Tuesday, November 25, 2014

RLPB 288. November Update, incl. Sudan, Australia, Bangladesh, China, Kenya, Nigeria.

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 288 | Wed 26 Nov 2014
By Elizabeth Kendal

'And [Saul] said, "Who are you, Lord?" And he said, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting." '  (Acts 9:5 ESV)

NOVEMBER 2014 UPDATE -- During November we prayed concerning ...

* INDIA (RLPB 285), where sectarian tensions in Chhattisgarh's southern Bastar district are rising as Hindutva (Hindu nationalist) ideologues incite Hindus to persecute Christians.

* SUDAN (RLPB 286), where leaked documents have exposed the Arab-Islamic regime's plans to 'end the rebellion' in South Kordofan this dry season. Plans include destroying all crops and denying all aid to create a deadly famine. This is the regime's second attempted genocide of the predominantly Christian Nuba in a generation.


Fighting is raging in Dalami, in the northern regions of the Nuba Mountains, South Kordofan, and reliable sources have warned that a chemical weapons attack could be imminent. At great personal risk, researchers entered the besieged Nuba Mountains in August to assess the humanitarian situation. The report entitled 'Life Under Siege ...' was published on 20 November by 'Enough Project'. It details high levels of displacement, insecurity and malnutrition, along with extremely poor food security.
An accompanying policy brief, entitled 'Extermination by Design ...', published the same day, concludes with the following assessment: 'When considered together, the Sudan government's targeted attacks on humanitarian installations, its refusal to allow any aid workers into rebel-held areas, its aerial bombing of civilian settlements, its efforts to prevent harvesting of crops, and some of its other war tactics in the region all add up to extermination by design.'  Enough Project maintains this should be recognised as 'a crime against humanity'. Pray for the Church in South Kordofan.

On 17 and 18 November, authorities partially demolished the Bahri Evangelical Church in North Khartoum along with homes on the church compound, including the home of pastor Hafiz Fasaha. It also included a property belonging to the Nile Theological College which was rented to a Christian doctor who has lost everything in the demolition. Leaders from the Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church-affiliated congregation immediately filed a complaint but were told they would have to wait until 4 December for it to be heard. When the bulldozers returned on 19 and 20 November they were met by hundreds of church members who formed a human barrier in an attempt to prevent any further demolition. Five church leaders were arrested for refusing to surrender the property to the regime. Though the church has documents proving ownership, a Muslim businessman has a court order entitling him to develop the land. Pray for the Church in Sudan.

* LAOS (RLPB 287), where Christians face great hostility at the village level. The persecution Christians suffer is endorsed and perpetuated by the authorities.

NOVEMBER 2014 ROUND-UP -- also this month ...

Victorians elect a state government on Saturday 29 November. A Labor victory would herald radical changes. Trumpeting 'Equality', the Labor platform includes the promise to remove religious exemptions from the Equal Opportunity Act (2010) so that religious organisations will no longer be permitted to employ only those who share their beliefs and values. A Labor victory would see Christians in Victoria faced with the same escalating persecution that Christians are experiencing in the UK and parts of the US where 'Equality' or 'Equal Opportunity' (pro-LGBTI 'rights') legislation is fuelling intolerance of traditional conservative Christianity. Indeed, cultural and moral relativism are increasingly being viewed as the bench-mark of Western, democratic values. Pray for revival in the West. Pray for the Victorian elections and for the Church in Victoria, Australia.

On 9 November two pastors from the Faith Bible Church of God, both converts from Islam, were sharing their faith in a meeting in Nabinagar village in the northern district of Lalmonirhat when a mob of at least 100 Muslims attacked the gathering. The police arrived and took the pastors and the 41 people at the meeting into custody. By 10 pm all but the two pastors had been released. Although Bangladesh is officially secular with a constitution that guarantees religious freedom, the two pastors were arrested and denied bail. Eventually they were released on appeal on 17 November. They are now awaiting trial on charges of hurting religious sentiments and inducing Muslims to convert. The charges were filed by local Muslim clerics. If found guilty, the pastors could face two years in jail. A hearing is scheduled for 12 December. Every ruling creates a precedent. Please pray.

