Tuesday, December 11, 2018

RLPB 483. China: The CCP's War on Religion Heats Up

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 483 | Wed 12 Dec 2018

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: THE CCP'S WAR ON RELIGION HEATS UP
Chinese Communist Party (CCP) strikes Early Rain Covenant Church

-- Elizabeth Kendal

Generally it is the case that when serious persecution flares, the persecuted will strategically retreat 'underground' and endeavour to continue their ministry in secret. This is a totally legitimate response, rooted in the premise that as 'sheep in the midst of wolves', we must be 'wise as serpents and innocent as doves' (Matthew 10:16 ESV).  Sometimes God calls individuals and even whole churches to resist the oppressor as did the apostles Peter and John in Acts 4:18-20. This too is a totally legitimate response which exposes evil by drawing it out into the light, albeit at the cost of one's own life or liberty. Both responses are legitimate; both are used by God. Each is a calling and should not cause division.

Located in Chengdu, the capital city of China's south-western Sichuan Province, Early Rain Covenant Church has 'about 500 followers but their weekly gatherings spread across 12 meeting points around Chengdu, attracting more than 800 church-goers on a weekly basis'. Unregistered on principle, Early Rain Covenant Church is committed to open ministry, irrespective of circumstances. [See interview with June Cheng, World Magazine (May 2016).] Undeterred by the escalating persecution or the new Religious Affairs Regulations [see Religious Liberty Monitoring (25 Jan 2018)],  Early Rain has continued to operate openly. It conducts unregistered worship services, prayer meetings and Bible studies, as well as running its unregistered Covenant Reformed School (which caters for some 40 primary school students) and Covenant Seminary (with some 100 students). It has also continued to evangelise openly in the street and publish sermons on-line. Its policy is best summed up in its 'Guide for Churches' (May 2018): 'The highest law of the Christian is the Bible. Any law that contradicts the Bible we will disobey by non-violent methods.' As you might imagine, Early Rain church poses a serious problem for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

Some 200 Early Rain members were arrested in a crackdown in May. While all were released within 24 hours, the church was put on notice, warned that if it refused to comply with CCP regulations then it would be closed down by the end of the year. Alarmed by the escalating persecution, Early Rain church leaders organised a petition. Entitled, A Joint Statement by Pastors: A Declaration for the Sake of the Christian Faith, the petition was published on-line on 30 August with 198 signatures; top of the list was Early Rain's Pastor Wang Yi (45, a former legal scholar). By 5 September the list had grown to 439 signatures, leading observers to question if this might mark 'a significant moment in the country's Church and State relations'. Then, on Saturday 8 December -- with persecution soaring to levels unseen in decades -- Pastor Wang Yi published a 7300-word manifesto on social media entitled 'Meditations on the Religious War', in which he condemns the CCP, likens President Xi to Caesar and Pharaoh, and urges Christians to embrace civil disobedience

Early Rain Covenant Church, Chengdu.
(photo: Zhongming Jiang) World Magazine (April 2016)

On Sunday 9 December Chinese police fanned out across the city of Chengdu. At around 6pm they snatched the church's cameraman from off the street outside the church. Then, in co-ordinated lightning raids throughout the night, they broke into the homes and workplaces of Early Rain members. By 9pm the church's phone line had been cut and members' social media channels were blocked. Police pressured members to sign a document agreeing to never again visit Early Rain Covenant Church, which it labelled an 'evil cult'. More than 100 members and key church leaders, including Pastor Wang Yi and his wife Jiang Rong, were arrested for refusing to sign. Assistant deacon Zhang Guoqing is one of two church members released on Monday morning. He is essentially under house arrest, watched around the clock by 'security personnel' posted in his home.

Elder Li Yingqiang, who ditched his phone and fled when he heard the police were coming, was the sole Early Rain church elder to escape arrest that night. He spoke to World Magazine's June Cheng: 'Pray that God would give us the courage and the strength to deal with this persecution,' he said. 'That those [in detention] would be a good witness, and that the church members wouldn't compromise, but instead … they would know God is real and that He will protect them.' China Aid (CAA) reports that Elder Li Yingqiang was subsequently arrested on 11 December. As CAA founder Bob Fu notes, 'Many house churches have been closed this year in China's harshest religious suppression in decades.' [That includes Beijing's 1600-strong Zion Church; see RLPB 474 (26 Sep).] Fu believes the attack on 'Early Rain Covenant Church represents a major escalation of religious persecution in China'.


PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT

* the Holy Spirit will be powerfully and palpably present with all Early Rain members arrested in recent days; may they be sustained by God's presence, assured of God's love, filled with God's wisdom and gifted with God's words.

'You will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour.  For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.' (Matthew 10:18-20 ESV)

* God in mercy will restrain cruel and angry hands, and in grace use the witness of believers to bring conviction of sin, liberating truth and the light of life into China's dark and secret places.

'The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it' (John 1:5 ESV).

* all China's anxious, fearful, incarcerated and 'disappeared' believers will experience the sustaining reality of God's 'everlasting arms', especially over the coming Christmas season ... remembering in particular the severely persecuted (tortured) and 'disappeared' Christian lawyer, our brother, Gao Zhisheng.

'There is none like God, O Jeshurun [Israel], who rides through the heavens to your help, through the skies in his majesty. The eternal God is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms.' (Deut 33:26-27 ESV)


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE 
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THE CHINESE COMMUNIST PARTY'S WAR ON RELIGION HEATS UP

Early Rain Covenant Church in Chengdu city, Sichuan Province, is committed to open ministry irrespective of circumstances. Though unregistered and under pressure, the church has continued to worship openly, run a school and seminary, conduct street evangelism and publish sermons on-line. Undeterred by arrests and threats, Pastor Wang Yi (45) openly continues to challenge Communist Party policy. On Sunday evening 9 December police launched co-ordinated lightning raids on the homes and workplaces of Early Rain members, pressuring them to sign a document agreeing to never again visit Early Rain Covenant Church, which it labelled an 'evil cult'. Over 100 members and key church leaders were arrested for refusing to sign. Two have since been released. Chinese prisons are cruel; violence is routine and normal. Please pray for China and its Christians.

