Tuesday, May 25, 2021

RLPB 599. May Update, Incl. Nigeria, Armenia and Azerbaijan, Burkina Faso and Mali, China, Finland, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Uganda.

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 599 | Wed 26 May 2021
RLPB is published weekly to facilitate strategic intercessory prayer.

Please forward this prayer bulletin widely and encourage others to sign up to “Follow by email” on the Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin (RLPB) blog. ‘For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds’ (2 Corinthians 10:4 ESV). 

DIARY

'The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord' (Proverbs 16:33 ESV) 'who works all things according to the counsel of his will' (from Ephesians 1:11 ESV).

Please pray.

------------------------------

MAY 2021 UPDATE
By Elizabeth Kendal

DURING THIS PERIOD, WE PRAYED CONCERNING:

* NIGERIA [RLPB 596 (5 May)], after Boko Haram over-ran three military bases and emptied at least 42 villages across two Local Government Areas in the far east of Niger State. This locates Boko Haram close to the border with already-traumatised, predominantly Christian Southern Kaduna and only about 200 km (by road) north-west of Nigeria's federal capital, Abuja.  

CONSTITUTION: We also prayed concerning the need to reform Nigeria's military-influenced 1999 constitution. Nigeria is the only country practising a federal system of government but operating a unitary police force. This critical flaw has contributed massively to Nigeria's crisis of insecurity, as state governments cannot provide basic security to citizens under their jurisdiction. Please pray.

UPDATE: ABUBAKAR SHEKAU DEAD

 Abubakar Shekau

On 23 May Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau was hunkered down at his base in the Sambisa Forest in Borno State in Nigeria's north-east, when insurgents from Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) broke through his defences. In previous months, ISWAP had managed to kill or 'turn' many of Shekau's most senior lieutenants. In anticipation of this eventuality, Shekau was wearing a suicide vest, which he detonated to avoid being taken alive. While the government is investigating, five Nigerian officials have confirmed Shekau's death and the Wall Street Journal 'has review transcripts of geolocated, intercepted calls between insurgents discussing his suicide, alongside an audio message from a longtime mediator between Shekau and the government reporting him dead'. 

What happens next is unclear. While Shekau's death could herald the collapse of his faction, it could also massively bolster ISWAP which is primed to take over operations. It brings to an end the long-running feud between Shekau and ISWAP leader Abu Musab al-Barnawi, the son of Boko Haram founder, Muhammed Yusuf [see RLPB 562 (12 Aug 2020)]. All the while, Nigeria continues to spiral into lawlessness [see Morning Star News / Nigeria]. The Christian crisis in Nigeria's Muslim-majority North and volatile, mixed Middle Belt could be about to get a whole lot worse. Please pray.

* PAPUA, INDONESIA [RLPB 597 (12 May)], where the indigenous, ethnic Melanesian, predominantly Christian Papuans were fleeing their highland villages in Intan Jaya, Puncak Jaya and Nduga regencies ahead of a major Indonesian 'anti-terror' campaign led by an especially brutal Javanese Muslim battalion nick-named 'Satan's Forces'. What should be a police action to arrest a handful of armed criminals, has been ramped up into a major military operation to 'wipe out ... separatists', terrorise Papuans, and silence dissent. Please pray for the Church in Papua.

FULL REPORT:
Papua (Indonesian): This is What State Terror Looks Like.
Religious Liberty Monitoring, 11 May 2021

* MADHYA PRADESH, INDIA [RLPB 598 (19 May)], where Pastor Manu Damor (35) and his wife Asha had survived a terrifying Easter Sunday attack by Hindutva activists, only then to be arrested, jailed and charged as criminals. Asha spent a week in jail and Manu a month before being bailed and reunited with their three young children. Please pray.

HINDUTVA: We also prayed that God would redeem India's COVID crisis, to awaken Indians to the megalomania, greed and self-interest of the ruling Hindu nationalist BJP government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The current COVID crisis has been sourced to the month-long Kumbh Mela (Hindu festival) held throughout April in Haridwar. It is an absolute scandal that the BJP brought the Kumbh forward by a year, purely for political gain! Could this spell the end of Hindutva politics? Could this be a 'kairos' moment for India, in much the same way the 4 June 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre was a 'kairos' moment for China - paving the way for Christianity (previously a mostly rural phenomenon) to move into the cities? Please pray!