On 18 November Chinese authorities arrested Peter Han (73) (left) a Korean-American Christian who, along with his wife Eunice (65), has lived in Tumen, China, since 1997, running a network of aid projects along the China-North Korea border. Born in North Korea, Mr Han had escaped as a child, lived in the US and then returned to help North Koreans. The Hans' finances have been frozen and their vehicles confiscated. Two of Peter Han's colleagues have been detained also. Now in Seoul, Eunice Han said the Chinese authorities appear to be cracking down on aid workers in the border area. According to reports, some 1000 South Korean missionaries have been driven out and churches closed.
Peter Han's arrest follows the 4 August arrest of a Canadian Christian couple, Kevin and Julie Garratt (right) who have lived in Dandong, China, since 1984, running a prayer and training centre as well as a coffee shop. According to reports, Mr Garrett (53) -- a former pastor -- and his wife are being kept isolated, without access to family or a lawyer.

Tensions are boiling in Kenya as the government clamps down on Islamic militants and as al-Shabaab responds by slaughtering Christians. Clashes erupted in the coastal city of Mombasa on Friday 21 November as Muslims rioted in response to the government crackdown on Islamic militancy which has led to the closure of five mosques in the Mombasa area and the arrest of over 150 Muslims. The mosques -- which were being used to store weapons, bomb-making equipment and literature on jihad -- are now crime scenes. Early on Saturday 22 November some 100 al-Shabaab militants captured a bus in Kenya's far north-east. After separating the Kenyans from the Somalis, the militants then executed 28 'non-believers' (including 19 Christians) who could not recite the shahada (the Islamic profession of faith). Al-Shabaab has claimed the bus attack was retaliation for the mosque closures.

Boko Haram continues to expand its Caliphate in Northern Nigeria. In a new tactic, Boko Haram militants are regularly refraining from using guns to avoid alerting the military. Instead, they attack quietly, cutting throats and drowning unsuspecting locals as they work. On Sunday 22 November a female suicide bomber blew herself up in Bauchi, killing 10 and wounding more than 60. A suicide bombing on Tuesday 25 November in Maiduguri, Borno, that has killed some 78 people, was carried out by two teenage girls.   This use of teenage girls as suicide bombers is a source of great distress for families whose daughters (mostly Christians) have been kidnapped by Boko Haram.

'Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who have an anxious heart "Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you."' (Isaiah 35:3-4 ESV)


Elizabeth Kendal is the author of
Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today 
(Deror Books, Dec 2012).

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

RLPB 287. Laos: Christians purged and arrested

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 287 | Wed 19 Nov 2014

By Elizabeth Kendal

Laos is a one-party state ruled by the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party. There is are no free media, dissidents are jailed and prisoners are tortured. Whilst the government protects the Buddhism of the ethnic Lao and permits the traditional animism and spiritism of the ethnic minorities, it is hostile towards Christianity which it regards as foreign. Because ethnic Hmong allied with the 'Christian' US against the Communists during the Second Indochina war (the Vietnam War), the regime is especially hostile towards Hmong Christians. When the war ended in 1975 persecution or retribution was so intense that thousands of Hmong -- including nearly all Hmong church leaders -- fled en masse to the US. The regime subsequently expressed a desire to eliminate Christianity. The situation has since improved and the Laos Constitution of 1991 provides for freedom of belief, speech and assembly (Articles 30 and 31) and Ministerial Decree 92 'protects legitimate religious activities'. Yet the hostility towards Christianity remains. Christians comprise just 3.4 percent of the population but are growing at a rate of nearly 6 percent per annum. However, for them religious freedom is little more than a mirage. The Church's needs are enormous, especially as over 90 percent of Laos' 147 ethnic groups are as yet 'unreached' (Operation World 2010).