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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, December 4, 2018

RLPB 482. Australia: Religious Freedom in the Balance

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 482 | Wed 05 Dec 2018

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)


AUSTRALIA: RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN THE BALANCE
-- Elizabeth Kendal

In Australia, religious freedom is facing its most serious threat to date. Throughout the nation's short history, the idea that religious freedom is a fundamental human right has simply been taken for granted. Consequently, no legislation has ever been enacted to protect religious freedom. As far as legislation goes, religious freedom only exists in negative terms -- through exemptions in anti-discrimination law. The religious exemptions became a necessity after the law's list of protected attributes was expanded to include attributes such as gender identity and sexual orientation. As is increasingly evident, these are matters on which conservative religion and progressive cultures clash. Strip the religious exemptions away and religious freedom is not protected, meaning charges of discrimination can be brought against religious institutions that simply adhere to their values. Unfortunately in Australia, the cultural-Marxist's 'Long March through the Institutions' has been extremely successful. Consequently, 'equality' and 'non-discrimination' -- as distinct from universal human rights (which have their roots in the Judeo-Christian worldview) -- are now regarded as the benchmarks by which rights are established.

PM Scott Morrison (l) and
Labor leader Bill Shorten (r)
Having been riven by an internal culture war (conservatives vs progressives) Australia's governing Liberal National Party (LNP) has now been reduced to a minority government. Brimming with confidence, the progressive opposition Labor Party has gone on the attack, eager to humiliate the LNP ahead of approaching federal polls (slated for May 2019).  Riding the progressive wave that has swept up Australia's urban elites, a confident opposition has gone on the attack. In its sights is the increasingly contentious issue of religious freedom. Exploiting the community outrage whipped up by false reports that the government wants to grant faith-based schools the right to summarily expel gay children and sack gay teachers, the opposition has proposed legislation to strip religious exemptions from anti-discrimination law.

Labor introduced its Bill into the Senate on 29 November. Attorney-General Christian Porter warned that 'Labor's bill represents radical change because it provides no legislative ability for schools to act in accordance with their beliefs and the tenets of their faith. It completely removes the ability of religious educational institutions to maintain their ethos through what they teach and the rules of conduct they impose on students.' In short, religious institutions involved in education -- including Christian schools, theological colleges, churches and Sunday Schools -- would lose the right to teach, select staff, and enforce rules in accordance with their values. In the absence of religious freedom protections, they would immediately fall prey to hostile anti-discrimination 'lawfare' initiated by LGBTQ activists, before which they would be utterly defenceless.

Regardless of what the progressive Labor-led opposition may or may not be able to pull off during this last sitting week before Christmas, polls indicate that Labor is on track to win the next federal election in a landslide. On 24 November Victorian state voters re-elected 'the most progressive government in the nation' in a landslide. This was despite its pre-election promise to double the budget deficit and despite its commitment to strip religious exemptions from anti-discrimination law, which would shred religious liberty in the state. It is highly likely that this scenario will be repeated at the federal level in early 2019. The situation is both serious and fluid. The tide has turned and intolerance is rising. Religious freedom hangs in the balance.

For a detailed report see,
Australia: Will Religious Liberty Slide into Oblivion?
Religious Liberty Monitoring (5 Dec 2018).


PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY FOR GOD TO

* redeem Australia's religious freedom debate to awaken, revive, re-energise and embolden the Australian Church; may God breathe life and strength into the Australian Church (Ezekiel 37:10).

* redeem Australia's religious freedom debate to awaken Australian citizens as to the importance of the fundamental universal human right of religious freedom; may ears long blocked to the message of the Church be opened; may minds captured by lies be liberated, and may many hard hearts be softened.

* magnify and empower Australian voices of liberty -- in politics, in media and in civil society; may the Lord -- in mercy for Australia's children -- give 'strength to those turn to back the battle at the gate' (from Isaiah 28:5,6 ESV)


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE 
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AUSTRALIA'S RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN THE BALANCE

On 29 November the opposition Australian Labor Party introduced legislation into parliament that proposes religious exemptions be stripped from anti-discrimination law. Because Australia lacks legislation to protect religious freedom as a fundamental and universal human right, Labor's Bill would mean religious institutions involved in education -- including Christian schools, theological colleges, churches and Sunday Schools -- would lose the right to teach, select staff and enforce rules in accordance with their values. Religious institutions would immediately fall prey to hostile anti-discrimination 'lawfare' initiated by LGBTQ activists, before which they would be utterly defenceless. Regardless of what the Labor-led opposition may or may not be able to achieve now, polls indicate that Labor is on track to comfortably win the next federal election (due May 2019). Religious liberty hangs in the balance. Please pray.

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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, November 27, 2018

RLPB 481. Nov Update, incl. CAR, Australia, Bulgaria, Egypt, Iran, Pakistan, Uzbekistan

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 481 | Wed 28 Nov 2018

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)

- Elizabeth Kendal

NOVEMBER 2018 UPDATE -- this month we prayed concerning ...

* CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC (CAR) (RLPB 480), a French-speaking and majority Christian (76 percent) nation that in 2012 was flooded by mostly Arabic-speaking local and foreign militants [see RLPB 210 (15 May 2013)].  A large part of the country -- the north, centre and west -- remains under Islamic occupation to this day. It is widely accepted that these Islamic militants are being armed and funded by foreign powers whose aim it is to destabilise CAR so they might plunder its resources and 'open the road to radical Islam in the heart of Africa'. On 15 November militants from the mostly Fulani UPC (Union for Peace in Central African Republic) Islamic militia wrought devastation and perpetrated a massacre in the south-central town of Alindao. Overwhelmed and lacking a clear mandate, UN peacekeepers stationed in the town made no attempt to defend the civilian population. The CAR government is again appealing for the arms embargo that prohibits CAR from procuring weapons for its own military to be lifted.

UPDATE: WORLD IGNORES CHRISTIAN CRISIS IN CAR


Bishop of Alindao,
Mgr Cyr-Nestor Yapaupa
(pictured in May 2017)
The Bishop of Bangassou, Mgr Aguirre, has confirmed that the trigger for the massacre in Alindao was the killing of 'a Nigerian [i.e. foreign] mercenary'. Furthermore, whilst the UN has revised the death toll in the Alindao massacre to 'at least 60', unconfirmed sources claim the death toll could be more than 100. 

According to Mgr Aguirre, all NGOs have left Alindao; only the 'Bishop of Alindao and three priests who wanted to remain close to the population' remain and they are 'exhausted'. As Mgr Aguirre stressed, 'We cannot limit ourselves to denouncing these massacres. We need to get to the bottom of what is happening in Central Africa. Groups like the UPC are made up of foreign mercenaries who have occupied parts of our territory for 5 years. They are paid by some Gulf countries and led by some neighbouring African states. They enter [from] Chad through Birao [the capital of Vakaga prefecture in CAR's far north] with weapons sold to Saudi Arabia from the United States.' He accuses foreign powers of instigating religious conflict in CAR so they might plunder its resources and advance Islam through resource-rich CAR and into the equally resource-rich Democratic Republic of Congo. 'This,' he said, 'is the game that is behind the massacre of Alindao.'

click on map to enlarge

DAY OF LAMENTATION AND PRAYER: On Saturday 1 December CAR will mark the 60th anniversary of independence since the end of French colonial rule. Rather than celebrate, CAR's Church leaders have proposed that Sunday 2 December be a 'day of lamentation and prayer' in memory of all CAR's victims. All donations collected on that day -- the first Sunday of Advent -- will go to survivors. Please pray with and for the Church in CAR, lamenting this truly lamentable situation and pleading with the Lord for a merciful and powerful intervention.

