Tuesday, June 25, 2019

RLPB 508. June Update, incl. Eritrea, Sudan, Iraq-Syria, Azerbaijan, Niger, Nigeria

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 508 | Wed 26 Jun 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

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. (Matthew 10:29-31 ESV)

JUNE 2019 UPDATE -- during this period we prayed concerning:

click on map to enlarge
* ERITREA (RLPB 505), where a Christian crisis persists 12 months after Ethiopia and Eritrea signed a 'declaration of peace and friendship' and declared the 'state of war' over. Eritrean dictator Isaias Afwerki has long justified his brutal, repressive, totalitarian rule by citing the 'state of war' with Ethiopia. Hopes that peace would lead to an improvement in human rights are proving vain. In May more than 170 Christians were arrested in three raids across Asmara. Whilst around 50 were subsequently released, incarcerated Eritrean Christians continue to suffer inhumane conditions and brutality that routinely includes torture.

UPDATE: REGIME RETALIATES AGAINST CATHOLIC CHURCH

BACKGROUND: Eritrea is roughly 50 percent Muslim and 42 percent Orthodox, 3.4 percent Catholic and 1.3 percent Protestant Christian. Repression is severe and persecution is brutal; even religious groups that are legal are not actually free. In April 2019, to mark the first Easter since the declaration of peace with Ethiopia, Eritrea's Catholic Bishops wrote a 'Pastoral Letter' entitled 'An appeal for peace and national reconciliation.' In it they thank God for the reconciliation between Eritrea and Ethiopia, remember those who have died or who remain in prison because of their faith in Jesus Christ and lament the fact that thousands upon thousands of mostly young Eritreans continue to flee the horrendous human rights situation in the country. 'Reconciliation and peace,' note the bishops, 'are based on truth, justice, respect for human rights and freedom of people and communities.' This, they insist, is 'the plan of God for this nation and for this people whom He loves...'. They call for the establishment of a National Commission for 'truth and reconciliation', explaining that 'Reconciliation and mutual forgiveness are the inescapable prerequisites for the birth of a social order full of peace and tranquillity.' The letter, which is truly beautiful, concludes with this prayer: 'May the Lord bless our country and keep her, turn his face towards us and give us peace; let the light of his Resurrection shine on us.'

CLINICS SEIZED: In early June, the government of President Isaias Afwerki seized control of 22 medical clinics belonging to the Catholic Church. After closing the clinics and sending their employees and patients home, the regime deployed soldiers to stand guard. While the government does run health clinics, they are less accessible and of a lower standard than the Catholic-run clinics that serve many thousands of poor Eritreans. In a letter dated 13 June, the Church protested, describing their clinics as a 'labour of love' that contribute to nation-building. According to BBC Tigrinya journalist, Teklemariam Bekit, many analysts believe the government has closed the clinics to retaliate against the Catholic Church for its Easter 'Pastoral Letter' in which its bishops called for reforms to stem the tide of migration to Europe. Please pray.

* SUDAN UPDATE (RLPB 505), after the regime's infamous Rapid Support Forces (RSF) had crushed protests calling for a 'New Sudan' that is proudly multi-ethnic and multi-religious, without Arab chauvinism, Islamic Sharia or military rule. At least 100 protesters were killed and more than 100 wounded, including medics who were beaten and raped by RSF militiamen for treating the wounded. Comprised of Sudanese Arab mercenaries, the RSF (originally known as the Janjaweed, or 'devils on horseback') was commissioned by former president Omar al-Bashir for genocide in Darfur. The RSF is a rebellion-crushing killing machine; it is not a police force. Its commander, 'Hemeti', is the Deputy Head of the ruling Transitional Military Council and probably the most powerful man in Sudan. Having joined the protests and aligned itself publicly and officially with the protesters, Sudan's Church is in a very vulnerable position [RLPB 502 (15 May)]. Please pray.

* INDIA (RLPB 506), where the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had secured re-election and even increased its majority through a social media campaign unprecedented in its sophistication and its toxicity. After analysing data, the BJP customised an enemy for every group which they then 'microtargeted' with messages through Facebook and WhatsApp. When Christianity is presented as an existential threat for which Hindu nationalism is the only solution, Christian persecution will only escalate. Please pray.

