Tuesday, July 24, 2018

RLPB 465. July Update, incl. Ethiopia-Eritrea, India, Burkina Faso, China, Iran, Iraq, North Korea

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 465 | Wed 25 July 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

“Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when the plowman shall overtake the reaper and the treader of grapes him who sows the seed; the mountains shall drip sweet wine, and all the hills shall flow with it. (Amos 9:13 ESV)

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

* ETHIOPIA-ERITREA (RLPB 462), where the 'door of peace' has been opened. It is widely anticipated that peace could transform not just the economies of Ethiopia and Eritrea, but the human rights situation as well.

UPDATE: RAPID RAPPROCHEMENT 
The Ethiopia-Eritrea peace initiative is advancing apace. On Sunday 8 July Ethiopian Prime Minister Dr Abiy Amhed visited Eritrea. He was met at the airport by Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki. It was the first time the leaders of Ethiopia and Eritrea had met in 20 years. At an historic summit on Monday 9 July the two leaders signed a 'declaration of peace and friendship' and declared the 'state of war' over. On 10 July telecommunication systems were restored and the lines lit up. On Saturday 14 July President Isaias Afwerki visited Ethiopia. He was met at the airport by PM Abiy. On 16 July the two leaders raised the Eritrean flag at the re-opened Eritrean Embassy in Addis Ababa. On Wednesday 18 July Ethiopian Airlines resumed flights to Eritrea. After 20 years of painful separation, families torn apart by war were finally able to embrace one another. Whilst all this is wonderful, the most difficult task still lies ahead: convincing the Ethiopian military -- which is dominated by the oppositional Tigrayan People's Liberation Front (TPLF) -- to withdraw from Eritrean territory. The human rights situation inside Eritrea is unlikely to change while Ethiopian troops remain on Eritrean soil. Please pray.

For a detailed report see Religious Liberty Monitoring
'Ethiopia-Eritrea: rapprochement achieved; now for implementation'
By Elizabeth Kendal, 23 July 2018

* INDIA (RLPB 463), where the Hindu concepts of caste and karma ensure India remains one of the world's most cruel and inequitable societies; while the rise of Hindu nationalism -- which exploits religion for political gain and establishes religious apartheid -- ensures India is rapidly becoming one of the most dangerous places in the world for Christians.

Pastor Paul Stephen
being taken to hospital
(Morning Star News)
UPDATE:  CHURCH ATTACKED; VICTIMS CHARGED
On Sunday morning 8 July Christians were worshipping at the Jesus Power Ministries house church in Sathyamangalam, Erode District, Tamil Nadu State when a Hindu extremist, identified as Ajith Kumar, stormed in and started abusing and assaulting the believers. After beating Mrs Pratibha Stephen, the wife of Pastor Paul Stephen (who was preaching elsewhere that morning), Kumar stripped her of her sari and attempted to rape her. Fortunately others managed to drag him away.   When Pastor Paul returned home in the afternoon he insisted on going to the police. Outside his house he was attacked by a mob of Hindus. Pratibha's brother, Gyana Prashant, threw himself over Pastor Paul to protect him. Eventually an ambulance took them all to the hospital, although it was days before the family received medical care. Police questioned a church member and made a report. Then Ajith Kumar responded with counter complaint. Instead of charging Kumar, the police charged Pastor Paul and Pratibha Stephen with the non-bailable offence of 'voluntarily causing hurt by dangerous weapons'. Pray for justice, and for the Church in India.

For more on this story, along with others, see Morning Star News: South Asia/India

* PAKISTAN (RLPB 464), where terrorism has been escalating ahead of the 25 July General Elections which threaten to usher in a parliament controlled by hardline Islamists. Pray for the Church in Pakistan.


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

* BURKINA FASO: EIGHT TAKEN CAPTIVE, INCLUDING CHILDREN


Pastor Pierre Boéna
On 3 June Pastor Pierre Boéna  was kidnapped, along with his younger son, daughter-in-law, two grandsons, a member of his church and her twin daughters, from the village of Bilhore, in northern Soum Province, near Burkina Faso's border with Mali. The reason RLPB did not request prayer for this was because, just a few days later, credible local sources reported that the family had been released. However, World Watch Monitor (WWM) has now confirmed that this was incorrect, and that the family remains in captivity. Sources suspect the kidnappers are members of a Fulani militia active along the Mali and Burkina Faso border. Pastor Pierre's son, Baowend-Som Boéna  told WWM that the kidnappers are demanding ransom from the Assemblies of God Church. Pray for the Lord to protect, sustain and deliver the captives -- along with all other captives in the Malian desert.

