Tuesday, August 25, 2020

RLPB 564. August Update, incl. Nigeria, Algeria, Iran, Mozambique, Pakistan, Syria, Turkey.

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 564| Wed 26 Aug 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)

By Elizabeth Kendal

AUGUST 2020 UPDATE - during this period we prayed concerning

* NIGERIA [RLPB 561 (5 Aug)], specifically the Christian Crisis in Kaduna.

UPDATE: despite appeals, publicity and curfews, Fulani attacks on southern Kaduna's Christian villages continue unabated. Eleven Christians - including a 16-year-old girl, a 48-year-old father of nine children, and a pastor, Rev. Adalchi Usman (39, a father of two) from the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) - perished in attacks on Zangon Kataf and Kajuru LGAs between 16-18 August. In an address to the 15th Synod, the Bishop of Egba (Anglican Diocese), the Rev. Emmanuel Adekunle, urged the Federal Government to declare a state of emergency in Southern Kaduna. He also urged President Buhari to consider replacing security service chiefs. On Saturday 22 August Nigeria's Catholic Church commenced a season of 40 Days of Prayer for Nigeria, timed to conclude on 30 September 2020, the eve of Nigeria's Independence Day. Nigerians are starting to realise that the Christian crisis in Kaduna is but a prelude to what awaits Nigeria if insecurity and impunity are not addressed.

* NIGERIA [RLPB 562 (12 Aug)], where insecurity is enabling terrorist expansion.

UPDATE: On 2 August, as part of a resettlement program, Nigerian troops escorted hundreds of long-displaced residents back to their homes and lands in Kukawa, a village in the Lake Chad basin area of Borno State. At 4 pm on Tuesday 18 August 22 trucks full of armed militants stormed into Kukawa, taking the soldiers tasked with guarding the village by surprise. A fierce, 30 minute firefight ensued, in which the terrorists prevailed. They then abducted 'hundreds' of residents. While no group has claimed responsibility, both Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) and Boko Haram's Bakura faction are active in the area.

* NIGERIA [RLPB 563 (19 Aug)], a hugely significant country in every sense - including spiritually - but which is existentially imperilled, primarily because of systemic corruption, which includes elites at the highest levels of government and military, prolonging conflict to profit from it.

In describing his experience of the Great Awakening in Northampton, Massachusetts (USA) - which took place between April 1734 and May 1736 - Jonathan Edwards comments, 'Satan seemed to be unusually restrained.' Then, when the Holy Spirit did ultimately withdraw, 'Satan seemed more on the loose...' However, the revival's effects were profound and enduring. Edwards wrote, 'We remain a reformed people, and God has evidently made us a new people.' [Jonathan Edwards, The Surprising Work of God (Whitaker House, New Kensington, PA, USA, 1997) 148-155.]

Please pray that Satan might be 'unusually restrained' so that Nigerians might be awakened, reformed and renewed, for the sake of the Church and the glory of God. Amen.

'No one can enter a strong man's house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. Then indeed he may plunder his house' (Mark 3:27 ESV).

AUGUST 2020 ROUND-UP - also this month

* ALGERIA: COURT RULING THREATENS CHURCHES

In March 2006 the Algerian government enacted Presidential Order 06/03 which mandates that all non-Muslim worship be regulated by the government. Faced with escalating anti-regime sentiment, the government has ramped up anti-Christian persecution, doubtless to secure the support of Islamists. The government has closed 15 Protestant churches since November 2017, eight since May 2019 [RLPB 531 (4 Dec 2019)]. On 15 October 2019 the governor of Tizi Ouzou Province closed the 500-member Source of Light church in Makouda. The church appealed, claiming the governor is not authorised to sign closure orders. However, an administrative court has just recognised the governor's authority to close the church under Order 06/03. Middle East Concern reports (17 Aug): 'Ten of the closed churches, five in the province of Tizi Ouzou and five in Bejaia, have filed similar cases with the administrative courts. Christians in Algeria are concerned this verdict might be a precedent for similar action by municipal authorities against other churches.' Please pray.

