Tuesday, September 21, 2021

D.R.Congo (DRC): Jihad and Conversion

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 616 | Wed 22 Sep 2021
RLPB is published weekly to facilitate strategic intercessory prayer.

Subscribe (free) or view archives at: Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin blog. The RLPB is sponsored by Christian Faith and Freedom Inc. 

D R CONGO (DRC): JIHAD AND CONVERSION
by Elizabeth Kendal

click on map to enlarge

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is estimated to be 92.2 percent Christian (of whom around half remain animist) and 1.9 percent Muslim. Islam entered DRC from East Africa's Swahili Coast at least two centuries ago, as locals adopted the Arab beliefs, customs and Swahili language of the slave traders who settled in the region. While Islam is not new to DRC, fundamentalist Islam - which is pro-Sharia, pro-jihad and anti-infidel - is a recent phenomenon. For many years, the main jihadist group, the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF; formed in 1995), had been more criminal than ideological. Those days are over. Today, fundamentalist Islam is spreading rapidly in north-east Congo because Islamic jihadists - when not out killing and looting - are 'inviting' locals to convert and join them.

In June 2014 Islamic State launched its Caliphate in Iraq and Syria with the stated objective of baqiya wa tatamadad, or 'remaining and expanding'. Subsequently, Islamic State (IS) franchises were established across the Middle East and North Africa, as well as in Afghanistan (ISKP) and Nigeria (ISWAP). In 2017 ADF leader Musa Baluku (a Ugandan) forged connections with IS. In April 2019 - just weeks after the fall of Islamic State's last hold-out in Syria - Islamic State released a video which indicated that the then IS leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi had accepted an oath of loyalty from IS-Central Africa Province (ISCAP, with chapters in DRC and Mozambique). Since then, jihadist violence in north-east DRC has escalated sharply. Whilst the leadership of the ADF - now known as ISDRC - comprises mostly Ugandan and Congolese Muslims, the rank and file includes numerous battle-hardened foreign fighters, as well as many abducted Congolese youths.

Praying for peace in Ituri.
IPS, 6 August 2021

A 9 September report from Long War Journal (LWJ) unpacks the seriousness of the situation. Since 2017, 'ADF attacks have increased by 838 percent', while the 'overall square mileage of the group's area of operation has likewise increased by 364 percent in the same time-frame'. On 20 October 2020, as part of Islamic State's 'breaking the fortress' campaign, ADF/ISDRC jihadists staged a sophisticated pre-dawn prison break in Beni City, North Kivu Province, freeing 1300 inmates. In 2020 the ADF/ISDRC perpetrated 22 double-digit massacres in north-eastern DRC. In the first eight months of 2021 it perpetrated 28 and the slaughter continues. On 10 March the US State Department designated 'ISIS-DRC' a foreign terrorist organisation and the group's leader, Musa Baluku, a specially designated global terrorist. On 6 May the Congolese government placed the north-eastern provinces of Ituri and North Kivu, which border Uganda, under martial law; a move that has proved largely ineffective.

LWJ also reports that, in what is 'a significant shift in the ADF's historical modus operandi', the ADF is 'incorporating da'wah activities, or proselytising, to ['invite'] civilians to adopt the Islamic State's version of Islam'. LWJ reports that, on 9 August, ADF fighters 'took over two villages in southern Ituri [Province] close to Boga, Malibongo and Mapipa. Attached to the communique was a photo purporting to show an ADF fighter "inviting Christians in Mapipa village to the Islamic religion". The picture marked the first time that any jihadist da'wah activity has been explicitly shown taking place inside eastern Congo.' According to LWJ, the ADF is also recruiting and creating co-operative relationships with local communities through intermarriage and by taking sides in ethnic conflicts that pit immigrants against indigenes in struggles over land (i.e. join us and we'll fight for you / kill your enemies!). Meanwhile, minority Muslims are being 'invited' to radicalise; imams who resist have been brutally assassinated. In April DRC's Catholic Church protested the 'Islamisation' of the north-east, after civilians who had escaped ADF/ISDRC captivity reported being 'forced to convert to Islam'. According to Church spokesman Donatien Nshole (an abbot), around 7500 civilians had been kidnapped in Ituri and North Kivu over the past year.

