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.

* NORTH-WEST SYRIA (RLPB 503), where 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.

SYRIA: ISLAMIC STATE 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.

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

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