Tuesday, May 28, 2019

RLPB 504. May Update, incl. Sri Lanka, Burkina Faso, Sudan, Syria, Algeria, India, Indonesia, Nigeria, Pakistan

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 504 | Wed 29 May 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

'Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.' (Moses to God's people, Deuteronomy 31:6 ESV)


MAY 2019 UPDATE -- during this period we prayed concerning

* SRI LANKA (RLPB 500), as the Church and the nation struggle to come to terms with the Easter terror attacks that claimed the lives of 253 people.

UPDATE: SRI LANKAN GOVERNMENT RESPONDS

On 29 April, for the purpose of national security, the Sri Lankan government enacted a law banning 'any face garment that hinders identification'. In early May, MP Patali Champika Ranawaka called for the immediate deportation of some 800 foreign Islamic teachers employed at Madrasas and various educational institutes. He said all universities must come under the direct supervision of the University Grants Commission and all educational institutes must come under the direct supervision of the Education Ministry. He also pointed out that some institutes which promote Islamic radicalisation were operating in the guise of providing vocational training for the youth. He told Daily Mirror that most of those to be deported were Islamic clerics who had arrived on tourist visas but were engaged in Islamic religious teaching. The Education Minister, Akila Viraj Kariyawasam, said his ministry would take steps to regulate the Madrasas in the country. Meanwhile, the whole affair has poured fuel on the fire of Sinhalese Buddhist nationalism which, for Christians, is every bit as dangerous as fundamentalist Wahhabi Islam. Please pray for Sri Lanka and for her grieving and anxious Church.

* BURKINA FASO (RLPB 501), where terror attacks have escalated and a recent spate of attacks targeting churches in the north portend a new and disturbing trend. On Sunday 28 April a Protestant church was attacked in Silgadji; the pastor and five church members were martyred. On Sunday 12 May a Catholic church was attacked in Dablo; the priest and five members were murdered and the church was burnt. Other individual believers have been murdered and abducted. Presumed abducted on Sunday 17 March, Fr Père Joël Yougbaré remains 'disappeared' [see update included in RLPB 502 (15 May)].

UPDATE: FOUR KILLED IN CHURCH ATTACK

On Sunday 26 May 'heavily armed individuals' attacked a Catholic church in Toulfé during Mass. Toulfé is 240km north-west of the capital Ouagadougou and 50km south-west of Djibo on the road to Ouahigouya. The Bishop of Ouahigouya, Justin Kientega, reports that four believers were killed and several others wounded. Please pray for the Church in Burkina Faso.

An analysis of the security situation in Burkina Faso has been posted to Religious Liberty Monitoring (RLM).
'Militants destabilise Burkina Faso, but whose proxies are they?'
By Elizabeth Kendal, 23 May 2019.

* SUDAN (RLPB 502), as months of protests calling for 'New Sudan' reach a critical and dangerous juncture.

UPDATE: COUNTER-REVOLUTION IN THE MAKING

After many decades of practice, Sudan's military has perfected the art of using peace talks as a stalling mechanism and smokescreen behind which it prepares for war. This appears to be the case that, while the Transitional Military Council (TMC) is agreeing to talk, it has no intention of transitioning to a civilian government. Meanwhile, protesters continue to pour into Khartoum from all over Sudan and even from the Sudanese Diaspora. 'What you see here is all Sudan. All Sudan together as one,' said Hossam Osman, a Sudanese-American who had travelled from Washington to join the sit-in outside military headquarters. On Sunday 26 May officials from the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) arrived in Khartoum for talks with the TMC. Presumably they will be seeking greater autonomy for South Kordofan (including Nuba Mountains) and Blue Nile.

Islamist counter-protest in Khartoum
All the while, the TMC appears to be preparing a counter-revolution. TMC head Gen Abdel Fattah Al Burhan visited Egypt on Saturday 25 May, presumably to shore up support for his regime. Then, on 26 May, he visited the United Arab Emirates (UAE) as TMC deputy head General Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo ('Hemeti' -- head of the notorious Rapid Support Forces) visited Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia and UAE have pledged $3billion in aid to Sudan to ease fuel and bread shortages. (As noted in RLPB 502, though fuel and bread shortages might have triggered the protests, 'the protests were, and still are, about much more than bread'.) In Khartoum, Islamist groups are emerging from the shadows; they have begun counter-protesting, backing the army's call to retain Sharia Law. The Forces for Freedom and Change want a New Sudan, free of Arab and Islamist chauvinism, proud of its ethnic and religious diversity. However, opposition is mounting. Please pray.

* SYRIA (RLPB 503)

1) THE BATTLE FOR IDLIB.  Government forces are pushing back against Islamist jihadists aligned with al-Qaeda-led Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), the dominant group, and the National Liberation Front (NLF), backed by Turkey. Missiles from inside the 'Greater Idlib' terror sanctuary routinely rain down on Christian villages and towns in north-east Latakia, north-west Hama and western Aleppo. Determined to maintain its presence in northern Syria, Turkey is funnelling weapons -- including dozens of armoured vehicles, Grad rocket launchers, anti-tank guided missiles -- to the jihadists in 'Greater Idlib'. It is also beefing up its troop presence at more than a dozen observation posts established under the de-escalation agreement. Please pray for the imperilled Church in north-west Syria.

