Tuesday, February 26, 2019

RLPB 491. February Update, incl. Burma (Myanmar), Cuba, Iran, Nigeria, Papua (Eastern Indonesia), Russia and Sudan.

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 491 | Wed 27 Feb 2019

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

Psalm 77: 'I cry aloud to God, aloud to God, and he will hear me. In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord ... (vv1, 2a). Your way, O God, is holy. What god is great like our God? You are the God who works wonders; you have made known your might among the peoples (vv13, 14). Your way was through the sea, your path through the great waters; yet your footprints were unseen. You led your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron' (vv19, 20).


FEBRUARY 2019 UPDATE -- during this period we prayed concerning

* NIGERIA (RLPB 488, RLPB 489 and RLPB 490), specifically that the elections would be free, fair and peaceful.

UPDATE: On the evening of 26 February, the BBC reported that the incumbent, President Muhammadu Buhari of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) had secured 'a commanding lead'. Though foreign independent electoral observers had reported that the voting was generally free and fair, Atiku Abubakar's People's Democratic Party (PDP) urged Nigeria's Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) not to permit any announcements until all alleged irregularities had been investigated. The plea was rejected and on the morning of 27 Feb, the INEC declared Muhammadu Buhari the winner of the 2019 presidential election. [Updates: https://www.legit.ng/ ] The situation is fluid and volatile. Please pray.

* THE NORTH KOREA-US SUMMIT (RLPB 490) which will take place in Hanoi, Vietnam, on Wednesday 27 and Thursday 28 February. Please pray that the Lord our God will lead the way to freedom.


FEBRUARY 2019 ROUND-UP -- also this month

* BURMA (MYANMAR): A HOPEFUL BUT RISKY MOVE 

The biggest obstacle to peace in Burma is the 2008 Constitution. Written under military rule, it serves military interests by ensuring the heavily invested Burmese-Buddhist military (the Tatmadaw) remains in control. It also enshrines centralised government against the aspirations of Burma's long-repressed, persecuted and brutalised ethnic nations to which most of Burma's Christians belong. In October 2013, as the Tatmadaw's war against the Christian Kachin escalated, the army issued a statement warning of 'serious danger' and 'consequences beyond expectation' if the 2008 constitution is ever scrapped [see RLPB 236 (13 Nov 2013)].

On 19 February Burma's parliament approved the creation of a 45-member joint committee tasked with writing a bill to amend the 2008 constitution. As would be expected, the military and its proxy in parliament -- the Union Solidarity and Development Party -- strongly oppose the move. According to a report in the Irrawaddy, the proposed 168 amendments deal mostly with issues about reducing the power of the military and of the president, and the decentralisation of state power to grant more autonomy to the ethnic nations. The committee must submit its report by 17 July. It is a bold and hopeful but incredibly risky move. If Burma could amend the constitution to the benefit of its Christian peoples, without bloodshed, it would be nothing short of miraculous! Please pray.


* CUBA: CHURCHES CONFIRMED AS COUNTER-REVOLUTIONARY

Cubans went to the polls on Sunday 24 February to vote in a referendum on the new constitution which, despite introducing modest reforms, enshrines socialism, further weakens religious freedom, and removes the definition of marriage thereby paving the way for same-sex marriage. Individual churches and pastors came under serious pressure to instruct their congregations to vote 'YES'. Instead, displaying unprecedented unity, Cuban churches led a strong campaign opposing changes to the definition of marriage. It was a very courageous move, especially as 'NO' voters were being vilified in the state-controlled media as counter-revolutionaries and enemies of the state. It was announced on Monday 25 February that 86.85 percent of Cubans had voted 'YES', thus ratifying the new constitution. More than 700,000 people voted 'NO'. It is yet to be seen if the vilification of 'NO' voters will result in increased repression and persecution of Christians. Regardless, a door has been opened so the battle for marriage and family might begin. Please pray for the Church in Cuba.

[NOTE: Though deeply patriotic and certainly not an enemy of the state, the repressed Cuban Church knows it is a counter-revolutionary Church. To the contrary, much of the free Western Church seems not to even realise that a cultural revolution has taken place – a revolution which will inevitably lead to the loss of religious liberty. Please pray for awakening and revival in the Church in the free West!]