* IRAQ-SYRIA (RLPB 507), where the Christian crisis is far from over; indeed the next stage of conflict is just beginning.

UPDATE: WHO CAN WITHSTAND THE IRANIAN SURGE?

source (pdf)
As noted in my book, After Saturday Comes Sunday, who falls is less important than who rises (p117) ... and the rising power in the Middle East today is revolutionary Iran! The Battle for Mesopotamia (Iraq-Syria) is a battle between Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia, i.e., the Turks, the Persians and the Arabs (who are divided between pro- and anti-Muslim Brotherhood factions). All the various jihadists and militias are mere proxies of these regional imperialist powers, each of which has ruled over Mesopotamia at various times in their history.

Now that the proxy war is coming to an end and Saudi Arabia (on the verge of collapse) is essentially out of the race, who can withstand the Iranian surge? In northern Iraq, where Assyrian lands in the Nineveh Plain are being devoured by Shi'ite proxies of Baghdad and Tehran, the Christian crisis is catastrophic and on-going. But in Syria, where Russia (secular and stabilising) and Iran (sectarian and destabilising) are clashing over their visions for post-war Syria, a window of opportunity is opening. Can the West and Russia co-operate to secure a free and secular Syria not imperilled by Iranian belligerence? US-Russia-Israel talks are underway in Jerusalem as I write. Success will require an abundance of unbiased strategic thinking and level-headed wisdom. Can Iran be convinced to back off and temper its ambitions? Whilst it seems unlikely, miracles do happen! Please pray for that miracle, and for the gravely imperilled Church in Iraq, Syria and the wider Middle East.

JUNE 2019 ROUND-UP -- also this month

* AZERBAIJAN: CHRISTIAN COUPLE HIT WITH MASSIVE FINES

click on map to enlarge
Baptists Safqan and Gulnar Mammadov and their two small children live in Qaraguna Village on the western outskirts of Shirvan, 130km south-west of the capital Baku. To support his family, Safqan works in neighbouring Georgia. On 4 June the couple lost their appeal against massive fines imposed on them after they fell foul of Azerbaijan's harsh Administrative Code which bans the storage, sale or distribution of religious literature not bearing the 'control mark' which signifies state approval. In February, after receiving a complaint, the police interrogated Gulnar and raided the couple's home, seizing 106 items of Christian literature. In December the couple hosted a New Year's celebration in which treats and state-approved religious literature were gifted to the children. For being found in possession of unapproved religious literature and for hosting a 'religious gathering' without state approval, Safqan and Gulnar must each pay the equivalent of more than three months' average wages. Please pray that God our Heavenly Father will richly bless the Mammadovs, provide all their needs and encourage their hearts; may the Lord protect and build his Church in Azerbaijan.

* NIGER: CHURCH TARGETED AND INSECURITY ESCALATES

click on map to enlarge
(1) Security forces in Niger foiled three terror attacks on the weekend of 1 & 2 June. Forces were on high alert, having received warnings from foreign embassies that terror attacks were likely ahead of Eid el fitr (4 June), which marks the end of Ramadan. On Saturday 1 June five terrorists were arrested near the international airport in the capital, Niamey, which is in the west, about 100km east of the border with Burkina Faso. Then on Sunday 2 June two terror attacks were foiled in Niger's eastern Diffa region, which borders north-east Nigeria's Borno State. Four terrorists were killed near a major fuel depot belonging to Nigerian Petroleum Products Company, while a suicide bomber and his guide were arrested outside the Vie Abondante (Abundant Life) Church. They were also equipped with a firearm and ammunition for maximum carnage. Police were able also to uncover a cache of weapons and explosives. While we thank God that these attacks were thwarted, we are nevertheless reminded that terrorists have the Church in their sights.

