Tuesday, November 27, 2018

RLPB 481. Nov Update, incl. CAR, Australia, Bulgaria, Egypt, Iran, Pakistan, Uzbekistan

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 481 | Wed 28 Nov 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)

- Elizabeth Kendal

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

* CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC (CAR) (RLPB 480), a French-speaking and majority Christian (76 percent) nation that in 2012 was flooded by mostly Arabic-speaking local and foreign militants [see RLPB 210 (15 May 2013)].  A large part of the country -- the north, centre and west -- remains under Islamic occupation to this day. It is widely accepted that these Islamic militants are being armed and funded by foreign powers whose aim it is to destabilise CAR so they might plunder its resources and 'open the road to radical Islam in the heart of Africa'. On 15 November militants from the mostly Fulani UPC (Union for Peace in Central African Republic) Islamic militia wrought devastation and perpetrated a massacre in the south-central town of Alindao. Overwhelmed and lacking a clear mandate, UN peacekeepers stationed in the town made no attempt to defend the civilian population. The CAR government is again appealing for the arms embargo that prohibits CAR from procuring weapons for its own military to be lifted.

UPDATE: WORLD IGNORES CHRISTIAN CRISIS IN CAR


Bishop of Alindao,
Mgr Cyr-Nestor Yapaupa
(pictured in May 2017)
The Bishop of Bangassou, Mgr Aguirre, has confirmed that the trigger for the massacre in Alindao was the killing of 'a Nigerian [i.e. foreign] mercenary'. Furthermore, whilst the UN has revised the death toll in the Alindao massacre to 'at least 60', unconfirmed sources claim the death toll could be more than 100. 

According to Mgr Aguirre, all NGOs have left Alindao; only the 'Bishop of Alindao and three priests who wanted to remain close to the population' remain and they are 'exhausted'. As Mgr Aguirre stressed, 'We cannot limit ourselves to denouncing these massacres. We need to get to the bottom of what is happening in Central Africa. Groups like the UPC are made up of foreign mercenaries who have occupied parts of our territory for 5 years. They are paid by some Gulf countries and led by some neighbouring African states. They enter [from] Chad through Birao [the capital of Vakaga prefecture in CAR's far north] with weapons sold to Saudi Arabia from the United States.' He accuses foreign powers of instigating religious conflict in CAR so they might plunder its resources and advance Islam through resource-rich CAR and into the equally resource-rich Democratic Republic of Congo. 'This,' he said, 'is the game that is behind the massacre of Alindao.'

click on map to enlarge

DAY OF LAMENTATION AND PRAYER: On Saturday 1 December CAR will mark the 60th anniversary of independence since the end of French colonial rule. Rather than celebrate, CAR's Church leaders have proposed that Sunday 2 December be a 'day of lamentation and prayer' in memory of all CAR's victims. All donations collected on that day -- the first Sunday of Advent -- will go to survivors. Please pray with and for the Church in CAR, lamenting this truly lamentable situation and pleading with the Lord for a merciful and powerful intervention.

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

* AUSTRALIA: HOSTILITY RISES

Australia does not have a positive right to religious freedom. Rather, religious freedom exists in negative terms, through exemptions in anti-discrimination law. In December 2017 the Australian parliament voted to legalise same-sex marriage. This triggered a debate on religious freedom which is exposing and fuelling anti-Christian hostility. This month, Christians Luke and Carla Burrell, announced that after 12 years of successful business, White magazine would cease publication. The popular bridal magazine became economically non-viable after LGBTQ activists -- who had realised that the magazine did not feature same-sex couples -- launched an aggressive campaign that drove off advertisers, frightened staff and included threats of physical harm (including a threat to torch the Burrell's home). Since its founding in September 2016, the Australia Christian Lobby's Human Rights Law Alliance has been involved in some 50 cases of Christians being subjected to 'lawfare' simply for exercising their faith. Please pray that the Australian Church will grow in faith, wisdom, boldness and grace as hostility rises and religious liberty faces challenges.

(For more on the situation in Australia, watch Religious Liberty Monitoring in coming days.)

* BULGARIA: RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN THE BALANCE

In mid-November the Bulgarian government in Sofia agreed to revise amendments to the Religious Denominations Act before the bill is put to a second reading. The first draft was so shockingly regressive that it drew prayer vigils and peaceful protests from all Christian denominations -- including the Bulgarian Orthodox Church -- as well as the Muslim and Jewish communities. Politicians have been criticised for attempting to deal with a national security matter -- the spread of jihadist and revolutionary Islam in Bulgaria -- through regressive, repressive religious legislation. The Act is now before the parliament and no vote has yet been taken. Christians in Bulgaria have pledged to continue their public prayer vigils and peaceful protests until the nation's lawmakers either withdraw the legislation or make substantive changes to it Please pray that the Lord will preserve religious freedom in Bulgaria 'in answer to the prayers of many' (2 Corinthians 1:10,11).