* IRAN: SUFFERING FOR CHRIST


Pastor Victor bet-Tamraz (left)
and wife, Shamiram Khabizeh
On 6 January 2018 Assyrian Christian Shamiram Isavi Khabizeh, wife of imprisoned pastor Victor bet-Tamraz, was sentenced to five years in prison on charges pertaining to national security. Her appeal against that verdict and sentence was heard on 19 February. Middle East Concern reports that the judge appeared confused as to whether her case was to be combined with the other cases including that of her husband, her son and a number of Christian converts associated with their now-underground ministry. Another court hearing will be scheduled. Please pray for this persecuted family, and for all Iran's imprisoned and persecuted believers.


* NIGERIA:  CHURCH IN PAIN


Rev. Jata'u with his wife.
NORTH-WEST: Originally from southern Kaduna, Rev Anthony Jata'u, of the Anglican Church of Nigeria, was driving through Zamfara State on 7 February en route to a new posting in Katsina State (north-west Nigeria),  when his car was attacked by gunmen. Travelling with him were his wife, three children and two sisters-in-law. Jata'u's body was recovered by the side of the road two days later. The kidnappers have contacted Jata'u's family and church, demanding a ransom for his wife, children and sisters-in-law. It is unknown at this stage if Jata'u was accidentally killed in an act of banditry, or executed when it was discovered he was a preacher of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Whatever the case may be, this family and church need our prayers. Please pray.

NORTH-EAST: On 19 February Nigerian Christians commemorated with prayers the one-year anniversary of the abduction of Leah Sharibu (15). Leah was one of 110 girls abducted from their school in Dapchi, Yobe Sate, by Boko Haram, on 19 February 2018. Five girls died during the violent abduction and Boko Haram returned 104 Muslim girls to Dapchi on 21 March 2018. Leah Sharibu was 'held back' because she 'refused to co-operate' and convert to Islam [see RLPB 448 (28 March 2018)]. In October 2018, after executing two Muslim aid workers as apostates (for working with the Red Cross), Boko Haram officially deemed their two Christian captives -- Christian schoolgirl Leah Sharibu (15) and Christian nurse Alice Loksha Ngaddah (24, mother of two small children) -- to be their slaves [see RLPB 479 (31 Oct 2018)]. Meanwhile, 112 of the 276 mostly Christian 276 girls abducted by Boko Haram from their school in Chibok in April 2014 remain unaccounted forPlease pray. 


 * PAPUA (EASTERN INDONESIA): UN EXPERTS CALL FOR INVESTIGATION

In early February footage emerged online showing Indonesian police using an enormous snake to terrorise a young, handcuffed, indigenous Papuan man they had arrested for allegedly stealing a mobile phone. Javanese Muslim officers routinely film and share abuses against the Melanesian, mostly Christian Papuans. (In fact we have seen worse than this before!) Driven by racial and religious hatred, they are emboldened by a culture of impunity.  On 19 February, two weeks after the snake-torture footage went viral, UN human rights experts demanded an independent investigation into the 'cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of indigenous Papuans' by Indonesian police and military in West Papua and Papua Provinces (formerly known as Irian Jaya). If the UN does launch an investigation, it will coincide with mounting pressure for the UN to address Papua's historic grievances, in particular the controversial 1969 UN-backed Act of Free Choice (known disparagingly as the Act of No Choice) [see RLPB 426 (4 Oct 2017)].  Unless there is change, one of the great missionary stories of the 20th Century will end in tragedy: the slow-motion genocide of a Christian people. Please pray.


* RUSSIA: JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES TORTURED IN SURGUT
-- bad laws pave way for abuses

In April 2017 Russia's Supreme Court inexplicably upheld a request by the Justice Ministry to ban the Jehovah's Witnesses (JW) sect as an 'extremist organisation'. One month later, Danish citizen and JW member Dennis Christensen became the first JW to be detained following the ban. On 6 February 2019 a court in the city of Oryol -- 360km south of Moscow -- sentenced Christensen to six years in prison for violating the ban. A spokesperson for the JWs confirmed to Newsweek that at least 121 members face criminal charges in Russia. Of those, 23 remain in pre-trial detention and 27 are under house arrest. Hundreds of members of the 175,000-strong sect have fled the country, most to Finland. 

