Tuesday, February 27, 2018

RLPB 444. Feb 2018 Update. Incl Nigeria, Dagestan (Russia), China, Indonesia, Iranian Refugees, Kenya, Pakistan, Turkey

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 444 | Wed 28 Feb 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

by Elizabeth Kendal

'For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.' 2 Corinthians 10:3-4 ESV

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

* UGANDA (RLPB 441), in particular for severely persecuted Christians in the Muslim-dominated Eastern Region. We prayed specifically for Munabi Abudallah, Mulangira Ibrahim (a former sheikh) and the widow Nafamba Madina and her children. All are converts from Islam who are paying an extremely high price for their faith in Jesus. Please continue to lift them before the Lord.

* NIGERIA (RLPB 442), as the government deployed troops to the volatile Middle Belt, ostensibly to tackle the 'Fulani Crisis'. 

UPDATES
FULANI CRISIS: The most disturbing aspect of the 'Fulani Crisis' is the way in which it is inflaming Nigeria's ethnic-religious tensions. Despite this being a law-and-order issue pertaining to the right to private property, it is evolving into an ethno-religious conflict which is threatening Nigeria's unity. As noted in RLPB 442, Nigeria's Minister of Defence has publicly blamed Christians for the crisis, saying it stems from their refusal to accommodate their 'fellow Nigerians'. It is a claim being echoed by other Muslim leaders, including Prof. Ango Abdullahi, a former Vice Chancellor of Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria, northern Kaduna. As spokesperson of the Northern Elders Forum, Abdullahi justified the Fulani killings as pre-emptive killings committed in self defence. Totally ignoring the issue of private property, Abdullah asserted that if an Igbo can set up his business in the north, then a Fulani should be able to graze his cattle in the south. It is not difficult to see where such a claim could lead. Clearly, the suggestion is that if the Fulani [Muslims from the north] are not permitted to graze their cattle in the south, then the Igbo [mostly Christians from the southeast] should not be permitted to set up business in the north. Such language threatens to re-ignite the threat issued in the Kaduna Declaration of June 2017 [See RLPB 422 'Muslim Youths Beat Drums of War' (6 Sep 2017)]. Watch and pray.

Hassan and Dafup (centre)
more images, see Viewpoint Nigeria
CONVERSION CRISIS: On 11 January Nigeria's Department of State Security Services (DSS) arrested Simput Dafup (engineer) and Daniel Hassan (driver) in relation to the alleged 'forced conversion' of Miss Nabila Sanda (19), the daughter of a powerful Muslim elder in Borno State. After being interrogated in the DSS office in Jos, Dafup and Hassan were transferred to Abuja where they were detained on charges of 'forced conversion' [see RLPB 439 (24 Jan)]. Viewpoint Nigeria reports that the leadership of CAN (Christian Association of Nigeria) worked with the president of ECWA (Evangelical Church Winning All), the Reverend Jeremiah Gado, to pressure the DSS. Eventually, on 27 January, Dafup and Hassan were released into the custody of Rev Yakubu Pam, the CAN Northern Chairman, one of the sureties for Dafup's bail. The men travelled immediately to ECWA headquarters in Jos, where they were welcomed and prayed for. Legal battles loom. The plight of convert Nabila Sanda is unknown; presumably she was forcibly returned to her father's custody. Please pray.

* DAGESTAN, SOUTH RUSSIA (RLPB 443), after Islamic State claimed responsibility for a terror attack on Kizlyar's Orthodox St George's Cathedral, which claimed the lives of five women.

