Tuesday, March 26, 2019

RLPB 495. March Update. Incl. Algeria, Burma, China, India, Kazakhstan, Nigeria, Pakistan

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 495 | Wed 27 Mar 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)

-- Elizabeth Kendal

MARCH 2019 UPDATE -- during this period we prayed concerning

* ETHIOPIA (RLPB 492), where political elements determined to resist PM Abiy Ahmed's reforms are suspected of being behind the ethnic and sectarian violence that has escalated markedly over the past six months. Religious violence included the 9 March torching of at least ten churches in a majority-Muslim region of southern Ethiopia. Please pray that God will complete the good work that he has begun in the nation of Ethiopia.

* IRAQ (RLPB 493), where Sunni transnational Islamic State is making a comeback and Sunni Kurds are competing with Shi'ite Shabaks (Baghdad's and Tehran's proxy against the Kurds) for control of Assyrian lands. Betrayed and abandoned, the indigenous Christian Assyrian nation is in a struggle for survival. Please pray for the Assyrian remnant in northern Iraq's Nineveh Province; may the Lord intervene to revive, sustain and deliver justice.

* SOMALIA (RLPB 494), where a Church has taken root and is growing despite severe persecution. Even in Kenya where there is freedom, Christian ministry among ethnic Somalis is exceedingly dangerous. Please pray that God in his grace will bring peace and freedom to Somalia.

* UPDATE ON NIGERIAN ELECTIONS

On 27 February Nigeria's Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) announced that President Muhammadu Buhari (APC) had won the presidential election. Crying foul, but rejecting violence, his main opponent, Atiku Abubakar (PDP) rejected the result. According to the PDP's parallel tabulation, Atiku won the poll by more than two million votes. Ignoring warnings that his actions could trigger violence, Atiku is challenging the election result in the Supreme Court. Former president Olusegun Obasanjo has defended Atiku's right to seek legal redress, noting that, if Buhari were permitted to seek redress over past losses (as he did in 2003, 2007 and 2011), then Atiku should be entitled to do likewise, as should any Nigerian who feels they have been denied justice. According to Obasanjo, those warning the case will trigger violence are simply those looking for an excuse to unleash violence. It is unlikely that the Supreme Court (overseen by Buhari's new Chief Justice [see RLPB 488 (6 Feb)]) will issue a ruling before Buhari is inaugurated on 29 May. Despite the seeming peace, the situation across Nigeria remains tense. Please pray.

Best Summary:
Atiku Appeals Buhari’s Election Victory in Nigeria, 
by John Campbell, Council of Foreign Relations, 19 March 2019.


MARCH 2019 ROUND-UP -- also this month

* ALGERIA: WATERSHED DAYS

The mass protests that erupted in Algeria on Friday 22 February have continued through March. On 11 March the regime conceded and, in line with the peoples' demands, announced that President Abdelaziz Bouteflika (82 and incapacitated from a stroke) would not contest a fifth term. However, the protesters are demanding not merely a new president, but a new regime -- a new system! For many years now, Algerian security forces have partnered with the US to keep al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and Jund al-Khalifa (Islamic State's franchise in Algeria) in check. A number of analysts have expressed concern that escalating unrest 'is likely to spawn profound security challenges ... [in particular] by providing additional space for Algeria's militant groups to recover and expand' (Stratfor, 12 March).

On 9 and 10 March al-Qaeda social media channels publicised a speech by Abu Ubaydah Yusuf al-Anabi, a high-ranking AQIM official. In his speech, entitled 'Algeria … Getting Out from the Dark Tunnel', Al-Anabi agrees with the protesters' assessment of the government as corrupt and repressive. He then proposes a solution: Islamic governance with Sharia law and a real Muslim leader (as distinct from one who is 'loyal to the Jews and the Christians'). To that end he exhorts Algerians to 'unite' as Muslims and 'sons of Islam' and join AQIM's 'resistance'. According to al-Anabi, 'victory' under Allah is close at hand, as the 'signs have appeared' all across the country. These are watershed days for Algeria. For the sake of Algeria's young, persecuted but growing Church, please pray. May God protect his precious Church and may the devil have no victory here.