A more detailed report is available on Religious Liberty Monitoring.
D.R.Congo: Islamic State Consolidates and Expands in Central Africa,
By Elizabeth Kendal, 22 Sept 2021

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL:

* intervene in power, grace and mercy to foil every wicked plot of Islamic State (and its backers) to Islamise and foment ethno-religious violence in Congo's remote north-east; may the Lord bless, protect and provide for his Church.

Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation ... Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God... The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down, the Lord loves the righteous ... but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin (Psalm 146 excerpts).

* guide and strengthen Congo's President Tshisekedi and Prime Minister Lukonde as they lead a government struggling to address gross insecurity - much of it enabled by high-level corruption - and the resultant humanitarian crisis; may the Lord be pleased to use Congo's legitimate forces to prevent Islamic State from consolidating in the north-east.

* embolden and empower the Church in DRC to be a voice for Congo's voiceless (Proverbs 31:8), in particular for those being forced to endure gross insecurity and Islamic jihad in Congo's remote and long-neglected north-east; may the Holy Spirit fill Congo's Church leaders with wisdom, conviction, clarity and courage, and grant them effectual power and authority.

SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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JIHAD AND CONVERSION IN D.R.CONGO

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is around 92.2 percent Christian and 1.9 percent Muslim. Whilst Islam is not new to DRC, fundamentalist Islam (pro-Sharia, pro-jihad) is a recent phenomenon. In 2017 the leader of DRC's main Islamic militia - the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) - forged connections with Islamic State (IS). In April 2019 he pledged allegiance to IS, creating ISDRC. Since 2017 ADF/ISDRC violence has escalated markedly in north-east DRC. Alongside massacres and destruction, ISDRC is engaging in proselytism, inviting locals to convert and join them. Christians report being abducted and forced to convert. Disgruntled ethnic groups are being lured with the promise that if they convert and join IS, then IS will fight for them. The Catholic Church warns that by this means the traumatised north-east is being 'Islamised'. Please pray.

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Elizabeth Kendal is an international religious liberty analyst and advocate. She serves as Director of Research at Canberra-based Christian Faith and Freedom Inc (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, September 14, 2021

RLPB 615. India: Joy and Pain in Bihar's Gaya District.

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 615 | Wed 15 Sep 2021
RLPB is published weekly to facilitate strategic intercessory prayer.

Subscribe (free) or view archives at: Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin (RLPB) blog. The RLPB is sponsored by Christian Faith and Freedom Inc

INDIA: JOY AND PAIN IN BIHAR'S GAYA DISTRICT
by Elizabeth Kendal

click on map to enlarge

In July this year, Gaya District in the north Indian state of Bihar, found itself at the centre of a religious conversion 'scandal' after it was reported that, in Belwadih Village, hundreds of 'Mahadalits' had left Hinduism and converted to Christianity. [The category 'Mahadalit' refers to a conglomerate of over 20 Scheduled Castes. It was established in 2010 by the then Chief Minister of Bihar State to divide the Dalits for political gain. The Mahadalits are Dalits (formerly known as Untouchables) and, as such, exist beneath all Hindu castes.] Indian mainstream media reported the story as a case of exploitation of superstitious villagers. As reported in OpIndia.com (17 July): 'Even as states across the country are formulating and implementing laws to curb the menace of religious conversions, a raft of people belonging to the Mahadalit community have abandoned their faith and converted to Christianity in Gaya District's Belwadih Village ... Reports claim the rampant conversions are being carried out under the pretext of curing maladies.' But, reading further, one can only conclude that the Spirit of God is moving in that place.

The story begins with Kewla Devi, a Mahadalit village woman whose chronically ill son was not responding to medical treatment. When someone urged Kewla to seek the help of Christians in adjoining Wajidpur village, Kewla - with nothing to lose - did! The Christians prayed and her son recovered. So remarkable was this miraculous healing that, not only did Kewla and her whole family become followers of Jesus, but so too did around 135 Mahadalit families in Belwadih village. OpIndia reports: 'Some women say that before conversion, children used to disappear or fall off rooftops. But such incidents have stopped since they converted to Christianity.' The new Christians - who no longer use vermilion to mark their foreheads, nor pray to Hindu gods or goddesses - all insist they converted freely of their own will, without any inducement. The investigative reporter from India Ahead expects 'this matter is bound to reverberate in the entire political arena'. Indeed it might! For while the Hindu nationalist BJP made great gains in the October-November 2020 elections, the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance only holds power over the pro-secular, left-leaning Grand Alliance by a mere 0.03 percent. If the BJP decides to stoke sectarian tensions for political gain, then the persecution could well explode.