(2) On 7 June a Christian woman from Kintchendi Village in eastern Niger's Diffa region was abducted by Islamists. Three days later she was released bearing an ultimatum: 'You have three days to go or you will be killed.' The Christian association of Niger is urging Christians in the rural areas of Diffa region to seek sanctuary in Niamey. Several families have already fled the area. Also, on the night of 15-16 June, Muslims in Maradi -- Niger's third largest city -- held a demonstration to protest the arrest of a prominent local imam. During the night, some protesters set fire to the local Protestant church -- the Assemblies of God church in Zaria district -- which was totally destroyed. Catholic sources report that violence against Christians has been escalating in that area; a violent attack on 13 May left parish priest Fr Nicaise Avlouké wounded in one hand and leg. As insecurity escalates across the Sahel, the Church is increasingly coming under attack. Please pray.

* NIGERIA: CHRISTIAN CRISIS IN THE MIDDLE BELT

On 12 June Nigeria celebrated its inaugural 'Democracy Day'. A number of African Heads of State travelled to Abuja to celebrate Nigerian democracy with President Muhammadu Buhari, despite Buhari's re-election being secured through massive fraud. In contrast, not one single Nigerian former Head of State attended, just as they did not attend Buhari's inauguration on 29 May. Four more years of Buhari misrule will be devastating for Nigeria, especially for the Christians of the North and Middle Belt. These Christians are threatened not only by Islamic terrorism, but by classic Islamic jihad, comprised of ethnic cleansing and colonisation, through which the Fulani herdsmen are securing territorial expansion. Please pray.

KADUNA: On 17 June Muslim Fulani herdsmen attacked two villages in Kauru Local Government Area (LGA), south-east of Kaduna City in Kaduna State, killing four. In one attack, more than 200 armed Muslim Fulani herdsmen invaded the predominantly Christian village of Ungwan Rimi in a 'commando-style' raid, shooting indiscriminately. Three children were killed, others were wounded. Fulani herdsmen also attacked the predominantly Christian village of Kikoba, killing one and kidnapping a Christian woman named Asabe Deme. Sources told Morning Star News that a total of 93 houses belonging to Christians had been torched, while farms and crops were also destroyed.

PLATEAU: Also on 17 June Muslim Fulani herdsmen attacked two villages in Riyom LGA, Plateau State (which borders southern Kaduna), killing nine. In Kangbro Village, three Christians were killed while 185 homes and two churches were burnt: a Catholic Church and a church belonging to ECWA (Evangelical Church Winning All). Six Christians were also killed in a neighbouring village where at least 54 homes were burnt. 

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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, June 18, 2019

RLPB 507. Iraq-Syria: Christian Crisis in Mesopotamia

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 507 | Wed 19 Jun 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-SYRIA: CHRISTIAN CRISIS IN MESOPOTAMIA
-- plus prayer request for unprecedented meeting in Jerusalem (24-26 June)
-- by Elizabeth Kendal

RLPB 439, entitled, 'Iraq: from Nation to Decimation to Elimination' (13 March 2019) exhorted intercessors to plead with God that he might 'intervene in Iraq to the benefit of his Church and the long-suffering, severely persecuted Assyrian remnant'. Subsequently, it has been encouraging to see some mainstream media acknowledging the existential nature of Iraq's Christian crisis. An in-depth feature article in The Atlantic entitled 'The Impossible Future of Christians in the Middle East' by religion writer, Emma Green (23 May 2019), delves into issues we have long prayed over: displacement, trauma, ethno-religious intolerance, theft of Assyrian lands, Islamic terrorism, gross insecurity and the West's shameful betrayal and abandonment of the region's indigenous Christian peoples. On 11 April the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) published an article on the existential threat posed to Iraq's Christians by 'Iran-backed [Shi'ite] militias' and the 'Iraqi government's tolerance of Iranian influence'. 'Iran has two goals,' explains the WSJ, 'First, it wants to build a "land bridge" to Syria through Iraq. Second, it aims to alter fundamentally the demography of Nineveh [the Assyrian homeland] in favour of Tehran.'