*EGYPT: ANOTHER MASSACRE IN MINYA


Mourners at Prince Tadros Church
 (3 Nov)
 In what looks like a repeat of  last year's Ascension Day massacre [RLPB 409 (31 May 2017)], seven Coptic Christians from one family (including two children) were killed and 14 injured when Islamic militants attacked Coptic Christians returning from a visit to the Monastery of St Samuel the Confessor in Minya, Upper Egypt. The terrorists -- four masked gunmen in a four-wheel-drive vehicle -- ambushed the convoy of two church buses on the desert road. While the larger bus managed to escape, the smaller bus was besieged. The massacre leaves Copts asking 'how can this happen to us twice?' and 'why hasn't this road been secured as the government promised?'  Please Pray for the Church in Egypt.

* IRAN: BELIEVERS MONITORED AND ARRESTED 

Behnam Ersali and Davood Rasooli, Iranian Christian converts from Karaj (50km west of Tehran) were arrested on 16 November.  According to Middle East Concern, the men had arranged to meet in Mashhad (900km east of Tehran), where Behnam was staying at a friend's house. However, it seems Iranian intelligence was monitoring the men, having intercepted their phone calls. The men were arrested before they could meet; Behnam in Mashhad and Davood in Karaj.  They remain in detention, their condition and whereabouts unknown. Friends suspect that Davood Rasooli is in solitary confinement and undergoing interrogation in Karaj's infamous, maximum security Rajai-Shahr Prison. As Rob Duncan, regional manager at Middle East Concern notes, 'It reveals how closely the Iranian authorities are monitoring the Christians.'  Please pray for Behnam Ersali, Davood Rasooli and all Iran's Christian prisoners. May Christ continue to build his Church in Iran.

* PAKISTAN: ASIA BIBI STILL WAITING


Islamists protest Supreme Court ruling.
One month ago [RLPB 479 (31 Oct)] Asia Bibi (47) was waiting for a decision from Pakistan's Supreme Court. Since then the court has acquitted her of blasphemy (31 October); the Islamists have staged mass protests and issued death threats; Pakistan's spineless Prime Minister has flip-flopped (first supporting the Supreme Court judges, before capitulating to appease and support the Islamists);  the judges have gone into hiding and Bibi's lawyer has fled to the Netherlands. As for Asia Bibi, she is stuck in Pakistan, forbidden to leave the country. In the face of her husband's pleas for assistance, the West is largely silent; indeed the UK only opened its mouth to reject the prospect of asylum. And all the while the threat facing Pakistan's Christian minority escalates. It is highly likely that the next time a Christian is accused of blasphemy, Islamists will encourage Muslims to by-pass the courts and kill the accused 'blasphemer' themselves. Pakistan is teetering on the brink of a major Christian Crisis. Please pray.

* UZBEKISTAN: PROTESTANTS UNDER PRESSURE

On 19 November police raided a private home in Pap, eastern Uzbekistan, arresting the eight Protestant believers gathered there for a meal and Bible reading. The believers were detained, questioned and forced to sign statements before being released at 3am. The raid was conducted without a warrant and only one of the 'police' wore a uniform.  The police seized Christian Bibles, booklets, DVD and CDs -- all of which had been purchased from the state-registered Bible Society of Uzbekistan. The believers are still waiting for news as to whether or not they are going to be charged with any offence.  A group of 31 Protestants who faced court in Tashkent on 30 October also had to contend with multiple violations of due process. Despite the irregularities, the local Protestants in the Tashkent case were fined between five and 20 times the minimum monthly wage, while the four South Koreans in the group were deported.  As Forum 18 reports, these are but two of many acts of harassment and persecution unleashed on believers by the police's Struggle with Extremism and Terrorism Department. Please pray for the Church in Uzbekistan.

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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, November 20, 2018

RLPB 480. Central African Republic (CAR): Massacre in Alindao

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 480 | Wed 21 Nov 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 (CAR): MASSACRE IN ALINDAO
-- Elizabeth Kendal

