Wednesday, April 29, 2020

RLPB 547. April Update, incl. Mozambique, Nigeria, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Niger, Uganda

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 547 | Wed 29 Apr 2020
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)

APRIL 2020 UPDATE
By Elizabeth Kendal

The Easter devotions - Prayer Fuel from the Servant Songs of Isaiah - are now available as one PDF on www.ElizabethKendal.com. Originally written for Easter, these short reflections focus on the promises linked to the person and work of God's Servant - the Lord Jesus Christ - to address the hope-deficit plaguing contemporary Christianity.

It is all too common today for Christians to have hope in 'heaven' (usually imagined as a future home beyond the clouds) but no hope at all for this divinely crafted and greatly loved world (κόσμον, kosmos, John 3:16) in which we live. In this thinking, the Church becomes something like a 'waiting room' into which the saved retreat. Yet the Word of God is clear concerning the spiritual struggle in which we find ourselves: the decisive, pivotal battle has been won! Because of the victory of God's good and faithful Servant, salvation will reach to the ends of the earth, just as God planned from the very beginning. How will this happen? God is working patiently and mostly unspectacularly through the Church: through Christian doctors, nurses, teachers, parents, tradespeople, police, politicians, artists, lawyers, scientists and others, increasingly of 'every tribe and language and people and nation' (Revelation 5). We are God's human instruments in his spectacular plan of redemption. God has ordained it, Christ has secured it and the Spirit is working with us, in us and through us, to bring it to pass. Far from being a 'waiting room', the Church is to be a power-house, energising and equipping saints for the task.

We need a revival of Biblically grounded, theologically rigorous, faith and hope - the hope that inspired the authors of our great creeds and confessions; the hope that inspired the Puritans to transform culture; the hope that inspired pioneer missionaries to 'expect great things from God [and] attempt great things for God' (William Carey, May 1792; title of a sermon based on Isaiah 54:1-4). Only then will we have confidence to pray for what God has promised in the Servant Songs of Isaiah.

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:20,21 ESV)

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RAMADAN: 24 April - 23 May
RLPB recommends: 30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World
https://www.30daysprayer.com/
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APRIL 2020 UPDATE - during this period we prayed concerning

MOZAMBIQUE [RLPB 543 (1 April)], where Islamic State is exploiting local grievances to gain a foothold amongst Muslim youths in Cabo Delgado. Consequently, the insurgency is developing into a more sophisticated terror campaign and the Church in Mozambique - and especially in Cabo Delgado - is growing increasingly anxious.

UPDATE: On 7 April Islamic insurgents slaughtered 52 young men in the village of Xitaxi in Muidumbe District, Cabo Delgado. According to reports (which only emerged on 21 April) the 52 youths - who were mostly shot or beheaded - were killed for refusing to be recruited into the jihadist ranks. The massacre - the worst since the insurgency began - was an act of retaliation designed to send a very clear and loud message. Local grievances and injustice must be addressed. May God give the Church in Mozambique wisdom, insight and a voice that is heard, that she might shine as a truth-speaker and peace-maker. Please pray. [A full analysis on Mozambique will be available shortly.]

SRI LANKA [RLPB 544 (8 April)], remembering the Easter 2019 terror attacks that claimed more than 250 lives, some 180 of whom were killed in church as they celebrated the resurrection. This Easter, at a time of coronavirus lockdown, the focus for many was 'forgiveness'. We also prayed concerning the re-emergence of dangerous Sinhalese Buddhist nationalism which is being peddled for political gain. According to Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, the two greatest 'threats facing the Sinhalese Buddhist nation' are: (1) illicit drugs and (2) religious conversions. The Church in Sri Lanka needs our prayers. Please pray.


click on map to enlarge
ASSYRIA [RLPB 545 (15 April)], the indigenous Christian nation whose homelands are centred in and around the Nineveh Plains (in northern Iraq). Assyrians are facing threats on many fronts, particularly from a resurgent Islamic State, as well as from Kurds (Sunnis) and Shabaks (Shi'ites, backed by Baghdad and Tehran) who are devouring and colonising Assyrian lands, threatening not only Assyria's heritage, but its future. It truly is a Christian crisis. Please pray.

In 701 BC, the army of superpower Assyria flooded Immanuel's land (Judah) right up 'to the neck' (the gates of Jerusalem), just as Isaiah warned it would (Isaiah 8:5-8 and chapter 36). Only then did Hezekiah, king of Judah, repent of his pride and independence and humbly put his trust in the Lord. As soon as King Hezekiah prayed, God answered, just as Isaiah promised he would (Isaiah 30:15-19 and chapter 37). Today, the situation is reversed. No longer a superpower, no longer Judah's overlord, the long-persecuted Assyrians are but the remnant of a Christian nation whose enemies are closing in against them. Just as in 701 BC, defeat appears imminent and inevitable ... and would be, except that God is free and sovereign. May the Assyrians (along with the global Church) cry out to the Lord, just as did King Hezekiah, that the battle may again be turned back at the gate.

'In that day the Lord of hosts will be a crown of glory, and a diadem of beauty, to the remnant of his people, and a spirit of justice to him who sits in judgement, and strength to those who turn back the battle at the gate' (Isaiah 28:5,6 ESV).

NIGERIA [RLPB 546 (22 April)], for an end to the 'silent slaughter' which is ravaging Nigeria's North and Middle Belt and which, like that in Iraq, is nothing less than an existential Christian crisis.

UPDATE (for a full list of horrors, visit 'Silent Slaughter' and check the Incident Tracker).

(1) DELTA: on Saturday morning 18 April armed Fulani herdsmen kidnapped Rev Anthony Oyi, a priest of the Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion, along with his wife and children and a member of his parish. The family had been working on their farm at Issele-Mkpitime Village, Aniocha North Local Government Area (LGA). All were reportedly released the next day, after the priest's family paid a ransom.