2) ISLAMIC STATE RUMBLES IN THE EAST. Despite having lost their Caliphate, Islamic State (IS) -- which is believed to have around 17,000 fighters in Iraq and some 30,000 in Syria -- is regrouping and preparing for a resurgence [see RLPB 493 (13 Mar 2019)]. Adding to Syria's woes are the more than 9,000 IS fighters and 63,000 IS family members currently detained in a network of detention facilities and camps. Just 40km east of Hasaka and only about 10km from the border of Iraq's northern Nineveh Province, the Al-Hawl Camp is home to roughly 30,000 detainees, many of whom are ideologically committed and extremely violent. Women who served as Hisba police in Raqqa and Mosul are known to attack guards and burn the tents of non-compliant detainees. They are also known to be actively radicalising, recruiting and organising for IS inside the camp. The problem is way beyond the capabilities of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces to manage. Like a volcano that is preparing to erupt, the IS problem poses an existential danger to the region's remnant Christians. Please pray.


MAY 2019 ROUND-UP -- also this month

* ALGERIA: CHURCH FORCIBLY CLOSED IN KABYLIE REGION

On 22 May authorities in north-central Algeria shut down a church, along with its Bible school, on the grounds that it was unregistered. The church in Boudjima, 20km north-east of Tizi-Ouzou in Kabylie Region, is affiliated with the Protestant Church of Algeria (EPA). Its pastor, EPA vice president Youcef Ourahmane, told Morning Star News that he has applied for registration but, like all such applications in Algeria, it sits unprocessed. According to Middle East Concern, officials have yet to issue any licence for a church building under the 2006 law which regulates non-Muslim worship. Since November 2017, 'building-safety committees' have visited most EPA-affiliated churches and inquired about licences. Gradually these churches are being shut down. The March 2006 law coincided with the February 2006 amnesty through which some 10,000 Islamic militants were released from prison. In truth, the law was never intended to regulate churches. Rather, it was intended to provide a legal means through which the churches could be quietly eliminated to appease Islamists. [Background: Religious Liberty Monitoring, March 2006]. Please pray for the church in Algeria.

* INDIA: DANGER AS HINDU NATIONALISM IS ENDORSED
As anticipated, the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won the Indian elections and Narendra Modi will be India's prime minister for the next five years. While the vote has been deemed generally free and fair, India now has a record number of Members of Parliament -- up to 43 percent -- serving while facing criminal charges. Official data from the Election Commission shows the BJP ahead in 302 of the 542 seats up for grabs. This is up from the 282 seats it won in 2014, and well over the 272 needed for a majority in the lower house of parliament. [Election MAP] The National Democratic Alliance, of which the BJP is a part, is poised to win 350 seats: i.e., 64.6 percent, just short of the two-thirds needed to change the constitution. Only the deep south remained untouched by what is being called the 'Modi magic'. As Stratfor Intelligence notes, the centre of gravity in Indian politics has shifted. For India's beleaguered Christians, persecution with impunity can only escalate. Please pray for the Church in India.

Five families in village in Jharkhand state, punished for becoming Christians.
For persecution news see, Morning Star News / India

* INDONESIA: DANGER AS ISLAMIC MILITANTS SEEK TO DESTABILISE

As anticipated, on 21 May Joko Widodo was declared the winner of the 2019 presidential poll. In an election deemed largely free and fair, the official count revealed that the Widodo-Amin ticket won with 55.5 percent of the vote, an 11 percentage point margin over his challenger, the controversial former army general Prabowo Subianto, who had the backing of Indonesia's most radical and militant Islamists. No sooner had the result been announced, protests erupted, with Subianto supporters echoing his pre-poll line that a loss would prove that the polls were rigged.

Indonesia correspondent for The Australian, Amanda Hodge, reports (24 May): 'At least seven people have died and hundreds have been injured since riots broke out on Tuesday night [21 May] after legitimate protesters disbanded and those intent on causing chaos began hurling rocks, firecrackers and petrol bombs at police.' General Prasetyo told The Australian: 'Someone is trying to get this country to descend into chaos, to overthrow the government. It is not a coincidence that there were gun-smuggling cases, riots, discoveries of rocks and weapons inside an ambulance, the mobilisation of groups from outside Jakarta -- all happening at the same time.' Incendiary rumours have spread on social media, including the lie that Chinese police have been brought in to kill protesters. The rumours have put Indonesia's Chinese community on edge. Along with the Chinese community, the Church too is likely to be targeted if radical Islamists commit to destabilising the Jokowi government. Please pray for Indonesia and her Church.

