Tuesday, May 11, 2021

RLPB 597. Papua (Indonesia): 'Satan's Forces' Enter a Darkened Papua.

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 597 | Wed 12 May 2021
RLPB is published weekly to facilitate strategic intercessory prayer.

Please forward this prayer bulletin widely and encourage others to sign up to “Follow by email” on the Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin (RLPB) blog. ‘For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds’ (2 Corinthians 10:4 ESV). 

PAPUA (INDONESIA): 'SATAN'S FORCES' ENTER A DARKENED PAPUA
by Elizabeth Kendal

On 25 April armed rebels in Papua's Puncak Regency shot and killed a senior Indonesian intelligence official in what analysts suspect was a planned assassination [see RLPB 595 (27 April)]. Indonesian President Joko Widodo immediately called for retaliation and, on 29 April, Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Mahfud MD announced that Papuan armed criminal groups (Kelompok Kriminal Bersenjata: KKB) would now be categorised as 'terrorists' in line with Counterterrorism Law No. 8/2018 which grants the security forces expanded powers.

Papuan Governor Lukas Enembe immediately urged the government to reconsider, warning that the 'terrorist' designation could bring the Papuans great harm. Numerous human rights organisations and advocates - including Human Rights Watch (HRW), Amnesty International and the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC) - similarly denounced the move, concerned that the terrorist designation could trigger racist violence against Papuans outside of Papua. It could be used to justify mass, gross human rights abuses, including arbitrary arrests, torture and killings, much of it compounded by the extreme racial-religious hatred so many Javanese Muslims (especially those in the Indonesian military) have for their ethnicly Melanesian, predominantly Christian compatriots. On Sunday 2 May Indonesian media reported that the Indonesian military (TNI) had deployed its 400-strong elite Infantry 315/Garuda Battalion to Papua. Video footage has been released of the battle-hardened battalion - which earned its nickname 'Satan's forces' (pasukan setan) in East Timor where it came to be known for its brutal methods - performing military drills in Papua on 1 May.

'Satan's Forces' perform military drills in Papua, 1 May 2021.


On 4 May Papuan leader-in-exile Benny Wenda issued a statement in which he warned: 'Huge Indonesian military operations, some of the largest in years, are imminent in West Papua. The internet is being cut off, hundreds more troops are being deployed, and we are receiving reports that West Papuan civilians are fleeing from their villages in Intan Jaya, Puncak Jaya, and Nduga regencies ... This looks like it will be the biggest military operation in West Papua since the late 1970s'. Wenda warned that, along with Satan's Forces, the Jala Mangkara Detachment (Denjaka), elite troops of the Indonesian Navy, are also being deployed for what he insists is 'state terrorism'. On 6 May Reuters confirmed that internet services have been disrupted in the provincial capital of Jayapura and nearby Sentani (40km to the west) since 30 April. Exiled Indonesian rights activist, Victoria Koman, said she had received reports that mobile and internet services in Puncak have also been disrupted. Papua has gone dark!

As tensions soared, Andreas Harsono, a researcher with HRW's Indonesia office, urged the Indonesian government to put the threat posed by Papuan KKB into perspective: 'According to Indonesian military estimates, they only have (around) 200 weapons ... This is going to affect these indigenous people so much.' Which brings us to the truth! The real goal of this totally disproportionate military offensive is not security! The real goal is not to neutralise an existential terrorist threat, for there isn't one! On the contrary, the real goal of state terror is always political! The real goal is to eliminate resistance to Indonesian rule by massively inflating the cost. The real goal is to crush spiritually and intimidate into silence all indigenous, predominantly Christian Papuans who have ever so much as dreamt of Papuan freedom!

Arrested: Victor Yeimo in handcuffs, 9 May 2021

On Sunday 9 May Indonesian police arrested Victor Yeimo (38, one of the most prominent leaders inside Papua) in Papua's provincial capital, Jayapura. The Indonesian government is accusing Yeimo of treason, which, as UK-based Wenda explains, is ridiculous. 'He is accused of "masterminding" the 2019 West Papua Uprising, which was started by Indonesian racism and violence [RLM (27 Aug 2019)] and ended in a bloodbath caused by Indonesian troops' [RLPB 521 (24 Sept 2019)]. But as People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) Speaker, Bambang Soesatyo, so shamelessly explained at the outset, the real goal is to 'destroy them first' and 'discuss human rights matters later'. 

For an expanded version of this RLPB, see Religious Liberty Monitoring:
Papua (Indonesia): This is What State Terror Looks Like,
By Elizabeth Kendal, 12 May 2021.


PLEASE PRAY THAT OUR ALMIGHTY GOD WILL

* consider the labours of his faithful servants and the blood that was spilt while planting the seed of the Gospel in Papua; Lord in your mercy, intervene to bring about a just resolution to the humanitarian and human rights crisis engulfing the Papuan Provinces.