(2) KADUNA: On Sunday evening 19 April Fulani herdsmen attacked Angwan Magaji Kamaru village, which is near Kamaru in Kauru LGA in Kaduna's south-east, close to the border with Plateau, only 30km west of Jos. Sources told Morning Star News that the violence continued for two-and-a-half hours, without resistance from police or other security personnel. Four residents were killed, 38 homes were razed and some 87 families have been affected. The dead included two members of the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA), Hannatu Joseph (70) and Sunday David (45); and two Catholics, Jummai Sajeh (75) and Sarah Sunday (40).

On the Silent Slaughter of Irigwe
The dead were all Irigwe, a people group with a population of around 82,000. Famed for their dancing, the Irigwe farm a region covering south-eastern Kaduna and western Plateau (in particular, Bassa and Barakin Ladi LGAs). The Irigwe have been hit exceptionally hard by the Fulani jihad. The Honourable Sunday Adbu is President General of the Irigwe Development Association. In a video on the 'Silent Slaughter' website he tells how the Irigwe have suffered 66 Fulani attacks resulting in 327 lives lost, 186 widows, 744 orphans, 169 with incapacitating injuries (e.g. amputations and brain injuries) and 14,968 displaced (data to July 2019). Along with churches and homes, farmlands and storage facilities have also been looted, destroyed and burnt, leaving the people unable to feed themselves. 'We desire assistance,' he says. Please pray.

'I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth' (Psalm 121:1,2 ESV).


APRIL 2020 ROUND-UP - also this month

* EGYPT: EASTER TERROR PLOT FOILED

On Tuesday evening 14 April Egyptian security forces raided a 10-storey apartment block in the El-Amiriya neighbourhood, eastern Cairo, to neutralise a terror cell ensconced there. A shoot-out ensued, in which all seven terrorists were killed. Police also raided a warehouse in El-Matariya neighbourhood, where weapons (including six automatic rifles), ammunition and explosives had been stored. El-Amiriya neighbourhood is known to have a significant population of Christians and several churches. In a statement, the Ministry of Interior confirmed that the terrorists had been part of a cell preparing to attack Coptic Christians during Holy Week and Easter Sunday (19 April). One National Security Agency (NSA) officer died in the operation and a NSA officer and two policemen were wounded. Please pray for Egypt and her threatened, long-persecuted Church.

* IRAN: UPDATE ON PRISONERS


Aylar Bakhteri (l) and Amin Khaki (c) Mahrokh Ghanbari (r) 
That Iran's prisons are massively over-crowded should be no surprise considering that imprisonment is routinely used as a means of intimidating and persecuting political and religious dissidents. Concerned that COVID-19 could spread uncontrollably through these unhygienic and obscenely over-crowded prisons, in mid-March the regime released nearly 100,000 low-risk prisoners serving short prison terms - mostly on furlough. We praise and thank God that in the first two weeks of April, Ms Rokhsare (Mahrokh) Ghanbari (62) and Pastor Amin Khaki (36), both from Karaj; along with Fatemeh (Aylar) Bakhteri (35) from Rasht, were informed that they would not be required to return to prison to complete their sentences.

Meanwhile, having been released on bail on 26 February, Fatemeh (Mary) Mohammadi [see RLPB 536 (11 Feb)] faced court on 14 April. Though Mary had been charged with 'disturbing public order', the judge reportedly focused his questions on the matter of Mary's Christian faith. [See Matthew 10:16-20]. On 21 April Mary was notified that she had been given a suspended sentence of three months and one day in prison and 10 lashes. Despite lamenting the injustice of being given any sentence at all for a crime she had not committed, Mary will not appeal the sentence. Under different circumstances, her sentence may well have been far more severe. Please pray for Iran's persecuted and imprisoned believers.

* IRAQ: CHRISTIAN AID WORKERS RELEASED

On 20 January three French nationals and one Iraqi who had been serving with the French Christian charity SOS Chretiens d'Orient (SOS Christians of the Middle East) disappeared in Baghdad. Based in Erbil, the aid workers had travelled south to Baghdad to renew their visas and observe a project being supported by the charity to build a school in Baghdad's Christian quarter. No ransom demand was made and grave fears were held for their safety [RLPB 534 (29 Jan)]. On 27 March SOS Chretiens d'Orient announced on Twitter that the four aid workers had been released and thanked supporters for an 'incredible movement of prayers and solidarity'. A statement from the French presidency thanked Iraqi authorities for their co-operation. Whether a ransom was paid, or a politico-military deal was brokered, remains unknown. Praise and thank God that these aid workers have been freed, safe and well. Please pray for Iraq's imperilled Church.

* NIGER: ISLAMISTS EXPLOIT COVID-19 RESTRICTIONS


click on map to enlarge
Tensions escalated in Niger in the month leading up to Ramadan as some urban Muslims protested the government's ban on mass prayer gatherings. Weekly altercations after Friday prayers culminated on Friday 17 April in riots across numerous neighbourhoods around the capital Niamey. The protests, which appeared orchestrated, continued into Sunday 19 April and resulted in significant property damage. Over 100 protesters were subsequently arrested, of whom 10 remain detained. Another 166 were arrested after another eruption of violence on Monday 20 April. Nigerien authorities, influential traditional chiefs and the Niger Islamic Council have all issued calls for restraint. With one voice they are reminding Muslims that they do not need to attend mosque to pray; instead they should demonstrate 'resilience', pray at home and focus on 'protecting themselves and others'. International Crisis Group reports that in the remote north-west where jihadists hold sway, locals have been ordered not to obey the government; imams and chiefs who support the government have been forced to flee. Meanwhile in the south-east, audio messages attributed to Boko Haram leader Aboubacar Shekau are circulating, urging Muslims to resist any restrictions. Clearly fundamentalist elements are exploiting the COVID-19 crisis to whip up anti-government sentiment during Ramadan.