UPDATE
KIDNAP AND KILL CHRISTIANS IN 'RUSSIAN-OCCUPIED MUSLIM AREAS' 

Though three Muslims have been arrested in connection to the 18 February terror attack on the Orthodox church in Kizlyar, Dagestan, South Russia, the terror threat remains elevated. On Thursday 22 February Site Intelligence Group published a letter purportedly by Islamic State (IS). Entitled 'Strike Their Necks and Strike Each One of Their Sons', the letter glorifies the killer as an 'extraordinary mujtahid' and urges IS supporters in 'Russian-occupied Muslim areas' to kidnap and kill Christians. [The order 'strike their necks' comes from the Quran, Sura 47:4.] IS said it hopes that the Kizlyar church attack will 'be the spark for more bloody attacks' and that many Christians 'will be killed as a punishment for their disbelief in Allah the Great, and it will plant fear and horror inside the hearts of hundreds of thousands of their brothers and make them flee with fear'. Pray for the Church in Dagestan, Chechnya, Ingushetia and Russia's other Muslim-majority regions.


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

* CHINA: LAWYER DEAD AS PERSECUTION FLOODGATE OPENS

China's new Religious Affairs Regulations came into effect on 1 February [see: 'The Return of Mao Style Terror and Control', RLM, (Jan 2018)]. In the early weeks of February churches were warned that the crackdown would begin after the Chinese New Year festivities which commenced on 16 February and continue for 15 days. Churches without official government permits will be fined or demolished. Crosses are to be dismantled (even indoors) and replaced with a Chinese flag; the national anthem is to be sung at services. Buddhists and Muslims are being subjected to the same repression. Pray for the Church in China.

Christian human rights lawyer
and religious liberty advocate,
the late Dr. Li Baiguang
On Monday 26 February well-known Chinese Christian human rights lawyer Li Baiguang (49) died suddenly, allegedly of liver failure, in No 81 People's Liberation Army Hospital. Human rights advocates regard the circumstances as highly suspicious; especially considering Li was known to be a non-drinking, non-smoking, healthy young man. According to the authorities, Li was admitted with a stomach ache; he died only hours later. As an outspoken advocate for religious freedom, Li had been in the Communist Party's sights. In October 2017 he was abducted, beaten-up and threatened with death by plain-clothed security agents. On 8 February he attended the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington DC with China Aid Association founder and president, Bob Fu. Pray for the Church in China, continuing to uphold Christian human rights lawyer and religious liberty advocate Gao Zhisheng, who is currently being held in secret detention, most probably in solitary confinement and in darkness.

* INDONESIA: 'AHOK' APPEALS HIS BLASPHEMY CONVICTION

In May 2017 the Christian, ethnic Chinese former Governor of Jakarta, Basuki 'Ahok' Tjahaja Purnama, was sentenced to two years in prison on a politically motivated charge of 'blasphemy'. [For background, see 'Ahok's Blasphemy', RLM, Nov 2016.] Hoping to clear his name, Ahok has petitioned the court to overturn his conviction. The first hearing was held in the North Jakarta District Court on Monday 26 February as hundreds of supporters and Islamists protested outside. A second hearing will be held next week, after which the case and dossier will be forwarded to the Supreme Court. Ahok is appealing on the grounds that Buni Yani, a communications professor from Jakarta, has since been found guilty of tampering with the allegedly blasphemous video. Prosecutors will maintain that, whilst Yani is indeed guilty of tampering, Ahok is still guilty of 'blasphemy' for questioning the interpretation of a verse of the Qur'an. The Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) has called on the court to reject the appeal. The conviction must be overturned if Ahok is to re-enter Indonesian politics. Prospects are dim. Please pray, especially that God will sustain Ahok through his trials.

* IRANIAN REFUGEES: ABANDONED AND BETRAYED

SWEDEN: In August 2017 Sweden refused refugee status to Aideen Strandsson (37), an Iranian convert to Christianity. Aideen had travelled to Sweden on a work visa three years earlier, ostensibly to escape Islam and pursue truth in freedom. In Sweden in 2014 she was baptised as a Christian and took a Swedish surname. With her visa due to expire, Aideen applied for asylum on the grounds of religion. In rejecting her application for refugee status Swedish authorities told her, 'If you decided to become a Christian, it's your problem.' Fortunately for Aideen, Hungary stepped in and offered asylum, so if she is eventually forced to leave Sweden, then at least she will be able to go to a country that cares for persecuted Christians.

