Tuesday, October 15, 2019

RLPB 524. SYRIA: Chaos Unleashed; Christians Imperilled

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 524 | 16 Oct 2019
RLPB is published weekly to facilitate strategic intercessory prayer.

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SYRIA: CHAOS UNLEASHED; CHRISTIANS IMPERILED
-- an extended RLPB
by Elizabeth Kendal

BACKGROUND: In July 2012 the Syrian government withdrew its armed forces from the north-east so it might concentrate its war effort in the west, in particular, the north-south Damascus-Aleppo corridor. As explained in After Saturday Comes Sunday, 'the Syrian Kurds exploited the opportunity afforded them by the SAA [Syrian Arab Army] withdrawal to carve out an autonomous region in the north-east. President Assad made no effort to rein in the Syrian Kurds, not simply because he was focused on securing the west, but because he knew that Kurdish empowerment would threaten and distract nemesis Turkey which was hosting rebel bases, arming and training rebel fighters and facilitating their entrance into Syria to fight the Syrian government.' (Excerpt from After Saturday Comes Sunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East, Wipf and Stock, Eugene, OR, USA, June 2016, p 151.) In short: Damascus permitted Kurdish empowerment as a bulwark against belligerent Turkey -- no surprise there. However, when the US (Obama administration) decided in 2014 to use the Kurds as proxies against the Islamic State (IS) -- thereby further empowering the Kurds -- Turkey was furious. Turkey -- which has facilitated the entry into Syria of thousands of transnational Islamic jihadists from its side of the border -- was never going to tolerate the presence of PKK-linked Kurdish nationalist militants on the Syrian side of the border, on the grounds that it would pose a threat to Turkey's national security.

NOTE: the Kurd-Arab-Christian Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) is dominated by the YPG which, as the Syrian arm of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), is Kurdish nationalist and anything but democratic [see RLPB 477, Assyrian Crisis in Iraq and Syria, 17 Oct 2018].

Turkey has been talking about invading northern Syria for well over 18 months. When the mostly Kurdish city of Afrin, about 45km north-west of Aleppo, fell to Turkish forces and their jihadist allies in March 2018 it was quickly ethnically-religiously cleansed of all Kurds and Christians in Turkey's 'Operation Olive Branch'. At that time, Turkey's President Erdogan expressed his intention to extend his control 'all the way to the Iraq border' [see RLPB 447 (21 March 2018)]. Erdogan then set his sights on Manbij, 90km north-east of Aleppo. In order to stop the Turkish advance, the US brokered the 'Manbij Roadmap', in which the US agreed to facilitate the removal of all YPG elements from the strategic city of Manbij. The deal, however, was never implemented. Now, 18 months down the track, the Battle for Manbij -- stage one in the war for northern Syria -- is about to commence.

Syria, December 2018 (circled: Afrin and Manbij)
click on map to enlarge.
-------------------------------
CHAOS UNLEASHED

On Saturday 5 October Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened that, since the US has not fulfilled its promise to remove Kurdish YPG 'terrorists' from Manbij, Turkey will take matters into its own hands and launch a unilateral invasion east of the Euphrates 'as soon as today or tomorrow'. On Sunday 6 October US President Donald Trump issued a statement clarifying that the US 'will not support or be involved in the [Turkish] operation', adding that, if Turkey invades northern Syria, it will then be 'responsible for all ISIS fighters captured over the past two years'.

Turkey's threat set up a scenario in which US troops would find themselves positioned in between their anti-IS proxies (PKK-linked Kurds) and their belligerent NATO ally (terror-sponsor Turkey). On Monday 7 October President Trump ordered the withdrawal of the roughly 50 US troops stationed in observation posts on the Syrian border. In the coming weeks around 1,000 US troops will be withdrawn from Syria, leaving some 150 US soldiers stationed in the southern base of Al Tanf near the borders with Jordan and Iraq. According to reports, some residual US troops have also been positioned south of Manbij. President Trump made it clear that if Turkey behaves badly, the US will respond with crippling sanctions. On Wednesday 9 October Turkish troops crossed into Syria, launching 'Operation Peace Spring'.

click on map to enlarge
Turkey has been shelling border towns -- from Kobani to Qamishli -- knocking out infrastructure, killing and wounding while displacing hundreds of thousands of residents. Images have emerged showing Turkish-backed Islamic militants executing civilians, including journalists and Kurdish female politician Hevrin Khalaf (35). Responding to the carnage, US President Donald Trump ended talks on a US-Turkey trade deal he valued at US$100 billion and re-imposed tariffs of 50 percent on Turkish steel.

By Monday 14 October Russia had brokered a deal between the Kurds and the Syrian government which immediately deployed the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) north to 'confront the Turkish aggression'. After more than seven years, the Syrian government is back in the north-east. Images have emerged of Kurds and others welcoming the SAA troops. By Monday night (14 October) the SAA was in Manbij to support the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in a battle against the Turkey-backed jihadists amassing around the city in preparation for war. Russian troops are patrolling the territory separating the Turkish-backed militants from the SAA-backed Kurdish troops. Turkey's moves will drive a wedge between Ankara and Moscow and possibly shatter the Ankara-Moscow-Tehran axis. Denouncing Turkey's invasion as 'unacceptable', Russia has opened 'real time' negotiations between Ankara and Damascus. As one analyst observes: 'Turkey stands in splendid isolation' and will soon be 'joining Saudi Arabia as a fallen angel in the Beltway'.

CHRISTIANS IMPERILLED

Syriac soldiers with the SDF
pray before deployment.
"Our duty is to protect our land."
According to Bassam Ishak, president of the Syriac National Council of Syria, Turkey's shelling of border towns is putting the lives of some 40,000 to 50,000 Christians at risk. Christians have already been killed in Ras el-Ain and Qamishli. As Ishak rightly notes, this is pure ethnic cleansing as Turkey's plan in setting up its 'safe zone' is to replace the Kurdish and Assyrian population with some two million Syrian Arab refugees currently resident in Turkey. According to Dale Gavlac (15 October), 'Christians and other religious minorities said they feel particularly vulnerable as Turkish artillery targeted a predominantly Christian neighbourhood in Qamishli, the largest city in north-eastern Syria.'  The Turkish bombing has already created a humanitarian crisis; in particular, the A'louk water station is now out of service, leaving some 400,000 residents without water.

With no choice but to confront the Turkish invasion, SDF fighters are abandoning their posts at key prisons and camps housing some 12,000 IS fighters, some 4,000 IS women and over 8,000 children. Amidst Turkish bombardment, prisoners attacked guards at the Ain Issa camp (55km north of Ar-Raqqah), enabling 785 relatives of IS jihadists to escape.

