Wednesday, September 26, 2018

RLPB 474. September Update. Incl. North Korea, Nigeria, Syria, Burma, CAR, China, Ethiopia, Eritrea, India, Niger

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 474 | Wed 26 Sep 2018

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by Elizabeth Kendal

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

* NORTH KOREA (RLPB 471), as the nation celebrated its 70th birthday on 9 September. Specifically, we prayed for a breakthrough in stalled US-North Korea (DPRK) talks. The DPRK wants the US to sign a peace treaty, after which step-for-step or synchronised confidence-building measures and concessions can proceed. The US administration, meanwhile, demands the DPRK's immediate 'complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearisation' as a pre-condition. The result is a stalemate in need of a breakthrough. Fortunately, our God is the God of the breakthrough (2 Samuel 5:17-21).

UPDATE: INTER-KOREAN SUMMIT REVIVES FORWARD MOMENTUM

From 18 to 20 September, South Korean President Moon Jae In and North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un participated in another Inter-Korean Summit; this time in Pyongyang. North and South agreed to resume economic co-operation, work to reconnect rail and road links, re-open the Kaesong Industrial Park and resume tours to North Korea's Mount Kumgang resort. They also agreed to establish video-conference facilities for families separated by the Korean War and will establish permanent meeting facilities for family reunions at Kaesong and Mt Kumgang. Moon and Kim plan to meet again before the end of the year, this time in Seoul. If it eventuates, it will be the first time a North Korean leader has visited South Korea. 

At the summit on 19 September, Kim said he would welcome international inspectors to oversee the 'permanent' dismantling of the DPRK's missile-engine test site and the shutting down of its main nuclear complex at Yongbyon on the condition that Washington undertook 'corresponding measures'. The US responded by signalling that it is ready to resume talks. To that end, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo invited his counterpart -- North Korea's Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho -- to meet with him on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York on 27 September. A meeting with US Special Representative for North Korea, Stephen Biegun, will be held in Vienna, Austria, 'at the earliest opportunity'. Pray that future talks will include human rights, especially the issue of religious freedom. May the Lord -- who sees, hears and knows everything -- crush all evil plots and bring liberty to North Korea. 

* NIGERIA (RLPB 472), concerning the Christian Crisis in the North and Middle Belt which many are convinced is the product of an Islamic agenda that is being advanced in the country. 

UPDATES: 

(1) KILLINGS CONTINUE IN ADAMAWA

On Sunday afternoon 16 September Fulani militants burned and pillaged their way through a string of villages in Nigeria's north-eastern state of Adamawa. In Gon Village, not one house remains standing. Terrorised, many villagers entered the river in a desperate attempt to escape the Fulani; 26 people who could not swim, drowned. Despite calling to the security forces, no one came to help. One eye witness told World Watch Monitor, 'There seems to be collusion between the military and the killer herdsmen group.' Survivors are homeless, scattered and without food or shelter.

(2) HOSTAGES THREATENED
-- Update to RLPB 470 (29 Aug) 'Nigeria: Captive Leah Sharibu is Alive'. 

Leah Sharibu (15)
On 17 September the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) issued a press release condemning Boko Haram's execution of Saifura Hussaini Ahmed Khorsa (25). Hussaini, a mother of two and midwife with the ICRC, had been abducted with two other female aid workers from Rann, Borno State, in north-east Nigeria where some 7.7 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance. [It is one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world.] Sources report that Boko Haram had contacted the government in May and in August, eager to negotiate ransom for the female aid workers. The terrorists maintain that the government ignored them, so they decided to send 'a message of blood'. They warned that if ransom is not forthcoming, then 'The other nurse and midwife will be executed in similar manner in one month, including Leah Sharibu.' Abducted on 19 February, Leah Sharibu (15) is being retained as a hostage precisely because she refuses to convert to Islam to secure her freedom [see RLPB 448 (28 March)]. On 19 September Nigerian Christian leaders issued an appeal for three days of prayer and fasting for the release of the captives. 'We urge other churches worldwide to join us,' they said. 'Thank you for standing in the gap.' 

* SYRIA (RLPB 473), where the Christian town of Mhardeh had come under rebel mortar attack as the prospect for a Battle for Idlib loomed large.