* IRAN: CHURCH IN THE STORM

In July 2017 an Iranian court sentenced Pastor Victor Bet-Tamraz (an Assyrian) to 10 years in prison, charged with 'conducting evangelism', 'illegal house church activities' and 'acting against national security' [RLPB 414 (12 July 2017)]. On 6 January 2018 Victor's wife, Shamiram Isavi, was sentenced to five years in prison, charged with 'acting against national security by organising home churches, attending Christian seminars abroad and training Christian leaders in Iran for the purpose of espionage' [RLPB 440 (31 Jan 2018)]. On 19 July 2020 Pastor Victor (65) was informed that his appeal had been rejected. On 11 August Shamiram (64) was informed that her appeal had been rejected and that she had until 16 August to present herself at Evin Prison. On 15 August the couple successfully fled the country. They are reportedly 'safe and well' and will continue their legal battle from abroad. The three young converts sentenced alongside Pastor Victor - Kavian (10 yrs) , Amin (15 yrs) and Hadi (10 yrs) - have also been informed that their appeals have been rejected.

From left: Victor Bet-Tamraz, Shamiram Issavi,
Kavian Fallah-Mohammadi, Amin Afshar-Naderi, and Hadi Asgari.

Joseph Shahbazian and Malihe Nazari  
Joseph Shahbazian (56, an Armenian) was arrested in a raid on a Tehran house church on 30 June [RLPB 557 (8 July 2020)]. On Tuesday 18 August, after seven weeks in prison on unknown charges, Joseph was finally permitted a visit from his wife and son. Of the 35 Christians arrested that night, only Joseph and Malihe Nazari, a 46-year-old woman convert (a Persian), remain detained. Malihe is believed to have been transferred to the notorious Qarchak women's prison, long known as the most dangerous prison in Iran for women. At three billion tomans (US$150,000), the bail set for these prisoners is more than twice the previous highest bail set for any Christian. Please pray for the Church in Iran.

'God moves in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform;
      He plants his footsteps in the sea, And rides upon the storm'.
(1st verse of William Cowper's poem, 'Light Shining Out of Darkness', written 1773.)

* MOZAMBIQUE: ISLAMIC STATE SEIZES PORT

On 11 August well-trained fighters armed with sophisticated weapons attacked Mocimboa da Praia in Mozambique's northern-most province of Cabo Delgado. Lacking ammunition, the military was ultimately forced to flee. Islamic State affiliate Al-Sunna wa Jama'a (ASWJ) is now in full control of the strategic port city. Locals lament that 'ISIS was more organised and better equipped than the army'. The Catholic Charity, Aid to the Church in Need, has warned that this incident could prove to be the prelude to an Islamist takeover of the north of the country. The roots of the insurgency are complex and need to be addressed. Yet the government seems more interested in shutting out, vilifying and even silencing those who dare challenge its handling of the crisis, including journalists and local Christian leaders. Government troops have returned to the region and a battle for control of Mocimboa da Praia appears imminent. Please pray.

Background:
Kendal, 'Mozambique: A Crisis in the Making', RLM 13 May 2020.

* PAKISTAN: NO CHRISTIAN GIRL IS SAFE

Maira Shahbaz  
According to her birth certificate, Maira Shahbaz was only 13 in October 2019 when she was married to Mr Mohamad Nakash - the already married, reputedly wealthy Muslim businessman who had abducted her six months earlier. On 30 July the Faisalabad District and Sessions Court ruled that Maira be removed from Mr Nakash's house and placed in a women and girl's refuge, pending further investigations. The family was relieved, as reports had emerged that Maira was being groomed for the sex-industry. However, on 4 August, Lahore's High Court overturned that ruling, insisting that as Maira was now a Muslim, she must be returned to her 'husband'. It was a cruel shock for Maira, her family and her attorney, all of whom were distraught; they had expected to see Nakash charged and imprisoned. 'If the courts of this country start validating underage marriages of girls belonging to the minority communities, it will encourage people from the majority faith to target them with even more impunity,' said Lala Robin Daniel, a human rights activist based in Faisalabad. 'With this ruling, no Christian girl in Pakistan is safe.' Please pray.

[NOTE: In Islam, girls may be married once they have attained puberty, and religious identity is inherited from the father. Consequently, the offspring of raped, captive Christian girls are automatically deemed Muslim. The Islamic clerics who issue fake conversion and marriage certificates, along with the police and judges who ignore or endorse the practice, are complicit in what is nothing other than human trafficking across religious lines. Especially widespread in Egypt and Pakistan, the practice is obscenely evil.]