The traditional animism commonly practised in ethnic minority and tribal areas require the spirits to be constantly appeased through sacrifice and ritual. If the spirits are offended then trouble will come, such as hail or drought, death or disease. Consequently animist villagers feel greatly threatened when members of the village reject animism for Jesus Christ. Fearing angry spirits and seeking to avoid disaster, the animist villagers will demand the Christians renounce their faith and return to appeasing the spirits. When Christians refuse to do so they are usually driven out of their homes, off their lands and expelled from the village. At other times angry villagers will complain to the local authorities who will arrest the Christians for 'disturbing the peace'.

Some of the displaced Christians
On 13 November, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported that six Hmong families (comprising 25 individuals) were forced to leave Ko Hai village in Khamkeut district in Laos' central Bolikhamsai Province recently after they refused to renounce their Christian faith and revert to animism. When the local authorities first tried to force the families to renounce their faith in July, they seized two of their men and detained them for over a month. That failed and on 27 August two of the families were expelled. Then on 18 September the other four families were driven out. Though the displaced believers have all found refuge in another village, they have lost everything and no longer have the means to support themselves or to resettle. Destitute, they desperately want to return to their homes and farms. The governor of Khamkeut district told RFA he was unaware of the forced evictions and promised to investigate.

click on map to enlarge
On 2 November seven other ethnic Hmong, including a 14-year-old boy, were arrested in Laos' north-western Luang Namtha Province after they converted from animism to Christianity. Five were released after they renounced their faith, while the two who refused were transferred to the provincial prison. Security officials in Luang Namtha told RFA that the seven were not arrested over religion but were merely taken in for questioning because they were 'disturbing the social peace'. Conditions in Lao prisons are appalling -- squalid and inhumane conditions are the norm, and torture is routine. Several Christian leaders remain imprisoned in the southern province of Savannakhet.


* move the conscience of Khamkeut district's governor, Thongsam, to recognise injustice and work to set things right. 'The king's heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.' (Proverbs 21:1 ESV) May the displaced Christians be permitted to return to their homes and farms, may they prove to be a blessing to the village and may the Holy Spirit move through Ko Hai village and Khamkeut district.

* be a powerful sustaining presence -- a sanctuary -- to all those Christians imprisoned in harsh conditions in Laos for their faith; may the Holy Spirit fill them to overflowing so that those who abuse them cannot help but be deeply challenged by their enduring faith and their amazing grace.

Remember, the Lord 'is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us' (Ephesians 3:20 ESV).

* provide the struggling yet growing Lao Church with all it needs for the enormous task it faces; may he provide pastors, evangelists, linguists, literature, media, labourers, comforters, supporters and especially an abundance of divine wisdom with which to navigate the social, religious and political situation especially at the village level. 'The Lord is my shepherd . . .' (Psalm 23)


The animism practised by Laos' ethnic minorities require constant appeasement of spirits. When villagers become Christians and stop participating in sacrifice and rituals, animists consider this a serious threat. Fearful and angry, animist villagers drive Christians from their homes and farms, expelling them from their village and leaving them destitute. Six ethnic Hmong families (25 individuals) recently driven out of their village in central Laos are desperate to return. Please pray as the district governor, Thongsam, has agreed to investigate. Also seven ethnic Hmong were arrested in Laos' far north-west on 2 November after they became Christians. Five were released after renouncing their faith, while the two who refused to recant were imprisoned. Lao prisons are squalid and torture is routine. Please pray for Laos and its Church.


Elizabeth Kendal is the author of
Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today 
(Deror Books, Dec 2012).

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

RLPB 286. Sudan Exposed: 'Starve them', 'empty the camps'

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 286 | Wed 12 Nov 2014

By Elizabeth Kendal

On 31 August Sudan's most senior military and security officials met in the National Defense College, Khartoum, for a Military and Security Committee Meeting to discuss the 'Management of Military Activities'. In what can be described only as a major security breach, the minutes of that meeting were subsequently leaked to long-time Sudan researcher, expert and advocate, Eric Reeves. The document has now been fully translated and verified as authentic.

