Tuesday, June 2, 2020

RLPB 552. Turkey: Erdogan Stokes the Fire of Islamic Zeal


Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 552 | Wed 03 Jun 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) 

TURKEY: ERDOGAN STOKES THE FIRE OF ISLAMIC ZEAL
By Elizabeth Kendal

As noted in last week's RLPB 551 (27 May), Turkey's President Erdogan has been stoking the fire of Islamic zeal, putting the country's mostly Greek, Armenian and Assyrian remnant Christians - whom he vilifies as enemies - in a perilous position. At the time of writing (26-27 May), the regime was hinting that Islamic prayers and a Quran recitation might possibly be performed inside the UNESCO world heritage-listed Church of Hagia Sophia (Greek: Holy Wisdom) on Friday 29 May, i.e., 'Conquest Day', the day Muslim Turks celebrate the Ottoman conquest of the Byzantine capital, Constantinople, which fell to Muslim forces on 29 May 1453. Sure enough, on Friday 29 May 2020, Islamic prayers were performed, and Quranic verses were recited inside the Hagia Sophia as a central element of the Turkish government's Conquest Day Fiesta. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the service had to proceed without an audience. However, the event was broadcast live on all the president's television, YouTube and social media channels.

More images: TRT World
In recent years, Conquest Day has grown in significance. Now an all-day spectacular, complete with re-enactments and fireworks, Conquest Day is not a 'Remembrance Day' in which war and death are lamented. On the contrary, Turkey's Conquest Day is a day which glorifies and celebrates Islamic imperial expansion and military aggression (Islamic jihad); conquest and occupation; the seizure of 'booty' and the slaughter, enslavement and subjugation of infidels (Christians) in a demonstration of Muslim supremacy. The seriousness of this trend cannot be overstated!

Christian advocacy groups In Defense of Christians (IDC), the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) and the Hellenic American Leadership Council (HALC) have all called on UNESCO to respond to Turkey's continued threat to violate Hagia Sophia's status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and convert the museum into a mosque. As ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian explains, 'Erdogan's move to change the status of Hagia Sophia - the signature Christian landmark in Constantinople - both reflects and reinforces Turkey's century-long drive to erase the vast cultural and religious heritage of Armenians, Greeks, Assyrians and other now-exiled indigenous Christian nations across the territory of modern-day Turkey.'

Quran recitation in Hagia Sophia,
Conquest Day, 29 May 2020.
YouTube excerpt
The passage which was read in the Church of Hagia Sophia - Sura (chapter) 48, 'Al Fath' ('The Victory') https://quran.com/48 - opens with the words: 'Indeed, We have given you, [O Muhammad], a clear conquest', that Allah might forgive your sins and bless you. Muslims who had refused to fight are condemned and denied any portion of the spoils. Unbelievers, it warns, will be judged with fire while Muslims will receive rich booty from Allah, their victory a sign to all believers that Allah is for them. The sura concludes (v29): 'Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah; and those with him are forceful against the disbelievers . . .' According to this verse, the Torah (Jewish scriptures) recognises Muslims as people of prayer, while the Gospel (Christian scriptures) recognises them as 'a plant which produces its offshoots and strengthens them so they grow firm and stand upon their stalks, delighting the sowers'; and that by this means Allah may enrage (make jealous) the disbelievers. It then closes with the promise of 'forgiveness and a great reward'.

The danger posed by the incitement inherent in the text - especially when backed by the power of symbolism as the text is read inside the conquered Church of Hagia Sophia - cannot be overstated! Even if Erdogan does not deliver - and Hagia Sophia remains a museum - he will have stoked the fire of Islamic zeal among his neo-Ottoman Islamist supporter base so much that we should anticipate an escalation in persecution; even more so if Christians (local and/or foreign) are blamed for government inaction.

PLEASE PRAY THAT OUR ALMIGHTY GOD WILL

* protect, sustain, preserve and richly bless his precious Church in Turkey comprising (among others) remnant Greeks, Armenians and Assyrians as well as convert Arabs, Kurds and Turks; may the Church grow in unity, faith and grace to be a light that overcomes darkness and a voice of hope that counters despair.

* fill Turkey's Christian pastors and leaders (civic and religious) with 'the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so [they might] walk [and lead] in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him ... being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy ...' (from Colossians 1:9-14 ESV).

