Tuesday, May 17, 2022

RLPB 645. Nigeria: Horrific killing; Pivotal case.

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 645 | Wed 18 May 2022
RLPB is published weekly to facilitate strategic intercessory prayer.

View archives at Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin (RLPB) blog.  

NIGERIA: HORRIFIC KILLING; PIVOTAL CASE.
- ethnic-religious tensions soar; risk of spread
by Elizabeth Kendal

Alheri Emmanuel and Emmanuel Garba
Deborah's parents: 14 May 2022

Deborah Emmanuel was a member of the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) in Tungan Magajia in Niger State's Rijau Local Government Area. No doubt Deborah's parents were very proud when she - the eldest of their eight children - became the first sibling to go to college. However, since burying the burned remains of their beautiful daughter, they have decided that 'none of [their] seven surviving children will ever go to school again', for in today's increasingly hostile and lawless northern Nigeria, the risk is just too great. According to UNICEF (10 May 2022), 18.5 million children are out of school in Nigeria due to insecurity, up from 10.5 million in 2021. While UNICEF blames 'attacks on schools by jihadists and criminal gangs in the north', Deborah's gruesome death came at the hands of fellow students - ordinary Muslim boys (as distinct from jihadists, terrorists, or 'bandits') - after one accused her of blasphemy.

Deborah Emmanuel

MURDER: As a student of Home Economics at Sokoto's Shehu Shagari College of Education, Deborah was included in a WhatsApp group created to facilitate the sharing of information about classes, assignments, subject matter and exams. When Muslim students kept using the platform to promote Islam, Deborah objected to the barrage of 'useless information'. On Thursday 12 May, when Deborah was asked, via the WhatsApp group, how she managed to pass the exams, she answered: 'Jesus!' When pressured to retract that comment, she refused and questioned why her classmates kept using the WhatsApp group for 'nonsense religious posts'. A Muslim student, whose advances Deborah had reportedly rejected, whipped up Islamic rage against her by accusing her of blasphemy. Enraged Muslim classmates incited other Muslims males to join them in attacking the 'blasphemer' and the situation quickly spiralled out of control. School authorities deployed security officers to protect Deborah; but they were overwhelmed by the angry mob. Or, in the words of one second-year student: 'The police sacrificed the lady after the students began throwing sticks and stones at them.' In a frenzy of blood-lust, and to cries of Allahu Akbar (Allah is greater), the 100-strong Muslim mob beat and stoned Deborah to death. Then they put tyres over her body and set it on fire. The school is now closed indefinitely. Two males have been arrested in connection with the killing and a manhunt is underway for other suspects clearly identifiable in video footage widely shared on social media.

"Release our brothers."

PROTESTS: On Saturday morning 14 May, many hundreds of Muslims took to the streets in Sokoto to protest the arrests. Tensions soared and a riot ensued, complete with bonfires and targeted vandalism. A crowd of protesters besieged the palace of Muhammad Sa'ad Abubakar - the Sultan of Sokoto and head of Nigeria's Inter-Religious Council for Interfaith Harmony - who had condemned the killing and demanded that those involved face justice. When police asked them to leave, the rioters 'became unruly', forcing police to fire into the air and deploy teargas to disperse the crowd. Ominously, the mob also targeted dozens of shops, market stalls and businesses owned by ethnic Igbo Christians from Nigeria's south-east. Three church buildings suffered damage in the pogrom: the Holy Family Catholic Cathedral, St. Kevin's Catholic Church, and an Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) building. To restore order, Sokoto Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal declared a 24-hour curfew in the city and ordered everyone to return to their homes.

COURT: On Monday 16 May the two arrested students - Bilyaminu Aliyu and Aminu Hukunci - faced court backed by a team of 34 lawyers led by defence counsel, Mansur Ibrahim. Both pleaded not guilty to the charges of criminal conspiracy and disturbing the peace. They were remanded in custody after the trial judge reserved ruling on their bail application until Wednesday 18 May. The killing sent shock-waves through Nigeria and the case is garnering nation-wide attention. Opinions are polarised between abject horror, revulsion and shame, to defiant pro-Sharia Islamic defensiveness. On 16 May video footage emerged of a Nigerian policeman voicing his support for the lynching of Deborah Emmanuel. 'Anyone insulting the prophet should be killed and anyone questioning about that is a Kuffar (unbeliever),' he said in Hausa language.