UPDATE: The situation in Syria could possibly get even more complicated and messy. Russia has been totally supportive of Israel's efforts to prevent Hezbollah amassing weapons within range of Israel; the two states have long-cooperated to this end. On 17 September a Russian surveillance plane was shot down over the water off the coast of Latakia, killing all 15 on board. Russia claims that Israeli jets attacking a military site in Syria's northern state of Latakia had taken cover behind the Russian plane, using it as a shield against Syrian air defences. Military experts surmise that this is unlikely and that Syrian error was probably to blame. Clearly, however, Israel had failed to communicate with the Russians as per normal procedure. Russia now wants to supply Syria with new and improved air defence systems, something to which Israel strongly objects. Pray that Israel-Russia relations will not be threatened. May God intervene to bring peace to Syria.


SEPTEMBER 2018 ROUND-UP -- also this month

* BURMA: CHURCHES DESTROYED IN WA REGION

Map showing CMEC
Wa region circled.
click on map to enlarge
A Christian leader in Burma's northern Wa region has confirmed to Morning Star News that 'at least 12 churches have been destroyed or closed as of Sept. 20'. In one case, Wa rebels from the United Wa State Army (UWSA) were filmed attacking a church and destroying its cross. One local Christian leader surmised that this was part of an effort to hamper missionary activity among the Wa people, who worship ancestral spirits. Whilst possible, it probably has far more to do with China and Burma's desire to remove obstacles and problems that could threaten the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor (CMEC), an important leg of China's Belt Road Initiative. On 10 September China and Burma signed a Memorandum of Understanding to build the CMEC which will run from Kunming in China's Yunnan Province to Burma's deep water port in Kyaukpyu, Rakhine State, on the Bay of Bengal. Transport links will run alongside oil and gas pipelines, crossing the China-Burma border at Muse in Shan state, where the Burmese Army destroyed churches in December 2016 [see RLPB 433 (22 Nov 2017)]. China might want peace for its project, but it has no interest in tackling the underlying causes of the conflict. For the region’s long-persecuted Christians, this is a fearful prospect. Please pray.

* CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC (CAR): MASSACRE IN BRIA

A horrendous attack by Islamic militants on civilians in Bria has left at least 12 people dead, with sources telling World Watch Monitor that as many as 42 were killed. The violent attack took place over the course of two days -- 4-5 September -- and not until 7 September could youth enter the area to retrieve the bodies. The militants were ex-Seleka fighters now with the Popular Front for the Central African Renaissance (FPRC).  The victims were mostly women returning from farms to PK3, the predominantly Christian quarter of the town. While some were shot, most were hacked to death with machetes. At least one woman was pregnant. Locals accuse the UN peacekeepers of not doing enough to protect them. According to one church leader the Islamic militants 'don't want to see any Christians here … We Christians have nothing else to do, no food to eat, no place to go. We rely only on prayers. Please pray for us!'

* CHINA: CCP POLICY ADVANCES

(1) ZION CHURCH BANNED

In April city authorities in Beijing demanded Zion Church install 24 closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras throughout the building and register with the government. The church, which happens to be one of Beijing's largest unregistered churches with some 1600 members, refused. Since then, church members have faced increased harassment and the church has been threatened with eviction. On Sunday 9 September the Beijing Chaoyang District civil affairs bureau informed the church that it was now 'legally banned'. Zion Church pastor, Jin Mingri, fears 'there is no way for us to resolve this issue with the authorities'. Pray for the Church in China.

Zion Church, Beijing. See article WORLD News Group:
 'Violated and Obstructed,' by June Cheng, 9 Aug.

(2) VATICAN SURRENDERS

The Vatican has signed an agreement with Beijing that will split the underground Catholic Church and escalate its persecution. The Vatican will recognise Catholic bishops appointed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in exchange for the CCP recognising the Pope's headship of the Church. China correspondent, Glenda Korporaal, reports that 'Cardinal Zen has called for the resignation of Vatican Secretary of State Pietro Parolin who has been leading the negotiations, criticising him as a "good diplomat in a very secular, mundane meaning" whom, he said, did not have any faith'. According to the Vatican, the deal concerning the appointment of bishops is 'not political but pastoral'. Yet the deal is totally political. The Vatican has willingly placed itself in subjection to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) which is now free to appoint CCP puppets as bishops over the Church. This will cause great distress to many Catholics. Those who resist will face intensified persecution amidst deepening isolation. 