NOVEMBER 2018 ROUND-UP -- also this month ...

* AUSTRALIA: HOSTILITY RISES

Australia does not have a positive right to religious freedom. Rather, religious freedom exists in negative terms, through exemptions in anti-discrimination law. In December 2017 the Australian parliament voted to legalise same-sex marriage. This triggered a debate on religious freedom which is exposing and fuelling anti-Christian hostility. This month, Christians Luke and Carla Burrell, announced that after 12 years of successful business, White magazine would cease publication. The popular bridal magazine became economically non-viable after LGBTQ activists -- who had realised that the magazine did not feature same-sex couples -- launched an aggressive campaign that drove off advertisers, frightened staff and included threats of physical harm (including a threat to torch the Burrell's home). Since its founding in September 2016, the Australia Christian Lobby's Human Rights Law Alliance has been involved in some 50 cases of Christians being subjected to 'lawfare' simply for exercising their faith. Please pray that the Australian Church will grow in faith, wisdom, boldness and grace as hostility rises and religious liberty faces challenges.

(For more on the situation in Australia, watch Religious Liberty Monitoring in coming days.)

* BULGARIA: RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN THE BALANCE

In mid-November the Bulgarian government in Sofia agreed to revise amendments to the Religious Denominations Act before the bill is put to a second reading. The first draft was so shockingly regressive that it drew prayer vigils and peaceful protests from all Christian denominations -- including the Bulgarian Orthodox Church -- as well as the Muslim and Jewish communities. Politicians have been criticised for attempting to deal with a national security matter -- the spread of jihadist and revolutionary Islam in Bulgaria -- through regressive, repressive religious legislation. The Act is now before the parliament and no vote has yet been taken. Christians in Bulgaria have pledged to continue their public prayer vigils and peaceful protests until the nation's lawmakers either withdraw the legislation or make substantive changes to it Please pray that the Lord will preserve religious freedom in Bulgaria 'in answer to the prayers of many' (2 Corinthians 1:10,11).

*EGYPT: ANOTHER MASSACRE IN MINYA


Mourners at Prince Tadros Church
 (3 Nov)
 In what looks like a repeat of  last year's Ascension Day massacre [RLPB 409 (31 May 2017)], seven Coptic Christians from one family (including two children) were killed and 14 injured when Islamic militants attacked Coptic Christians returning from a visit to the Monastery of St Samuel the Confessor in Minya, Upper Egypt. The terrorists -- four masked gunmen in a four-wheel-drive vehicle -- ambushed the convoy of two church buses on the desert road. While the larger bus managed to escape, the smaller bus was besieged. The massacre leaves Copts asking 'how can this happen to us twice?' and 'why hasn't this road been secured as the government promised?'  Please Pray for the Church in Egypt.

* IRAN: BELIEVERS MONITORED AND ARRESTED 

Behnam Ersali and Davood Rasooli, Iranian Christian converts from Karaj (50km west of Tehran) were arrested on 16 November.  According to Middle East Concern, the men had arranged to meet in Mashhad (900km east of Tehran), where Behnam was staying at a friend's house. However, it seems Iranian intelligence was monitoring the men, having intercepted their phone calls. The men were arrested before they could meet; Behnam in Mashhad and Davood in Karaj.  They remain in detention, their condition and whereabouts unknown. Friends suspect that Davood Rasooli is in solitary confinement and undergoing interrogation in Karaj's infamous, maximum security Rajai-Shahr Prison. As Rob Duncan, regional manager at Middle East Concern notes, 'It reveals how closely the Iranian authorities are monitoring the Christians.'  Please pray for Behnam Ersali, Davood Rasooli and all Iran's Christian prisoners. May Christ continue to build his Church in Iran.

* PAKISTAN: ASIA BIBI STILL WAITING


Islamists protest Supreme Court ruling.
One month ago [RLPB 479 (31 Oct)] Asia Bibi (47) was waiting for a decision from Pakistan's Supreme Court. Since then the court has acquitted her of blasphemy (31 October); the Islamists have staged mass protests and issued death threats; Pakistan's spineless Prime Minister has flip-flopped (first supporting the Supreme Court judges, before capitulating to appease and support the Islamists);  the judges have gone into hiding and Bibi's lawyer has fled to the Netherlands. As for Asia Bibi, she is stuck in Pakistan, forbidden to leave the country. In the face of her husband's pleas for assistance, the West is largely silent; indeed the UK only opened its mouth to reject the prospect of asylum. And all the while the threat facing Pakistan's Christian minority escalates. It is highly likely that the next time a Christian is accused of blasphemy, Islamists will encourage Muslims to by-pass the courts and kill the accused 'blasphemer' themselves. Pakistan is teetering on the brink of a major Christian Crisis. Please pray.

* UZBEKISTAN: PROTESTANTS UNDER PRESSURE

On 19 November police raided a private home in Pap, eastern Uzbekistan, arresting the eight Protestant believers gathered there for a meal and Bible reading. The believers were detained, questioned and forced to sign statements before being released at 3am. The raid was conducted without a warrant and only one of the 'police' wore a uniform.  The police seized Christian Bibles, booklets, DVD and CDs -- all of which had been purchased from the state-registered Bible Society of Uzbekistan. The believers are still waiting for news as to whether or not they are going to be charged with any offence.  A group of 31 Protestants who faced court in Tashkent on 30 October also had to contend with multiple violations of due process. Despite the irregularities, the local Protestants in the Tashkent case were fined between five and 20 times the minimum monthly wage, while the four South Koreans in the group were deported.  As Forum 18 reports, these are but two of many acts of harassment and persecution unleashed on believers by the police's Struggle with Extremism and Terrorism Department. Please pray for the Church in Uzbekistan.