Christians in Syria's far north are today imperilled not only from an aggressive Turkish military and its jihadist proxies, but also from a resurgent IS (itself a Turkey-Saudi creation). Thousands of Christians are again on the move. Emanuel Youkhana, a priest of the Assyrian Church of the East who administers Christian Aid Program Northern Iraq in Dohuk, told Catholic News Service that he is expecting a new wave of refugees as Assyrians flee east from Syria's Hasakah Province to Iraqi Kurdistan.

PLEASE PRAY THAT OUR ALMIGHTY GOD WILL

* intervene to protect, preserve and sustain his precious Church in Syria and across Mesopotamia; may all who seek her demise be frustrated; may their plots come to nought.

'Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by. I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me.' (Psalm 57:1-2 ESV)

'But my eyes are toward you, O God, my Lord; in you I seek refuge; leave me not defenseless! Keep me from the trap that they have laid for me and from the snares of evildoers! Let the wicked fall into their own nets, while I pass by safely.' (Psalm 141:8-10 ESV)

* intervene to rescue his people, provide all their needs and 'work [all things] together for good for those who are called according to his purpose' (Romans 8:28 ESV).

'The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous and his ears toward their cry. The face of the Lord is against those who do evil, to cut off the memory of them from the earth. When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the broken-hearted and saves the crushed in spirit.' (Psalm 34:15-18 ESV)


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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SYRIA: CHAOS UNLEASHED; CHRISTIANS IMPERILLED

America's belligerent NATO ally, terror-sponsor Turkey, has essentially declared war against America's anti-Islamic State proxy (PKK-linked Kurds). The US might have withdrawn, but the Syrian government has returned. On 14 October Russia brokered a deal between the Kurds and the Syrian government which immediately deployed troops to 'confront Turkish aggression'. Denouncing the Turkish invasion as 'unacceptable', Russia has deployed troops in between the Turkey-backed jihadists and the Syria-backed Kurds on the front-line in Manbij. Meanwhile, Turkey's bombing of Syrian border towns has created a humanitarian crisis and is threatening the lives of some 40,000 to 50,000 Christians. It has also allowed nearly 800 Islamic State fighters to escape from a camp north of ar-Raqqah. Assyrian Christians are again on the move, this time heading east to Iraqi Kurdistan. 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, October 8, 2019

Indonesia's Papuan Provinces: Looming Nationalist Jihad

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 523 | 09 Oct 2019
RLPB is published weekly to facilitate strategic intercessory prayer.

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)


INDONESIA'S PAPUAN PROVINCES: LOOMING NATIONALIST JIHAD
by Elizabeth Kendal

BACKGROUND: The current crisis engulfing the Papuans began on 15-17 August with a racist incident in Surabaya, East Java. Sick of racial-religious hatred and persecution, Papuans protested across Indonesia [RLPB 517 (28 Aug)]. In response, the Indonesian government deployed thousands of extra troops, mostly Javanese Muslims, to the mainly Melanesian Christian Papuan provinces [RLPB 519 (10 Sep)]. Since then, violence has escalated, with the worst violence seen for years occurring in Wamena on Monday 23 September [RLPB 521 (25 Sep)]. Most of the 33 people who died in the Wamena riots were Muslim migrants. Local native Papuans risked their lives saving non-natives from the marauding highlanders they described as 'outsiders', who were 'not recognised'. The question of who instigated the violence remains unanswered. It is not unreasonable to suggest that the Indonesian military may have provoked the violence with the aim of triggering a conflict, thereby establishing a pretext for a full-scale military crackdown [Update on Papua RLPB 522 (2 Oct)].

UPDATE: Of the 33 fatalities in Wamena on 23 September, only 4 were native Papuan. The settlers, who died at the hands of the invading Papuan highlanders, died either in fires or from bladed weapons. Meanwhile, locals have provided the names of 65 native Papuans treated for bullet wounds, having been shot by Indonesian security personnel. Numerous groups, including Human Rights Watch, are calling for a full and independent investigation into the Wamena riots and for independent monitors to be admitted. Meanwhile, as expected, several Java-based jihadist groups are calling for jihad in the Papuan provinces.

PAPUAN PROVINCES: LOOMING NATIONALIST JIHAD

recruiting for Papua jihad

Islam Jihad Front (FJI) and Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) have both begun raising funds and enlisting recruits for jihad in the Papuan provinces. A banner at an FJI recruitment post reads: 'Islamic Jihad Front opens registration for Islamic paramilitary groups throughout Indonesia to send Islamic holy war fighters/militias [jihad qital] to Wamena, Papua, to defend Muslim brothers in Papua who were [being] slaughtered by the warring infidels [kafir harby] and to maintain the integrity of the NKRI [Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia] from the OPM [Organisasi Papua Merdeka / Free Papua Movement] separatist hordes.'

According to Indonesian human rights researcher, Andreas Harsono (7 Oct), several 'aggressive', Islamist groups already have a foothold in the Papuan provinces. 'We have one in Sorong; we are also seeing Laskar Jihad, a militant Muslim group, setting up a base in Keerom; also in Wamena ...' Previously, on 5 September, Defence Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu informed members of the House of Representatives, 'There is a group affiliated with the Islamic State [operating] in Papua that has called for a jihad there.' National Police spokesman Brig.-Gen. Dedi Prasetyo confirmed Ryamizard's statement and identified the IS-affiliated group as Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD) -- the group believed to be responsible for a string of terror attacks in and around Surabya, including suicide-bombings at three churches on Sunday 13 May 2018.

Critically, on 26 September, the Indonesian parliament quietly passed a controversial law on Management of National Resources (PSDN) for National Defence. Chapter 4, Article 27 makes it legal for the Indonesian military to mobilise civilian forces for national defence. Consequently, the Papua jihad will be fought under the banner of Indonesian unity and nationalism with Islamic jihadist and merah putih (red and white, ultra-nationalist) militias fighting ostensibly -- and more importantly, legally -- to 'maintain the integrity of the NKRI' (the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia). No longer proxies, the militias -- which will be known as 'Reserve Components' and 'Supporting Components' -- will now fight alongside and in open co-operation with the Indonesian military. This will all be totally legal as long as the fight is against 'separatists' -- as distinct from predominantly Christian (infidel/kafir) indigenous Papuans ('monkeys'). [For more detail see Indonesia: Mobilizing  Civilian Militias for National Defense, Religious Liberty Monitoring (9 Oct 2019).]  Of course, defending the unity of Indonesia is a very Islamic cause, for as far as Islam is concerned, all Indonesia -- including the Papuan provinces -- is part of the dar al-Islam (House of Islam). As one activist ominously warns, 'The possibility that all this could turn into a widespread, government-supported, ethnic cleansing in the guise of a religious war is now very real.'