The 13 officials, most of whom are generals, spent considerable time discussing how they might manipulate the 2015 national elections to give themselves 'another five years of legitimacy'. They also discussed international relations, describing Iran as 'our biggest ally in the region', and a 'strategic partner'. [for a case study see: RLM 20 Nov 2013]. The minutes confirm that Sudan is supporting numerous Islamic jihadist movements,  including the al-Houthi (Shi'ites) in Yemen, Hamas in Gaza, and Libya Dawn in Tripoli (Libya). Defence Minister Abdel Rahim Mohammed Hussein even boasts that nobody has a data-base of jihadist groups as extensive as Sudan's. Regarding Khartoum's co-operation on counter-terrorism with the Obama administration (USA), the Defence Minister confirmed: 'We release only limited information to the Americans according to the request and the price is the armed movements file.' This statement gives rise to concerns that the Obama administration might be selling out opposition movements that are merely resisting Islamisation, racial-religious hatred and genocide.

Amnesty International report (June 2014)
Critically, the officials lament that, in the wake of military successes by the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army - North (SPLM/A-N), crop cultivation has gone ahead in large areas of South Kordofan, where the Nuba Mountains are located. Director General of the Intelligence and Security, General Siddiq Amer, insisted that this year's healthy sorghum crop be destroyed. 'We must not allow them to harvest these crops,' he said. 'We must starve them,' so they will desert the SPLM/A-N and be open to recruitment by the Government of Sudan (GoS).

This is exactly what the GoS did in the Nuba Genocide of the early 1990s, when they bombed and starved the people to the brink of death before offering them food and shelter in 'Peace Camps', but only on conversion to Islam, complete with name change, indoctrination and often military recruitment as well. Hundreds of thousands of Nuba chose to starve rather than convert, in what must surely be the most difficult call any parent could make.

click on map to enlarge
 Concerning South Sudan, the minutes are clear: Khartoum has been interfering in and prolonging South Sudan's civil war by arming and backing the forces of the sacked Vice President Riek Machar. The plan is for South Sudan to adopt a federal system as approved by President Kirr and announced by IGAD on 22 October, with Riek Machar ruling over the oil-rich 'Greater Upper Nile' region, comprising Jonglei, Upper Nile and Unity states. It is Khartoum's intention that Greater Upper Nile will secede from South Sudan and be annexed by Sudan, thereby restoring all the oil fields to Khartoum without Khartoum having to fire a shot. To that end, Chief of Joint Operations, Lt Gen. Imadadiin Adawi, proposed that Riek Machar be commissioned and equipped to 'clean [ethnically cleanse] the whole Greater Upper Nile area'.

Samaritan's Purse, Yida Camp
Furthermore, Director of Military Intelligence and Security, Lt Gen. Siddiig Aamir, proposed that regime forces 'infiltrate and empty the refugee camps' in South Sudan's oil-rich Unity and Upper Nile States on the false premise that the Government of South Sudan is arming and supporting the SPLA-N. [Yida Camp in Unity State is run by Samaritan's Purse and is home to many thousands of mostly Christian refugees from the Nuba Mountains.] According to Aamir, the aim is that, once separated from their food and shelter, the traumatised, desperate refugees then could be recruited (doubtless with food and shelter) to fight against the SPLA-N. This is the same GoS signature strategy to be employed in South Kordofan.

PLEASE PRAY (from Psalm 10):

'Arise, O Lord; O God lift up your hand' ... 

* to 'break the arm [strength/power] of the wicked and evil doer' (v15a): may the regime's supply-lines be broken; may fake partnerships and toxic alliances that hurt your people be broken; may weapons, equipment, planes and runways to be used against your people be broken; may channels of funding be broken; may lines of communication be broken -- may the power of this wicked regime be decisively broken once and for all.