USA: Some 100 persecuted Iranians, mostly Christian religious minority believers, are currently facing deportation from Austria after the US reneged on its agreement. The asylum seekers, who had been vetted while still in Iran, travelled to Austria at the invitation of the US so they could apply to enter America as refugees under a law known as the Lautenberg Amendment. This process has been operating since 2004. Now the US has reneged, leaving some 100 Iranians facing the prospect of deportation back to Iran. On 21 February Austrian police raided an apartment building in Vienna where some of the Christian Iranians have been living, seizing their documents and passports and threatening them with deportation. Their situation is dire. Please pray.

[For the full story see 'Broken Faith', by Mindy Belz, World Magazine, 19 February 2018.]

* KENYA: AL-SHABAAB RECRUITS LOCALS, KILLS CHRISTIANS

Somalia-based al-Qaeda affiliate, al-Shabaab has again targeted Christian school teachers in eastern Kenya. [For previous attack see RLPB 411 (21 Jun 2017)]. At 1a.m. on Friday 16 February suspected al-Shabaab gunmen raided the sleeping quarters of Qarsa Primary School in Wajir County (which borders Somalia). They shot dead Christian teachers Kevin Shari and Seth Oluoch Odada, who was killed with his wife, Caroline. Another Christian teacher was wounded. The insecurity is so great that the Teachers Service Commission is transferring non-local teachers from Wajir County to their home areas. As most teachers are Christians from outside the region, many schools are now facing closure. A local pastor told Morning Star News that area residents believe local Kenyans are joining al-Shabaab. 'I think these are the people who killed the three Christians,' he said. The Regional Commissioner said as much when he described the militants as 'our boys'. If al-Shabaab is recruiting local people to do their killings, the threat is dramatically increased as cross-border infiltration is no longer necessary. The same threat exists in the coastal south where al-Shabaab militants are known to be praying openly in local mosques and where Christians have been executed for their inability or refusal to recite the Islamic shahada (creed) [see RLPB 421 (30 Aug 2017)]. Please pray.

* PAKISTAN: BLASPHEMY LAW STRIKES AGAIN


Led by the new Barelvi party, Tehreek-e-Labaik Ya Rasool Allah (LeT), [see RLPB 434 (29 Nov 2017)] hundreds of Muslims took to the streets of Lahore on Monday 19 February, threatening to burn the homes of Christians and demanding that police arrest Patras Masih (20), a Christian youth and resident of Dher Village in Shahdara Town area of Lahore, whom they accuse of posting a 'blasphemous' image to Facebook. As fear spread through the Christian community some 800 Christian families fled their homes. According to World Watch Monitor, the protesters dispersed only after the local police chief assured them that the accused had been arrested.

Protest in Karachi
video: World Watch Monitor
On Friday 23 February Patras' cousin, Sajid Masih (24) was summoned to the police station for questioning in relation to the case. During the interrogation, Sajid jumped out of the fourth floor window and sustained serious injuries including multiple fractures. Interviewed in hospital, Sajid claims the police beat him and Patras before trying to force him to commit a sex act on his cousin. To escape, Sajid jumped out of the window. The police claim Sajid jumped after the interrogators took his cell phone. They are charging him with the crime of attempting suicide. Whatever is the case, nobody jumps from a fourth floor window unless they are absolutely terrified and distressed beyond measure. Grave fears are held for the wellbeing of both Sajid and Patras Masih. Please pray.