* ETHIOPIA-ERITREA: BORDER OPENED

On 11 September, Ethiopian New Year, two border crossings were opened on the long-closed Ethiopian-Eritrean border. First, Ethiopian Prime Minister Dr Abiy Ahmed and Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki officially opened the Debay Sima-Burre border crossing for road transport. Moving on, the two leaders then opened the Serha-Zalambesa crossing in a second ceremony. 'We heralded the new year by demolishing the trenches along our border,' said PM Abiy. 'As of today, Ethiopia's defence forces along the border with Eritrea will be gathered to camps to ease tension that was often extreme. The same will be done from the Eritrean side.' The BBC has video footage (39 sec) of families reuniting at the border as Ethiopian and Eritrean troops dance and celebrate. Praise and thank God!

BBC footage, 11 Sept, Ethiopia-Eritrea border.

* ERITREA: STUBBORNNESS IN NEED OF A BREAKTHROUGH 

As Ethiopia and Eritrea engage in rapid rapprochement, Eritrea is expecting sanctions relief from the West. But this will not and should not happen until human rights are addressed. In September 2001 the Eritrean regime arrested all political opposition and closed down all independent media. Those arrested 'disappeared' into secret prisons, never to be seen again -- although most are believed to be still alive. The crackdown on the Church commenced in May 2002. Thousands of believers have since been incarcerated and tortured; some have died in captivity. Eritrea might want sanctions lifted, but it continues to deny its human rights abuses. In mid September Eritrea's information minister, Yemane G. Meskel again called for sanction relief insisting that the sanctions 'were not based on fact and law' and that reports of human rights abuses are 'totally unfounded and without merit'. As Tibor Nagy, the U.S. State Department's assistant secretary for Africa notes, 'Up to now for the last 20-plus years Eritrea has used Ethiopia as an excuse to maintain what I would almost call a "fortress state". With the opening of peace they really will no longer have a reason to do that.' For the sake of Eritrea's long-suffering persecuted Church, PRAY for change to come to Eritrea. PRAY for a breakthrough (2 Samuel 5:17-21).

* INDIA: 271 FACE CRIMINAL CHARGES 

Anticipating trouble, police guard church.
Morning Star News.
On Wednesday 5 September police in Jaunpur District, Uttar Pradesh, filed a First Issue Report (FIR) against 271 members of the 7000-member Jivan Jyoti Satsang Prarthana Kendra church in Bhulandih Village. The complainant works with the Hindu Jagran Manch (HJM), a Hindu nationalist group affiliated with the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) that works to prevent conversions to Christianity and Islam while facilitating 're-conversions' to Hinduism. According to the complainant, the Christians go out after Sunday and Tuesday prayers and spread misinformation about Hinduism while luring people to become Christian through fraudulent and even criminal means. After his initial complaint in early August, a police investigation found no evidence of fraudulent conversions. However, after weeks of pressure from Hindu nationalists, which included constant violent harassment of the church, a court ordered the FIR be lodged. Three pastors have been identified -- Durga Prasad Yadav (45), Kirit Rai and Jitendra Ram -- and the rest were named as their associates. The believers stand accused of procuring conversion by fraudulent means and hurting religious feelings under section 156 (3) of the Criminal Procedure Code. Please pray.

* NIGER: ITALIAN PRIEST ABDUCTED

Fr Pier Luigi Maccalli
(Photo: Eglise Catholique au Niger)
Fr Pier Luigi Maccalli (57) has served the Lord in Niger for eleven years. He was stationed in the remote and desperately poor parish of Bamoanga, about 125km from the Niger capital Niamey, on the border with Burkina Faso. On the night of Monday 17 September eight armed men rode into the village on motorbikes, broke into Fr Maccalli's house opposite the church, and abducted him from his bedroom. Government spokesman Zakaria Abdourahamane confirmed, ‘The kidnappers came from Burkina Faso.’ It is thought that Fr Maccalli would have been taken into the forest in north-eastern Burkina Faso where the militants have their base, before being taken into Mali as a hostage. Reports that the militants were ethnic Peul (Fulani) is adding to the complexity. No group has yet claimed responsibility. Regional mayor, Diara Banyoura told World Watch Monitor that everyone is shocked and distressed, asking, 'How can this happen to someone who has been always giving a helping hand to people in need?' Muslim leaders have condemned the abduction and appealed for Fr Maccalli's immediate release. 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, September 18, 2018

RLPB 473. Syria: Christians imperilled as Battle for Idlib looms

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 473 | Wed 19 Sep 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)