* BURMA (MYANMAR): THE TRAFFICKING OF KACHIN WOMEN 

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has released a report on the trafficking of Kachin women, a crisis directly linked to the Burmese government's war against the Christian Kachin. Some 100,000 Kachin are displaced and struggling to survive in camps pressed up against the Chinese border. Because the Burmese government has blocked aid deliveries into 'rebel' (i.e. Kachin)-controlled areas, the situation in the camps is increasingly desperate.

Marip Lu, a Christian Kachin
victim of trafficking.
 TIME magazine 21 March 2019
Many Kachin women cross the border to take up jobs in China only to find that the recruiters were actually traffickers. Other women are trafficked by people known to them. After being drugged, they are taken across the border and sold to Chinese brokers. The price paid to the trafficker depends on the quality of the woman being sold: her youth, beauty, skills etc. After being sold to Chinese families as 'brides' for their sons, the trafficked Kachin women are locked away and raped daily until they are pregnant. Once a baby is delivered the 'brides' are often sent away or allowed to escape. HRW reports: 'Most ethnic Kachin are Christian, and many are deeply religious.' Consequently, HRW notes, 'there is a lot of stigma', and the women feel a lot of shame for what has happened to them. Please pray that God will intervene for the Christian Kachin of northern Burma. Pray for delivery of aid. Pray that the Kachin will be granted autonomy to maintain their Christian culture as they desire.

* CHINA: PERSECUTION WITH IMPUNITY

Jiang Tianyong (2017)
JIANG TIANYONG: Human rights lawyer and Protestant Christian Jiang Tianyong (48) walked free in early March having spent two years in prison for 'incitement to subvert state power'. A thorn in the side of the Communist regime, Jiang had been assisting persecuted human rights lawyers, including Gao Zhisheng (who remains 'disappeared') and many of those arrested in the July 2015 crackdown. In 2014 Jiang's wife and daughter left for the US where they received political asylum while Jiang remained in China to continue the struggle for justice and liberty. Today, despite being 'free', Jiang is being kept under surveillance around the clock by officers who prevent him from speaking to anyone. He is denied a mobile phone and visitors. Jiang wants to be reunited with his daughter and his wife, Jin Bianling, who wants him to travel to the US for medical treatment for injuries and ailments acquired in prison. These include a spinal injury, memory loss, eye inflammation and high blood pressure. Jiang has threatened to protest if he is not permitted to be reunited with his family. Please pray for this Christian family, persecuted for promoting righteousness and pursuing justice.

Liu, after interrogation
(see Morning Star News)
EARLY RAIN CHURCH: In 2018 the Communist Party escalated its persecution of Early Rain Covenant Church in Chengdu city, Sichuan Province. Ultimately, on 9 December, the authorities swooped and arrested around 100 leading members [RLPB 483 (12 Dec)], dozens of whom remain in detention. On 19 March China Aid Association (CAA) reported that several church members had recently 'disappeared', usually right after receiving a visit from the government officials. Furthermore, Chengdu authorities have driven some Christians out of their homes and pressured landlords to cancel leases. One couple -- Liu and his wife Xing -- were visiting Christian friends on 2 March when police from Chengdu Shuyuan Police Station came and took them away for interrogation. Liu and Xing were 'personally humiliated, abused, and violently beaten by seven to eight police officers' through the night in Taisheng Road Police Station before being escorted back home. Please pray for the Church in China.

* INDIA: PERSECUTION WITH IMPUNITY IN TAMIL NADU

Indians will go to the polls in seven phases between 11 April and 19 May to elect a new Lok Sabha (lower house of parliament). The results will be announced on 23 May. Consequently, Hindu nationalist forces are in full campaign mode. Morning Star News reports unprecedented targeting of churches in the southern state of Tamil Nadu. In one case, area leaders from the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led a mob of Hindu villagers in a Sunday evening attack on a house church prayer meeting led by Pastor Raju and attended by 20 women whom the Hindu mob humiliated, abused, threatened and terrorised. In another case, Arjun Sampath, the founder of the Hindu Nationalist Party (Hindu Makkal Katchi), went door-to-door with a female police officer admonishing Christians and ordering them to cease their activities. 'They told me that there should not be any Christian prayers in the area,' said Pastor Vetri. In yet another case, a Hindu mob burnt a Christian meeting place, forcing the believers to meet in the hall. Under pressure, the landlord informed them they would have to vacate. According to Pastor Joseph, the congregation had been receiving threats for many months, but the police were simply not interested. Please pray for the Church in India, especially as the election approaches.