* TURKEY: ISLAMO-TURKISH NATIONALISM BOILS

Turkish belligerence in northern Syria was matched this month by the Turkish government's threat to invade Greece, indeed to reclaim all the lands of the former Ottoman Empire. Fortunately though, while Turkey's President Erdogan might exude neo-Ottoman ambition and aggression, his depleted army cannot match his rhetoric. Whilst Turkey's neighbours need not fret, its ethnic and religious minorities have every reason to be anxious about the ever escalating Islamo-Turkish nationalism now threatening their continued existence. On 8 February Turkey's population registers were officially opened to the public via an online genealogy database. The demand was so great that the system quickly crashed and was not restored until 14 February. Many appealed for the database to remain closed for it threatens to reveal how many 'Turks' have European, Greek and even Armenian ancestry -- their ancestors having been forcibly Islamised and 'Turkified' before or during the Armenian Genocide. 'Pandora's Box' has been opened and, in this environment, it could prove explosive. Pray for the Church in Turkey.

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

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

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

See www.ElizabethKendal.com 

Monday, February 19, 2018

RLPB 443. Dagestan (Russia): terror strikes as tension boils

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 443 | Tue 20 Feb 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) 

DAGESTAN (RUSSIA): TERROR STRIKES AS TENSION BOILS
by Elizabeth Kendal

click on map to enlarge
On Sunday evening 18 February local Christians gathered in Kizlyar's Russian Orthodox (RO) church to usher in the Eastern Orthodox Lent. The Sunday mass was the culmination of a week-long traditional pre-Lenten festival known as Maslenitsa. Then, terror struck. Father Pavel explains: 'We had finished the mass and were beginning to leave the church. A bearded man ran towards the church shouting "Allahu Akbar" (Allah is greatest) and killed four people. He was carrying a rifle and a knife.' To prevent the gunman getting inside, church members shut and barricaded the door. Police then shot the gunman dead. A fifth woman later died in hospital. A further four people were wounded, one seriously, including at least two policemen and one or two more Christian women. The gunman has been identified as Khalil Khalilov (22), a local Muslim from the Tarumovsky District of Dagestan.

Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility, identifying the gunman by his alleged 'nom de guerre', Khalil al-Dagestani and describing him as a 'soldier of the caliphate'. In a video subsequently released by pro-IS media, a man alleged to be the gunman appears dressed in what seems to be the same black vest and camouflage pants, his rifle and knife on display. Sitting cross-legged beside an IS flag, the masked man swears an oath of allegiance to IS.

Doctors examine wounded patients
in a hospital in Kizlyar (EPA)
Kizlyar (where the attack occurred) is located in Dagestan, a majority-Muslim republic in the volatile North Caucasus region of southern Russia. Whilst Dagestan is 90 percent Muslim, Kizlyar -- a town of some 50,000 people, located 170km northwest of Dagestan's capital, Makhachkala, near the border with Chechnya -- is around 40 percent ethnic Russian. In recent years multitudes of Chechnya's and Dagestan's unemployed and increasingly radicalised Muslim youths have travelled to Mesopotamia (Syria-Iraq) to engage in jihad. Known collectively as 'Chechens', jihadists from the North Caucasus are known for being especially fierce and highly skilled, many having been trained by former-Soviet military personnel. According to a recent study, some 3400 'Chechens' have fought with jihadist groups in Mesopotamia; of these, an estimated 400 have returned.

Women comfort each other
following the deadly attack. 
(RU-RTR Russian Television
via Associated Press)
The North Caucasus region has long been a hive of jihadist activity. For decades, Russia has sought to pacify the region by delegating power to local authorities who are loyal to Moscow. This strategy has largely worked in Chechnya where, despite human rights abuses, overall security has improved and economic development has advanced. However, the strategy has failed in more ethnically diverse Dagestan where clan rivalries predominate over nationalism. In an effort to 'decriminalise' the republic and rein in its debt (caused mostly by embezzlement and fraud) Moscow has intervened, replacing clan heads with outsiders. Naturally, Dagestanis are split, with some protesting the intervention and others living in hope that it will ultimately work to improve security and facilitate development. One analyst comments that, since 5 February, Dagestan has come to resemble 'a disturbed anthill'. Doubtless purged officials, criminals and all who had profited from systemic corruption will furiously resist the intervention and be bent on revenge.

