Tuesday, September 17, 2019

RLPB 520. Ethiopia: Church Protests -- Watershed Days

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 520 | 18 Sep 2019
RLPB is published weekly to facilitate strategic intercessory prayer.

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ETHIOPIA: CHURCH PROTESTS -- WATERSHED DAYS
-- plus update on Eritrea
by Elizabeth Kendal

Gondar protests, 15 Sept 2019
'Uptick in church burnings raises alarm in Ethiopia',
(Photo credit: Tewodrose Tirfe, Amhara Association of America)

On Sunday 15 September millions of members of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church took to the streets in cities across Ethiopia's Amhara region to protest escalating violence against the Church. While marches were banned in Addis Ababa, massive marches went ahead peacefully and without incident in numerous cities including Dessie, Gondar, Debretabor, Meket, Kombolcha, Nefas Mewucha, Mekane Eyesus, Mekane Selam and Belesa. Communal ethno-religious violence has skyrocketed since Prime Minister Abiy Amhed commenced a series of bold reforms aimed at ending decades of repression. While PM Abiy is working hard to promote peace, facilitate reconciliation and draw people together in a prosperous, strong and united Ethiopia, vengeful and ambitious ethno-religious nationalists are dragging the nation in the opposite direction: into conflict and towards disintegration. It is in this context that more than 30 churches have been attacked.

Locations of church attacks
(click on map to enlarge)
Between 4-6 August 2018, ten Orthodox churches were burnt and nine evangelical churches were vandalised or looted while 15 priests were killed in the predominantly Muslim Jijiga zone in Ogaden region [RLPB 468 (15 Aug 2018)]. On 9 February 2019 at least 10 churches were burnt in the predominantly Muslim Alaba zone of Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples' Region (SNNPR) [RLPB 492 (6 March 2019)]. On 18 July three churches were burnt in SNNPR's predominantly Christian Sidama Zone after Sidama ethno-nationalist youth groups -- known as Ejeto -- unilaterally declared Sidama a federal state and rioted, targeting non-ethnic Sidama, mostly Amhara, communities. Several church members who tried to protect their churches were killed and a priest was brutally murdered.

'For the sake of Allah',
a 3-minute video with Amharic subtitles.
(warning: graphic content)
In July Islamic State militants in neighbouring Somalia released a three-minute video in Amharic -- the most common language spoken in Ethiopia -- and promised to release jihadist materials in Amharic in the near future. [VIDEO available here; warning - graphic content.] Analysts surmise that Islamic State -- under pressure in Somalia from al-Qaeda affiliated al-Shabaab and Somali government forces -- is reaching out to Ethiopia's Muslim community. Along with seeking recruits, Islamic State is doubtless hoping to tap into the rising ethno-religious nationalist zeal amongst Ethiopia's Muslims to gain a foothold inside Africa's second most populous nation. On 11 September General Berhanu Jula of the Ethiopian Armed Forces confirmed that IS militants had been captured in Ethiopia.

From Chechnya and Kosovo to Mesopotamia and northern Mali, piggy-backing on ethnic-separatist and other political causes has long been a favourite tactic of transnational Islamic jihadist groups. In Ethiopia, the ground has been well prepared through decades of Saudi-funded and facilitated 'radicalisation' (or 'Wahhabisation'). The Oromo youth movement that ultimately forced the resignation of PM Hailemariam Desalegn in February 2018 -- Qeerroo -- is led by an Oromo Islamist and ethnic-nationalist named Jawar Mohamed (33). Having long led the clandestine movement from his home-in-exile in Minneapolis, USA -- principally through his Oromia Media Network and social media -- he now has an office in Addis Ababa. In the past he has openly called for the creation of an Islamic Omoria and for the beheading of resistant Christians. He recently asserted 'there are two governments in Ethiopia', one is that of the Qeerroo and the other that of PM Abiy Ahmed. It seems the group that paved the way for positive change in Ethiopia might yet prove to be its biggest threat. These are dangerous, watershed days for Ethiopia.


PLEASE PRAY THAT OUR ALMIGHTY GOD WILL

* awaken Ethiopian Muslims to the fact that fundamentalist, supremacist, Wahabbi Islam will bring them nothing but endless civil war and repression; may all efforts to recruit Muslims for Islamic terror or ethnic separatism be exposed as self-interested and costly; may Muslims be drawn to Prime Minister Abiy's vision of prosperity and strength through peace, reconciliation and unity.

* bring revival to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and indeed to all Ethiopia's churches; may they love one another across ethnic and denominational lines; may they co-operate to advance the Gospel even into hostile territories; may they come together in united humble prayer, recognising that a spiritual battle is underway -- a battle for Ethiopia's heart and soul.