* KAZAKHSTAN: BAPTISTS UNDER PRESSURE

In Kazakhstan, all churches must be registered to be legal. The requirement for a local body to have at least 50 adult members can be difficult for Protestant communities, especially in rural areas. As in China, the restrictions imposed on registered churches make registration unpalatable for many. Churches belonging to the Council of Churches Baptists do not apply for registration on principle, maintaining that religious freedom is a fundamental human right. This brings them into conflict with the authorities, but no more than any of the restrictions would even if they did register. Forum 18 reports that on 3 March, Anti-Terrorism Police in the southern city of Taraz raided another Baptist church's Sunday morning meeting for worship, the third such raid on a Council of Churches Baptist community since 10 February. In total, five Baptists have been fined the equivalent of either one month's or two month's salary. While Kazakhstan's religion laws are designed to target genuinely problematic Islamic jihadist and revolutionary movements, they are eagerly applied to peaceful Protestants in Kazak/Muslim-majority areas with the goal of preserving 'social harmony'. Please pray for the Church in Kazakhstan.

* PAKISTAN: TRAFFICKING OF CHRISTIAN GIRLS

Sadaf Masih is a 13-year-old Christian girl from Bahawalpur, Punjab Province. On 6 February she joined the ranks of hundreds of girls to be abducted by Muslims and trafficked across religious lines in Pakistan. Indeed, it is widely accepted that at least 1000 minority girls are trafficked in Pakistan every year. The three Muslim men who abducted Sadaf are described as 'influential'. When Sadaf's family confronted the men they promised to return her. Instead, they sent the family a marriage certificate showing Sadif's age as 18, her religion as Muslim and her status as married. Despite death threats, the family has registered a case with the police, who are reluctant to get involved.

Christian girl Sadif Masih (13) (left) and video footage of the forced marriage of
two abducted Hindu sisters aged 13 and 15.

On 20 March two Hindu sisters aged 13 and 15 were abducted by 'influential' Muslim men in Ghotki District, Sindh Province. When video footage appeared online showing the girls being forcibly married to Muslim men against their will, the Hindu community erupted. Only then did police agree to register an official complaint. The incident triggered a 'mini-spat' between Pakistan and its nuclear-armed Hindu-majority neighbour, India. By 25 March seven men had been arrested. While the girls might be free they are not home yet; instead they are being held in a government shelter as the authorities investigate whether they were actually abducted and forcibly converted. As for Sadaf Masih (13), who will speak up for her? Unfortunately, she does not have a nuclear-armed neighbour on her side. But she does have the Church and she does have the Lord! 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 

Monday, March 18, 2019

RLPB 494. Somalia: bleeding into Kenya

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 494 | 19 Mar 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)


SOMALIA: BLEEDING INTO KENYA
-- by Elizabeth Kendal

Lawless Somalia - Aug 2017
click on map to enlarge
Somalia is a failed state and one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a Christian. The population is 99.8 percent Muslim and the Christian charity, Open Doors, has placed it third on its World Watch List 2019, describing the persecution as 'extreme'. Whilst Islamic State (IS) does have a presence in Somalia, the main terror group operating there is al-Qaeda-affiliate, al-Shabaab [see RLPB 411 (21 June 2017)].  Both groups hunt down and execute Somali converts to Christianity, often with the assistance and support of thoroughly radicalised local Muslims who view Christianity as the religion of the colonisers (Italy and Britain) -- a religion that has no place in an independent Somalia. In September 2008 Mansuur Mohammed (25) became the first ethnic Somali convert to be martyred for Jesus Christ by al-Shabaab in Somalia. Since then, dozens have been martyred. There are 25 entries for Somalia in the RLPB archive and almost every entry tells the story of yet another ethnic Somali Christian martyr.  They have names like: Abdishakur, Abdikhani, Farhan Haji, Juma Nuradin, Hassan, (Ms) Asha, (Ms) Fatima Sultan, Abdullah, Ali, Hussein, Sheik Mohammed, Maaddey, Osman, Abdikarim and (Ms) Sofia Osman who survived despite being flogged almost to death. These are names in the Lamb's Book of Life! Christians tend to flee Somalia. However, despite its small mustard seed-like size, Somalia's buried/planted, 'underground church' has taken root and is growing. Meanwhile, al-Shabaab is recruiting both across Somalia and in Kenya, allegedly tempting disgruntled and unemployed youths with the offer of a 'hefty' salary.  