As journalist Anton Orech notes, lawless, out-of-control Dagestan has long been home to Russia's 'main Islamist cells' and the source of 'the biggest stream of people to ISIS'.  This is unsurprising, for it is well known that jihadist groups thrive in corrupt and lawless regions. Therefore, we should expect that jihadists too will furiously resist Moscow's intervention and seek to undermine it. It is quite possible that the terror attack on the RO church in Kizlyar was as much an attack on Moscow as on the Christian presence in Dagestan. It may also have been an attempt to trigger religious conflict around which IS could rally trans-national jihadists. Tensions are boiling and terror attacks may well escalate in direct proportion to Moscow's success at cleaning up the republic. 


PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY FOR:

* the new administration installed in Dagestan; in particular for:
  • Vladimir Vasilyev (68), the eminently qualified ethnic-Kazakh native Muscovite appointed by President Putin on 3 October to serve as Acting Head of Dagestan until elections can be held.
  • Artem Vasilyev (39), the young former Minister of Economy of Tatarstan appointed by Vasilyev on 7 Feb to serve as Prime Minister over Dagestan's new government.  
May God be pleased to use the new administration to bring peace, justice, development and security to Dagestan so that the Gospel will advance and God will be glorified (see 1 Timothy 2:1-4); may resistance be minimal and may the way of the wicked come to ruin (Psalm 146:9).

* the Church in Dagestan -- Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant -- comprised of ethnic Russians and Muslim converts; in particular that:
  • the Lord will pour out his grace on the church in Kizlyar, to bring comfort and peace to those who grieve and are fearful;
  • Yahweh Sabaoth, the Lord of Hosts, will deploy his angelic forces to shield priests and churches (which are exposed) as well as lay-persons and house-churches throughout Dagestan as tensions escalate around them. 
'You, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.' (Psalm 3:3 ESV)


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
-------------------------------------------------------
TERROR STRIKES AS TENSION BOILS IN DAGESTAN (RUSSIA)

On Sunday 18 February a local Islamic jihadi attacked Christians as they emerged from Kizlyar's Russian Orthodox church. They had been ushering in Lent when the gunman approached, cried 'Allahu Akbar' and opened fire. To keep the gunman outside, believers barricaded the church door while police shot the gunman dead. Four Christian women were killed instantly; a fifth died later in hospital. Four others were wounded. Islamic State claimed responsibility. More than 3400 Chechen and Dagestani Muslims have travelled to Syria for jihad; an estimated 400 have returned. The attack comes in the wake of an intervention from Moscow aimed at ending clan-based systemic corruption. One analyst likened Dagestan to 'a disturbed anthill'. A new administration has been installed; tensions are boiling. Please pray for Dagestan and its 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, February 13, 2018

RLPB 442. Nigeria: Government deploys troops to Middle Belt

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 442 | Wed 14 Feb 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)


NIGERIA: GOVERNMENT DEPLOYS TROOPS TO MIDDLE BELT
by Elizabeth Kendal

Church elder James Nengwe (60),
killed in Zanwra, Plateau State,
on 24 January 2018, by
Muslim Fulani herdsmen.
(Morning Star News)
On 30 January Amnesty International (AI) reported that, 'In 2017, clashes between nomadic herdsmen and local farmers resulted in at least 549 deaths and thousands displaced' across fourteen states, and that 168 were killed in the Middle Belt states of Adamawa, Benue, Taraba, Ondo and Kaduna in January 2018 alone.

Furthermore, Morning Star News reports that between 22 and 25 January eight Christians were killed in Plateau State in four ambushes, while 50 houses belonging to Christians were destroyed in two separate attacks 'carried out by Muslim Fulani herdsmen aided by terrorists from Islamic extremist groups'. Director of AI Nigeria, Osai Ojigho, laments: 'Hundreds of people lost their lives last year, and the government is still not doing enough to protect communities from these violent clashes. Worse, the killers are getting away with murder.'

