Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 721 | Wed 29 Nov 2023
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NOVEMBER 2023 UPDATE & ROUNDUP
By Elizabeth Kendal
Two separate health issues have meant that 2023 has been, for me, a very difficult year. Both issues will require attention into 2024.
I have come to accept that, after 24 years and roughly 1,250 religious liberty prayer bulletins, the time has come to retire the weekly Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin (RLPB) ministry. While I know I will continue to read, research, and remain engaged, I also know I need to stop writing – at least for a season (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8).
I will keep the www.ElizabethKendal.com website live, developing it and adding to it as I am able.
I will also keep my religiouslibertyprayer Instagram account live, using it to: (1) facilitate intercessory prayer for the persecuted Church; (2) share information that is relevant to suffering Church issues; (3) encourage and promote prayer as integral and indispensable to Christian and Church life; and (4) publish any personal announcements/news I might wish to make.
The RLPB and RLM archives will remain on-line for research purposes at:
Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin
Religious Liberty Monitoring
Next week’s RLPB 722 (6 Dec 2023), will be the final RLPB.
Until then, every blessing to you
UPDATE: DURING NOVEMBER 2023 WE PRAYED CONCERNING
BURKINA FASO (RLPB 718, 8 Nov), as Islamic terrorists aligned with al-Qaeda and Islamic State retain control of around 40 percent of the country. The capital Ouagadougou is gradually being encircled, its critical transit routes imperilled and cut. At least 46 locations are totally besieged, leaving Christians trapped, persecuted and totally cut off from the outside world. Violence is escalating. Aid to the Church in Need’s interview with Fr Pierre Rouamba, the prior-general of Missionary Brothers of the Countryside (FMC), is a must-read! We must not forget our brothers and sisters in Burkina Faso. Please pray!
UGANDA (RLPB 719, 15 Nov), after recent convert Hajara Namwase (32) was dowsed in gasoline, and set alight as punishment (likely an attempted honour-killing) for leaving Islam. The perpetrator – her Muslim husband Musa Kalele (42) – fled to South Sudan, leaving their three young children in the care of his mother. Originally from Budaka in Eastern Region, Hajara is receiving specialised burns treatment in Kampala. Please pray!
NIGERIA (RLPB 720, 22 Nov), to praise and thank God that, after 28 months as a hostage to Muslim terrorists in Kaduna, Treasure Ayuba (now aged 14) had escaped from his captors and found his way home ‘in answer to the prayers of many’ (2 Corinthians 1:11). Treasure’s liberation inspires us to persevere in prayer for the 100 (of 276) ‘Chibok girls’ who, after being abducted in April 2014, remain missing to this day; and for Leah Sharibu (now aged 20). Abducted in February 2018, Islamic State jihadists retain Leah as a ‘slave’ precisely because she insists on remaining Christian. Lord have mercy! We also lamented the loss of two ECWA pastors slain by Muslim militants in mid-November. Please pray for the traumatised and imperilled Church in Northern Nigeria.
UPDATE to RLPB 717, Blasphemy in Bauchi, 1 Nov 2023
- Mrs Rhoda Jatau to remain in jail.
On Monday 27 November the Bauchi State High Court threw out the No-Case Submission put forward by advocates defending Christian healthcare worker, Rhoda Jatau; with bail denied, she remains incarcerated. Rhoda Jatau has been held in detention since May 2022 for forwarding a video in which a Ghanian Christian convert (from Islam) condemned the mob lynching of Christian student Deborah Emmanuel (triggered by a vexatious accusation of blasphemy). As noted in RLPB 717: ‘Human rights attorney Solomon Dalyop Mwantiri told TruthNigeria (17 Oct) that if, on 27 November, the No-Case Submission is successful, then Mrs Rhoda Jatau would be acquitted and released in what would be a great win for religious freedom in the country. However, if the submission is rejected, then Jatau could remain in jail indefinitely.’ The ruling bodes ill for Christians across Northern Nigeria. Please pray for Mrs Rhoda Jatau and her family; may the Spirit of God sustain and comfort them; may our sovereign Lord deliver justice.
