Tuesday, July 5, 2022

RLPB 652. Ethiopia: More Amharas Massacred

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 652 | Wed 06 July 2022
RLPB is published weekly to facilitate strategic intercessory prayer.

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ETHIOPIA: MORE AMHARAS MASSACRED
preparing for an Amhara sacrifice
by Elizabeth Kendal

On Monday 4 July Oromo ethno-nationalist militants slaughtered at least 150 predominantly Christian ethnic Amhara in Hawa Gelan Woreda (district) in Kellem/Qellem Wollega Zone, Oromia Region. As was the case in the 18 June massacre in Gimbi Woreda, in neighbouring West Wollega [see RLPB 651, Amharas Massacred, (June Update, 29 June)] minority ethnic Amharas were specifically targeted. Lamenting the prevalence of ‘ethnically targeted killing’, the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission has called for an ‘urgent reinforcement’ of government security forces to prevent further civilian deaths. While the official toll is at least 150, one survivor told the Amhara Media Corporation, ‘They [the attackers] have left, and bodies are now being picked up; so far 300 [bodies] have been collected. But it’s still early, there are many others whose whereabouts we don’t know.’

massacre sites circled in red
(click on map to enlarge)

The 4 July massacre in Kellem Wollega, bears many similarities to the 18 June massacre in neighbouring West Wollega. Concerning the 18 June massacre, three eye-witnesses told The Africa Report (23 June) that the killers were ‘Afaan Oromoo-speaking militants’, and ‘referred to them as Shene, a nickname for the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA)…’ Two of the three witness ‘also accused Oromia regional officials of colluding with the gunmen. One said: “The administration was a part of it, because when we called for defence, no one responded. They said there is no conflict.” The second said the militants “spoke Oromo, they are Shene, they just came with the woreda (district) and zonal officials”.’ Meanwhile, the OLA denies responsibility, claiming the attack was a false flag perpetrated by Gaachana Sirna, a local militia created by Oromia regional authorities. Similarly, on 5 July, Prime Minister Abiy blamed the Kellem Wollega massacre on OLA ‘Shene’, the Oromo ethno-nationalist militia allied to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) in the war against the Abiy government. As on 18 June, no group has claimed responsibility for the 5 July massacre and the OLA has again blamed forces aligned with the Oromia regional government.

The massacres of minority Amharas in Oromia Region come in the wake of the Abiy government’s May crackdown on dissent in Amhara Region and the disarming of FANO, an ethnic Amhara volunteer militia established in late 2021 to defend Amhara Region and Addis Ababa from advancing TPLF forces [see RLPB 622, Christian Crisis Looms as Rebels Advance, 3 Nov 2021]. More than 30 protesters died in the May crackdown which resulted in more than 12,000 arrests: including 20 journalists and 62 political opposition, as well as activists, lawyers, professors, military personnel and thousands of FANO. In its condemnation of the 18 June massacre, the Amhara Association of America (AAA) noted that ‘at least 1,688 Amharas were killed and 62 abducted in 2021 by the OLA alone’. Consequently, Amharas fear that the crackdown on dissent and disarming of FANO will work to facilitate an Amhara genocide.

An Amhara pilgrim holds a candle at
Saint Mary's Church in Lalibela, Amhara Region,
after its liberation from TPLF forces (Dec 2021).
[Eduardo Soteras/ AFP]

Many analysts believe PM Abiy is preparing the ground ahead of talks with the TLPF aware the TPLF will demand (in exchange for peace) the return of ‘West Tigray’. Known to Amharas as Welkait, ‘West Tigray’ comprises Amhara farmlands annexed into Tigray by the TPLF after 1991 and liberated by the Amhara in 2021 [see map: RLPB 651 (29 June)]. Control of ‘West Tigray’ would restore the TLPF’s direct corridor to its main regional ally, Sudan’s Islamist military. Along with this, the TLPF will demand a referendum on independence, something neither the Amhara nor Eritrea can abide. [The TPLF Manifesto envisages an independent ‘Republic of Greater Tigray’ which includes lands from Amhara, Afar and Eritrea (see RLM, 11 June 2021).]

As noted in last week’s RLPB, PM Abiy is under intense pressure to do whatever it takes to broker peace with the Egypt-Sudan-US-backed Marxist-Leninist and separatist TPLF. Fears abound that this may involve sacrificing the Amhara. The pro-TPLF US Biden-Blinken administration is ready to enact crippling sanctions if the TPLF and US don’t get what they want: a US-allied Greater Tigray on the Red Sea. The threat of civil war, national disintegration, ethnic cleansing and Amhara genocide – i.e. a Christian crisis of monumental proportions – continues to linger over Ethiopia.