* SYRIA: TURKEY WEAPONISES WATER

Turkish troops invaded northern Syria in March 2018. With them came some 25,000 battle-hardened Islamic jihadists who insisted there will be 'no room for Christians' [RLPB 447 (21 March 2018)]. By June 2018 over 200,000 Sunni Muslim Kurds, about 35,000 Yezidi Kurds and some 3,000 Christians (Kurds, Assyrians and Armenians) had been 'cleansed' out of Afrin, a city in the north of Aleppo Governorate [RLPB 460 (20 June 2018)]. By October 2019 Turkey was shelling border towns and cities in Syria's Hasakah Governorate [RLPB 525 (22 Oct 2019)], while Turkish troops and their jihadist proxies advanced on the ground [RLPB 526 (30 Oct 2019)]. Contiguous with Iraq's northern Nineveh Province, Syria's north-eastern Hasakah Governorate is home to tens of thousands of mostly Assyrian and Armenian Christians. On 13 August, in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis and scorching summer heat, Turkey and its jihadist proxies cut off the supply of water from the Alok pumping station near Ras al-Ain, Hasakah Governorate, depriving some 800,000 residents of potable water. Not for the first time, Turkey is 'weaponising water'. In a 21 August letter to the UN Secretary General, Syrian Church leader Ignatius Aphrem II called it 'an in-humane act' and 'a crime against humanity'. Please pray.

* TURKEY: MORE NEO-OTTOMAN ISLAMIC TRIUMPHALISM
-- Chora Monastery Converted to a Mosque

On Friday 24 August President Erdogan announced that the Church of the Holy Saviour / Chora Monastery in Istanbul's Edirnekap─▒ neighbourhood, would be converted into a functioning mosque after a court ruled that its conversion into a museum in 1945 had been unlawful. Built in the 4th Century, reconstructed by Emperor Justinian and renovated over the centuries, the monastery contains some of the oldest and most exquisite Greek Orthodox iconography known to exist. [Video (10:30 mins): Chora Museum- Istanbul Guide.] Yet again, 'The pleas and exhortations of the international community are ignored.' The conversions of World Heritage listed Hagia Sophia (Byzantine Cathedral) and Chora Monastery come four years after Turkish authorities confiscated Surp Giragos - the freshly renovated Armenian Cathedral in Diyarbakir - and left it to looters in a crime that was met with near-total silence from the 'international community' [RLPB 355 (4 May 2016)]. This is neo-Ottoman Islamic triumphalism, and it bodes ill for Turkey's Christian remnant. Please pray.

Surp Giragos Armenian Apostolic Church, Diyarbakir;
(left) Nov 2014 and (right) Feb 2018
(click on collage to enlarge)

'Woe to him who builds a town with blood and founds a city on iniquity! ... For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea' (Habakkuk 2:12,14 ESV).

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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, August 18, 2020

RLPB 563. Nigeria (3): Corruption is Killing Nigerian Christians

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 563 | Wed 19 Aug 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)
http://rlprayerbulletin.blogspot.com 

NIGERIA (3): CORRUPTION IS KILLING NIGERIAN CHRISTIANS
By Elizabeth Kendal

Part 1: Christian Crisis in Kaduna [RLPB 561 (5 Aug)]
Part 2: Insecurity Enables Terrorist Expansion [RLPB 562 (12 Aug)]

BACKGROUND: CORRUPTION IN NIGERIA

Despite being resource-rich and having the largest economy in Africa, Nigeria has more people living in poverty than any other country on earth. To Nigeria's shame, more than 102 million Nigerians live in poverty, which is more than twice the number in India (50.7 million) despite India's population (1.380 billion) being seven times greater than Nigeria's population (196 million). The problem is corruption. In 2019, Transparency International ranked Nigeria at 146 of 180, confirming it as one of the most corrupt nations on earth.

The issue imperilling Nigerian Christians is that massive corruption at the highest levels of Government and Defence is prolonging the conflict with Boko Haram. Government and military elites are exploiting the conflict as a means of enriching themselves, while depriving rank and file soldiers of basic resources, including food and ammunition! Investigations into the Armsgate scandal revealed massive fraud in military procurement, whereby government funds have been secured on the basis of fake contracts for resources which were never delivered - 'everything from food and ammunition to firearms, helicopters and Alpha jets, totalling as much as US$15 billion'. [See Religious Liberty Monitoring, 'Nigeria's Fraudulent Election: Will Things Fall Apart?' (28 May 2019)].