* intervene in Turkey and, in grace and mercy, by the power of his Holy Spirit, produce awakening and transformation beyond anything we could ever imagine (Ephesians 3:20-21).


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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ERDOGAN STOKES THE FIRE OF ISLAMIC ZEAL IN TURKEY

Turkey's President Erdogan continues to inflame Islamic zeal, putting at risk the country's mostly Greek, Armenian and Assyrian remnant Christians, whom he vilifies as enemies. Annually, on 29 May, Muslim Turks celebrate the Ottoman conquest of the Byzantine Christian capital, Constantinople (which fell to Muslim forces on 29 May 1453). In recent years, 'Conquest Day' has grown to be an all-day spectacular. This year the government, playing to its neo-Ottoman Islamist base, allowed Islamic prayers and a Quran recitation to be performed inside the UNESCO world heritage-listed Church of Hagia Sophia (Greek: Holy Wisdom). The danger posed by the incitement inherent in the text (https://quran.com/48), especially when backed by the symbolism of the event and the president's inflammatory provocations, cannot be overstated. Please pray for the Church in Turkey.

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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).

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

RLPB 551. May Update, incl. Hong Kong (China), Nigeria, Papuan Provinces (Indonesia), Turkey

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 551| Wed 27 May 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)

MAY 2020 UPDATE
By Elizabeth Kendal

'... have no fear of [those who persecute you], for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known.' (Matthew 10:26 ESV)

MAY 2020 UPDATE - during this period we prayed concerning:

* CHINA [RLPB 548 (6 May)], where the law which deems all unregistered religious activity illegal is now being mercilessly enforced. The crackdown will force hundreds of thousands of unregistered house-churches deep underground and put numerous resistant pastors in prison. Please pray.

* CHINA [RLPB 549 (13 May)], where even registered - i.e., legal - Chinese Communist Party-approved churches are facing ever more restrictions, obligations and closures as the CCP seeks to curtail the growth of Christianity by drastically reducing both the visibility and availability of churches. Please pray.

UPDATE: HONG KONG

BACKGROUND: Article 23 of the Hong Kong's Basic Law stipulates that the Hong Kong (HK) Special Administrative Region 'shall enact laws on its own to prohibit any act of treason, secession, sedition, subversion against the Central People's Government ...'. (emphasis mine). The HK government tried to enact such a law in 2003 but backed down in the face of massive protests. Xia Baolon is a protege of President Xi, a CCP heavyweight and the head of China's cabinet-level office that oversees HK affairs [RLPB 538 (26 Feb)]. In late April Xia met with HK Chief Executive Carrie Lam to pressure her to introduce national security legislation as stipulated by Article 23. By 21 May, Beijing had run out of patience.

Radio Free Asia (24 May 2020)

HONG KONG LOSES ITS LIBERTY


On Friday 22 May China's Premier Li Keqiang announced that the National People's Congress currently meeting in Beijing would write national security legislation into Hong Kong law, bypassing - 'and thus fatally neutering' - HK's legislative council. This, as Benedict Rogers of Hong Kong Watch notes, 'effectively ends "one country, two systems" in Hong Kong.' The decision will be passed (rubber stamped) by a vote of the Congress on Thursday 28 May. As noted in RLPB 514 (7 Aug 2019), Hong Kong - home to 850,000 Christians (12.4 percent of the population), some 1,500 churches and 35 Bible Colleges - has long been 'a vital nerve centre for [Christian] media' and 'the springboard for evangelising on the mainland'. HK's loss of freedom will be a massive blow to the Church in China. Please pray.

* INDONESIA [RLPB 550 (20 May)], as Islamic State-aligned terror groups Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD) and the Poso-based Mujahidin Indonesia Timur (MIT) escalate their terrorist rhetoric and activity. The escalation is a direct response to Islamic State incitement. Having labelled the COVID-19 pandemic Allah's vengeance on Islam's enemies, IS is inciting its followers to exploit the crisis to launch terror attacks on 'infidels' (Christians) and 'apostates' (Muslims who depart from 'true [IS-approved] Islam'). Please continue to pray.

MAY 2020 ROUND-UP - also this month:

NIGERIA: SECURITY FALLS APART
click on image
to enlarge.