PLEASE PRAY THAT OUR SOVEREIGN GOD WILL

* comfort and sustain all who have been impacted by the recent massacres of ethnic Amhara in Oromia Region; may the Lord comfort those who grieve – especially those who have lost their entire family - and sustain those who are displaced by providing them with secure shelter and all the humanitarian assistance they require. Lord have mercy.

* protect and sustain his precious Church in Ethiopia, a missional Church which includes the ancient Ethiopian Orthodox Church, as well as Catholics and Protestants, and an ever increasing number of converts from Islam; Lord have mercy.

‘Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings, from the wicked who do me violence, my deadly enemies who surround me’ (Psalm 17:8-9 ESV).

* grant Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (a convert to Christianity) wisdom and strength as he seeks to lead the nation into a new era of unity, peace and prosperity; may he not be lured or forced from that path and may he look to the Lord for direction and strength.

* intervene to thwart all evil plots designed to break-up Ethiopia; may God’s good plans for Ethiopia prevail.

SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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MORE AMHARA MASSACRED IN ETHIOPIA


Whilst the threat to Addis Ababa has diminished, the ethnic cleansing of predominantly Christian minority Amharas in Oromia Region appears to be gaining pace. On Monday 4 July Oromo ethno-nationalist militants slaughtered at least 150 – possibly more than 300 – predominantly Christian ethnic Amhara in Hawa Gelan Woreda in Kellem/Qellem Wollega Zone, Oromia Region. The massacre comes just a couple of weeks after the 18 June massacre of as many as 1600 ethnic Amhara in Gimbi Woreda in neighbouring West Wollega Zone. The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission has called for an ‘urgent reinforcement’ of government security forces to prevent further civilian deaths. Prime Minister Abiy is under intense pressure to broker peace with the Egypt-Sudan-US-backed Marxist-Leninist and separatist TPLF. Fears abound that this may involve sacrificing the Amhara. Please pray.

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Elizabeth Kendal is an international religious liberty analyst and advocate for the persecuted Church. To support this ministry visit ElizabethKendal.com

Elizabeth 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). She is also an Adjunct Research Fellow at the Arthur Jeffery Centre for the Study of Islam at Melbourne School of Theology.

For more information visit: www.ElizabethKendal.com


Wednesday, June 29, 2022

(re-send) RLPB 651. June Update Inc. India, Nigeria, Burma, China, Egypt, Ethiopia, Pakistan, Uganda

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 651 | Wed 29 June 2022
RLPB is published weekly to facilitate strategic intercessory prayer.

RLPB 651 is being re-sent as the HTML version that went out yesterday came through slightly mangled. If this causes any inconvenience (or annoyance), please forgive me; I am in the process of moving to a new e-mail delivery system and have not as yet ironed out all the glitches.
thank-you for your patience
Elizabeth Kendal
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ANNOUNCEMENT

The ElizabethKendal.com website has been renovated and repurposed. While a few pages still await content, much information has already been uploaded. As always, my aim is not to simply deliver news in the manner of a journalist. Rather, my aim is to generate the understanding required to facilitate a strategic response.

Consequently, rather than reporting news, my work involves gathering news; as such, I am indebted to journalists everywhere. I also gather analysis and intelligence, most of which requires expensive subscriptions. All news gathered is analysed in the context of worldview, history, domestic politics, and international geopolitics. Only by that means can we hope to see the big picture. Only by seeing the big picture can we hope to formulate a strategic response. And while the Church’s response to the problem of persecution might start with journalists/reporters and move through analysts, ultimately it falls to pastors, small group leaders, prayer leaders, mission leaders, aid groups, politicians, and other individuals to act upon that information, and ‘Speak, Pray, Give’.

Because I am now working independently, the repurposed website includes a facility through which people can contribute financial support. There is also a facility through which people can sign up for the Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin (RLPB). Please forward the RLPB widely and encourage others to sign up, for ‘The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective’ (from James 5:13-18 NIV).

In the hope of drawing in more youths, and people who are only nominally interested in religious liberty or persecuted Church issues, I have set up an Instagram account. While the issues posted to Instagram will relate to material in the RLPBs, the text will be short (120-250 words) and written in a different style, designed primarily to grab interest. Please recommend the religiouslibertyprayer Instagram to anyone you believe might benefit from this form of communication.