Corruption explains why Nigerian soldiers are deployed into conflict zones with insufficient rations and malfunctioning weapons, and why those who survive return defeated and demoralised. Corruption explains why insecurity has escalated to crisis levels and why Boko Haram and its offshoots have not been defeated but instead have grown stronger. Corruption explains why a catastrophic Christian crisis involving ethnic cleansing and genocide persists throughout Nigeria's North and Middle Belt, bringing untold suffering to multitudes.

Praying for peace: 3rd 'Black Sunday' service, Kaduna, 16 Aug 2020
source: ng.opera.news 16 Aug 2020
click on collage to enlarge

NIGERIA (3): CORRUPTION IS KILLING NIGERIAN CHRISTIANS

On 29 July Borno state governor Babagana Zulum set out in a heavily-armed convoy towards the town of Baga, in the Lake Chad basin region of Borno's far north-east. The plan was to visit a camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Baga and distribute food relief there. But the governor's convoy was attacked on the edge of the town and whilst Governor Zulum escaped unharmed, casualties were reported from among his entourage. Confusion reigned as to who was responsible. The governor's first reaction was to query why Baga was not secure when 1181 Nigerian soldiers are stationed in the army garrison only 5km down the road. A day later, the governor publicly accused the Nigerian military of attacking his convoy. 'As far as I am concerned,' he said, 'there was no Boko Haram yesterday. It was a serious shooting by the Nigerian armed forces while "residing" in Baga.' An Army spokesman subsequently informed the media that footage of the incident showed that the convoy was attacked by Boko Haram.

This incident reveals a lot about the Nigerian crisis. Why would Governor Zulum think soldiers would attack his convoy? Though the army denies it, it has been accused of using Baga to control the enormously lucrative fish business along the Lake Chad area. Why would soldiers want to control the fish industry? Hungry, demoralised, under-resourced, ill-equipped and over-stretched, these soldiers might feel that dealing in fish is a better option than facing Boko Haram on empty stomachs and with empty guns. Governor Zulum also questioned why the Nigerian army is preventing thousands of displaced people from returning home to their fields whilst soldiers are instead cultivating the land.

CFR Security Tracker
(published 1 Aug 2020)
On 26 July Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant general Yusuf Buratai, visited wounded soldiers hospitalised in Kaduna. 'I am equally happy,' he told them, 'that we are living in peace and Nigeria is now safer than (sic) we had five years ago'. On the contrary, as the Council for Foreign Relations' Security Tracker makes clear, the last two years (July 2018 to July 2020) have been deadlier for security service personnel than any other period in the ten-year conflict. Betrayed and abandoned, Nigerian soldiers and the civilians they seek to protect are dying due to corruption.

On 15 June Lance-Corporal Idakpini Martins - 8 Division, Sokoto - published a video on his social media account in which he castigates Lt Gen. Buratai for 'failing to provide adequate resources to soldiers combating Boko Haram'. The video went viral and on 20 June, LCpl Martins was arrested in Abuja and then held incommunicado for over a month. Concerned that his client may have been tortured or even killed, Mr. Tope Akinyode, LCpl Martins' lawyer, secured a court order from the Federal High Court granting him access to his client. The military, however, has continued to deny Mr Akinyode access to LCpl Martins, who has also been denied access to his family. On 15 August Mr Akinyoda confirmed that LCpl Martins had been 'brutalised' and secretly transferred to Sokoto, in Nigeria's extreme north-west (where the offence took place), where he will be appointed a military attorney and court-martialled.

On 10 August a former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Dr Obadiah Mailafia, publicly accused Kaduna State Governor Nasir El-Rufai of 'sponsoring Boko Haram' and of being an 'accessory to genocide'. On 12 August Dr Mailafia was arrested in Abuja by the Department of State Services (DSS - security services), only to be released after a national outcry. The stakes are high! With much to lose, corrupt officials have an interest in silence. That silence, however, must be shattered for the sake of our existentially imperilled Christian brothers and sisters who are facing genocidal violence in Nigeria's North and Middle Belt.

