Tuesday, June 26, 2012

RLPB 165. June Update; Incl. Burma, Egypt, Nigeria, Sudan, India, Iran, Laos

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 165 | Wed 27 Jun 2012
By Elizabeth Kendal

JUNE 2012 UPDATE -- During June we prayed concerning . . . 

NIGERIA & SUDAN (also Tunisia) (RLPB 162)
EGYPT (also Nigeria) (RLPB 163)
BURMA & SUDAN (also Nigeria) (RLPB 164)


On 2 June US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta intimated that political reforms underway in Burma (Myanmar) could pave the way for 'US-Myanmar' military ties. This fits in perfectly with the new US strategy of developing stronger ties with Asia Pacific militaries. Timothy Heinemann, a retired US Special Forces Colonel who works with war-affected ethnic minority communities in Burma, argues that US-Myanmar military ties would be 'wrong', both 'morally and practically', particularly while the Burmese Army 'is attacking Kachin villagers'. He argues that Kachin civilians would face increased aggression if the US were to empower the Burmese Army. Siege of Kachin State: 2012 (16mins) is an excellent new short film by Scott Johnson.  Pray for the Christian Kachin.

[NOTE -- What Heinemann describes above is exactly what US-Indonesian military ties have done to the Papuans: military violence escalates but is covered up for economic and geo-strategic gain. (See RLPB 119, and Religious Liberty Monitoring: label Papua.)]

On Sunday 24 June Egypt's electoral council declared Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood the President of Egypt, elected with 51.7 percent of the vote (in a turnout of only about 50 percent). Egypt is now profoundly divided. Most Christians fear that an Islamist president will further Islamise Egypt, causing persecution to escalate. According to Isobel Coleman of the Council on Foreign Relations, Morsi 'represents the older, more conservative wing of the Brotherhood and openly endorses a strict Islamic vision'. According to Eric Trager of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Morsi has been 'an icon of the extremists in the Muslim Brotherhood', pushing for an 'extreme agenda'. Morsi's power to implement his Islamist vision will, however, be severely curtailed due to the military's 'soft coup'. (See Religious Liberty Monitoring for details.) How the Islamists cope with that remains to be seen. Pray for the Church in Egypt.

After three consecutive weeks of Boko Haram terror, Sunday 24 June passed without a church bombing. Police uncovered a plot to bomb churches in Jos, the capital of the Middle Belt state of Plateau.  While police intensified security, most churches in Plateau urged their members not to attend their worship services.  In Kaduna State, an alleged attempt to bomb a church in the Sabon Gari area of Zaria, was foiled. Boko Haram did, however, successfully attack Yobe prison on Sunday, shooting police and freeing 40 inmates. 

On Saturday 23 June some 30 ethnic Fulani Muslim herdsmen stormed into Tidiu Village in Mangu Local Government Area of Plateau State around 3.30am, armed with guns and machetes. They slaughtered six members of the Dakibang family in their sleep, while two other family members were wounded as they fled and four villagers were wounded as the killers made their get-away. The victims, aged between  six months and 70 years, had reportedly been living peaceably amongst their Fulani neighbours. One local resident commented that 'the killing was professionally carried out with military precision'. Pray for the Church in Nigeria.

Since South Sudan seceded in July 2011 Sudan has been blighted with soaring food inflation and a weakening currency.  Now students from the University of Khartoum are hoping to trigger an 'Arab Spring'. Protests commenced on 16 June and escalated after President Bashir's 18 June announcement of tough austerity measures. The protests have spread beyond the capital, causing considerable disruption but not as yet close to overthrowing the regime. However, as Sudan expert Eric Reeves notes, with a disillusioned and angry civilian population reeling from price hikes, and a dispirited military reeling from heavy losses being inflicted by rebel forces in South Kordofan and Blue Nile, the threat to the regime is very real.  But this is a brutal regime and the crackdown has begun. The situation increases the risk for Southerners who will doubtless be blamed for the economic crisis when, in reality, the responsibility lies with the corrupt, incompetent, belligerent, racist, Islamist regime in Khartoum. Aljazeera reports: 'There have been calls on social networks for a mass nationwide protest on [Friday] June 29'. Pray for the Church in Sudan (using Psalm 10).

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

Christians account for only 3 percent of the population of India's north-eastern state of Assam; about one third of them are indigenous tribals. According to the president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), Sajan George, the situation for tribal Christians in Assam is 'intolerable', for they are living 'in a climate of terror'. On Friday 8 June a group of Hindus met Bhageswar Rabha, a Christian from the village of Deuphaniin, Assam, and forced him to convert to Hinduism. Then around midnight a mob of about 40 militant Hindu nationalists burst into the home of another Christian, Manesor Rabha, and dragged him outside with his wife Mala and two other believers, Michael and Prashanto Rabha. Though they were threatened, intimidated, beaten and ordered to convert to Hinduism, the believers stood firm and refused to renounce their Lord. On the Sunday morning Mala, Michael and Prashanto were taken to Satribari Christian Hospital to receive treatment for their injuries. Two other Christian families subsequently fled the village. Such violent persecution is commonplace across India. It is a very serious situation, inspired by unchallenged Hindu nationalism and fuelled by impunity. Pray for the Church in India.

In line with its policy of eliminating the Farsi-speaking church of ethnic Persian converts, the regime has closed down another Farsi-speaking congregation. On 5 June the Intelligence branch of Iran's Revolutionary Guard, a military force tasked with defending the Islamic Revolution, issued orders to close down the 70-strong Assemblies of God (AOG) Church in Tehran's north-western district of Janat-Abad. According to Compass Direct News, only three churches in Tehran continue to offer Farsi-language services: the AOG Central Church of Tehran, Emmanuel Protestant Church and St Peter's Evangelical Church. More than 20 believers are in prison for their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, including death-row prisoner Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani whose health is reportedly deteriorating. Please pray.

On 6 June Laotian police arrested Asa, a 57-year-old Lao pastor, at his home in Peeyeur village, Luang Namtha Province, on charges of leading people to Christ. He was immediately transferred to the provincial prison, some 50km away from his family. On 16 June Lao officials arrested two Lao and two Thai Christians in Luang Namtha, charging them similarly with 'spreading the Christian faith without official approval'. (The communist regime is unashamedly committed to eliminating Christianity and therefore never gives approval for Christian witness!) A local resident had called the police when he saw the two Thai Christians -- brothers Jonasa and Phanthakorn Wiwatdamrong -- explaining Bible passages to enquirers in a private home. The two Lao and two Thai Christians arrested were taken directly to the Luang Namtha provincial prison. Torture, including the use of stocks, is routine in Lao prisons which are amongst the worst in the world. Pray for these prisoners, and for the Church in Laos.