Wednesday, April 25, 2012

RLPB 156. April Update; Incl. Sudan, Burma, Egypt, Kashmir

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 156 | Wed 25 Apr 2012
By Elizabeth Kendal

' . . . casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.' (1 Peter 5:7 ESV)

APRIL 2012 UPDATE -- During April we prayed concerning . . . 

* SUDAN (RLPB 153), where some 700,000 ethnic 'Southerners' had until 8 April to register as citizens of the Islamic state or face loss of citizenship and rights, purely on the grounds of their ethnicity.


(1) THE BATTLE FOR HEGLIG. From late March through to mid-April, South Sudan's army fought and repelled Sudanese forces that had been launching attacks against South Sudan from the disputed region of Heglig. (Heglig is south of the January 1956 border, but after oil was discovered there in the 1970s Khartoum seized it, using Arab militias to drive the Southerners out.) According to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement some 20 percent of the border remains to be negotiated. Khartoum's reluctance to negotiate about Heglig is doubtless because it is historically 'Southern'. After Sudan retook control of Heglig on Thursday 19 April, President Bashir addressed a rally where he vowed never to negotiate with 'insects' that should be eliminated -- the language of genocide. 'Heglig,' Bashir told the cheering crowds, 'is not the end, but the beginning.'

(2) CHURCH TORCHED. On Saturday 21 April, in the wake of Sudan's re-conquest of Heglig, a mob of several hundred Muslims besieged and torched a church, Bible school and dormitory complex in Khartoum's Al-Gerief (Al-Jiraif) district while shouting insults at 'Southerners'. The complex, which is owned by the Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church, is attended mostly by Nuba. The pogrom was reportedly incited by the Salafi imam of a local mosque who called for the Muslims of Al-Gerief to rise up and purge the land of 'infidels'. Allegedly the police helped the mob gain access and did nothing to stop them. Heavy machinery was brought in to aid the destruction. The fire brigade said the fire could not be put out. Furthermore, it has been reported that several other churches have received orders from police to vacate their 'illegal' properties. 

(3) SOUTHERNERS TRAPPED. Compass Direct News reports that ethnic 'Southerners' attempting to travel south have been unable to board flights for Juba. Land routes have also been closed since 9 April. With Khartoum mobilising for war, the regime may well have decided to stop ethnic 'Southerners' from travelling to South Sudan where they might bolster southern forces. Could Sudan's Christians be facing internment or genocide?

(4) LRA REVIVED. According to Ugandan intelligence, Khartoum has resumed contacts with the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) which has moved from its hideout in the forests of Obo, Central African Republic, to an area close to the Sudanese border, sparking fears that the LRA could be returning to the conflict.

(5) AERIAL BOMBARDMENT OF SOUTH SUDAN. Dozens were injured and one young boy was killed on Monday 24 April when Sudanese planes dropped eight bombs in South Sudan's Unity State.

The 'international community' has essentially abandoned the South Sudanese; the Church must not.

* MALI (RLPB 154), where al-Qaeda-linked jihadists, under the cover of a devastatingly violent and destructive Tuareg rebellion, have seized control of northern Mali. With their churches burnt, their charities looted, at least one pastor and his family assassinated and Ansar Dine jihadists enacting Sharia (Islamic) law, northern Mali's traumatised Christians have fled. Please pray for them.

* AFGHANISTAN (RLPB 155), where the infamous Pakistan-based Haqqani network launched the Taliban's Spring Offensive with co-ordinated attacks inside Kabul's most secure areas. Beneath the violence, corruption and chaos, yet rising far above it, is a small but growing Afghan Church that desperately needs our prayers.

APRIL 2012 ROUND-UP -- also this month . . .

The European Union recently lifted its sanctions against Burma, retaining only an arms embargo. This follows similar moves by the US and Australia. The junta -- which remains devoted to ethnic Burman and Buddhist supremacy -- is delighted, for it has been working to legitimise and perpetuate its power. So too are those who are eager to invest in Burma, such as the West, which has been working to secure access to Burma's markets and resources including timber, minerals and cheap labour. On the other hand, most human rights monitors and exiled activists are unhappy that the rewards are coming faster than the reforms with horrific human rights abuses continuing in ethnic minority areas. (See HRW report, 'Untold Miseries'.) According to reports from KachinNews, Burmese troops are massing around Laiza for what is expected to be a massive military assault on the Kachin Independence Organisation's de facto capital, home to more than 25,000 Christian Kachin refugees. The West has essentially abandoned Burma's ethnic-religious minorities; the Church must not. Please pray.

In Abu Al-Reesh village on 4 March, some 1500 armed Muslim villagers rioted against the Notre Dame Language School, besieging two nuns in the school's guesthouse for some eight hours, threatening to burn them alive while the property was being thoroughly ransacked. UPDATE: At a recent 'reconciliation' session, the Christians were told they could have peace in exchange for signing over parcels of land that include the school guesthouse. The school manager, Magdy Melad, refused the terms saying, 'If we give in to that, they will take everything.' However, to end this present spasm of violence, the school had to agree not to press charges against any of the Muslim rioters, vandals and looters, nor against those who besieged and terrorised the nuns or threatened the children. As the school administration notes, such 'reconciliation' sessions are nothing other than legalised extortion. So long as impunity is the order of the day, violent persecution against Christians will only escalate. The situation in Egypt is extremely dangerous. Please pray for Egypt's threatened Christians.

Mafford Maharaj Singh (62) and his wife Kusum (60), a Christian couple from New Delhi, have been arrested in northern Kashmir and charged with 'promoting enmity' -- a criminal charge under Article 153A of the Ranbir Penal Code. According to authorities the couple, along with a local girl, were distributing leaflets about Christianity. However, the couple's family in New Delhi maintains that their parents travelled to Srinagar on 16 April to attend a wedding and were merely shopping in the Bandipora market when Mr Singh got into a conversation with a vendor. When it emerged that Mr Singh was a Christian, he was set upon, beaten up and then arrested. If found guilty, the believers could face fines and between three and five years in prison. Please pray for justice in Kashmir.