban district town in eastern Bangladesh's Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT). The raid was launched in response to a tip-off and resulted in four indigenous children being rescued from the clutches of a criminal child trafficking ring. Two traffickers, Abu Babar and Md Hossain, were arrested, whilst their accomplice, Sumon Kheyang, escaped. Over the past seven years police have rescued 72 children from the clutches of this child trafficking ring but it is unknown how many children remain missing. The operation is run by Bengali Islamic fundamentalists. Their modus operandi generally involve recruiting members of indigenous hill tribe communities who then go door-to-door offering to take poor indigenous children to Dhaka and provide them with an education that will improve their prospects in life. Once in the clutches of the traffickers, the children are delivered to Islamic madrassas around the country where they are forcibly Islamised and indoctrinated, all without their parents' knowledge or consent. As horrific as this is, child trafficking for the purpose of forced Islamisation is only one of many gross crimes being committed in the CHT.

In 2014, the Catholic Church
in Bandarban was targeted in Islamist
 anti-Christian propaganda
Around 95 percent of Bangladeshis are ethnic Bengali, of whom around 90 percent are Muslim and 10 percent Hindu. Between one and two percent of Bangladeshis belong to the 12 tribes indigenous to the steep, green, resource-rich Chittagong Hills. Known as Paharis (from pahar meaning 'hill'), they are mostly Buddhist. However, Christianity is well established, growing and widely respected amongst the indigenes for its attention to education, health and human rights.

Whilst the Paharis were marginalised under British colonial rule, their problems began in earnest in 1947 with the partition of British India. Despite being only between three and five percent Muslim, and though the Paharis of the CHT have more in common with their neighbours in eastern India than with Bengali Muslims, the CHT was 'awarded' to Pakistan. Massive exploitation and displacement followed. Consequently, when Bangladesh (formerly East Pakistan) won its independence in 1971, Pahari leaders immediately requested regional autonomy for CHT within Bangladesh and a ban on Bengali Muslim migration into the region. The request was denied. Instead, the government of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman ordered the tribes to adopt Bengali identity, something they were unwilling to do. In response, the government began facilitating the mass migration of Bengali Muslims into CHT. Tensions soared, an insurgency erupted and in 1977 the Bangladesh Army (which is almost exclusively Bengali Muslim) flooded into CHT. While a 'Peace Accord' was signed in 1997, virtually nothing has been implemented and the predatory mass migration continues, as do gross human rights abuses.

Today, CHT -- now Bangladesh's most militarised region -- is majority Bengali Muslim.  Local indigenous women and children are raped, gang-raped, assaulted, tortured and murdered with impunity; while land theft, forced Islamisation, forced marriage and child trafficking are commonplace. Not only is the region closed to foreigners, Paharis are banned from even speaking to outsiders. In recent years, Islamic fundamentalists have escalated their anti-Christian rhetoric, accusing churches and Christian missionaries of being in the pay of foreign forces that want the Paharis converted so they can be recruited as separatists. This is a developing and exceptionally dangerous situation.

Islamist cartoon (Feb 2010): CHT being severed from Bangladesh by --
on left: the European Union, the CHT Commission, Christian missionary;
on right: two local political parties, the UPDF and JSS
source

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY FOR: 

* the Lord to intervene on behalf of his vulnerable and gravely imperilled children in Bangladesh's Chittagong Hills Tracts (CHT). May regional autonomy with freedom and security become a reality, for the sake of the Church and all those in need of her ministry and message.

* God to frustrate the plans of the Bangladeshi government and military, the Muslim Bengali nationalists and Bangladesh's increasingly influential and dangerous Islamic fundamentalists; may the transmigration of Bengali Muslims in the CHT be not merely halted but reversed and all the plans to Islamise the region come to nothing.

'The LORD brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; he frustrates the plans of the peoples. Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you.' (Psalm 33:10, 22 ESV)

* a spiritual breakthrough in Bangladesh; may Islam's spirit of deception be vanquished so that eyes and minds and hearts might be opened to receive the Gospel. 'God's cause will triumph.' (William Carey, pioneer missionary to the Bengali.)


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
-------------------------------------------------------
HIDDEN GENOCIDE IN THE CHITTAGONG HILL TRACTS IN BANGLADESH

Some 95 percent of Bangladeshis are ethnic Bengali (90 percent Muslim, 10 percent Hindu). One to two percent of Bangladeshis belong to tribes indigenous to the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT). Whilst the tribes are mostly Buddhist, Christianity is well established, growing and respected. When British India was partitioned in 1947, the CHT was 'awarded' to Pakistan, despite being only three to five percent Muslim and despite the indigenes having more in common with their neighbours in eastern India. Today, due to government-driven, military-facilitated transmigration, CHT -- now Bangladesh's most militarised region -- is majority Bengali Muslim. The region is closed to foreigners. Human rights abuses including rape, torture, murder, land theft and forced Islamisation are rife. It is a hidden genocide. Please pray for Bangladesh and the Church in CHT.

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

ALSO: please watch and pray concerning Jakarta's gubernatorial elections, to be held on Wednesday 15 February. Polls taken at the end of January show the ethnic Chinese and Christian incumbent, Basuki 'Ahok' Tjahaja Purnama, still leading the other two candidates. Pray for free, fair and peaceful polls and that the Lord will preserve Ahok's life and liberty.