'For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.' (2 Corinthians 10:4,5 ESV)

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


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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WATERSHED DAYS IN ETHIOPIA AS THE CHURCH PROTESTS
On Sunday 15 September millions of members of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church staged peaceful marches in cities across Ethiopia's Amhara region to protest about escalating violence against the Church. Communal ethno-religious violence has skyrocketed since Prime Minister Abiy Amhed commenced his bold reforms aimed at ending decades of repression. While PM Abiy is working hard to promote peace, facilitate reconciliation and draw people together in a prosperous, strong and united Ethiopia, vengeful and ambitious ethno-religious nationalists are dragging the nation into conflict and towards disintegration. It is in this context that more than 30 churches have been attacked. Meanwhile, Islamic State in Somalia is actively working to recruit Ethiopian Muslims and gain a foothold in Africa's second most populous state. A spiritual battle for Ethiopia is under way. Please pray.

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ERITREA UPDATE: REGIME SEIZES CHURCH SCHOOLS

Uncertain future.
Children at The Mission of St Joseph's
Catholic school in Keren, Eritrea.
In early June the government of President Isaias Afwerki seized control of 22 medical clinics belonging to the Catholic Church [see RLPB 508 (26 June)]. On Tuesday 3 September Catholic, Protestant and Muslim groups were ordered to hand over the running of their schools to government agencies. Security agents were deployed to enforce the government order. Seven schools have been seized and nationalised so far (four of them Catholic), including the secondary Institute of the Most Holy Redeemer of the seminary of Asmara, founded in 1860. The expropriation relies on Regulation 73/1995, a law enacted in 1995 but only applied in recent years. This law prohibits religious groups from conducting 'development activities in areas of their choice as this is fraught with discrimination against non-adherents …'. This accusation is blatantly untrue because Church-run clinics and schools have always been open to all Eritreans. However, as Human Rights Watch noted in a report released on 8 August, 'Eritrea's secondary schools are at the heart of its repressive system of control over its population.' The regime is tightening its grip. Please pray for Eritrea 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

Monday, September 9, 2019

RLPB 519. Papua (Indonesia): How Will the Story End?

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 519 | 10 Sep 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)


PAPUA (INDONESIA): HOW WILL THE STORY END?
by Elizabeth Kendal

Everyone loves a good mission story, especially those in which men and women with seemingly supernatural courage risk all in reaching out to warring tribes, head-hunters and cannibals. Martyrs follow martyrs until eventually there is a breakthrough and a culture of death is transformed into a culture of life. One of the most gripping missionary stories ever told is Peace Child, in which Canadian pioneer missionary Don Richardson shares how the treacherous and endlessly warring, cannibalistic Sari tribe of Dutch New Guinea came to put their faith in Jesus. Similarly, the story of pioneer missionaries Philip Masters (USA) and Stanley Dale (Australia), who gave their lives bringing life and light to the people of the highlands, is the stuff of legend.

Writing for the Sydney Morning Herald in February 2015, Michael Bachelard commented: 'The people of Lolat in the high mountains of [Papua] had their first experience of a white man in 1968, and it was a culinary one. When Australian missionary Stanley Dale hiked over the ridge into the nearby Seng Valley, his would-be flock mistook him for a demon. They chased him and his partner, American Philip Masters, killed them with bows and arrows, and ate them... Now every soul in these villages is Christian and Dale is considered their martyr -- they say the gospel spread where his blood fell.' Unfortunately, while everyone loves a good mission story, not everyone cares about what happens next.

'High Tensions in Papua', M. Bachelard, SMH, 5 Feb 2015
Why there's unrest in the Indonesian province of Papua,
By James Massola, SMH, 6 Sept 2019

Like their Melanesian brothers and sisters throughout the pacific, the Papuans went from being killers to choristers in a matter of decades. But unlike their Melanesian brothers and sisters throughout the Pacific, the Papuans were denied the right to self-determination. As Bachelard notes in his 2015 article, it was in the year after Dale's death that Papua -- then known as Dutch (or West) New Guinea -- officially became a province of Indonesia 'by means of a rorted process called the "Act of Free Choice" and was renamed Irian Jaya'. It has been all downhill since then.

The protests currently rocking Indonesia's West Papua and Papua Provinces are unprecedented. While Papua remains closed to outsiders, and the internet -- shut down supposedly to prevent the spread of 'hoax' news -- has only been partially and conditionally restored, we have seen Indonesian crackdowns before and so are not ignorant of how they unfold. Along with Army Commander Hadi Tjahjanto and national Police Chief General Tito Karnavian, Jakarta has sent in some 6000 extra police and soldiers. The Barisan Merah Putih [(BMP) Red and White Force] along with other militia (including Islamists) serve as proxies of the Indonesian special forces, Kopassus. According to sources, the BMP have been receiving significant tactical and logistical support from both Indonesian Brimob paramilitary police and from Kostrad Strategic Reserve.