MAY 2021 ROUND-UP - also this month:

* ARMENIA-AZERBAIJAN: BORDER TENSIONS AND AZERI BELLIGERENCE

Tensions are soaring along Armenia's international south-eastern border with Azerbaijan [see RLPB 591 'Armenia-Azerbaijan: New War Looms' (31 March)]. Prior to the September-November 2020 war, this border was inside Armenian-controlled territory. Today, Armenian and Azeri soldiers stand face to face and tensions are soaring. On 18 April three Azeri soldiers crossed into Armenia's southernmost Syunik Province and threatened an Armenian shepherd in his field near Aravus Village. They seized him, beat him and were attempting to drag him into their trench a mere 50 metres away when Armenian servicemen, who had witnessed the attack from their observation post, raced across and rescued the shepherd.

The eastern border of Syunik Province has never been delimited or demarcated, and Armenia uses a Soviet-era topological map which is different to the Soviet-era military map used by Azerbaijan. Resolving this issue will prove exceedingly difficult and could be used as a pretext for war, especially as Azeri President Ilham Aliev has already asserted that Syunik (Zangezur to Azeris) is 'a historic territory of Azerbaijan'. On 12 May Azeri troops advanced some 3.5km into Syunik and surrounded Lake Sev, which is around 10km north of Goris, close to the Lachin corridor. An artificial reservoir, Lake Sev (Black Lake) is the area's main source of water. On 16 May, instead of withdrawing as Armenia demanded, Azerbaijan commenced a new round of military exercises. The Armenian crisis is far from over. Please pray.

Source: Map of Azerbaijan’s Territorial Demands in 1919


* BURKINA FASO: BAPTISM MASSACRE
- plus Islamic State enacts Sharia Law in Northern Mali

On Tuesday evening 18 May, Christians had gathered for a baptism in Burkina Faso's far north when gunmen stormed the celebration and opened fire. Fifteen Christians were killed in the attack which took place in Adjarara, about 7km from the town of Tin-Akoff in Oudalan Province, close to the border with Mali. Islamic State and al-Qaeda operate in the area, but no group has claimed responsibility. Many people have reportedly fled the area. Please pray for the Church in Burkina Faso. On 20 May Islamic State released photos within its weekly Al-Naba newsletter purporting to show its men enacting hudud punishments - specifically amputations - in the market in Tin-Hama, Gao Region. Please pray for security to be restored in this remote tri-border region of the Sahel, where the borders of Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger meet. Having become a lawless terror-hub, it now poses a threat to the whole region. 

* CHINA: ELDER ZHANG FORMALLY ARRESTED

Zhang Chunlei, an elder in Ren'ai [Love] Reformed Church (RRC) in Guiyang City, was detained by police on 16 March when he attended a police station to negotiate on behalf of arrested church members. On 28 March, after 12 days in administrative detention, Elder Zhang was placed in criminal detention as a 'fraud suspect' [see RLPB 593 (14 April)]. On 1 May - the day that China's new administrative measures on religious clergy came into effect [see RLPB 585 (17 Feb)] - authorities formally arrested Elder Zhang 'on suspicion of fraud'. On 10 May Elder Zhang met with his lawyer and told him that, while initially he was very worried, God had given him faith to entrust things completely to Him. Always an elder, Zhang sent a message to church members encouraging them to pray for him, continue gathering together and not be distressed by what was happening, because God can be trusted. Please pray for the Church in China.

* FINLAND: BIBLICAL MORALITY IS HATE SPEECH?
- an increasingly common trend in the increasingly neo-Marxist West.

In 2004, the Luther Foundation Finland - the legal entity behind the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland (ELMDF) - published a booklet entitled 'Male and Female He Created Them: Homosexual Relationships Challenge the Christian Concept of Humanity', authored by Dr Päivi Räsänen. A medical doctor, Ms Räsänen served as chair of the Christian Democratic Party from 2004 to 2015 and as Finland's Interior Minister between 2011 and 2015. In June 2019, after her church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, announced its partnership with the LGBT event 'Pride 2019', she took to social media to ask the question: 'How can the church's doctrinal foundation, the Bible, be compatible with the lifting up of shame and sin as a subject of pride?' To her dismay, the police launched an investigation against her [see RLPB 542 (25 March 2020)].