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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, November 20, 2018

RLPB 480. Central African Republic (CAR): Massacre in Alindao

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 480 | Wed 21 Nov 2018

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)


CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC (CAR): MASSACRE IN ALINDAO
-- Elizabeth Kendal

Bishop Blaise Mada (l) and
Rev Celestin Ngoumbango (r)
image: African Daily Voice )
On Thursday 15 November ex-Seleka Islamic militants perpetrated a massacre in Alindao, a south-central town some 300km east of the capital, Bangui. A front-line, mostly Christian town, Alindao is occupied by ethnic Peul (Fulani) Islamic militants belonging to the mostly Fulani UPS (Union for Peace in Central African Republic). According to reports, the massacre was retaliation for the killing of a Nigerian UPC militant by anti-balaka militiamen (local, non-Muslim vigilantes). The UPS militants looted and burned the Catholic Cathedral and attacked the Bishop's residence; Bishop Blaise Mada, Vicar General of the diocese of Alindao, was amongst those shot and killed there. The militants then attacked the Catholic mission camp -- home to some 20,000 displaced persons -- looting, burning and killing. Many who died there were burned alive in their tents as the camp was 'burned to the ground'. The charred remains of Rev Celestin Ngoumbango, the parish priest of the village of Mingala, were subsequently found there. Thousands have reportedly fled into the bush. The Most Rev Cyr-Nestor Yapaupa, Bishop of Alindao, is organising the evacuation of survivors to Bangui. To date, 48 people are confirmed dead, including the two priests and several other religious workers.

Devastation in Alindao
According to Father Mathieu Bondobo, the Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Bangui, threats before the attack received by Cyr-Nestor Yapaupa, the Bishop of Alindao, suggest the attacks were premeditated. Though Bishop Yapaupa notified UN peacekeepers, they did not defend the facilities or intervene. 'Everyone was left to their own devices,' he said. 'The rebels had time to do whatever they wanted. And they did.' Amos Boubas, a Central African priest who is studying in Rome, heard the same. 'From what I have been told by my contacts, the Blue Helmets of MINUSCA [UN peacekeepers] did not defend the population from the rebels who committed the assault in Alindao. At the arrival of the guerillas they went back to their base, leaving the population to their fate of death and destruction.'

click on map to enlarge
Just two weeks earlier, on 31 October, a clash erupted between anti-balaka and ex-Seleka Islamic militants in the north-western town of Batangafo, some 380km due north of Bangui. A front-line, mostly Christian town, Batangafo is occupied by Islamic militants belonging to the MPC (Patriotic Movement for the Central African Republic), a splinter of the FPRC (Patriotic Front for the Renaissance in the Central African Republic). The clash resulted in one Islamic fighter being admitted to hospital. MPC militants retaliated by looting and burning thousands of homes, three camps hosting 27,000 displaced persons, a market in the city and a chapel. Around 20 people were injured; some with gunshot wounds, most with burns. More than 10,000 people sought shelter in the town's hospital; 5,000 remain there, too fearful to leave. 'It was like a horror scene,' says Helena Cardellach, MSF (Doctors Without Borders) Field Coordinator in Batangafo. 'We saw hundreds of households in flames. It was awful.' According to the UN, 'The fire destroyed more than 5,100 tents as well as the market and caused the displacement of around 30,000 people.'

In December 2017 Russia secured an exemption to the Security Council arms embargo, allowing Moscow to deliver arms to the CAR military and train its soldiers to fight the jihadists, many of whom are foreigners, mostly from Chad and Sudan. Russia is also spearheading mediation efforts; it is assistance for which the Church in CAR is deeply grateful. Unfortunately, Russian assistance to the CAR government has triggered an arms race as Islamist factions also up-the-ante. Like most Islamic jihadists, the jihadists controlling much of CAR are merely proxies of external powers: transnational criminals, war profiteers, Islamist networks and foreign governments whose interests and 'secret agendas' necessitate the destabilisation of states. As His Excellency, Mgr Juan Jose Aguirre Munos, Bishop of Bangassou, rightly notes, 'foreign forces want to make Central Africans fight each other in order to get their hands on the wealth of the country and open the road to radical Islam in the heart of Africa'.


PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY FOR GOD TO

* sever the Islamic jihadists' lines of supply so they might be starved of funds and deprived of weapons and foreign fighters; may the plots of those who seek CAR's ruin be thwarted. 'Break the arm [strength, mechanism of action] of the wicked and evildoer; call his wickedness to account till you find none.' (from Psalm 10)

* intervene for the benefit of CAR, and especially for CAR's suffering Church; may all suffering be redeemed; may the devil have no victory here.

* protect and comfort CAR's suffering Church; abandoned by the world, may she be lifted up and encouraged by the prayers of the Body of Christ. May the Lord supply her every need and deliver her from evil.


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE 
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MASSACRE IN ALINDAO, CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC (CAR)

On 15 November Islamic militants rampaged through the south-central town of Alindao. They looted and torched the Catholic Cathedral and killed the bishop in his residence. They then attacked the Catholic mission camp -- home to some 20,000 displaced persons -- burning it to the ground. The body of a local priest was found amongst the dead. To date, 48 are confirmed dead. Two weeks earlier, violence by Islamic militants in the north-western town of Batangafo left 20 wounded, while thousands of homes, a market, a chapel and three refugee camps housing 27,000 people were looted and burned. Foreign forces are working to destabilise CAR so they might steal its resources and 'open the road to radical Islam in the heart of Africa'. Please pray for CAR and its suffering Church.

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

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

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

See www.ElizabethKendal.com

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

RLPB 479. Oct Update. Incl. Burma, Nigeria, Pakistan, North Korea, Sudan (Darfur), Algeria, India, Kenya, Vietnam,

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 479 | Wed 31 Oct 2018

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

----------------------------------------------------
International Day of Prayer (IDOP) for the Persecuted Church
IDOP 2018: Sunday 4 or 11 November
See: Critical Prayer Requests (CPR) for states where Christians are persecuted and/or where religious liberty is threatened.
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NOTICE: There will be a two-week break in the RLPB ministry as Elizabeth Kendal will be speaking at a conference in Nairobi, Kenya. The Strategic Prayer Network of MANI (Movement for African National Initiatives) will be holding its 2018 conference from Tuesday 6 to Saturday 10 November. The conference -- the theme of which is 'The Convergence of Prayer & Missions' -- will include a special focus on persecution. Please pray for this conference, that all who attend will have safe travel and be greatly encouraged. The next RLPB will be published on Wednesday 21 November. Until then, the material in this RLPB and on the Critical Prayer Requests (CPR) website will provide intercessors more than enough to go on with.

-- Elizabeth Kendal

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OCTOBER 2018 UPDATE -- this month we prayed concerning ...

