Tuesday, December 17, 2019

RLPB 533. Advent Amidst Terror

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 533 | 18 Dec 2019
RLPB is published weekly to facilitate strategic intercessory prayer.

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NOTE: This will be the last Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin (RLPB) for 2019. Unless there is a crisis requiring an urgent call to prayer, the next RLPB will be the January Update on 29 January 2020.

Please continue to watch and pray over the Christmas - New Year period. When watching, listening to or reading the news, think of how local Christians might be impacted by events, and pray for them.
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'Advent' is derived from the Latin word adventus, which is a translation of the Greek word parousia which means 'coming'.

ADVENT AMIDST TERROR
by Elizabeth Kendal

Britain's Christmas markets surrounded by ring of steel 
(Daily Mail, 21 Nov 2019)
The risk of Islamic terror attack is elevated over Christmas as terrorists seek not merely to kill for political gain, but to make a statement about their intention to eliminate Christianity. Across the United Kingdom (UK), undercover SAS officers will be stationed at Christmas markets and other crowded places. The situation will be much the same in Germany, in France, in Belgium and across much of Western Europe and Scandinavia. Europe might have the most potential targets, but Christians in jihadist hot-spots still face the greatest risk.

INDONESIA: On Tuesday 17 December Indonesia's National Police spokesman Argo Yuwono told media that more than 192,000 police and military personnel will be deployed nationwide ahead of Christmas to guard against potential terror attacks. He said, 'Based on intelligence data, there are potential risks ... so we're taking preventative measures but we are also ready to take proactive action.' On 5 December police from the Densus 88 counter-terrorism squad raided a house in the Sentani district of Jayapura, the capital of PAPUA Province, arresting an alleged terrorist and seizing a cache of homemade explosives. While police denied that eight terrorist suspects with ties to the Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD) had also been arrested, Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC) director, Sidney Jones, confirmed, 'The recent arrests are linked to members of JAD cells in Bekasi [West Java] and Lampung … .' Terrorism experts have cautioned Papuan authorities to remain vigilant. [Background: RLPB 523 (9 Oct 2019)]. Please pray.

AFRICA'S TERROR AXIS: In March this year, Kurdish-led anti-IS forces captured Islamic State's last stronghold of Baghouz in eastern Syria. As jihadists have left Syria, either to return home or find fresh fields in which to sow misery and death, jihadist terror has escalated across Africa's terror axis.

(1) SOMALIA-KENYA-ETHIOPIA

In northern Somalia's Puntland, Islamic State in Somalia (ISS) is training fighters and recruiting Ethiopians with Amharic-language propaganda that specifically targets churches and Christians [see RLPB 520 (18 Sep 2019)]. Meanwhile, in southern Somalia, al-Qaeda affiliate al-Shabaab continues to inflict terror both inside Somalia and across the border in Kenya where Christians are its primary target.

KENYA: On Friday 6 December at 5pm al-Shabaab militants flagged down a bus in eastern Kenya's Wajir County. The bus - en-route from Nairobi to the north-eastern city of Mandera - was carrying 56 passengers. After ordering the passengers off the bus, the terrorists separated them into two groups: 'locals' (ethnic Somali Muslims) and 'non-locals' (Kenyan Christians). The 'locals' were ordered back onto the bus while the eleven 'non-locals' were executed. The dead included eight Kenyan police officers returning from leave in Nairobi, two teachers and a medical doctor. The teachers and doctor are known to have been active members of evangelical churches. The bus driver and conductor have been arrested, suspected of being al-Shabaab sympathisers who colluded with the terrorists in the planning and execution of the attack. The militants escaped back to neighbouring Somalia. Please pray for all Christians living and serving in eastern Kenya.

(2) NIGERIA - CAMEROON

Voice of America reports (12 Dec): 'Authorities in Cameroon say Boko Haram terrorists have been launching daily attacks on villages along the Nigerian border, killing at least 30 people and injuring scores in the past few months.' Christian aid group Barnabas Fund (BF) reports that in mid-November, Boko Haram militants conducted a raid in Tourou district, in Cameroon's Far North region, in which they hacked to death a 12-year-old Christian schoolboy who resisted their attempt to abduct him as a 'child soldier'. BF also reports that seven people were killed and 21 children and young adults were kidnapped when Boko Haram rampaged through mainly Christian villages in the Far North region in early December. After each attack, the militants escape back to their base in neighbouring Nigeria. [Background: RLPB 518 (4 Sep 2019).] Please pray.

