Tuesday, April 6, 2021

RLPB 592. RAMADAN casts a dark shadow

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 592 | Wed 07 Apr 2021
RLPB is published weekly to facilitate strategic intercessory prayer.

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DIARY

    Ramadan (Muslim month of fasting): 12/13 April to 13 May

    Orthodox Easter: Palm Sunday, 25 April;
                                Good Friday, 30 April;
                                 Resurrection Sunday, 2 May.


RAMADAN CASTS A DARK SHADOW
- analysts anticipate military offensives in Iraq, Syria, and Armenia.
by Elizabeth Kendal

RAMADAN: In pre-Islamic times, Ramadan was about more than fasting during daylight hours. It was also a month of peace in which the pagan Arabs would take a rest from fighting and raiding. So established was this tradition that, during Ramadan, caravans would transport their wares unarmed. Not only did Muhammad Islamise Ramadan, he also exploited it to acquire much-needed booty for his struggling Muslim community. For not only was Muhammad a 'prophet', ruler and judge; he was also a warlord who raided unarmed caravans, reportedly with Allah's permission, for the benefit of Islam. Consequently, Ramadan became a time not only for prayer and fasting, but a time for Islamic advance by violent means. That said, many, if not most, Muslims around the world today are simple traditionalists and/or genuine God-seekers, opposed to such violence. Muslim from birth, they remain ignorant of Islam's texts. Forbidden from criticising or rejecting the religion upon threat of death, they remain captives of Islam's elites. Despite this, the Spirit of God is moving powerfully within Muslim communities around the world in our day! So please continue to pray this Ramadan, for the Church in Muslim lands, and for Muslims under Islam's yoke. https://www.30daysprayer.com/

'... they will do these things [hate, persecute and kill you (John 15:18 to 16:4)] because they have not known the Father, nor me' [John 16:3].


As the Iraqi government liberated
Nineveh Province in 2016-2017,
the first thing Christians did was
restore their church crosses. 
(World Watch Monitor, Nov 2016)

IRAQ: Pope Francis visited Iraq from 5 to 8 March. Along with meeting political and religious leaders, Pope Francis participated in interfaith worship in the city of Ur, the birthplace of Abraham, where he prayed on behalf of Iraq's 'Jews, Christians, and Muslims', thanking God 'for having given us Abraham, a distinguished son of this noble and beloved country, to be our common father in faith' (a highly contentious assertion). He also asked 'the God of our father Abraham' to 'Open our hearts to mutual forgiveness' (as if Muslims need to forgive Christians who must be equally guilty of morally equivalent evil). Christians are not the only ones profoundly divided over the Pope's words and deeds. While many Muslims would have embraced his message of peaceful co-existence, Islamic State has interpreted the Pope's interfaith initiative as a 'crusade' to 'remove the shariah of Allah from this land and to establish polytheistic religion in its place'. IS responded to the sight of Pope Francis 'lifting his profane cross over the ruins of Mosul', by promising fresh attacks on Iraqi churches, warning that jihadists 'will remove their crosses very soon' as they did 'the first time [in 2014], with Allah's permission'. Please pray for Iraq's long-suffering, enduring, but gravely imperilled, remnant Church.

REPORT: ISW (9 March 2021)

SYRIA: The Institute for the Study of War reports (9 March): 'Islamic State has established a stable territorial base in the mountainous regions of the Central Syrian Desert and has begun to overtake pro-Assad regime forces in the area.' Not only has IS been successfully defending its territory, it has also been launching attacks north into Aleppo Governorate, where it is seeking to re-establish smuggling routes into Turkey; west into Hama Governorate, where it is threatening the critical, Damascus-Aleppo M5 Highway; southwest through Homs Governorate, attacking energy infrastructure to within 30km of Damascus and threatening (again) the mostly Christian town of Al-Qaryatayn; and east into Deir ez-Zor, where it is challenging the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (including Assyrian and Armenian fighters) with eyes fixed on the Euphrates River. Iraq is fortifying its border. Suffering immense hardship due to the ravages of war and brutal US sanctions, the Church in Syria now also faces the threat of an Islamic State offensive. Please pray.

ARMENIA: Analysts suspect Turkey and Azerbaijan are preparing to launch a military offensive to seize control of territory in Armenia's southern Syunik Province [see RLPB 591 (31 March 2021)]. Many anticipate that Azerbaijan and Ukraine (both allies and strategic partners of Turkey) will launch simultaneous provocations to trigger simultaneous conflicts, both of which will draw in Russia. Analysts suspect that Turkey might be seeking to force Russia to fight on two fronts primarily so it might extract concessions, specifically on Syunik (which Turks refer to as Zangezur). Turkey, which was excluded from the 9 Nov 2020 Russia-brokered ceasefire Agreement for Artsakh/Nagorno-Karabakh [see RLPB 575, 'Genocide Postponed?' (11 Nov 2020)], is not content with safe transit through Syunik (as mandated by the Agreement). Rather, Turkey wants a 'Zangezur Corridor' over which Azerbaijan will have sovereignty. Geo-strategically the creation of a 'Zangezur Corridor' would be a huge gain for Azerbaijan and neo-Ottoman Turkey, especially if it is incorporated into China's Belt & Road Initiative. On the other hand, it would be an existential catastrophe for Armenia, which would lose its southern border with Iran. It would also require the killing and ethnic-cleansing of yet more Armenians and the loss of yet more ancient Christian heritage. Ramadan would be the perfect time to rally local and international jihadis to the neo-Ottoman Islamist cause. The dark clouds of Turk aggression hang over the Armenians yet again. Please watch and pray.


PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT:

* God will watch over and defend his persecuted and threatened Church this Ramadan.

- May the Iraqi government secure Iraq's churches in the wake of direct threats from Islamic State; may the government's words of support for the Christian community be proved true by its actions;

- May all anti-Islamic State forces operating in Syria - i.e. Syrian government forces, the Kurdish-led SDF, Russia, Iran and the US - co-operate to end the scourge of IS in Syria once and for all;

- And may Yahweh Sabaoth (the Lord of Hosts; the commander of Heaven's angelic forces) oversee the preservation of Iraq's remnant Christians and Syria's suffering Church; may the Lord protect, sustain and build them up, as bearers of the Gospel, the hope of Mesopotamia (Syria-Iraq).

* intervene in the South Caucasus to enable a breakthrough that will preserve the territorial integrity of Armenia; and because politics, weapons and alliances do fail, may the Church exalt, glorify and place her trust in Yahweh Sabaoth, that the battle might be turned back at the gate (Isaiah 28:5-6).

* the Holy Spirit will move with transforming power this Ramadan, graciously revealing Christ to Muslims, in answer to the prayers of many.


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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RAMADAN CASTS A DARK SHADOW

In pre-Islamic times, Ramadan was a month of fasting and peace. Breaking with tradition, Muhammad exploited Ramadan. He raided unarmed caravans, reportedly with Allah's permission, to acquire booty for his struggling Muslim community. Consequently, Ramadan became a time not only for prayer and fasting, but also for Islamic advance through violence. This year Ramadan dates from 12/13 April to 13 May. In Iraq, Islamic State has directly threatened Iraq's churches, promising attacks to 'remove their crosses' as in 2014. In Syria, a resurgent Islamic State is poised to launch a Ramadan offensive from its bases in the mountains of the Central Syrian Desert. Meanwhile, analysts suspect that Azerbaijan and neo-Ottoman Turkey are preparing to launch a military campaign to seize control of territory in Armenia's southern Syunik Province. Please pray.

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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).

See www.ElizabethKendal.com