SYRIA: CHRISTIANS IMPERILLED AS BATTLE FOR IDLIB LOOMS
by Elizabeth Kendal

click on map to enlarge
source: DW
Bordering Turkey, Idlib Governorate has been an al-Qaeda stronghold since March 2015 when Idlib city fell to Jaysh el-Fatah, an alliance of some 1500 fighters from al-Qaeda's Jabhat al-Nusra, Ahrar al-Sham (the Syrian Taliban) and five other groups including the US-backed Free Syrian Army [see RLPB 307 (29 April 2015)]. The looming battle to liberate Idlib is destined to be the largest battle of the Syrian war. It will be an asymmetric battle, meaning the 'rebels' -- though possessing many sophisticated weapons, including armed drones and high-powered US-made anti-tank weapons -- will be forced to rely on Psychological Operations (operations that target our hearts and minds). To that end it is unsurprising to learn that while the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) has opened humanitarian corridors to facilitate the escape from Idlib of Syrian civilians and even Syrian fighters prepared to lay down their weapons, the terrorists (many of whom are foreign transnational jihadists) are preventing people from leaving, eager to retain them as human shields.

As the final showdown looms, the US, the UK and France are preparing to launch military strikes. According to US officials who are establishing the narrative, Assad [is so stupid that he] has approved the use of chlorine gas, the very thing that would trigger coordinated military strikes from the US, UK and France. Actually, the US has stated any escalation of the conflict will trigger massive retaliatory strikes. Of course we have seen all this before [see Religious Liberty Monitoring (RLM), label: Syria]. Frantic talks are underway to see if a major conflagration and humanitarian catastrophe can be averted. On Monday 17 September Russia brokered a deal with the jihadists' patron, Turkey, to establish a 15-20km wide demilitarised jihadist/terrorist-free zone in Idlib. Now all Turkey's President Erdogan needs to do is separate all the 'good' and reasonable 'rebels' from the bad transnational jihadists/ terrorists who must then agree to retreat north. Al-Qaeda's emir in Idlib, Abu Mohammad al-Julani (Golani), has vowed to continue fighting Assad. Refusing to surrender, his group -- now known as Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham-- is instead promising 'many military surprises'. Mainstream Western media repeatedly lament that the fate of Idlib is in the hands of outsiders. But as Syrians rightly note, Idlib's fate is in the hands of Idlib's 'rebels', jihadists and terrorists; the ball is in their court.

If conflict does escalate, Christians will again be gravely imperilled, just as they were during the liberation of Aleppo [RLPB 382 (12 Nov 2016) and RLPB 373 (31 Aug 2016)] and the liberation of Eastern Ghouta [RLPB 438 (17 Jan 2018)]. For the 'rebels' will target them with retaliatory strikes.

Funeral, Mhardeh, 8 Sept 2018
Greek Orthodox Church of St. George,
see World Watch Monitor
Located in the north of Hama Governorate, less than 10km from the border with Idlib, is Mhardeh, Syria's largest Christian city. Despite being on the front-line of conflict, Mhardeh's Christians have resisted all 'rebel' efforts to drive them out. The city has been repeatedly shelled and besieged; around 100 residents have been killed and more than 150 wounded in the past seven years. Backed by the SAA, the Mhardeh Defence Force comprises some 200 locals -- former tradesmen, teachers, pharmacists among others -- along with some 1000 other volunteers who can be called upon if needed. To keep the city habitable, the local city council has facilitated the prompt rebuilding of homes. It is a tight-knit Christian community where those who have wealth share with those who do not. At 6:30pm on Friday 7 September rebel mortar shells struck busy Mhardeh killing 10 and wounding more than 20, two of whom died later in hospital. Five of the dead were children. One man, who was wounded, lost his mother, wife and three children. On Saturday 8 September Mhardeh's Christians postponed a wedding and, instead, buried their dead.


PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL:

* intervene with power and grace to ensure Syria remains secular and safe for Christians and other religious minorities; may the transnational jihadists and proxy militias serving fundamentalist Islam and foreign powers be defeated; may foreign powers refrain from illegal actions; may the war soon come to an end and may peace and prosperity return to Syria. 

* redeem all suffering; may the trauma of war serve only to open eyes and soften hearts so that many will receive the saving gospel and transforming wisdom of Jesus Christ. 

* comfort Mhardeh's grieving, traumatised and deeply anxious Christians; may the Lord shield them, encourage them and supply all their needs; may the Lord give 'strength to those who turn back the battle at the gate' (Isaiah 28:5-6 ESV).


