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JULY 2020 UPDATE
By Elizabeth Kendal
For preparation: Isaiah 40:18, 22-24
JULY 2020 UPDATE - during this period we prayed concerning
* SYRIA AND LEBANON [RLPB 556 (1 July)], where Christian security is being imperilled by a crippling and destabilising economic crisis. In Lebanon, pro-Hezbollah Shi'ite agitators deliberately inflamed sectarian tensions by invading and threatening Christian districts and provoking Sunnis by chanting offensive slogans. In Syria, the area controlled by the government (which is where most Christians live) is now in a state of economic siege [RLPB 554 (17 June)]. Aleppo's Maronite Archbishop Joseph Tobji (49) insists that the US 'Caesar' sanctions are designed 'to increase the suffering of the population to fuel popular discontent and thus produce regime-change'. RLPB agrees with his analysis and his assessment that this 'sacrificing of millions of people, poor people and families' is 'inhumane' - 'a diabolical act' [RLPB 555 (24 June)].
ALEPPO'S MARONITE CATHEDRAL OPENS AFTER RESTORATION
|Aleppo's Maronite Cathedral of St Elias, Christmas 2016|
Click here for awesome VIDEO (l'Oeuvre d'Orient, 1:10)
|Aleppo's Maronite Cathedral of St Elias, 20 July 2020|
* IRAN [RLPB 557 (8 July)], where Shi'ite hard-liners, having consolidated their political power, are now cracking down hard on civil society and Christianity, indeed on anything they perceive as a threat to their rule.
UPDATE: Iranian-Armenian church leader, Joseph Shahbazian (56) - who was one of more than 30 believers arrested on 30 June - still has not been told what charges he faces. Furthermore, the three billion tomans (US$150,000) bail set by the judge is more than twice the previous highest bail set for any Christian. In an effort to raise this unprecedented bail, the family has submitted title deeds for two properties. But because the properties are worth less than the bail, the family must await the judge's decision on whether or not he will accept the deeds in lieu of bail. Please pray.
* ETHIOPIA [RLPB 558 (15 July)], after 239 mostly ethnic Amhara Christians were killed, some 300 wounded (many critically) and more than 3360 displaced in Oromia Region. The violence, which appeared organised, was led by a militant faction of the ethnic-nationalist Oromo Liberation Front. Deputy Police Commissioner of Oromo Regional, Girma Gelan, has since confirmed that in some cases the killings were purely religious - not ethnic. For example, he said, in East Arsi zone where 35 people were killed, only 13 were ethnic Amhara. 'Twenty-two of [the dead] were Oromos from Shoa [Shewa] and they were killed because they are Christians (Orthodox)'. He also confirmed that some of the dead had been beheaded. Please pray for peace in Ethiopia.
UPDATE ON THE BATTLE FOR ETHIOPIA
The Secretary-General of the Oromo Democratic Party, Addisu Arega Kitessa is one of several Ethiopian officials to accuse Egypt of mobilising unrest in Ethiopia with the aim of bringing down the government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. Investigations are underway. Egypt - which has a long history of supporting the Oromo Liberation Front - objects to Ethiopia filling its Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) without a 'binding agreement'. Egypt's objections are based on speculation that the dam will prove detrimental to Egypt. Ethiopia insists it has no intention of leaving Egypt without Blue Nile water and has offered to sign a 'comprehensive agreement'.
click on map to enlarge
The Battle for Ethiopia is heating up. It is a battle between PM Abiy's vision of a strong and united, multi-ethnic, multi-religious and prosperous Ethiopia versus the dream of ethnic-nationalists who would dismantle Ethiopia along ethnic lines. The idea of overthrowing the Abiy government, or even of dismantling Ethiopia, would appeal to an array of hostile state (e.g. Egypt) and non-state (e.g. al-Qaeda, Islamic State, Somali irredentists) actors. Those considering sanctioning Ethiopia - one of the world's poorest nations (with mostly Orthodox Amhara being the poorest region) - need to gather some facts, think strategically and consider the Big Picture. Please pray for Ethiopia.
* SUDAN [RLPB 559 (22 July)], after fundamentalist Muslims protested in Khartoum, North Khartoum and neighbouring Omdurman over the transitional government's legal reforms. The reforms remove a swath of discriminatory and repressive Islamic Sharia provisions. Incited by Islamic political parties and radical clerics, the protesters called for 'jihad' against the 'apostate government' of Prime Minister Hamdock. Please pray for Sudan.
JULY 2020 ROUND-UP - also this month
* ARMENIA: BETWEEN AZERBAIJAN AND TURKEY
As Azerbaijan was quick to point out, the clashes took place not far from the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline operated by British Petroleum. On 15 July Azerbaijanis rallied in Baku demanding they be mobilised for war against Armenia. Standing with its ally Azerbaijan, Turkey weighed in by threatening Armenia, warning that it 'will be crushed' and will 'definitely pay' for its actions. Turkey's President Erdogan has long fantasised about the prospect of establishing a pan-Turkic empire spreading eastward. Similarly, Azerbaijani officials have repeatedly been recorded fantasising about wiping Armenia off the map. Whilst most analysts do not anticipate a full-blown war, many are concerned that conflict could escalate. Clashes between Armenian and Azerbaijani migrants and diaspora have also erupted in various cities including London, Brussels, Moscow and Los Angeles. Please pray for peace to be restored.
* CYPRUS: BUILD UP OF TURKISH TROOPS
On 28 July the UN Security Council voted unanimously to extend the mandate of its peacekeeping force on Cyprus, expressing serious concern at violations of the military status quo along the ceasefire line. Turkey immediately slammed the decision. When Turkey invaded Cyprus in 1974, it ethnically cleansed the north and set about erasing its Greek Christian heritage. The prospect that neo-Ottoman Turkey might attempt to occupy the entire island would greatly concern the roughly 640,000 mostly Greek Orthodox Christians living in Greek-Cypriot controlled Cyprus. Please pray.
* IRAQ: CHRISTIANS DISPLACED BY TURKISH BOMBING
|Assyrian village in Dohuk, deserted. |
source: K24, 1 July 2020
ALERT: On 24 June a Turkish official confirmed that Turkey - which already has more than a dozen 'observation posts' inside Iraq - intends to establish three military bases and a 'buffer zone' inside Iraq, something the Iraqi government is bound to resist. If Turkey is serious about establishing bases and a 'buffer zone' in northern Iraq - just as it has done in northern Syria - then might not this bombing be ethnic cleansing?
* NIGERIA: TERROR AND GENOCIDE
|The Rev. Shamah Kuyet Ishaya, of the|
Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA);
killed in a Fulani attack in Zikpak,
southern Kaduna state, 24 July 2020.
(Courtesy ECWA for Morning Star News).
P.S. And lest anyone thinks that TURKEY has nothing to do with the Christian crisis in Nigeria, Defense & Foreign Affairs Strategic Policy (ISSA) reported in its 1,2019 issue, that Boko Haram's 'supply lines and general logistical support from abroad — nominally from DI’ISH (Islamic State), but actually often engaging assets of the intelligence service of Turkey, MÝT (Milli Ýstihbarat Teþ-kilatý) — have grown stronger.' Please pray that God will intervene in Turkey, for the sake his children, everywhere!
She has authored two books: 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).