Wednesday, May 30, 2018

RLPB 457. May Update, incl. Chechnya, Egypt, India, Nepal, Nigeria, Philippines, Turkey, Zanzibar.

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 457 | Wed 30 May 2018

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by Elizabeth Kendal

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

* BURMA (Myanmar) (RLPB 453), where a campaign of ethnic-religious cleansing is underway in the north. Using aerial bombardment and ground forces, the Burmese Army is driving the Christian Kachin from Kachin State's most resource-rich regions. More than 15,000 Christian Kachin have been displaced since the beginning of this year. They join the more than 100,000 Kachin displaced since 2011. Pray for the Kachin and that God will intervene to bring peace to Burma.

* CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC (CAR) (RLPBs 454 & 456), where Islamic militias continue to threaten this mostly Christian nation. In mid-April, UN peacekeepers moved against Islamic criminal gangs in the capital, Bangui. Islamic militias vowed revenge. On 1 May heavily-armed rioting Muslims attacked Bangui's Catholic Cathedral, killing 24 and wounding over 100 (RLPB 454). On 13 May two French fighter jets conducted a show of force over the rebel-held front-line town of Kaga Bandoro to deter the Islamic militias which are regrouping there and threatening to 'march on Bangui' (RLPB 456). The state is on high alert. Pray for the Church in CAR and that God will intervene to bring peace.

* RAMADAN (RLPB 455), in particular that Christians will be safe and that Muslims will be saved.

‘The Lord your God who goes before you will himself fight for you, just as he did for you in Egypt before your eyes, and in the wilderness, where you have seen how the Lord your God carried you, as a man carries his son . . .’ (Deuteronomy 1:30-31 ESV)

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

* CHECHNYA, (South Russia): ISLAMIC STATE (IS) CLAIMS CHURCH ATTACK

On Saturday 18 May four militants armed with guns, knives, axes and explosives and shouting 'Allahu Akbar' attempted to storm the Archangel Michael Russian Orthodox Church in central Grozny. Inside, some 15 believers were engaged in evening worship, while outside, the priest's young children were playing happily in the garden. The church, which was established in the late 1800s, is located in the main tourist precinct, surrounded by shopping malls and cafes. Consequently, Chechen police were quickly on the scene. They shot and killed the four militants and rescued the church-goers and children. Unfortunately the militants had seized two hostages from the church before it was barricaded shut. One believer was killed in the attack and the other was critically wounded. Two police officers were killed and two wounded. IS has claimed responsibility. Pray for the Church in Chechnya and the wider North Caucasus region.

* EGYPT: 'RECONCILIATION' LEADS TO CHURCH CLOSURE

On 14 April Muslims rioted in Beni Meinin, torching Coptic property and attacking the church. This eruption of Islamic resistance was in response to the government's proposal to legalise the village church. Police arrested 11 Muslims and 9 Christians before demanding the village hold a 'reconciliation' session to end the matter [RLPB 452 (25 April)]. With their youths in prison (essentially as hostages), Muslim and Coptic clergy, village elders, local politicians and security officials from the village participated in a 'reconciliation' session. It was agreed that all 20 arrested residents would relinquish their legal rights (meaning none can seek legal redress for arson, looting, assault and suchlike) and the church will remain closed until it is legalised. Subsequently, on 22 May the arrested Muslims and Christians were acquitted and released. Such 'reconciliation' only serves to guarantee impunity, escalate insecurity and perpetuate violent persecution.

* INDIA: ANTI-CONVERSION LAW AS WEAPON

Uttarakhand state in northern India has become the seventh Indian state to approve an 'anti-conversion law'. Governor Krishna Kant Paul signed the ironically named 'Freedom of Religion' Bill into law on 18 April. The law will come into force as soon as the state government finalises the Bill's rules.