In December 2018, at a meeting with the Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights, President Putin described the extremism charges against JWs as 'nonsense'. 'Jehovah's Witnesses are Christians too,' he said. 'I don't quite understand why they are persecuted. So this should be looked into. This must be done.' President Putin said he would speak to Supreme Court Chair, Vyacheslav Lebedev, to see if restrictions on the organisation could be lessened. Since the sentencing of Dennis Christensen, however, Putin's representatives have reportedly distanced themselves from those efforts.

Map showing location of Surgut
(click on map to enlarge) 
On 15 February police in Surgut -- a city in the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Okrug (administrative district) of western Siberia, almost 3,000km east of Moscow -- raided the homes of JWs. At least seven of those detained for questioning were tortured.  The victims allege that when the legal representative left the room, officers from the Investigative Committee put a bag over the victims' heads, sealed it with tape, tied their hands behind their backs, and beat them. The victims also claimed to have been stripped naked, doused with water, and shocked with stun guns. The torture allegedly went on for around two hours. As Human Rights Watch noted, 'It's shocking that in post-Soviet Russia authorities are putting people through the ordeal of a criminal investigation and prison for nothing more than peacefully practising their faith.'

While many evangelicals are reluctant to defend the heterodox JWs, others realise that injustice, religious persecution and torture are simply wrong. Furthermore, if bad laws are permitted to stand and a culture of impunity is permitted to develop, then religious persecution may eventually expand to target Protestants and other believers as well. After first denying that any torture had taken place, Investigative Committee official Oleg Menshikh told Interfax on 22 February that due to the 'agitation that has arisen after publication of this information in the media', the Committee had decided to launch an investigation into the torture allegations. Please pray that abuses will be investigated, that abusers will be punished, that bad laws will be repealed and that full religious freedom will be restored.


* SUDAN: STATE OF EMERGENCY DECLARED


Islamist tyrant: Omar al-Bashir
Rocked by more than two months of relentless protests, Sudan's Islamist president Omar al-Bashir on Friday 22 February declared a nationwide, year-long state of emergency. Led by doctors and others from the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA) -- an outlawed umbrella group of unions -- the protesters continue to take to the streets to call for al-Bashir's resignation. As revealed in a BBC Africa investigation [link includes short film], al-Bashir is now deploying squads comprising armed police, soldiers, security/intelligence and plain-clothed thugs to round up opposition and 'cleanse' the streets. More than 50 protesters have been killed and scores wounded while more than a thousand have been arrested. This might be Khartoum's worst crisis in decades but, unless God intervenes, the National Islamic Front / National Congress Party regime -- and possibly even al-Bashir himself -- will probably survive. After all, this regime has long deployed lethal force against its citizens with impunity. Even today, not one foreign government has backed the protesters' call for al-Bashir to step down. Yet without significant pressure, this brutal Islamist dictator -- this tyrant whose racial and religious hatreds and mass-murdering regime have resulted in the breakup and impoverishment of Sudan -- will not go. Remember the long-suffering Church in Sudan and 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, February 19, 2019

RLPB 490. North Korea-United States Summit: Hanoi 27-28 February; (plus Nigeria elections update)

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 490 | Wed 20 Feb 2019

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- UNITED STATES SUMMIT: HANOI 27-28 FEBRUARY
-- plus Nigeria Elections Update 

-- by Elizabeth Kendal

NORTH KOREA- UNITED STATES SUMMIT: HANOI 27-28 FEBRUARY

Hanoi, the capital city of Vietnam, will host the second North Korea-US Summit on Wednesday 27 and Thursday 28 February. The choice of Hanoi is really significant for, like North Korea, North Vietnam has fought a war against the US. Like Korea, Vietnam suffered immensely and was left ravaged by the Cold War conflict. However, unlike Pyongyang (the capital of North Korea), Hanoi is now an ally of the US, 'a major cog in the global trading network', and one of the fastest growing economies in the world. Millions of Vietnamese have been lifted out of poverty, despite Vietnam remaining a repressive one-party state. North Korean and United States officials landed in Hanoi on Saturday 16 February to prepare for the summit. Kim Jong-un will arrive on Monday 25 February for bilateral discussions with Vietnamese officials. A key focus of the NK-US (Kim-Trump) Summit will doubtless be Washington's fixation on complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearisation (CVID) -- a deal-breaker, if ever there was one -- as a prerequisite to sanctions relief.  Pyongyang will continue to press for step-by-step, synchronised confidence-building measures -- a plan supported by neighbours South Korea, China and Russia, and possibly by President Trump himself. [See RLPB 471 (5 Sept 2018)]