* BURMA (MYANMAR) (RLPB 475; updated in RLPB 476), where the China-backed United Wa State Army (UWSA) has been destroying crosses, closing and demolishing churches and arresting and interrogating pastors as it moves to exert control over religion in north-east Burma's  unrecognised but de facto independent Wa State.

UPDATE BURMA: On 16 October Catholic media reported that the UWSA had expelled two Salesian priests, three nuns from the Missionary Society of St Paul and three lay teachers from the Wa hills. Furthermore, local believers are now prohibited from reading the Bible and praying together, even in private homes. In a letter dated 22 October, Lahu Baptist leaders called on the UWSA to release the 41 Bible students who had been arrested and forcibly recruited into the UWSA. They also asked that their churches be re-opened and their property returned. According to this later report, a total of 19 Catholics have been expelled, along with twelve pastors from the Lahu Baptist Convention. The Wa region is home to many ethnic groups, with Christians comprising around 30 percent of the estimated 450,000 Wa population. Pray for the Church in Burma's Wa region.

* RLPB 476 of 1000. To commemorate the milestone of 1000 religious liberty prayer bulletins, this RLPB comprised a short article dedicated to those who bear the burden of persecution for Christ's sake as well as those who help bear that burden (see Galatians 6:2) by means of intercessory prayer (i.e. 'advocacy to the highest authority'). RLPB 476 also included updates on Burma; on the Nigerian Christian captive Leah Sharibu (15) whom Boko Haram had threatened to execute; on North Korea; and on Pakistani Christian death-row prisoner Asia Bibi whose Supreme Court appeal had finally been heard.

Dr Ken Elliot
As the RLPB ministry commemorated the publication of the 1000th religious liberty prayer bulletin, Australian missionary doctor Ken Elliot (84) suffered through his 1000th day in captivity. Dr Elliott and his wife, Jocelyn, had run a 120-bed charitable medical clinic in Djibo, northern Burkina Faso, for over 40 years before they were abducted on 15 January 2016. While Mrs Elliot was subsequently released, Dr Elliot remains captive to a group associated with Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). He is being held in the Malian desert along with several other foreigners, most of whom are aid workers and Christian. Pray that the Lord will sustain, comfort, encourage and deliver Dr Elliott and his fellow captives.

UPDATE NIGERIA: CHRISTIAN CAPTIVES DEEMED SLAVES

As updated in RLPB 477 (17 Oct), after executing two Muslim aid workers as apostates (for working with the Red Cross), Boko Haram has now officially deemed Christian schoolgirl Leah Sharibu (15) and Christian nurse Alice Loksha Ngaddah (24, mother of two small children) to be their slaves. In its statement, Boko Haram elaborated: 'Based on our [Islamic] doctrines, it is now lawful for us to do whatever we want to do with them.' Pray for Nigeria and in particular for Leah and Alice; may the Lord protect, sustain and deliver them.

UPDATE NORTH KOREA: PRAY THE DOORS WILL OPEN

When North Korean leader Kim Jong-un indicated that he would welcome the Pope if he were to visit North Korea, South Korean President Moon Jae-in agreed to extend an invitation. On 19 October Thae Yong Ho -- the highest level diplomat ever to defect from North Korea -- released a video via Daily NK entitled 'Hoping for a brave decision from the Pope'.  Thae's insights are both fascinating and encouraging. Not only does Thae reveal that North Korean diplomats have been engaged in high level 'under-the-table negotiations' with the Vatican since the late 1980s, he also reports that, whilst Pyongyang's churches are definitely fake – existing purely for propaganda purposes, the fake believers dispatched to attend them have mostly become believers. Following that line, Thae believes that while any welcome extended to the Pope would be similarly fake, his visit could however open the door for love, faith and hope to enter North Korea. Pray that God would intervene in North Korea so that its 'gates' and 'ancient doors' might finally be opened 'that the King of glory [the Lord Almighty] may come in' (Psalm 24).

UPDATE PAKISTAN: ASIA BIBI STILL WAITING

Always good at talking, the United Nations has issued a lot of statements this past month, but not a single statement on the situation facing Asia Bibi. Fortunately not everyone is maintaining silence. On Sunday evening 21 October Australian MP Michael Sukkar (LNP, Deakin) highlighted the plight of Asia Bibi as he called on the Australian government to cease foreign aid to Pakistan while that country is persecuting Christians and other minority groups. Meanwhile, Asia and her family waits. On 19 October World Watch Monitor released an informative report which highlights some of the gross inconsistencies in the case and includes a video interview with the family. Pray for God to intervene in Pakistan, for the country's vulnerable minority Christians and especially at this time for Asia Bibi.

* THE CHRISTIAN CRISIS IN IRAQ & SYRIA (RLPB 477), where the Assyrian nation [the indigenous Christian nation of Mesopotamia (Syria-Iraq)] is in a struggle for its very survival. Pray for the Church in the Middle East, in particular for the Assyrians of Mesopotamia for whom the Christian Crisis is most severe.

* SUDAN (RLPB 478), where the Islamist Arab nationalist regime in Khartoum continues its campaign to fully Islamise and Arabise all areas under its control.

UPDATE SUDAN: CHURCH IN SOUTH DARFUR DRIVEN UNDERGROUND

Middle East Concern (MEC) has now confirmed that Tajadin Idris Yousef, the leader of the group of 13 Sudanese Christians arrested in the city of Nyala, South Darfur, on 10 October, will be charged with apostasy. Of the 13 arrested, three believers from the Nuba Mountains were released when it became clear they were all from a Christian background; the rest were detained as apostates (converts from Islam). All but one were released ten days later after they had recanted their faith under torture and paid a fine for 'disturbing the peace'. In their hearts they are still believers. Despite beatings and torture, Tajadin Idris Yousef refused to recant, hence the charge of apostasy. He was released on 22 October pending a court hearing. The Church has since gone 'underground'. Pray for the Church in South Darfur. Pray for the believers who under torture recanted with their lips (but not their hearts); may they know the Lord's grace, comfort, healing and restoration (Psalm 23:3a); may the devil have no victory over them and may no division permeate the Church.  Pray for Tajadin Idris Yousef; may the Lord sustain, embolden and deliver him.

'Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues,  and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour.  For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.' (Matthew 10:17-20 ESV)


OCTOBER 2018 ROUND-UP -- also this month …

* ALGERIA: FIVE TO FACE COURT ON 6 NOVEMBER


Church closed! (MEC)
Five Algerian Christians -- including three from one family -- will face court on Tuesday 6 November accused of 'inciting a Muslim to change his religion' and 'performing religious worship in an unauthorised place'. The complaint was brought by a woman whose husband had converted from Islam to Christianity. In Algeria it is illegal to 'incite a Muslim to change his religion'.  The believers are all from Bechloul town in Bouira Province, 100km south-east of the capital, Algiers. Christians continue to face pressure in Algeria. On 16 October police officers closed and sealed the doors of the Protestant church in Azaghar, a village near Akbou, about 180km south-east of Algiers. The church, which is a member of the legally recognised Protestant Church of Algeria (EPA), has been active for more than five years and has about 300 congregants. As the 2019 presidential poll looms, Islam may well be exploited for political gain. Pray for God to intervene in Algeria.