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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CHRISTIANS IN SYRIA IMPERILLED AS BATTLE FOR IDLIB LOOMS

Bordering Turkey, Idlib has been an al-Qaeda stronghold since March 2015. The battle to liberate Idlib is destined to be the largest battle of the Syrian war. On 17 September Russia brokered a deal with the jihadist's patron, Turkey, to establish a 15-20 km wide demilitarised terrorist-free zone in Idlib. The Syrian government has opened humanitarian corridors to facilitate the escape of civilians. However, displaced Syrians report that their relatives in Idlib are being held against their will as human shields. Al-Qaeda's emir in Idlib has already vowed to fight, promising surprises. If conflict escalates, the jihadists will target Christians in retaliation. On 7 September 10 people (including five children) were killed when rebel mortars struck Syria's largest Christian city, Mhardeh, in northern Hama. Please pray for Syria 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

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

RLPB 472. Nigeria: Christian Crisis in North & Middle Belt

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 472 | Wed 12 Sep 2018

Please forward this prayer bulletin widely, and encourage others to sign up to the Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin blog. "The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective." (James 5:16 NIV)


NIGERIA: CHRISTIAN CRISIS IN NORTH & MIDDLE BELT
by Elizabeth Kendal

BEHEADED IN NUMAN LGA, ADAMAWA

Dorcas Chrisanthus
Charles and Dorcas Chrisanthus have a farm in Bare ward in predominantly Christian Numan Local Government Area (LGA) of Nigeria's eastern Adamawa State, an area known for its Christian resistance to Fulani-Muslim dominance in the state. [See World Watch Monitor (WWM), Nigeria, June 2018)] On 29 August terror struck the Chrisanthus' farm; Dorcas clung tightly to the couple's four-month-old son as her husband was butchered before her eyes. According to Dorcas: 'His attackers, led by our Fulani neighbours, repeatedly stabbed him on the back and on his stomach before beheading my husband in our farm and made (sic) away with his head.' The next day, as Dorcas and three other eye witnesses registered their complaints with the State Criminal Investigation Department, locals discovered that the killers were receiving medical aid at a local hospital. Dorcas insists that the police were shielding them. Some arrests have since been made. Charles Chrisanthus (a Christian) was the Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Adamawa State, which stands in opposition to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), the party of President Muhammadu Buhari (a Fulani Muslim).

BURNED ALIVE IN BARKIN LADI LGA, PLATEAU

In the last week of August, Fulani militants attacked a string of villages in Barkin Ladi LGA, Plateau State. According to World Watch Monitor, more than 14 people were killed, 95 houses were burnt down and 225 farm crops awaiting harvest were destroyed. The militants invaded Abonong Village on the evening of 28 August, shooting and creating panic. They invaded the home of Rev Adamu Wurim Gyang (50), located on the church premises. Rev. Gyang locked himself in a room with his three boys, while his wife, Jummai, locked herself in a toilet. Jummai was shot and killed, while the pastor and his boys were burnt alive. The family's eldest son, Adamu (27) was at university in Jos when the attack took place; his life will never be the same.

When the military eventually arrived, they immediately started arresting distraught local youths who had taken to the streets to protest the insecurity. When a local woman objected, insisting the soldiers focus on arresting Fulani militants, the soldiers shot her dead. World Watch Monitor's 7 September report includes YouTube footage of a trembling and distressed Rev Ezekiel Dachomo pleading for international help to end the killings. Standing over the body of the dead woman, he asks, 'Who are these army men?'  He laments that 'an Islamic agenda is taking over the nation', and ultimately breaks down and sobs inconsolably. The killings in Barkin Ladi LGA have continued into September, with gunmen killing five at Gana-Ropp Village on 4 September and another three, including a pastor, at Nding village on 6 September.

Rev. Ezekiel Dachomo (World Watch Monitor)

CONTEXT: AN ORGANISED ISLAMIC ADVANCE

The context for the assassination in Adamawa is the organised Islamic advance into Nunman LGA. This in turn exists within the wider context of the organised Islamic advance through Nigeria's Middle Belt [see RLPB 431 (8 Nov 2017)]. This latest violence comes as the ruling APC is reeling from a string of defections as MPs disillusioned by President Buhari's unwillingness to tackle the Fulani violence wracking the North and Middle Belt switch from the APC to the PDP. President Buhari insists that reports of an 'Islamic agenda' are nothing but 'negative propaganda being instigated by outsiders', which he said 'find narrative in the church' despite them being 'without any credible fact'. Instead, Buhari blames the violence -- which he diminishes as mere 'misunderstandings' -- on climate change, political mischief and hostile media. Meanwhile the Christian Crisis in Nigeria's North and Middle Belt continues as one of the worst crises for Christians in the world today.