Mass funeral and burial, Makurdi,
Benue State, 11 January 2018.
Images and video: Reuters
As AI notes, the violence has escalated since several states moved to rein in the Fulani herdsmen by enacting anti-grazing laws. Benue State enacted its Anti-Open Grazing Law on 1 November [see RLPB 431 Fulani used as proxies for Islamic jihad (8 Nov 2017)]. On 11 January thousands attended a state funeral and mass burial in Makurdi, the state capital, for 73 mostly Christian victims of the latest clash which the State Emergency Agency estimates has displaced a further 40,000 local residents. Benue State Governor Sam Ortom told CNN: 'They [the Fulani herdsmen] had threatened to wipe out the whole state if we did not repeal the law and allow their cattle to graze wherever they like.' Despite the huge toll, Benue State information commissioner, Lawrence Onoja, defended the Anti-Open Grazing Law, telling the BBC, 'Our economy in Benue State depends on agriculture. Take that away and we have a serious problem.'

Writing for QUARTZ Africa, Mark Amaza observes that, in the absence of government action, two trends are emerging: (1) ethnic groups are forming their own militias and launching both reprisal and pre-emptive attacks; (2) states are creating or backing extra-legal paramilitaries to fight the various militias. With Nigeria awash with illicit weapons and increasingly saturated with hate-speech, the propensity for spiralling violence is very real. The Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) South West region, Archbishop Magnus Atilade, describes the current situation as 'the perfect recipe for another civil war'.

Despite this being a law and order issue and police matter, the Nigerian government announced on 7 February that it will deploy troops to Middle Belt. Exercise Ayem Akpatuma (Operation Cat Race) will commence on 15 February and last until 31 March. Whilst many welcome the move, which Jane's Intelligence maintains will 'reduce civil war risks', many are doubtless nervous. In a press conference in Abuja on Tuesday 16 January, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) questioned the neutrality of the Buhari government and its Security Forces noting that on 17 January 2017 'the Nigerian Air Force, "accidentally", in broad daylight, bombed a Christian Internally Displaced Persons camp and killed over 200 Christian refugees in Rann, Kala-Balge Local Government Area in Borno State'. In another case, on 4 December 2017, the Nigerian Air Force sent an Alpha Jet and an EC 135 attack Helicopter to Numan, Adamawa State, allegedly to fire 'warning shots' at Islamist militia attacking Christians there. An investigation by AI revealed that, while 51 Christians died of gunshot and machete wounds, a further 35 died as a direct result of the airstrikes which destroyed some 3000 homes across five villages.

getty image from the 11 January
mass burial in Makurdi, Benue.
More images: Benue News
Most shockingly, on 25 January 2018, Nigeria's Minister of Defence, Col. Mansur Mohammed Dan-Ali (rtd), justified the recent killings in Benue State by blaming the victims and attributing the violence to the unwillingness of the affected, mostly Christian, farming communities to accommodate their 'fellow Nigerians'. 'Communities and other people must learn how to accept foreigners within their enclave, finish!' he said. Officials in Benue, including members of Dan-Ali's own party, are calling for him to be sacked. Until Christians can trust their government and their military, they have every reason to feel nervous about a massive deployment of troops into their region.


PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL

* grace his Church with wisdom to navigate these times, and that Jesus Christ the Good Shepherd will guide all pastors and all Christian leaders as they seek to lead God's people and their nation through dangerous and difficult days. (Psalm 23)

* comfort, encourage and protect his precious, faithful Church, for the Church is Nigeria's hope. We pray in particular for all pastors, evangelists and peacemakers, along with all churches and Bible colleges, for they are especially exposed and vulnerable; may the Lord be their shield even as conflict rages around them. (Psalm 46)

* intervene in Nigeria, to raise up godly political and civic leaders at every level; may they be committed to justice and righteousness and equipped with wisdom and strength to lead the nation into healing. (1 Timothy 2:1-4)