* NIGERIA

(1) DANGER AS TRUTH EMERGES

In February we prayed through Nigeria's presidential elections [RLPBs 488 and 489]. The fear was not that Muhammadu Buhari would be re-elected, for his presidency was widely acknowledged to have been an unmitigated disaster. The fear was that his loss would trigger horrendous Islamic rioting, as in 2015 when he lost to Goodluck Jonathan.

Atiku Abubakar (left) and
Muhammadu Buhari (right)
On 27 February Nigeria's Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declared Muhammadu Buhari the winner of the 2019 presidential poll. To close observers, this beggared belief. As it turns out, not only were the polls rigged, but the INEC had cooperated with Buhari to deliver him the victory. High level intelligence warned of this early on. Now, however, a court challenge is under way through which claims will be tested. Alerted to a plot to rig the polls, PDP candidate Atiku Abubakar took precautions. He had the INEC whistle-blower hack into the INEC server and downloaded the results before they were announced and he has the digital footprints to prove it. Critically, the INEC still has not released any tabulated results, despite having already declared Buhari the winner. On 29 May Muhammadu Buhari will be inaugurated as president of Nigeria, despite the results on the INEC server showing that Buhari had lost by more than 1.6 million votes. National celebrations will be held on 12 June, a day Buhari wants recognised as 'Democracy Day'. Four more years of Buhari would be disastrous for Nigeria, and particularly catastrophic for Christians in the North and Middle Belt who are suffering severely as Islamic violence escalates and security deteriorates, primarily due to massive government corruption and duplicity. Please pray.

Full report on Religious Liberty Monitoring (RLM).
Nigeria's Fraudulent Election: Will Things Fall Apart?
By Elizabeth Kendal, 29 May 2019

(2) TERROR IN KADUNA

Just after midnight, in the very early hours of 19 May, suspected Fulani herdsmen stormed a church affiliated with the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) in Dankande Village, 120km west of Kaduna City in Nigeria's volatile Middle Belt. They kidnapped Rev Zakariya Ido, his daughter and 15 other church members, all of whom had been attending choir practice. Later that same night, gunmen killed a Christian and kidnapped two others at Nasara Baptist church, 37km north of Kaduna city. Please pray for Nigeria, and for her suffering Church.

* PAKISTAN

(1) ASIA BIBI'S WAIT FINALLY OVER

Acquitted of blasphemy after nine years on death row, Asia Bibi has finally managed to leave Pakistan. She arrived in Canada on 8 May and was reunited with her relieved family. A few days later, a Pakistani court ordered the release from prison of hard-line cleric and head of the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), Khadim Hussain Rizvi. Rizvi was detained in November after he led paralysing sit-ins in protest of the Supreme Court's acquittal of Asia Bibi [RLPB 481 (28 Nov 2018)]. On 14 May, as Asia breathed in Canada's fresh air of freedom, a Pakistani militant posted a video on-line in which he boasts that he has arrived in Canada 'to slay the blasphemer Asia Bibi'. Please pray that the Lord, who has sustained this faithful family through so much, will watch over them all their lives to keep them safe. (Psalm 23).

(2) CHRISTIAN GIRLS TARGETED FOR TRAFFICKING


Mahek Liaqat weeps while she
recounts her ordeal in an arranged
marriage to a Chinese national.
(Photo: K.M. Chaudary / AP)
source (7 May)
In RLPB 495 (27 March) we prayed concerning the horrific situation in northern Burma where displaced and vulnerable Kachin Christian women and girls are being trafficked across the border into China. There they are sold as 'brides' to Chinese families who will detain and abuse them, at least until they bear their son a child. It has since been revealed that a similar racket is operating in Pakistan.

Pakistani Christian girls are being targeted for human trafficking into China. A local broker will approach a vulnerable Christian family offering to facilitate the marriage of their daughter to a prosperous, Chinese Christian gentleman; for which the family will receive generous compensation. The family agrees unaware that once in China their daughter, who is usually around only 13 years old, will be sold as a 'bride' to a Chinese family (not Christian) who will detain and abuse her, at least until she bears their son a child. The traffickers are exploiting the gender imbalance in China. They target Christians for two reasons: (1) Muslim brokers will not target Muslim girls because, according to Islamic Sharia Law, Muslim girls must marry Muslim men; and (2) the brokers know that poverty-stricken and severely persecuted Pakistani Christians are vulnerable to offers of assistance and escape. 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, May 21, 2019

RLPB 503. Syria: the battle for Idlib heats up

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 503 | Wed 22 May 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)

Please join us in the 30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World
Coinciding with Ramadan -- 6 May to 4 June.