* CHINA: THE CCP versus THE CROSS IN JIANGXI

In November 2017 South China Morning Post reported that thousands of poor Christians in Yugan County, Jiangxi Province, were being told that they could not receive government support unless they removed their crosses and religious artefacts and replaced them with images of President Xi.
[See Religious Liberty Monitoring, The Return of 'Mao-style Terror and Control',  By Elizabeth Kendal, 25 Jan 2018.] According to China Aid Association, this struggle -- the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) versus the Cross in Jiangxi -- continues and moreover, is intensifying. In early July churches across Jiangxi were told to dismantle their crosses, replace them with either an image of Chinese President Xi Jinping or the national flag, and keep their children away from church. While some churches have complied (primarily out of fear), others are resisting. Whilst one church's cross has been forcibly demolished [a process known as 'rectification'], other churches have convinced officials to back off (at least temporarily). Pray for the Church in China.

* IRAN: PRISONER UPDATES


Pastor Victor (l), Shamiram (c), Ramiel (r)
Ramiel Bet Tamraz: On 11 July Ramiel Bet Tamraz (an ethnic Assyrian) and a friend (unnamed) were sentenced to four months jail.  Middle East Concern explains that Ramiel had been charged with 'propaganda against the state by attending house churches' which carries a sentence of between three and twelve months, rather than 'acting against national security', which brings with it longer sentences. Ramiel's mother, Shamiram Isavi Khabizeh, and father, Pastor Victor Bet Tamraz, are currently appealing their five- and ten-year prison terms on charges of 'acting against national security'. In Iran ethnic Assyrians are normally allowed to practise their Christianity quietly without reference to the Persian majority. The 'crime' of this Assyrian family is that they witness to and worship with ethnic Persians, who, despite being born Muslim, are freely turning to Christ in unprecedented numbers. Originally arrested on 26 Aug 2016, Ramiel was in Evin Prison for six weeks before being bailed. Ramiel's lawyer will appeal for the sentence to be reduced or cancelled. Pray for this intensively persecuted family: Pastor Victor, Shamiram and Ramiel Bet Tamraz.

Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani: On 22 July Yousef Nadarkhani, a pastor in the non-Trinitarian 'Church of Iran', was home on bail awaiting a summons to prison following the failure in May of an appeal against his conviction and ten-year prison sentence on charges of 'acting against national security'. Instead of summonsing Nadarkhani, the authorities sent some ten police officers to his home in Rasht. In an act designed to intimidate the entire Christian community, the police burst through the front door and violently assaulted both Pastor Yousef and his teenage son Danial with fists and electric batons, even though they were offering no resistance. The pastor's wife and other children were in the house at the time. Pastor Nadarkhani was then reportedly taken away to Evin Prison. Pray that Nadarkhani will experience a creative intervention from the Almighty Father, comfort from the empathetic Son, and the powerful and personal presence of the Holy Spirit.

* IRAQ: ASSYRIANS UNDER PRESSURE


Mayor of Alqosh Fayez Abed
Jawahreh with his son.
(AINA)
Nineveh Plains: As noted in 'Iraq: Assyrians at risk as Kurds "play with fire" ' [Religious Liberty Monitoring, 19 Sep 2017], the Kurds of northern Iraq are working to expand their control over 'disputed territories', including Sinjar, oil-rich Kirkuk and the Assyrian homeland of the Nineveh Plains. Their primary means is through political pressure: they usurp the will of the people by supplanting elected Assyrian representatives and replacing them with members of the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) who will implement the KDP agenda. Alqosh is an Assyrian town in the Nineveh Plains. More than 80 percent of the population are Assyrian, mostly Chaldean Catholic. Fayez Abed Jawahreh is the democratically elected mayor of Alqosh. In July 2017 the majority-Kurdish Nineveh Provincial Council ousted Jawahreh and replaced him with a member of the KDP. However, Nineveh is under the authority of Baghdad, not the Kurdish Regional Government, so ultimately the Federal Court ordered Jawahreh be reinstated. On 15 July 2018, his first day back at work, Jahwareh was arrested without warrant and taken away by Kurdish political police known as 'Asayish'. He was released some four hours later, severely beaten. The KDP have warned the Assyrians of Alqosh that the KDP will decide what happens in Alqosh.