PLEASE PRAY THAT OUR ALMIGHTY GOD WILL

* pour out an abundance of grace, courage and wisdom on all Indonesian, especially Papuan, Christian leaders -- those in civic administration and those in the Church; may they raise a prophetic voice against injustice, greed and violence; may they lead God's people wisely and may all efforts at peacemaking be blessed.

* shield, sustain and preserve his faithful Church in the Papuan provinces; may humanitarian aid be delivered; may international observers be admitted; may security be restored and may faith and freedom be respected.

* intervene for his betrayed and abandoned people, in what is first and foremost a spiritual battle (Ephesians 6:12) of David and Goliath proportions.

'May the Lord answer you in the day of trouble! May the name of the God of Jacob protect you! May he send you help from the sanctuary and give you support from Zion! ... Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.' (Excerpts, Psalm 20 ESV, a Psalm of David, and a prayer for the Papuan provinces)


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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LOOMING NATIONALIST JIHAD IN INDONESIA'S PAPUAN PROVINCES

Several Java-based Islamic organisations -- including the Islam Jihad Front and Islamic Defenders Front -- are openly recruiting fighters for a jihad in Indonesia's Papuan provinces. Several other groups -- including Laskar Jihad and the Islamic-State affiliate Jamaah Ansharut Daulah -- already have bases in the region. On 26 September the Indonesian parliament passed a controversial law that gives the military permission to mobilise civilian forces for national defence. Consequently, instead of functioning as proxies of the Indonesian military, Islamic jihadi and merah putih (red and white, ultra-nationalist) militias will now be able to fight openly and legally in co-operation with the Indonesian military to defend the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia from 'separatists', by which they mean the ethnic Melanesian and mostly Christian indigenous Papuans. 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, October 1, 2019

RLPB 522. India: the Battle for Himachal Pradesh

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 522 | 02 Oct 2019
RLPB is published weekly to facilitate strategic intercessory prayer.

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: THE BATTLE FOR HIMACHAL PRADESH
-- plus an update on PAPUA
by Elizabeth Kendal

Switzerland?
No, it is Christ Church Shimla,
in India's Himachal Pradesh. 
Perched high in the Himalayan mountains, bordering Tibet and Kashmir, is the north Indian state of Himachal Pradesh (HP). Its capital, Shimla, once served as the summer capital of British India. Behind the spectacular scenic beauty -- which gives witness to God's 'eternal power and divine nature' (Romans 1:18-23) -- dark spiritual forces have staked a claim. Known as Devbhumi -- the land of the gods -- HP is a centre of Hindu pilgrimage. Indeed, this land in which every mountain is named after a god is full of idols and idolatry. HP is also home to more than 100,000 Tibetan Buddhist refugees who, like high-caste Hindus, are immensely resistant to spiritual breakthrough. That said, Indian missionaries working in HP have been planting churches, establishing ministries and witnessing real growth. However, in a state that is 95 percent Hindu and only 0.2 percent Christian, a state in which only 15 of 115 people groups have congregations of believers, there is clearly much work to do -- work that is becoming ever more costly.

click on map to enlarge
In December 2006 the HP state legislature -- dominated at the time by the supposedly secular Indian National Congress (INC) -- passed the Himachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion Bill 2006, making HP the first Congress-led state to enact an anti-conversion law. In August 2012 the HP High Court struck down portions of the Bill judged to be in violation of the constitution. On 30 August 2019 the HP legislature -- now dominated by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) -- unanimously (i.e., with Congress support) passed the HP Freedom of Religion Bill 2019 [full text - pdf]. Introduced by Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur, the 2019 Bill replaces the 2006 Bill, broadening its scope, restoring unconstitutional provisions previously struck down by the High Court and increasing its punishments.

The 2019 law mandates that, 'no person shall convert or attempt to convert, either directly or otherwise, any person from one religion to another by use of misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, inducement or by fraudulent means or by marriage; nor shall any person abet or conspire such conversion.' However, 'if a person re-converts to his parent religion it shall not be deemed a conversion under this Act.' Furthermore, any person wanting to convert must first give one month's notice to the district magistrate, stating that they are converting of their own free will. Likewise, a priest intending to perform a conversion ceremony/event will also need to give a month's notice in advance. 'Inducement' is defined in the Bill as the 'offer of any temptation in the form of any gift or gratification or material benefit, either in cash or kind or employment, free education in a reputed school run by any religious body, easy money, better lifestyle, divine pleasure or otherwise.' So presumably all claims of 'free will' will be challenged! Anyone who 'abets or conspires such conversion' faces a prison term of one to five years. If the convert is a woman, a minor or a Dalit (the lowest group in India's Hindu caste system, formerly known as 'untouchables'), then the jail term will be between two and seven years. Offences committed under the Act are non-bailable. The HP government insists that the Bill is needed to preserve a 'peaceful atmosphere' and check 'forced religious conversions' which are allegedly 'on the rise' in the state.

Members of the Hindu nationalist
Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP)
chant 'Christian missionary go back'
outside a prayer meeting in
Sunder Nagar District, 14 Sept 2019.
As the president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) Sajan K George laments, anti-conversion laws only serve to introduce suspicion and hostility into communities that had previously co-existed in peace. Indeed, on 14 September a group of around 150 Hindu nationalist activists managed to shut down a prayer meeting taking place in a private guest house in HP's Sunder Nagar District. The activists protested, chanting anti-Christians slogans including 'Christian missionary go back'. As police attempted to calm the situation a government official arrived and insisted the Christians produce a document proving they had permission for the 'event'. Although organiser Amar Singh explained that the 'event' was just an ordinary prayer meeting comprising scripture readings and prayers and that no conversions were taking place, it was in vain. Because the Christians could not produce any such document, the 'event' was shut down. Christian witness in HP is about to become very costly.

Himachal Pradesh: 'the heights of the mountains are his' (from Psalm 95)


PLEASE PRAY THAT OUR ALMIGHTY GOD WILL

* awaken Indians to the repressive and unreasonable nature of anti-conversion laws; may they be awakened to the fact that the freedoms being lost are their own freedoms; instead of rejecting peaceful co-existence and freedom, may they reject intolerant communalism and those who fuel it.