(From left) Rajni Pradhan and
couple Sarah and Subash Kumar,
after appearing in court.
See Morning Star News: India
On Sunday 29 April some 50 Christians were worshipping together in a house church in Danapur, Bihar State, when a mob of some 60 Hindu nationalists surrounded the house. The mob harassed, intimidated and threatened the believers while hurling foul abuse. They also called the police and accused the Christians of running a 'conversion racket'. The police arrested several of the Christians, of whom Rajni Pradhan and a couple, Subash and Sarah Kumar, remain incarcerated, accused of 'forcibly converting people'. At a hearing on 8 May, a judge rejected their plea for bail. Also on Sunday 29 April, Hindu militants attacked the Full Gospel Pentecostal Church in Baburia Khera, Uttar Pradesh State. They beat worshippers and threatened to kill the pastor, Kamlesh Kumar. To save her husband, Kumar's wife hid him in a locked room. Church member Ram Prasad (55) was beaten unconscious as he tried to shield other believers. A church member called police, but when they arrived the police berated the believers and advised them to 'flee from the church'; no arrests were made. Pray for the Church in India.

* NEPAL: CHURCHES ATTACKED, 'EVANGELISTS' ARRESTED

St Joseph's in better days.
Five churches were attacked in Nepal during May. St Joseph's Catholic Church in Kohalpur, in Nepal's western Banke District, was torched in the early hours of 5 May; the interior was 'entirely destroyed'. On the night of 9 May Hebron Church in Hilihang Rural Municipality, in the eastern district of Panchthar, was partly damaged after being set on fire. On the night of 10 May Emmanuel Church in Doti, in the country's far west, was set on fire; the church sustained significant damage. On 11 May Emmanuel Church in Kanchanpur was set on fire, resulting in significant structural damage. Then on the evening of 13 May Mahima Church in Dhangadhi city, western Nepal, was partly destroyed when an unidentified assailant threw an improvised explosive device through a window.  Fortunately, nobody was killed in the attacks. Police seem determined to blame Maoists, even though Christians have been receiving threats from a Hindu nationalist group. The geographically dispersed attacks were so similar that analysts suspect the perpetrators were part of a Hindu nationalist online community and that the attacks arose from online incitement.

Furthermore, two Nepali believers were arrested on 9 May for singing Christian songs in public. Four others were subsequently arrested from their homes. Charged with evangelism (prohibited in Nepal since 2015), the six faced court on 17 May where they were remanded to spend a further seven days in prison. Pray for the Church in Nepal.

* NIGERIA: CHRISTIANS APPEAL -- 'END THE KILLINGS'

On 22 May a funeral was held in Makurdi, the capital of Benue State, for 19 Christians (including two priests) who were massacred on 24 April by Fulani gunmen who surrounded their grass-roofed church in Aya Mbalom village and opened fire.  [Video report by Al-Jazeera.]

Christians rally for an
end to the killings (22 May).
Courtesy: Crux 
It was the second mass funeral for Christian victims of Fulani violence in Benue this year [see RLPB 442 (14 Feb 2018)]. According to Benue State Governor, Sam Ortom, 492 people have been killed in Benue State alone so far this year (which equates to 100 per month). On the day of the funeral, rallies were held in various Nigerian cities where Christians urged the government (in the words of Cardinal John Onaiyekan) to 'end the killings'. Bishops spoke of 'massacres', 'ethnic cleansing' and described people living in 'palpable fear'. Pressure is mounting on President Buhari, a Fulani Muslim from the north.

At 12:30am on Monday 28 May Fulani gunmen attacked Sacred Heart Minor Seminary in Jalingo, the capital of Taraba State. Students were wounded and cars destroyed. The rector, Father Emmanuel Atsue, told Catholic media: 'They shot and injured one of the priests, Father Cornelius Pobah, in the leg, [and] beat up Father Stephen Bakari.' It seems Father Pobah was targeted because he had refused to allow Fulani herdsmen to graze their cattle inside the seminary grounds. The fact that nobody was killed could imply that the Fulani were issuing a warning and that this is far from over. Please pray.

* PHILIPPINES: BOMB EXPLODES OUTSIDE MINDANAO CHURCH

On Sunday 29 April in Koronadal City in South Cotabato, Mindanao, two improvised explosive devices (IEDs) were detonated in the city. The first IED exploded at noon, just outside the Christ the King Cathedral along Rizal Street, injuring three. The other IED was found in a trash can two kilometres away and detonated by police. Two suspects have since been arrested. Pray for the Church in the southern Philippines.