* INDIA: HINDUTVA ESCALATES IN THE SOUTH

For many decades now, Hindu nationalists have concentrated their activities in the northern tribal belt. Yet Hindutva (militant Hindu nationalism) is escalating in the south. Sources report: 'The southern states of Karnataka, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Kerala saw at least 60 cases of persecution of Christians in the first nine months of 2018, compared with 36 such attacks in the first nine months of 2017.' Christian leaders in south India told Morning Star News (MSN) that the escalation of persecution can be attributed to the increased activism of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) volunteers who incite local Hindus to attack Christians. Furthermore, police are increasingly implicated. On 6 October a police inspector with close ties to the RSS led five police officers in a violent raid on a house church in Aralvaimozhi, Kanyakumari District, Tamil Nadu State. This is but one of many attacks. Christian leaders told MSN that the police are misusing their power to persecute Christians and that 'it is all happening under the supervision of RSS and BJP supporters in the local government'. Pray for the Church in India.

* KENYA: CHRISTIAN TEACHERS TARGETED IN NORTH-EAST

At around 1am on the night of 10 October at least 20 militants -- believed to be affiliated with al-Shabaab – targeted non-local teachers at the Arabia Boys Secondary School in Mandera County, close to the dangerously porous Kenya-Somali border. After overwhelming the four security guards, the militants threw an explosive device into the house where the school's four non-local teachers were sleeping, setting it on fire. Philip Okumu (26) and Daniel Wekesa (39) -- both Christians -- were shot and killed as they fled the flames. The school's other two non-local teachers, Elijah Nderitu and Kelvin Lomusi, managed to escape alive. The militants were clearly working from excellent intelligence; they knew exactly where the Christian teachers would be found. It is not the first time al-Shabaab has targeted Christian teachers in this predominantly Muslim region [see RLPB 411 (21 June 2017)].  Pray for the Lord to protect and bless all Christians working in Muslim-majority eastern Kenya.

* NIGERIA: SLAUGHTER IN JOS 


Blessing Kogi (23),
with bullet wounds
to her neck and shoulder.
(WWM)
On the evening of 27 September gunmen -- some in military uniforms, others in all black -- went on a killing spree in the quiet, residential neighbourhood of Rukuba Road, in the south-western outskirts of Jos, the capital of Plateau State. In total, 15 people were killed. Blessing Kogi (23) lost ten members of her family that night and World Watch Monitor (WWM) names them all in its report.  Twelve members of the family had gathered for a meal when the militants burst in, shooting wildly. Blessing and one cousin survived with injuries. Her father arrived home from work to find most of his family dead. According to Blessing, 'The people wearing black clothes spoke Hausa and Fulani, while the others wearing army uniforms spoke correct English.' What's more, as the gunmen were leaving she heard one of the men in army uniform say, 'We have finished our work; they should come and pay us our money.' Blessing requests prayers for her father, whom she described as a broken man. Questions are being asked as to how gunmen can commit such carnage in a suburb of a state capital and within walking distance of a military barracks. Pray for Nigeria; may the Lord intervene in grace and mercy so the Islamisation and terror will end.

* NIGERIA: CHAOS IN KADUNA

Pandemonium erupted in a market in Kasuwan Magani in the Kajuru Local Government Area of Kaduna on 18 October after a Muslim cried 'thief' to deliberately trigger a riot. The cry quickly changed to 'Allahu Akbar' as Muslims attacked homes and businesses belonging to Christians (mostly ethnic Igbo); one church was also torched. A total of 55 people were confirmed dead, many burned beyond recognition. A later skirmish claimed another 27 lives. On 19 October the revered tribal leader of a majority-Christian area in southern Kaduna came to visit the site of the violence only to be kidnapped; his security detachment was killed. Despite ransom being paid, Raphael Maiwada Galadima, a Catholic, was executed; his body was found on 26 October. The violence has sent ethnic-religious tensions soaring. The Nigerian Air Force has deployed combat helicopters, surveillance aircraft and a detachment of Special Forces to the area to restore order. While commercial activities are slowly resuming, most Igbo businesses remain closed. Pray for Nigeria; may the Lord intervene to save this country from civil war.

* PAKISTAN:  LIFE IN PRISON FOR BLASPHEMY

As Christian death-row blasphemy prisoner Asia Bibi awaits the ruling of the Supreme Court (which heard her appeal on 8 October) harsh and manifestly unjust sentences continue to be handed down to those accused of blasphemy. In June 2015 Yaqoob Bashir, a 25-year-old mentally disabled Pakistani Christian, was accused of burning a booklet that allegedly contained verses of the Quran. On 28 September 2018 the district court in Mirpur Khas, Sindh Province, deemed Bashir guilty of blasphemy and sentenced him to life in prison. His lawyer will appeal, but, as in Asia Bibi's case, the appeal process can take many years during which time the prisoner's survival is not guaranteed. Pray for a breakthrough in Pakistan, and may the Lord protect, sustain, comfort and encourage his Church.

* VIETNAM: IMPRISONED PASTOR'S HEALTH DETERIORATES


Pastor Nguyen Trung Ton after a
beating in February 2017.
 Protestant pastor Nguyen Trung Ton (46) was arrested in July 2017 for his pro-democracy and religious liberty advocacy. At that time, Ton was carrying severe leg injuries acquired during a vicious beating in February 2017 [see RLPB 448 (28 March)]. On 5 April 2018 Ton and five other members of the Brotherhood for Democracy group were tried in a Hanoi Court and charged with 'carrying out activities aimed at overthrowing the People's administration' [RLPB 450 (11 April)]. Ton was sentenced to 12 years in prison. The February 2017 beating left Ton with a torn ligament and crushed leg muscles. Confined to prison and without medical care, Ton's legs have never healed. On 23 October Ton's wife, Nguyen Thi Lanh, told Radio Free Asia that her husband's health is deteriorating. 'Prison authorities have not allowed me to send him any medication, and now he can't walk and is very ill,' she said. On 7 June 2018 two of the Brotherhood for Democracy prisoners -- leader Nguyen Van Dai and his assistant (Ms) Le Thu Ha -- were released from prison and exiled to Germany [RLPB 459 (13 June)]. Pray that God will intervene for Pastor Nguyen Trung Ton.