'For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood but ... against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore ...' pray! (from Ephesians 6:12-18 ESV)

* graciously pour out his Holy Spirit in Himachal Pradesh to break through the darkness that prevents Indians from seeing and embracing the God of Creation who holds in his hand 'the depths of the earth' and 'the heights of the mountains'; may their love for the mountains translate into worship of him who made them. (Psalm 95).

* comfort, encourage, sustain and preserve the Church in Himachal Pradesh: may all Christian pastors, evangelists, lay-workers and faithful believers be graced with divine wisdom to navigate the increasingly difficult path before them; may they have boldness and faith to continue the mission of proclaiming truth, life and light in a land in the grip of untruth, idolatry and darkness.

'In [Jesus] was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.' (from John 1:1-5 ESV)


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
------------------------------------------------------------
THE BATTLE FOR HIMACHAL PRADESH (in INDIA)
'the heights of the mountains are his' (from Psalm 95)

Perched in the Himalayan mountains is the north Indian state of Himachal Pradesh (HP), also known as Devbhumi (the land of the gods) and its capital, Shimla. Behind the scenic beauty lurks a reality of deep spiritual darkness. Whilst Indian missionaries have done amazing work bringing truth, life and light into HP, there remains much work to do – HP is still only 0.2 percent Christian. On 30 August HP's Hindu nationalist-led state government, backed by the supposedly secular Congress, unanimously passed a shockingly repressive anti-conversion law that will fuel persecution and drive Christian witness underground. On 15 September Hindu nationalists shut down a prayer meeting in a private guest house. A new era of escalating persecution is just beginning. Please pray for India and its Christians.

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PAPUA: Update to RLPB 521 (25 Sep) and RLPB 519 (10 Sep)

Native Papuans helping non-natives,
Wamena, 23 Sept 2019
The death toll from the Monday 23 September riots in Wamena has risen to 33. Most of the dead were non-natives; nine were migrants from West Sumatra. More than 80 shops owned by migrant workers from West Sumatra were burnt. Reports have emerged of native Papuans rescuing, assisting, escorting and guarding non-natives, as rioters -- described as 'outsiders' who were 'not recognised' -- wreaked havoc, primarily targeting non-natives. A mass exodus is now underway, with non-natives fearing more violence, and native Papuans fearing 'reprisals'. Almost all schools and most shops in Wamena remain closed. More than 6,700 residents taking refuge in evacuation sites in Wamena are urgently in need of humanitarian aid. The Air Force has already evacuated some 2,670 residents, while a further 10,000 are waiting to be airlifted out. Meanwhile, security forces reportedly are 'sweeping' their way towards Wamena.

Native Papuans helping non-natives,
Wamena, 23 Sept 2019
President Joko Widodo has expressed willingess to dialogue with Papuan leaders. However, Papuan Church leaders suspect that Indonesian forces are working hard to transform a 'vertical conflict' (Indonesian government v Papuans) into a 'horizontal conflict' pitting native Papuans against migrants. The result could be an influx of the jihadist and merah putih (red and white / Indonesian nationalist) militias which have long served as proxies of Indonesian security forces. This scenario is reminiscent of the conflict that wracked eastern Indonesia's Maluku islands through 1999-2001, which the security forces used to bring down reformist president Abdurrahman Wahid (Gus Dur). Please watch and pray.

'For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also... Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!' (from Psalm 95).

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

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 24, 2019

RLPB 521. Sept. Update incl. Nigeria, Papua, Ethiopia, Algeria, Burkina Faso, India, Iraq, Nepal

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 521 | Wed 25 Sep 2019
RLPB is published weekly to facilitate strategic intercessory prayer.

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

SEPTEMBER 2019 UPDATE -- during this period we prayed concerning

* NIGERIA (RLPB 518), where a deeply traumatising Christian crisis, that has its roots in the Saudi-led revival of fundamentalist, imperialistic, militant, Wahhabi Islam, is being perpetuated and fuelled by systemic high-level corruption.

Pastor Elisha Noma, cut,
burned and with a
broken hand.
(Morning Star News)
UPDATE: In RLPB 518 it was reported that Baptist pastor Elisha Noma (abducted by Fulani herdsmen on 14 August) had been 'released unharmed' on 31 August upon payment of ransom. However, in a subsequent interview with Morning Star News (MSN) Pastor Noma (60) revealed that he certainly was not released 'unharmed' as reported in Nigerian media. To extract ransom, Pastor Noma's Fulani captors phoned his family and then beat, cut and burned their hostage in the hearing of his loved ones. [This method of extracting ransom is reminiscent of that used by human traffickers in Egypt's Sinai region.] Since being released Pastor Noma has received medical treatment for cuts, burns and a broken hand. MSN reports: 'In August alone, more than 40 pastors in Nigeria were either kidnapped or suffered some form of violence from herdsmen or Boko Haram terrorists, according to figures obtained from CAN [Christian Association of Nigeria].' Pastors are particularly vulnerable because of their profession and their distinctive clothing. Please pray.

'I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.' (Psalm 121:1,2 ESV)

* WEST PAPUA & PAPUA (INDONESIA) (RLPB 519), lamenting the Christian crisis in eastern Indonesia and the betrayal and abandonment of a Christian people. 'Unlike their Melanesian brothers and sisters throughout the Pacific, the Papuans were denied the right to self-determination.' Instead, in 1969 Dutch New Guinea (comprising today's West Papua and Papua Provinces) was officially incorporated into Muslim Indonesia. 'It has been all downhill since then.' Papuan protests against racial-religious hatred erupted in mid-August. Indonesia's deployment of thousands of extra Indonesian police and soldiers into West Papua and Papua has only emboldened the 'merah putih' (red and white / Indonesian nationalist) and jihadist militias which serve as proxies of the Indonesian security forces.

UPDATES:

(1) DEATH IN ILAGA, CENTRAL HIGHLANDS


Papuan mother shot in chest in Ilaga.
On Tuesday 17 September at least seven Papuan civilians were shot -- three fatally -- when Indonesian soldiers raided a Dani community in Puncak regency's Ilaga district in search of 'rebels'. Local witnesses told advocates in Australia that while a woman pictured with a bullet wound to her chest survived, the toddler she had been holding was killed, as was her 10-year-old. According to West Papuan sources, the attack was perpetrated by Indonesian police and military using ground forces and helicopters. According to the Indonesian military, the Papuans attacked the soldiers, shooting wildly, injuring locals in the process. Photos have emerged purportedly showing Dani huts engulfed in flames.