After a four-hour Mass, residents of Karamles in Iraq's Nineveh Plains, gather in
the central square to break colored eggs and dance in celebration of Easter.
April 2019 (Source: The Atlantic. Photo: Alexandra Rose Howland)

Similarly, Christian media -- including World Watch Monitor (10 June) and National Catholic Register (7 May) -- have reported that Christians driven from Mosul and the Nineveh Plains by the ISIS conquest in June-August 2014 are too afraid to return to their homes despite the region being declared 'liberated' in July 2017. Today, as Sunni Kurds compete with Shi'ite Arabs (the proxies of Baghdad and Tehran) for control of Assyrian ancestral lands, the insecurity is palpable. It is also prohibitive, as there can be no rebuilding while insecurity, injustice and impunity reign supreme. The indigenous, Christian Assyrians simply do not have the support required to reclaim their lands and rebuild their communities. Genocide is taking place, in our day, before our eyes.

A man looks over the ruined market in the once Christian city of Bartella.
(World Watch Monitor)

As if this were not enough, Islamic State (IS) is regrouping and escalating its terror attacks, from the outskirts of Baghdad to Kirkuk to Mosul, including sniper attacks, roadside bombs and even crop fires. In the past month, Nineveh has lost over 37,000 acres of agricultural crops due to fires, some of which were ignited by IS operatives. Over 992,000 acres have been saved thanks to the work of under-equipped but courageous Civil Defence. Some farms were allegedly torched after farmers refused to pay 'tax' (protection money/extortion) to IS. Then, in late May, the IS magazine al-Naba' called for 'soldiers of the Caliphate' to 'burn the farms of the apostates [Shi'ites and Alawites] in Iraq and al-Sham' [Greater Syria]. Food insecurity looms.

Whilst Syria's civil war is essentially over and the Syrian Arab Army has won, there remains much mopping-up and sorting to be done. In the north-west, terror groups (including whole battalions of Uzbeks, Uighurs, 'Chechens' etc.) aligned with al-Qaeda and backed by Turkey remain embedded in Syria's Idlib Province [see RLPB 503 (22 May)]. Meanwhile, in the north-east, the Kurdish People's Protection Forces (YPG) rule al-Hasaka as an autonomous region renamed 'Rojava'. [The YPG's subordinate political wing, the Democratic Union Party (PYD), is the Syrian franchise of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), a Marxist-orientated proscribed terrorist organisation.] While all this is happening, the inevitable 'end-game' struggle between Russia (secular and stabilising) and Iran (sectarian and destabilising) for dominance in Syria is just beginning. The Christian crisis is far from over.

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL

* intervene in Iraq and Syria (and across the region), for the sake of his Church and the long-suffering, severely persecuted Assyrian and Armenian remnants; may they have justice; may they have security and may they have the freedom to live as Christians in their ancestral homelands.

The Lord saw it, and it displeased him that there was no justice. He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no one to intercede; then his own arm brought him salvation, and his righteousness upheld him ... According to their deeds, so will he repay ... for he will come like a rushing stream, which the wind of the Lord drives. (from Isaiah 59:14-19 ESV) (emphasis mine)

* protect, sustain and bless his Church in Mesopotamia (Syria-Iraq); may local Christians draw close to Christ so they might be healed, comforted and encouraged to be a light to the surrounding peoples, to the glory of God.

* work out his purposes in the Middle East; as nations struggle and as men meet and talk; may the will of our gracious and omnipotent LORD, the Almighty, the Redeemer, prevail. 'Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.' (Proverbs 19:21 ESV)

May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations ... God shall bless us; let all the ends of the earth fear him! (from Psalm 67, ESV)


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
-------------------------------------------------------------
CHRISTIAN CRISIS IN MESOPOTAMIA

Five years after IS swept through northern Iraq, thousands of Assyrian Christians remain displaced and destitute. Sunni Kurds and Shi'ite Arabs are violently seizing control of Assyrian ancestral lands. Christians cannot return and rebuild amidst such gross injustice and insecurity. Meanwhile, Islamic State is regrouping and escalating its terror across the region. In neighbouring Syria, the civil war is essentially over but mopping up -- particularly the removal of foreign jihadists -- will continue for years. Tensions are escalating between Russia and Iran because of their opposing visions for post-war Syria. Russia's vision is secular and stable. Iran's vision is sectarian and destabilising, particularly in relation to Israel. Allegedly, Iran is working to displace Russia and Russia is ready to rein in Iran, which would be to everyone's benefit. Please pray.