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

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, October 23, 2018

RLPB 478. Sudan: Reign of Terror

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 478 | Wed 24 Oct 2018

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

----------------------------------------------------
International Day of Prayer (IDOP) for the Persecuted Church
IDOP 2018: Sunday 4 or 11 November
See: Critical Prayer Requests (CPR) for states where Christians are persecuted and/or where religious liberty is threatened.
-----------------------------------------------------

SUDAN: REIGN OF TERROR
by Elizabeth Kendal

Sudan's ruling National Congress Party (NCP) is the successor party to the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated National Islamic Front (NIF). It was as a Brigadier and head of the NIF's military arm that Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir first seized power in a military coup in 1989. The NCP is Islamist and Arab nationalist. Resistance is fierce because, while the capital, Khartoum, is dominated by Islamist Arab supremacists, Sudan's periphery is populated by non-Arabs, many of whom are also not Muslim. They face political marginalisation, crippling discrimination and some of the most violent racial and religious persecution of our era. Populations that resist the NCP-led Government of Sudan (GoS) agenda are punished with aerial bombardment followed by highly destructive scorched earth warfare along with mass rape and mass slaughter at the hands of GoS-backed janjaweed (Arab for 'devils on horseback'). [See travel warning.] In 2013 the GoS re-branded the janjaweed as Rapid Support Forces and incorporated them into the Sudan Armed Forces.
 
No longer on horseback. In 2013 the janjaweed were re-branded as
Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and incorporated into the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF)
under the direction of the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS).
RSF are deployed to fight armed 'rebels' (i.e. to crush resistance) throughout Sudan.
See HRW 2015 (image: Reuters)

The GoS maintains a humanitarian embargo on all rebel-held areas. By preventing food and medical aid from reaching war-ravaged communities, the GoS ensures Darfur and the resource-rich regions of South Kordofan (which includes the mostly Christian, rebel-held Nuba Mountains) and Blue Nile remain permanently on the brink of famine. [Throughout its near-30-year rule, the NCP has repeatedly engineered famine and used starvation as a Weapon of Mass Destruction.] Sudan expert Eric Reeves reported on 19 October:  'Authoritative reports from the ground in both Blue Nile and South Kordofan make clear that despite a [GoS] commitment to lift the humanitarian embargo on the Two Areas, nothing has changed. Innocent civilians continue to suffer and die because of the Khartoum regime's barbaric seven-year denial of relief assistance to rebel-controlled areas.'


click on map to enlarge
APOSTASY IN DARFUR: On the afternoon of Wednesday 10 October officers from Sudan's National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) arrested 13 Christians who had gathered for fellowship in Nyala, the capital of South Darfur State. Ten of the believers were from Darfur and three from South Kordofan; they belong to four different house churches; all are converts from Islam. Three of the believers were released shortly after, without explanation. The NISS, which is notoriously hard-line Islamist, has authority to detain 'suspects' for up to four-and-half months without charges. Sources told Morning Star News (MSN) that the authorities were targeting converts from Islam in Darfur who were routinely detained, threatened and tortured to recant.

Eleven days later, on Sunday 21 October, all but one of the remaining Christians were released. Darfuri church leader and evangelist, Tajaldin Idriss Yousif, was released on Monday 22 October. A source told MSN: 'All of them were said to be tortured by NISS and are in bad shape. One of them is said to be in a critical condition owing to torture. He is said to have been vomiting and bleeding. He was rushed to a hospital, but he was not attended to by the physicians in that hospital.' Sources report that authorities have threatened to charge Tajaldin Idriss Yousif with the capital crime of apostasy, as well as with public disturbance and crimes against the state.

Since the 2011 secession of South Sudan, the NCP-led GoS has redoubled its efforts to fully Arabise and Islamise Sudan.  It is no wonder that Sudan is now ranked fourth on the Open Doors World Watch List of countries where it is most difficult to live as a Christian.


PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT:

* the Holy Spirit will move powerfully within the converts who were recently arrested, threatened and tortured in South Darfur; may they be assured of the Father's unfailing love, comforted in their Saviour's eternal embrace, and encouraged by the prayers of the wider Church.

* the Lord will comfort, encourage and lead the Church in Darfur; may believers not be crippled by fear; may they not be discouraged or confused; rather, may they grow in faith with spiritual wisdom to know how to navigate their challenging environment. 

* Jehovah Jireh, the Lord our Provider, will open the way for humanitarian aid to reach all those in need, especially the Christians of the Nuba Mountains who are suffering their second genocide in a generation.

* the Almighty Sovereign God, will intervene in Sudan to bring down Sudan's President Omar el-Bashir and end his government's reign of terror.

Prayer for Sudan: Psalm 10 
'Arise, O Lord; O God, lift up your hand; forget not the afflicted' (Psalm 10:12 ESV).


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
-------------------------------------------------------
REIGN OF TERROR IN SUDAN

Sudan's ruling National Congress Party (NCP) is Islamist and Arab nationalist. Non-Arabs and non-Muslims suffer political marginalisation, crippling discrimination and dictatorial repression. Those who resist the government's agenda suffer some of the worst racial and religious military violence of our era. Since the 2011 secession of South Sudan, the Government of Sudan has redoubled its efforts to Arabise and Islamise Sudan, which is now ranked fourth on the Open Doors World Watch List of countries where Christians face persecution. On 10 October Sudanese security forces arrested 13 believers -- all converts from Islam -- who had gathered for fellowship in Nyala, South Darfur. Whilst all had been released by 22 October, most had been threatened and severely tortured; one is in a critical condition. Pray for Sudan and its Christians.

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

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, October 16, 2018

RLPB 477. Assyrian Crisis in Iraq and Syria

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 477 | Wed 17 Oct 2018

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

----------------------------------------------------
International Day of Prayer (IDOP) for the Persecuted Church
IDOP 2018: Sunday 4 or 11 November.
See: Critical Prayer Requests (CPR) for states where Christians are persecuted and/or where religious liberty is threatened.
-----------------------------------------------------

ASSYRIAN CRISIS IN IRAQ AND SYRIA
-- plus update from Nigeria
by Elizabeth Kendal

As noted in RLPB 470 (29 Aug 2018), the Assyrian nation [the indigenous Christian nation of Mesopotamia (Syria-Iraq)] is in a struggle for its survival. While jihadist activity remains a problem, of greater concern is the less overt but more insidious threat posed by Kurdish nationalism. While there is no chance of a Kurdish state materialising any time soon, that is not stopping Kurdish nationalists from making every effort to change realities on the ground through 'divide and rule' (sowing division among the Assyrians), colonisation (occupying the lands of displaced Assyrians) and hegemony (dominance/control over Assyrians). Making things easy for the Kurds is the sad and shameful fact that their backers in the US-led West care little for the region's remnant Christians and, consequently, seem happy to turn a blind eye.

