Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 580 | Wed 16 DEC 2020
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(1) THE FOG OF 2020
(2) SYRIA: LOVING SYRIA'S CHRISTIANS
By Elizabeth Kendal
THE FOG OF 2020
In winter, it often happens that as water vapour rises from the earth it cools and condenses into water droplets leaving valleys covered in a blanket of fog, which greatly reduces visibility. Co-opting that imagery, the term 'fog of war' refers to the chaos and confusion that commonly envelopes conflict zones, greatly diminishing clarity. Similarly, we could say the year 2020 has been blanketed in a 'fog' created by the (mainly Western) world's reactionary panic (as distinct from reasoned response) and blind obsession with the COVID-19 pandemic, and the all-consuming drama of the US Presidential Election. Indeed, mainstream media has had little time for much else! Two regimes have exploited the 'fog of 2020' to advance their nefarious agendas: China's ruling Communist Party (CCP) under President Xi Jinping, and Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Exploiting the fog of 2020, China accelerated its campaign of Sinicisation - that is, its brutal campaign of political and religious repression, re-education and cultural genocide - designed to force all its citizens into a monolithic 'united front'. Armed with millions of surveillance cameras loaded with world-leading facial recognition software, a gulag of brand-new re-education facilities and a People's Armed Police (PAP) force comprising more than one million soldiers tasked with crushing internal dissent and enforcing compliance, the ruling Communist Party's advances have been breathtaking. It leaves in its wake a trail of demolished churches, monasteries, mosques and temples; imprisoned pastors, imams, monks and human rights advocates; a de-Christianised skyline and a persecuted Church increasingly anxious about its future.
Also exploiting the fog of 2020, Turkey has advanced its neo-Ottoman imperial ambitions by inserting itself into, or increasing its aggression in, Libya, Northern Syria, the Eastern Mediterranean (including Cyprus), and the South Caucuses (specifically the war/jihad against Armenians in Artsakh). Armed with tens of thousands of Syrian jihadists and cutting-edge drones (in particular the Turkish-made, tank-eliminating, Bayraktar TB2), Turkey's advances have been breath-taking. It leaves in its wake a trail of dead and displaced Libyans, Kurds, Assyrians and Armenians, along with a multitude of increasingly anxious Greek-speaking Christians.
Please pray: that the 'fog' will lift, that clarity will be restored, that the world will care (unlikely), and that the Church will rise in solidarity to speak-up (Proverbs 31:8-9), to give (James 2:15-16), and to pray for the persecuted Church (Ephesians 6:12-18). [See http://www.elizabethkendal.com/action/ ]
SYRIA: LOVING SYRIA'S CHRISTIANS
|click on map to enlarge|
1) TURKEY IN SYRIA: TARGETING TEL TAMER
UPDATE to RLPB 564, Syria: Turkey Weaponises Water, 26 Aug 2020.
Led by the Kurdish YPG (which Turkey deems a terrorist organisation), the anti-Islamist Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) incorporates Kurdish, Arab, Assyrian and some Armenian militias. After years of fighting Islamic State in Hasakah, the SDF is now fighting to resist Turkish occupation. In late October, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened to launch another military operation against the SDF in northern Syria. Today, with Turkey eager to change realities on the ground before a new administration can be set up in Washington, it appears that operation might be imminent.
Analysts surmise that Turkey may be planning to expand on two fronts: (1) in northern Aleppo Governorate, where it would seize the Kurdish border town of Kobani before possibly advancing as far south-west as Manbij; and (2) in northeast Hasakah Governorate, where Tel Tamer - an Assyrian town situated at the head of a string of some 30 Assyrian towns along the Khabur River - is already under sustained attack. Of Turkey's more than 800 ceasefire violations this year - violations which include armed conflict, shelling, drone strikes, looting and property destruction - more than 138 have targeted Tel Tamer alone. According to reports, the recent increase in violence corresponds directly with the return to Syria from Azerbaijan of Islamic militants recruited by Turkey for jihad against Artsakh's Armenians [see RLPB 575, 'Genocide Postponed? 11 Nov 2020]. Their task now, so it seems, will be jihad against Kurds and remnant Assyrian and Armenian Christians. Please pray.
