Tuesday, October 6, 2015

RLPB 330. Bangladesh: danger looms for church. PLUS, Germany: serious plight of Christian refugees.

Text Box: Attachments areaReligious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 330 | Wed 07 Oct 2015

Supporting International Day of Prayer (IDOP)
   for the Persecuted Church
IDOP 2015: Sunday 1 or 8 November
   See Critical Prayer Requests (CPR)

(includes update)
-- also Serious Plight of Christian Refugees in Germany.
By Elizabeth Kendal

In 1947, India was partitioned and Pakistan was established as a homeland for Muslims. In 1971, Bengali-dominated secular-leaning East Pakistan secured independence from Punjabi- and Pashto-dominated Islamic-leaning West Pakistan in a Liberation War that cost Bangladeshis up to three million lives. While Pakistan subsequently Islamised, Bangladesh progressed as a secular democracy. The population being 90 percent Muslim, Bangladesh was never going to be immune from the global trend of Islamic radicalisation. Since the 1980s, masses of Muslims have been radicalised through Bangladesh's vast networks of mosques and madrassas (Islamic schools).  On 7 Oct 2001 the US commenced post 9/11 bombing raids on Afghanistan from bases in Pakistan. Fundamentalist clerics portrayed the war as a War on Islam, fuelling rage. When Bangladeshis went to the polls later that month, they threw out the secular government and voted in the pro-Pakistan, pro-Islam, Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), to rule in coalition with some very radical Islamic groups. The result has been polarisation as secularists struggle against a rising tide of Islamic zeal.

In August this year a pro-secular, anti-Islamist Bangladeshi blogger was hacked to death. It was the fourth such attack in six months. Ansar Bangla (also known as Ansarullah Bangla Team), a banned terrorist organisation that is alleged to have links to Islamic State, has claimed responsibility. On Monday 28 September an Italian aid worker, Cesare Tavella, was assassinated in Dhaka's diplomatic precinct. This veterinary surgeon had been working with the Dutch church-run charity OCCI, which works to improve hygiene and alleviate poverty and food insecurity in rural Bangladesh. Then on Saturday 3 October, Japanese farmer Kunio Hoshi (coincidentally, a recent convert to Islam) was assassinated in Mahiganj Village, Rangpur District, in northern Bangladesh. The assassinations were virtually identical in that the victim was shot multiple times at close range by two gunmen who were then whisked away by a third person on a motorbike. Islamic State (IS) has claimed responsibility for both assassinations, warning, 'There will continue to be a series of ongoing security operations against nationals of crusader coalition countries . . . they will not have safety of a livelihood in Muslim lands.'

The government of Prime Minster Sheikh Hasina is rejecting claims that IS has made inroads into Bangladesh, preferring to blame her political opposition in the BNP. This is even though in September 2014 a British man of Bangladeshi origin was arrested in Dhaka and charged with recruiting Bangladeshis for IS. More IS recruiters have been arrested this year, including Sakhawatul Kabir, who was subsequently identified as the IS regional commander of operations in Bangladesh. Released in February 2015, issue 7 of Dabiq (the official IS magazine) includes an article lambasting Japanese policy and exhorting 'soldiers and patrons of the Khilafah everywhere' to target 'Japanese citizens and interests -- wherever they may be found.' If IS is indeed seeking to recruit and raise its profile in Bangladesh, then danger looms for the Church. Just as 'nationals of crusader coalition countries' are easy targets because they are easily identifiable, the same is true of Christians. Christians are already known to the radicalised masses, who despise them as infidels, kafir (unclean) and apostates deserving death; and they gather together in homes and easily identifiable churches. We must be vigilant in prayer for the Church in Bangladesh.

It has just been reported that a Protestant Bangladeshi pastor has narrowly survived an attempted beheading. On Monday 5 Oct, three Muslims visited the home of Rev. Luke Sarker (52), pastor of Faith Bible Church in the district of Pabna, in the country’s northwest. Two men came into the house under the pretext of wanting to convert to Christianity; the third man remained outside on his motorbike. Once settled, one of the men locked the door; then they attacked. Rev Sarker screamed, help came quickly and the attackers fled. Rev Sarker received non-life-threatening cuts to his neck requiring stitching. It seems to me [E Kendal] that the attackers were amateurs -- i.e. new local recruits, not experienced jihadists -- possibly responding to an IS request for the head of a pastor/missionary. [Report by Morning Star News, 11 Oct 2015]
Please cover Bangladesh in prayer.

* the Lord of hosts will surround and protect his precious people. 'Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings, from the wicked who do me violence, my deadly enemies who surround me.' (Psalm 17:8-9 ESV)

* the rule of law will prevail in Bangladesh; may there be unity -- as distinct from politicisation or appeasement -- in the face of escalating Islamic violence and threat. Pray for Prime Minister (Ms) Sheikh Hasina (Awami League) and for the Opposition leader (Ms) Khaleda Zia (BNP), 'the warring widows'.

* the God of salvation, the hope of all the earth, will intervene in Bangladesh to 'still ... the tumult of the peoples.' (Psalm 65:5-8)

'By awesome deeds you answer us with righteousness, O God of our salvation, the hope of all the ends of the earth ... who stills ... the tumult of the peoples, so that those who dwell at the ends of the earth are in awe at your signs.' (from Psalm 65:5-8 ESV)


Migrant flood (photo: Der Spiegel)
With up to 10,000 mostly Muslim migrants arriving each day, police are warning that tensions are soaring in Germany's massively over-crowded migrant centres. Islamic Law is being enforced, while violence and rape are endemic, much of it driven by racial and religious hatred and a culture of violence. Christian refugees, who are particularly vulnerable, are being abused and threatened. The head of the German police union wants migrants separated according to race and faith before someone is killed. The German government is resisting, wedded as it is to the idea of a multicultural utopia. While some politicians insist that distinguishing between migrants would go against Germany's values, others write it off as a logistical impossibility. PLEASE PRAY for a change in policy, and that God will intervene on behalf of his people.

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Bangladeshi society is polarised and at war with itself. Islamic zeal is soaring among masses of Muslims who have been radicalised since the 1980s. Secular Bengalis are struggling to maintain their fading rights and a veneer of security. Persecution is escalating. Bloggers who criticised Islam and advocated secularism have been murdered by a group with ties to Islamic State (IS), which is recruiting and seeking a foothold in Bangladesh. IS has claimed responsibility for the recent assassinations of an Italian aid worker in Dhaka and a Japanese farmer in the north, warning it is targeting 'nationals of crusader coalition countries'. If IS is indeed seeking to recruit and raise its profile in Bangladesh, this seriously elevates the risk to the Church. Please pray for Bangladesh and its Church.

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