PLEASE PRAY THAT OUR ALMIGHTY GOD WILL

* protect and sustain the imperilled Church in Nigeria's North and Middle Belt; may he sanctify the believers and redeem all their suffering as he works out his purposes for the benefit of the Church in answer to the prayers of many.

* intervene in Nigeria to overturn every evil plot; may genocidal violence be replaced with a yearning for peace; may greed and impunity be replaced with repentance and justice; may indifference be replaced with passionate solidarity and brotherly love and may the advancing evil be replaced with an advance of the Gospel.

We pray especially for a movement of God's Holy Spirit among the region's Hausa and Fulani Muslims. May it be said of them: 'They who used to persecute us are now preaching the faith they once tried to destroy' (as was said of the Apostle Paul in Galatians 1:24). And many all glorify God because of them.


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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CORRUPTION IS KILLING NIGERIAN CHRISTIANS

Massive corruption at the highest levels of Government and Defence is prolonging conflict and perpetuating the Christian crisis in Nigeria's North and Middle Belt. Government and military elites exploit the conflict with Boko Haram to enrich themselves while depriving rank and file soldiers of basic resources, including food and ammunition! Corruption explains why Nigerian soldiers are deployed into conflict zones with insufficient rations and malfunctioning weapons and why those who survive return defeated and demoralised. Corruption explains why insecurity has escalated to crisis levels and why Boko Haram has not been defeated but has instead grown stronger. Corruption explains why a catastrophic Christian crisis involving ethnic cleansing and genocide persists throughout Nigeria's North and Middle Belt, bringing untold suffering to multitudes. Please pray for Nigeria and her imperilled, persecuted 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

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

RLPB 562. Nigeria (2): Insecurity Enables Terrorist Expansion

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 562 | Wed 12 Aug 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)

NIGERIA (2): INSECURITY ENABLES TERRORIST EXPANSION
Part 1: Christian Crisis in Kaduna [RLPB 561 (5 Aug)]
Part 3 will be the subject of next week's RLPB 563
By Elizabeth Kendal

BACKGROUND: TERRORISM IN NIGERIA

ORIGINS: Boko Haram (also known as the 'Nigerian Taliban') was founded in 2002, in Nigeria's north-eastern state of Borno, by a religious teacher named Mohammed Yusuf. The group took up militancy and by 31 July 2009, Yusuf was dead (in custody). On 9 August 2009 Boko Haram (BH) issued a statement lauding Yusuf as a martyr and declaring jihad with the aim of rendering Nigeria ungovernable and imposing Islam by force. In June 2010 BH - now led by Abubakar Shekau - formalised its ties with al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), giving it access to training, funding and advanced weapons. In June 2011 BH bombed the UN headquarters in the capital, Abuja: a clear declaration of war!

Abubakar Shekau (Nov 2018)
"the longest-lasting jihadist leader globally"
(Jamestown Foundation, 28 July 2020)
FIRST SPLIT: Between 2011 and 2013, BH targeted government offices, markets, businesses, churches, mosques and schools across the north, mostly in Kaduna, Kano and Plateau, mostly using suicide bombers. Shekau is a takfiri: i.e. one who deems Muslims who disagree with him as apostates deserving death. The group suffered a split in 2012 when AQIM-trained jihadist Khalid al-Barnawi broke away in protest against Shekau's indiscriminate killing of Muslims. With AQIM's permission, K.al-Barnawi formed Jama'at Ansar al-Muslimin fi Bilad al-Sudan (Vanguard for the Protection of Muslims in Black Africa), popularly known as 'Ansaru'. Divided and lacking local support, BH and Ansaru abandoned the Northwest in 2014. BH returned to the Northeast and set up base in Borno, while al-Qaeda affiliate Ansaru opted to maintain sleeper cells across the Northwest.