Bishop Blaise Mada (l) and
Rev Celestin Ngoumbango (r)
image: African Daily Voice )
On Thursday 15 November ex-Seleka Islamic militants perpetrated a massacre in Alindao, a south-central town some 300km east of the capital, Bangui. A front-line, mostly Christian town, Alindao is occupied by ethnic Peul (Fulani) Islamic militants belonging to the mostly Fulani UPS (Union for Peace in Central African Republic). According to reports, the massacre was retaliation for the killing of a Nigerian UPC militant by anti-balaka militiamen (local, non-Muslim vigilantes). The UPS militants looted and burned the Catholic Cathedral and attacked the Bishop's residence; Bishop Blaise Mada, Vicar General of the diocese of Alindao, was amongst those shot and killed there. The militants then attacked the Catholic mission camp -- home to some 20,000 displaced persons -- looting, burning and killing. Many who died there were burned alive in their tents as the camp was 'burned to the ground'. The charred remains of Rev Celestin Ngoumbango, the parish priest of the village of Mingala, were subsequently found there. Thousands have reportedly fled into the bush. The Most Rev Cyr-Nestor Yapaupa, Bishop of Alindao, is organising the evacuation of survivors to Bangui. To date, 48 people are confirmed dead, including the two priests and several other religious workers.

Devastation in Alindao
According to Father Mathieu Bondobo, the Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Bangui, threats before the attack received by Cyr-Nestor Yapaupa, the Bishop of Alindao, suggest the attacks were premeditated. Though Bishop Yapaupa notified UN peacekeepers, they did not defend the facilities or intervene. 'Everyone was left to their own devices,' he said. 'The rebels had time to do whatever they wanted. And they did.' Amos Boubas, a Central African priest who is studying in Rome, heard the same. 'From what I have been told by my contacts, the Blue Helmets of MINUSCA [UN peacekeepers] did not defend the population from the rebels who committed the assault in Alindao. At the arrival of the guerillas they went back to their base, leaving the population to their fate of death and destruction.'

click on map to enlarge
Just two weeks earlier, on 31 October, a clash erupted between anti-balaka and ex-Seleka Islamic militants in the north-western town of Batangafo, some 380km due north of Bangui. A front-line, mostly Christian town, Batangafo is occupied by Islamic militants belonging to the MPC (Patriotic Movement for the Central African Republic), a splinter of the FPRC (Patriotic Front for the Renaissance in the Central African Republic). The clash resulted in one Islamic fighter being admitted to hospital. MPC militants retaliated by looting and burning thousands of homes, three camps hosting 27,000 displaced persons, a market in the city and a chapel. Around 20 people were injured; some with gunshot wounds, most with burns. More than 10,000 people sought shelter in the town's hospital; 5,000 remain there, too fearful to leave. 'It was like a horror scene,' says Helena Cardellach, MSF (Doctors Without Borders) Field Coordinator in Batangafo. 'We saw hundreds of households in flames. It was awful.' According to the UN, 'The fire destroyed more than 5,100 tents as well as the market and caused the displacement of around 30,000 people.'

In December 2017 Russia secured an exemption to the Security Council arms embargo, allowing Moscow to deliver arms to the CAR military and train its soldiers to fight the jihadists, many of whom are foreigners, mostly from Chad and Sudan. Russia is also spearheading mediation efforts; it is assistance for which the Church in CAR is deeply grateful. Unfortunately, Russian assistance to the CAR government has triggered an arms race as Islamist factions also up-the-ante. Like most Islamic jihadists, the jihadists controlling much of CAR are merely proxies of external powers: transnational criminals, war profiteers, Islamist networks and foreign governments whose interests and 'secret agendas' necessitate the destabilisation of states. As His Excellency, Mgr Juan Jose Aguirre Munos, Bishop of Bangassou, rightly notes, 'foreign forces want to make Central Africans fight each other in order to get their hands on the wealth of the country and open the road to radical Islam in the heart of Africa'.


PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY FOR GOD TO

* sever the Islamic jihadists' lines of supply so they might be starved of funds and deprived of weapons and foreign fighters; may the plots of those who seek CAR's ruin be thwarted. 'Break the arm [strength, mechanism of action] of the wicked and evildoer; call his wickedness to account till you find none.' (from Psalm 10)

* intervene for the benefit of CAR, and especially for CAR's suffering Church; may all suffering be redeemed; may the devil have no victory here.

* protect and comfort CAR's suffering Church; abandoned by the world, may she be lifted up and encouraged by the prayers of the Body of Christ. May the Lord supply her every need and deliver her from evil.


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

On 15 November Islamic militants rampaged through the south-central town of Alindao. They looted and torched the Catholic Cathedral and killed the bishop in his residence. They then attacked the Catholic mission camp -- home to some 20,000 displaced persons -- burning it to the ground. The body of a local priest was found amongst the dead. To date, 48 are confirmed dead. Two weeks earlier, violence by Islamic militants in the north-western town of Batangafo left 20 wounded, while thousands of homes, a market, a chapel and three refugee camps housing 27,000 people were looted and burned. Foreign forces are working to destabilise CAR so they might steal its resources and 'open the road to radical Islam in the heart of Africa'. Please pray for CAR 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