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

UNPRECEDENTED MEETING IN JERUSALEM (24-26 JUNE)

The greatest threat to Syria remains the entrenchment of sectarian, belligerent, revolutionary Iran. Damascus' alliance with Tehran has always been a marriage of convenience: Tehran provides Syria's Alawites (traditionally deemed heretical/rafida to be killed) with legitimacy and security in exchange for strategic depth. In Syria, Russia's relationship with Iran is likewise a marriage of convenience. Now that the civil war is essentially over and the end game is coming into focus, tensions between Russia and Iran are escalating because of their opposing visions of post-war Syria. As evidenced by its proposed constitution for Syria (2017), Russia envisages a secular, multi-ethnic, multi-confessional Syria. Iran, on the other hand, sees a state totally dominated by sectarian and belligerent, revolutionary Iran. Russia seeks stabilisation while Iran seeks destabilisation, particularly in relation to Israel. Consequently, Russian forces are increasingly coming into conflict with Iranian proxy militias and Israeli air-strikes on Iranian military bases in Syria are escalating. Evidence is mounting that Iran is working to displace Russia and that Russia is ready to rein in Iran.

Jerusalem
This is the context for the unprecedented meeting that will take place in Jerusalem from 24 to 26 June, between US National Security Adviser John Bolton, his Russian counterpart Nikolai Patrushev and Israel's National Security adviser, Meir Ben-Shabbat.

US-Russia co-operation in Syria is the dream scenario envisaged in chapter eleven of my book, After Saturday Comes Sunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East (Wipf and Stock, Eugene, OR, USA, June 2016). That chapter, entitled 'A House Divided', proposes solidarity among Christians across ethnic and denominational lines and solidarity within the dar-al-harb (Islam's 'House of War', or non-Islamic states) in the face of assertive Islam (be it Sunni or Shia). I firmly believe that, if Assad (an Alawite) were to be offered legitimacy and security from an Israel-US-Russia axis that would rein in both Turkey and Iran, then Damascus could be drawn out of Iran's Axis of Resistance. Russia will want relief from US sanctions. Unreasonable hawks in the US and Israeli administrations could become spoilers. There is much at stake and much to pray about. At last, the door is opening.

Please pray ... Monday through Wednesday, 24-26 June: may the Lord's will and purpose prevail.

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

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, June 11, 2019

RLPB 506. India: Christian Crisis in North India

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 506 | Wed 12 June 2019
RLPB is published weekly to facilitate strategic intercessory prayer.

Please forward this prayer bulletin widely and encourage others to sign up to the Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin blog. "The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective." (James 5:16 NIV)


INDIA: CHRISTIAN CRISIS IN NORTH INDIA
-- by Elizabeth Kendal

By the end of 2018, it seemed India's Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) might struggle to retain a majority in parliament. Unemployment had risen to its highest rate since 1972 (year of earliest comparable data) and the BJP had lost power in the key states of Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan; the scent of disillusionment was in the air. But if Modi is anything, he is a brilliant campaigner and the BJP knows how to win an election. Not only did Narendra Modi out-campaign the arrogant and lack-lustre Congress Party at every turn but, more critically, the BJP ran a subversive campaign of mass manipulation through social media, unprecedented in its sophistication. After analysing all available data, the BJP covertly (not using its own name) 'microtargeted' individuals and groups with custom messages delivered primarily through Facebook and WhatsApp. As former BJP data analyst Shivam Shankar Singh explains, '[the BJP's] strategy is about creating a customised enemy for every group', after which it posits the BJP as the solution. By this means, the BJP was able to lure even tribal non-Hindus/animists -- who have traditionally allied with Christians against Hindu caste discrimination -- into voting BJP so they might be saved from the supposed existential threat posed by supposedly predatory and hostile Christian conversions. To summarise: the BJP secured the political conversions required for victory by creating division and fuelling communalism, thus rending the fabric of society. The situation should be viewed as extremely serious.