RISK OF SPREAD: The Christian Association of Nigeria has called for a nationwide peaceful protest on Sunday 22 May to demand justice for Deborah. However, fearing Islamic rage could spread like wildfire, the Kaduna State government had already placed a ban on all religious protest in volatile Kaduna State.


PLEASE PRAY THAT OUR MERCIFUL GOD WILL

* comfort and sustain Deborah's traumatised and grieving parents, siblings and friends, both in Sokoto and at home in Tungan Magajia; may the Lord supply all their needs and carry them as on 'eagles' wings' (Exodus 19:4).

* grant the Christians of Sokoto wisdom, guidance and discernment as they navigate these difficult days. We pray especially for those who lead the Fellowship of Christian Students at Shehu Shagari College, and for Christian pastors who lost church property in the pogrom and must lead congregations now wracked with fear and anger; may the Lord guide and protect them.

* grace Sokoto's Governor Aminu Tambuwal, the Sultan of Sokoto Muhammad Sa'ad Abubakar, the judge overseeing this trial, along with others in politics, the media and civil society with a deep unbiased conviction that life must be protected, security must be guaranteed, vigilantism must be condemned, evil must be deterred and justice must be done. May God give them the courage to pursue these things in the face of Islamic protest and indignation ... for the sake of the Gospel and the Church in Sokoto.


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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HORRIFIC KILLING; PIVOTAL CASE IN NIGERIA


On 12 May a mob of Muslim students at Sokoto's Shehu Shagari College of Education beat, stoned and burned to death Christian student Deborah Emmanuel. Reports indicate that an argument erupted in a WhatsApp group, after which a Muslim boy, whose advances Deborah had rejected, whipped up rage against her by accusing her of blasphemy. The horrific killing has sent shock-waves throughout Nigeria. Two suspects were arrested. On 14 May hundreds of Muslims rioted in Sokoto to protest the arrests. They targeted the palace of the Sultan, who had condemned the killing, and Christian-owned businesses and churches. On 16 May the accused faced court backed by a team of 34 lawyers. They pleaded not guilty to criminal conspiracy and disturbing the peace. Bail is being considered. Tensions are soaring. Please pray.

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Elizabeth Kendal is an international religious liberty analyst and advocate.

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).

She is an Adjunct Research Fellow at the Arthur Jeffery Centre for the Study of Islam at Melbourne School of Theology and has previously served with the World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty Commission and Christian Faith and Freedom (Canberra).

See www.ElizabethKendal.com

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

RLPB 644. Burma (Myanmar): Christian Crisis Grows

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 644 | Wed 11 May 2022
RLPB is published weekly to facilitate strategic intercessory prayer.

View archives at: Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin (RLPB) blog. 

BURMA (MYANMAR): CHRISTIAN CRISIS GROWS
- due to war, displacement, looming famine and Monsoon
by Elizabeth Kendal

click on map to enlarge

After Burma's military seized power in a coup in February 2021, masses of anti-coup protesters took to the streets. As the junta unleashed a brutal crackdown, many ethnic Burman, Buddhist political leaders, dissidents and defectors fled from the Burman-Buddhist centre to the ethnic states on the country's periphery where they found protection under the wings of the mostly Christian and Christian-led ethnic armed organisations (EAOs) [see RLPB 587, 2 March 2021]. Within weeks, the Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin was warning that a Christian crisis loomed as the conflict's front-line moved outwards from the Burman-Buddhist centre to the ethnic-religious minority periphery [RLPB 590, Christian Crisis Looms, 24 March 2021]. 

Over the course of 2021, the mostly Christian and Christian-led EAOs - specifically those of the Karen (in the east, bordering Thailand), the Kachin (in the north, bordering China) and the Chin (in the West, bordering India) - have become crucial to the resistance. These EAOs have trained, armed, co-led, supported and sheltered Burmese People's Defence Force (PDF) paramilitaries in the nation-wide fight against the junta. The UN reports (30 April): 'As of 25 April 2022, 578,200 people were displaced nationally since the 1 February 2021 military takeover', bringing the total number of IDPs in Burma to over 925,000. This year, 2022, the junta has escalated its attacks in the north-west and south-east.

