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by Elizabeth Kendal
EASTER: GOD POWERFULLY AT WORK THROUGH SUFFERING
It might not have seemed like it at the time, but now it is clear: even as Christ hung on the Cross; even as he lay in the grave; God was at work subverting evil and redeeming it for good. Through the Cross we learn something of how God works through suffering; he enters hostile territory so that he might defeat evil from within and redeem it for good in fulfilment of promise. Apply this paradigm to the suffering of the Body of Christ (the Church) today, and believe that God is powerfully at work. Though it might not seem like it just now as persecution and conflict escalate, God is at work subverting evil and redeeming it for his good purpose.
One great work that God is doing in our day is creating unity in the Body of Christ in answer to Jesus' High Priestly prayer which he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane on the night in which he was betrayed (John 17). 'I do not ask for these only,' prayed Jesus, with reference to his disciples, 'but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one ... that they may be one even as we are one ... that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me ...' (from John 17:20-26).
None of the persecution we are witnessing in the world today is 'unprecedented'. Whilst the globalisation of persecution is indeed unprecedented, this merely reflects the globalisation of the Church, a trend of the latter half of the 20th Century during which time Christianity experienced phenomenal growth throughout the non-Western, non-Judeo-Christian world. [For more information see 'Global Trends in Persecution' on www.ElizabethKendal.com ]
Whilst the persecution is not unprecedented, our ability to respond most certainly is. Through today's globalised communication systems and networks, the Church can now be aware of persecution -- even as it unfolds, even on the other side of the world -- and can respond immediately for the saving of many lives. Furthermore, as the Church responds she is sanctified to become in practice what she is in theory: One Body. This makes for powerful witness. I believe that the 21st Century will go down in Christian history as the century in which God knitted together an increasingly global Church with cords of love forged in the flames of persecution ... that the world might believe. Our persecuted brothers and sisters need our prayers -- prayers God hears, answers and even uses in more ways than we may ever imagine.
MARCH 2018 UPDATE -- this month we prayed concerning ...
* MALI & BURKINA FASO (RLPB 445), where al-Qaeda and Islamic State affiliated jihadists are escalating terror in response to the anti-terror operations being conducted by French and African troops in the deserts of northern Mali. The main terror group, al-Qaeda affiliate JNIM (Jama'at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin / Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims) is holding five non-Muslims hostage for ransom, four of whom are Christian aid workers; three of them women. Please continue to pray that they will be rescued alive and restored to their loved ones and that God will intervene to restore security and liberty to West Africa so that mission might be revived across that desperately needy region.
* NORTH KOREA (RLPB 446), after North and South Korea agreed to hold an Inter-Korean Summit (only the third ever -- the first for North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and the first on the south side of the border); and US President Donald Trump accepted an invitation from Pyongyang (delivered via Seoul) to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. As noted in RLPB 446, not only is the strategic situation totally new, so too are the three leaders. This may well be a unique window of opportunity in answer to the prayers of many.
|Kim Jong-un and Moon Jae-in|
to meet late April
* TURKEY IN SYRIA (RLPB 447), specifically for Christians displaced by the Turkish-jihadist conquest of Afrin, Syria, and for Pastor Andrew Brunson who is currently languishing in a Turkish prison on manifestly false charges.
|Byzantine ruins at Barad|
PASTOR ANDREW BRUNSON Pastor Andrew Brunson's trial on espionage and terrorism-related charges is set to commence in a Turkish criminal court on 16 April. He faces up to 35 years in prison. As noted in RLPB 447, the Erdogan government is using Brunson as a bargaining chip in its dealings with the US. As one Turkish Christian leader reports, Christians in Turkey are increasingly being accused of supporting 'terrorists' (code for 'Kurds'). Consequently, apprehension and anxiety is growing in the churches. Despite the escalating sense of crisis, many Turkish Christian ministries continue to witness courageously, fully aware that spiritual transformation through Jesus Christ is ultimately the only solution for Turkey. Pray for Turkey and her threatened, remnant Church; and for Pastor Andrew Brunson as he 'waits for the Lord' (Isaiah 40:31) in a Turkish prison cell.
MARCH 2018 ROUND-UP -- also this month ...
* CENTRAL AFRICA REPUBLIC (CAR): PRIEST MURDERED; DOZENS KILLED; THOUSANDS DISPLACED
Joseph Désiré Angbabata (48);|
killed 21 March 2018
* INDIA and PAKISTAN
Christians are really suffering in India and Pakistan as violence continues to escalate in frequency and severity. The communal violence is driven by religio-political forces (Hindu nationalists in India and Islamic fundamentalists in Pakistan) and fuelled by the guarantee of impunity. There are so many cases of serious violence against Indian Christians for the month of March they simply cannot be dealt with in a paragraph. See Morning Star News and World Watch Monitor for updates. Christians in South Asia really are in a permanent state of crisis and desperately need our unceasing prayer support.
* IRAQ: CHRISTIAN CRISIS ANYTHING BUT OVER
|Assyrian Christians murdered on 8 March.|
* NIGERIA: A PRISONER FOR JESUS CHRIST
|Girl captured by Boko Haram tells her story|
click here for video
On Wednesday morning 21 March a convoy of trucks rolled into Dapchi town, Yobe State, northern Nigeria. When the local people realised it was Boko Haram, they fled. However, when it became evident that Boko Haram was returning the girls they had kidnapped from Dapchi's Government Girls' Science and Technical College on 19 February, the city erupted in excitement. In all, 104 of the 110 girls were returned. Five girls reportedly died during the abduction, and one girl, a Christian named Leah Sharibu, was 'held back', retained as a prisoner because she 'refused to co-operate'. According to the freed girls, the militants told Leah that she would not be released until she becomes a Muslim and recites the shahada (Islamic statement of faith).
|Leah Sharibu (15)|
HIGHLANDS: World Watch Monitor reports that on 1 March four Hmong Christian families, comprising 24 people in all, were violently attacked by a mob led by the village chief. Four Christians required hospitalisation for serious injuries to their head and arms. As happens in neighbouring Laos, the Christians had been warned that if they did not return to their traditional animist religion then they would be driven from the village. The families' pastor is understood to be in talks with local authorities about the incident. Please pray.
|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).