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SYRIA: THE BATTLE FOR IDLIB HEATS UP
-- Christians imperilled
-- by Elizabeth Kendal

click on map to enlarge
Click here for Live Map

Idlib Governorate in Syria's north-west, bordering Turkey, is the last major rebel stronghold in Syria [see RLPB 307 (29 April 2015)]. Most of Idlib's jihadists are aligned with either the al-Qaeda-led Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) or the Turkey-backed National Liberation Front (NLF). Along with fighting the Syrian government, the HTS and NLF are also fighting each other. Under a Turkey-Russia de-escalation agreement brokered in September 2018, Turkey monitors the jihadist-held territory of 'Greater Idlib' (Idlib Governorate plus areas under rebel control in the adjoining governorates of Aleppo, Hama and Latakia), while Russia monitors Syrian government-held territory. Russia maintains humanitarian corridors and encourages civilians to flee. The rebels, however, routinely block these corridors to retain civilians as human shields for propaganda purposes. It is classic asymmetric conflict.

It has long been understood that Syria cannot allow Idlib to remain a terror sanctuary from where missiles are perpetually launched into civilian centres. On 6 May the Syrian Arab Army, with Russian support, launched an offensive in the north-west to drive the jihadists out of Aleppo, Hama and Latakia governorates and end the rebel shelling of residential centres -- shelling which directly violates the de-escalation agreement. On 10 May the UN (relying heavily on rebel propaganda) chastised the Syrian government and warned of a looming humanitarian catastrophe.

On Sunday 12 May rebel mortars struck Al-Suqaylabiyah, a Greek Orthodox Christian city in the north-west of Hama Governorate. Father Maher Haddad, a local priest, reports: 'A rocket struck near a group of children, instantly killing five [ages 6 to 10] and wounding [at least 8] others … [a] woman was killed in a nearby street by a separate rocket.' The next day one civilian was killed and seven wounded when more rebel mortars rained down on the Christian city, once a hub for healthcare, education and mediation. According to local sources, the mortars were fired from Idlib by militants belonging to the Turkey-backed NLF. Syrian government forces retaliated by firing shells toward jihadist positions in southern Idlib.

In Latakia Governorate, which is home to large communities of Alawites and Christians, a fierce battle is raging for the strategic hill-top town of Kabani. Militants belonging to HTS and the al-Qaeda-affiliated, ethnic-Uyghur Turkestan Islamic Party (TIP) hold the hill and the Syrian Army has been taking heavy losses and struggling to make any gains at all. On Friday 17 May the leader of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), Abu Mohammed al-Julani, called for a united jihadist front and appealed for jihadists to advance the cause by opening other battle fronts, especially in western Aleppo. Al-Masdar News reports that Turkey -- which would happily preserve Idlib as a sanctuary for its jihadist proxies -- has re-deployed 'Euphrates Shield' troops from northern Aleppo into Idlib; they are now reportedly only 2km from Syrian positions. On 18 May the Syrian government declared a unilateral ceasefire; however, clashes continue.

Al-Suqaylabiyah's grieving mothers (source)

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL

* shield his precious Church in Syria, especially in the north-west where conflict is escalating; may the Lord preserve and sustain his Church that she will endure to be light and salt and a source of great blessing to Syria's,war-ravaged and traumatised, 'harassed and helpless' peoples.

When [Jesus] saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, 'The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest.' (Matthew 9:36-38 ESV)

* sustain, comfort and encourage those courageous church leaders -- priests, nuns, lay-workers -- who continue to resist the temptation to flee their homeland so they can serve the suffering and persecuted Church, preach the Gospel to the lost and reflect Jesus Christ to a shattered people yearning for peace, truth, love and hope.

* intervene to bring peace and security to Syria; may the jihadists be defeated and may religious liberty be preserved so that Christians who fled to save their families will have confidence to return and rebuild.

Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. (Psalm 20:7 ESV)


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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THE BATTLE FOR IDLIB HEATS UP IN SYRIA

Idlib Governorate in Syria's north-west, bordering Turkey, is the last major rebel stronghold in Syria. Syria cannot allow Idlib to remain a terror sanctuary from where missiles are perpetually launched into civilian centres. On 6 May the Syrian Army launched an offensive to drive the jihadists back and end the shelling of civilian centres. On 12 May rebel missiles fired from Idlib struck Al-Suqaylabiyah, a Greek Orthodox Christian city in northern Hama. Five children playing together were killed instantly while a woman was killed nearby; eight were wounded. The next day, one civilian was killed and seven wounded when the jihadists shelled Al-Suqaylabiyah again. Jihadists are also threatening western Aleppo and northern Latakia, home for many Christians yearning for peace and security. Please pray for Syria 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

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

RLPB 502. 'New Sudan' in sight, but not yet in hand

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 502 | Wed 15 May 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)

Please join us in the 30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World
Coinciding with Ramadan -- 6 May to 4 June.