* TURKEY: PASTOR FACES COURT A SECOND TIME

Update to RLPB 452 (25 April): American hostage of the Turkish regime, Pastor Andrew Brunson returned to court on 7 May. His lawyer Cem Halavurt protested the use of 'secret witnesses', noting that their outlandish accusations were presented without a shred of evidence. At the close of the 10-hour hearing, Brunson (50) was led back to his cell in a maximum-security prison. The next hearing is set for 18 July. World Watch Monitor has a detailed report on the 7 May hearing, while an article by Mindy Belz in World Magazine provides further insight, including a powerful, encouraging and deeply moving account of how our merciful God intervened for Brunson in the courtroom in answer to specific prayer. Both articles are highly recommended. Please continue to pray that God will uphold Andrew Brunson and intervene for his release. Pray for the Church in rapidly-changing Turkey.

Also, for those who are interested: On 29 May 1453, Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine [Greek-speaking Christian] Empire fell to Ottoman forces. Now, every 29 May, the Turkish government celebrates 'Conquest Day'. This year President Erdogan released a short but grandiose film, rich in computer-generated imagery, which links the conquest of Constantinople with the defeat of the ANZACs at Gallipoli (1915) and the rise of neo-Ottoman, imperialist, 'Sultan' Erdogan today.

* ZANZIBAR, (Tanzania): CHURCH UNDER PRESSURE


Bishop Daniel Kwileba Kwiyeya.
(Morning Star News)
A church in Kisauni, in mostly-Muslim semi-autonomous Zanzibar, has been facing pressure from local Muslims unhappy about its presence. When Muslims lobbied for the church to be closed, local authorities complied and issued the church with a notice. The church, which belongs to the Pentecostal Evangelistic Fellowship of Africa, is resisting and worshipping as usual. On Sunday 6 May plain-clothed police officers walked into the morning worship service and arrested the preacher, Bishop Daniel Kwileba Kwiyeya. Believers tried to intervene, but to no avail. The bishop's distressed daughter also tried to intervene and was taken away with her father. The distressed believers returned to the sanctuary to pray for Bishop Kwiyeya and his daughter. The pair were released later that day; no charges were laid. Tensions remain; 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, May 22, 2018

RLPB 456. Central African Republic (CAR): rebels vow to march on Bangui

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 456 | Wed 23 May 2018
Archives available at http://rlprayerbulletin.blogspot.com 

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: REBELS VOW TO MARCH ON BANGUI
by Elizabeth Kendal

Updating RLPB 454 (9 May), Central African Republic: Cathedral Massacre
-- tensions in Bangui at boiling point; threat of renewed conflict.

MINUSCA map Feb 2017
click on map to enlarge
According to The Defense Post (17 May), members of the Islamic militia known as the Popular Front for the Renaissance of Central Africa (FPRC) 'have been regrouping in several towns in north-eastern CAR since April 13, notably in Kaga Bandoro, around 350km north of the capital, as well as in Ndélé , further north-east'. According to the FPRC, other Islamic groups are also regrouping there, including the Patriotic Movement for the Central African Republic (MPC) and the mostly ethnic Peuhle (Fulani) Union for Peace in the Central African Republic (UPC). These groups -- all previously part of Séléka -- have vowed to 'march on Bangui'. With tension mounting, on 13 May two French Mirage 2000-D fighter jets conducted a show of force over Kaga Bandoro to deter the militants. MINUSCA (UN peacekeepers) and CAR Armed Forces are on high alert and working to secure the Kaga Bandoro-Dekoa-Sibut axis to prevent any southward movement of Islamic militias.

Meanwhile, on the night of Monday 14 May armed men presumed to be members of the UPC attacked the front-line town of Bambari, 250km south-east of Kaga Bandoro. They struck the police station, the gendarmerie, and the local UN peacekeeper base, as well as the Town Hall, a radio station and the hospital. They looted and sacked the offices of four humanitarian non-government organisations and physically assaulted their staff.  They also looted and sacked the Catholic parish of Saint-Jean. Dozens of homes were burnt and shops looted; tens of thousands of residents were forced to flee for their lives. At least eight people, including an aid worker and a midwife, were killed. By Wednesday 16 May MINUSCA had re-established control over the city. This is without doubt an answer to our prayer that God will 'help MINUSCA and CAR's Armed Forces restore security and liberate territory'. The attack was reportedly carried out in retaliation for the deaths of three Fulani killed during a robbery outside the town on Monday 14 May. A UPC spokesman denied that the UPC was involved in the attack on Bambari, as did Radio France Internationale.