Journalists, analysts, diplomats and politicians who say 'nothing has changed -- we've seen it all before,' are wrong. Today's situation is entirely different, giving reason for hope [see RLPB 446 (14 Mar 2018)]. Because virtually all reporting on North Korea is negative (much of it out-dated) few people are aware of how much the situation has changed in recent years. They are unaware that while Kim Jong-un has retained the programs and revolutionary language of his ancestors, he has tweaked the details somewhat. It used to be the case that the central government took all (100 percent) of a farming co-operative's produce before distributing a fixed ration. By providing no incentive to work hard or innovate, the system contributed to famine. In 2012, just months after assuming control, Kim tweaked the system. Since then, the government takes a set quota and the farming co-operative (now defined in such a way that it could be a family) is free to keep and trade everything it produces above that fixed quota. [See Religious Liberty Monitoring, 'Belligerence vs Smart Policy', (19 Feb 2014).] It does appear that every effort is being made to pursue economic reform and raise the standard of living as a prerequisite to increased openness.

On 12 February a delegation of some 250 South Koreans travelled to North Korea's Mount Geumgang (Mount Kumgang) tourist precinct for two days of civilian engagement with North Korean counterparts. The total number of delegates was around 400, with representatives from a wide range of fields, including religion, economy, agriculture, the environment, academia, peace, labour rights, women's rights, youth, art and culture. The aim is to establish co-operative projects, joint symposiums and student exchanges.

Early morning departure for North Korea (12 Feb). (photo: Yonhap)
While about a dozen South Korean journalists were included in the delegation,
US sanctions meant laptops and cameras could not be taken over the border. 

And that is not the only engagement that is happening. On Tuesday 19 February the Australian Broadcasting Corporation broadcast a short documentary ['Out of Breath' (29 minutes)] on its Foreign Correspondent program, showing how American, South Korean and North Korean doctors are cooperating in a project run by the Eugene Bell Foundation (a Christian charity) to treat multi-drug resistant Tuberculosis (MDRTB) in North Korea. Dr Stephen Linton is convinced that most people have an image of North Korea that is both wrong and unhelpful. 'What you think you know is not what you will find,' he says. It is a very moving program and shows what is already possible.

There can be little doubt that an intensive and furious spiritual battle is underway over North Korea, and over its integration into East Asia (the spiritual powerhouse of the future!).

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY FOR GOD TO 

* sustain and richly bless the long-suffering and severely persecuted remnant Church in North Korea.

* interpose himself in the North Korea-United States Summit in Hanoi (27-28 February) and influence proceedings for the benefit of the Church, the nation and the world.

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

May religious freedom be realised. May the Church's days of suffering soon be over. May the Church be free to serve North Korea's 'harassed and helpless' (Matthew 9:35-38) and bring Gospel light to those in darkness.



--------------------------------------------
Update: NIGERIA ELECTIONS
--------------------------------------------

Five hours before the polls were to open on 16 February, Nigeria's Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) announced that the polls would be postponed by one week. The presidential and national assembly elections will now be held on Saturday 23 February, and the governorship and state assembly elections on 9 March. INEC chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, told a news conference: 'Following a careful review of the implementation of its logistics and operational plan, and the determination to conduct free, fair, and credible elections, the commission came to the conclusion that proceeding with the elections as scheduled is no longer feasible.'

Detailed report by ICG (19 Feb)
While the presidential candidates are blaming each other for the delay and crying 'conspiracy', the INEC chairman's claim seems reasonable considering that in the past week two electoral offices (complete with many thousands of Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) were burned to the ground and a shipping container load of PVC readers was destroyed just days before those machines were to be distributed to polling booths [see RLPB 489 (13 Feb)]. Some election observers have expressed doubts however, that the INEC will be able to do all that needs to be done before the 23 February polls, including auditing ballot boxes.

With tensions soaring, the postponement could have been enough to trigger communal violence. Nigerians, however, heeded calls to remain calm; surely this is an answer to prayer. It is of great concern that President Buhari has declared that anybody who tries to interfere with the election would do so 'at the expense of his life'. The opposition has objected, slamming Buhari's rhetoric as 'a licence to kill'. It seems highly likely that when the results are announced, the loser will immediately cry foul. If Buhari cries foul, Muslims will surely riot. If Atiku cries foul, that too could trigger Muslim riots! The situation facing vulnerable Christian communities and ethnic Igbo throughout the North and Middle Belt is very serious indeed. In praying for peace we are praying for a miracle. The peace to date is nothing short of miraculous.