NOVEMBER 2023 ROUND-UP – ALSO THIS MONTH
* MALI: ABDUCTED PRIEST IS RELEASED
Update to RLPB 704, Mali: Catholic Priest Abducted …seven and a half months missing, 2 Aug 2023.
|Released: Father Ha-Jo |
(via Aid to the Church in Need)
* MIDDLE EAST AND SOUTH CAUCASUS
Update to RLPB 702, Christian Crisis in Azerbaijan and Iraq, 19 July 2023.
|Webinar, 14 Nov 2023|
Watch on YouTube
On 14 November, Melbourne School of Theology’s Arthur Jeffery Centre held a webinar on the topic: ‘How the Current Middle Eastern Conflicts Affect Local Christians’, with Dr Mark Durie and special guest Elizabeth Kendal. After Dr Durie spoke on the history of Muslim-Christian relations in the Middle East and the reality of dhimmitude (a state of subjugation under Islam – something everyone needs to understand) I was able to share my concerns for Christians across the wider region. I am particularly concerned that escalating conflict in the Palestinian Territories could trigger hostility against churches in Jordan and Egypt; and that, should war spread to Lebanon and Syria (as appears likely), it could spell the end of remnant Christian communities there.
I am also concerned that war in the Middle East could act as a smokescreen for ethnic cleansing elsewhere: specifically of Assyrians in Iraq and of Armenians in Transcaucasia (the South Caucasus). From the west and the east, Turkey and Azerbaijan have their eyes on Armenia’s southernmost province of Syunik. Turkey’s President Erdogan dreams of creating a pan-Turkic Middle Corridor as part of China’s Belt & Road Initiative. Meanwhile, Azerbaijan’s President Aliyev claims Syunik – and much of Armenian territory – is historically Azerbaijani, referring to it as ‘Western Azerbaijan’. In September we witnessed the ethnic cleansing of Armenians out of Nagorno-Karabakh (land they have inhabited for millennia) [RLPB 712 (27 Sep)]; will Syunik be next? [See ElizabethKendal.com / Global Persecution / Transcaucasia.] Even more existential is the threat in Iraq, where a final solution to drive the Assyrian remnant out of the Nineveh Plains (the historic Assyrian heartland) is well underway. In recent weeks Iran-backed Shi’ite militias have escalated their attacks against US military bases and forces. If war returns to Iraq, only God himself will be able save Iraq’s remnant indigenous Assyrian Christians. [See RLPB label/Iraq.] Please pray!
* NEPAL: THE BATTLE FOR NEPAL HEATS UP
Update to RLPB 710, The Battle for Nepal, 13 Sep 2023
On Thursday 23 November tens of thousands of Nepalis marched through Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu, demanding the restoration of the Hindu monarchy and Nepal’s status as a Hindu state. They clashed with opposition Communists who, while also demanding the removal of the government, are totally opposed to a return of the bad-old-days of Hindu monarchy. They also clashed with police who were forced to resort to batons and tear gas to restore order. The pro-Hindu monarchy sentiment is driven by mass disaffection with the political process which has resulted in political paralysis, devastating corruption, soaring unemployment and galloping inflation. Furthermore, Hindu nationalists are desperate to arrest the rapid growth of Christianity in the country. On Friday 24 November tens of thousands of Nepalis thronged the streets of Jhapa in Nepal’s far southeast to see King Gyanendra unveil a statue of King Prithvi Narayan Shah, the founder of modern Nepal. With more events and protests planned in which violence is anticipated, security is being ramped up across the country.
|Pastor Keshab Raj Acharya with his wife, Junu.|
via ADF International
The popular shift towards Hindu monarchy and Hindu nationalism bodes ill for the Church in Nepal; we must expect persecution to escalate. In this context, the precedent set by a recent court decision further elevates the risk the Church faces. On 30 November 2021 a court deemed Pastor Keshab Raj Acharya (35) guilty of proselytising and sentenced him to two years in prison and a fine (reduced on appeal to one year in prison). On 6 October 2023 the Supreme Court dismissed Pastor Acharya’s second appeal without affording it any consideration. He now awaits a call to present himself to prison.
Many fear the imprisonment of Pastor Acharya could trigger a flood of accusations of ‘proselytism’ or ‘forced conversion’ – without evidence. In Pastor Acharya’s case, witnesses told the court that the pastor did not ask them to convert, but only gave them tracts, which they read and discarded. Pastor Acharya and his wife Junu lead the 250-member Abundant Harvest
Church in Pokhara, Nepal’s second largest city after Kathmandu, 200 km
to the east. Junu, dreads the day her husband is summoned to prison. She lamented to Morning Star News (15 Nov): ‘What can I do when that day comes, except pray? I must take care of the church as well as my children and provide for them.’ Fortunately, we do know that God hears, loves and has power to save. Please pray for Pastor Keshab Acharya and his family, and for the Church in Nepal.
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 see www.ElizabethKendal.com