The violence came as a shattering blow for Bambari residents. Bambari had been pacified in February 2017 after a successful MINUSCA intervention to dislodge the UPC and disarm local militias. The town was hosting more than 35,000 displaced persons, all of whom were dependent on humanitarian aid. Businesses and community projects had begun to revive -- now security and hope have been shattered.  

UN peacekeepers in Bangui (2015)
Credit: Daniel Dal Zennaro/EPA
CAR, which according to Operation World 2010 is 76 percent Christian, is under attack and the situation is far more complex and opaque than most might imagine. Who is funding these Islamic militias, most of which are led by foreign mercenaries and full of foreign fighters? Whose proxies are they? Russia alone is providing the government of CAR with the military aid it is seeking: weapons for its military, with UN Security Council approval. Who would benefit if Bangui were to fall? Indeed, many more questions can be raised than answered. Fortunately, what is hidden from us is not hidden from God; he knows exactly what needs to be done.


PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL:

* sever all the supply-lines that keep CAR's Islamic militants flush with funds for salaries, weapons and vehicles; in particular, may he bind all evil demonic forces in CAR, forces that empower the wicked ... may all those links likewise be severed!

'For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.' (Ephesians 6:12 ESV)

* intervene to 'turn back the battle' and help the MINUSCA peace-keepers and CAR's Armed Forces restore security and liberate territory currently held by Islamic militias.

'Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.' (Psalm 20:7 ESV)

* protect, guide and empower CAR's peacemakers, aid workers, and decision-makers, for the sake of CAR's traumatised, harassed and helpless peoples, and for the sake of Christ's suffering and imperilled Church.

May the Lord have mercy on Central African Republic!
May the Lord have the victory in Central African Republic!


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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REBELS VOW TO MARCH ON BANGUI IN CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC (CAR)

Since mid-April, at least three Islamic militias have been regrouping in CAR's north-east, mostly in and around the rebel-held front-line town of Kaga Bandoro with the stated aim of launching an attack on the capital, Bangui. On 13 May two French Mirage fighter jets conducted a show of force over Kaga Bandoro hoping to deter the militants. UN peacekeepers and CAR Armed Forces are on high alert, determined to prevent any militia movement southwards towards the capital. On 15-16 May armed Muslims invaded Bambari, shattering a year-long period of UN-supervised peace. Numerous properties, organisations and institutions, including the local church, were looted and sacked; eight people were killed and tens of thousands displaced. Tensions are soaring. Please pray for a breakthrough in CAR and for the suffering 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

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

RLPB 455. Ramadan: Praying for Protection and Salvation

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 455 | Wed 16 May 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)


RAMADAN: PRAYING FOR PROTECTION AND SALVATION
-- an extended RLPB for Ramadan 
by Elizabeth Kendal

'Today, after centuries of decline and decades of weakness, Islam is back, and back with a vengeance. Islam is back, and with it, invasion, conquest, and colonisation, including predatory migration. Subjugation is back, and with it, the repression and persecution of non-Muslims and the inequity and injustice of dhimmitude which includes the demand for jizya (protection money as mandated in Quran 9:29). Sharia law is back, and with it, barbaric, cruel and inhumane punishments, including death for blasphemers (be they in Pakistan or Paris) along with lashings, amputations, beheadings, crucifixions, and burnings -- all live on Twitter for our entertainment and edification. By July 2014 the Caliphate was back, and with it, the mass slaughter of men, the enslavement of women and children, ethnic-religious cleansing and genocide.' (Quote from After Saturday Comes Sunday, p59)