Erbil, capital of Iraqi Kurdistan: On 27 June Assyrians in Ankawa -- Erbil's majority Assyrian district -- discovered that the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) had imposed a new discriminatory business tax exclusively to Assyrian districts.  Furthermore, residents in mostly-Assyrian and Christian Ankawa pay the highest capital gains tax in the Kurdistan Region -- ten percent, compared with six percent elsewhere. A Kurdish official allegedly told an Assyrian politician that the tax was a form of jizya, justified because Ankawa is a Christian town.

Please pray for Iraq's indigenous Assyrians; the Christian Crisis in the Middle East is anything but over.


* NORTH KOREA: FORTHCOMING AMNESTY 

On 16 July the North Korean regime announced it would grant a large-scale amnesty to people sentenced for crimes against 'the state and the people'. This is the third amnesty since Kim Jong-un came to power in December 2011. The first was in 2012, to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of the birth of Kim's grandfather, North Korea's founder and the 'Eternal President' Kim Il-sung. The second was in 2015, to honour of the 70-year anniversary of the liberation of Korea from Japanese colonial rule and the foundation of the Korean Worker's Party. This latest amnesty will go into effect on 1 August commemorating the republic's 70-year anniversary on 9 September. As yet there is no indication of how many prisoners will be released. Analysts suspect the latest amnesty is aimed at 'consolidating social unity ... and boosting the people's loyalty for Kim amid a changing environment after the North-US summit talks in June'.  Duyeon Kim, a visiting senior fellow at the Korean Peninsula Future Forum in Seoul agrees, adding that the North might even want to 'show [the] world it's improving human rights', although 'it remains to be seen if those included will be political prisoners'. Please pray for this process, that it will be generous and will include many 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 

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

RLPB 464. Pakistan: 25 July polls bode ill for Christians

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 464 | Wed 18 Jul 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)


PAKISTAN: 25 JULY POLLS BODE ILL FOR CHRISTIANS
by Elizabeth Kendal

On 25 July Pakistanis will go to the polls to vote for new National and Provincial Assemblies. Terrorism is escalating. There have been four terror attacks in the past week alone -- one by the Pakistani Taliban [Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP)] on 10 July and three by Islamic State on 13 July -- leaving around 180 dead and more than 230 wounded. Tensions are soaring. Out of 85,307 polling stations, 20,789 have been deemed 'sensitive' -- that is, sites where violent clashes are likely to occur. Security is being stepped up everywhere. For Christians the prospects are gloomy indeed. The three main parties battling for control of the Assemblies are the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N, centre right), the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP, centre left) and the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (or Justice Party, PTI) led by the London-educated former cricket captain Imran Khan (65). Khan's political position would be best described as pragmatic and populist. Despite the looming financial crisis, Khan is promising to create an 'Islamic welfare state'. He is also winning favour amongst Pakistan's Islamic fundamentalist clerics and radicalised Muslim masses with his vocal pledges to defend Pakistan's controversial blasphemy law. The military and judiciary appear to be clearing the path for a PTI victory.

Bilawal Bhutto (PPP), Nawaz Sharif (PML-N), Imran Khan (PTI).
As Prime Minister, Sharif wanted the military to cut its ties
with militants and come under civilian control.
He was arrested and jailed on 13 July.

The door has been opened for hardline Islamists and even jihadists to register as candidates. Headed by Maulana Khadim Hussain Rizvi, Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) has been approved to run. The TLP shot to fame in November 2017 when it staged an anti-blasphemy 'sit-in', paralysing Islamabad for 20 days and ultimately forcing the government to capitulate to its demands, including that Asia Bibi -- a Christian woman on death row for 'blasphemy' -- not be sent abroad [see RLPB 434 (29 Nov 2017)]. The TLP (which wants Asia Bibi executed) will field 178 candidates across the country. In total, religious parties will field a record 460 candidates for the National Assembly.