(2) DEATH IN JAYAPURA
In recent days, Cendrawasih University auditorium has provided temporary shelter for some 300 Papuan students who have returned home from colleges outside of Papua where they no longer felt safe. On Monday 23 September Indonesian security forces ordered the students leave the auditorium. When the students refused, the security forces besieged and then stormed the auditorium. They then forced the students into trucks that transferred them to the Waena Museum and Arts Centre. Students report, 'We were brutally attacked the minute we arrived at the museum.' At least two students were shot dead, while ten required hospitalisation. One soldier died after being struck on the head with a bladed weapon.

(3) DEATH IN WAMENA, CENTRAL HIGHLANDS
Wamena from the air.
Violence erupted in Wamena, Jayawijaya regency, on Monday 23 September, as Papuan school students protested a fresh incident of racist abuse in which an Indonesian teacher allegedly referred to a Papuan student as a 'monkey'. According to the Speaker of the Papua People's Assembly, Timotius Murib, the student protest was 'infiltrated by provocateurs' who instigated a riot. At least 17 people were killed and more than 65 seriously wounded. According to Wamena commander Lt. Col. Chandra Diyanto, the victims died after either being stabbed with sharp weapons or set on fire. Amateur video shows numerous buildings engulfed in flames, including government offices and the airport, while photos on social media show Papuan students shot, wounded and bleeding. According to the Indonesian military, reports that a teacher had referred to a student as a 'monkey' were a 'hoax', as are reports that soldiers have shot students.

It is absolutely urgent that the Indonesian government allow international observers into Indonesia's West Papua and Papua provinces. Please pray.

'The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.' (John 10:10 ESV)

* ETHIOPIA (RLPB 520), after members of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church took to the streets in major cities across Amhara Region to protest peacefully about the escalating ethno-religious violence that has seen more than 30 churches burned in the past 13 months. We also prayed concerning the rising risk posed by Islamic State in Somalia (ISS) after it released a 3-minute propaganda video with Amharic subtitles.

UPDATE: On Saturday 21 September, Ethiopia's National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) disclosed that at least ten suspected Islamic terrorists were in custody after the NISS foiled attacks by both al-Shabaab and Islamic State in Somalia (ISS). The alleged terrorists had reportedly been preparing to launch attacks on hotels, government institutions and popular religious gatherings in the capital Addis Ababa and other areas of the country. Praise God these plots were uncovered and thwarted. Please continue to pray that God would complete the good work he has begun in Ethiopia.

* ERITREA (RLPB 520), after the regime -- which recently confiscated all Catholic-run health clinics -- ordered that all religious schools be handed over to government authorities. Please pray.


SEPTEMBER 2019 ROUND-UP -- also this month

* ALGERIA

(1) UPDATE REGARDING CHURCH CLOSURE
In RLPB 517 it was reported that the Prince of Peace church in Ighzer Amokrane, Tizi Ouzou Province, had managed to resist closure. When police arrived on 26 August to close the church they faced resistance from some 200 praying believers, the president of the Protestant alliance (EPA), and the EPA's attorney who informed the police the order was not valid as it had not been issued by a court. Ultimately the police were forced to retreat [see RLPB 517 (28 Aug)]. UPDATE: the police returned at 6:45am on Monday 2 September. Taken unawares, the church has now been sealed shut. Please pray for wisdom and grace.

(2) ALGERIA'S PROTESTANT CHURCH DEEMED SUBVERSIVE
Algeria's Protestant Church is facing escalating pressure, much of which may be politically motivated. On Sunday 15 September Algeria's interim president announced that the presidential election – originally scheduled for April, and then July -- will go ahead on 12 December. Fearing that the election process could be corrupted, Algeria's protesters had demanded that the old regime be removed and political reforms be enacted before elections were held. That has not happened and consequently, protests have resumed. The regime is not impressed! This is the context in which persecution is escalating. [For more background see RLPB 449 (4 April 2018).] On 28 August Algeria's Minister of Interior, as head of the National Security Committee, issued an order instructing regional governors and security heads to investigate the financial activities of non-traditional religious groups -- specifically Protestants and two radical Islamic groups. The order describes the Protestant Church as a radical movement with a 'vicious plan ... supported by foreign parties' ... to spread 'destructive ideas'. Please pray.

* BURKINA FASO: UPTICK IN JIHADIST ACTIVITY

Both al-Qaeda's Group for Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM) and Islamic State's West Africa Province (ISWA) have claimed responsibility for a string of terror attacks in Burkina Faso in recent weeks. The attacks have targeted military bases and operations, Burkinabe soldiers have been killed and large quantities of weapons and ammunition stolen. There have also been several incidents where vehicles have driven over improvised explosive devices (IEDs), resulting in mass deaths. The escalation of terrorist violence does not bode well for Burkina Faso or her Church which suffered a string of targeted terror attacks earlier this year. Please pray.

* INDIA: ANOTHER WAY TO LIMIT CONVERSIONS

On Monday 16 September India's Home Affairs ministry announced restrictive amendments to the Foreigners Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA). The current minister for Home Affairs is Amit Shah, the president of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). As reported by the Economic Times, the amended Act requires that each functionary and member of a non-government organisation (NGO) seeking registration under the FCRA will have to file an affidavit declaring that the individual has not been involved in any act of religious conversion or prosecuted for communal disharmony. According to the new rules, the affidavit will have to be executed by 'each office-bearer and functionary and member individually on non-judicial stamp paper of Rs 10 and attested by notary public.' Under the 2011 rules only top office-bearers of NGOs were required to sign an affidavit when seeking public grants. Sajan K George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians, fears Christian NGOs -- including those run by local churches and missions which operate schools and clinics across the country -- will be 'selectively targeted' and their FCRA 'registration cancelled and their bank accounts frozen'. It is just another way to limit conversions. Please pray.

* NEPAL: NEPALESE PASTOR FORCED INTO HIDING


RED: Chitwan 
In March, Pastor Sukdev Giri (59) of Trinity Fellowship Church in Chitwan District (on Nepal's southern border with India) participated on a panel at the International Christian Media Workers Summit in Kathmandu. During the panel discussion, Pastor Giri was asked to explain the belief systems most prevalent in Nepal, which he did. The session was filmed, but only made available to Christian media workers. By mid-August the footage had been leaked and was freely available on YouTube. Nepalese Hindu nationalists now accuse Pastor Giri of being anti-Hindu. Due to death threats he now cannot return home but instead has been forced into hiding. Meanwhile, his family and friends are also receiving threatening phone calls. Please pray.