Egypt: Coptic Christians
Vivian Adel Youssef and her husband
Hanna Emad on their wedding day.
 Islamic expansion is back, threatening Central African Republic, Nigeria's Middle Belt, Sudan's Nuba Mountains, Bangladesh's Chittagong Hills Tracts, Indonesia's Papua, and even Western Europe. Subjugation and Sharia are back, as is evident by the drive for Muslim dominance and insistence on Islamic rule as well as by the frequency and severity of violent Islamic pogroms over accusation of 'blasphemy' or other alleged breaches of dhimma status particularly in Egypt and Pakistan. Islamic slavery is back; and while the Islamic State's slave markets and Boko Haram's mass abductions attract media attention, the routine abduction of Christian girls by Muslim gangs in Pakistan and Egypt goes largely unremarked. Coptic Christian Vivian Adel Youssef (18) had been married for just two weeks when she went missing on 2 May. Her priest describes her as a devout and active Christian really happy to be getting married. In its report, World Watch Monitor lists seven Coptic Christian girls who likewise disappeared in April alone, along with one attempted abduction. Once abducted, these Christian girls are forcibly married off to Muslim men for what is nothing other than sexual slavery and human trafficking across religious lines.

While Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and his Caliphate in Mesopotamia might both be dead, the dream of a Caliphate is still well and truly alive, not merely among the 'radicalised' Muslim masses, but among Muslim leaders such as al-Qaeda's Ayman al-Zawahiri and Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Increasingly, former and would-be jihadists are embracing the call to attack at home. On Sunday 13 May suicide bombers struck Catholic, Protestant and Pentecostal churches in central Surabaya, Indonesia's second largest city, killing 13, wounding 40. A day earlier, a French national of Chechen origin shouted 'Allahu Akbar' (Allah is greater) as he stabbed pedestrians in the neck in central Paris, killing one, wounding four. Stratfor Global Intelligence 'anticipates an increase in the tempo and intensity of attacks during Ramadan this year'.

However, whilst Islam is back, Islamic revival is not the only religious trend unfolding before us. Along with the phenomenal growth of Evangelical Christianity in the non-Western world -- a trend that has seen Christianity become (uniquely) a truly global faith -- we are also witnessing the unprecedented trend of Muslims leaving Islam.

Since the Islamic uprisings of 1979, Islam, though it promised much, has delivered little. Increasingly, Muslims are feeling not merely harassed and helpless, but disillusioned. Breaking into this context is the Gospel of Jesus Christ which is now increasingly available in translation for download to a device. Also available in translation is the Quran, which many Muslims are reading in their own language for the very first time. Though in reading it some Muslims are 'radicalised', many recoil and reject Islam outright. Over and above everything is the growth of organised, strategic prayer for Muslim peoples. As mission scholar, David Garrison, observes, 'We are in the midst of the greatest turning of Muslims to Christ in 14 centuries of Muslim-Christian interaction. More than 80% of all the Muslim movements to Christ in history have occurred in the past two to three decades, a time period that coincides with the modern prayer movement for Muslims. At the heart of this modern prayer movement is 30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World.' [Note: Garrison defines a 'movement' as a turning to Christ which results in at least 1000 baptisms or 100 new worshipping communities.]

Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting, commenced on 15 May and will continue through to 14 June. You can participate in 30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World by purchasing a prayer guide booklet, either as hard copy or as a downloadable PDF. You can also participate by visiting the 30 Days of Prayer website where 'Today's Prayer Theme' is posted daily. If you would like to receive a daily reminder to help you remember to pray each day, you can subscribe to the 30 Days of Prayer social media pages for updates and reminders. See Facebook or Twitter or Instagram.

website includes 3:32 video


PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL:

* comfort the Indonesian believers who lost loved ones in the 13 May terror attacks; may he also heal the wounded, strengthen the fearful, and guide the leadership. May the Lord protect Indonesia's churches this Ramadan.

* intervene on behalf of all Christian girls abducted and trafficked into sex slavery / forced marriage by Muslim criminal gangs and terrorists with the co-operation of Muslim authorities. Lord, every Christian girl along with every Christian who has ever been a parent or had a sister beseeches you: please rescue and restore these girls.

* send out more workers into his harvest field (see Matthew 9:35-38). May the Lord bless every believer who accepts this call, and every facility that trains believers to witness to Muslims; may God provide their every need and keep them safe.

* raise up more intercessors committed to praying for Muslims and ministry/witness to Muslims.