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

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

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

RLPB 392. Uganda: more terror in Eastern Region (plus prisoner updates: Burma and Sudan)

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 392 | Wed 01 Feb 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)

UGANDA: MORE TERROR IN EASTERN REGION
plus Prisoner Update: Burma and Sudan
by Elizabeth Kendal

UGANDA: MORE TERROR IN EASTERN REGION

Located in Katira village in majority-Muslim Budaka District, Eastern Region, the 500-member Katira Church is no stranger to threats, intimidation and harassment. While Budaka District is becoming known for escalating violent persecution, attacks on the gathered church until now had been limited to cursing and stone throwing. On Sunday evening 15 January, about 80 believers -- approximately 50 men and 30 women -- were gathered for prayer when a mob of some 90 local Muslims attacked the church crying, 'Away with the pastor', angry with him because Muslims were converting to Christianity.  Pastor Moses Mutasa was outside interviewing some visitors when the mob descended; he fled for his life and has not been seen or heard from since. Eight others are missing. Numerous believers were beaten and bound, and 15 of the women were raped. It took the police two hours to respond and only then did the attackers disperse.

Rev. Musa Mukenye defuses tensions,
16 Jan 2017.  Morning Star News 
The following morning, a large group of local Christians gathered, many deeply traumatised and all angry. Believing it necessary to demonstrate strength, they agreed they should retaliate by destroying a local mosque. Fortunately, the Reverend Musa Mukenye was able to defuse the tension and convince the local Christians to adopt an attitude of forgiveness while leaving matters of justice to the authorities. 'This act is evil,' Mukenya told Morning Star News, 'and police should not relent until the attackers are arrested and charged in a court of law.' Unfortunately, impunity has been a key factor in fuelling the escalating persecution of minority Christians, not only in Budaka District but throughout Eastern Region. [See MSN: 'Uganda']

Analysts have long argued that, whilst decentralisation has indeed led to a reduction in national-level conflict, this has been replaced with local-level conflict. For decades the government has been creating ever more and smaller administrative districts – their number rising from 34 in 1990 to 111 today – while concentrating power at the district level. This has inadvertently made life difficult for Christians living in majority-Muslim districts, where the rights enshrined in Uganda's Constitution are increasingly being supplanted by fundamentalist Islam.

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT: 

* God our heavenly Father will intervene in Katira; in mercy, may the missing be found, the wounded be healed, and the traumatised and grieving comforted.

* in grace, the guilty will repent and be redeemed; that Christ will continue to build his Church in Eastern Region.

* the God of justice (Isaiah 30:18) will move President Yoweri Museveni and Uganda's central government to demand and ensure that the rights enshrined in Uganda's Constitution apply in all of Uganda's 111 districts.

'For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are those who wait for him.' (from Isaiah 30:18 ESV) and 'Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream'. (Amos 5:24 ESV)


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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TERROR IN THE EASTERN REGION OF UGANDA

On Sunday 15 January some 80 believers were praying together in Katira Church in majority-Muslim Budaka District, Eastern Region, when a mob of some 90 local Muslims attacked, angry about Muslims converting to Christianity. Dozens of believers were beaten and bound and 15 women were raped. Police took two hours to respond -- only then did the attackers disperse. The pastor, Moses Mutasa, and eight other church members are missing. The following day Reverend Musa Mukenye intervened to ease tensions and maintain peace. He has urged the police to arrest the attackers and bring them to justice. Unfortunately, impunity has long prevailed, which is precisely why persecution has been escalating. Please pray that God will bring healing and comfort to Katira, and justice to Eastern Region. (Isaiah 30:18b)

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PRISONER UPDATE: Updates to RLPB 391 (25 Jan 2017).
REPORTING PERSECUTION IS A RISKY BUSINESS

BURMA: On 24 January the Burmese military handed over to police in Muse town the two Kachin Baptist Convention (KBC) pastors they had abducted illegally and detained on 24 December. Police then charged pastors Dom Dawng Nawng (65) and La Jaw Gam Hseng (35) with 'illegal association', accusing them of spying for the rebel Kachin Independence Army (KIA). If found guilty, the pastors could face up to five years in prison. Zau Rau, an official from the KBC in Muse town, visited the pastors and confirms they are in good health. He also assured Morning Star News that the men are not spies and do not work for any armed group -- they are simply pastors. 'We will help them with legal issues,' he said. The pastors had helped journalists document the bombing of Mong Ko township, Muse District. Please pray.

SUDAN: On 29 January a court in Khartoum handed down verdicts and sentences in the cases of Petr Jasek, Abdulmonem Abdumawla and the Reverend Hassan Abdelrahim Tawor. Jasek, a Czech aid worker, has been sentenced to life in prison for espionage. Abdumawla and Rev. Tawor have each been sentenced to 12 years in prison for abetting Jasek in the crime of espionage. The case relates to Jasek's raising funds to assist in the medical treatment of burns victim, student Ali Omer. Abdumawla (a fellow student and Muslim convert from Darfur) had contacted Pastor Tawor (a Nuba pastor) who donated money for Omer's treatment. When Sudanese authorities subsequently found a receipt for $5000 in Jasek's luggage, they accused him of funding rebel groups in South Kordofan's Nuba Mountains. At the heart of the matter is the regime's claim that the men were 'spreading false rumours' about persecution in Sudan. Their lawyers will appeal. Please pray.

Jasek, Kwa (freed on 2 Jan), Tawor and Abdumawla.  source: Persecution Project
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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