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY FOR GOD TO INTERVENE

* so that Nigeria's Independent National Electoral Commission will be able to do all the work it must for free and fair elections.

* so that peace will hold, no matter the result; may the Lord's hand of protection be over his precious and faithful people.


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE 
-------------------------------------------------------------
 NORTH KOREA-US SUMMIT in HANOI 27-28 FEBRUARY
-- plus NIGERIA'S POSTPONED ELECTIONS.

A second North Korea-US (Kim-Trump) Summit will be held in Vietnam on 27-28 February. Washington continues to insist that complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearisation be a prerequisite to sanctions relief. Meanwhile, Pyongyang continues to press for step-by-step, synchronised confidence-building measures -- a plan supported by its neighbours South Korea, China and Russia, and possibly by President Trump. The goal must be peace and trust; only then will the situation improve significantly. Economic reform is underway, as is cross-border engagement with South Korea -- including religious engagement -- and co-operation with foreign Christian charities. We must keep praying that our sovereign God will intervene with a miracle: to bring peace, openness and liberty to North Korea and its Christians. Also, may peace, unity and righteousness prevail in Nigeria following the 23 February and 9 March elections.

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For research purposes, all Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletins are archived at Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin.

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, February 12, 2019

RLPB 489. Praying Through Nigeria's General Elections (cont.)

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 489 | Wed 13 Feb 2019

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)


PRAYING THROUGH NIGERIA'S GENERAL ELECTIONS
            -- continued from last week's RLPB 488 (6 Feb)
 -- Elizabeth Kendal

As Nigeria's General Elections loom, one cannot help but feel a dreaded sense of déjà vu. Tensions soared and conflict loomed back in March 2015 as Muhammadu Buhari (a Fulani Muslim from the north) ran for the presidency against the incumbent Goodluck Jonathan (a Christian from the south). Feeding off and fuelling the northern Muslim desire for a northern Muslim president, Buhari warned that violence would erupt and blood would flow if he were denied the presidency. [See RLPB 295 (4 Feb 2015)] Christian fear escalated, especially through the Muslim-dominated North and volatile Middle Belt. As it turned out, Buhari won the 2015 presidential poll, in large part due to the influence of his running mate, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo who, as a senior pastor in one of Nigeria's largest Pentecostal denominations, influenced many Christians to vote for Buhari. When the results were announced, outgoing president Goodluck Jonathon conceded defeat with grace and dignity and appealed for calm in the national interest. [See RLPB 307 (29 April 2015)

April 2011.
Muslims riot after Buhari loss.
The fear that hung over the 2015 presidential poll was not unfounded. Previously, in April 2011, when Muhammadu Buhari lost the presidential poll to Goodluck Jonathon, Buhari immediately cried foul and claimed the polls (deemed free and fair) had been rigged against him. With that false claim Buhari triggered the worst outbreak of electoral violence in Nigeria's history. For three days Muslims rioted across the north, burning, looting and killing; it was a rampage of terror that cost the lives of more than 800 mostly Christian Nigerians.

For four years now, President Buhari's Fulani-dominated administration has favoured the Fulani at every turn. In early 2017, as the nation marked the 50th anniversary of the outbreak of the Biafra War, ethnic Igbo pro-secessionist groups in Nigeria's south-east escalated their activity in protest of the deepening marginalisation the Igbo were experiencing under the Buhari government. Fulani Muslim youths in the north responded by threatening to ethnically cleanse the 'ungrateful and uncultured' Igbo (a mostly Christian people indigenous to the south-east) from the north. [See Religious Liberty Monitoring (RLM), 'The Kaduna Declaration;Nigeria in the Shadow of Biafra' (6 July 2017).] While northern Muslim leaders did ultimately manage to pacify the northern Muslim youths and prevent bloodshed, ethnic and religious tensions have remained high. Many Igbo are convinced they simply cannot live in a nation dominated by Fulani and so continue to agitate for secession; some have called for a boycott of the 16 February polls.