On 29 April, after a two-year long investigation, Finland's Prosecutor-General Ms Raija Toiviainen charged Räsänen with three counts of incitements against a minority group, a crime punishable by a fine or up to two years of imprisonment. The charge relates to the 2004 booklet and two other more recent occasions where she presented the case for Biblical morality. As editor-in-chief of Luther Foundation Finland's publications, the Rev Dr Juhana Pohjola, diocesan dean and bishop-elect of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland (ELMDF), has been charged with the same offence. At stake is whether a belief based on the traditional teachings of the Bible and the Christian churches can still be expressed in Finland. Please pray.

Dr Päivi Räsänen and Rev Dr Juhana Pohjola


* INDONESIA: SUPREME COURT OVER-RULES ON RELIGIOUS FREEDOM

On Monday 10 May Indonesia's Supreme Court ruled that a joint ministerial decree that banned schools from mandating religious attire, be declared null and void. The ministerial decree - which was issued to protect the individual freedom of students to wear or not to wear Islamic religious attire - had been jointly issued by the education ministry, home affairs ministry and religious affairs ministry and signed on 3 February. The decree was enthusiastically welcomed by human rights activists who had highlighted cases of gross intolerance in schools that mandated the use of hijabs or jilbabs for all female students [Human Rights Watch, March 2021]. The decree was a response to a controversy which arose in January after a state school in Padang, West Sumatra, made hijabs mandatory for all female students, including Christians. Jakarta Post notes that the decree was in line with a provision in the 2003 law on the education system that mandates that education be carried out in a non-discriminatory manner by upholding religious values and national diversity. Despite this, the Supreme Court over-ruled and struck it down. The decision is a major set-back for human rights and religious freedom in increasingly Islamic Indonesia. Please pray.

* SAUDI ARABIA: CONVERT TO FACE COURT

RLPB is following the case of A., a Saudi convert to Christianity who is persevering through serious persecution and is now facing legal action all because of his faith in Jesus Christ [see RLPB 595 April Update (28 April)]. Middle East Concern reports that on 5 May, A.'s wife was contacted by her family and told her mother was ill after receiving a COVID-19 vaccination. It was, however, a ruse. When A.'s wife arrived at her mother's home, she was essentially taken captive there. The family believes that A. will be sent to prison, and their daughter (A.'s wife) should divorce A. and stay with them. A.'s next court hearing is on 30 May. Meanwhile, he is trying to get his wife released by her family. Prayer points: see Middle East Concern.

* UGANDA: PASTOR BRUTALLY SLAUGHTERED

Pallisa town is in a rural region of Pallisa District, Eastern Uganda. It functions as the main centre of education in the region. On Monday 3 May Pastor Thomas Chikooma, a resident of Komolo village, Pallisa town, participated in a Muslim-Christian debate at a taxi park in the town. Area Muslims, who had been holding public discussions there for about a month, had invited the pastor - a well-known evangelist who led St Martin Church in Ngalwe Village - to offer a defence of Christianity. Armed with the Bible, the Quran and an abundance of grace, Pastor Chikooma spoke convincingly and, in the process, led 14 people, including six Muslims, to faith in Jesus Christ. 

As would be expected, some Muslims were furious. When angry Muslims started shouting 'Allah Akbar' he and his son got on their motorbike and fled away. When they overtook him, Pastor Chikooma parked his motorcycle, left his son, and walked ahead to talk with the Muslims. But the Muslims were not interested in talking. Pastor Chikooma's son ran home and got his mother, Jessica Naikomba who, along with neighbours, went in search of her husband. Eventually they found him, and the sight will leave them traumatised for life. Jessica Naikomba told Morning Star News (MSN) that 'we found my husband in a pool of blood, beheaded and his tongue removed'. Pastor Chikooma had planted 50 churches in eastern Uganda and was father to 11 children. As Salvation Ministries International bishop Denis Akora explained to MSN, 'The family needs prayers, financial support and trauma counselling at this trying moment.' Please pray.

Surviving wife and children mourn the 3 May 2021 killing
of Pastor Thomas Chikooma in eastern Uganda.
(Morning Star News, 12 May)

----------------------------------------

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 

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

RLPB 598. India: Victims of Hindutva 'Virus'

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 598 | Wed 19 May 2021
RLPB is published weekly to facilitate strategic intercessory prayer.