Civil war (commenced 1991) has resulted in a whole generation of Somalis being lost to displacement and famine. The Somali Diaspora (overseas communities) is estimated at being more than one million. Those with means fled to the US and EU; those without means crossed the border into Ethiopia or Kenya. At its peak the Dadaab refugee camp, in eastern Kenya's Somali-dominated Garissa County, housed around 500,000 displaced Somalis. While more than 100,000 have accepted assistance for voluntary repatriation in the past two years, Somalia is still anything but stable. At least in the refugee camps Somalis have access to Kenyan and international aid workers and teachers, many of whom are Christian. Likewise, the city of Garissa is home to many courageous, mostly Kenyan Christians who work tirelessly and sacrificially to minister to 'harassed and helpless' ethnic Somalis in a place of freedom (Matthew 9:35-38).

Kenya map showing
Garissa County and city.
That said, even inside Kenya, Christians ministering to Somalis must be 'wise as serpents and innocent as doves' (Matthew 10:16), for the work is incredibly dangerous. After all, most Somalis who flee to Kenya bring their fundamentalist Islam and hatred of Christianity with them. Like a shield encapsulating the heart, it requires a breakthrough of the Holy Spirit to breach and finally shatter it. Fortunately, the Spirit of God is there with grace and in power, both in war-wracked Somalia and in Kenya's Somali-dominated eastern regions. Al-Shabaab has repeatedly targeted Kenyan Christians in Garissa County, especially teachers whom it assassinates because they might influence ethnic Somali youths as they receive an education in Kenya they could not receive at home [see RLPB 411 (21 June 2017)]. The worst single attack occurred on 2 April 2015, when al-Shabaab attacked Garissa University College, slaughtering 148 Christian students and wounding a further 79 [see RLPB 304 (8 April 2015)]. Despite all the obstacles, an ethnic Somali Church has taken root inside Kenya and is growing. Though it might have freedom in Kenya, that does not mean it is safe.

Pastor Abdul (30) is an ethnic Somali living in Garissa. He is married and the father of three children, aged 8, 5 and 3. He is also a pastor who cares for a fellowship of about 30 Somali converts. Because it is too dangerous to meet openly or all together, he meets with the believers in small groups in various places regularly for worship, prayer and Bible study. Recently his secret work was discovered by Somali Muslims who had grown suspicious. On Friday evening 8 March, Pastor Abdul was walking home from a prayer meeting when the Muslims confronted him. They told him they knew of his 'evil plans' to lead Somali Muslims into Christianity. They then beat him severely with wooden clubs. Neighbours found Abdul unconscious and lying in a pool of blood and rushed him to hospital. He has a broken thigh bone and numerous deep bruises, causing severe pain all over his body, but especially his legs, waist and back.  'I'm almost unable to bear the pain,' he told Morning Star News, adding, 'My family is in great fear, and Christians have re-located us to another place. Our prayer for now is to get a safe place for my family. My life and that of my family is at stake.'


PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL 

* mercifully intervene in Somalia to bring peace and freedom; may al-Shabaab's financial backers be exposed; may all financial backing cease; may all lines of supply be severed; may al-Shabaab's life-source dry up. 'Break the arm (mechanism of action; source of power) of the wicked and evildoer; call his wickedness to account till you find none.' (Psalm 10:15 ESV).

* lovingly bless, sustain and protect the vulnerable, underground Somali Church and all who serve her, both inside war-wracked Somalia and in eastern Kenya's Garissa County.

* faithfully walk with Pastor Abdul, his wife and their children, to guide, deliver and comfort them as they make decisions about their future; may the Lord protect and provide for his flock in Garissa.

* graciously raise up and send out more labourers into his harvest field of 'harassed and helpless' ethnic Somalis. We pray especially that the Church in Kenya might be seized with the urgency of this mission. 'For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power' (1 Corinthians 4:20 ESV).