* USCIRF HEARING THURSDAY 26 SEPTEMBER: IRAQ

War has left Iraq's indigenous Assyrian community decimated, displaced, destitute and traumatised. While a remnant would like to return to their lands, gross insecurity amidst a massive land-grab by Sunni Kurds and Shi'ite Shabaks backed by Baghdad and Tehran is making this impossible [see RLPBs 507 (19 June) and 493 (13 March)]. As Chaldean Primate Cardinal Louis Raphael Sako notes, two years after liberation, 'only one per cent of the displaced has returned to Telkief and Batnaya'. He wants all armed groups withdrawn from the Nineveh Plain and security enforced by a federal police force incorporating locals. On Thursday 26 September the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) will conduct a hearing titled Religious Minorities' Fight to Remain in Iraq. [For more details see the press release on the USCIRF website.] It is hoped the hearing will shed light on how to help 'vulnerable populations return, rebuild, and remain'. Please pray for Thursday's hearing which will be live-streamed and available on the USCIRF website. Please pray for the Church in Iraq.

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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 17, 2019

RLPB 520. Ethiopia: Church Protests -- Watershed Days

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 520 | 18 Sep 2019
RLPB is published weekly to facilitate strategic intercessory prayer.

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: CHURCH PROTESTS -- WATERSHED DAYS
-- plus update on Eritrea
by Elizabeth Kendal

Gondar protests, 15 Sept 2019
'Uptick in church burnings raises alarm in Ethiopia',
(Photo credit: Tewodrose Tirfe, Amhara Association of America)

On Sunday 15 September millions of members of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church took to the streets in cities across Ethiopia's Amhara region to protest escalating violence against the Church. While marches were banned in Addis Ababa, massive marches went ahead peacefully and without incident in numerous cities including Dessie, Gondar, Debretabor, Meket, Kombolcha, Nefas Mewucha, Mekane Eyesus, Mekane Selam and Belesa. Communal ethno-religious violence has skyrocketed since Prime Minister Abiy Amhed commenced a series of bold reforms aimed at ending decades of repression. While PM Abiy is working hard to promote peace, facilitate reconciliation and draw people together in a prosperous, strong and united Ethiopia, vengeful and ambitious ethno-religious nationalists are dragging the nation in the opposite direction: into conflict and towards disintegration. It is in this context that more than 30 churches have been attacked.

Locations of church attacks
(click on map to enlarge)
Between 4-6 August 2018, ten Orthodox churches were burnt and nine evangelical churches were vandalised or looted while 15 priests were killed in the predominantly Muslim Jijiga zone in Ogaden region [RLPB 468 (15 Aug 2018)]. On 9 February 2019 at least 10 churches were burnt in the predominantly Muslim Alaba zone of Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples' Region (SNNPR) [RLPB 492 (6 March 2019)]. On 18 July three churches were burnt in SNNPR's predominantly Christian Sidama Zone after Sidama ethno-nationalist youth groups -- known as Ejeto -- unilaterally declared Sidama a federal state and rioted, targeting non-ethnic Sidama, mostly Amhara, communities. Several church members who tried to protect their churches were killed and a priest was brutally murdered.

'For the sake of Allah',
a 3-minute video with Amharic subtitles.
(warning: graphic content)
In July Islamic State militants in neighbouring Somalia released a three-minute video in Amharic -- the most common language spoken in Ethiopia -- and promised to release jihadist materials in Amharic in the near future. [VIDEO available here; warning - graphic content.] Analysts surmise that Islamic State -- under pressure in Somalia from al-Qaeda affiliated al-Shabaab and Somali government forces -- is reaching out to Ethiopia's Muslim community. Along with seeking recruits, Islamic State is doubtless hoping to tap into the rising ethno-religious nationalist zeal amongst Ethiopia's Muslims to gain a foothold inside Africa's second most populous nation. On 11 September General Berhanu Jula of the Ethiopian Armed Forces confirmed that IS militants had been captured in Ethiopia.

From Chechnya and Kosovo to Mesopotamia and northern Mali, piggy-backing on ethnic-separatist and other political causes has long been a favourite tactic of transnational Islamic jihadist groups. In Ethiopia, the ground has been well prepared through decades of Saudi-funded and facilitated 'radicalisation' (or 'Wahhabisation'). The Oromo youth movement that ultimately forced the resignation of PM Hailemariam Desalegn in February 2018 -- Qeerroo -- is led by an Oromo Islamist and ethnic-nationalist named Jawar Mohamed (33). Having long led the clandestine movement from his home-in-exile in Minneapolis, USA -- principally through his Oromia Media Network and social media -- he now has an office in Addis Ababa. In the past he has openly called for the creation of an Islamic Omoria and for the beheading of resistant Christians. He recently asserted 'there are two governments in Ethiopia', one is that of the Qeerroo and the other that of PM Abiy Ahmed. It seems the group that paved the way for positive change in Ethiopia might yet prove to be its biggest threat. These are dangerous, watershed days for Ethiopia.


PLEASE PRAY THAT OUR ALMIGHTY GOD WILL

* awaken Ethiopian Muslims to the fact that fundamentalist, supremacist, Wahabbi Islam will bring them nothing but endless civil war and repression; may all efforts to recruit Muslims for Islamic terror or ethnic separatism be exposed as self-interested and costly; may Muslims be drawn to Prime Minister Abiy's vision of prosperity and strength through peace, reconciliation and unity.

* bring revival to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and indeed to all Ethiopia's churches; may they love one another across ethnic and denominational lines; may they co-operate to advance the Gospel even into hostile territories; may they come together in united humble prayer, recognising that a spiritual battle is underway -- a battle for Ethiopia's heart and soul.

'For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.' (2 Corinthians 10:4,5 ESV)

* complete the good work that he has begun in Ethiopia; may no plan of God's be thwarted. May the Lord bless PM Abiy Ahmed with wisdom and strength and keep him safe; may he always be humble, with 'eyes fixed on Jesus' (Hebrews 12:2).


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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WATERSHED DAYS IN ETHIOPIA AS THE CHURCH PROTESTS
On Sunday 15 September millions of members of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church staged peaceful marches in cities across Ethiopia's Amhara region to protest about escalating violence against the Church. Communal ethno-religious violence has skyrocketed since Prime Minister Abiy Amhed commenced his bold reforms aimed at ending decades of repression. While PM Abiy is working hard to promote peace, facilitate reconciliation and draw people together in a prosperous, strong and united Ethiopia, vengeful and ambitious ethno-religious nationalists are dragging the nation into conflict and towards disintegration. It is in this context that more than 30 churches have been attacked. Meanwhile, Islamic State in Somalia is actively working to recruit Ethiopian Muslims and gain a foothold in Africa's second most populous state. A spiritual battle for Ethiopia is under way. Please pray.

