Tuesday, April 24, 2018

RLPB 452. April Update. Incl. Burma, Egypt, India, Pakistan, Iran, Korea, Turkey

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 452 | Wed 25 Apr 2018

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by Elizabeth Kendal

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

* ALGERIA (RLPB 449), where a government crackdown on the Church appears to be underway. As political parties and personalities jostle for position ahead of next year's presidential elections, it may be that the ruling party is eager to demonstrate its Islamic credentials.

UPDATE: In breaking news, World Watch Monitor reports (24 April): 'Authorities in Algeria’s north-eastern city of Tizi-Ouzou, in the Kabylie region, have closed down a day-care centre for Christian children. The Early Childhood Home was established more than 10 years ago by Église Protestante du Plein Évangile (The Full Gospel Protestant Church), also known by its French acronym EPPETO. . .'

* CHINA (RLPB 450), where repression and state control of religion are escalating at an astonishing rate. [For China news on a daily basis, visit China Aid Association.]

* VIETNAM (RLPB 450), where Christian religious liberty advocates, Nguyen Van Dai and Pastor Nguyen Trung Ton, have been sentenced, along with four others, to long prison terms.

* PAKISTAN (RLPB 451), where Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISK-P) has claimed responsibility for three deadly terror attacks targeting Quetta's already exceedingly vulnerable Christian community.

For an analysis of the threat posed by ISK-P see:
How Much of a Threat is Islamic State Khorasan Province? 
by Elizabeth Kendal, Religious Liberty Monitoring, 23 April 2018.

'God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear . . . “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.'  (From Psalm 46)

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

* BURMA (MYANMAR): KACHIN BAPTIST PASTORS RELEASED

Kachin Baptist Convention (KBC) pastors Dom Dawng Nawng (65) and La Jaw Gam Hseng (35) were abducted by the Burmese military on 24 December 2016 [RLPB 391 (25 Jan 2017)]. In October 2017 they were sentenced to four years and three months and two years and three months respectively for their alleged association with the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), as well as for spying and for 'defaming' the Burmese military. All the men had done to earn the wrath of the military was to help journalists gain access to Mong Ko town after the Burmese military had bombed and torched it. The process was unjust; the conditions were harsh and Dom Dawng Nawng's health was deteriorating. We prayed for God to intervene [see RLPB 433 (21 Nov 2017)]. Morning Star News reports that on 17 April Dom Dawng Nawng and La Jaw Gam Hseng were among 8500 prisoners released under a government amnesty program ordered by newly elected President Win Myint. Elected on 28 March, Win Myint is himself a former political prisoner. Praise God for this blessing. Please continue to pray for Burma.

IMPUNITY RENDERS LAW NULL AND VOID

Most persecuted Christians live counter-cultural lives amidst cultures which put a low value on Christian life, in states with little regard for human rights. When the police and local authorities hate Christians more than they respect the law or their duty to uphold the law, then the result is usually impunity for persecutors. When belligerents know that Christians can be bashed, raped, robbed and even murdered with impunity (i.e. without consequence or punishment), then violent persecution quickly becomes the order of the day. For Christians born and raised in the West, such extreme insecurity is (currently) unimaginable.

* EGYPT: IMPUNITY IN BENI SUEF
Coptic homes burn in Beni Meinin
source: Watani International
On 14 April the church in Beni Meinin, a village in Beni Suef Governorate, came under attack by Muslims furious that members of the state's Building Authority Committee were coming to Beni Meinin to inspect the church building in preparation for legalising its church status. Shouting 'Allahu akbar' (Allah is the greatest) and 'We don't want a church in our village,' they attacked the church with stones and bricks. They smashed windows and doors and destroyed church property. Five Copts were injured. When police arrived they arrested an almost equal number of Muslims and Christians. Two days later, Coptic homes came under attack. Five Copts were arrested while trying to save their homes which were burning due to being hit with Molotov cocktails. The Copts were subsequently charged with setting fire to their own homes.

Pressure is mounting for a so-called 'reconciliation session', which is Egyptian for peace without justice. The plan is that the Muslims will agree to end the violence in exchange for the Christians agreeing to close the church. Then the police will release the prisoners. In another village, Christians relented and closed their church to stop the Muslims from burning their homes. In Beni Meinin, however, the Christians are standing their ground and refusing to close the church. The situation is fluid and dangerous. Incitement is emanating from the mosque and violence is continuing, despite the presence of security forces. The church's presence has been a source of tension for some time. [For more details see Mada Masr (18 April).] Please pray for an end to impunity in Egypt, and especially for the situation in Beni Meinin.