Please forward this prayer bulletin widely and encourage others to sign up to “Follow by email” on the Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin (RLPB) blog.  ‘For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds’ (2 Corinthians 10:4 ESV).

INDIA: VICTIMS OF HINDUTVA 'VIRUS'
(1) Lawfare in Madhya Pradesh; (2) The end of Modi Magic?
by Elizabeth Kendal

LAWFARE IN MADHYA PRADESH

Pastor Manu Damor (35)
with his wife Asha
and their young daughter.
(Morning Star News)

On Easter Sunday 4 April Pastor Manu Damor (35) led a 4pm worship service for five Christian families in a private home in Rangwasa Village, Indore District, Madhya Pradesh (MP). Towards the end of the service four or five men walked into the home and aggressively questioned the believers. The Christians objected, so the men left, only to return shortly afterwards with a mob of more than 300 angry Hindu nationalists who demanded that Pastor Manu be delivered over to them. The Christians refused, so the Hindus unleashed a terrifying attack on the house, all the while hurling obscenities and issuing death threats. Fortunately, by the time the attackers had breached the roof and entered the house, the police had arrived. The police took Pastor Manu, his wife Asha and their three young children into custody for their own protection. With tensions soaring, police recommended they remain in detention overnight and return home the next day after things had cooled down. The couple sent their two oldest children, aged 4 and 5, home with a Christian family, but kept their 18-month-old daughter with them in the prison as she was not yet weaned.

The next morning, as the family was waiting to be released to go home, they were informed that a complaint had been registered against them. During the night a mob, comprised of radical Hindu nationalists and influential political figures, stormed the police station demanding Pastor Manu and Asha be charged with the non-bailable offence of procuring illegal conversions [see RLPB 583, Madhya Pradesh: anti-conversion law ramped up (3 Feb 2021)]. Instead of going home, the couple would have to remain in jail and face court. According to the First Information Report (FIR), Pastor Manu and Asha offered to pay a woman named Leela Bai 3000 rupees every month if she would convert to Christianity. The charge is ridiculous, false and baseless. Regardless, the couple have been charged under the Penal Code's Section 294: 'Whoever, to the annoyance of others - (a) does any obscene act in any public place, or (b) sings, recites or utters any obscene song, ballad or words, in or near any public place, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three months, or with fine, or with both.'

With COVID-19 running rampant through the jails, the couple sent their 18-month-old daughter home with Christians, who then delivered all three children into the care of their grandmother. The separation has been deeply distressing for all concerned. While Asha was released on bail on 12 April (the day MP went into lockdown), Pastor Manu remained in jail until 4 May. The case against them is before the High Court. Furthermore, sources told Morning Star News that residents of Rangwasa are now terrorising the village's three Christian families, threatening to burn them all alive if Pastor Manu or Asha ever pass by the village again. Please pray.

---------------------------------------

THE END OF MODI MAGIC?

31 lakh (3.1 million) devotees take a holy dip
at Haridwar Kumbh on Monday 12 April 2021.
India Today, 13 April 2021 (photo PTI)

Hindutva (Hindu nationalism) is not Hinduism. Hindutva is a political tool through which religion is exploited for political gain. Founded in April 1980 as the political wing of the Sangh Parivar (a collection of Hindu nationalist organisations), the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) now rules India with an absolute majority. Unfortunately, the Hindutva 'virus' (Hindu nationalist ideology) attaches itself to the worst elements of human nature - megalomania, pride, greed, self-interest and fear - and in the absence of restraint, spreads rapidly. The symptoms of Hindutva are hatred, communalism, willingness to inflict harm and lack of empathy. It is incredibly destructive. Christians are increasingly being violently persecuted with impunity, and 'lawfare' is increasingly common in the nine BJP-ruled north Indian states where anti-conversion laws - known in India as Freedom of Religion laws - have been enacted. [From east to west: Arunachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat.]

When fortunes appeared to be lagging ahead of the 2019 polls, the BJP not only reversed its fortunes but increased its majority by running a subversive campaign of mass manipulation through social media, unprecedented in its sophistication. According to an analyst who worked on the campaign, the strategy was to create 'a customised enemy for every group' and posit the BJP as the solution. While the tactic worked, inasmuch as it secured political conversions, it has fuelled communalism and further shredded India's social fabric [RLPB 506 (12 June 2019)].