Despite being 98 percent Muslim, Niger boasts secular governance and a high degree of religious freedom. Comprising a mere 0.33 percent, Christians are vulnerable, despite the government's determination to protect them. Please pray that peace will reign through Ramadan and that those who would seek to exploit the COVID-19 crisis for their own nefarious ends might gain no traction at all. Please pray for President Mahamadou Issoufou and for the Church in Niger.

* UGANDA: PERSECUTION WITH IMPUNITY IN EASTERN REGION


Uganda map, showing
Bugiri district,
Eastern Region.
(click on map to enlarge)
On 7 April Lydia Nabirye, the 23-year-old daughter of a Church of God evangelist, was travelling home through Bugiri District in majority Muslim Eastern Region, when a group of fundamentalist Muslims ambushed, strangled and savagely beat her, all the while threatening to kill her. Hearing the ruckus, neighbours called the police, upon whose arrival the assailants fled. A source told Morning Star News (MSN) that when he saw Nabirye on 14 April she was 'still in pain from multiple injuries - head, right eye and left hand injuries.' The Muslims were furious because Nabirye had shared her faith with a young Muslim woman who had since become a Christian. Then, when the new convert was forced to flee persecution, Nabirye's family gave her sanctuary. The family now has seven Muslim converts sheltering in their home. Nabirye's father, Paul Kaikiya, has been threatened repeatedly; he is deeply concerned about the possibility of an attack on the family home. The source told MSN, 'The family needs prayers at this difficult moment, especially for the security and the safety of the Muslim-background believers.' Please pray.

The MSN report (20 April) also includes the moving story of the January 2020 conversion of Sylvia Shamimu Nabafa (27) and the painful persecution she has subsequently suffered. At the time when Sylvia gave her life to Jesus, she was five months pregnant, meaning her baby must be due any day now. 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

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

RLPB 546. Easter Devotion (4); plus Nigeria: Silent Slaughter; a Christian Crisis

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 546 | Wed 22 Apr 2020
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)

EASTER DEVOTION (4), plus PRAYER FOR NIGERIA
By Elizabeth Kendal

Isaiah's Servant Songs cannot but elicit a response. We all, like sheep, have gone astray; trusting in idols and walking in rebellion. Lost, captive and condemned to death, we all need a Redeemer; we all need a Saviour. Behold, God's Servant the Lord Jesus Christ! Though he suffered unjustly he has been vindicated, meaning the offering he made - of his lifeblood, for our sins - has been accepted in the temple of heaven (Hebrews, chapters 8-10). Now completely disarmed (Colossians 2:15), Christ's adversaries will gradually 'wear out like a garment; the moth will eat them up' as Christ establishes justice in the nations and extends his salvation to the ends of the earth. 'I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it' (Matthew 16:18).

So good is this news that the most natural response is to burst into song! 'Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise from the end of the earth.' Sing in the coast-lands, the deserts and the cities! Shout from the mountain tops, give glory to the Lord and declare his praises (Isaiah 42:10-13).'Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth; break forth, O mountains, into singing! For the Lord has comforted his people and will have compassion on his afflicted' (Isaiah 49:13). After the third servant song (50:4-9) we are called to respond by putting our trust in God: 'Who among you fears the Lord and obeys the voice of his servant [the vindicated one of v8,9]? Let him who walks in darkness and has no light trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God.' This is followed by a warning that judgement awaits those who reject him, preferring to trust in their own efforts. (Isaiah 50:10,11)

After the final servant song (52:13 – 53:13), the response is climactic, spanning two exhilarating chapters: Isaiah 54-55. 'Sing ... says the Lord,' for you are going to have more children than you ever imagined! (Isaiah 54:1) 'Enlarge the place of your tent ... do not hold back … .' Not only will your offspring overflow your current dwelling, but they will 'spread abroad to the right and to the left'; they 'will possess the nations and will people the desolate cities' (v2,3). 'Fear not ... says the Lord, your Redeemer ... my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed ... whoever stirs up strife with you shall fall because of you' (v 4-17).

Then, with voice lifted up and arms wide open, God issues his universal invitation: 'Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters ...' satisfy yourself and delight in God's rich free grace (55:1-5). Repent and turn to God for he is compassionate and 'will abundantly pardon' (v 6,7). God's ways might be mysterious, but his word - the sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17) - will accomplish all he has purposed (v 8-11). The creation that once groaned - as in the pains of childbirth (Romans 8:22) - will rejoice as the Gospel of redemption and restoration goes forth with effectual power across the earth. 'For [or Surely] you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress; instead of the briar shall come up the myrtle, and it shall make a name for the Lord, an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off' (55:12-13).

Dear believer, dear intercessor, do not be downcast. Grasp what God has desired and done! Understand what Jesus Christ, God's Servant, has achieved! Have faith that the Spirit is at work in the world bringing it all to pass. Sing, dear believer! Sing, trust him, extend the invitation and pray! Pray for the persecuted in love and with faith energised by hope - not hope in what is seen but hope in what is promised! (Romans 8:18-25)

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NIGERIA: SILENT SLAUGHTER, A CHRISTIAN CRISIS


Silent Slaughter 
Dr Richard Ikiebe is a Nigerian journalist, educator, media consultant, author, pastor and peace-maker. He has served as national co-ordinator for the non-denominational, faith-based coalition of pastors - Church for Change - which works to engage politicians and church leaders on matters pertaining to 'peace and ethnic reconciliation and ethical politics'. He is also a co-founder, along with Bishop Ben Kwashi and others, of International Organisation for Peace Building and Social Justice (PSJ https://psj.org.ng/), 'which exists to promote peace-building and social justice in Nigeria'. PSJ recently launched a campaign entitled SILENT SLAUGHTER. Through its website and international petition, PSJ hopes to increase international pressure on President Muhammadu Buhari so he might act decisively to put an end to the violence ravaging (but not confined to) Nigeria's North and Middle Belt. The following reports are merely the tip of the iceberg. For a more exhaustive list, please visit https://www.silentslaughternigeria.com/ and check the 'Incidence Tracker' (and sign the petition!).