FOR, 'they will do these things [persecute and even kill you] because they have not known the Father, nor me' (from John 16:1-3 ESV). (emphasis mine)

'And there is salvation in no one else [but Jesus], for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.' (Acts 4:12 ESV)


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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PRAYING FOR PROTECTION AND SALVATION DURING RAMADAN

On 2 May a newly married Coptic Christian girl aged 18 disappeared in probably another Islamic abduction. On 12 May a French national of Chechen origin shouted 'Allahu Akbar' as he stabbed pedestrians in the neck in central Paris, killing one and wounding four. On 13 May suicide bombers struck churches in Surabaya, Indonesia, killing 13, wounding 40. Pray for comfort. Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting, commenced on 15 May and continues through to 14 June. Stratfor Global Intelligence 'anticipates an increase in the tempo and intensity of attacks during Ramadan this year'. Pray for protection. For decades now, Christians worldwide have been praying for Muslims during Ramadan, resulting in the unprecedented trend of Muslims leaving Islam, with many turning to Christ. To participate, visit https://www.30daysprayer.com Pray for salvation.

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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, central to which is prayer; 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, May 8, 2018

RLPB 454. Central African Republic (CAR): Cathedral Massacre

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 454 | Wed 09 May 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: CATHEDRAL MASSACRE
-- tensions in Bangui at boiling point; threat of renewed conflict.
by Elizabeth Kendal

Bangui is the mostly Christian capital city of mostly Christian Central African Republic (CAR). Within the city is a Muslim enclave known as PK5. When Séléka -- an alliance of local and foreign Islamic militias -- seized control of Bangui in March 2013, communal violence quickly spiralled out of control [see RLPB 210 (15 May 2013)]. Vigilante 'self-defence' militias proliferated on both sides. Today, PK5's 'self-defence' militias comprise mostly ex-Séléka fighters. Initially the Muslims of PK5 welcomed the militants. However, once security in Bangui had been restored, PK5's militias did not retire. Rather, they got busy running extortion and protection rackets, attacking and robbing local civilians and blocking the return of state authorities. Harassed and helpless, PK5's Muslim residents repeatedly sought help from MINUSCA, the UN peacekeeping force. Eventually, with community leaders serving as mediators, MINUSCA gave the militias an opportunity to voluntarily disarm and participate in socioeconomic programs along with the wider community. The militias refused, leaving MINUSCA with no option but to act.

At 2 a.m. on Sunday 8 April armed peacekeepers and CAR security forces moved into PK5 to dismantle the criminal militia base. Fighting continued through the day; eleven peacekeepers were wounded along with 20 others, including many civilians. Fresh violence erupted on Tuesday 10 April, culminating in a four-hour gun battle. Afterwards, hundreds of angry PK5 residents laid the bodies of 16 dead Muslim civilians in front of MINUSCA headquarters. MINUSCA spokesperson, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, was furious that the criminals had armed civilians and deliberately placed them in harm's way. [As the militants were no doubt aware, in an asymmetric conflict, the weaker force gets immense propaganda value from dead civilians.] Islamic militias vowed revenge.

Fr Albert Toungoumalé-Baba
Photo: Aid to the Church in Need
Report: World Watch Monitor (3 May)
On the morning of Tuesday 1 May a PK5 militia leader, Moussa Empereur, was wounded while resisting arrest. In retaliation, his militia headed straight for Bangui's Catholic Cathedral, Notre Dame de Fatima (Our Lady of Fatima) Church, shooting civilians as they went. Inside the Cathedral were some 1500 Catholics (including state officials such as Tina Touadéra, the First Lady, and Francis Bozizé, the son of a former president) who had gathered for the anniversary of St Joseph. The militants threw grenades into the church. Fr Albert Toungoumalé-Baba (71), vicar of St Mathias (2km away) and chaplain of the Fraternité Saint Joseph movement, was leading the celebration; he was killed in a blast and died by the pulpit. In all, at least 24 were killed and more than one hundred wounded. 

Cardinal Dieudonné Nzapalainga
Photo: World Watch Monitor
Quote from The Tablet (4 May)
A large crowd of distraught and traumatised Christians attempted to carry the body of their slain priest to the Palais de la Renaissance, the country's presidential palace. They had been hoping to see their president, Faustin-Archange Touadéra, but with tensions soaring, police intervened and dispersed the crowd. The Archbishop of Bangui, Cardinal Dieudonné Nzapalainga appealed for calm: 'It's at most difficult moments like this that true heroes arise and find the strength to propose an alternative, saying no to the evil of violence, barbarism and destruction, and choosing the good of love, forgiveness and reconciliation,' he said.