SECOND SPLIT: In March 2015 Shekau pledged allegiance to Islamic State (IS). However, in August 2016, IS emir Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi demoted Shekau and appointed Abu Musab al-Barnawi (son of BH founder Mohammed Yusuf) as leader of Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) in his place. Furious, Shekau denounced A.M.al-Barnawi as an 'infidel' and split from the group. Shekau's BH faction, also known as Jama'atu Ahlissunnah Lidda'awati Wal Jihad (People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet's Teachings and Jihad) or JAS, is based in Borno State's Sambisa Forest (about 60 km south-east of Maiduguri), while its Bakura faction is located in the Chad Basin (in the Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad tri-border region). In February 2019 ultra-radical elements within ISWAP ousted A.M.al-Barwani in a bloodless coup, having rejected his al-Qaeda-inspired 'Long War' strategy which involves winning Muslim hearts and minds while targeting 'apostate' government, army and other bodies. His replacement, Umar al-Barnawi (also known as Ba Idrissa), follows the IS strategy of 'Caliphate Now! Whatever it takes! No mercy!'

These three jihadist factions - Al-Qaeda affiliate Ansaru, IS affiliate ISWAP, and Shekau's BH/JAS - have the same goal: a Caliphate. Personality issues aside, they differ only on strategy. They all view Christians as the enemy and Christianity as a problem to be eliminated.

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Praying for peace: 2nd 'Black Sunday' service, Kaduna, 9 Aug 2020
(images courtesy Christian Solidarity Worldwide)
click on collage to enlarge

NIGERIA (2): INSECURITY ENABLES TERRORIST EXPANSION

Analysts are warning that gross insecurity is paving the way for Boko Haram/JAS (Shekau faction), Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), and Al-Qaeda affiliate 'Ansaru' to make a comeback in Nigeria's Northwest Region. In a report for Jamestown Foundation published 28 July, terrorism analyst Jacob Zenn sounds the alarm: 'Nigeria should approach Boko Haram, ISWAP and Ansaru in Northwestern Nigeria as the most serious security crisis since the insurgency began [in 2010].' He warns that, while Boko Haram and ISWAP are relatively contained in Borno amongst their ethnic Kanuri kin, if these groups get a foothold among the Fulani in the Northwest, then nothing 'will prevent their continued expansion until northern Nigeria becomes overwhelmed ...' If security is not improved, and if the government does not address the issues that make recruitment attractive - i.e. poverty and ideology (specifically Wahhabi ideology imported from Saudi Arabia) - then Nigeria could come to resemble Syria 2013-2017, with heavily-armed and internationally-backed al-Qaeda and IS-aligned terrorist organisations in control of the north.

On 15 June BH/JAS released a video in which Shekau sent greetings to the group's 'brothers' in the Northwest's Zamfara State. On 10 July Nigeria's Defence Headquarters (DHQ) warned that terrorists from the Northeast were moving to the Northwest with sophisticated weapons. On 7 August AQIM-affiliate, Ansaru, claimed to have attacked a Nigerian Army position in Kaduna State, allegedly resulting in 25 'apostates' being killed and 10 wounded. Analysts suspect that Ansaru is recruiting Fulani herdsmen and bandits into its ranks and that Ansaru jihadists, posing as herdsmen and bandits, are participating in the Fulani jihad.

See also:  VIDEO (8:29 mins), TVC News Nigeria, 6 Aug 2020
Al-Qaeda Expanding in Nigeria, United States Warns Nigeria

Major General Ibrahim Manu Yusuf, the Nigerian-born commander
of the MultiNational Joint Task Force, is seen in Mora, Cameroon,
with DRR director Oumar Bichair, 7 August 2020.
(Moki Edwin Kindzeka/VOA
Cameroon's Centre for Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) was established in Mora, in Cameroon's Extreme North region in 2019. The centre works to rehabilitate ex-militants who surrender to the Multinational Joint Task Force (MJTF) in return for amnesty. The program is not 'de-radicalising' Islamist prisoners, which rarely works. On the contrary, it is rehabilitating those who, having risked their lives to escape, have surrendered and are seeking rehabilitation. The facility was built to handle 100 ex-militants at a time; it is currently hosting more than 250. On 7 August Voice of America reported that 109 people had surrendered to the MJTF in the past two weeks. The 109 comprised 45 Nigerian and 3 Cameroonian ex-militants, 45 Nigerian children and 16 women who had been kept as sex-slaves. All of them - including the fighters who had joined voluntarily - report being held captive, threatened with execution should they try to escape, and fed the lie that MJTF soldiers will kill them. Centre director Oumar Bichair has appealed for more resources to accommodate the increasing numbers. They need facilities, workers, psychologists and people who can train ex-fighters in literacy and trade skills. The Church has done this before, for example in northern Uganda; the Church can do it again.