KADUNA: On Thursday night 16 April tertiary student Sebastine Stephen was visiting his family home in Gbagyi Villa, a suburb of the city of Kaduna, when some 50 Fulani herdsmen invaded the area. Morning Star News reports that Stephen, who was outside when the heavily armed Fulani arrived at 11:30pm, sounded the alarm enabling others to escape. After shooting Stephen dead the Fulani broke into a nearby home and abducted Christian couple, Mr Jack Nweke and his wife, leaving behind their three children. Around 6:45pm on Sunday 19 April some 100 Fulani herdsmen stormed Unguwan Magaji village in Kauru Local Government Area (LGA), in the predominantly Christian south-east of Kaduna State. After entering the village from four flanks, causing confusion and terror, they razed 36 houses and burnt food stores and grain supplies. Whilst Nigerian media did not identify the four dead as 'Christians', it did provide their names: Mrs Hanatu Joseph (58), mother of five; Mrs Sarah Sunday (40), wife and mother of six; Mrs Dije Sajay (55), wife and mother of six; and Mr Sunday David (47), husband and father of seven.

PLATEAU: On the evening of Easter Saturday 11 April Mr Mabur Mallo Gwang (30) was murdered by Fulani herdsmen who broke into his home and shot him dead. Gwang was a member of the local Church of Christ in Nations (COCIN) congregation in Maiduna village, Bokkos LGA, western Plateau. He was also a farmer.

click on map to enlarge
BENUE: On the morning of Monday 13 April two local Catholics were returning home to Obagaji town, after a visit to Ologba Village in predominantly Christian Agatu LGA, when they were ambushed and beheaded by Fulani herdsmen. Oyaje Sule, the uncle of one of the victims, told Morning Star News that just one week earlier two other local Christians had been attacked; they are now receiving hospital treatment for their wounds.

DELTA: On the evening of Good Friday 10 April Fulani militants murdered Pastor Stephen Akpor (55) of Breakthrough Cathedral (a local fellowship of the Celestial Church of Christ) in Ibusa, Oshimili North LGA. Pastor Akpor was praying with and counselling several church members at about 8:30pm when two Fulani militants stormed in. When Pastor Akpor locked himself in his office, the militants went outside and shot him through the window as his wife and the other believers escaped unhurt. The militants then broke into the room and stabbed the pastor multiple times. According to the doctor at Ibusa General Hospital, Pastor Akpor died from the wounds he sustained in the stabbing. A pastor and a husband, Stephen Akpor was also a father to five children.

Two decades of violence has left more than 60,000 Nigerians dead and some 1.8 million displaced. Global Terrorism Index now ranks Nigeria third on its terrorism index - below Afghanistan and Iraq, and above Syria. Though more than 80 percent of all Africans arriving in Europe are Nigerians, the EU and other world leaders are reluctant to get involved. The PSJ campaign decries 'an apparent massive deficit in Nigeria of leadership, and a systematic lack of preventative action so severe that it borders on complicity'. Concerning the reluctance of the EU and world leaders, Dr Ikiebe laments: 'There is hypocrisy,' he says, 'when it comes to the persecution of Christians.'

PLEASE PRAY THAT OUR ALMIGHTY GOD WILL

* bless and encourage Dr Richard Ikiebe, Bishop Ben Kwashi and all who work with the organisation they co-founded - the International Organisation for Peace Building and Social Justice; we pray also for Jeff Sellers - founder and senior editor of Morning Star News - as well as all writers, speakers, advocates and aid workers, who work tirelessly to shatter the silence shrouding Nigeria's Christian crisis; may the Lord provide all their needs and magnify their voices.

* open ears and sharpen consciences, both within the Nigerian government and amongst influential world leaders; but most critically, may the Lord open the ears and soften the heart of the global Church, compelling her into prayer ... for 'Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labour in vain' (Psalm 127:1 ESV).

* comfort and sustain Nigeria's suffering Church, in particular those who grieve the loss of loved ones and who tremble due to loss of security; may they look to Jesus (Hebrews 12:2), God's most wonderful, compassionate Servant, their loving Saviour.

* bless and protect all who risk much to share the Gospel with the Muslim Fulani as Christ continues to build his Church in Nigeria's North and Middle Belt.

'Behold, you shall call a nation that you do not know, and a nation that did not know you shall run to you, because of the Lord your God, and of the Holy One of Israel, for he has glorified you' (Isaiah 55:5 ESV).


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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SILENT SLAUGHTER AND A CHRISTIAN CRISIS IN NIGERIA

A Christian-led peace-building organisation in Nigeria [https://psj.org.ng/ ] has launched a campaign entitled SILENT SLAUGHTER. Through its website and international petition it hopes to increase international pressure on the Nigerian government so it might act decisively to stop the killings and bloodshed currently ravaging Nigeria's North and Middle Belt. For two decades now, the Islamic violence targeting Northern Nigeria's Christian minority and the Middle Belt's Christian farming communities has been met with denial and silence, both inside Nigeria and internationally. With more than 60,000 Nigerians dead and some 1.8 million displaced, Global Terrorism Index now ranks Nigeria third on its terrorism index - below Afghanistan and Iraq and above Syria. Precisely because the violence is ethno-religious and the victims are mostly Christian, world leaders are reluctant to get involved. Please pray.