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
---------------------------------------------------------------
NIGERIA DEPLOYS TROOPS TO MIDDLE BELT

Religious and political leaders are warning that Nigeria risks spiralling into civil war. The unrest stems from the central government's unwillingness to prevent nomadic Fulani cattle herders (northern Muslims) from grazing their herds on crops cultivated by indigenous Middle Belt farmers (mostly Christians). According to Amnesty International, 549, mostly Christians, were killed and thousands displaced across fourteen states during 2017 and 168 were killed in four Middle Belt states in January 2018. Despite this being a law and order issue and police matter, the government has opted to deploy troops to the Middle Belt from 15 Feb to 31 March. With the neutrality of the Nigerian military in question, and the Minister of Defence openly blaming the violence on the victims, Christians have grounds to be nervous. Please pray.

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

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 6, 2018

RLPB 441. Uganda: high cost of faith in Muslim-dominated Eastern Region

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 441 | Wed 07 Feb 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)


UGANDA: HIGH COST FAITH IN MUSLIM-DOMINATED EASTERN REGION
by Elizabeth Kendal

[click on map to enlarge]
Eastern Region = Green
Districts: Kibuku (91)
Budaka (7)
Mayuge (53)
source
Kibuku District: Munabi Abudallah (37) asked his local sheikh why Islamic prayers were conducted in Arabic, a language he did not understand. The sheikh explained that it is because Allah communicated to Muhammad in Arabic; he also advised Munabi not to question it. Confused and disillusioned, Munabi asked local Christians how their God communicated with them. They explained that the God of the Bible communicates with people in their own language. On 20 January, after several private sessions with a local pastor, Munabi came to see that 'God is love' (1 John 4:8,16) and decided to put his faith in Jesus. At that moment he received 'a unique peace that I had not experienced before'. Unable to contain his joy, Munabi shared his experience with Aisha his wife. In the presence of their seven children aged 3 to 17, Aisha shouted at Munabi, calling him 'kafir' (unclean/infidel). Horrified and furious she drove him from their home. The next day, Munabi visited the pastor, who duly prayed with him. He then returned home to find his father and other local Muslims gathered there, their anger evident. Furious, his father disowned, cursed and struck him. Shocked, Munabi fled back to the pastor. Within 24 hours of coming to faith in Christ, Munabi had lost his wife and seven children, his parents and his home, his community and his security. Understandably, he is absolutely traumatised. 'The Muslims are searching to kill me,' he said. 'I need prayers.'

Budaka District: Nafamba Bongo Madina and her husband put their faith in Jesus some two years ago. Though her husband subsequently died, Nafamba remained firm in her faith and continued to raise their five children, aged 5 to 14, in the Lord. On Christmas morning (25 December 2017) one of Nafamba's Muslim neighbours brought her a gift hamper. Nafamba prepared the Christmas meal for her family and guests, using the cooking oil from the hamper. Before plating up the food, she tasted it. Within a minute Nafamba was vomiting and screaming. Her family raced her to the hospital where doctors treated her for poisoning. Later her relatives took the gifted cooking oil for analysis, which confirmed the oil had been laced with poison. Horrified by the attack, the village chairman, John Guloba, a Christian, convened a village meeting for 28 December. He questioned the culprit, Taaka Hajira, who freely confessed to attempting to kill the Madina family, which she held in contempt for leaving Islam. Despite her confession, village elders refused to make any legal decision. They also decided not to call the police, so as to avoid stoking the wrath of fundamentalist Muslims. Consequently, persecution of the family -- particularly of the children -- has only escalated.