'Behold, the Lord God comes with might, and his arm rules for him; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him.' (Isaiah 40:10 ESV)

* protect those faithful labourers who continue to serve the Lord and his Church in the Papuan Provinces today; we especially pray for Indonesian and ex-patriate Christian missionaries who may well be especially vulnerable at this time. Father, protect them from those misunderstandings that tend to arise in the 'fog of war'; protect them as well from wartime lies and propaganda mischievously disseminated to cause division and inflict harm. Lord in your mercy, pour out an abundance of clarity, discernment, and grace! We pray especially for the work of Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF), whose planes and pilots will be greatly imperilled yet greatly needed: Lord in your mercy, please protect them.

* redeem these trials to draw Papuans ever closer to himself; may Papuan men, women and children look to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of their faith (from Hebrews 12:1,2) and 'see the salvation of the Lord' which he will surely work for those who trust him (from Exodus 14:13,14).

* turn the hearts of many nations towards the indigenous, ethnic Melanesian, predominantly Christian Papuans, who are in many cases their co-religionists and in some cases the legacy of their own missionaries. Lord in your mercy, shatter the silence that covers Papua like a shroud and shields evil-doers from accountability. God of justice and righteousness, we ask that Jakarta would be forced to change its ways, for the sake of your precious Papuan Church.

Prayer points developed from:
RLPB 519, How Will the Story End? (10 Sep 2019).

SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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'SATAN'S FORCES' ENTER A DARKENED PAPUA

On 25 April armed rebels in Papua's Puncak Regency shot and killed a leading Indonesian Intelligence official. Indonesian President Joko Widodo immediately called for retaliation and had Papuan armed criminal groups (KKB) designated 'terrorists', a label used to justify extreme measures. Among the hundreds of extra troops being deployed to Papua, is the 400-strong elite Infantry 315/Garuda Battalion which earned its nickname 'Satan's Forces' while fighting in East Timor. Yet according to the Indonesian military's own estimate, Papuan KKB only possess around 200 firearms. Clearly, eliminating 'terrorists' is not the main goal. Internet and telecommunication services have been disrupted and the region's indigenous, predominately Christian Papuans are fleeing into the jungle and bracing yet again for a new wave of state terror designed to silence dissent and crush hope. 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, May 4, 2021

RLPB 596. Nigeria: Boko Haram Hoists Flag on Abuja's Doorstep.

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 596 | Wed 05 May 2021
RLPB is published weekly to facilitate strategic intercessory prayer.

Please forward this prayer bulletin widely and encourage others to sign up to “Follow by email” on the Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin (RLPB) blog.  ‘For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds’ (2 Corinthians 10:4 ESV). 

DIARY
Ramadan: 12/13 April to 13 May [see RLPB 592 (7 April)].
1 May: China's new 'Administrative Measures for Religious Clergy' came into force [see RLPB 585 (17 Feb)].

NIGERIA: BOKO HARAM HOISTS FLAG ON ABUJA'S DOORSTEP
Insecurity, terrorism and the 1999 Constitution.
plus: Haiti Update
by Elizabeth Kendal

Red circle: Boko Haram's latest conquest.
click on map to enlarge.
 

On Sunday 25 April Boko Haram fighters crept into Kaure, a remote village in the far east of Niger State, close to the western border of predominantly Christian, already traumatised southern Kaduna, and about 200 km (by road) north-west of Nigeria's federal capital, Abuja. When the signal was given, they struck without mercy: killing and wounding, looting and burning, torching crops and seizing women. The following day, Niger State Governor, Alhaji Abubakar Sani Bello, sounded the alarm. 'I am confirming,' he told a public forum, 'that there are Boko Haram elements here in Niger State. Here in Kaure in Shiroro Local Government Area (LGA), I am confirming that they have hoisted their flags there. The villagers' wives have been seized from them and forcefully attached to Boko Haram members. I just heard that they have placed their flags at Kaure meaning they have taken over the territory.' which, as he notes, is just 'two hours drive from Abuja'.

On Tuesday 27 April Niger State's Senator Musa Sani told the Upper House: 'I can authoritatively confirm that the Boko Haram terrorists have mounted their flags in many of the villages they have captured such as Kaure, Alawa and Magami ...' He informed the senators that over the last three days about 42 communities across Shiroro and Munya LGAs had fallen to Boko Haram, causing some 5000 villagers to become displaced. Earlier in April, the militants overran, looted and sacked three military camps in the area - in Allawa and Bassa (both in Shiroro LGA) and subsequently Zagzaga (in Munya LGA) - doubtless in preparation for what appears to be a Ramadan offensive.