* to block the schemes of haughty, wicked men who will spare no effort and no human being to seize power and riches for themselves; Lord, call their wickedness into account (v15b); may none of what is planned come to pass.

* to defend the helpless and afflicted: shield their bodies, preserve their crops, protect their camps, guard their hearts, hear their prayers and build your Church.

Sadly, all of this was predictable [see: Turn Back the Battle -- chapter 9, Christian Security: not in a 'covenant with death']. May the LORD have mercy on the long-suffering but faithful Church in South Kordofan and South Sudan as Christians suffer the consequences of the bad and faithless political decisions of their leaders.

~ ~ ~ ~


Due to a serious security breach, minutes of a 31 August meeting of Sudan's most senior defence and intelligence personnel have been leaked. Now verified as authentic, they expose the belligerent and genocidal nature of the regime in Khartoum. The regime's support for various Islamic jihadist groups is confirmed and Iran is lauded as 'our biggest ally in the region'.  Critically, the officials discuss the need to destroy crops growing in South Kordofan so as to starve the Nuba people into submission. They also discuss plans to 'infiltrate and empty the [refugee] camps' in South Sudan so the regime  might then recruit the refugees as fighters. Yida Camp in Unity State is run by Samaritan's Purse and is home to many thousands of displaced, mostly Christian Nuba. Please pray.


Elizabeth Kendal is the author of
Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today 
(Deror Books, Dec 2012).

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

RLPB 285. Chhattisgarh, India: Bastar ready to explode

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 285 | Wed 05 Nov 2014

Supporting International Day of Prayer (IDOP) for the Persecuted Church
IDOP 2014: Sunday 9 November
See: Critical Prayer Requests (CPR)

plus updates: Houston, USA; Pakistan
By Elizabeth Kendal

The Indian state of Chhattisgarh in north India's tribal belt has long been a hot-bed of hindutva (Hindu nationalist) activism.  Thousands of Christians -- often under duress -- have been 'returned to the Hindu fold' in ghar wapsi (home-coming) 're-conversion' events.  When India's desperately impoverished and disadvantaged Dalits ('untouchables') convert to Christianity they lose their scheduled caste status along with the benefits that affords. Hence the economic benefits of 're-conversion' can be very alluring. [See RLPB 276 (2 Sept 2014) for background.] On 10 October the Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment in Narendra Modi's BJP-led government, Thawar Chand Gehlot, confirmed that Dalits who convert to Christianity are no longer considered Dalits and therefore no longer have rights to Dalit 'reservations': affirmative action, reserved jobs and places in education.

Since early May hindutva activists have been encouraging Hindus in Chhattisgarh's southern Bastar district to use the Chhattisgarh Panchayat Raj Act to issue rulings banning Christianity. (This Act facilitates rural self-government by empowering village assemblies.) By the end of July some 50 villages across Bastar district had used the Act to ban non-Hindu religious practice. Persecution has soared and Christians are being intimidated, abused, assaulted and even denied access to food rations and water -- all with impunity. [See RLPB 270 (22 July 2014) for background.] In September Christian organisations in Chhattisgarh filed a petition in the Bilaspur High Court contesting the constitutionality of the bans.

On 9 October Dinesh Kashyap, an MP from the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP), visited Madota village. While there he conducted a ghar wapsi ceremony in which he washed the feet of 35 'neo-Christians' (presumably converts) and announced their return to the Hindu fold. 
Madota church. (Scroll.in) 
Kashyap stirred up the local Hindus and left them fuming over conversions. They have since directed their hostility towards the Madota church and the regular prayer meetings being held there.

Persecution with impunity is prevalent across Bastar. Morning Star News reports that on Sunday 19 October a group of around 30 Hindus besieged a Christian worship service in Madota. Most of the Hindus remained outside chanting anti-Christian slogans while five militants entered the church and beat the Christians, including women and children. Local Hindus subsequently forbade the Christians from using the water pump near the church. Also on Sunday 19 October some 25 Hindus staged a similar attack on a church in Farasgaon. The next day a Christian named Laxman was beaten unconscious in Tokapal area by his three Hindu brothers and was unconscious for 24 hours. Other Christians and churches have been threatened.