On Friday 4 May Prime Minister Simplice Sarandji announced that a convoy comprising several vehicles loaded with fighters belonging to the Popular Front for the Renaissance of Central Africa (FPRC) had been stopped near Dékoa. Dékoa is 80km south of the front-line, rebel-held town of Kaga Bandoro, on the road to the capital, Bangui. Alarmed residents had spotted the convoy and alerted authorities who then captured the militants. After the 8-10 April clashes, FPRC was one of two Islamic militias that threatened to launch an offensive on Bangui from Kaga Bandoro.

click on map to enlarge
Whilst MINUSCA maintains that the Cathedral massacre was a spontaneous reaction to the arrest of Moussa Empereur, the government suspects the attack on the cathedral had actually been pre-planned. Tensions are soaring. Barricades have been erected in and around the PK5 neighbourhood and residents are blocking access to MINUSCA troops. There are fears Bangui could be engulfed in a fresh outbreak of conflict. Religious leaders have proclaimed 'three days of prayer in all the churches and mosques, 10, 11 and 12 May'. May the Lord of all grace and mercy hear and answer their prayers.


PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL:

* expose and sever all the supply-lines that keep CAR's Islamic militants (many of whom are foreign fighters) flush with funds for weapons and vehicles.

* intervene to 'turn back the battle' and help MINUSCA and CAR's Armed Forces restore security and liberate territory currently held by Islamic militias. 'Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.' (Psalm 20:7 ESV)

* bless and empower the peacemakers -- Christian and Muslim; may he magnify their voices, multiply their message and open people's hearts to receive it, so that CAR will know peace.

* grant divine wisdom to all CAR's political, religious and community leaders, that they will make wise decisions, utter wise words, and provide wise leadership to a traumatised, frightened nation; may the Lord redeem all suffering to the praise of his glorious name.


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

PK5 is a Muslim enclave in CAR's capital, Bangui. It has been thoroughly infiltrated by Islamic militants who harass, abuse and extort the Muslim residents with impunity. After the militants refused to disarm voluntarily, UN peacekeepers and CAR troops entered PK5 on 8 April to dismantle the militia bases. Days of fighting ensued, with civilians among the dead. Islamic militias vowed revenge. On 1 May, after a militia leader was arrested, PK5 militants retaliated, targeting Bangui's Catholic Cathedral where some 1500 Catholics were celebrating an anniversary. Armed with firearms and grenades, the militants killed at least 24 and wounded more than 100. On 4 May a convoy of Islamic militants was arrested while en route from rebel-held territory to Bangui. Please pray for CAR 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, May 1, 2018

RLPB 453. Burma (Myanmar): the ethnic cleansing of the Kachin

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 453 | Wed 02 May 2018

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BURMA (MYANMAR): THE ETHNIC CLEANSING OF THE KACHIN
by Elizabeth Kendal

For decades the West used sanctions as a means to pressure Burma's military junta. Then, through the 1990s, a rising and ambitious China recognised Burma's geo-strategic value and took the opportunity to draw the isolated junta into its embrace. But as Burma grew more dependent on China (a long-time foe), the more anti-China sentiment rose in Burma, especially amongst the military elite. Over the past decade, Burma's geo-strategic value has increased in line with China's rise. This has enabled Burma to exploit its position as a 'fault-line' state, located as it is between China (to the north-east) and the US (in the Indian Ocean). To extricate itself from China's embrace, the junta reached out to the West. In exchange for a series reforms (most of which were less than satisfactory and even bogus) Burma-West relations were restored. One critical consequence of Burma's realignment was the junta's suspension of the Myitsone Dam project -- a Chinese project to dam the Irrawaddy River and send 90 percent of the hydro-power to China. The controversial and unpopular project was central to the junta's war of ethnic cleansing against the Christian Kachin; it was suspended primarily to appease the West. [See RLPB 132, Burma: interests, smokescreens & ethnic cleansing, 2 Nov 2011.] Now that Burma-West relations have essentially collapsed, the Burmese military has renewed its ethnic cleansing of the Christian Kachin.