Some of these religious parties are known fronts for banned jihadists and terror groups. When the Electoral Commission of Pakistan refused to register the Milli Muslim League, deeming it a front for the proscribed terror group, Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), the MML simply shifted its 265 candidates under the umbrella of Allah-O-Akbar Tehreek (AAT), an old Islamist political party. Ahl-e-Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ), which serves as a front for the militantly anti-Shia 'Sipah-e-Sahaba', is fielding candidates through the Rah-i-Haq party. The courts have approved Aurangzeb Farooqi's candidacy despite his being on Pakistan's terror watch list. Senators from both the PML-N and PPP have expressed concern that banned militant organisations are being mainstreamed. Indian analyst Brigadier Sk Chatterji (Retd) explains that the Army -- which has long used these terror groups as 'strategic partners' -- seems keen to extend that partnership into the National Assembly. It is highly likely that whoever rules Pakistan will have to do quid pro quo deals with militant Islamist groups in order to get legislation through the parliament. Whilst that is nothing new, it could well be more costly now, with mandatory death for blasphemy high on the Islamist agenda.

As for Pakistan's Christians, World Watch Monitor reports that 'the country's minorities -- particularly its Christians -- have expressed dismay at their lack of representation among the candidates. Among the thousands of candidates contesting hundreds of provincial and national constituencies across the country, not a single Christian is nominated by any party ...' Christian leaders are encouraging Christians to 'vote for candidates and political parties that really deal with minority rights issues'. Those issues include 'religion based discrimination, violation of fundamental rights, misuse of blasphemy law, indifference from government, intolerance' and the 'biased curriculum being taught in the schools and universities' which 'inculcates religious intolerance among the students'. The total lack of political representation indicates that many (if not most) of Pakistan's elites increasingly view Christians less as a marginalised minority and more as an irrelevant irritant. This is a dangerous and deteriorating situation.

Pakistani Christian women pray. (AP Photo/K.M. Chaudary)
image source: Christians in Pakistan

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL:

* draw Pakistan's vulnerable Christian minority close to himself and shield them from Islamic terror attacks and pogroms; may every evil plot be thwarted and may 'the wicked fall into their own nets' (from Psalm 141:8-10 ESV).

* intervene in Pakistani politics, so that his precious children will not be left without a voice in parliament; may the Lord elevate influential candidates of conscience who will 'speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves' and 'defend the rights of the poor and needy' -- Christians included (Proverbs 31:8-9 NIV).

* awaken influential world leaders of conscience to the plight of Pakistan's persecuted Christian minority.


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
-------------------------------------------------------
POLLS ON 25 JULY IN PAKISTAN BODE ILL FOR CHRISTIANS

On 25 July Pakistanis will vote for new National and Provincial Assemblies. Terrorism is escalating and clashes are expected. Together the military and judiciary are setting the stage for a win by the pragmatic and populist Imran Khan (65). His Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (or Justice Party, PTI) has closed the gap with its nearest rival, the ruling Pakistan Muslim League. Along with promising Pakistanis an 'Islamic welfare state', London-educated Khan has vowed to defend the controversial blasphemy law. Hardline Islamist anti-blasphemy party Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) will stand in 178 seats across the country; indeed Islamist parties will field a record 460 candidates, many of whom are known members of banned terror groups. Increasingly viewed as irrelevant, not one Christian has been nominated by any party. Please pray for the Church in Pakistan.

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

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, July 10, 2018

RLPB 463. India: A Dangerous Place for Christians

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 463 | Wed 11 Jul 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)


INDIA: A DANGEROUS PLACE FOR CHRISTIANS
by Elizabeth Kendal

Click on map to enlarge.
Note: while 'other' mostly
represents Christians, in Punjab
  the 'other' are overwhelmingly Sikh.
map courtesy Stratfor 2016
The Hindu concepts of caste (racism by other means) and karma (a spiritual principle which teaches that a person's lot in life is determined by actions in their past life and is therefore a form of justice) have long ensured India remains one of the world's most cruel and inequitable societies. Whilst India's poor and downtrodden see egalitarian Christianity as liberating and uplifting, its wealthy high caste Hindus view Christianity as a threat to their power and privilege. Today, the rise of Hindu nationalism -- which exploits religion for political gain and establishes religious apartheid -- has turned India into one of the most dangerous places in the world for Christians, most of whom are poor and downtrodden.