'NEW SUDAN' IN SIGHT BUT NOT YET IN HAND
plus update on Burkina Faso
-- by Elizabeth Kendal

Alaa Salah (22) leading protests,
Khartoum, 8 April. [video]
Protests erupted in Khartoum on 19 December 2018 after the government trebled the price of bread. However, the protests were, and still are, about much more than bread. In Sudan's 1986 general election, Hassan al-Turabi's hard-line Islamist and Arab-supremacist, Khartoum-centric party, the National Islamic Front (NIF), came in third, winning only 50 of the parliament's 260 seats. In 1989 the moderate and centrist government brokered peace with the Southerners (Christians) by agreeing not to enforce Islamic Sharia law. The NIF responded by working with Islamist and Arab-supremacist Colonel Omar al-Bashir to seize power in a military coup. This unpopular and unrepresentative dictatorship -- a marriage between the NIF and al-Bashir's National Congress Party (NCP) -- then forced its will on all Sudan's diverse peoples. It also waged jihad (Islamic holy war) against all who objected, including the African Christians of the Nuba Mountains and south Sudan, the African Muslims of Darfur in the west; and more recently in the 'new south' regions of Abyei and South Kordofan (African Christian) and Blue Nile (African Muslim). Endless racial and religious hatred, endless war and famine, the break-up of Sudan, the destruction of the economy, endless hardship -- these are the legacy of Omar al-Bashir and the NIF/NCP Government of Sudan (GoS). After 30 years, the people have had enough! [see RLPB 487 (30 Jan 2019)].

Al-Bashir (left) and Hemeti (right)
On Friday 22 February al-Bashir declared a state of emergency and deployed his militias against the people [see RLPB 491 (27 Feb)]. But the protesters -- led primarily by the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA) -- would not surrender. As violence escalated, the military turned and, on 11 April, Omar al-Bashir was himself ousted by his own military. The military then established a 10-member Transitional Military Council (TMC) to rule in al-Bashir's stead. However, the people would not have it; especially since the deputy head of the TMC was none other than Lieutenant General Mohamed Hamdan 'Hemeti' Dagalo, the head the government's infamous Rapid Support Forces (successor to the infamous Janjaweed militia) which is administered by the infamous National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS)! Protests continued with the same demands: civilian representative government with the Army as the cornerstone of security and defence.

Christians from Nuba Mountains,
join protests in Khartoum.
Whilst Christians had been participating (and dying) in the protests from the beginning, the vulnerable and long-persecuted Church had refrained from taking an official position, deeming it simply too dangerous. However, with al-Bashir's ousting, the Church stepped up, officially and publicly taking a stand – as the Church – with the opposition, to the delight of all the protesters [see RLPB 499 (24 April)].

On 30 April a convoy of supporters arrived in Khartoum from Darfur. On 1 May a convoy arrived from the Nuba Mountains. The SPA encouraged protesters to decorate the streets with murals expressing the will of the people. Themes include religious and ethnic harmony and a desire for 'Sudaxit' (Sudan's exit from the Arab League) on the grounds that 'We are black people, the sons of Kushites'. On Thursday 2 May protest leaders handed the TMC a document containing the demands of the 'Forces of the Declaration for Freedom and Change'.

more IMAGES and more IMAGES

On Tuesday 7 May the TMC responded, declaring that there were several issues it could not accept. In particular, the TMC was 'disappointed' that the protest leaders saw no role for Islamic Sharia law. The TMC insists that Sharia should remain the basis of the constitution. On 8 May protest leaders rejected the TMC's rejection. Omar Youssef, a protest leader with the Sudanese Congress Party, told reporters, 'Issues like Sharia [Islamic law] and the language of the state [Arabic], those are ideological weapons the former regime kept using to divide the people ... between Muslims and non-Muslims, Arabs and non-Arabs. We are not willing to stand for this game.' As Salah Aldoma, a Sudanese political analyst observed, 'The Sudanese revolution is against political Islam ...'

Talks resumed on Monday 13 May, but the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) were out in force dispersing protesters with tear gas. In the evening, unidentified gunmen opened fire; a policeman and at least five protesters were killed and dozens wounded, some critically. Talks will continue through Wednesday 15 May, at which point, if their demands are not met, the opposition will launch further civil disobedience. The protests have reached a pivotal point. The 'New Sudan' envisaged by the late Dr John Garang is in sight, but not yet in hand. These are incredibly dangerous, watershed days.


PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL

* break through all resistance in Khartoum, so that those striving at great risk for peace, unity and liberty will attain it and so that the Gospel might resume its advance, not only among 'the sons of the Kushites', but among Arabs and all the diverse peoples of Sudan.

'Among those who know me I mention Rahab and Babylon; behold, Philistia and Tyre, with Cush [Nubia / historic, African Sudan] ...' (from Psalm 87 ESV)

'"The Lord has broken through my enemies before me like a breaking flood." Therefore, the name of that place is called Baal-perazim' [which means the Lord of breaking through, or the Lord who bursts through]. (2 Samuel 5:20 ESV)

* 'bind the strong man' (Satan) so that the Islamist 'deep state' will indeed be swept away -- leaderless, powerless, unable to wreak havoc -- so that the people may be truly liberated and redeemed. (see Mark 3:22-27)

* preserve and sustain his long-suffering precious Church in Sudan; may she have wisdom to navigate the path ahead and effectual power from the Holy Spirit as she testifies to the grace, mercy and wisdom of God in Jesus Christ.