Consequently, it was very strategic of Atiku Abubakar, the presidential candidate for the opposition People's Democratic Party (PDP), to choose an Igbo man as his running mate. Peter Obi (57) served as Anambra State governor until 2014 and has been a leading figure in Nigerian politics ever since. A devout Catholic with a reputation for careful economic management, Obi is married with two children; his elder sister is a nun and his younger brother is a priest. No Igbo has been either president or vice-president since Alex Ekwueme was deputy to Shehu Shagari, who was ousted in December 1983 in a military coup led by then-general Muhammadu Buhari. Furthermore, Atiku's fourth wife, Barrister Dr Jennifer Atiku, a US-educated lawyer and Ibgo woman, is campaigning for her husband across the south-east. The Igbo will not boycott this presidential poll; rather, they will come out en masse to oust Buhari.

Election monitors are arriving in preparation for the big day. Meanwhile, two offices of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) have been burnt to the ground in the space of a week -- one in Plateau (North Central / Middle Belt) and one in Abia (South East), resulting in the loss of thousands of permanent voters' cards (PVCs) and hundreds of ballot boxes. Further to this, a shipping container full of PVC readers and other electoral materials has been burned in Anambra (South East).  Foreign diplomats in Nigeria report they have never known such a flood of hate-speech, doctored photographs, falsehoods and accusations. Tensions are soaring and the threat of serious, widespread violence is very real. In a superb article by Jeremy Weber, with photography by Gary Chapman (Christianity Today, Nov 2018), the General Secretary of Nigeria's five million-strong Evangelical Church Winning All denomination, Yunusa Nmadu, gives voice to the widely held fear that Nigeria is teetering on the edge of civil war. 'We are on the precipice,' he warns. 'I am not a prophet of doom, but it looks like we are very close to it.'

As noted in last week's RLPB 488 (6 Feb), Buhari and his All Progressives Congress (APC) 'came to power in 2015 promising to tackle corruption, improve security and revive the economy. Instead, corruption has flourished, security has deteriorated to crisis levels and consequently the economy has stagnated. The result is widespread disillusionment, displacement and despair.' Indeed, Buhari's presidency is widely acknowledged to have been a total disaster. Any progress that was made was made in his absence, during his 'medical leave', when VP Osinbajo, a graduate of the London School of Economics, stepped in as Acting President. Consequently, when Nigerians go to the polls on Saturday 16 February, it is difficult to imagine that a majority would want to give Buhari another four years in office. It is also difficult to imagine that Buhari, should he lose the election, would concede defeat with grace and dignity and appeal for calm in the national interest; that would be a miracle! If Buhari loses (as is probable) it is more likely violence will erupt as it did in 2011, only this time it could well be much worse as there are far more firearms available now. In the event of violence, much will depend on the course that the demoralised Nigerian military ultimately takes.

Benue family, displaced by Fulani violence.
(Photo: Gary Chapman, Christianity Today, Nov 2018)


PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT

* God, in grace and mercy, will intervene in Nigeria for the benefit of the Church and Nigeria's 'harassed and helpless' masses (Matthew 9:36): may the elections be free and fair, and may the results come with the miracle of peace. 'For nothing will be impossible with God' (Luke 1:37 ESV).

* the Spirit of God will awaken Nigerians to the reality that ultimately the remedy for corruption is not more law or more police, but the cleansing and transformation of the human heart -- something Islam does not offer, but the Lord Jesus Christ does. Pray for awakening throughout Nigeria.

* Jesus Christ, Yahweh Sabaoth (the Lord of hosts), will protect, preserve, sustain, encourage, bless and continue to build his Church in Nigeria; may the forces of darkness arrayed against her be frustrated as God fulfils his purpose for her to be a praying, missionary Church into the future.


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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PRAYING FOR NIGERIA'S GENERAL ELECTIONS

Tensions are soaring ahead of Nigeria's General Elections slated for Saturday 16 February. The threat of serious, widespread violence is very real. Two election offices have already been burnt and hate-speech, doctored images and falsehoods are everywhere. Buhari's presidency is widely acknowledged to have been a total disaster. Consequently it is difficult to imagine that a majority will want to give him the second four-year term he craves. It is also difficult to image that Buhari would ever concede defeat and appeal for calm; that would be a miracle! If Buhari loses (as is probable), then violence likely will erupt as it did when he lost to Goodluck Jonathon in April 2011, only this time the toll could be much higher. Please pray for Nigeria and for her long-suffering Church.