Not only are Hindu nationalists recruiting more and more Hindus (including police and other officials) into Hindu nationalist activism and vigilantism, but they are also exploiting tensions over religious conversions to bring tribal animists on-side and incite them against tribal Christians. Eight states have enacted laws that prohibit the procurement of conversions through force, coercion, allurement or fraud. Hostile elements wield these laws as weapons against witnessing Christians. As anti-Christian hostility has risen, violent persecution with impunity has become the order of the day.

CHURCH ATTACKS: On Monday 2 July a mob of some 20 armed militants belonging to the Yuva Vahini (HYV), a Hindu nationalist youth militia, attacked Yeshu Darbar Church in Pratapgarh District, in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, where Christians comprise a mere 0.3 percent of the population. A prayer meeting -- which included women and children -- was underway at the time. In what must have been a terrifying ordeal, eight believers sustained wounds that required medical treatment. Church furniture, sound systems, motorbikes, hymn books and Bibles were among the property damaged. A First Issue Report was registered against the attackers.

EXPULSIONS: On Tuesday 5 June ten Christian families were expelled from their homes in Pahli Village, Latehar District, in the north-east state of Jharkhand, where Christians comprise 6 percent of the population. They had been summoned to a village meeting in which Hindu nationalists ordered them to renounce their faith or face exile. When they refused to renounce Christ, the believers were beaten and driven from the village. They cannot return home as the local authorities are unwilling or unable to help them. These families are now homeless and living in fear of the Hindu nationalists. Violence against Christians has escalated in Jharkhand since anti-conversion legislation was enacted in September 2017 [see RLPB 418 (9 Aug 2017)].  According to the local pastor, Rajdev Toppo, it has become 'increasingly difficult to serve as a pastor in Latehar. 'On a daily basis, I am threatened and ridiculed for teaching Christians the word of God.' He also confirmed that the 'local government has not been helpful'.

FALSE ACCUSATIONS: ANTI-CONVERSION LAW AS WEAPON
(From left) Evang. Sahiram Nayak,
Pastor Vijender Singh and
Pastor Kasiram Meghwal.
(Morning Star News)
(1) On Tuesday 22 May Evangelist Sahiram Nayak (34), Pastor Vijender Singh (32) and Pastor Kasiram Meghwal (46), quietly distributed Christian literature and New Testaments among families of village 16 BD in the Khajuwala area of Bikaner District, in the north-western state of Rajasthan, where Christians comprise 0.4 percent of the population.  Afterwards, Kaku Singh invited the believers to his home in nearby village 14 BD, telling them that his wife was suffering from cancer. After sharing the Gospel and praying over Singh's wife, the believers were about to leave when they were attacked by an 80-strong Hindu mob. Though complicit in the plot, Kaku Singh called the police to prevent the Christians from being killed. Kaku Singh and another man then falsely accused the believers of trying to forcibly convert them; which resulted in the believers being arrested.

No sooner had they been released on bail when fresh allegations were laid. The Hindus falsely accused the believers of visiting them on Sunday 20 May at which time they allegedly offered large sums of money in the hope of alluring them to convert. Consequently, the three believers were immediately re-arrested.  Pastor Singh told Morning Star News, 'We wept before the Lord, but we never abandoned our faith.' The men were released on bail on 29 May, but not before they had witnessed to inmates, including murderers. On Sunday 27 May they even held a worship service inside the prison.  The evangelists faced court on 5 and 30 June. Their trial continues, even though all three believers can prove they did not visit the Khajuwala area that day. [For more details, see Morning Star News.]