In November 2017 the Burmese military [also known as the Tatmadaw] launched a winter (dry season) offensive to seize control of Kachin State's gold, jade and amber mines [see: RLPB 438 (17 Jan 2018) and RLPB 440 (31 Jan 2018)]. Violence has escalated during April as the military has used a combination of ground forces, heavy artillery, airstrikes and helicopter gunships -- using intelligence gleaned from drones -- to force the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) into retreat. Kachin State's most resource-rich regions are increasingly in the hands of the Burmese military, which, it must be noted, is completely autonomous and not accountable to the elected government. 

Displaced Kachin in a Kachin Baptist Church in Tanai Township

The Kachin are under heavy bombardment. On 29 April the UN reported, 'More than 5,000 people are estimated to be newly displaced since early April in Kachin State ... .' More than 15,000 have been displaced since the beginning of the year, and this is on top of the roughly 100,000 Kachin who have been admitted to camps for the displaced since the ceasefire broke down in June 2011. On 18 April Baptist community leader the Reverend Mung Dan told CBN news that amongst those trapped in the jungle were five pregnant women, two women who had just given birth, 93 elderly and many bearing shrapnel wounds; all were in dire need of medical treatment and rations. Furthermore, he noted that it had been 'raining the whole day in our region and these civilians do not have any shelter and are suffering from sickness as well'.

On 20 April the Burmese military bombarded Ka Sung village, home to some 1000 Kachin, sending them fleeing into the jungle. Church leaders from nearby Namti town, which is about 25km west of the Kachin capital, Myitkyina, managed to rescue more than 900 displaced civilians, some of whom had been in the jungle for three days. After being escorted into Namti town, the displaced were given refuge in two Catholic churches and one Baptist church. It is estimated some 2000 more Kachin remain trapped in various jungle locations. The region is closed to humanitarian aid, so all food, clothing and shelter is being provided by churches. Zau Raw heads a Kachin committee that oversees humanitarian aid in a mountainous sliver of territory that the KIA controls near the border with China. 'The army wants to wipe us out,' he said. 'This is a war to cleanse us.'

UN OCHA MAP of conflict area showing displacement (29 April).

A  Kachin mother feeds her baby at a refugee camp near Lung Byeng village
(21 Jan 2018, Radio Free Asia)

Fully cognisant of the powerlessness of the elected government, Kachin groups on Monday 23 April appealed directly to the United Nations Security Council, urging it to refer the Burmese military to the International Criminal Court, noting that the UN has been documenting the crimes of the Burmese military for decades.  FULL TEXT OF LETTER

However China -- which has big plans for Burma (i.e. mega-projects like high-speed rail, oil and gas pipelines and hydro-power in exchange for a secure corridor to the Bay of Bengal) -- has vowed to veto any resolution. The West's refusal to recognise the political realities in Burma (which is at best a quasi-democracy and at worst a military junta in disguise); along with its refusal to recognise and discuss the complexities of the crisis in Rakhine State (complexities that include predatory migration, irredentism and terrorism) have all but destroyed Burma-West relations. Consequently, 'The gloves are off.' Nothing but a divine intervention will stop the ethnic cleansing now.

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL:

* Lift up his hand to protect, preserve and sustain his largely helpless precious Kachin Church; may the Lord supply all their needs -- for security and refuge as well as for medical and food aid.

* stand against the lying, murderous, arrogant Tatmadaw (Burmese military); may the Lord break its power and call it to account so it may never again strike terror.

Pray Psalm 10 for Burma.


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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ETHNIC CLEANSING OF KACHIN IN BURMA (MYANMAR)

Since November 2017 the Burmese military has been using ground forces, aerial bombardments, heavy shelling and helicopter gunships to drive the Kachin Independence Army out of Kachin State's most resource-rich regions. Violence escalated further in early April, confirming that a war of ethnic cleansing is underway as the Burmese military seizes control of Kachin State's jade, amber and gold mines. According to the UN, some 5,000 Kachin became displaced in April alone. About 120,000 Christian Kachin are displaced in total. While thousands of the newly displaced are being sheltered in churches, thousands more remain trapped in the jungle without food, medical care or shelter. The region is closed to humanitarian aid, so all food and clothing is provided by churches. Please pray for Burma and for the Christian Kachin.

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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