Thank-you
from your sister in Christ and partner in the Gospel,
Elizabeth Kendal

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JUNE 2022 UPDATE
By Elizabeth Kendal

DURING THIS PERIOD, WE PRAYED CONCERNING:

* INDIA [RLPB 647 (1 June)], after authorities threatened pastors in Basti district of Uttar Pradesh; and pastors were arrested for ‘conversions’ in Karnataka (which has an anti-conversion law) and Goa (which does not – yet). As noted in RLPB 647, Goa is ‘a former Portuguese colony on India’s west coast; Christians: 26.7 (census) - 41.5 percent (Operation World 2010), virtually all Roman Catholic’.

UPDATE: PROPOSALS ARISING FROM THE HINDU NATIONALIST CONVENTION IN GOA

On 15 June Goa’s BJP Governor, PS Sreedharan Pillai, proposed promoting Goa as ‘a destination for spiritual tourism’, a proposal that could see Gao host more Hindu festivals and new Hindu infrastructure. Outlook India reports (16 June): ‘On the same day, just some 30-odd km away, a Hindu Rashtra Sansad (Hindu National Parliament), part of the Akhil Bharatiya [an RSS affiliate] Hindu Rashtra Adhiveshan [Hindu nationalist convention] held at the Ramnathi temple grounds in the temple town of Ponda [in north Goa], demanded the deletion of the words ‘secular’ and ‘socialist’ from the Indian Constitution.’ High on the list of topics discussed was that of religious conversions. While Goa is preparing to table a law against conversions, the delegates – reportedly comprising ‘hundreds of representatives from Hindu organisations based out of the US, UK, Hong Kong, Singapore, Fiji, Nepal and 26 Indian states’ – insisted, ‘The issue of religious conversions exists at the national level. To stop this, Article 25 of the Constitution needs to be amended and the words “propagate religion” removed from it.’ They also raised the issue of boycotting non-Hindus: ‘When you are fighting against an opponent, you have to cut all his financial links,’ insisted a delegate from neighbouring Karnataka. The author wondered whether the Adhiveshan/convention in Goa was just ‘an exercise in mere fulmination by the fringe’, before concluding that ‘the lines between mainstream and fringe, may well have blurred beyond recognition.’ Please pray for the Church in India.

See: Hindu Adhiveshan and the Changing Political Face of Goa
by Mayabhushas Nagvenhar, for Outlook India, 16 June 2022.

* NIGERIA, after Christians were massacred in terrorist attacks in Owo, Ondo State and Okpokwu LGA, Benue (both on Sunday 5 June); and Kajuru LGA, Southern Kaduna (Sunday 12 June) [RLPBs 648 (8 June)] and 649 (15 June)].

UPDATE: NIGERIA’S CHRISTIAN CRISIS CONTINUES

KADUNA: On Sunday 19 June a large contingent of gunmen on some 30 motorcycles looted and terrorised their way through three villages in Katura Community, in Kajuru LGA, in predominantly Christian Southern Kaduna. When they subsequently arrived in Rubu village at around 7am, church was just commencing. The terrorists attacked Maranatha Baptist Church and St Moses Catholic Church, killing three worshippers and wounding at least two. They also abducted 36 worshippers,mostly Catholics, for whom they are demanding N100 million ransom

On Saturday 25 JuneFather Vitus Borogo (50) was visiting the Prison Farm in Kujana town, in Chikun LGA, when terrorists raided the farm. The terrorists stole all the farm’s sheep and cattle and murdered Fr Borogo. Along with his church and pastoral duties, Fr Borogo also served as the chaplain of the Catholic community of the Kaduna State Polytechnic and was Chairman of the Nigerian Catholic Diocesan Priests Association, Kaduna state chapter.

EDO: On Sunday 26 June Father Christopher Odia of the diocese of Auchi was abducted from his rectory at around 6:30am and subsequently murdered. He had been preparing to lead Sunday Mass at St Michael Catholic Church Ikabigbo, Uzairue, in predominantly Yoruba Edo State, in Nigeria’s South-east region. Please pray for the Church in Nigeria.

* VIETNAM [RLPB 650 (22 June)] where the publication of two draft decrees on religion show the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam is moving (as China has done) to tighten control over, and escalate persecution of, Vietnam’s registered Church.


