Tuesday, November 1, 2016

RLPB 382. IDOP and Syria: The Battle for Aleppo

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 382 | Wed 02 Nov 2016

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International Days of Prayer (IDOP) for the Persecuted Church
IDOP 2016: Sundays 6 & 13 November. Resources: IDOP
See also Critical Prayer Requests (CPR) 


by Elizabeth Kendal

'The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.' This famous quote is actually a paraphrase of words penned by the early Church father, Tertullian, in an apologetic he wrote in AD 197 for the provincial governors of the Roman Empire. In what was essentially a plea for tolerance and religious freedom, Tertullian defended Christian faith and morality while assuring the governors that the Empire's Christians were committed to being good citizens. He also pointed out to the governors that, far from destroying the Church, the cruel persecution they meted out to Christians actually served to facilitate its growth. 'The oftener we are mown down by you,' he wrote, 'the more in number we grow; the blood of Christians is seed.' In truth, the reality is a little more complicated ...

To download the full devotional/reflection, 'The Blood of the Martyrs', visit www.ElizabethKendal.com (Devotions & Reflections).



As the Battle for Aleppo escalated in July-August, intercessors devoted themselves to prayer. In early August the Syrian government besieged the rebel-held east of the city, opened humanitarian corridors and pressed for a resolution. But it was not to be. Not only did the rebels refuse to surrender the city, they also refused to surrender their human shields. To break the siege, the Idlib-based al-Qaeda-led jihadist coalition Jaysh al-Fatah (Army of Conquest) launched a ferocious assault on Aleppo's south-western front vowing to take the jihad into western Aleppo, home to over a million civilians including some 40,000 mostly Armenian and Assyrian Christians [see RLPB 370 (10 Aug)]. Whilst rebel-held eastern Aleppo is essentially a mini-Islamic state, government-held western Aleppo is free with Sunnis, Alawites and Christians living side by side, and churches operating openly. With the battle literally 'at the gate', and despite rebel shells raining down on them, the churches of western Aleppo were ministering to the displaced, hungry, wounded, homeless and traumatised, using funds donated from Christian charities and churches abroad [see RLPB 371 (17 Aug)].

rebel shelling of western Aleppo
Aid to the Church in Need (13 Oct)
link to letter from Carmelite sisters,
dated 11 Oct.
With the aid of Russian air-cover, the Syrian Army managed to push back the jihadist assault. Subsequently, through September, ceasefires came and went as US efforts to separate 'good rebels' from bad terrorists proved futile. Most critically, Turkey's military incursion into northern Syria takes the conflict to a whole new level [see RLPB 377 (28 Sep)], forcing Syria's hand. Realising this, UN Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, pleaded with the 'rebels' to accept the Syrian-Russian offer that they be allowed to depart eastern Aleppo for Idlib, with their weapons. Mistura even offered to personally escort the nearly 1,000 al-Qaeda-aligned fighters out of the city, thereby guaranteeing their safe passage, preserving what remains of eastern Aleppo and sparing the lives of its 250,000 civilians. Russia suspended its air campaign and humanitarian corridors were opened. But as in August, it was not to be. Yet again, the 'rebels' are not only refusing to leave the city, they are refusing also to let anyone else leave -- a doctor confirming earlier reports that anyone trying to leave is strafed by rebel sniper-fire. On Friday 28 October Jaysh al-Fatah launched a new offensive on Aleppo's south-western front. Mistura said he was 'appalled and shocked' at the rebels' heavy shelling of residential areas that saw 41 civilians (17 children) killed in western Aleppo in 48 hours.

According to recent reports (2 November), the Syrian Army, backed by numerous Shi'ite militias and with Russian air-support, is successfully pushing back against Jaysh al-Fatah. But with Jaysh al-Fatah continuing to threaten western Aleppo and Turkish forces continuing to advance south towards al-Bab (36 km from eastern Aleppo), the Syrian government has little option but to reconquer eastern Aleppo as soon as possible. The jihadists (known in Western media as 'opposition' or 'rebels') comprise mostly Chechen, Uighur, Turkmen, Arab and other foreign jihadists fighting in various al-Qaeda-affiliated militias and Free Syrian Army units. With funding from the Gulf and sophisticated US-made weapons, they will not go down without a serious fight. The re-conquest of eastern Aleppo will be bloody and probably will be launched soon, while the world is distracted by next week's US presidential election.


* the Lord of Hosts will send his angels to protect and preserve the imperilled Church in western Aleppo; may the Spirit of God sustain the believers in their faith, embolden them in their witness, and comfort them in their distress. 'And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age,' (the promise of Jesus in Matthew 28:20 ESV).

* God will provide the churches of western Aleppo with all the funds, provisions, personnel and security they need to continue their ministry and witness as agents of grace and light during the darkest of times. 'All things are possible for one who believes,' (the promise of Jesus in Mark 9:23 ESV).

* our Sovereign, merciful God will intervene in Aleppo; may Jaysh al-Fatah be driven back from western Aleppo and may the 'rebels' agree to leave eastern Aleppo for the sake of the 250,000 civilians trapped there. (Jonah 4)


For the second time in three months the 'rebels' controlling eastern Aleppo have refused the Syrian government's offer of safe passage out of the besieged city. Not only are they refusing to surrender the city, they are refusing to surrender their human shields, with a doctor confirming that anyone trying to leave is strafed by rebel sniper-fire. On 28 October the al-Qaeda-led Jaysh al-Fatah coalition launched a new offensive aimed at breaking through into government-held western Aleppo, home to some 40,000 Christians. May the Lord protect, preserve, deliver and build his Church. Meanwhile, Turkish forces have crossed into Syria and are advancing south. If the 'rebels' do not surrender eastern Aleppo soon, the Syrian government will be compelled to reconquer it by force. May the Lord have mercy on Aleppo.


Elizabeth Kendal is the author of 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).

See www.ElizabethKendal.com