Don't let West Papua become the next Timor-Leste
SBS News, 4 Sept 2019

Footage has emerged of the 21 August 'clashes' in Fak Fak. In the footage released by West Papua Media, pro-Indonesian BMP militia armed with metal rods and machetes are seen chasing Papuans through the streets of Fak Fak in the presence of Indonesian police. The pogrom was allegedly organised by Indonesian forces as retaliation for a pro-Independence rally held earlier that day in which Papua's banned Morning Star flag was raised and Papuans called for a referendum on independence. The footage includes harrowing images of Papuan teenager Manarson Ndrotndrot (15) after he had been attacked by BMP militia who sliced open his abdomen with a machete causing his intestines to spill out. Indonesian police and military officers are present, but none render assistance. Having survived the attack, Manarson Ndrotndrot was eventually taken to the general hospital where he underwent emergency surgery. Sources reported on 5 September that the boy remains in hospital in a critical condition.

[Religious Liberty Monitoring has previously reported on the torture and disembowelment of a Papuan civilian; see RLM Aug 2010.]

While journalists and analysts seem willing to write about Indonesia's problems of soaring 'hyper-nationalism' and 'ubiquitous racism', nobody seems interested in talking about Islam and how the Islamic worldview fuels and legitimises imperialism, religious apartheid and hatred of the 'kaffir'/infidel. If nothing changes in West Papua and Papua, the result will eventually be at worst genocide, or at least the ethnic cleansing of Papua's resource-rich regions and the decimation of a Christian people. Papua will have gone from being a land of warring tribes, to a land of literate Christians, to a land of racial-religious hatred, jihad and genocide in the space of one century. Who will want to read that story?

PLEASE PRAY THAT OUR ALMIGHTY GOD WILL

* consider the labours of his faithful servants and the blood that was spilt to bring light and life to the land of Papua and intervene, in wrath and mercy, to bring about a just resolution to the human rights crisis engulfing West Papua and Papua.

'Behold, the Lord God comes with might, and his arm rules for him; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him.' (Isaiah 40:10 ESV)

* redeem these trials to draw Papuans ever closer to himself; may Papuan men, women and children look to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of their faith (from Hebrews 12:1,2) and 'see the salvation of the Lord' which he will surely work for those who trust him (from Exodus 14:13,14).

* turn the hearts of many nations towards the mostly Christian, Melanesian, indigenous Papuans, who are in many cases their co-religionists and in some cases the legacy of their own missionaries.


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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HOW WILL THE STORY END IN PAPUA?

Triggered by a racist incident against Papuan students in East Java, the protests currently rocking Indonesia's West Papua and Papua Provinces represent Papuan frustration with decades of racial-religious apartheid and persecution at the hands of Javanese Muslim soldiers, militias and colonisers. Like their Melanesian brothers and sisters throughout the Pacific, the Papuans have embraced Jesus Christ. However, unlike their Melanesian brothers and sisters, the Papuans have been denied the right to self-determination. In 1969, one year after missionaries Stan Dale (Australia) and Phil Masters (USA) gave their lives bringing light and life to the people of the highlands, Papua was incorporated into Muslim Indonesia. For the mostly Christian Papuans, it has been all downhill since then. Please pray that God will intervene to bring a just resolution to the Papuan crisis.

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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, September 3, 2019

RLPB 518. Nigeria: Land of Perpetual Trauma

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 518 | 04 Sep 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)


NIGERIA: LAND OF PERPETUAL TRAUMA
-- includes two critical updates

by Elizabeth Kendal

UPDATE 1) At around 1 am on 14 August Muslim Fulani herdsmen kidnapped Emmanuel Noma [or Numan] and his 60-year-old father, Pastor Elisha Noma of Nagarta Baptist Church in Makiri, Kaduna State. Emmanuel was subsequently released with the demand that he raise the ransom for his father [see last week's RLPB 517 (28 Aug)]. Praise God, on Saturday 31 August Pastor Elisha was released unharmed after payment of ransom following a series of negotiations. The family paid the ransom, explaining, 'We have been in trauma since he was kidnapped ...' The Chairman of the Kaduna State chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Rev Joseph Hayab, responded with joy and lament, saying, 'We thank God for His mercies, we pray for God's intervention in the calamity that seems to have befallen us as a nation.'