ASSYRIAN CRISIS IN NINEVEH, IRAQ
Ft Toma visits Iraq: Interview (Oct 2018)
Los Angeles-based Father Athanasis Toma, an Archbishop in the ancient Assyrian Church of the East, recently returned from a visit to Iraq. He warns of a deteriorating situation in which Assyrians face immense challenges including: gross insecurity, systematic discrimination, political marginalisation and land seizures. According to Fr Toma, Assyrian villages lack basic amenities, and most humanitarian aid organisations have left. Many youths and young families have lost hope and are looking to emigrate. Reports have emerged of Kurdish authorities blocking roads from the Kurdish provincial capitals of Dohuk and Erbil into the Nineveh Plains. This not only prevents displaced Assyrians from returning to their homes and lands, it also prevents Assyrians in the Nineveh Plains from gaining access to medical care or other services in Dohuk and Erbil, forcing them to make hard decisions. Many are convinced that a systematic, quiet yet aggressive campaign of immense pressure is being applied to drive Assyrians from their ancestral lands precisely so Kurds might colonise and eventually annex the Nineveh Plains into a future Kurdish state.

Asked if he thought Assyrians and Christians had any future in Iraq, Fr Toma replied: 'If we are not united and if conditions continue as they are, I believe we will diminish and soon not many will be left. Our lands, language, history and traditions will be all gone.'

ASSYRIAN CRISIS IN HASAKAH, SYRIA

Christians in Qamishli protest closure
of church-run school (28 Aug).
Syria's north-east province of Hasakah is under the self-declared rule of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), the Syrian wing of the Turkish Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). While the situation in Hasakah is relatively calm, Kurdish hegemony is deepening. The PYD is insisting that all schools in areas under its control teach the Kurdish curriculum which is aimed at facilitating a Kurdish nationalist agenda. This is unacceptable (even offensive) to Armenians and Assyrians. Because the Kurdish curriculum is not accredited in Syria, many Kurdish and Arab Muslims choose to send their children to the Assyrian church-run schools. These schools, which have existed since 1935, teach the Syrian curriculum which is recognised internationally and allows freedom for the teaching of religion, culture and language.

On 7 August the PYD forcibly closed two Assyrian church-run schools that were refusing to teach the Kurdish curriculum [RLPB 470 (29 Aug)]. On 28 August, amidst protests, the PYD forcibly closed an Assyrian church-run school in Qamishli (on the border with Turkey). The next day the PYD issued a statement, in English, accusing the church-run schools of spreading 'lies' and serving the 'Syrian regime'. On 22 September Isa Rashid, who directs the church-run schools in Qamishli, was beaten outside his home just days after a meeting with Kurdish officials in which he refused to implement the PYD's curriculum; Rashid had to be hospitalised.

Assyrian writer Souleman Yusph
On Sunday 30 September at 9pm, a convoy of three vans arrived at the Qamishli home of Assyrian journalist Souleman Yusph (61). At least ten pro-PYD Assyrian policemen then seized Yusph and took him away. The next day the PYD issued a statement in which it denounced citizens who 'overstepped' their right to free speech in order to spread 'lies' that 'undermine democracy'. As far as Monsignor Jacques Behnan Hindo is concerned, Yusph was 'arrested for telling the truth'. Mgr Hindo notes that Syrian Kurds are not the problem; rather it is Turkish and Iraqi Kurds who want to occupy the area. Yusph was released on 4 October after he had been threatened and intimidated into silence.

Concerning the situation in Syria, Juliana Taimoorazy, the Founder and President of the Iraqi Christian Relief Council says: 'If the US continues to fail the Christians of the Middle East with [its] policies, I guarantee, in the next 20 to 30 years, it will be empty of Assyrians, the indigenous people of Iraq. If this policy of backing the Kurds blindly, blindly continues, we will not have any choice but to leave the land.'


PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL:

* heal, comfort and encourage Assyrians who have been beaten, intimidated, threatened and terrorised not only by jihadists but by US-allied Kurdish nationalists. Lord, draw them close, give them peace and bolster their faith. 'Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest' (Matthew 11:28 ESV).

* intervene in this world for the benefit of the Assyrian nation -- raise up allies, mobilise support, facilitate provision of aid, magnify voices, sharpen consciences and stir up prayer.

* protect, sustain, unify, bless and encourage the Assyrians of Iraq and Syria, as he fulfils all his promises to their great nation, to 'Assyria, the work of my hands' (Isaiah 19: 23-25).


UPDATE FROM NIGERIA: DEADLINE ARRIVES

On 16 October, one month after it executed midwife Saifure Hussaini Ahmed Khorsa [RLPB 474 (26 Sep)] Boko Haram executed Hauwa Mohammed Liman, the other Muslim midwife it was holding. Khorsa (25) and Liman (24) were executed as murtads, apostates/traitors to Islam (for working for the Red Cross). In its statement Boko Haram said, 'If we see them [aid workers] we will kill the apostates among them, men or women, and choose to kill or keep the infidels as slaves, men or women. ... From today [Christian schoolgirl Leah Sharibu (15) and Christian nurse Alice Loksha Ngaddah (24, mother of two small children)] 'are now our slaves. Based on our doctrines, it is now lawful for us to do whatever we want to do with them.' Please pray.

'Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows' (Jesus, in Matthew 10:29-31 ESV).


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
-------------------------------------------------------
ASSYRIAN CRISIS IN IRAQ AND SYRIA

Assyrians are Christians and the indigenous nation of Mesopotamia (Syria-Iraq). While jihadist activity remains a problem, the threat posed by Kurdish nationalism is growing. The Assyrian remnant in northern Iraq's Nineveh Plains is struggling to rebuild amidst gross insecurity, systematic discrimination, political marginalisation and land seizures. Meanwhile, the Assyrian remnant in north-east Syria's Hasakah Province is struggling to retain its autonomy and culture as Kurdish authorities move to control the education sector. In both Iraq and Syria, Assyrian educators, writers and political figures who resist or criticise the Kurdish authorities are beaten, arrested and intimidated into silence. Kurdish nationalists aim to drive Assyrians from their ancestral lands so Kurds might colonise and eventually annex these lands into a future Kurdish state. Please pray for the Assyrian nation (Isaiah 19: 23-25).

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

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