Since 2014, much of the BJP's electoral success has been down to what is known as 'Modi Magic': that is, the personality cult of Narendra Modi. Today, the Modi Magic is beginning to fade. India's current COVID crisis has been sourced to the month-long Kumbh Mela (Hindu festival) held throughout April in Haridwar (roughly 200km north-east of New Delhi) in Uttarakhand. Held every 12 years, the Kumbh was not due until 2022. However, with critical state elections looming, the BJP wanted to hold it now! And so the BJP accepted astrological advice that said the festival - long known to be a super-spreader event - could be brought forward by a year. Hindu devotees from all across India descended on Haridwar in their millions, caught the virus, and then shared it freely while on their journey home. Indians are starting to realise that the BJP does not have the welfare of the people at heart. On the contrary, the BJP will sacrifice anything - including communal peace (the loss of which has been catastrophic for Christians) and human lives (even the lives of Hindus!) - to retain its power and privilege. Could this spell the end of Hindutva politics?

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL:

* comfort, sustain and protect Pastor Manu and Asha Damor as they prepare for their trial in BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh. May the family - children, grandparents and fellow believers - know the peace (Matthew 11:28-30) that comes from trusting a good, faithful and sovereign God (Matthew 10:29-31).

* move in the hearts of the hostile Hindu nationalists who bore false witness against Pastor Manu and Asha - in particular Leela Bai (the woman who falsely claimed to have been bribed to convert); may they repent and confess so that truth and justice might prevail and so there might be forgiveness, deliverance (from the 'father of lies'), salvation and reconciliation to the glory of Christ.

* redeem India's COVID crisis, to awaken Indians to the megalomania, greed and self-interest of the ruling Hindu nationalist BJP government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is nothing but another false 'god'. Lord in your mercy, intervene to restore liberty to India.

* grace all India's Christian leaders - in churches, families, workplaces and communities - with words of wisdom and deeds of grace, that they might be channels of healing and hope in these days of crisis, grief and fear.


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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VICTIMS OF HINDUTVA 'VIRUS' IN INDIA

The Hindutva 'virus' (Hindu nationalist ideology) attaches itself to the worst elements of human nature - megalomania, pride, greed, self-interest and fear. Its symptoms include hatred, communalism, willingness to inflict harm and lack of empathy. It is incredibly destructive. Until recently, Hindutva's victims have mostly been non-Hindus - especially Christians - who are relegated as second-class citizens and persecuted with impunity. Today, its victims include the Hindus now dying due to Hindutva politics. India's current COVID crisis has been sourced to the month-long Kumbh Mela (Hindu festival) held throughout April in Haridwar, Uttarakhand. Held every 12 years, the Kumbh was not due until 2022. However, with critical state elections looming, the ruling Hindu nationalist BJP wanted to hold it now! Millions attended the super-spreader event. Could this spell the end of Hindutva politics? 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).

See www.ElizabethKendal.com 

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

RLPB 597. Papua (Indonesia): 'Satan's Forces' Enter a Darkened Papua.

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 597 | Wed 12 May 2021
RLPB is published weekly to facilitate strategic intercessory prayer.

Please forward this prayer bulletin widely and encourage others to sign up to “Follow by email” on the Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin (RLPB) blog. ‘For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds’ (2 Corinthians 10:4 ESV). 

PAPUA (INDONESIA): 'SATAN'S FORCES' ENTER A DARKENED PAPUA
by Elizabeth Kendal

On 25 April armed rebels in Papua's Puncak Regency shot and killed a senior Indonesian intelligence official in what analysts suspect was a planned assassination [see RLPB 595 (27 April)]. Indonesian President Joko Widodo immediately called for retaliation and, on 29 April, Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Mahfud MD announced that Papuan armed criminal groups (Kelompok Kriminal Bersenjata: KKB) would now be categorised as 'terrorists' in line with Counterterrorism Law No. 8/2018 which grants the security forces expanded powers.