We might ask, 'Is it easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a Somali Muslim to enter the kingdom of God?' But Jesus answers, 'With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.'  (Matthew 19:23-26)


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE 
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SOMALI CHURCH BEING ATTACKED

Somalia is one of the world's most dangerous places to be a Christian. Al-Shabaab hunts down and executes Christian converts. Somali Muslims maintain that Christianity has no place in Somalia. Civil war and famine have forced hundreds of thousands of Somalis to flee into Kenya, where they have access to Kenyan and international aid workers and teachers, many of whom are Christian. A small and vulnerable ethnic Somali Church is taking root both inside war-wracked Somalia and in eastern Kenya's Somali-dominated Garissa County. Kenya might offer freedom and opportunity, but the work among Somalis is still incredibly dangerous. On 8 March Pastor Abdul (Somali, aged 30, married, father of three) was severely beaten in Garissa by Somali Muslims. Though relocated, his family fear for their lives. Please pray for the Somali Church.

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Elizabeth Kendal is an international religious liberty analyst and advocate. She serves as Director of Advocacy at Canberra-based Christian Faith and Freedom (CFF), and is an Adjunct Research Fellow at the Arthur Jeffery Centre for the Study of Islam at Melbourne School of Theology.

She has authored two books: Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today (Deror Books, Melbourne, Australia, Dec 2012) which offers a Biblical response to persecution and existential threat; and After Saturday Comes Sunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East (Wipf and Stock, Eugene, OR, USA, June 2016).

See www.ElizabethKendal.com 

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

RLPB 493. Iraq: from Nation to Decimation to Elimination

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 493 | Wed 13 Mar 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)

IRAQ: FROM NATION TO DECIMATION TO ELIMINATION
-- the plight of Iraq's indigenous and Christian Assyrian nation
-- by Elizabeth Kendal

Islamic State (IS/ISIS) is making a come-back in Iraq. Military analyst David Kilcullen remarks that with its resurgence, IS is 'giving new meaning to its motto "Remaining and ¬Expanding".' While IS attacks are presently small scale and low intensity -- comprising mostly bombings, raids, assassinations and sectarian executions -- they are increasing in frequency and sophistication. According to the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), IS maintains some 30,000 fighters in Iraq and Syria, of whom up to 17,000 are in Iraq, including 1,000 who have crossed over from Syria in the past six months.  ISW reports that IS is re-establishing zones of support, lines of supply and the means to generate revenue (mostly through drugs and extortion). As long as Baghdad remains enmeshed in political power struggles between parties that are proxies of either Iran or America, IS will exploit the paralysis to re-establish itself across Iraq.

In January the Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government, Nechirvan Barzani, ominously warned, 'We have concerns about the return of IS ... to Nineveh [Province, northern Iraq].' On 20 February the Iraqi Army's Chief of Staff Othman al-Ghanimi told reporters at a press conference near Mosul that Iraqi security forces had detained 24 IS militants. The group, which had escaped Syria and was headed for Mosul, included four IS leaders. Later that day, Iraqi security and intelligence forces intercepted a car near Badush, 25km north-west of Mosul, killing the five IS fighters inside, each of whom was reportedly wearing an explosive vest. On 28 February IS successfully carried out a car-bomb attack in Mosul, killing one civilian and wounding 13. On the same day, a car-bomb exploded near Mosul University, killing two and wounding 24. On Friday 8 March a car-bomb in Mosul killed two (including a child) and wounded 10. It must be noted that, whilst violence has escalated, not all recent bombings have been claimed by IS.

The return of IS is not the only threat facing Nineveh's already decimated indigenous and Christian Assyrian remnant. In August 2014, as IS advanced east from Mosul towards oil-rich Kirkuk, the jihadists overran and ethnically cleansed the Nineveh Plain, displacing around 130,000 Assyrian Christians, along with other non-Sunni minorities, including the Shabak. Possibly with Persian roots, the Shabak follow a syncretistic form of Shia Islam. Today, it seems that Baghdad and Tehran are using the Shabak as a proxy as they struggle against the Kurds for control over Nineveh's 'Disputed Territories', which includes the Assyrian heartland. If there is one thing the Kurds, the Shabaks, Baghdad and Tehran all agree on, it is their desire to eliminate the Christian presence and even erase millennia of Assyrian and Christian history.

