Tuesday, February 25, 2020

RLPB 538. Feb Update: Iran, Burkina Faso, Cuba, Hong Kong (China), Nigeria, Pakistan, Turkey

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 538 | Wed 26 Feb 2020
RLPB is published weekly to facilitate strategic intercessory prayer.

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By Elizabeth Kendal

FEBRUARY UPDATE - during this period we prayed concerning:

IDP camp in Wamena (August 2019)
* INDONESIA'S PAPUAN PROVINCES [RLPB 535 (5 Feb 2020)], where indigenous Melanesian Christians displaced by Indonesian military (TNI) operations are increasingly dying from totally preventable illness, infection and starvation. More than 260 displaced Papuans have died in overwhelmed and struggling, mostly church-run, camps in the past 12 months. They are dying because the government in Jakarta refuses to withdraw the TNI, meaning the Papuans cannot return to their homes. They are dying because Jakarta refuses to open the region to international assistance, or even to recognise the displaced Papuans as victims of conflict so they might receive humanitarian aid from their own government. This obscene disregard for Papuan life reeks of racial-religious contempt and discrimination. Please pray.

* IRAN [RLPB 536 (12 Feb 2020)], as Iranians headed to the polls to elect a new parliament, and as Christians continue to suffer high levels of surveillance, interference, harassment, intimidation, repression and violent persecution at the hands of a desperate Islamic regime.

UPDATES

(1) ELECTIONS: As was guaranteed (due to the purging of centrists and reformists), conservatives and hardliners now dominate Iran's new parliament (Majlis). In the capital, Tehran (a hotbed of dissent), only around 25 percent of registered voters bothered to participate in the sham election; unsurprisingly, all 30 seats went to conservatives and hardliners. Nation-wide the turnout was only 42 percent - the lowest since the Islamic Revolution of 1979 - presenting the regime with a crisis of legitimacy. Conservatives and hardliners now occupy 221 out of 290 seats, whilst centrist and reformist representation has dropped from 121 to 20 seats. The remaining seats are held by independents. As long as Rouhani (a centrist) remains president, the hardliners will continue to deflect responsibility and blame all economic hardship on him. Persecution will escalate! While it might appear bleak, God is at work. Persist in prayer.

(2) PERSECUTION: as was reported in last week's Update from Iran, Fatemeh (Mary) Mohammadi (21) has been cruelly beaten, humiliated and incarcerated in the notorious Qarchak prison, where she awaits a decision on whether or not she will be released on bail. Please pray.

* BURKINA FASO [RLPB 537 (19 Feb 2020)], where violence - including Islamic jihadist violence against Christians - is spiralling out of control ahead of this year's general elections, scheduled for November.

UPDATE: The New Humanitarian (TNH) has released a news feature entitled 'How jihadists are fuelling inter-communal conflict in Burkina Faso' (20 Feb 2020). It provides an excellent summary of how the cycle of violence is being perpetuated. As TNH explains, Islamic jihadists recruit disgruntled Fulani youths. These 'young men who have been radicalised' [RLPB 501 (8 May 2019)] subsequently perpetrate acts of murderous violence. Because the government cannot secure the whole country, local self-defence militias are emerging to fill the gap. When communities are attacked, these militias exact revenge on their Fulani neighbours, accusing them of complicity in the jihadi terror. The Islamists then exploit Fulani trauma to recruit more Fulani youths to their cause, which seems to be the destabilisation of Burkina Faso, be that for political and/or economic gain. Christians have not retaliated and remain exceedingly vulnerable. Also, whether they realise it or not, the Fulani are being exploited. Forces with evil agendas are working to shred the social fabric by means of ethnic and religious conflict. May the LORD intervene to prevent it! [See prayer points in RLPB 537 (19 Feb).] Please pray.

FEBRUARY ROUND-UP - also this month

* CUBA: CHRISTIAN JOURNALIST THREATENED AGAIN

Yoé Suárez 
Yoé Suárez (born 1990) is a highly regarded, award-winning independent journalist and author in Cuba. In February 2019 Cuba's Communist regime labelled Christians 'counter-revolutionaries' and 'enemies of the state', primarily due to their defence of Biblical marriage and family, which conflicts with the state's neo-Marxist ideology [RLPB 491 (26 Feb 2019)]. Suárez's problems began when he started reporting on Cuban Church issues - particularly persecution - for various Christian digital news platforms. On 5 February Suárez received a subpoena to report to the police station. There he was questioned for almost three hours. An officer, who identified himself as Captain Enrique, informed Suárez that he was banned from leaving the country and threatened his wife and young son. Suárez has been detained and questioned on four previous occasions, including that reported in RLPB 517 (28 Aug 2019). The pressure on the Cuban Church is unrelenting. Please pray.