Papuan Governor Lukas Enembe immediately urged the government to reconsider, warning that the 'terrorist' designation could bring the Papuans great harm. Numerous human rights organisations and advocates - including Human Rights Watch (HRW), Amnesty International and the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC) - similarly denounced the move, concerned that the terrorist designation could trigger racist violence against Papuans outside of Papua. It could be used to justify mass, gross human rights abuses, including arbitrary arrests, torture and killings, much of it compounded by the extreme racial-religious hatred so many Javanese Muslims (especially those in the Indonesian military) have for their ethnicly Melanesian, predominantly Christian compatriots. On Sunday 2 May Indonesian media reported that the Indonesian military (TNI) had deployed its 400-strong elite Infantry 315/Garuda Battalion to Papua. Video footage has been released of the battle-hardened battalion - which earned its nickname 'Satan's forces' (pasukan setan) in East Timor where it came to be known for its brutal methods - performing military drills in Papua on 1 May.

'Satan's Forces' perform military drills in Papua, 1 May 2021.


On 4 May Papuan leader-in-exile Benny Wenda issued a statement in which he warned: 'Huge Indonesian military operations, some of the largest in years, are imminent in West Papua. The internet is being cut off, hundreds more troops are being deployed, and we are receiving reports that West Papuan civilians are fleeing from their villages in Intan Jaya, Puncak Jaya, and Nduga regencies ... This looks like it will be the biggest military operation in West Papua since the late 1970s'. Wenda warned that, along with Satan's Forces, the Jala Mangkara Detachment (Denjaka), elite troops of the Indonesian Navy, are also being deployed for what he insists is 'state terrorism'. On 6 May Reuters confirmed that internet services have been disrupted in the provincial capital of Jayapura and nearby Sentani (40km to the west) since 30 April. Exiled Indonesian rights activist, Victoria Koman, said she had received reports that mobile and internet services in Puncak have also been disrupted. Papua has gone dark!

As tensions soared, Andreas Harsono, a researcher with HRW's Indonesia office, urged the Indonesian government to put the threat posed by Papuan KKB into perspective: 'According to Indonesian military estimates, they only have (around) 200 weapons ... This is going to affect these indigenous people so much.' Which brings us to the truth! The real goal of this totally disproportionate military offensive is not security! The real goal is not to neutralise an existential terrorist threat, for there isn't one! On the contrary, the real goal of state terror is always political! The real goal is to eliminate resistance to Indonesian rule by massively inflating the cost. The real goal is to crush spiritually and intimidate into silence all indigenous, predominantly Christian Papuans who have ever so much as dreamt of Papuan freedom!

Arrested: Victor Yeimo in handcuffs, 9 May 2021

On Sunday 9 May Indonesian police arrested Victor Yeimo (38, one of the most prominent leaders inside Papua) in Papua's provincial capital, Jayapura. The Indonesian government is accusing Yeimo of treason, which, as UK-based Wenda explains, is ridiculous. 'He is accused of "masterminding" the 2019 West Papua Uprising, which was started by Indonesian racism and violence [RLM (27 Aug 2019)] and ended in a bloodbath caused by Indonesian troops' [RLPB 521 (24 Sept 2019)]. But as People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) Speaker, Bambang Soesatyo, so shamelessly explained at the outset, the real goal is to 'destroy them first' and 'discuss human rights matters later'. 

For an expanded version of this RLPB, see Religious Liberty Monitoring:
Papua (Indonesia): This is What State Terror Looks Like,
By Elizabeth Kendal, 12 May 2021.


PLEASE PRAY THAT OUR ALMIGHTY GOD WILL

* consider the labours of his faithful servants and the blood that was spilt while planting the seed of the Gospel in Papua; Lord in your mercy, intervene to bring about a just resolution to the humanitarian and human rights crisis engulfing the Papuan Provinces.

'Behold, the Lord God comes with might, and his arm rules for him; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him.' (Isaiah 40:10 ESV)

* protect those faithful labourers who continue to serve the Lord and his Church in the Papuan Provinces today; we especially pray for Indonesian and ex-patriate Christian missionaries who may well be especially vulnerable at this time. Father, protect them from those misunderstandings that tend to arise in the 'fog of war'; protect them as well from wartime lies and propaganda mischievously disseminated to cause division and inflict harm. Lord in your mercy, pour out an abundance of clarity, discernment, and grace! We pray especially for the work of Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF), whose planes and pilots will be greatly imperilled yet greatly needed: Lord in your mercy, please protect them.

* redeem these trials to draw Papuans ever closer to himself; may Papuan men, women and children look to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of their faith (from Hebrews 12:1,2) and 'see the salvation of the Lord' which he will surely work for those who trust him (from Exodus 14:13,14).