(3) BURKINA FASO – MALI - NIGER

Violent events linked to ISGS between Jan 2018 - May 2019.
Africa Centre for Strategic Studies (10 June 2019)
On Sunday 1 December terrorists stormed a worship service in eastern BURKINA FASO (BF), near the border with Niger. They killed 14 of the 15 men present, leaving the women and children traumatised and destitute [see 'Urgent Update on Burkina Faso' in RLPB 531 (4 Dec 2019)]. In recent weeks, pastors in BF's East region have been threatened. Despite this, Bible colleges in the region still want to proceed with graduation ceremonies and churches still want to celebrate Christmas. Please Pray! 

I love you, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies. (Psalm 18:1-3 ESV)

NIGER: On 10 December well-armed terrorists from Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) - also known as Islamic State in West Africa (an off-shoot of Boko Haram) - launched the most deadly and sophisticated attack on a military base ever seen in Niger. Suicide car-bombers opened the way for militants armed with mortars and riding motorbikes to briefly over-run the Inates base in remote south-western Niger near the border with Mali. At least 71 Nigerien soldiers were killed and 30 remain unaccounted for. ISGS claims to have killed 100 soldiers, wounded dozens more, while capturing weapons, ammunition and 16 vehicles.

Despite being majority Muslim, Burkina Faso, Niger and Mali are states with secular government and religious freedom - states where the Church has long been respected for its service which benefits all the people. Today, the tri-border region has become a key focal point for ISGS. Analysts fear that as terror escalates, Niger's overstretched military might opt to withdraw from this remote region to concentrate its forces around the more densely populated cities. This is precisely what has happened in Burkina Faso and Mali. Crisis Group explains, 'The zone is at risk of becoming a no-man's land under the custodianship of a rural [ISGS-infiltrated and backed] jihadist insurgency, with residents more or less held hostage.' The implications for churches, Bible colleges and long-established missions through the wider region are huge. Please pray!


Fulani (courtesy Samaritan's Purse)
ACROSS AFRICA, tribes and peoples with grievances - be they real, imagined or exaggerated - are embracing jihadists who come promising to empower, enrich, rescue and save, while actually harbouring intentions to exploit and enslave. Instead of securing liberty, equity and dignity, the aggrieved peoples are oppressed, abused and sacrificed as cannon-fodder and human shields. It would be better for them if they were to embrace the One who came preaching good news, offering life and liberty, and proclaiming the year of the Lord's favour (Luke 4:16-21). They need the Lord Jesus Christ. Please pray!

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ADVENT PRAYER

Dear God our Father

Please help us to fully comprehend and embrace what you have done through your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ whose birth the angels announced as 'good news of great joy that will be for all the people' (Luke 2:1-21). Empower us by your Holy Spirit to live in the light of this truth, energised with hope, conscious that because of Jesus a new day has dawned. Father, open our eyes, unblock our ears, put life in our legs. May we never grow tired of serving in the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Father, we lift before you the Christians of Mesopotamia and the wider Middle East, as they celebrate Christmas in exile, or in hollowed-out churches ravaged by war, and amidst great insecurity. We lift before you the Christians of Sri Lanka, Burkina Faso and Nigeria, indeed all believers who this Christmas will be missing loved ones killed in terror attacks, Islamic jihad and communal violence in the course of 2019. We lift before you Christians in prison in Iran, Pakistan, China, Eritrea and North Korea; as well as those held captive by jihadists in the Malian desert and Northern Nigeria. We lift before you the multitudes of believers across the Indian subcontinent and Central Asia who will celebrate Christmas despite crippling poverty (caused by discrimination) and violent persecution (encouraged by impunity). Oh Father, bless them and keep them safe. May reviving power from the life-giving and ever-present Holy Spirit flood their hearts with joy, hope and peace as they remember, embrace and celebrate the true meaning of Christmas.

In the name of Jesus,

AMEN

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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