In a purported effort to ease communal tensions, local officials in Madota invited Christians to attend a mediation meeting on Saturday morning 25 October. The Christians were told that the sub-divisional magistrate, deputy superintendent of police and town inspector would be there to discuss the district administration’s response to the Christian petition in the Bilaspur High Court. Though the Christians attended, nobody else did. The Christians waited at the meeting place all day. In the evening a truck carrying some 50 Hindu militants arrived. Wearing saffron bands and armed with swords, sticks and axes, they violently attacked the defenceless Christians, accusing them of 'forcible conversions'. Fifteen Christians were wounded, with 12 requiring hospitalisation for serious injuries. Some Christians are so afraid they have gone into hiding. Bastar officials refuse to admit that religion had anything to do with the attack. Chhattisgarh Christian Forum (CCF) president Arun Pannalal believes that the manner in which the attack was orchestrated raises suspicions that local officials were complicit with the attackers. 

This is an extremely dangerous situation. Chhattisgarh -- indeed the whole tribal belt -- is a tinderbox of anti-Christian radical Hindu nationalist communalism due to decades of unchecked hindutva activism.


* the petition in the Bilaspur High Court will be successful; may religious freedom be upheld and  impunity end.

* God will supply the Chhattisgarh Christian Forum and all other Christian organisations aiding Chhattisgarh's persecuted and imperilled believers with everything they need: wisdom, insight, courage, strength, faith, personnel and funds.

'For nothing will be impossible with God.' (Luke 1:37 ESV)

* God will intervene in this hostile and exceedingly dangerous, incendiary environment, calming the situation and removing those who would like to light the fire and fan the flames.

* India's Christians will draw ever closer to Christ and grow in faith as they experience his presence. 'Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by.' (Psalm 57:1 ESV)


Tensions are erupting in Chhattisgarh's southern Bastar district as violent persecution with impunity becomes prevalent. At least 50 villages have banned all non-Hindu religious practice. In many places Christians are being denied food rations and access to water. Churches are being attacked and Christians assaulted without the authorities intervening, which guarantees that the situation will escalate. Officials in Madota invited Christians to meet with them for mediation on 25 October. The Christians attended but nobody else did. Then in the evening a truck arrived with 50 Hindu militants who attacked the defenceless Christians with knives, swords and axes.  Fifteen believers were wounded and 12 required hospitalisation for serious injuries. Many Christians have fled. Impunity is almost inevitable. Please pray for the Church in India.



Houston City has withdrawn the subpoena on sermons/speeches and other communications issued to five pastors involved in opposing the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO). After some 'civil discourse' with Houston pastors, Houston Mayor Annise Parker said she had not intended to trigger a conflict over religious liberty. The mayor's office had been bombarded with responses and over one thousand Bibles that were sent to the office will now be donated to other causes that have requested them. While the subpoenas have been withdrawn, the struggle over the HERO continues.

UPDATE: PAKISTAN - breaking news

On 4 November a young Christian couple, Shahbaz Maseeh (32) and his pregnant wife Shama Bibi (28) -- both bonded labourers (slaves) -- were savagely murdered by a large mob of angry Muslims in the town of Kot Radha Kishan, Punjab Province. Local mosques had broadcast the claim that the couple had desecrated Qur'anic texts. According to some reports the couple were beaten to death and then burned. Other reports say they were alive when thrown into the kiln. Police are reportedly investigating and have increased security around Christian neighbourhoods.  The couple had reportedly been under extreme pressure and were not being paid. When they applied to leave they were told that as bonded labourers they would have to pay to redeem themselves. But it was much more than they could afford, so they were planning to flee with their four young children. Pray for the Church in Pakistan.

Report from World Watch Monitor


Elizabeth Kendal is the author of
Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today 
(Deror Books, Dec 2012).