16 evangelists arrested and jailed
in Jharkhand
(World Watch Monitor)
(2) On Saturday 7 July 16 members of a group of 25 young volunteer evangelists from Friends Missionary Prayer Band (FMPB) were arrested in Jharkhand's Dumka District. The group, which had entered the district on Thursday 5 July, had been detained by angry locals and held overnight before being taken away by police on Friday. The seven members released on Saturday were women and minors. According to the complainants, the evangelists had invaded with loudspeakers and disparaged the religion of local animists -- including saying Satan resides in their temples -- all in an effort to force people to convert to Christianity. FMPB denies this, saying all their volunteer evangelists are trained in proper procedures. According to FMPB, all the group did was lead an open service of prayer and worship in the home of the sole believing family in Phulpahari Village, and this was enough to enrage villagers. The 16 evangelists arrested have been imprisoned in Dumka Central Jail. [For more details see World Watch Monitor.]

For more disturbing and inspiring stories of persecution, courage, endurance and suffering in the Indian Church, see Morning Star News: India.


PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT:

* the Holy Spirit will guide India's mission-focused Church in strategies for effective witness, enabling them to be blameless -- 'wise as serpents and as innocent as doves' -- as they share the Good News of Jesus Christ in needy communities.

* the Holy Spirit will give India's courageous evangelists peace of heart, presence of mind and words to say as they encounter hostility and as they testify before police, judges and local officials.  (See Matthew 10:16-33)

'Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.' (Jesus, in Matthew 5:11,12 ESV)

* the Spirit of God would stir up indignation in the 'international community' so that the racism inherent in the Hindu caste system and the religious apartheid inherent in Hindu nationalism, will no longer be tolerated by governments and businesses that wield influence ... for nothing will change while impunity reigns.


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
-------------------------------------------------------
INDIA IS A DANGEROUS PLACE FOR CHRISTIANS 

Hindu nationalism -- which exploits religion for political gain and establishes religious apartheid -- makes India one of the most dangerous places in the world for Christians. Because India's Christians are mostly poor and downtrodden, they are particularly vulnerable. Fuelled by Hindu nationalist ideologues and legitimised by repressive anti-conversion laws, anti-Christian hostility has escalated to the point that violent persecution with impunity has become the order of the day. Many Indian Christians face violence and exile. Worship and prayer meetings -- be they in official buildings or private homes -- are routinely attacked. Pastors and evangelists -- men, women and youths -- are routinely beaten, falsely accused and arrested for witnessing, worshiping or even praying. Impunity is a problem domestically and internationally; the global silence is deafening. Please pray for change.

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

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, July 3, 2018

RLPB 462. Ethiopia-Eritrea: leaders have 'opened the door of peace'

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 462 | Wed 04 Jul 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)


ETHIOPIA-ERITREA: LEADERS HAVE 'OPENED THE DOOR OF PEACE'
Update on the Ethiopia-Eritrea peace initiative.
For background see RLPB 461 (27 June 2018).
by Elizabeth Kendal

On 5 June Ethiopia's new Prime Minister, Dr Abiy Ahmed (41) -- a Protestant Christian convert from Islam -- announced that Ethiopia was ready to abide by the Algiers Agreement (2000), accept the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission ruling (2002) and withdraw from disputed territories pursuant to peace. The move is meeting with some resistance, for powerful people on both sides of the border profit from the 'no war no peace' status quo. Ethiopia's powerful Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) -- which dominates the military -- is opposed to relinquishing territory. Eritrea's President Isaias Afwerki (since 1993) is treading cautiously, for he has long used the 'Ethiopian threat' as a pretext to justify his dictatorship. Not only would peace transform the economies of Eritrea and Ethiopia, it would help stabilise the Horn of Africa as Ethiopia-Eritrea proxy wars would also end, including their proxy war in Somalia, the consequences of which bleed into Kenya. Most critically, peace could transform the human rights situation in Eritrea by removing Afwerki's pretext for Indefinite National (military) Service, his suspension of the constitution, and the extension of his cruel, repressive totalitarian rule. Eritrea is currently one of the world's most dangerous places for Christians, ranked sixth on the Open Doors World Watch List. [For more details, see Ethiopia-Eritrea: Reforms and Resistance, Religious Liberty Monitoring, 26 June 2018]

Ethiopia's PM Abiy (l) greets
Eritrean Foreign Minister Osman Saleh (r).
Behind them, with garland (c),
is Yemane Gebreab.
On Tuesday 26 June an Eritrean delegation led by Foreign Minister Osman Saleh and presidential adviser Yemane Gebreab arrived in Addis Ababa for an official three-day visit. It was the first high- level meeting between the states since diplomatic relations were broken off in 1998. The Eritrean delegation was greeted at the airport by Ethiopian Prime Minister, Dr Abiy Ahmed. After being warmly welcomed and adorned with garlands of flowers, the delegation was driven through city streets lined with both Ethiopian and Eritrea flags and banners declaring 'welcome' in both Amharic (Ethiopia's main language) and Tigrinya (one of Eritrea's official languages).