Cross over Bartella
click here for Video (by Rudaw, 11 Feb 2019)

Ground zero in this existential struggle is the Assyrian town of Bartella, 21km due east of Mosul. Prior to August 2014, Bartella had been policed by the mostly Christian, Assyrian Ninewa Protection Unit (NPU). Today, security in the area is controlled by Iraq's mostly-Shia, Popular Mobilisation Force (PMF), also known as 'Hashd'. In Bartella, the Hashd are mostly Shabak. Of the 3,800 Christian families to have fled Bartella in 2014, less than one third have returned. In Bartella they face not just devastation, but disturbing levels of harassment, intimidation and threat. Christian leaders are convinced that the Shabak are working to drive them away, prevent their return and replace them with Shabak Shi'ites. To this end they have the backing of Baghdad and Tehran. Regional authorities are establishing new settlements in Bartella with the aim of repopulating the town. One project under way in an area traditionally occupied by Assyrian Christians is named 'Sultan City'. The project involves seizing agricultural land owned by Assyrians and converting it into a residential area with hundreds of new homes. The project was first outlined in 2013, but had to be postponed due to the ISIS occupation.  This situation is being repeated, albeit to a lesser extent, in the nearby Assyrian towns of Karamles and Qaraqosh/Bakhdida.

Interview with Father Behnam Benoka
As Father Behnem Benoka notes: IS are Sunnis and the Shabak are Shi'ite, 'but all are Muslims. Everybody hates the Church, everybody hates Christians and wants them out of their historical places.'

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL 

* intervene in Iraq to the benefit of his Church and the long-suffering, severely persecuted Assyrian remnant (see, Isaiah 19:23-25):
-- may historic Assyrian/Christian towns be officially recognised and protected,
-- may the campaign to alter the demography of the Nineveh Plain be stopped, and
-- may the indigenous Assyrians be granted the right to govern and police themselves.

* bless and sustain Iraq's pastors, priests, nuns and other Christian workers as they risk their lives and struggle against overwhelming odds to rebuild and maintain the Christian presence in Iraq; may spiritual unity blossom across ethnic and denominational lines.

The Lord Almighty will bless them, saying, “Blessed be Egypt my people, Assyria my handiwork, and Israel my inheritance.” (Isaiah 19:25 NIV)

* bless and sustain his precious Church across Mesopotamia (Syria-Iraq / the Fertile Crescent); may the Lord bring physical, emotional and spiritual healing to all who have been profoundly shattered, fundamentally distracted and spiritually challenged by violence, displacement and betrayal.


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE 
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IRAQ: FROM NATION TO DECIMATION TO ELIMINATION

Some 17,000 Islamic State (IS/ISIS) fighters are believed to be consolidating in Iraq, where IS attacks are increasing in frequency and sophistication. But their return is not the only threat facing Iraq's remnant Christians, most of whom belong to the long-persecuted Assyrian nation, whose historic heartland is in northern Iraq's Nineveh Plain. Baghdad and Tehran are currently struggling against the Kurds for control of the north's 'Disputed Territories', which includes the Assyrian heartland. To that end, Baghdad and Tehran are apparently using the Shabak -- a distinct ethnic group who are nominally Shi'ite -- as their proxy against the Kurds in Nineveh. The Shabak are working to seize Assyrian lands, drive the Christians out, prevent their return and replace them with Shabak, seemingly with Baghdad's approval. Please pray for Iraq's Christians.

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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, March 5, 2019

RLPB 492. Ethiopia: Communal Violence Threatens Progress

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 492 | Wed 6 Mar 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: COMMUNAL VIOLENCE THREATENS PROGRESS
-- Elizabeth Kendal

Ethiopia: an ethic-federation
click on map to enlarge
Originating in the Abyssinian regions of the north, Ethiopia expanded over centuries to become a mighty empire. Today it is home to 109 million citizens from 87 ethnic groups. As a long-repressed, ethno-federation, the great and immediate danger facing Ethiopia today is ethnic fragmentation and communal conflict. New-found liberties bring risks, as does the threat of backlash from those who have lost power through the reforms of new Prime Minster Dr Abiy Ahmed (41). [For full background see: Reforms and Resistance, Religious Liberty Monitoring, 25 June 2018.] This is the context in which communal violence has escalated. Ethiopia now has more than 2.4 million Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), 1.4 million of whom were displaced by communal violence in the first six months of 2018 -- the highest level of internal displacement in 2018 anywhere the world! While most of the violence is inter-ethnic -- with ethnic minorities coming under attack -- there is a real risk that religious violence could become more widespread, especially in areas where ethnic incitement has failed. Critically, it is generally the case that when minorities (ethnic or religious) are attacked, the local police do not intervene.
 