IDPs from Shiroro LGA

The people of eastern Niger State and central Nigeria are mostly ethnic Gwari/Gbari. According to the Joshua Project, 38 percent follow ethnic religions, 29 percent are Muslim and 33 percent are Christian (mostly Roman Catholic). The State Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria's Niger State Chapter, Reverend Mattias Echioda, appealed to Christians in the state to give generously to help sustain the displaced (IDPs). He also called for prayer, that God would intervene in the security challenges confronting Niger State in particular, and Nigeria in general. The situation is critical not only for Christians in eastern Niger State, but also for those in neighbouring Kaduna, where 323 persons have been killed and 949 kidnapped in the last three months.

Whilst the government has deployed extra forces in and around Abuja to protect the capital, the threat facing Abuja's urban elites is nothing compared to the threat facing ordinary northern and Middle Belt Nigerians, especially those living in regional areas. In truth, the nightmare scenario of RLPB 562, 'Insecurity Enables Terrorist Expansion' (12 Aug 2020), is coming to pass: gross insecurity has paved the way for Boko Haram to expand into the Northwest and establish a foothold among the Fulani. On Sunday 2 May a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Robert Clarke, spoke on Channels Television's Programme, Sunday Politics, warning that the country was on the verge of collapse and might not survive another six months. While Clarke is calling for a State of Emergency, others are loath to put more power in the hands of the Buhari regime, noting that lack of authority is not the problem. On the contrary, over-centralisation - the legacy of the military-inspired 1999 Constitution - is mostly to blame.

The 1999 Constitution was prepared by the military regime of General Abdulsalami Abubakar and decreed into being, just ahead of Nigeria's return to democracy. Political scientist and historian, the late Peter Ekeh, maintained that 'the over-riding legacy of military rule in Nigeria is over-centralisation of governmental functions', and this has resulted in 'failures that are glaring' and 'debilitating consequences'. Nigeria is the only country practising a federal system of government but operating a unitary police force. Not only did the 1999 constitution abolish local police and centralise Nigeria's police force, it also expressly bans the establishment of any other police force. As Ekeh noted in his Lagos Lecture of December 2010, 'This Constitutional prohibition has the effect of depriving State Governments and Local Governments of the authorities to provide basic security for citizens under their jurisdiction ... The gradual erosion of basic security in the country must be blamed on high-handed military concentration of provision of security in the hands of Nigeria Police Force which has no presence in most towns and villages of the Federation.' 

Recommended:
Military Rule and Damage to the Spirit of the Nigerian Constitution
Peter Ekeh, Lagos Lecture, 1 December 2010 .


PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT OUR HEAVENLY FATHER WILL:

* sustain Nigeria's traumatised Church in the midst of her troubles: comfort those who grieve, heal those who are wounded and traumatised and provide for the displaced; may Yahweh Sabaoth (the Lord of Hosts, commander of heaven's angelic army) preserve and rescue all those women who have been captured as war booty and gifted to Islamic jihadists. Lord in your mercy, 'deliver us from evil' (from Matthew 6:9-13).

* redeem the current crisis to bring spiritual awakening and constitutional reform to Nigeria, a nation of immense wealth and potential, blighted by corruption and gross insecurity. May God the Redeemer (Haggo'el) have mercy on Nigeria!

* grant Nigeria's Christian leaders - spiritual, political and civic - great wisdom, insight and boldness to be truth-speakers and peace-makers, as well as channels of sustenance, hope and grace; may Nigeria's Christians 'shine as lights' (from Philippians 2:14-16) through this current darkness.

'I can do all things through him who strengthens me' (Philippians 4:13 ESV).

SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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NIGERIA: BOKO HARAM HOISTS FLAG ON ABUJA'S DOORSTEP

Gross insecurity has paved the way for the Islamic terrorist organisation, Boko Haram, to expand into Nigeria's Northwest, creating a crisis of monumental proportions. During the last week of April, in what appears to be a Ramadan Offensive, Boko Haram seized control of some 42 communities in the far east of Niger State. The villagers were defenceless because in the weeks prior, Boko Haram had looted and sacked three military bases in the region. The jihadists struck without mercy: killing, wounding, looting, burning, torching crops and seizing women. At least 5000 citizens have been displaced and Boko Haram has hoisted its flag over the area. The region borders predominantly Christian and already traumatised southern Kaduna and is just a two-hour drive from the federal capital, Abuja. Please pray.

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HAITI UPDATE 

On 11 April, ten Catholics --  five priests, two nuns and three lay persons -- where kidnapped by a criminal gang that demanded ransom. Three clergy were released on 23 April [see last week's RLPB 595 (28 April)]. The remaining hostages were released on Friday 30 April, a little malnourished but otherwise unharmed. Thank-you Lord. There is no information on whether a ransom was paid to secure their freedom.

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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