* HONG KONG, CHINA: ENTER, XIA BAOLONG

On 13 February Beijing announced that Xia Baolong (67), the Vice-Chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, would now also serve as Director of the State Council's Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office. Xia Baolong is a close ally and protege of President Xi Jinping, having served as Xi's deputy in Zhejiang. As Communist Party chief in Zhejiang (December 2012 - April 2017), Xia Baolong ordered and oversaw the campaign to remove crosses and demolish churches in Wenzhou and throughout the province [see RLPB 255, The Communist Party and the Cross over Zhejiang (9 April 2014)].

Xia Baolong vs the cross in Zhejiang.
Taking the battle to Hong Kong.
Ying Fuk-tsang, Dean of the Divinity School of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, explains: '[President] Xi has a high estimation of the fact that Xia takes the party's interests first and that he is a ruthless enforcer. That is why Xia has been brought back to the front-line now that cracking down on "anti-China" forces has become [the] top priority in Beijing's policy toward the SAR [Special Administrative Region].' Xia will report directly to President Xi, who will rule Hong Kong indirectly through Xia. China Analyst, Dr Willy Wo-Lap Lam (Jamestown Foundation), believes Beijing will now move decisively to establish 'patriotic education', foil plots that threaten national security and stifle HK's civil society, especially its Church [see: RLPB 514, 'Crackdown or Breakthrough' (7 Aug 2019)]. Beijing's crackdown will not be shocking like a descending sledgehammer. Rather, it will be quiet like a bloodless strangulation. Yes, the situation appears bleak - persecution will escalate - but God is at work. Please persist in prayer.

* NIGERIA: VIOLENCE SPIRALS OUT OF CONTROL

On 8 January unidentified gunmen kidnapped four young seminarians from the Good Shepherd Major Seminary in Kakau, southern Kaduna State [RLPB 534 (29 Jan 2020)]. On 1 February the Seminary issued a statement on the fate of the seminarians. One seminarian had been released, having fallen gravely ill after a severe beating; he had been found dumped on the side of the Kaduna-Abuja Highway in a critical condition on 18 January and transported to St Gerard's Catholic Hospital in Kaduna. On 31 January, after two other seminarians were released, the Reverend Fr Dr Joel Usman issued a call requesting prayer for the remaining captive seminarian, Michael Nnadi (18), a student of philosophy. The next day, however, Fr Usman had to report that Michael Nnadi had been 'found dead'.

Violence and crime are spiralling out of control in Nigeria, especially the violent crime of kidnapping for ransom. Calls for President Buhari's resignation are growing louder by the day. Meanwhile the government is pushing through two highly controversial bills designed to tackle what it maintains is the real problem: 'fake news' and 'hate speech' on the internet. Please pray.

* PAKISTAN: PLIGHT OF THE DHIMMI

Huma Younus (14)
[Dhimmi: 'protected person', i.e., a Christian whose right to life is 'protected' as long as they live as a subjugated, right-less, second-class citizen under Islam. Warning: resistance to dhimmi status triggers removal of 'protection' and resumption of jihad.]

CHRISTIAN GIRL ABDUCTED;
COURT ELEVATES SHARIA


Huma Younus (14) was abducted from her home in Karachi's Zia Colony in Sindh Province on 10 October 2019 while her parents were out of the house. She was transported to Dera Ghazi Khan in Punjab Province (more than 370 miles away), where she was forcibly converted to Islam and married to Abdul Jabbar, her abductor. In Pakistan it is virtually impossible to make a case against forced conversion as many imams are willing to issue conversion certificates, no questions asked! Consequently, Huma's parents sought the court's intervention on the grounds that their daughter is under-age. They maintain that the marriage is invalid because the Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act forbids marriage under the age of 18 years. To that end, Huma's parents submitted various documents, including her baptismal certificate, as proof of her age.

However, at the minutes-long hearing on 3 February, Sindh High Court judges Muhammad Iqbal Kalhoro and Irshad Ali Shah ruled that the marriage was valid because Sharia (Islamic Law) mandates that a girl may be married once she has had her first menstrual cycle. To clarify: the judges elevated Sharia over the law of the land. The ruling sets a horrendous precedent. Investigating officer, Akhtar Hussain, has been given one month to determine the girl's age. The family suspects that Hussain is colluding with the abductor and that the results will be falsified. They desperately want Huma to be 'placed in a women's shelter and removed from her rapist'. The next hearing is scheduled to take place on Wednesday 4 March. Please pray!

Father Aho at the
Mor Yakub monastery
* TURKEY: ASSYRIAN PRIEST vs NEO-OTTOMAN STATE

Father Sefer Bilecen (known as Father Aho) is the caretaker-priest at the 1500-year-old Mor Yakub (Saint Jacob) monastery in Nusaybin in Turkey's south-eastern Mardin Province. Arrested on 9 January, Father Aho has been charged with 'aiding and abetting a terrorist organisation' for giving food and drink to militants linked to the banned PKK (Kurdistan Workers' Party) when they come to the monastery requesting or demanding it [RLPB 534 (29 Jan 2020)]. The charge is absurd; this is pure persecution arising from racial-religious hatred. Father Aho's next hearing is scheduled to take place on Thursday 19 March. 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