* turn the hearts of many nations towards the indigenous, ethnic Melanesian, predominantly Christian Papuans, who are in many cases their co-religionists and in some cases the legacy of their own missionaries. Lord in your mercy, shatter the silence that covers Papua like a shroud and shields evil-doers from accountability. God of justice and righteousness, we ask that Jakarta would be forced to change its ways, for the sake of your precious Papuan Church.

Prayer points developed from:
RLPB 519, How Will the Story End? (10 Sep 2019).

SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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'SATAN'S FORCES' ENTER A DARKENED PAPUA

On 25 April armed rebels in Papua's Puncak Regency shot and killed a leading Indonesian Intelligence official. Indonesian President Joko Widodo immediately called for retaliation and had Papuan armed criminal groups (KKB) designated 'terrorists', a label used to justify extreme measures. Among the hundreds of extra troops being deployed to Papua, is the 400-strong elite Infantry 315/Garuda Battalion which earned its nickname 'Satan's Forces' while fighting in East Timor. Yet according to the Indonesian military's own estimate, Papuan KKB only possess around 200 firearms. Clearly, eliminating 'terrorists' is not the main goal. Internet and telecommunication services have been disrupted and the region's indigenous, predominately Christian Papuans are fleeing into the jungle and bracing yet again for a new wave of state terror designed to silence dissent and crush hope. 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).

See www.ElizabethKendal.com 

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

RLPB 596. Nigeria: Boko Haram Hoists Flag on Abuja's Doorstep.

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 596 | Wed 05 May 2021
RLPB is published weekly to facilitate strategic intercessory prayer.

Please forward this prayer bulletin widely and encourage others to sign up to “Follow by email” on the Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin (RLPB) blog.  ‘For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds’ (2 Corinthians 10:4 ESV). 

DIARY
Ramadan: 12/13 April to 13 May [see RLPB 592 (7 April)].
1 May: China's new 'Administrative Measures for Religious Clergy' came into force [see RLPB 585 (17 Feb)].

NIGERIA: BOKO HARAM HOISTS FLAG ON ABUJA'S DOORSTEP
Insecurity, terrorism and the 1999 Constitution.
plus: Haiti Update
by Elizabeth Kendal

Red circle: Boko Haram's latest conquest.
click on map to enlarge.
 

On Sunday 25 April Boko Haram fighters crept into Kaure, a remote village in the far east of Niger State, close to the western border of predominantly Christian, already traumatised southern Kaduna, and about 200 km (by road) north-west of Nigeria's federal capital, Abuja. When the signal was given, they struck without mercy: killing and wounding, looting and burning, torching crops and seizing women. The following day, Niger State Governor, Alhaji Abubakar Sani Bello, sounded the alarm. 'I am confirming,' he told a public forum, 'that there are Boko Haram elements here in Niger State. Here in Kaure in Shiroro Local Government Area (LGA), I am confirming that they have hoisted their flags there. The villagers' wives have been seized from them and forcefully attached to Boko Haram members. I just heard that they have placed their flags at Kaure meaning they have taken over the territory.' which, as he notes, is just 'two hours drive from Abuja'.

On Tuesday 27 April Niger State's Senator Musa Sani told the Upper House: 'I can authoritatively confirm that the Boko Haram terrorists have mounted their flags in many of the villages they have captured such as Kaure, Alawa and Magami ...' He informed the senators that over the last three days about 42 communities across Shiroro and Munya LGAs had fallen to Boko Haram, causing some 5000 villagers to become displaced. Earlier in April, the militants overran, looted and sacked three military camps in the area - in Allawa and Bassa (both in Shiroro LGA) and subsequently Zagzaga (in Munya LGA) - doubtless in preparation for what appears to be a Ramadan offensive.

IDPs from Shiroro LGA

The people of eastern Niger State and central Nigeria are mostly ethnic Gwari/Gbari. According to the Joshua Project, 38 percent follow ethnic religions, 29 percent are Muslim and 33 percent are Christian (mostly Roman Catholic). The State Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria's Niger State Chapter, Reverend Mattias Echioda, appealed to Christians in the state to give generously to help sustain the displaced (IDPs). He also called for prayer, that God would intervene in the security challenges confronting Niger State in particular, and Nigeria in general. The situation is critical not only for Christians in eastern Niger State, but also for those in neighbouring Kaduna, where 323 persons have been killed and 949 kidnapped in the last three months.