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Ramadan commences 23-24 April
RLPB recommends: 30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World
https://www.30daysprayer.com/
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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, April 14, 2020

RLPB 545. Easter Devotion (3); plus Prayer for Assyria (Iraq)

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 545 | Wed 15 Apr 2020
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)


EASTER DEVOTION (3); plus PRAYER FOR ASSYRIA
By Elizabeth Kendal

While Catholic and Protestant Churches celebrated Easter over 10-12 April, Orthodox Churches will celebrate Easter this coming weekend, 17-19 April. Different calendars, different histories, different traditions, different understandings, but ultimately 'one flock, one shepherd' (John 10:16).

PRAYER FUEL: ASSURED OF GOD'S LOVE

Through Isaiah's 'servant songs', God's Servant - once hidden, as if behind a curtain - is gradually, progressively revealed. With each servant song the curtain is opened a little wider, so we might see more and learn more. The first servant song reveals God's Servant to be a chosen, quiet, resolute and compassionate healer and deliverer who will establish justice on the earth (Isaiah 42:1-9). The second servant song (49:1-7) sharpens the focus while expanding our view, adding that God will make his Servant - whose mouth, though quiet (42:2), is like a sharpened sword (49:2) - 'as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.' Wow! Consequently, we are shocked to discover that, far from being a national hero, God's Servant is 'deeply despised, abhorred by the nation' (v7) [RLPB 543 (1 April)]. The third servant song (50:4-9) opens the curtain wider still, revealing the Servant to be a faithful disciple and 'wonderful counsellor' (Isaiah 9:6), an obedient disciple who says 'Not my will but thine' (Luke 22:42) and submits to abuse and torture (v6), confident that God will both help and vindicate him … which he does. Consequently, now it is his adversaries who are defenceless, helpless in the face of the truth [RLPB 544 (8 April)].

The fourth servant song (Isaiah 52:13 - 53:12) is a poem comprising five stanzas of three lines each, structured as follows: A B(1) B(2) B(3) A. In the opening and closing stanzas (the two As) God makes declarations concerning his Servant, building again on what we have already learned. The three central stanzas (the three Bs; Isaiah 53:1-9) reveal in greater detail what God's Servant suffers. At the pinnacle of the poem, in verses 4 - 6, we are drawn to look not merely at the scene but through it, into the very heart of God, as we finally learn why God's Servant suffers. He suffers that he might bear our griefs and carry our sorrows, he is pierced for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities, chastised for our peace and wounded for our healing. Though we all rebelled and turned away, he - in amazing grace - surrenders his life to redeem us all.

Dear believer, are you suffering? Are you afraid, anxious, confused? Do your trials make you wonder if God really loves you? Read aloud this servant song - insert yourself into verses 4-6 - and hear God speak: 'This is how much I love you!' So, dear intercessor - brother, sister - pray with confidence, fully convinced that the one who rules over heaven and earth not only sees and hears you, but loves you with a love already demonstrated and proven on the cross (Romans 5:8 ESV); a love so immeasurably wide and long and high and deep that it surpasses knowledge (Ephesians 3:18,19); a love from which you can never be separated (Romans 8:31-39). God has desired you; Christ has redeemed you, and the Spirit has sealed you. So draw near to him and pray! 'Arise, cry out in the night ... pour out your heart like water ... lift your hands to him' (Lamentations 2:19) and watch (צָפָה tsâphâh) expectantly (Psalm 5:1-3).

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IRAQ: ASSYRIAN CRISIS IS OUR CRISIS

Iraq Control Map - January 2020
Political Geography Now
Four times in the last year Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin (RLPB) warned that an existential Christian crisis persists in Iraq. In June 2014, Islamic State (then known as ISIS) seized Mosul, the capital of northern Iraq's Nineveh/Ninawa Province, in a blitzkrieg. In August 2014, after consolidating in Mosul, IS ethnically cleansed the Nineveh Plains, the historic heartland of Iraq's indigenous Assyrian nation. When Mosul was liberated in July 2017, displaced Assyrian Christians began trickling back into the Nineveh Plains, eager to rebuild and re-establish themselves as a Christian nation within Iraq. However, not only are Kurds (Sunnis) and Shabaks (Shi'ites, backed by Baghdad and Tehran), devouring and colonising Assyrian lands, but Islamic State (hyper-intolerant, anti-Shi'ite Sunnis, backed by Turkey) has been re-grouping in the desert and in the Hamrin Mountains, preparing for a come-back. With so much against them and so little international support for them, Assyrian Christians are starting to wonder if their vision of re-establishing their Christian nation in the Nineveh Plains is nothing but a mirage [RLPB 541 (18 Mar 2020)].

In recent months, several coalition members - including France and Britain - have withdrawn their troops and halted their training programs because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In mid-March, after engaging in a series of deadly tit-for-tat missile strikes with Iran-backed Shi'ite militias, the US opted to reposition its troops, leaving some bases while consolidating in others. However, pressure is mounting in Washington and Baghdad for a complete US withdrawal lest Iraq become the battlefield for a US-Iran proxy war. According to the US narrative, the war against Islamic State is over and Iraqi troops have been trained to deal with anything that might arise. Yet, according to most independent analysts, the Iraqi Army will struggle to contain a revived Islamic State without the air support and intelligence gathering that US and coalition forces provided.

Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic and plummeting oil prices have pushed Iraq's economy to the brink of collapse. The crisis will provide Islamic State with a perfect opportunity to advance its agenda. It is looking more likely that conflict could erupt between Islamic State (Sunnis, backed by Turkey) and Shi'ite troops and militias (backed by Baghdad and Tehran). Turkey has long desired unobstructed access to the vilayet/province of Mosul (formerly part of the Ottoman Empire). Similarly, throughout its history, Persia has desired unobstructed access to the Mediterranean. Meanwhile, everyone desires oil-rich Kirkuk! On 11 April, Islamic State claimed responsibility for a bombing in Kirkuk that killed two Peshmerga fighters (Kurdish military).