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

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, February 4, 2019

RLPB 488. PRAYING THROUGH NIGERIA'S GENERAL ELECTIONS

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 488 | Wed 06 Feb 2019

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)


PRAYING THROUGH NIGERIA'S GENERAL ELECTIONS
-- Elizabeth Kendal

On Saturday 16 February Nigerians will head to the polls to elect a President and National Assembly. They will head to the polls again on 2 March to elect State Governors and State Assemblies. Those in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) will elect a FCT Council. According to Nigeria's Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Nigeria has 84 million registered voters, of whom 42.9 million (51.1 percent) are 'youths' (aged 18-35years). While numerous political groups will seek to challenge the major parties, it will remain essentially a two-horse race. The general election will pit the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and its presidential candidate, the incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari (76), against the opposition People's Democratic Party (PDP) and its presidential candidate, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar (72). 

Muhammadu Buhari (a retired Major General and former military dictator) and the APC came to power in 2015 promising to tackle corruption, improve security and revive the economy. Instead, corruption has flourished, security has deteriorated to crisis levels and consequently the economy has stagnated. The result is widespread disillusionment, displacement and despair. Despite this record of abject failure, and though during his first term in office Buhari spent a total of 170 days absent on 'medical vacation' in London (including a 104 day stretch in 2017), President Buhari is campaigning for a second four-year term.

Muhammadu Buhari & Atiku Abubakar
Threatening to bring down the Buhari presidency and the APC government, however, is the issue of corruption. In keeping with his election promise of 2015, President Buhari  established an anti-corruption commission. The commission has uncovered massive fraud in military procurement. Essentially, government funds are secured on the basis of fake contracts for provisions and equipment which is never delivered -- everything from food and ammunition to firearms, helicopters and Alpha jets, totalling as much as US$15 billion. This goes some way to explaining why Fulani violence has spiralled out of control, Boko Haram is resurgent [see last week's RLPB 487 (30 Jan)], and army troops -- sick and tired of being thrown to the wolves without adequate rotation, food, ammunition, equipment or intelligence -- are demoralised, traumatised and on the verge of open revolt. Enormous efforts are being undertaken to suppress the commission's findings. As the elections approach, the level of panic among senior government and military officials rises.

On Friday 25 January President Buhari took the unprecedented and unconstitutional step of unilaterally dismissing Nigeria's seasoned Chief Justice, Walter Samuel Nkanu Onnoghen (a southerner), citing corruption allegations. He then swore in, as Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad who, like Buhari, hails from the north. If the election result is challenged, it will be the job of the Chief Justice of Nigeria to decide the matter. At an emergency meeting in Abuja on Monday 28 January the Nigerian Bar Association agreed to boycott the courts on 29-30 January to protest about what it described as a 'coup against the Nigerian judiciary'.

Both sides are digging in and furiously accusing the other of plotting to rig the elections and orchestrate violence. Both sides appear to be setting the stage so that, should they not be happy with the election result, they can cry 'fraud' and unleash chaos. If violence does erupt it will most certainly run along ethnic-religious lines, especially endangering Christian minorities in the north and Middle Belt. What the military will do remains to be seen.


PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY FOR GOD TO

* intervene in Nigeria to end corruption and forge national unity in the interests of security, justice, peace, liberty and the spread of the Gospel.

* awaken Nigerians to the dangers of hate speech and to the plots of those who would profit from violence without any care for human life; as bloodshed and darkness threaten, may Nigerians choose life and peace.

* raise up Nigerian leaders of integrity -- in government, in the military, in civil society and in the Church -- leaders who will serve the interests of the nation and all its peoples, rather than just themselves. 'Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach [disgrace, shame] to any people' (Proverbs 14:34).


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE 
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PRAYING THROUGH NIGERIA'S GENERAL ELECTIONS 

On 16 February Nigerians will vote to elect a President and National Assembly. It is essentially a two-horse race, pitting the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and its presidential candidate, the incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari (76), against the opposition People's Democratic Party (PDP) and its presidential candidate, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar (72).  Buhari and the APC came to power in 2015 promising to tackle corruption, improve security and revive the economy. Instead, corruption has flourished, security has deteriorated and the economy has stagnated. The result is widespread disillusionment, displacement and despair. Both sides are digging in, accusing the other of plotting to rig the elections and orchestrate violence. If violence does erupt, it will doubtless unfold along ethnic-religious lines, endangering Christian minorities in the north and Middle Belt. 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