Whilst the government has deployed extra forces in and around Abuja to protect the capital, the threat facing Abuja's urban elites is nothing compared to the threat facing ordinary northern and Middle Belt Nigerians, especially those living in regional areas. In truth, the nightmare scenario of RLPB 562, 'Insecurity Enables Terrorist Expansion' (12 Aug 2020), is coming to pass: gross insecurity has paved the way for Boko Haram to expand into the Northwest and establish a foothold among the Fulani. On Sunday 2 May a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Robert Clarke, spoke on Channels Television's Programme, Sunday Politics, warning that the country was on the verge of collapse and might not survive another six months. While Clarke is calling for a State of Emergency, others are loath to put more power in the hands of the Buhari regime, noting that lack of authority is not the problem. On the contrary, over-centralisation - the legacy of the military-inspired 1999 Constitution - is mostly to blame.

The 1999 Constitution was prepared by the military regime of General Abdulsalami Abubakar and decreed into being, just ahead of Nigeria's return to democracy. Political scientist and historian, the late Peter Ekeh, maintained that 'the over-riding legacy of military rule in Nigeria is over-centralisation of governmental functions', and this has resulted in 'failures that are glaring' and 'debilitating consequences'. Nigeria is the only country practising a federal system of government but operating a unitary police force. Not only did the 1999 constitution abolish local police and centralise Nigeria's police force, it also expressly bans the establishment of any other police force. As Ekeh noted in his Lagos Lecture of December 2010, 'This Constitutional prohibition has the effect of depriving State Governments and Local Governments of the authorities to provide basic security for citizens under their jurisdiction ... The gradual erosion of basic security in the country must be blamed on high-handed military concentration of provision of security in the hands of Nigeria Police Force which has no presence in most towns and villages of the Federation.' 

Recommended:
Military Rule and Damage to the Spirit of the Nigerian Constitution
Peter Ekeh, Lagos Lecture, 1 December 2010 .


PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT OUR HEAVENLY FATHER WILL:

* sustain Nigeria's traumatised Church in the midst of her troubles: comfort those who grieve, heal those who are wounded and traumatised and provide for the displaced; may Yahweh Sabaoth (the Lord of Hosts, commander of heaven's angelic army) preserve and rescue all those women who have been captured as war booty and gifted to Islamic jihadists. Lord in your mercy, 'deliver us from evil' (from Matthew 6:9-13).

* redeem the current crisis to bring spiritual awakening and constitutional reform to Nigeria, a nation of immense wealth and potential, blighted by corruption and gross insecurity. May God the Redeemer (Haggo'el) have mercy on Nigeria!

* grant Nigeria's Christian leaders - spiritual, political and civic - great wisdom, insight and boldness to be truth-speakers and peace-makers, as well as channels of sustenance, hope and grace; may Nigeria's Christians 'shine as lights' (from Philippians 2:14-16) through this current darkness.

'I can do all things through him who strengthens me' (Philippians 4:13 ESV).

SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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NIGERIA: BOKO HARAM HOISTS FLAG ON ABUJA'S DOORSTEP

Gross insecurity has paved the way for the Islamic terrorist organisation, Boko Haram, to expand into Nigeria's Northwest, creating a crisis of monumental proportions. During the last week of April, in what appears to be a Ramadan Offensive, Boko Haram seized control of some 42 communities in the far east of Niger State. The villagers were defenceless because in the weeks prior, Boko Haram had looted and sacked three military bases in the region. The jihadists struck without mercy: killing, wounding, looting, burning, torching crops and seizing women. At least 5000 citizens have been displaced and Boko Haram has hoisted its flag over the area. The region borders predominantly Christian and already traumatised southern Kaduna and is just a two-hour drive from the federal capital, Abuja. Please pray.

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HAITI UPDATE 

On 11 April, ten Catholics --  five priests, two nuns and three lay persons -- where kidnapped by a criminal gang that demanded ransom. Three clergy were released on 23 April [see last week's RLPB 595 (28 April)]. The remaining hostages were released on Friday 30 April, a little malnourished but otherwise unharmed. Thank-you Lord. There is no information on whether a ransom was paid to secure their freedom.

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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