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ERITREA UPDATE: REGIME SEIZES CHURCH SCHOOLS

Uncertain future.
Children at The Mission of St Joseph's
Catholic school in Keren, Eritrea.
In early June the government of President Isaias Afwerki seized control of 22 medical clinics belonging to the Catholic Church [see RLPB 508 (26 June)]. On Tuesday 3 September Catholic, Protestant and Muslim groups were ordered to hand over the running of their schools to government agencies. Security agents were deployed to enforce the government order. Seven schools have been seized and nationalised so far (four of them Catholic), including the secondary Institute of the Most Holy Redeemer of the seminary of Asmara, founded in 1860. The expropriation relies on Regulation 73/1995, a law enacted in 1995 but only applied in recent years. This law prohibits religious groups from conducting 'development activities in areas of their choice as this is fraught with discrimination against non-adherents …'. This accusation is blatantly untrue because Church-run clinics and schools have always been open to all Eritreans. However, as Human Rights Watch noted in a report released on 8 August, 'Eritrea's secondary schools are at the heart of its repressive system of control over its population.' The regime is tightening its grip. Please pray for Eritrea and its 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

Monday, September 9, 2019

RLPB 519. Papua (Indonesia): How Will the Story End?

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 519 | 10 Sep 2019
RLPB is published weekly to facilitate strategic intercessory prayer.

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)


PAPUA (INDONESIA): HOW WILL THE STORY END?
by Elizabeth Kendal

Everyone loves a good mission story, especially those in which men and women with seemingly supernatural courage risk all in reaching out to warring tribes, head-hunters and cannibals. Martyrs follow martyrs until eventually there is a breakthrough and a culture of death is transformed into a culture of life. One of the most gripping missionary stories ever told is Peace Child, in which Canadian pioneer missionary Don Richardson shares how the treacherous and endlessly warring, cannibalistic Sari tribe of Dutch New Guinea came to put their faith in Jesus. Similarly, the story of pioneer missionaries Philip Masters (USA) and Stanley Dale (Australia), who gave their lives bringing life and light to the people of the highlands, is the stuff of legend.

Writing for the Sydney Morning Herald in February 2015, Michael Bachelard commented: 'The people of Lolat in the high mountains of [Papua] had their first experience of a white man in 1968, and it was a culinary one. When Australian missionary Stanley Dale hiked over the ridge into the nearby Seng Valley, his would-be flock mistook him for a demon. They chased him and his partner, American Philip Masters, killed them with bows and arrows, and ate them... Now every soul in these villages is Christian and Dale is considered their martyr -- they say the gospel spread where his blood fell.' Unfortunately, while everyone loves a good mission story, not everyone cares about what happens next.

'High Tensions in Papua', M. Bachelard, SMH, 5 Feb 2015
Why there's unrest in the Indonesian province of Papua,
By James Massola, SMH, 6 Sept 2019

Like their Melanesian brothers and sisters throughout the pacific, the Papuans went from being killers to choristers in a matter of decades. But unlike their Melanesian brothers and sisters throughout the Pacific, the Papuans were denied the right to self-determination. As Bachelard notes in his 2015 article, it was in the year after Dale's death that Papua -- then known as Dutch (or West) New Guinea -- officially became a province of Indonesia 'by means of a rorted process called the "Act of Free Choice" and was renamed Irian Jaya'. It has been all downhill since then.

The protests currently rocking Indonesia's West Papua and Papua Provinces are unprecedented. While Papua remains closed to outsiders, and the internet -- shut down supposedly to prevent the spread of 'hoax' news -- has only been partially and conditionally restored, we have seen Indonesian crackdowns before and so are not ignorant of how they unfold. Along with Army Commander Hadi Tjahjanto and national Police Chief General Tito Karnavian, Jakarta has sent in some 6000 extra police and soldiers. The Barisan Merah Putih [(BMP) Red and White Force] along with other militia (including Islamists) serve as proxies of the Indonesian special forces, Kopassus. According to sources, the BMP have been receiving significant tactical and logistical support from both Indonesian Brimob paramilitary police and from Kostrad Strategic Reserve.

Don't let West Papua become the next Timor-Leste
SBS News, 4 Sept 2019

Footage has emerged of the 21 August 'clashes' in Fak Fak. In the footage released by West Papua Media, pro-Indonesian BMP militia armed with metal rods and machetes are seen chasing Papuans through the streets of Fak Fak in the presence of Indonesian police. The pogrom was allegedly organised by Indonesian forces as retaliation for a pro-Independence rally held earlier that day in which Papua's banned Morning Star flag was raised and Papuans called for a referendum on independence. The footage includes harrowing images of Papuan teenager Manarson Ndrotndrot (15) after he had been attacked by BMP militia who sliced open his abdomen with a machete causing his intestines to spill out. Indonesian police and military officers are present, but none render assistance. Having survived the attack, Manarson Ndrotndrot was eventually taken to the general hospital where he underwent emergency surgery. Sources reported on 5 September that the boy remains in hospital in a critical condition.

[Religious Liberty Monitoring has previously reported on the torture and disembowelment of a Papuan civilian; see RLM Aug 2010.]

While journalists and analysts seem willing to write about Indonesia's problems of soaring 'hyper-nationalism' and 'ubiquitous racism', nobody seems interested in talking about Islam and how the Islamic worldview fuels and legitimises imperialism, religious apartheid and hatred of the 'kaffir'/infidel. If nothing changes in West Papua and Papua, the result will eventually be at worst genocide, or at least the ethnic cleansing of Papua's resource-rich regions and the decimation of a Christian people. Papua will have gone from being a land of warring tribes, to a land of literate Christians, to a land of racial-religious hatred, jihad and genocide in the space of one century. Who will want to read that story?

PLEASE PRAY THAT OUR ALMIGHTY GOD WILL

* consider the labours of his faithful servants and the blood that was spilt to bring light and life to the land of Papua and intervene, in wrath and mercy, to bring about a just resolution to the human rights crisis engulfing West Papua and Papua.

'Behold, the Lord God comes with might, and his arm rules for him; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him.' (Isaiah 40:10 ESV)

* redeem these trials to draw Papuans ever closer to himself; may Papuan men, women and children look to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of their faith (from Hebrews 12:1,2) and 'see the salvation of the Lord' which he will surely work for those who trust him (from Exodus 14:13,14).

* turn the hearts of many nations towards the mostly Christian, Melanesian, indigenous Papuans, who are in many cases their co-religionists and in some cases the legacy of their own missionaries.