* INDIA: IMPUNITY IN FIROZABAD 
Pastor Rakesh Kumar Masih
 with his wife Asha Masih who
probably saved his life by
refusing to leave his side.
(Morning Star News)
On 23 April Morning Star News (MSN) reported the horrific case of Pastor Rakesh Kumar Masih (42) from Firozabad District in Uttar Pradesh State. On 19 March, a mob of some 35 Hindu militants dragged Pastor Masih from his home and beat him unconscious in the presence of police. When MSN investigated on 13 April, the police denied knowledge of the incident. MSN subsequently forwarded the police a copy of the original complaint first filed on 20 March. Now we watch and wait. It was the fifth such assault against a pastor in the district since January. Please pray for an end to impunity in India.

* PAKISTAN: IMPUNITY IN LAHORE 
On 23 April Christian media reported on the death of Pakistani Christian woman Asma Yaqoob (25) who was burnt alive after she refused a marriage proposal from her Muslim 'friend' Muhammad Rizwan Gujar. As World Watch Monitor explains, police and investigators are clearly preparing the way for the charges against Gujar to be dismissed. Please pray for an end to impunity in Pakistan.

* IRAN: 'DISAPPEARED' CHRISTIAN DETAINED IN EVIN PRISON

On 2 March Iranian Christian convert Aziz Majidzadeh (54) was meeting with a group of 20 other Christians in a workshop near the city of Karaj when security forces raided the premises. Whilst most of the group were released after being interrogated, Majidzadeh, who has been arrested before for activities related to his faith, was beaten and detained. What followed was an agonising period of 45 days of silence in which Majidzadeh's condition and whereabouts were unknown. Then, on the weekend of 14-15 April, he was able to contact his family and inform them that he was being held in Tehran's notorious Evin Prison, Iran's primary prison for political prisoners. Please pray for Aziz Majidzadeh, for Iran's many Christian prisoners, and for Iran's fledgling but rapidly growing Church.

* KOREA: PRAY FOR INTER-KOREA SUMMIT FRIDAY 27 APRIL

For background and prayer points, please see:
Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin (RLPB) 446,
North Korea: A Step in the Right Direction, 14 March 2018

ALSO: RLPB 423, North Korea: Talks the Only Option, 13 Sept 2017
AND RLPB 403, North Korea: Uncertainty looms over long-suffering church, 19 April 2017.

* TURKEY: UPDATE ON PASTOR ANDREW BRUNSON

Pastor Andrew Brunson's trial on charges relating to espionage and terrorism commenced on 16 April.  After one traumatic day in court the proceedings were suspended for three weeks. Brunson will not face the court again until 7 May. In a devastating move, the court remanded Brunson to the overcrowded, grim facility in which he suffered a near breakdown in late 2016, before being transferred. The American Centre for Law and Justice (ACLJ) notes that the 62-page indictment accuses Brunson of the supposed 'crime' of 'Christianisation', calling it an 'act of terror'. With the trial now underway, US pressure on Turkey is mounting. On 20 April 66 US Senators signed a bi-partisan letter to Turkey's President Erdogan demanding Brunson's immediate release. [Letter (pdf)]. In reply, Erdogan reiterated his position that the US cannot expect Turkey to release Brunson while the US refuses Turkey's request that US-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen be extradited back to Turkey, essentially confirming that Pastor Andrew Brunson is Erdogan's hostage. Pray for Pastor Andrew Brunson as he 'waits for the Lord' (Isaiah 40:28-31).

* TURKEY: CHURCH INCREASINGLY ANXIOUS

President Erdogan continues to exploit US-Turkey tensions to further fuel the rise of Islamo-Turkish nationalism, which, as history demonstrates, is an exceedingly dangerous phenomenon. Sources report that Christians in Turkey are increasingly being accused of supporting 'terrorists' (code for 'Kurds'). It must be noted that Erdogan revived the language of the Armenian Genocide on national television when in June 2016 he described Turkey's Christian Armenians as 'separatist terrorists'. [See also: Religious Liberty Monitoring, 24 April 2018 (Armenian Genocide Memorial Day).] According to local sources, apprehension and anxiety are growing in the churches. Yet, despite the escalating sense of crisis, Turkish Christian ministries continue to witness courageously, fully aware that spiritual transformation through Jesus Christ is ultimately Turkey's only hope. Please pray for Turkey and for her threatened, yet witnessing, remnant Church.

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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