[A more detailed report will be posted to Religious Liberty Monitoring.]

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL:

* intervene in Nigeria so that multitudes will be awakened to the true nature of the evil that is advancing and leading the nation headlong into conflict, poverty, repression, death and despair; may the nation give a collective 'No!' to jihad and the 'Islamic agenda' and a collective 'Yes!' to life and liberty; may the battle be turned back at the gate (Isaiah 28:5-6).

* protect, sustain and bless his persecuted and existentially imperilled Church across Nigeria's North and Middle Belt; may he supply all their needs (spiritual and physical); may the free and prosperous Church in the South rise to the occasion in recognition that the Body of Christ -- their own flesh and blood -- is weeping, bleeding, hungry, displaced, traumatised and dying.

'Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter -- when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?' (Isaiah 58:6-7 NIV)


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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CHRISTIAN CRISIS IN NIGERIA'S NORTH & MIDDLE BELT

A growing number of Nigerian civic, political and religious leaders are convinced that an Islamic agenda is being advanced. Not only is President Muhammadu Buhari (a Fulani Muslim) unwilling to tackle the escalating Fulani violence ravaging the North and Middle Belt, he is even unwilling to recognise it. Consequently, the killings -- which amount to ethnic cleansing -- continue unabated and with impunity. The security forces, dominated by Fulani Muslims, are not neutral. Nigerian Christians feel vulnerable and abandoned. On 28 August the Christian stronghold of Nunman LGA in Adamawa State was rocked by a gruesome Fulani-led political assassination (beheading). Meanwhile, massacres continue in Plateau State: victims include a pastor burnt alive with three of his sons, after his wife was shot dead. Please pray for Nigeria and its 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, September 4, 2018

RLPB 471. North Korea: A stalemate in need of a breakthrough

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 471 | Wed 05 Sep 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)

NORTH KOREA: A STALEMATE IN NEED OF A BREAKTHROUGH 
Also: Independence Day -- Sunday 9 September (9/9) -- 70 Years
by Elizabeth Kendal

On Sunday 9 September one of the world's most severe persecutors will celebrate its 70th birthday. In 1945 Soviet and US forces liberated the Korean Peninsula from Japanese occupation. The Peninsula was then divided along the 38th parallel with Soviets occupying the north and America occupying the south. In the north, a Soviet-backed regime was installed, headed by a Red Army-trained guerrilla fighter named Kim Il-sung. The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) was proclaimed on 9 September 1948, with Kim Il-sung as the Soviet-designated Premier. In 1950 North Korean troops crossed the 38th parallel, invaded the South and triggered the Korean War. An armistice (cease-fire) was brokered in 1953. While this brought an end to the military conflict, the state of war continues to this day.

It was in this context (as a country at war with the US) that the North Korean regime of Kim Jong-il (1991-2011) watched the US-led interventions in the Middle East (commencing with Gulf War One, 1990-91), and in particular the 'regime-change' operations through which the US removed their unarmed enemy Saddam Hussein (2003) and their disarmed ally Muammar Gaddafi (2011). Consequently, no matter how keen Swiss-educated Kim Jong-un is to end North Korea's isolation and integrate the DPRK into the East Asian economic community, the regime will not denuclearise; it will not surrender its deterrent/'insurance'. Interestingly, the existence of nuclear weapons was not a stumbling block in the Reagan-Gorbachev US-Russia rapprochement of 1987, 70 years on from the Bolshevik coup. Similarly, the existence of nuclear weapons has not precluded an American alliance with nuclear-armed Islamic Pakistan. Yet the US insists that a nuclear-armed North Korea is something with which it simply cannot live.

This year both the DPRK and the US have taken steps towards detente. The DPRK has returned the remains of US war veterans and dismantled its underground nuclear test site. The US, meanwhile, has suspended its joint military exercises with South Korea. The DPRK wants the US to sign a peace treaty, after which step-for-step, tit-for-tat or synchronised confidence-building measures and concessions can proceed. What the US administration (but not necessarily President Trump) wants from the DPRK is, first and foremost, 'complete verifiable and irreversible denuclearisation'.