Leah Sharibu
UPDATE 2) In February 2018 Boko Haram kidnapped 110 teenage girls from a school in Dapchi, Yobe State. Five girls died during the abduction. A month later, the militants returned the girls, all except Leah Sharibu. The only Christian, Leah was held back because she refused to renounce Christ [see RLPB 448 (28 Mar 2018)]. On 18 July 2019 Boko Haram captured six aid workers from the charity Action Against Hunger. In a proof-of-life video, Christian captive Grace Taku appealed for help stressing that Christian captives Leah Sharibu and Alice Loksha Ngaddah 'were killed because the government did nothing' [see RLPB 513 (31 Jul 2019)]. Praise God, on Saturday 31 August a senior presidential aide addressed journalists in Abuja to end speculation that Leah Sharibu is dead. 'Contrary to false reports, she is alive -- given assurances from our security agencies -- and the government is committed to her safe return, as well as all other hostages to their families...' Meanwhile, the captives and their families remain deeply traumatised.

On 2 September, at the end of an official two week visit to Nigeria, UN Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard told reporters that the situation she encountered in Nigeria 'gives rise to extreme concern'. In her reports she describes Africa's largest state as 'an injustice pressure-cooker', adding that the 'warning signs are flashing bright red'. She laments that mass killings proceed with impunity, that trust in public institutions has broken down and, consequently, people are increasingly taking matters into their own hands. She warns that 'pretending this is anything short of a crisis is a major mistake'. The administration of illegitimate president Muhammadu Buhari does not seem too concerned. Instead, Nigeria's lawmakers -- who already earn one of the highest salaries in the world -- have agreed to spend 5.55 billion naira (roughly US$15.3 million) buying luxury cars for senators. This, in a country with the highest rate of poverty in the world! [Nigeria has more people living in poverty (87 million; nearly 50 percent of the population) than does in India (71.5 million),  despite India having seven times the population of Nigeria!] This, in a country with insecurity at crisis levels due predominantly to systemic high-level corruption (e.g., 'Armsgate'). Lord have mercy!

On Friday 30 August Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP), also known as Boko Haram, attacked a military convoy in the Lake Chad area of north-east Borno State. Two trucks hit by rocket propelled grenades were totally destroyed. Eight Nigerian soldiers were killed, five are missing and weapons were stolen. Attacks like this occur every other day! Nigerian soldiers are over-stretched, under-supplied and demoralised, bordering on mutinous.

Boko Haram's Cameroonian victims.
Courtesy: Aid to the Church in Need
On Monday night 29 July Boko Haram fighters struck with a new terror tactic. A band of jihadists slipped into the Christian village of Gagalari in Yagoua Diocese, in Cameroon's Far North region. They had come to punish women who had allegedly passed information to the Multinational Joint Task Force assembled to fight the jihadists. Going house to house, the jihadists seized eight women whom they dragged to the outskirts of the town. Before releasing the women, they sliced one ear off each. Cameroonian soldiers found the women and took them for medical treatment. The women, their families and their community are deeply traumatised.


PLEASE PRAY THAT OUR ALMIGHTY GOD WILL

* intervene in Nigeria to raise up a government committed to peace, justice and righteousness, for the sake of the Church and all Nigeria's needy peoples. May the Lord have mercy!

Should the Lord not pity Nigeria, that great nation, in which there are more than 190 million persons, many of whom do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle? (Adapted from Jonah 4:11.)

* fan the flames of faith in God which are rising up among a people rapidly losing faith in government; may Nigerian Christians in every town, city and state, and across the North-South divide, join together in prayer for divine deliverance from 'the calamity' that has befallen their nation.

* redeem the suffering and trauma, and turn it to good, may eyes be opened and hearts softened to receive the Gospel and may the Church take her place as peace-maker, healer and 'repairer of the breach' (from Isaiah 58).

Prayer for Nigeria: Psalm 94


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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NIGERIA, A LAND OF PERPETUAL TRAUMA

Oil-rich Nigeria is the largest nation on the African continent. Home to 190 million Nigerians, it is fast becoming a failed state due to government ineptitude, systemic corruption and escalating insecurity. The Christian crisis in the Muslim North and mixed Middle Belt is spreading into the Christian South-East. Mass killings -- mostly of Christians by militant Muslims -- continue with impunity. Trust in public institutions has broken down and people are increasingly taking matters into their own hands. Christians live under constant threat of Islamic terror causing death and displacement; whole communities are traumatised. Meanwhile, the government of illegitimate president Muhammadu Buhari does virtually nothing to help, preferring to focus on enriching itself. Please pray that the Lord will intervene to raise up a government committed to peace, justice and righteousness.

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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