JUNE 2022 ROUND-UP - also this month:

* BURMA: KARENNI CHURCH SHELLED, TORCHED AND MINED

Free Burma Rangers in Daw Nye Ku,
15 June 2022

In early June, Tatmadaw (Burma Army) troops attacked the Karenni village of Daw Nye Ku, shelling and burning homes, sending the villagers fleeing into the hills. On 15 June they burned the new church. As the local People’s Defense Forces (PDF) forced the troops out, Free Burma Rangers medics entered the village to see if anyone required assistance. As they approached the church they noticed an exposed landmine on the edge of the path. FBR reports (19 June): ‘We then carefully retraced our steps out of the church compound and told everybody where the landmine was and said there were probably more. Just as we started to walk away, we heard an explosion, then a scream of pain and anguish. We went back to the church and there are on the ground was a young Karenni volunteer aged 16. His foot was completely gone and his lower leg was a mangled mess... He had stepped on a different mine than the one we had seen and we again realised that the Burma Army had seeded this yard with destruction.’ Please pray for Burma’s long-persecuted, gravely imperilled Christians.

* CHINA: MORE LEAPS BACKWARD

(1) CITIZEN INFORMANTS


On 6 June China’s ruling Communist Party (CCP) issued a directive encouraging and incentivising citizens to inform on one another. The Ministry of State Security has set up a public hot-line through which citizens can provide either real-name reports or anonymous tip-offs, by phone or over the internet, regarding citizens they suspect may be a threat to ‘national security’. As Radio Free Asia reports (9 June), ‘“national security” [is] a broadly defined concept that criminalises overseas contacts and fund-raising, criticism of the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP), and peaceful political opposition.’ Depending on the value of the information, informants may receive a ‘spiritual reward’ (a certificate of appreciation) or varying degrees of financial reward. Please pray for the Church in China.

(2) TRIAL OF PASTOR GENG ZEJUN

In early June, Mrs Hao Ying, wife of Pastor Geng Zejun, published on social media that a trial will be held against her imprisoned husband at the end of June. Pastor Geng leads the Church of the Rock in Shizuishan city’s Huinong district in China’s Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, a remote far north region on the border of Inner Mongolia. Authorities raided the church on 5 December 2021 and sentenced Geng to 15 days administrative detention, and his wife and four others to 10 days. After their release, church gatherings resumed. On 4 January police summoned Pastor Geng for questioning; he never returned home. Pastor Geng and two other members – Luo Shiping and Wang Sufang – were charged with ‘organising illegal religious gatherings’. Bitter Winter reports (27 June) that Pastor Geng has been committed to trial and his sentencing has been scheduled for 13 July. Please pray.

* EGYPT: COPTS MURDERED

The Copts are the indigenous people of Egypt, the true descendants of the Pharaohs. At the time of the Arab invasion and conquest (from AD 639) the Copts were already predominantly Christian. The Copts are now an ethnic-religious minority, imperilled by systematic discrimination and persecution. On Sunday 5 June, in the village of Arab Mahdy in Akhmim, Sohag, some 500km south of Cairo, a Copt named Kirollos (Cyril) Megally (30) was brutally murdered by an extremist Muslim with a long history of harassing Christians. Megally was riding his motorbike when Abdullah Hosni obstructed him, pushed him off, and then hacked into him with a meat cleaver. Megally died in hospital on 7 June. Hosni has confessed to the crime and been charged with intentional murder. Please pray.

On 11 June, a decision was handed down in an Egyptian court that Copts hope will herald an end to impunity. On 7 April Father Arsenius Wadid (56) was enjoying a picnic with church youths on a popular seaside promenade in Alexandria when he was set upon and stabbed to death by a knife-wielding Islamist named Nehru Tawfiq (60). Tawfiq’s defence ran the usual line, that the perpetrator was mentally ill. However, a mental health assessment concluded Tawfiq – a former member of Gamaa Islamiyah who has previously spent time in jail on terrorism charges – had ‘no signs of psychological disorder’ and was ‘fully cognisant’ during the attack. Tawfiq appeared in court confidently flashing V for victory signs, chanting Allahu Akbar, and quoting the Quran. On 18 May Tawfiq was deemed guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced to death. Before it can be enacted, a capital punishment must be approved by the Grand Mufti. On 11 June Egypt’s Grand Mufti Shawky Allam indicated ‘no objection’. While the death sentence can be appealed, the fact that punishment – as distinct from ‘reconciliation’ – is being demanded, is a positive step towards the ending of impunity. Please pray.

* ETHIOPIA: AMHARAS MASSACRED

Gimbi Woreda/district
(encircled, in red)
Click on map to enlarge.