 3 Feb, Chote Markeli village,
Bijapur District, Chhattisgarh.
Sister Bundi's hand was broken
when Hindu militant burst into the
Sunday morning worship service
and beat the believers.
(source: persecution relief /
Church in Chains
)
The latest report from Morning Star News (MSN, 10 June) details a string of incidents in the tribal belt state of Chhattisgarh. On 30 March, eight Christian families in Dargahan village, Dhamtari District, were informed that they would be subjected to a crippling economic boycott. The Christians are not allowed to work in the village, not even on their own farms. They are also not allowed to travel out of the village for work; anyone who talks to them, sells to them or assists them in any way is fined. 'We are treated as untouchables,' Rajaram Nisad told MSN, 'but we have not stopped gathering for worship on Sundays.' On 6 April, Christian families in Pondum Village, Dantewada District, were told to leave the village or, ultimately, they will be killed. On 12 April, Christians in Darashiv Village, Champa District, were ordered to take part in a Satnami ritual and reconvert to their ancestral religion. Three Christian families succumbed to pressure, renounced Christ and returned to Satnami. Those who refused suffer persecution, including a crippling boycott. 'The shopkeepers have been warned from selling us daily supplies,' Yashoda Ratre (31, mother of three) told MSN. 'We are ready to starve to death, but we will not leave Christ.' [Yashoda Ratre's story is a highlight of the MSN report.]

Christians in Bodiguda village;
denied food, water and housing.
(source: MSN 10 June)
On 2 May, Christian families in Charama Village, Kanker District, were informed they would be subjected to an economic boycott purely because of their Christian faith. Since then, reports MSN, the Christians have not been able to buy even basic necessities. On 17 May, the Christians filed a case before the sub-divisional magistrate of Kanker District. A hearing is scheduled for Friday 14 June -- please pray. On 23 May, in Bodiguda Village, Sukma District, a mob of around 150 non-Hindu tribal villagers tore down the homes of three Christian families, leaving 25 people homeless, including four infants. The working men fled to save their lives; the women and children now live under a tree. All their property, including all their food, has been destroyed. According to MSN, the Christians had simply refused to renounce Christ.

Pastor Jacob Mani with
believers in Gopalgunj.
(source: persecution relief /
Church in Chains
)
International Christian Concern (ICC) reports that, on 4 June, a mob of Hindu radicals attacked and bashed Christians Saggudas (35) and his wife Susheelia Devi in their home in Janakipur Village, Bihar State (north of Chhattisgarh). The couple had been under a boycott since converting to Christianity in May. Ten days before the attack they were denied access to the village water supply. To help the Saggudas, Christians from a neighboring village were fetching water for the Christian family. 'I have been serving in this area since 2017 and there are three families who regularly attend church,' Pastor Kumar told ICC. 'However, these families constantly endure harassment and discrimination for following Jesus.' Pastor Jacob Mani leads a small cottage church in Gopalgunj, Bihar. 'There is a very rough road ahead for us', he told ICC, 'but we cannot run away from the pressure and threats. We have to find ways to adapt and survive ... I know God is in control. He will lead us into the future. All of the cottage churches, including the one that I run, are under threat, but only time will reveal our destinies. For now, we are trusting God for His protection.'


PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL

* break through the lies that have descended on India like a destructive frost, damaging relationships and destroying the fabric of society; may the Lord intervene through the miracle of warming Indian hearts so Indians will grow disillusioned with hatred and conflict and yearn for social inclusion and peace.

* awaken Indians to the fact that communal tensions are being stoked for political gain; may Indians reject this; may persecutors repent and may all suffering be redeemed for God's glory.

* raise up righteous leaders in India in every field and at every level -- leaders capable of taking India in a different direction, to the benefit of the Church and the nation.