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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HOW WILL THE STORY END IN PAPUA?

Triggered by a racist incident against Papuan students in East Java, the protests currently rocking Indonesia's West Papua and Papua Provinces represent Papuan frustration with decades of racial-religious apartheid and persecution at the hands of Javanese Muslim soldiers, militias and colonisers. Like their Melanesian brothers and sisters throughout the Pacific, the Papuans have embraced Jesus Christ. However, unlike their Melanesian brothers and sisters, the Papuans have been denied the right to self-determination. In 1969, one year after missionaries Stan Dale (Australia) and Phil Masters (USA) gave their lives bringing light and life to the people of the highlands, Papua was incorporated into Muslim Indonesia. For the mostly Christian Papuans, it has been all downhill since then. Please pray that God will intervene to bring a just resolution to the Papuan crisis.

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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 3, 2019

RLPB 518. Nigeria: Land of Perpetual Trauma

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 518 | 04 Sep 2019
RLPB is published weekly to facilitate strategic intercessory prayer.

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: LAND OF PERPETUAL TRAUMA
-- includes two critical updates

by Elizabeth Kendal

UPDATE 1) At around 1 am on 14 August Muslim Fulani herdsmen kidnapped Emmanuel Noma [or Numan] and his 60-year-old father, Pastor Elisha Noma of Nagarta Baptist Church in Makiri, Kaduna State. Emmanuel was subsequently released with the demand that he raise the ransom for his father [see last week's RLPB 517 (28 Aug)]. Praise God, on Saturday 31 August Pastor Elisha was released unharmed after payment of ransom following a series of negotiations. The family paid the ransom, explaining, 'We have been in trauma since he was kidnapped ...' The Chairman of the Kaduna State chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Rev Joseph Hayab, responded with joy and lament, saying, 'We thank God for His mercies, we pray for God's intervention in the calamity that seems to have befallen us as a nation.'

Leah Sharibu
UPDATE 2) In February 2018 Boko Haram kidnapped 110 teenage girls from a school in Dapchi, Yobe State. Five girls died during the abduction. A month later, the militants returned the girls, all except Leah Sharibu. The only Christian, Leah was held back because she refused to renounce Christ [see RLPB 448 (28 Mar 2018)]. On 18 July 2019 Boko Haram captured six aid workers from the charity Action Against Hunger. In a proof-of-life video, Christian captive Grace Taku appealed for help stressing that Christian captives Leah Sharibu and Alice Loksha Ngaddah 'were killed because the government did nothing' [see RLPB 513 (31 Jul 2019)]. Praise God, on Saturday 31 August a senior presidential aide addressed journalists in Abuja to end speculation that Leah Sharibu is dead. 'Contrary to false reports, she is alive -- given assurances from our security agencies -- and the government is committed to her safe return, as well as all other hostages to their families...' Meanwhile, the captives and their families remain deeply traumatised.

On 2 September, at the end of an official two week visit to Nigeria, UN Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard told reporters that the situation she encountered in Nigeria 'gives rise to extreme concern'. In her reports she describes Africa's largest state as 'an injustice pressure-cooker', adding that the 'warning signs are flashing bright red'. She laments that mass killings proceed with impunity, that trust in public institutions has broken down and, consequently, people are increasingly taking matters into their own hands. She warns that 'pretending this is anything short of a crisis is a major mistake'. The administration of illegitimate president Muhammadu Buhari does not seem too concerned. Instead, Nigeria's lawmakers -- who already earn one of the highest salaries in the world -- have agreed to spend 5.55 billion naira (roughly US$15.3 million) buying luxury cars for senators. This, in a country with the highest rate of poverty in the world! [Nigeria has more people living in poverty (87 million; nearly 50 percent of the population) than does in India (71.5 million),  despite India having seven times the population of Nigeria!] This, in a country with insecurity at crisis levels due predominantly to systemic high-level corruption (e.g., 'Armsgate'). Lord have mercy!

On Friday 30 August Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP), also known as Boko Haram, attacked a military convoy in the Lake Chad area of north-east Borno State. Two trucks hit by rocket propelled grenades were totally destroyed. Eight Nigerian soldiers were killed, five are missing and weapons were stolen. Attacks like this occur every other day! Nigerian soldiers are over-stretched, under-supplied and demoralised, bordering on mutinous.

Boko Haram's Cameroonian victims.
Courtesy: Aid to the Church in Need
On Monday night 29 July Boko Haram fighters struck with a new terror tactic. A band of jihadists slipped into the Christian village of Gagalari in Yagoua Diocese, in Cameroon's Far North region. They had come to punish women who had allegedly passed information to the Multinational Joint Task Force assembled to fight the jihadists. Going house to house, the jihadists seized eight women whom they dragged to the outskirts of the town. Before releasing the women, they sliced one ear off each. Cameroonian soldiers found the women and took them for medical treatment. The women, their families and their community are deeply traumatised.


PLEASE PRAY THAT OUR ALMIGHTY GOD WILL

* intervene in Nigeria to raise up a government committed to peace, justice and righteousness, for the sake of the Church and all Nigeria's needy peoples. May the Lord have mercy!

Should the Lord not pity Nigeria, that great nation, in which there are more than 190 million persons, many of whom do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle? (Adapted from Jonah 4:11.)

* fan the flames of faith in God which are rising up among a people rapidly losing faith in government; may Nigerian Christians in every town, city and state, and across the North-South divide, join together in prayer for divine deliverance from 'the calamity' that has befallen their nation.

* redeem the suffering and trauma, and turn it to good, may eyes be opened and hearts softened to receive the Gospel and may the Church take her place as peace-maker, healer and 'repairer of the breach' (from Isaiah 58).

Prayer for Nigeria: Psalm 94


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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NIGERIA, A LAND OF PERPETUAL TRAUMA

Oil-rich Nigeria is the largest nation on the African continent. Home to 190 million Nigerians, it is fast becoming a failed state due to government ineptitude, systemic corruption and escalating insecurity. The Christian crisis in the Muslim North and mixed Middle Belt is spreading into the Christian South-East. Mass killings -- mostly of Christians by militant Muslims -- continue with impunity. Trust in public institutions has broken down and people are increasingly taking matters into their own hands. Christians live under constant threat of Islamic terror causing death and displacement; whole communities are traumatised. Meanwhile, the government of illegitimate president Muhammadu Buhari does virtually nothing to help, preferring to focus on enriching itself. Please pray that the Lord will intervene to raise up a government committed to peace, justice and righteousness.

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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