Violent attacks on Christian individuals and communities continue apace, without respite. While there are more than can be listed, I will mention just one. At around midnight on 11 May, Fulani Muslim militants raided the predominantly Baptist community of Gona Rogo Village, Kajuru Local Government Area, southern Kaduna State. They broke into the home of Jonathan Yakubu (36), killing him, his wife Sheba and three of his seven children: daughters Patience (15), Revelation (9) and Rejoice (6). Jonathan's other wife, along with children Isaiah (13), Ziporah (10) and two infants, survived with machete cuts and bullet wounds. (Source: Peace & Social Justice research team, Silent Slaughter Campaign.) In total, 17 Christians were killed in the midnight attack on Gona Rogo; homes were burned and cattle stolen. This is terrorism in pursuit of ethnic-religious cleansing. For more on Nigeria, visit https://silentslaughternigeria.com and check the incident tracker and https://morningstarnews.org (Sub-Saharan Africa/Nigeria). Please pray.

* PAPUAN PROVINCES (INDONESIA): RISK OF MORE VIOLENCE

On Friday afternoon 22 May two health workers affiliated with the local COVID-19 task force were shot as they travelled through the remote and mountainous Wandai district in Papua's Central Highlands' Intan Jaya Regency. While Amalek Bagau (30) survived and has been hospitalised in a critical condition, Eniko Somou (39) died from his wounds. The Indonesian military (TNI) immediately blamed Papuan separatist militants (OPM) and launched a manhunt. However, the OPM denies responsibility and insists the two men were shot by TNI and National Police personnel. The shooting comes just five weeks after TNI soldiers allegedly shot dead two young Papuan men in Mimika Regency. Eden Armando Bebari (19) and Ronny Wandik (21) were shot dead while out fishing, having apparently been mistaken for members of an armed separatist group. For the sake of Papua's imperilled Church, please pray that violence will not escalate; please pray that the mostly Javanese Muslim Indonesian military will be withdrawn from the mostly Melanesian Christian Papuan Provinces.

* TURKEY: ERDOGAN STOKES THE FIRE OF ISLAMIC ZEAL

Spouting inflammatory Islamic triumphalist rhetoric, Turkey's President Erdoğan is, once again, stoking the fire of Islamic zeal. During a coronavirus briefing on 4 May, Erdoğan insisted: 'We do not allow terrorist leftovers of the sword in our country to attempt to carry out [terrorist] activities. Their number has decreased a lot but they still exist.' Turkish journalist, Uzay Bulut explains: 'Leftover of the sword' is a commonly used insult in Turkey that often refers to Christians who survived the Ottoman Empire's 1915 genocide of Armenians, Greeks and Assyrians. In a national address on 12 May, President Erdoğan vowed to continue the fight against terrorism and foreign enemies, including the 'Armenian and Greek lobbies' which he labelled 'evil forces' targeting Turkey. This is dangerous rhetoric, rooted in racial-religious hatred and bordering on incitement. Please pray.

In early May, Turkey's Religious and Foundation Employees' Union (Diyanet Bir-Sen) publicly called for the first Friday prayer after the coronavirus pandemic to be performed in Istanbul's world heritage listed Hagia Sophia, the Church of Holy Wisdom, built by the Emperor Justinian in AD 537. On 10 May President Erdoğan's communication chief, Fahrettin Altun, published a tweet implying that Turkey's Muslims would soon have what they long for: Hagia Sophia  as a functioning mosque (it is currently a museum). On 15 May Turkey's Religious Affairs Directorate announced that mosques will re-open on 12 June. Three days later, on 18 May, President Erdoğan announced that mosques meeting certain conditions would partly reopen to worship with Friday prayer on 29 May: i.e., on Conquest Day, the day Muslim Turks celebrate the Ottoman conquest of the Byzantine capital, Constantinople, which fell to Ottoman Muslim forces on 29 May 1453. The conversion of Hagia Sophia would indicate that the days of Kemalist secularism are over and that Ottoman Islam is back!

Uploaded to YouTube on 23 March 2020
source: MEMRI (23 March)

President Erdoğan routinely stokes Islamic zeal during Ramadan, before elections and in the lead-up to Conquest Day. This year his efforts have acquired a new level of urgency as he seeks out ways to perpetuate his popularity and consolidate his position amidst the economic crisis brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. The situation is deeply concerning. Please pray for the Church in Turkey.


But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may exult in you. For you bless the righteous, O Lord; you cover him with favour as with a shield. (Psalm 5:11-12 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