* protect, sustain and bless his precious, faithful, suffering Church in India; may he provide all her needs -- material and spiritual -- and enable the believers to 'shine like stars' as they 'hold out the word of life' (from Philippians 2:14-16 ESV).


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
-------------------------------------------------------------
CHRISTIAN CRISIS IN NORTH INDIA

India's Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) not only out-campaigned its rivals to win the election in a landslide, but also ran a sophisticated and subversive campaign of mass manipulation through social media. Analysing data, the BJP covertly (not using its own name) 'microtargeted' individuals and groups with custom messages delivered primarily through Facebook and WhatsApp. This strategy created a customised enemy for every group, then posited the BJP as the solution. Thus, to secure the political conversions required to win, the BJP divided communities and fuelled communal tensions. The result is escalating polarisation and persecution. This includes extreme violence and crippling boycotts, with Christians being denied access to life's necessities such as food, water, work and housing. The situation is extremely serious. Please pray for India and its Christians.

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

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, June 4, 2019

RLPB 505. Eritrea: Christian Crisis in the Horn of Africa

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 505 | Wed 05 Jun 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)

ERITREA: CHRISTIAN CRISIS IN THE HORN OF AFRICA
PLUS Update on Sudan: Khartoum not far from Beijing
-- by Elizabeth Kendal


ERITREA: CHRISTIAN CRISIS IN THE HORN OF AFRICA
click on map to enlarge
On 9 July 2018 Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (42) and Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki (73, president since 1993) signed a 'declaration of peace and friendship' and declared the 'state of war' officially over. [See Religious Liberty Monitoring, 23 July 2018.] President Afwerki has long used the 'Ethiopian threat' as a pretext to justify his regime's violent and repressive dictatorship and the need for indefinite National (military) Service. Consequently, many hoped that peace would pave the way for reform, especially improvements in human rights. Unfortunately, it seems Eritrea's rulers are interested not in Eritreans, nor in their own legacy. Eritrea's rulers are interested only in regime survival and how they might cling to their power and privilege. When President Afwerki addressed the nation on Independence Day, 24 May 2019, he spoke of the need for stability and security, stressing 'patience' and ruling out 'hasty and emotional conclusions', dashing any lingering hopes for reform.
Meanwhile, thousands of prisoners of conscience remain incarcerated. Some key leaders have been detained for over a decade, such as the chair of the Eritrean Evangelical Alliance, Dr Kiflu Gebremeskel, who has been held incommunicado, without charge or trial since his arrest in May 2004. Though Eritrea might no longer be in a 'state of war', indefinite military service remains in place with police and military increasingly resorting to giffas (flash raids) to conscript children forcibly.

An Eritrean woman prays
at dawn beside an
Orthodox Church at Adi-Harush
refugee camp in Ethiopia.
(WSJ  Feb 2016)
As long as the human rights situation remains appalling, so too will the refugee outflow. When the border with Ethiopia was opened in September 2018, the rate of Eritreans fleeing into Ethiopia increased more than fourfold. At that time there were already 175,000 Eritrean refuges in Ethiopia, a large proportion of whom were unaccompanied minors. By 22 April 2019 President Afwerki had unilaterally closed all the border crossings into Ethiopia. Despite this, Eritreans are still fleeing at the rate of around 4000 per month. Most hope human traffickers will get them through Sudan and Libya to Europe. Many never make it, while many who do, find life as refugees in Europe just as intolerable as life in Eritrea.

Doubtless watching events in Khartoum, Afwerki has determined there will be no protests in Asmara. Consequently, the regime was on high alert throughout May as the country prepared to celebrate Independence Day (24 May). Sources told Release International that the regime had flooded the streets of Asmara with police and secret police and raided several Protestant groups. On 10 May 141 Eritrean Christians, including 14 minors, were arrested as they gathered in the Mai Temenai administration area in north-east Asmara. According to Christian Solidarity Worldwide, men and women were separated and sent to separate detention centres. Around 50 believers were subsequently released. A further 30 Christians were arrested on 17 May as they gathered in two locations in the Godaif administration area in south-west Asmara. According to Release International, some of those detained on 17 May are believed to be in Adi Abeito prison, close to where they were arrested, while others are still being held by police. Barely survivable, conditions in detention are among the worst in the world; torture is routine.


PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL

* 'bind the strong man' (Satan) so that the brutal regime of President Isaias Afwerki will crumble; may it be powerless to resist the desire of the Eritrean people (for liberty) and the will and purpose of God (redemption). (See Mark 3:27 and Ephesians 1:7-10).

* preserve and sustain his long-suffering precious Church in Eritrea; may she have wisdom to navigate the treacherous path before her and may all her captives be freed.

[The Lord] has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favour. (Luke 4:16-21 ESV)

* magnify the voice of the Body of Christ, along with that of the increasingly united and active Eritrean Diaspora, so that voiceless Eritreans, including those of Eritrea's severely persecuted, long-suffering Church, will have a voice that will be heard on earth and in heaven.

Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body. (Hebrews 13:3 ESV). 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.' (From Matthew 25:31-46 ESV)


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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CHRISTIAN CRISIS IN ERITREA

President Afwerki has long used the 'Ethiopian threat' as a pretext to justify his repressive dictatorship and indefinite military service. Consequently, when Ethiopia and Eritrea brokered peace in July 2018, many hoped human rights would improve. Today, however, Eritrea's human rights remain among the worst in the world and Eritreans continue to flee en masse. To prevent protests as the nation prepared to celebrate Independence Day (24 May), the regime deployed police and soldiers to the streets of Asmara and raided several Protestant groups. On 10 May 141 Christians, including 14 minors, were arrested as they gathered in north-east Asmara; 50 were subsequently released. A further 30 Christians were arrested on 17 May in gatherings in south-west Asmara. Conditions in detention are horrendous; torture is routine. Please pray for Eritrea and its Christians.

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SUDAN UPDATE

Background:
RLPB 502, 'New Sudan' in sight, not yet in hand (15 May 2019)
RLPB 504, Update Sudan: counter-revolution in the making (29 May 2019)

SUDAN: KHARTOUM NOT FAR FROM BEIJING
4 June 2019,
at least 35 protesters killed,
dozens missing, 116 wounded,
many critically.
image: Sudan Tribune.
By 5 June, the death toll
had risen to 60 (BBC).
By 6 June, the toll had
risen to at least 100 after
40 bodies were recovered
from the Nile (BBC).
Around 5am on Monday 3 June armed men, believed to be members of the notorious Rapid Support Forces (RSF), stormed the sit-in outside military headquarters and opened fire on unarmed protesters. According to the Central Committee of Sudan Doctors (a member organisation of the Sudan Professionals Association which has led the protests) soldiers chased the wounded all the way to and even inside East Nile Hospital where they also bashed and raped medical staff, looted supplies and destroyed property. At least 35 protesters are dead, dozens are missing and at least 116 are wounded, many critically. The counter-revolution was launched after Transitional Military Council (TMC) head General Abdel Fattah Al Burhan and deputy head Lt-Gen Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo ('Hemeti') had shored up support in Egypt, the UAE and Saudi Arabia. Despite having been dispersed, the protesters are determined to escalate their campaign of 'comprehensive civil disobedience'. They want nothing less than a 'New Sudan' free of sharia, jihad, ethnic and religious hatred, and oppressive military dictatorship.

Admittedly, the protests and the 3 June crackdown in Khartoum have not been on the same scale as the 1989 protests and 4 June crackdown in Beijing's Tiananmen Square. However, the aspirations of Sudan's protesters are just as lofty as those in Tiananmen Square, and the threat posed by the ruling regime is just as dire. The Sudanese, like the Chinese, are captives of a regime that will not hesitate to unleash deadly violence on anyone who threatens its power and privilege. Neither regime cares what the US or the UK thinks. The TMC knows the West is unlikely to sacrifice anything for the people of Sudan; hence impunity is all but guaranteed. The TMC has cancelled all agreements with the opposition and called for elections in nine months; i.e., before the opposition can organise a serious challenge to the already highly organised military regime and its Islamist backers. 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