2) US SANCTIONS: POVERTY AND HUNGER FOR CHRISTMAS
UPDATE to RLPB 554 Syria: Damascus Under Siege, 17 June 2020
The US administration's Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act essentially places all government-controlled areas of Syria in a state of economic siege. This happens to be most of the country and where most Christians live with religious freedom and security. (Note: areas controlled by Turkey-backed and US-shielded jihadists are exempt.) As with any siege, the Caesar Act is designed to escalate suffering as in a pressure-cooker in pursuit of regime-change. The Maronite Archbishop Joseph Tobji (49) of Aleppo has labelled it 'a diabolical Act' [see RLPB 555, 'A Diabolical Act', 24 June 2020]. Of course, sanctions rarely impact ruling regimes; on the contrary, it is the people who suffer. The Caesar Act's sanctions have halted reconstruction and devastated whole sectors, including small business and agriculture. Most concerning, Syria's once thriving health sector and pharmaceuticals industry have been totally crippled, leaving Syrians without medicines and treatments [see RLPB 556, 'Caesar's Inhumanity', 1 July 2020)].
Warning of a 'hunger pandemic', the Nobel Prize-winning World Food Program reports that in the first 6 months of 2020, around 1.4 million Syrians did not know where their next meal would come from, a shocking figure which has now climbed to 9.3 million. With more than 90 percent of Syrians now living below the poverty line, smuggling, drugs and crime are on the increase as citizens grow increasingly desperate. Bread is being rationed and the price for smuggled goods is exorbitant.
As noted in RLPB 556 (1 July), the Caesar Report - which forms the pretext for the Caesar Act - was commissioned by the pro-Muslim Brotherhood (MB) ruling family of Qatar, who are sworn enemies of the Alawite anti-MB Assad and integral to the regime-change alliance. The report is fraudulent (Human Rights Watch has debunked its claims) and the Act is entirely political and entirely punitive. Furthermore, it does nothing to advance US interests.
Christmas is normally a huge national event in Syria, one in which Christians, Alawites and liberal Sunnis all participate together. This year, however, Syrians will be sharing poverty and hunger for Christmas. In particular, hundreds of thousands of Syrian Christians will celebrate the incarnation of our Lord without food, medicines or heating - not due to war, but due primarily to US sanctions. If the situation does not change, many Syrian Christians will not survive 2021. Golda Meir - Israel's Prime Minister from March 1969 to June 1974, reportedly once said: 'Peace will come when the Arabs will love their children more than they hate us.' We must pray for the day to come when American politicians will love Syria's Christians more than they hate Presidents Assad and Putin.
PLEASE PRAY THAT GOD OUR GRACIOUS FATHER WILL:
* intervene to defend and protect Christians in northern Syria, whose lives and homelands are gravely imperilled because of Turkey and its jihadist proxies; may the LORD in his mercy 'frustrate the devices of the crafty, so that their hands achieve no success' (Job 5:12).
'As for me, I would seek God, and to God would I commit my cause, who does great things and unsearchable, marvellous things without number ... So the poor have hope, and injustice shuts her mouth [from Job 5:8-16 ESV].
* intervene to have the Caesar sanctions lifted so that Syria's Christians might be able to stay, rebuild, flourish and bless their nation.
Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love, that he may deliver their soul from death and keep them alive in famine. Our soul waits for the Lord; he is our help and our shield (Psalm 33:18-20 ESV).
SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
THREAT, POVERTY AND HUNGER IN SYRIA FOR CHRISTMAS
Turkey and its jihadist proxies may soon launch another military operation in northern Syria. Already under sustained attack is the Assyrian town of Tel Tamer. Please pray! Meanwhile, due to the US administration's Caesar Act sanctions (enacted June 2020), government-controlled Syria (i.e. most of the country where most Christians live) is in a state of economic siege. Reconstruction is halted and whole sectors are crippled, including business, agriculture, health and pharmaceuticals. Before the sanctions, the World Food Program estimated that some 1.4 million Syrians were food insecure; that number has now risen to 9.3 million! Christmas is normally a huge national event in Syria. This year, however, Syrian Christians will celebrate the Incarnation without food, medicines, and heating; not due to war, but due primarily to US sanctions. Please pray.
Elizabeth Kendal is an international religious liberty analyst and advocate. She serves as Director of Advocacy at Canberra-based Christian Faith and Freedom (CFF) and is an Adjunct Research Fellow at the Arthur Jeffery Centre for the Study of Islam at Melbourne School of Theology.
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).