In Burma's north-west - specifically Chin State and Sagaing and Magwe Regions - some 327,400 people are displaced, while some 34,500 have crossed into India. The situation is particularly severe in Chin State, which is more than 85 percent Christian. Mountainous, long-marginalised and underdeveloped Chin State is dependent on supplies being trucked in from Sagaing and Magwe Regions. But with roads into and through Chin State cut, villages burned, banks closed, the price of fuel skyrocketing (due to the war in Ukraine), food stocks running out, and the Indian border closed (due ostensibly to COVID), a humanitarian crisis looms. 

Meanwhile in Burma's south-east - specifically in Karen/Kayin and Mon States - some 186,200 mostly Christian ethnic Karen are now displaced, while some 1600 have crossed into Thailand. Fighting exploded in Karen/Kayin State in December 2021, when the Burmese military raided Lay Kay Kaw, in Myawaddy Township close to the Thai border, where they arrested dozens of dissidents in hiding, including two elected lawmakers from the National League for Democracy. Fighting subsequently spread to other parts of the state and continues with near-daily clashes. Some 12,000 ethnic Karen have been forced to flee their homes since Friday 29 April.

Internally displaced Karen families
on the Moei River bank, early January 2022.
The Irrawaddy, photo essay (January 2022)

Whenever an EAO or PDF paramilitary scores a victory - killing the junta's soldiers, shelling its convoys, overrunning its bases - then the junta responds with air strikes against civilians (from helicopter gunships, fighter jets and bombers) and the torching of villages. With farmers unable to tend to their crops, food insecurity is widespread and growing. For the hundreds of thousands of civilians who are displaced, the situation is truly dire. Many - including pregnant women, new-born babies, and the elderly - are without adequate shelter, food, or medicines. They are entirely dependent on aid to survive as the Monsoon season (mid-May to late October) approaches. Advocates are calling for the creation of demilitarised zones where civilians can be safe and farming can resume, and for sanctions to be applied against companies that supply the junta with aviation fuel.

The front-line has indeed moved outwards, from the Burman-Buddhist centre to the mostly Christian periphery - including the north where attacks continue against the mostly Christian Kachin - creating a Christian crisis of phenomenal proportions. But that is not the only movement being observed. Many Burman-Buddhists have also moved - some physically, many perceptually - towards their long-persecuted, mission-focused, ethnic minority, Christian fellow citizens. The once impenetrable 'dividing wall of hostility' made of Burman-Buddhist supremacy which has long separated the ethnic-religious majority from the persecuted Christian minorities is being shattered. Burma's Burman-Buddhists may be more open to the Gospel now than ever. The battle for Burma is both physical and spiritual.


PLEASE PRAY THAT OUR SOVEREIGN GOD WILL

* intervene in Burma to guide, protect and sustain his precious Church; may the junta's airforce be hamstrung and grounded; may humanitarian aid get through to all who need it ahead of the Monsoon; and may demilitarised zones be established where civilians can be safe and farming can resume. May Burma's strong and courageous Church not lose heart, but be assured of God's powerful, intervening, and sustaining presence.

* reach the ears and open the hearts of many Burman Buddhists, that multitudes might hear and receive the Gospel; may the 'dividing wall of hostility' between the peoples (Burman Buddhist supremacists vs persecuted Christians) be broken down and the people made one in the body of Christ (Ephesians 2:11-22); may the evils of war be turned to good as God redeems all this horror and suffering for his glory and the building up of his Church. May the devil have no victory here!


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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BURMA (MYANMAR): CHRISTIAN CRISIS GROWS


Since the Burmese military seized power in February 2021, Christian and Christian-led ethnic armed organisations (EAOs) have been central to the resistance. Ethnic Chin, Kachin and Karen EAOs have armed, trained, co-led, supported and protected Burmese People's Defence Force (PDF) paramilitaries. This year, the junta has escalated attacks in the north-west, where some 327,400 mostly Christian Chin are displaced; and in the south-east, where some 186,200 mostly Christian Karen are displaced. More than 925,000 civilians are internally displaced inside Burma, some 578,200 of whom have become displaced since the February 2021 coup. Most of the displaced are totally dependent on aid. Due to air strikes, farmers cannot tend crops. With roads cut, banks closed, villages torched, food stocks running out and the Monsoon season approaching, the situation is dire. Please pray.

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Elizabeth Kendal is an international religious liberty analyst and advocate. 

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).

She is an Adjunct Research Fellow at the Arthur Jeffery Centre for the Study of Islam at Melbourne School of Theology and has formerly served with the World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty Commission and Christian Faith and Freedom (Canberra).

See www.ElizabethKendal.com