That evening, at a reception at the National Palace in Addis Ababa, PM Abiy said in a speech, 'We have tried war and found it useless. Our desire is to love rather than hate. What we miss is to hug our brothers in Asmara [the Eritrean capital]. If we are in love then the other things are minor... Our intention is not to pass hate and war to the next generation. ... We also hope that our Eritrean brothers are thinking this way. And it looks like they are.' PM Abiy also announced that, after a 20-year hiatus, Ethiopian Airlines will soon recommence flights to Eritrea, saying he wanted Ethiopians and Eritreans to be able to visit one another as soon as possible, a move that will enable family reunions.

Eritrean and Ethiopian flags
fly side-by-side
Eritrean Foreign Minister Osman Saleh responded, saying, 'Today is a day of joy because two identical peoples and two generations have been separated throughout that period. But through struggles, we have opened the door of peace.' He was right to say 'we have opened the door ...' for, as groundbreaking as this visit was, it is just the beginning; there is a long way to go yet on a path littered with obstacles. Martin Plaut, an expert on the Horn of Africa region, would like to see the African Union involved '... because they were one of the observers, the guarantors, of the Algiers peace agreement and they really have a responsibility to try and make sure that this initiative works'.

On 29 June, Ethiopia’s state broadcaster Fana BC reported that Ethiopian Foreign Minister, Dr Workneh Gebeyehu, said the meeting had created a fertile ground to restore peace, and that the leaders of the two states -- Ethiopia's PM Abiy and Eritrea's President Afwerki -- will meet 'soon' at a time and location yet to be determined. For the sake of Eritrea's long-suffering and severely persecuted Church, intercessors must commit to praying through the entire peace process, 'for we are not ignorant of [Satan's] designs' (2 Corinthians 2:11).


PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY FOR:

* Ethiopian Prime Minister, Dr Abiy Ahmed; may the Lord protect him and his family from all harm and may the Holy Spirit keep him humble and dependent on God for guidance, insight, discernment, wisdom and strength.  A prayer for PM Abiy -- Psalm 146

* Eritrean President Isaiah Afwerki (who is rumoured to have serious liver disease); may our sovereign God either use or remove Isaias Afwerki so that he will not be an obstacle on the path to peace and liberty.

* Eritrean Foreign Minister Osman Saleh and presidential adviser Yemane Gebreab, along with the other members of the Eritrean delegation that recently visited Addis Ababa; may the Spirit of God infuse their hearts with an infectious hunger for peace and their minds with an infectious vision of a future in line with the will of God.

* the long-suffering, severely persecuted Eritrean Church; may our gracious Lord and Saviour sustain, protect and encourage the Church -- especially the prisoners -- as they 'wait for the Lord' a little while longer. 

'Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.' (Romans 12:12 ESV)


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
-------------------------------------------------------
LEADERS IN ETHIOPIA & ERITREA HAVE OPENED THE DOOR TO PEACE

Eritrea is one of the world's most dangerous places for Christians; thousands have suffered imprisonment. Its brutal dictator, Isaias Afwerki has long used the pretext of 'the Ethiopian threat' to legitimise his cruel, despotic, totalitarian rule. On 5 June Ethiopia's Prime Minister, Dr Abiy Ahmed (41) -- a Protestant Christian convert from Islam -- offered to accept the border ruling of 2002 pursuant to peace. Aware that peace with Ethiopia would de-legitimise his dictatorship, Afwerki is treading cautiously. On 26 June an Eritrean delegation arrived in Ethiopia for the first high-level meeting in 20 years. It appears to have been extremely positive. It has since been confirmed that PM Abiy and President Afwerki will meet 'soon'. For the sake of the long-suffering, severely persecuted Eritrean Church, 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