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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'NEW SUDAN' IN SIGHT BUT NOT YET IN HAND

After 30 years of racism, jihad, repression and hardship at the hands of Sudan's Islamist and Arab-supremacist government, Sudan's diverse peoples have had enough! Protests erupted on 19 December. On 22 February President Omar al-Bashir deployed his militias against the people. On 11 April al-Bashir -- who came to power in a military coup -- was ousted by a military coup. The military then appointed a ruling Transitional Military Council (TMC). But the protesters -- who have come to Khartoum from all over Sudan -- said 'no' to military rule, 'no' to political Islam, 'no' to Arab hegemony and 'no' to Sharia Law which the TMC insists should remain the bedrock of the constitution. A 'New Sudan' is in sight, but not yet in hand. These are dangerous, watershed days. Please pray for Sudan and its Church.

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UPDATE to last week's RLPB 501 on Burkina Faso

Fr. Siméon Yampa 
On the morning of Sunday 12 May up to 30 Islamic militants attacked a Catholic church in remote Dablo, northern Burkina Faso, killing the priest and five other worshippers. According to one survivor, the militants insisted that the priest -- Fr. Siméon Yampa -- not be allowed to escape; he must be killed. The militants then torched the church and several properties in the town, including the health clinic and pharmacy. Dablo is not far from Silgadji where a Protestant pastor and five other worshippers were similarly slaughtered on the morning of Sunday 28 April. Another Catholic priest, Fr Père Joël Yougbaré was abducted from the same area on Sunday 17 March; his fate and whereabouts remain unknown. On Monday 13 May, four Catholics were shot dead in central BF by gunmen who found them transporting a religious statue. Also on 13 May, gunmen attacked a Catholic church just over the border in Niger, wounding the parish priest. An analysis of the rapidly deteriorating situation in Burkina Faso will be available on Religious Liberty Monitoring by the end of May. Please continue to pray for Burkina Faso.

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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, May 7, 2019

RLPB 501. Burkina Faso: Church Targeted for Terror

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 501 | Wed 08 May 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)

Please join us in the 30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World,
coinciding with Ramadan -- 6 May to 4 June.

BURKINA FASO: CHURCH TARGETED FOR TERROR
also: Remember the Captives
-- by Elizabeth Kendal

Burkina Faso is 52 percent Muslim, 26 percent ethno-religionist and 21 percent Christian (11.5 percent Catholic; 8.5 percent Protestant). While it might be landlocked and poor, it has long a history of religious harmony and openness. In October 2014 the long-time Islamist dictator Blaise Compaoré -- president since seizing power in a coup in 1987 -- stepped down from the presidency in response to popular protests. In November 2015 Roch Marc Christian Kaboré (a 'devout Catholic') was democratically elected as president. Today, both al-Qaeda and Islamic State (IS) are active in Burkina Faso (BF). Islamic terror first struck BF on 15 January 2016. Since then, there have been more than 230 militant attacks. More than 65 people died in militant attacks in April 2019 alone.

Terror attacks 2018
For a full-sized, detailed and interactive
version of this map see
The Africa Center for Strategic Studies. 
On 31 December 2018, after a surge in terror attacks and high profile abductions, President Kaboré declared a state of emergency in several northern provinces bordering Mali. On 18 January, after months of spiralling insecurity, Prime Minister Paul Kaba Thieba resigned, along with his entire cabinet. Christophe Joseph Marie Dabiré has since been appointed Prime Minister. Compounding the crisis, attacks are no longer confined to the capital, Ouagadougou, and the far north. Exploiting the insecurity, criminals, ethnic militants and terrorist groups are also escalating their activity in the east and south-west. More than 150,000 people have been displaced since July 2018. In the regions most effected by violence, 1111 out of 2869 schools have closed, affecting the education of more than 150,000 children. The country is facing an unprecedented humanitarian crisis.

Pastor Pierre Ouédraogo
World Watch Monitor
On Sunday 28 April around a dozen gunmen on six or seven motorcycles attacked an Assemblies of God church in Sirgadji village in north-eastern Soum province, which is under a state of emergency. They swept in at around 1pm, firing their weapons in the air, as believers were mingling in the grounds after the worship service. A local community leader told World Watch Monitor that the assailants asked the Christians to convert to Islam, but they refused. After seizing and burning their Bibles and mobile phones, the gunmen took their captives behind the church building, one by one, and shot them dead. Martyred were Pastor Pierre Ouédraogo (80), his son Wend-Kuni and brother-in-law Zoéyandé Sawadogo (a deacon) and church members Sayouba and Arouna Sawadogo, and Elie Boena. Before leaving, the militants set fire to the church and stole supplies from the pastor's house. Pastor Ouédraogo is survived by his wife and another six children. His relatives had advised him to leave the area, but he had refused, saying he 'would rather die for his faith than leave the community he has been serving for about 40 years'. The day after the massacre, the gunmen -- described by locals as 'young men who have been radicalised' – returned in search of more Christians. More than 100 Christians have fled the area; remnant Christians and local Muslims are grieving together.