Mayuge District: In October 2015 Mulangira Ibrahim -- a missionary of Islam and sheikh on Dagusi Island (which is on Lake Victoria in Mayuge District) -- had a vision in which he saw himself holding a Bible. Confused, he decided to visit the local Evangel World Vision Church and have a chat with its pastor. To allay fears, he took along a child from the Islamic school, intending that the child would enter the church, find the pastor and ask him to meet the sheikh at the door. However, upon arriving at the church door, Sheikh Ibrahim fell to the ground, temporarily blinded. Terrified, the child ran off screaming that the Christians had killed the sheikh. When the pastor arrived at the door, he found Sheikh Ibrahim praising 'Issa' (Jesus) as Lord. Muslims, who also had rushed to the scene, beat Ibrahim until Christians could rescue him. The Muslims then proceeded to Sheikh Ibrahim's home. They took away his wife, Nalunkuma, and his three children aged 4 to 8, and left a note warning him not to return. Within hours of confessing that Jesus is Lord, he had lost everything.

Former sheikh, now brother in Christ,
Mulangira Ibrahim (27).
source: Morning Star News
On 16 November 2017 Muslims tricked and ambushed Mulangira Ibrahim and beat him into unconsciousness. Christians found Mulangira in a pool of blood and called police. Pastor Charles Musana of the Evangel World Vision Church rushed Mulangira to a nearby medical dispensary where he received treatment for multiple injuries. On 7 December a Muslim broke into the house the church was renting for Mulangira close to the dispensary, and attempted to kill him, this time suffocating him into unconsciousness. Muslims have vowed to kill him. While the church has moved him to a secret location where he is under the care of believers, his injuries require ongoing medical treatment. 'At the moment the medical bill is high,' said his pastor. 'We need prayers for a quick recovery.'

Uganda is roughly 85 percent Christian, with a Christian president and a secular constitution that guarantees religious freedom. Yet persecution with impunity is fast becoming the order of the day in the Muslim-dominated Eastern Province. For a full analysis of why persecution is so severe and unrelenting in Uganda's Eastern Region, see Uganda Analysis: escalating persecution of Christians in Eastern Region linked to Islamisation, decentralisation and impunity. Religious Liberty Monitoring, 8 May 2017.

------------------
The three cases summarised in this RLPB are available in detail on the website of Morning Star News -- search Uganda. 
-------------------

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY FOR

* Munabi Abudallah, that God will comfort, encourage, sustain and protect him; may the Lord supply his every need. May the Holy Spirit open the heart of his wife, Aisha, to receive the Gospel. May Munabi's family and friends be convicted of sin and drawn to repentance and reconciliation. May God watch over the church and keep it safe.

* Nafamba Madina and her children, that God will comfort, encourage, sustain and protect them. May the Lord supply their every need. May Taaka Hajira (the Muslim culprit) be convicted of sin and drawn to repentance. May many local Muslims be drawn to the God of amazing grace; the God who is love.

* Mulangira Ibrahim, that God will comfort, encourage, sustain and protect him. May the Lord supply his every need, in particular his need for physical healing. May the Holy Spirit open the heart of his wife, Nalunkuma, to receive the Gospel. May God watch over Pastor Charles Musana and the Evangel World Vision Church and keep them safe.

* God to intervene in Uganda's central government, to remind members of Parliament of their responsibility to ensure that the constitutional right to religious freedom applies to all citizens and stretches across the whole state, including Muslim-dominated Eastern Region.


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
-------------------------------------------------------
HIGH COST FAITH IN UGANDA'S MUSLIM-DOMINATED EASTERN REGION

Uganda's population is 85 percent Christian, with a Christian president and a secular constitution that guarantees religious freedom. However, persecution with impunity is becoming prevalent in the Muslim-dominated Eastern Region. Munabi Abudallah put his faith in Christ on 20 January and within 24 hours had lost everything. On Christmas Day a Muslim neighbour attempted to poison the Madina family, which she held in contempt for leaving Islam for Christianity. In October 2015 Shiekh Mulangira Ibrahim had a dramatic conversion experience and within hours had lost everything; Muslims are still trying to kill him today. Islamists are exploiting Uganda's decentralisation and following Sharia principles locally. The persecution is enabled by systemic corruption. Without radical reform, the situation can only get worse. Please pray for Uganda, her politicians and her 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