Assyrian Christians desperately need our prayers; their crisis is our crisis! Praise God, Christ is faithful: 'A bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice' (Isaiah 42:3) and his salvation will reach to the end of the earth (Isaiah 49:6). As for Christ's adversaries, their days are numbered (Isaiah 50:9). All believers should pray in faith, with the energy that comes from hope, and assured of God's love (Isaiah 53:4-6) which remains forever true regardless of circumstances.

Easter 2019: A priest washes a boy’s feet during Maundy Thursday mass
at Mar Hanna (St John’s) church in Hamdaniya, Nineveh.
Photograph: Achilleas Zavallis/The Guardian, 21 April 2019.

PLEASE PRAY THAT OUR ALMIGHTY GOD WILL

* intervene in Iraq to protect, bless and re-establish the Assyrian Church and nation according to his promise: 'The Lord Almighty will bless them, saying, "Blessed be Egypt my people, Assyria my handiwork, and Israel my inheritance ' (Isaiah 19:25 NIV, emphasis mine).

* intervene internationally for the benefit of his people; may nations that have the ability - and even a responsibility - to assist the Assyrian people be roused to advocacy and action on their behalf; and may Christians around the world embrace their calling to love and pray for their gravely imperilled brothers and sisters that the battle might be turned back at the gate (Isaiah 28:5-6).

'Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness ... and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?' (from Isaiah 58)


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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ASSYRIAN CRISIS IN IRAQ IS OUR CRISIS

Assyrian Christians in northern Iraq desperately need our prayers. Multitudes remain in cramped camps, highly vulnerable to COVID-19. Meanwhile, the hopes of those who have dared to return to the Nineveh Plains (the historic Assyrian heartland) are fading fast as Kurds and Shabaks steal their lands and as Islamic State threatens a comeback. Britain and France have withdrawn their troops and the US might not be far behind. Meanwhile, the COVID-19 pandemic and plummeting oil prices have pushed Iraq's economy to the brink of collapse. The crisis is providing Islamic State with an opportunity to advance its agenda. A clash between Islamic State (backed by Turkey) and Shi'ite troops and militias (backed by Baghdad and Tehran) seems inevitable. Iraq's Christian crisis could soon get much worse. Please pray.

------------------------------------------------------------
Ramadan commences 23-24 April
RLPB recommends: 30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World
https://www.30daysprayer.com/
------------------------------------------------------------

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, April 7, 2020

RLPB 544. Easter Devotion (2); plus Prayer for Sri Lanka

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 544 | Wed 08 Apr 2020
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)


EASTER DEVOTION (2); plus PRAYER FOR SRI LANKA
By Elizabeth Kendal

PRAYER FUEL: CONFIDENCE INSPIRED BY PROMISE

Isaiah's first servant song (Isaiah 42:1-9) makes no mention of the servant's suffering, though the second (49:1-7) does describe him as 'one deeply despised, abhorred by the nation'. The third servant song (50:4-9) reveals God's servant as a disciple par excellence. 'Morning by morning' he meets with God who gives him 'the tongue of those who are taught', that he might 'know how to sustain with a word, him who is weary' (v4). Not only does he obey the word of God, but when God reveals his will to his servant's ear, the servant willingly submits - he is 'not rebellious'; he 'turns not backward' (v5). 'I [God's servant] gave my back to those who strike, and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard; I hid not my face from disgrace and spitting' (v6). He submitted himself to the path of suffering fully confident that his ever-faithful God would both help and vindicate him (v7).

The scene in the courtroom is extraordinary (v8,9). The servant himself issues the challenge: 'Who will contend with me? ... Who is my adversary? ... who will declare me guilty?' The prosecutors have no case, for the servant is innocent, sinless, holy and God the judge has vindicated him. This is why death could not hold him. This is why his death can be credited to others. What now of his accusers? 'Behold,' declares the servant, 'all of them will wear out like a garment; the moth will eat them up' (v9).

While commentators mostly surmise that Christ's accusers and adversaries will 'waste away', I prefer to envisage them being nibbled away by those they view as inconsequential pests! Ultimately, Christ's accusers and adversaries will be so full of holes, so lacking of substance, that everyone will simply see right through them. Their demise, however, will not be instant, spectacular or cataclysmic. On the contrary, it will be slow and quiet, requiring patience and perseverance. Ultimately, however, as noted last week [RLPB 543 (1 April)], 'the nations will see justice and salvation will extend to the ends of the earth.'

Today, as we approach Easter, conscious of the scourge of persecution; sickened by the lies that ruin lives; anxious about the threat of Easter terror, let us remember: Jesus, God's servant, has been vindicated. Consequently his adversaries have nothing and their demise is certain. So, dear intercessor, pray with confidence inspired by the promise that all Christ's adversaries 'will wear out like a garment; the moth will eat them up'. God has ordained it, Christ has secured it and now the Spirit is faithfully bringing it to pass.

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

PRAYER FOR SRI LANKA


Statue representing Jesus in
St. Sebastian's Church, Negombo,
splattered with the blood of his followers.
(In pictures, Easter 2019)
On Resurrection Sunday 21 April 2019, suicide bombers affiliated with Islamic State perpetrated the most deadly terror attack ever witnessed in Sri Lanka [RLPB 499 (24 Apr 2019)]. The string of eight near simultaneous suicide bombings - in which three churches were targeted - claimed the lives of more than 253 people, around 180 of whom were killed while at worship. Hundreds more were wounded and, according to the Archbishop of Colombo, at least 176 children lost either one or both of their parents that day. The attacks deeply rattled the fragile nation [RLPB 500 (01 May 2019)].