PLEASE PRAY THAT OUR ALMIGHTY GOD WILL

* intervene in Nigeria to bless, protect and empower those who would 'turn back the battle at the gate' (from Isaiah 28:5-6).

* frustrate every wicked plot devised by violent men; may Nigeria be liberated from the threat of Islamic terror once and for all.

'As for me, I would seek God, and to God would I commit my cause, who does great things and unsearchable, marvellous things without number ... He frustrates the devices of the crafty, so that their hands achieve no success ... So the poor have hope, and injustice shuts her mouth' (From Job 5:8-16 ESV).

* move powerfully by his Spirit through Borno's terrorist base-camps to bring hope and courage to those held captive behind a wall of terror and lies; may the dam be breached so that the trickle of defectors might become a flood. Lord have mercy!

* protect Cameroon's Centre for Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration and supply it with everything it needs to rehabilitate disillusioned and traumatised men, women and children who have risked their lives in search of new life.

'Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; our God is merciful ... [He] preserves the simple [naive, seducible] ... he saved me' (Psalm 116:5-6 ESV).

SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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INSECURITY ENABLES TERRORIST EXPANSION IN NIGERIA

On 10 July Nigeria's Defence Headquarters (DHQ) warned that terrorists based in Northeast Nigeria – i.e. Boko Haram (BH) and Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP) - were moving to the Northwest with sophisticated weapons. On 28 July terrorism analyst Jacob Zenn warned that if these groups get a foothold amongst the Fulani in the Northwest, then nothing 'will prevent their continued expansion until northern Nigeria becomes overwhelmed'. Analysts already suspect that al-Qaeda affiliate, Ansaru, is recruiting Fulani herdsmen and bandits into its ranks and participating in the Fulani jihad. Meanwhile, Cameroon's Centre for Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (launched 2019, in Extreme North region) reports that growing numbers of mostly-Nigerian ex-militants, children and women (sex-slaves) are escaping, surrendering and seeking rehabilitation. The Centre needs help to meet the growing demand. 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, August 4, 2020

RLPB 561. Nigeria (1): Christian Crisis in Kaduna

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 561 | Wed 05 Aug 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)

NIGERIA (1): CHRISTIAN CRISIS IN KADUNA
Part 2 will be the subject of next week's RLPB 562
By Elizabeth Kendal

Nigeria's Sharia divide
(click on map to enlarge)
Despite its location in the North-West Region of Northern Nigeria and also being one of 12 states ruled (unconstitutionally) by Sharia Law, Kaduna State actually straddles Nigeria's ethnic-religious fault-line. The north is predominantly Hausa-Fulani Muslim whilst the south is populated by numerous ethnic groups that are predominantly Christian. On Sunday 2 August the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in Kaduna State held a prayer and protest event in response to the violence ravaging southern Kaduna - violence that is escalating despite a 24-hour curfew. The 'Black Sunday' event was held at the ECWA (Evangelical Church Winning All) church in Narayi, a suburb on the south-eastern edge of Kaduna City. Outside, the protesters displayed banners bearing messages such as 'stop the killings in Southern Kaduna', 'CAN says no to continued killings', 'enough of the bloodshed', 'widows and orphans are increasing', and more. The CAN Chairman of Kaduna State chapter, the Reverend John Joseph Hayab, said this prayer event will continue every Sunday through the month of August.

Kaduna State (southern states labeled)
(click on map to enlarge)
The following attacks all occurred in predominantly Christian Local Government Areas (LGAs) of southern Kaduna. On 9 July at around 11:30pm, Fulani militants stormed two communities in Zangon-Kataf LGA. Upon hearing that an attack was imminent, primary school teacher Mr. James Enoch (36) urged the women in his family to take the children and flee to a neighbouring community while he and other men went to the outskirts. Unbeknown to Mr Enoch, his family remained in the village, in the home of his cousin. Upon arrival, the militants went house to house attacking villagers in their beds, killing 24, wounding many others and setting homes on fire. Mr. Enoch lost seven members of his family that night: his wife, his stepmother, three of his siblings, his brother's wife and her baby were all hacked or burnt to death. Security agencies had been alerted, but to no avail. More than 1000 people are currently residing at the Mercy internally displaced persons (IDPs) camp run by local church members in the nearby town of Zonkwa. Camp coordinator, Reverend Gambo Waziri, reports having 'about 15 pregnant women, 153 nursing mothers and victims who survived the carnage with bullet wounds, responding to treatments in some of the hospitals'.