This was the country's first terror attack to target the Church directly. Possibly inspired by the Easter attacks in Sri Lanka, it comes as Islamic State (IS) leader, Abu Bakr al al-Baghdadi (47), reiterates IS's intention to target 'crusaders' (Christians and Westerners) to avenge the Caliphate's territorial losses in Iraq and Syria. For quite some time now, IS has been encouraging its supporters to unleash terror in their homelands. In a propaganda video released on 29 April, al-Baghdadi commends the terror attacks in Sri Lanka and accepts pledges of allegiance from groups in West Africa (Burkina Faso and Mali). While no-one has claimed responsibility for the Sirgadji church massacre, it is very likely that the gunmen were IS supporters.

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL

* grace President Kaboré and all those in authority in Burkina Faso with wisdom, strength and all the international support they need to tackle Islamic radicalisation, defeat the Islamic jihadists and restore peace and security.

'The nations [or in this case Islamic jihadists] roar like the roaring of many waters, but he [God your Saviour] will rebuke them, and they will flee far away, chased like chaff on the mountains before the wind and whirling dust before the storm.' (from Isaiah 17:12-14 ESV)

* redeem all suffering to advance the Kingdom of God; may the seeds of the Gospel, sown in love and now watered with tears, take root and grow as Jesus Christ continues to build his Church in Burkina Faso.

* protect, preserve, sustain, comfort and bless his precious Church in Burkina Faso, that she might continue to grow and be a blessing to the nation.


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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TERRORISTS TARGET THE CHURCH IN BURKINA FASO

On Sunday 28 April gunmen attacked a church in Sirgadji in north-eastern Burkina Faso. The worship service over, the believers were chatting outside when a dozen militants swept in on motorcycles, demanding everyone convert to Islam. The believers refused. After burning their Bibles and phones, the militants executed their captives one by one. Pastor Pierre Ouédraogo (80), his son, his brother-in-law and three other church members were martyred. Relatives had advised Pastor Pierre to flee the region, but he refused to leave the church. Both al-Qaeda and Islamic State are active in Burkina Faso; terror is escalating. Islamic State has long encouraged its supporters to unleash terror at home and recently declared it will specifically target 'crusaders', i.e., Christians and Westerners. Please pray for Burkina Faso and its Church.

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REMEMBER THE CAPTIVES

Located in Soum Province, Sirgadji is not far from Djibo from where Australians Dr Ken Elliott and his wife, Jocelyn, were abducted on 16 January 2016 [RLPB 341 (27 Jan 2016)]. It is also not far from the village of Bilhore, from where Pastor Pierre Boéna and several members of his family were kidnapped in June 2018 [RLPB 465 (25 July 2018)]. Whilst Pastor Boéna was subsequently released, the fate of his family members remains unclear. Jocelyn Elliot also was subsequently released but Dr Ken Elliot (84) remains a captive of al-Qaeda affiliate JNIM, along with at least four other foreign Christians [RLPBs 413 (5 July 2017) and 445 (7 March 2018)]. In December 2018 JNIM ominously announced that they would no longer be releasing videos providing proof-of-life or demanding ransom [RLPB 487 (30 Jan 2019)]. Please pray for Dr Ken Elliot and all Christian captives being held in the Malian desert.

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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

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

RLPB 500. Sri Lanka: A Rattled Church; Fragile Nation

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 500 | Wed 01 May 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)

Please join us in 30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World
Coinciding with Ramadan: 6 May to 4 June. https://www.30daysprayer.com/

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Sri Lanka's Resurrection Sunday (21 April) church bombings have rattled the Sri Lankan Church and exacerbated the nation's fragility and vulnerability. [For background see: RLPB 499, 'Easter Church Bombings in Sri Lanka,' 24 April 2019].

SRI LANKA: A RATTLED CHURCH; FRAGILE NATION
-- by Elizabeth Kendal

Sudesh Kolonne, from Negombo, weeps as he buries his
wife, Manik Suriaaratchi, and 10-yr-old daughter, Alexendria.
(credit: Siobhan Heanue/ABC)

Nothing epitomises the horror of Sri Lanka's Resurrection Sunday terror attack more than the fact that the large number of body parts collected led to many victims being counted more than once. The authorities have since revised the death toll down by 100, from 359 to 253. The traumatising horror of what many Christians saw and suffered that day is unfathomable. The greatest loss of life was inflicted in St Sebastian's church, Negombo, where more than 100 worshipers perished. By Wednesday 24 April the anger roused in Negombo could no longer be contained. Grief-stricken and angry, traumatised Christians took to the streets to drive out the city's Pakistani Muslim refugees -- newcomers, most of whom belonged to the non-violent Ahmadiyya sect deemed heretical in Pakistan. While no-one was killed, more than 600 refugees -- mostly Pakistani Ahmadiyya but also some Pakistani Christian and Afghan refugees -- were displaced. The city's 5000 native Ahmadiyya Muslims went generally unmolested, although some Muslim-owned businesses were destroyed. Christian leaders have called for calm and stressed the need to demonstrate grace and maintain openness. Sri Lankan theologian, Ajith Fernando, put forward six responses: lament loss, condemn evil, alleviate suffering, leave vengeance to the Lord, do not bear false witness (for it is an injustice 'to lump all Muslims under the category of terrorist sympathisers'), and pray (Christianity Today, 23 April 2019). The Church in Sri Lanka needs our support (e.g. financial aid for medical care) and our prayers.