As noted in RLPB 500, 'the danger in Sri Lanka now is that the Easter terror attacks will trigger a resurgence of violent religious nationalism'. This has indeed been the case. In November 2019, the divisive and controversial Sinhalese Buddhist nationalist Rajapaksa clan regained power in Sri Lanka [RLPB 530 (27 Nov 2019)]. On 2 March President Gotabaya Rajapaksa dissolved parliament and called for parliamentary elections to be held on 25 April. The plan was to run the election campaign through the Easter period and whip up Buddhist nationalist fervour during the first anniversary of the terror attack. By this means, the pundits surmised, Prime Minister (PM) Mahinda Rajapaksa - who currently leads a minority government - should be able to secure a strong majority, preferably the two-thirds majority he needs to amend the constitution and enhance the PM's powers. While the COVID-19 pandemic has laid waste to plans for an early election, the Rajapaksas' plan to fuel and fan ethnic-religious tension and whip up Buddhist nationalist zeal for political gain, is destined to continue until the elections are held later this year.

On 26 February PM Mahinda Rajapaksa addressed the Annual Convention of the All Ceylon Buddhist Councils. He identified what he maintains are the two greatest 'threats facing the Sinhala Buddhist Nation': (1) the drugs being peddled to school children and (2) the conversion of 'traditional Buddhist families to other religions'. He hinted of plans to revive the controversial anti-conversion bill and urged the Buddhist Councils to give him unanimous support. Buddhist nationalists have been pressing for a law criminalising conversions for almost 20 years. Draft bills have proposed prison terms and fines for anyone found guilty of 'forcing' anyone to convert. The main obstacle in the extremists' path has been the Supreme Court and the lack of consensus among Buddhists. On 28 February, the report of United Nations Special Rapporteur Ahmed Shaheed was distributed to the 43rd session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva. The report is highly critical of the Sri Lankan government for its lack of respect for religious freedom - specifically the right to propagate religion - for its unwillingness to act against violent Buddhist extremists, and for its continuous patronage of Buddhist nationalist hardliners.

5 May  2019: Just weeks after the terror of Easter 2019,
members of Zion Church (one of the churches bombed)
pray at a community hall in Batticaloa.
(CNS photo/Danish Siddiqui, Reuters.)
'It is essential,' said the Special Rapporteur, 'for the Government to not ignore the simmering tensions and intolerance and the damaging consequences of incitement to hatred and violence in a country that has gone through a long period of internal conflict. Inaction by the authorities could aggravate the simmering tensions and, if these were left unattended, Sri Lanka may risk being locked in a vicious cycle of ethno-religious violence.' While the Sri Lankan government rejects the report as 'inaccurate', intolerance is escalating as Buddhist nationalist zealots grow in confidence. A horrific attack on a house church and their visiting pastor in Polonnaruwa district on 2 February left three believers hospitalised. Though a senior police officer and a local government official were present, none of the militants or the monks who led them have faced any sanction. As noted by the UN Special Rapporteur, 'The culture of impunity in Sri Lanka has been repeatedly pointed out as one of the main reasons for which religious extremism and hate speech thrive in the country, undermining the rule of law and human rights' (Report: A/HRC/43/48/Add.2).

EASTER TERROR: This Sunday - Resurrection Sunday on the Western Church calendar - Sri Lankan Christians will celebrate the resurrection while remembering the day, 12 months ago, when terrorists slaughtered their loved ones. They will not be alone; Christians in Pakistan [RLPB 350 (30 March 2016)] and Egypt [RLPB 402 (12 April 2017)] will also be remembering loved ones lost in recent years to Easter terror.


PLEASE PRAY THAT OUR ALMIGHTY GOD WILL

* comfort, sustain and protect the Church in Sri Lanka; may Sri Lanka's believers 'shine as lights' (Philippians 2:15) in spite of their grief and trauma; may they all grow in faith, hope and love, as well as grace and confidence as they trust in our Lord Jesus Christ.

* move in the hearts and minds of those who hold power and influence in Sri Lanka, so they might promote unity over division, peace over conflict, and equity, justice and religious freedom over and above self-interest. Lord, we pray for a breakthrough!

* intervene to protect his Church against Easter terror; we pray especially for local churches and house churches serving vulnerable, counter-cultural minority Christians who do not have the benefit of state support or state-provided security. May the Lord be their strength and shield (Psalm 28:7); may all believers put their trust in him.


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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PRAYER FOR SRI LANKA

On April 12 - Resurrection Sunday on the Western Church calendar - Sri Lankan Christians will celebrate the resurrection while remembering the day, one year ago, when terrorists slaughtered their loved ones. (They will not be alone: Christians in Pakistan and Egypt will also celebrate the resurrection while remembering loved ones lost to Easter terror.) After the attacks, Sinhalese Buddhist nationalism escalated, fuelled and fanned by ambitious politicians, in particular the Rajapaksa clan. Having grasped power, the Rajapaksas continue to whip up Buddhist nationalist zeal, aiming to increase their power. Having identified illicit drugs and religious conversions as the two greatest 'threats facing the Sinhala Buddhist Nation', Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa has hinted that he will pursue anti-conversion legislation. As long as persecutors are guaranteed impunity, Sri Lanka risks descending into ethno-religious conflict. Please pray.

------------------------------------------------------------
Ramadan commences 23-24 April
RLPB recommends: 30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World
https://www.30daysprayer.com/
------------------------------------------------------------

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 

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

RLPB 543. Easter Devotion (1); plus, Prayer for Mozambique

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 543 | Wed 1 Apr 2020
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)


EASTER DEVOTION (1); plus PRAYER FOR MOZAMBIQUE
by Elizabeth Kendal

PRAYER FUEL: FAITH, HOPE AND LOVE

'Behold,' declares the LORD, idols are useless; they cannot speak or guide you in the right direction. Likewise idolaters, have no answers: 'Behold, they are all a delusion ...' (from Isaiah 41:21-29). On the other hand … 'Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations ... he will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not grow faint or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth ... I will make [my servant] as a light for the nations that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.' (excerpts from Isaiah 42:1-4 and 49:5-7 ESV).

