Tuesday, September 21, 2021

D.R.Congo (DRC): Jihad and Conversion

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 616 | Wed 22 Sep 2021
RLPB is published weekly to facilitate strategic intercessory prayer.

Subscribe (free) or view archives at: Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin blog. The RLPB is sponsored by Christian Faith and Freedom Inc. 

D R CONGO (DRC): JIHAD AND CONVERSION
by Elizabeth Kendal

click on map to enlarge

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is estimated to be 92.2 percent Christian (of whom around half remain animist) and 1.9 percent Muslim. Islam entered DRC from East Africa's Swahili Coast at least two centuries ago, as locals adopted the Arab beliefs, customs and Swahili language of the slave traders who settled in the region. While Islam is not new to DRC, fundamentalist Islam - which is pro-Sharia, pro-jihad and anti-infidel - is a recent phenomenon. For many years, the main jihadist group, the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF; formed in 1995), had been more criminal than ideological. Those days are over. Today, fundamentalist Islam is spreading rapidly in north-east Congo because Islamic jihadists - when not out killing and looting - are 'inviting' locals to convert and join them.

In June 2014 Islamic State launched its Caliphate in Iraq and Syria with the stated objective of baqiya wa tatamadad, or 'remaining and expanding'. Subsequently, Islamic State (IS) franchises were established across the Middle East and North Africa, as well as in Afghanistan (ISKP) and Nigeria (ISWAP). In 2017 ADF leader Musa Baluku (a Ugandan) forged connections with IS. In April 2019 - just weeks after the fall of Islamic State's last hold-out in Syria - Islamic State released a video which indicated that the then IS leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi had accepted an oath of loyalty from IS-Central Africa Province (ISCAP, with chapters in DRC and Mozambique). Since then, jihadist violence in north-east DRC has escalated sharply. Whilst the leadership of the ADF - now known as ISDRC - comprises mostly Ugandan and Congolese Muslims, the rank and file includes numerous battle-hardened foreign fighters, as well as many abducted Congolese youths.

Praying for peace in Ituri.
IPS, 6 August 2021

A 9 September report from Long War Journal (LWJ) unpacks the seriousness of the situation. Since 2017, 'ADF attacks have increased by 838 percent', while the 'overall square mileage of the group's area of operation has likewise increased by 364 percent in the same time-frame'. On 20 October 2020, as part of Islamic State's 'breaking the fortress' campaign, ADF/ISDRC jihadists staged a sophisticated pre-dawn prison break in Beni City, North Kivu Province, freeing 1300 inmates. In 2020 the ADF/ISDRC perpetrated 22 double-digit massacres in north-eastern DRC. In the first eight months of 2021 it perpetrated 28 and the slaughter continues. On 10 March the US State Department designated 'ISIS-DRC' a foreign terrorist organisation and the group's leader, Musa Baluku, a specially designated global terrorist. On 6 May the Congolese government placed the north-eastern provinces of Ituri and North Kivu, which border Uganda, under martial law; a move that has proved largely ineffective.

LWJ also reports that, in what is 'a significant shift in the ADF's historical modus operandi', the ADF is 'incorporating da'wah activities, or proselytising, to ['invite'] civilians to adopt the Islamic State's version of Islam'. LWJ reports that, on 9 August, ADF fighters 'took over two villages in southern Ituri [Province] close to Boga, Malibongo and Mapipa. Attached to the communique was a photo purporting to show an ADF fighter "inviting Christians in Mapipa village to the Islamic religion". The picture marked the first time that any jihadist da'wah activity has been explicitly shown taking place inside eastern Congo.' According to LWJ, the ADF is also recruiting and creating co-operative relationships with local communities through intermarriage and by taking sides in ethnic conflicts that pit immigrants against indigenes in struggles over land (i.e. join us and we'll fight for you / kill your enemies!). Meanwhile, minority Muslims are being 'invited' to radicalise; imams who resist have been brutally assassinated. In April DRC's Catholic Church protested the 'Islamisation' of the north-east, after civilians who had escaped ADF/ISDRC captivity reported being 'forced to convert to Islam'. According to Church spokesman Donatien Nshole (an abbot), around 7500 civilians had been kidnapped in Ituri and North Kivu over the past year.

A more detailed report is available on Religious Liberty Monitoring.
D.R.Congo: Islamic State Consolidates and Expands in Central Africa,
By Elizabeth Kendal, 22 Sept 2021

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL:

* intervene in power, grace and mercy to foil every wicked plot of Islamic State (and its backers) to Islamise and foment ethno-religious violence in Congo's remote north-east; may the Lord bless, protect and provide for his Church.

Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation ... Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God... The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down, the Lord loves the righteous ... but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin (Psalm 146 excerpts).

* guide and strengthen Congo's President Tshisekedi and Prime Minister Lukonde as they lead a government struggling to address gross insecurity - much of it enabled by high-level corruption - and the resultant humanitarian crisis; may the Lord be pleased to use Congo's legitimate forces to prevent Islamic State from consolidating in the north-east.

* embolden and empower the Church in DRC to be a voice for Congo's voiceless (Proverbs 31:8), in particular for those being forced to endure gross insecurity and Islamic jihad in Congo's remote and long-neglected north-east; may the Holy Spirit fill Congo's Church leaders with wisdom, conviction, clarity and courage, and grant them effectual power and authority.

SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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JIHAD AND CONVERSION IN D.R.CONGO

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is around 92.2 percent Christian and 1.9 percent Muslim. Whilst Islam is not new to DRC, fundamentalist Islam (pro-Sharia, pro-jihad) is a recent phenomenon. In 2017 the leader of DRC's main Islamic militia - the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) - forged connections with Islamic State (IS). In April 2019 he pledged allegiance to IS, creating ISDRC. Since 2017 ADF/ISDRC violence has escalated markedly in north-east DRC. Alongside massacres and destruction, ISDRC is engaging in proselytism, inviting locals to convert and join them. Christians report being abducted and forced to convert. Disgruntled ethnic groups are being lured with the promise that if they convert and join IS, then IS will fight for them. The Catholic Church warns that by this means the traumatised north-east is being 'Islamised'. Please pray.

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Elizabeth Kendal is an international religious liberty analyst and advocate. She serves as Director of Research at Canberra-based Christian Faith and Freedom Inc (CFF) and is an Adjunct Research Fellow at the Arthur Jeffery Centre for the Study of Islam at Melbourne School of Theology.

She has authored two books: Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today (Deror Books, Melbourne, Australia, Dec 2012) which offers a Biblical response to persecution and existential threat; and After Saturday Comes Sunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East (Wipf and Stock, Eugene, OR, USA, June 2016).

See www.ElizabethKendal.com 

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

RLPB 615. India: Joy and Pain in Bihar's Gaya District.

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 615 | Wed 15 Sep 2021
RLPB is published weekly to facilitate strategic intercessory prayer.

Subscribe (free) or view archives at: Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin (RLPB) blog. The RLPB is sponsored by Christian Faith and Freedom Inc

INDIA: JOY AND PAIN IN BIHAR'S GAYA DISTRICT
by Elizabeth Kendal

click on map to enlarge

In July this year, Gaya District in the north Indian state of Bihar, found itself at the centre of a religious conversion 'scandal' after it was reported that, in Belwadih Village, hundreds of 'Mahadalits' had left Hinduism and converted to Christianity. [The category 'Mahadalit' refers to a conglomerate of over 20 Scheduled Castes. It was established in 2010 by the then Chief Minister of Bihar State to divide the Dalits for political gain. The Mahadalits are Dalits (formerly known as Untouchables) and, as such, exist beneath all Hindu castes.] Indian mainstream media reported the story as a case of exploitation of superstitious villagers. As reported in OpIndia.com (17 July): 'Even as states across the country are formulating and implementing laws to curb the menace of religious conversions, a raft of people belonging to the Mahadalit community have abandoned their faith and converted to Christianity in Gaya District's Belwadih Village ... Reports claim the rampant conversions are being carried out under the pretext of curing maladies.' But, reading further, one can only conclude that the Spirit of God is moving in that place.

The story begins with Kewla Devi, a Mahadalit village woman whose chronically ill son was not responding to medical treatment. When someone urged Kewla to seek the help of Christians in adjoining Wajidpur village, Kewla - with nothing to lose - did! The Christians prayed and her son recovered. So remarkable was this miraculous healing that, not only did Kewla and her whole family become followers of Jesus, but so too did around 135 Mahadalit families in Belwadih village. OpIndia reports: 'Some women say that before conversion, children used to disappear or fall off rooftops. But such incidents have stopped since they converted to Christianity.' The new Christians - who no longer use vermilion to mark their foreheads, nor pray to Hindu gods or goddesses - all insist they converted freely of their own will, without any inducement. The investigative reporter from India Ahead expects 'this matter is bound to reverberate in the entire political arena'. Indeed it might! For while the Hindu nationalist BJP made great gains in the October-November 2020 elections, the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance only holds power over the pro-secular, left-leaning Grand Alliance by a mere 0.03 percent. If the BJP decides to stoke sectarian tensions for political gain, then the persecution could well explode.

