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by Elizabeth Kendal
JANUARY 2018 UPDATE -- this month we prayed concerning ...
* BURMA (RLPB 438), where intensive fighting is underway in Burma's northern Kachin State with the military eager to seize control of valuable gold, amber and jade mining areas.
|IDPs from Ndup Yang camp.|
Source: The Irrawaddy, photo courtesy
Father Vincent Shawng Lawn,
Sumprabum Catholic Church
BURMA UPDATE (2): On 2 January the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO) elected General N'Ban La (70) as its new chairman. Gen. N'Ban La also serves as deputy chair of the Federal Political Negotiation and Consultative Committee (FPNCC), an alliance of seven armed ethnic groups yet to sign the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA). [They refuse to sign while the junta's preconditions include disarmament and acceptance of the flawed 2008 constitution.] Pursuing economic interests, the West has essentially abandoned the Christian Kachin, citing their refusal to sign the NCA. Eager to advance its own interests, China is now wooing the Kachin, offering to facilitate the flow of humanitarian aid into Kachin State from China. Observers expect that under Gen. N'Ban La, the KIO will give up on the West and will instead look East. Of course this will leave the Kachin vulnerable to the machinations of the Chinese Communist Party. Please pray.
* SYRIA (RLPB 438; updated in RLPB 439), where, on 8 January, Christian properties in the Old City of Damascus were hit by rebel shells; and where Christians in northern Afrin are imperilled due to Turkish shelling and aerial bombardment, as well as from Turkish-backed al-Qaeda-linked jihadists.
SYRIA UPDATE (DAMASCUS): Nine civilians were killed and 21 wounded in Bab Touma on Monday 22 January, when jihadists based in Eastern Ghouta shelled the predominantly Christian district of the Old City. Three-year-old Elias, whose parents were critically wounded, was among the dead. The shelling commenced just as school had finished for the day; several youths from the Church-run Al Riaya School were among those killed and seriously wounded. Please pray.
|Patriarch Aphrem II of Aleppo|
'Cast all your anxiety on him [God, v6] because he cares for you' (1 Peter 5:7 NIV).
* NIGERIA (RLPB 439), where the extra-legal arrest of a convert from Islam and her Christian friend has triggered a religio-political crisis, because Nigeria's constitution guarantees religious freedom. No further news is available. [See also The Islamisation of Nigeria, Religious Liberty Monitoring (23 Jan 2018)].
JANUARY 2018 ROUND-UP -- also this month ...
* CAMEROON: BOKO HARAM TORCHES ROUM
On the night of 15 January Boko Haram militants stormed Roum village in Cameroon's Far North region (which borders Nigeria's Borno State), setting it ablaze. Two churches (one Evangelical, one Catholic) were destroyed, along with 93 huts, 20 food storehouses, and 11 motorbikes. Not far from Roum, a health centre belonging to the Evangelical Church was also attacked. One church leader told World Watch Monitor (29 Jan) that the violence and looting has become routine. It must be terrible to live with such insecurity; please pray.
* CHINA: NEW RELIGIOUS AFFAIRS REGULATIONS IN FORCE
|source: TIME (2016)|
* INDIA: HARASSED, THREATENED AND MURDERED
JHARKHAND: Morning Star News (MSN) reports on several incidents of violence against Christians over Christmas. In each case, Christians had been engaged in peaceful worship when they were violently attacked by Hindu nationalists. As MSN reports, Jharkhand's Adivasis (indigenous tribes) are also harassing and threatening Christians. This is because Jharkahand's Hindu nationalist (BJP) state government is exploiting the issue of religious conversion deliberately to divide the tribals. The BJP's goal is to set the Adivasi animists against the Christians who have been leading a campaign for land rights, justice and equity. [See: The Shameful Politics Behind Jharkhand's Anti-Conversion Law, Religious Liberty Monitoring (1 Sep 2017).] Pray for the Church in Jharkhand.
|Pastor Gideon (left, in white)|
photo: Morning Star News.
* IRAN: MORE BELIEVERS INCARCERATED
On 6 January, in a Revolutionary court in Tehran, Shamiram Isavi, the wife of Assyrian Pastor Victor Bet Tamraz, was sentenced to five years in prison. Judge Ahmadzadeh found Shamiram Isavi guilty of 'acting against national security by organizing home churches, attending Christian seminars abroad and training Christian leaders in Iran for the purpose of espionage'. Isavi denies that she ever acted against Iran's national security. Isavi and her husband were arrested in their home in Tehran on 26 December 2014, along with their son, Ramin Bet Tamraz, and 12 Christian converts. In June 2016, Pastor Victor and three converts were sentenced to 10- and 15-year prison terms [see RLPB 414 (11 July 2017)]. Their appeals are pending. Furthermore, On 28 December converts Eskandar Rezaei and Pastor Soroush Saraei were each sentenced to eight years in prison for 'acting against national security'. Pray for the Church in Iran.
* KYRGYZSTAN: PERSECUTION CULMINATES IN CHURCH BLAZE
|Kaji-Sai Baptist Church|
photo: World Watch Monitor
Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, 'He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.' (Psalm 91:1-2 NIV)
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).