Unlike the Judeans, who made idols of wood and metal, modern humanity makes idols of money, political systems, and humanity itself. In these, men and women put their faith and hopes. But like the idols of old, today's idols are useless and without answers - 'they are all a delusion'. On the other hand, God's servant - the Lord Jesus Christ - does speak truth, has sovereign power and will bring forth justice; that is, he will establish God's truth in the earth; he will put things right. Furthermore, because God has made him as a light for the world - a light which 'darkness has not overcome' (John 1:4-5) - salvation will reach to the ends of the earth!

Today, as we approach Easter under the shadow of plague, pandemic and persecution, let us remember: Jesus, God's servant, was obedient unto death. Consequently, the nations will see justice and salvation will extend to the ends of the earth. God has ordained it, Christ has secured it and now the Spirit is faithfully bringing it to pass. Nothing can get in the way of God's will - not plague, not pandemic and not persecution. And so, dear intercessor, our hope is not diminished! So pray in faith, with the energy that comes from hope and the passion that comes from love for the Church, for the world and for our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.

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MOZAMBIQUE: JIHADIST THREAT ESCALATES


The Swahili Coast
Cabo Delgado is Mozambique's northern-most coastal province and the southern-most reach of the Swahili Coast. Sahil is the Arabic word for 'coast', and the Swahili Coast is the coastal strip where, since the 8th Century, Africans and Arabs have mixed to create a unique Swahili ('people of the coast') identity and culture. While Mozambique is roughly 46.5 percent Christian, 32 percent ethno-religionist and 18.6 percent Muslim, Cabo Delgado is 58 percent Muslim. An Islamic insurgency has simmered in the region since October 2017. The insurgency has its roots in ethnic-religious tension dating back to the civil war (1977-1992), local grievance and, more recently, Wahhabi radicalisation of Muslims. [A full analysis will be posted to Religious Liberty Monitoring before the end of the month.] As jihadists inflicted ever more brutal terror throughout the Cabo Delgado countryside, international jihadist organisations al-Qaeda and Islamic State started to take notice, eager to get a foothold in East Africa. The crisis has displaced at least 100,000 people and cut hungry farmers off from their fields and livelihoods.

ISCAP in Quissanga, 25 March 2020
source: Stratfor, 31 March (subscription)
On Monday 23 March jihadists conducted their most audacious and sophisticated terror attack to date. They invaded one of Cabo Delgado's largest towns, the strategic port town of Mocimboa da Praia, entering before dawn from land and sea. The jihadists fought, burned property, released prisoners, looted food and weapons 'sufficient for two battalions' and ultimately raised their black flag over police headquarters. Mozambiquan security forces were simply overwhelmed. The jihadists controlled the streets all day until military reinforcements arrived and the jihadists fled 'leaving behind a trail of blood, bodies, and missing persons'. Islamic State Central Africa Province has claimed responsibility. On Tuesday 24 March, jihadists attacked the village of Mussomero, abducting civilians. On Wednesday 25 March they attacked the town of Quissanga, killing police and looting arms and ammunition.

Bishop Luiz Fernando Lisboa
Analysts surmise the day-long seizure of Mocimboa da Praia could mark a turning point in the insurgency. It comes just as Mozambiquan President Filipe Nyusi declares a state of emergency for the month of April, aimed at curtailing the spread of the COVID-19 virus. [See: The COVID-19 Pandemic and the Persecuted Church, (RLM).] Catholic Bishop Luiz Fernando Lisboa, who is based in Pemba, the provincial capital, told Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, 'They [the militants] left a message that they would be returning. The people are afraid. If they can attack Mocimboa, which is the largest town in the region, then the people of Palma, Mueda and Macomia have reason to feel themselves in danger ... Nevertheless,' he said, 'the Catholic Church will continue to stay close to the people ...' Based in South Africa, InContext International reports that, throughout the attack, Christians in Mocimboa da Praia sent messages requesting prayer as they hid to avoid detection. 'A pastor and her family evaded the attack and together with three other Christian families found safety elsewhere - they, all 21 of them, are sheltering in one home.' The roots of this crisis run deep and wide through a country that is beset with problems; there will be no 'quick fix'. But, as noted by InContext, 'It's in these challenging circumstances where the true Gospel can shine the brightest.' Please pray.

PLEASE PRAY THAT OUR ALMIGHTY GOD WILL

* grace President Filipe Nyusi and his government with humility, wisdom, insight and fortitude as they seek solutions to the crisis of escalating terrorism in the midst of the pandemic.

* intervene in Mozambique to protect and sustain his Church and preserve religious liberty; may every wicked plot aimed at shattering peace, shredding security and dividing communities be thwarted.

* continue to build his Church in Mozambique so that, as darkness deepens, the light of Christ might shine brightly through a revived, growing and energised, hope-filled Church. (For Mozambique: Isaiah 42:1-4)

SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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MOZAMBIQUE: JIHADIST THREAT ESCALATES

Mozambique has been struggling to contain a jihadist insurgency in its northern-most coastal province of Cabo Delgado. On 23 March, in their most sophisticated attack to date, jihadists overwhelmed security forces and seized control of the strategic port town of Mocimboa da Praia, which they held all day until military reinforcements arrived and the jihadists fled 'leaving behind a trail of blood, bodies, and missing persons'. Islamic State Central Africa Province has claimed responsibility. According to Bishop Luiz Fernando Lisboa, the jihadists left vowing they would return. InContext International reports that during the attack, Christians in Mocimboa da Praia sent out messages requesting prayer. The escalation in terror comes as President Filipe Nyusi declares a state of emergency aimed at curtailing the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Please pray.

------------------------------------------------------------
Ramadan commences 23-24 April
RLPB recommends: 30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World
------------------------------------------------------------

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