Seoul, South Korea, Friday 27 April 2018.
South Koreans pray for the success of the Inter-Korean Summit.
Another Inter-Korean Summit has been slated for 18-20 September.

The stalemate exists primarily due to the absence of an agreed-upon roadmap. It hurts South Korea, particularly President Moon who is so personally invested in the peace process. But most of all it hurts North Koreans -- especially those who are poor, imprisoned and/or Christian -- by freezing them in a horrific and unhealthy status quo. One reason the situation is so profoundly complex is because it has been sidelined and covered over for decades, allowing it both to fester and advance. One reason the crisis seems so intractable is because many in the US administration would rather prolong North Korean suffering than soften any demand or allow any Trump initiative to succeed. Therefore, we have a stalemate in need of a breakthrough. Fortunately, our God is 'Baal-perazim', the God who breaks through (2 Samuel 5:17-21).


PLEASE PRAY THAT OUR EVER-CREATIVE GOD WILL:

* bind and restrain all evil forces who seek to sow chaos and sustain repression where God seeks to sow peace and deliver liberty. '[Jesus Christ] has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him' (1 Peter 3:22 ESV).

* intervene creatively in the Korean Peninsula, according to his perfect wisdom and in line with his boundless grace, to bring peace, transformation and liberty, to the glory of his holy name.

* break through the seemingly intractable stalemate that currently exists between the US administration and the North Korean regime, so the slow and difficult work of peace-making might resume.

* protect, sustain and richly bless the long-suffering and severely persecuted remnant Church in North Korea. On North Korea's 70th birthday we pray Psalm 70:1 for the Persecuted Church: 'Make haste, O God, to deliver me! O Lord, make haste to help me!'

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EXTRA: DPRK Independence Day -- Sunday 9 September (9/9) -- 70 Years
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As a citizen of North Korea, Jang Jin-sung (47) worked in the United Front Department of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea writing poetry for use as propaganda. He was so good at it that in 1999 he became one of six poet laureates of North Korea permitted to write poems about Dear Leader, General Kim Jong-il. Forced to flee the North in early 2004, Jang is now a citizen of South Korea. According to Jang, Eternal Leader Kim Il-sung chose 9 September (9/9) as the day to declare DPRK independence precisely because he was deeply superstitious about the number nine, believing it to be auspicious. So convinced was Kim Il-sung that he spared no effort to ensure every significant date, project or office aligned with the number nine. For example, Kim's personal bodyguard corps was named Unit 963 [9, 6+3=9] in the belief that double nine was especially auspicious.

With this in mind, please consider setting aside 9 September (9/9, DPRK Independence Day) -- maybe even 9am of 9/9 -- to pray for North Korea and to proclaim aloud the 9 verses of Psalm 99. The current stalemate might seem intractable, but as Psalm 99 reminds us -- along with all 'cosmic powers' and 'spiritual forces of evil' (Ephesians 6:12) -- 'The Lord reigns' over the heavens and the earth. It reminds us that our sovereign reigning Lord loves justice and establishes equity; that he is personal, close and engaged; that he hears and answers prayers; and that he is faithful, holy and worthy of worship. An intense and furious spiritual battle is underway in what is destined to be the spiritual powerhouse of the future: The East. North Korea is the Lord's, as is the battle (1 Samuel 17:45-47).

9/9 Independence Day (2017) mass dancing in Pyongyang 

For more information see:
RLPB 446, A Step in the Right Direction, 14 March 2018

SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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NORTH KOREA: A STALEMATE IN NEED OF A BREAKTHROUGH

North Korea and America have taken steps to improve their relationship. However, a stalemate has set in which threatens to freeze millions of North Koreans -- especially those who are poor, imprisoned and/or Christian -- in an appalling status quo. North Korea wants America to sign a peace treaty, after which confidence-building measures and concessions can proceed. Meanwhile, the US is demanding, first and foremost, North Korea's 'complete verifiable and irreversible denuclearisation'; hence the stalemate needs a breakthrough. Fortunately, our God is 'Baal-perazim', the God who breaks through (2 Samuel 5:17-21). On Sunday 9 September North Koreans will celebrate the 70th anniversary of their Independence Day. Pray that our ever-creative God will break through the stalemate so the painstaking work of peacemaking can proceed. May God sustain his remnant Church in North Korea.

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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