On 4 February two mosques were torched in Esta woreda (district), South Gondar zone of Amhara region. North of Addis Ababa, South Gondar zone is roughly 96.5 percent Ethiopian Orthodox and 3.5 percent Muslim. Muslims decorating a venue for a wedding had found a Christian image among their shredded papers. Eager to avoid any misunderstanding, they met with Christian leaders and resolved the matter peacefully. It was later that afternoon that the two mosques were burned. The Sheik is convinced that people with political motives incited the unprecedented attack, hoping to trigger sectarian unrest. On 10 February a mosque was torched in Endabet Jara Gedo woreda of Southern Gondar. Local residents joined together to put the fire out before the building was engulfed.

Remains of Kale Hiwot Galeto church,
Alaba Kulito (photo: Steadfast Global).
More images VOMCanada.
Meanwhile, on 9 February, at least 10 churches were burnt in Alaba Kulito town in Alaba zone of Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples' Region. South of Addis Ababa, Alaba zone is 93.9 percent Muslim, 4.6 percent Ethiopian Orthodox and 1.2 percent Protestant. It seems the Muslim youths who led the attack had been fed a false report that a mosque in a nearby village had been burnt. The attack appeared highly organised, leading many to suspect it was incited in the mosque and carefully orchestrated to ensure there would be no deaths and no damage to Muslim property. While Kale Hiwot Galeto church's building was razed to the ground, most other properties had their furniture and bibles removed and burnt in the street. There were no fatalities, but two church workers required hospitalisation. Alaba Kulito's churches are attended by some 9,000 Christians, most of whom have migrated into the town from the surrounding rural areas in search of work. Tensions are high.

A Call for Unity: Ethiopians celebrate 123-year anniversary
of the Battle of Adwa (2 March).
On Saturday 2 March Ethiopians celebrated the 123-year anniversary of the Battle of Adwa. In 1896, at least 73,000 Ethiopians from every tribe and tongue united to defeat a 20,000-strong well-armed Italian army eager to expand Italy's fledgling 19th century colonial empire. With its victory, Ethiopia secured its independence. It was 'the first victory of black people against Western invaders'.  Eager to foster a stronger sense of national unity and shared fortunes, PM Abiy has revived the event. Promoted under the motto, 'Adwa, the stamp of our unity', PM Abiy encouraged Ethiopians, especially youths, to join together to defeat current challenges.

In 1974, Protestant Christianity comprised 5 percent of the population. In the 2007 census, it comprised 18.6 percent. Most growth has occurred this century, and many new Protestants are (like PM Abiy Ahmed) converts from Islam. There is also a growing renewal movement within the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. This work of the Spirit is gravely imperilled by the current threat. A fierce spiritual battle for Ethiopia is under way. 


PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL 

* raise up strong leadership in Christian communities; leaders who can guide impressionable and vulnerable youths to reject incitement and grow in grace.

* bless and protect vulnerable Christian minorities in hostile regions; may incitement against them come to nought; may grace abound as those who bear the cross 'shine like stars in the universe' (from Philippians 2:12-18)

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


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE 
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COMMUNAL VIOLENCE THREATENS PROGRESS IN ETHIOPIA

The great reform work being done by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed could be undone if escalating communal violence cannot be contained. More than 2.4 million Ethiopians are now displaced because of communal violence, much of which is believed to be incited by political elements opposed to PM Abiy's reforms. In early February, three mosques were burnt in a majority Christian region in the north, while at least ten churches were burnt in a majority Muslim region in the south. As in the more numerous cases of pure ethnic violence, majorities are attacking minorities and local police are not intervening. In each case of religious violence, it was incited by a false report and then carefully organised. Please pray that God will complete the good work he has begun in Ethiopia.

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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