Anusha Kumari (43), from Negombo,
lost her husband, her two children and three siblings.
(Credit: Gemunu Amarasinghe/AP.)

On Friday 26 April authorities raided a suspected terrorist safe-house in the east coast city of Kalmunai, 44km south of Batticaloa. Inside the house were militants and family members. After a lengthy shootout, several militants blew themselves up, killing 15 of their own including six children; several more were wounded. In a second house raided nearby, police found bomb-making materials, including 150 sticks of gelignite and thousands of ball bearings to be used as shrapnel. Police reported that they were tracking down around 130 suspects identified by intelligence agencies of having links with Islamic State. One of the Easter suicide bombers -- J.M.A. Latheef, who studied in the UK and Australia, earning a degree in aeronautical engineering -- is known to have been trained by IS in Raqqa, northern Syria. So far, the authorities have reportedly detained more than 100 suspects, including foreigners from Syria and Egypt. Security officials have received intelligence indicating that further terror strikes are being planned. As is routinely the case, the suicide bombers were neither poor nor uneducated. On the contrary, they were middle and upper-middle class: two were sons of a millionaire spice merchant and at least some had earned their law and engineering degrees overseas. Their driving motivation was ideology, specifically fundamentalist Islam.


Zaharan Hashim, the terrorist ring-leader, lived and preached in the almost exclusively Muslim east coast town of Kattankudy, 9.5km south of Batticaloa. Saudi Arabia's Wahhabi clerical establishment has been investing in Kattankudy since the 1980s, building and running mosques (there are now 60 in a town with a population of 45,000) and madrassas (Islamic/Qur'anic schools), and providing locals with jobs and scholarships in Saudi Arabia where they are inevitably fully radicalised/'Wahhabised'. The growth of intolerant Wahhabi Islam has divided Sri Lankan Muslims, fuelling tensions and arousing fears. Muslims comprise ten percent of the Sri Lankan population, with fully-fledged Wahhabis estimated to comprise around one percent. Sri Lankan Muslims have been warning of the dangers since the 1990s. In 2014 a group called 'Peace Loving Moderate Muslims in Sri Lanka' published a statement in the local Daily Mirror newspaper denouncing National Towheed Jamaat (NTJ, the group that perpetrated the Easter terror attack), warning that NTJ was 'fast becoming a cancer' within Sri Lanka's Muslim community. The statement said, 'We fear that these activities, ... if left unchecked by the authorities, would create a situation in which the majority of Muslims in Sri Lanka, already under threat and harassment from this extremist minority, may have to face the wrath of other religions.'

Indeed, the danger in Sri Lanka now is that the Easter terror attacks will trigger a resurgence of violent religious nationalism among Buddhist Sinhalese (76 percent) and even among Hindu Tamils (14 percent). This would not only cause persecution to skyrocket but could return Sri Lanka to civil war. And civil war could make it so much easier for an Islamic State regional franchise to get a foothold.

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL

* protect his precious Church from those who would bring her harm.

* infuse the whole Sri Lankan Church with a spirit of peace -- shalom -- and with the 'rest' that comes from trusting Jesus (Matthew 11:28-30).

* strengthen the Sri Lankan Church with grace to demonstrate grace, with courage to maintain openness and with wisdom to navigate the way forward.

'Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.' (Isaiah 41:10 ESV)

* redeem this horrific evil so that good might emerge from it: may Sri Lankans of every ethnic group and religion reject all intolerance and ethno-religious supremacy, resist incitement to violence, pursue national unity and preserve the peace.

'For as the earth brings forth its sprouts, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to sprout up, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to sprout up before all the nations.' (Isaiah 61:11 ESV)


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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SRI LANKA: A RATTLED CHURCH AND A FRAGILE NATION

On Sunday 21 April nine Sri Lankan suicide bombers killed 253 people in three churches -- St Anthony's in Colombo, St Sebastian's in Negombo and Zion Church in Batticaloa -- and three hotels. Over 100 Christians died in St Sebastian's church. On 24 April anger overflowed in Negombo as traumatised Christians took to the streets to drive out at least 600 newcomer, mostly Ahmadiyya (non-violent Muslims) Pakistani refugees. The Church is exhorting Christians to demonstrate grace and maintain openness. On Friday 26 April Sri Lankan authorities targeted more terrorists and uncovered a huge cache of explosives as they raided terrorist safe houses in the city of Kalmunai. The bombings have rattled the Sri Lankan Church and exacerbated the nation's fragility and vulnerability. Please pray for Sri Lanka and its 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