On 16 July Fulani militants attacked several villages in Kachia LGA, killing four residents and abducting 32. On 17 July Fulani militants murdered Mr Ayuba Bulus on his farm in Kajuru LGA. Later that day, they looted and destroyed a property in the nearby Efele settlement, killing Gloria Shagari (25) and her children Dorcas (6) and Faith (3), as well as Ayuba Bulus (40) and Hussaini Daudu (40). Another victim, Baptist church leader Reverend Thomas Gambo, remains in hospital in a critical condition. On Sunday 19 July at around 10.30 pm, Fulani militants armed with guns and machetes attacked a wedding reception at a home in Kaura LGA, killing 18 and wounding 31. This was only one of several attacks in Kaura LGA that night. On 20 July at around 7pm, nine people were killed and an unknown number wounded when Fulani militants attacked another village in Zangon-Kataf LGA. On 24 July at around 7pm, ten people were killed when Fulani militants attacked Zikpak town in Jema'a LGA. The dead include ECWA pastor, the Rev Shamah Kuyet Ishaya, Daniel Bala (49) who was walking home from church choir practice, and a five-year-old boy named Joel Cephas.

Mourning the dead, Zikpak (24 July 2020)
source: the Southern Kaduna People’s Union (SOKAPU);
for this and more images: France 24

On 23 July hundreds of Atyap women [the Atyap being the indigenous people of the Zangon-Kataf, Kaura and Jema'a LGAs] demonstrated at Atak Njei Agwam Atyap palace [the palace of the traditional ruler of Atyap people] in Zangon-Kataf to express their sorrow and anger over the massacres. The women describe their communities as being 'under siege by herdsmen' and wonder why the government is not doing anything to protect them. 'Our husbands, children and relations are being slaughtered like rams on a daily basis, and this government is just watching. Our lives don't matter to this government. We can't go to our farms, we can't go to the markets, and we are not safe even in our homes. So where do we run?' The women lamented that they have become refugees in their own land, saying many of the villagers were moving to IDP camps for their own safety.

When Fulani militants attacked Kajuru LGA in early June, they killed all of Mrs Azumi Boka’s eleven children. The blind 93-year-old recounts her ordeal through streams of tears. ‘I am one of the oldest women in our community’, she says. ‘I have never experienced such calamity. I never knew someday I will wake-up being chase away from my ancestral land by Fulani herdsmen whom we have lived with for decades. Why am I even alive? Should I blame God for allowing this kind of calamity to befall me? Why me God?’

'Pour out your heart like water before the presence of the Lord! Lift your hands to him for the lives of your children ...' (from Lamentations 2:19 ESV)

PLEASE PRAY THAT OUR ALMIGHTY GOD WILL

* counsel, comfort and sustain Nigeria's suffering Church, particularly those who are this day grieving the loss of loved ones, nursing physical and psychological wounds, lamenting loss of security and struggling between doubt and faith, despair and hope. Lord, have mercy.

* intervene in Nigeria and especially at this time in Kaduna where insecurity and violence are particularly severe; may a revived Church keep trusting her God; and may the Lord establish justice, righteousness and peace in the land, and empower those who would 'turn back the battle at the gate' (Isaiah 28:5-6 ESV).

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


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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CHRISTIAN CRISIS IN KADUNA, NIGERIA

Kaduna State straddles Nigeria's ethnic-religious fault-line. The north is predominantly Hausa-Fulani Muslim while southern Kaduna is populated by numerous predominantly Christian ethnic groups. Fulani militant attacks on villages in southern Kaduna have escalated markedly. In July alone, more than 120, mostly Christian villagers, were killed - shot, hacked or burnt to death, often in their beds. Many more have been wounded. Thousands of villagers have been displaced and are now being cared for in church-run camps. Despite the southern regions being under a 24-hour curfew, Fulani militants move freely, murdering, terrorising and ethnically cleansing at will; nobody is ever arrested! Neither the government nor the security services seem willing or able to provide security. Southern Kaduna's imperilled and traumatised Christians need our prayers. Please pray for the Church in Nigeria.

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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