Gaya: Mahadalit families Convert to Christianity.
India Ahead, 16 July 2021 [4 minutes; first 1:45 in English]

According to local Christians, persecution in Gaya District has been escalating for some time. The media attention on conversions will doubtless make things worse. On 27 July two men confronted Pastor Dhiraj and his wife, Ravita, at their church in Fatehpur township, Gaya District, Bihar State. According to International Christian Concern (3 August), 'The men demanded Pastor Dhiraj and his wife leave the area or they would kill him and demolish his church.' The men returned on 28 July and again on 29 July. Then, on the evening of 29 July, a mob of up to 30 Hindu nationalists descended on the pastor's home and attempted to break in. They climbed onto the church roof and threatened Ravita with weapons. Fortunately, local villagers heard their cries, came to the rescue, and dispelled the mob. Pastor Dhiraj and other church leaders have since met with village leaders and filed a complaint with the police.

On 11 August Nitish Kumar (14) of Kamta village, Gaya District, was walking home when three unidentified men on a motorbike threw flammable liquid on him and set him on fire. Morning Star News (MSN) reports (13 September) that Nitish's family has faced opposition from Hindu extremists since they left Hinduism for Christianity two years ago. According to Nitish's brother, Sanjeet (17), everyone in their church has faced Hindu extremist hostilities. In July rumours spread that Christians would be expelled from the village. Sanjeet told MSN that his four brothers, two sisters, mother and father were Hindus until two years ago, when they put their faith in Christ after his mother was delivered from tormenting spirits following healing prayer by Christians. Family members who were frequently ill also began to enjoy good health after the Christians prayed for them. 'Since we started to believe in Christ two years ago, the evil spirits left my mother, and health was restored in our family,' Sanjeet said. 'We are still poor, but there is happiness in our lives after we started following Jesus ... We continued to go to church despite threats. Even today, after what my brother has gone through, we will not forsake Christ. We will continue to remain faithful until we die.' Suffering burns to 65 percent of his body, with 15 percent deep burns, Nitish is currently fighting for his life. Dr KN Tiwari of the burns unit of Appolo Burn Hospital in Patna, Bihar State, described Nitish's condition as 'very, very critical. His survival chances are low'. After expressing wonder that Nitish was still alive, the doctor touched on the source of our hope saying, 'It is only God's grace that Nitish has pulled through thus far with this extent of burns.' Please pray!

Nitish Kumar (14); burned for following Jesus. Morning Star News. 


PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL:

* sustain and bless the Kumar family and all the believers in Kamta village; may the Lord of all mercy provide the Kumar family, as well as Dr Tiwari and all the staff in the burns unit of the Appolo Burn Hospital, with all they need to bring healing to our brother Nitish (14), who was burned for his faith in Jesus. May the hand of the Lord be upon them all, and especially upon the body of Nitish; may those who perpetrated this heinous crime be brought to justice.

* comfort, encourage, protect, and guide Pastor Dhiraj and Ravita and the churches in Fatehpur township; may all threats come to nought; may those who harass, intimidate, and threaten the believers be brought to justice.

* protect and bless the new Christian community in Belwadih village; may the Holy Spirit continue his work in the believers so they might confound their enemies by continuing to grow in grace, truth, love and unity; may all efforts to destroy this community be thwarted -

'And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ' (Philippians 1:6 ESV).

- and may media reports intended to demean and vilify Christians and Christianity achieve the exact opposite. 

SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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JOY AND PAIN IN BIHAR'S GAYA DISTRICT, INDIA

Persecution is escalating in Bihar's Gaya District. The situation might soon worsen if the Hindu nationalist BJP - which rules in coalition with the slimmest of margins - decides to stoke sectarian tensions for political gain. In mid-July, Indian media reported unfavourably that some 135 Dalit families had left Hinduism to follow Jesus in Belwadih village. From 27 to 29 July Hindu nationalists threatened Pastor Dhiraj and his wife Ravita, who lead a church in Fatehpur township. The threats culminated in a mob attack, from which locals rescued them. On 11 August Nitish Kumar (14) of Katma village was walking home when unidentified men threw flammable liquid over him and set him on fire. The family has been persecuted since becoming Christians two years ago. Nitish is currently fighting for life. 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