 Also known as Abyssinians, the Amhara are overwhelmingly Christian, with most being members of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, established in the 4th Century. On Saturday 18 June at around 9am, Oromo militants descended on the predominantly ethnic Amhara village of Tole in Gimbi Woreda (district), West Wollega zone, Oromia Region (435 km by road due west of Addis Ababa). During the four-hour assault the terrorists fired indiscriminately at residents and reportedly torched several houses. On 20 June Borkena reported: ‘While the effort to locate and bury the bodies of victims is still ongoing, our sources confirmed at least 378 Amharas were killed...’ Days later, Addis Insight reported ‘that more than 1600 people had been killed in the attack and that 900 bodies had been buried’. A further 2000 have reportedly fled their homes. The militants also abducted an unspecified number of people, whose whereabouts remain unknown.

Map of northern Ethiopia, showing
Welkait (all lands west of the Tekeze River)
and Raya.
source: Horn Africa Insights (10 Aug 2021)

Whilst the threat to Addis Ababa has diminished, the ethnic cleansing of minorities appears to be gaining pace. Those most at risk are the overwhelmingly Christian ethnic Amhara, especially those Amhara who live as ethnic minorities outside of Amhara Region or in the 'disputed territories' of Welkait and Raya (Amhara farmlands annexed into a Greater Tigray by the TPLF after 1991, liberated by the Amhara in 2021). Tensions between the Amhara and the Abiy government are at boiling point, especially as the government moves to disarm the Fano (an Amhara volunteer defence force established in 2021) and arrest more than 4000 Amhara dissenters. Many fear the Amhara are being sacrificed as PM Abiy works to appease his Oromo base, and broker a deal with the TPLF and its backers in the US Biden-Blinken administration which is ready to enact sanctions if it does not get what it wants (which seems to be the Balkanisation and disintegration of Ethiopia). Either way, the Amhara lose! Please pray for Ethiopia, for PM Abiy and for Ethiopia’s imperilled Amhara Christians.

* PAKISTAN: DEATH FOR BLASPHEMY

On 8 June Christian brothers Qaiser Ayub (45, father of three)and Amoon Ayub (42, a music teacher), were informed that their appeal against their death sentences had been rejected. The brothers from Lahore will remain on death row. A case was registered against the brothers in June 2011, after Muhammad Saeed told police that he had found blasphemous content on the brothers’ website. The brothers were arrested and jailed in 2014. Their appeal, which had been pending since December 2018, was finally heard on 28 February, but the verdict not released until 8 June. The brothers, have always maintained their innocence, insisting Muslim associates Zaryab Sheikh and Sheraz Qureshi – with whom the brothers had a dispute – revived an old website under Amoon’s name and posted the blasphemous content to frame the Christian brothers on a false charge. There is no evidence to indicate the brothers ever posted any blasphemous content. According to their lawyers – Khurram Maan, of the European Center for Law and Justice (ECLJ), and Tahir Bashir of the Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS) – the judge simply refused to believe that another person could have done it. Please pray that the Lord will sustain the Ayub brothers, grant wisdom to their lawyers, pierce the conscience of their persecutors, and embolden Pakistan’s judges to rule justly.

* UGANDA: DEATH FOR APOSTASY

On 29 May, (Miss) Hawa Amoti (28) of Nansana, Wakiso District, on the outskirts of Kampala, in Uganda’s Central Region, died due to injuries inflicted by her father. After having several dreams about the Lord Jesus, Hawa visited a Christian neighbour on the morning of Sunday 29 May. After learning about Jesus and embracing the Gospel, Hawa went to church and worshipped her Saviour with fellow believers, staying with them for the rest of the day. When Hawa arrived home, her Muslim father, Haji Shariifu Agaba, flew into a rage, grabbed a knife and stabbed her in the eyes to ‘stop [her] seeing churches forever’. Neighbours rushed to Hawa’s aid and got her to hospital where she subsequently succumbed to her injuries. Morning Star News reports, ‘Community leaders in Nansana condemned the attack and vowed to arrest and charge Agaba.’ No amount of justice will bring Hawa Amoti back. However, fewer Christian converts, pastors, evangelists and apologists will die if impunity were to end and justice prevail. Please pray.

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Elizabeth Kendal is an international religious liberty analyst and advocate for the persecuted Church.

Elizabeth 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). She is also an Adjunct Research Fellow at the Arthur Jeffery Centre for the Study of Islam at Melbourne School of Theology.

See www.ElizabethKendal.com