Gaya: Mahadalit families Convert to Christianity.
India Ahead, 16 July 2021 [4 minutes; first 1:45 in English]

According to local Christians, persecution in Gaya District has been escalating for some time. The media attention on conversions will doubtless make things worse. On 27 July two men confronted Pastor Dhiraj and his wife, Ravita, at their church in Fatehpur township, Gaya District, Bihar State. According to International Christian Concern (3 August), 'The men demanded Pastor Dhiraj and his wife leave the area or they would kill him and demolish his church.' The men returned on 28 July and again on 29 July. Then, on the evening of 29 July, a mob of up to 30 Hindu nationalists descended on the pastor's home and attempted to break in. They climbed onto the church roof and threatened Ravita with weapons. Fortunately, local villagers heard their cries, came to the rescue, and dispelled the mob. Pastor Dhiraj and other church leaders have since met with village leaders and filed a complaint with the police.

On 11 August Nitish Kumar (14) of Kamta village, Gaya District, was walking home when three unidentified men on a motorbike threw flammable liquid on him and set him on fire. Morning Star News (MSN) reports (13 September) that Nitish's family has faced opposition from Hindu extremists since they left Hinduism for Christianity two years ago. According to Nitish's brother, Sanjeet (17), everyone in their church has faced Hindu extremist hostilities. In July rumours spread that Christians would be expelled from the village. Sanjeet told MSN that his four brothers, two sisters, mother and father were Hindus until two years ago, when they put their faith in Christ after his mother was delivered from tormenting spirits following healing prayer by Christians. Family members who were frequently ill also began to enjoy good health after the Christians prayed for them. 'Since we started to believe in Christ two years ago, the evil spirits left my mother, and health was restored in our family,' Sanjeet said. 'We are still poor, but there is happiness in our lives after we started following Jesus ... We continued to go to church despite threats. Even today, after what my brother has gone through, we will not forsake Christ. We will continue to remain faithful until we die.' Suffering burns to 65 percent of his body, with 15 percent deep burns, Nitish is currently fighting for his life. Dr KN Tiwari of the burns unit of Appolo Burn Hospital in Patna, Bihar State, described Nitish's condition as 'very, very critical. His survival chances are low'. After expressing wonder that Nitish was still alive, the doctor touched on the source of our hope saying, 'It is only God's grace that Nitish has pulled through thus far with this extent of burns.' Please pray!

Nitish Kumar (14); burned for following Jesus. Morning Star News. 


PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL:

* sustain and bless the Kumar family and all the believers in Kamta village; may the Lord of all mercy provide the Kumar family, as well as Dr Tiwari and all the staff in the burns unit of the Appolo Burn Hospital, with all they need to bring healing to our brother Nitish (14), who was burned for his faith in Jesus. May the hand of the Lord be upon them all, and especially upon the body of Nitish; may those who perpetrated this heinous crime be brought to justice.

* comfort, encourage, protect, and guide Pastor Dhiraj and Ravita and the churches in Fatehpur township; may all threats come to nought; may those who harass, intimidate, and threaten the believers be brought to justice.

* protect and bless the new Christian community in Belwadih village; may the Holy Spirit continue his work in the believers so they might confound their enemies by continuing to grow in grace, truth, love and unity; may all efforts to destroy this community be thwarted -

'And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ' (Philippians 1:6 ESV).

- and may media reports intended to demean and vilify Christians and Christianity achieve the exact opposite. 

SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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JOY AND PAIN IN BIHAR'S GAYA DISTRICT, INDIA

Persecution is escalating in Bihar's Gaya District. The situation might soon worsen if the Hindu nationalist BJP - which rules in coalition with the slimmest of margins - decides to stoke sectarian tensions for political gain. In mid-July, Indian media reported unfavourably that some 135 Dalit families had left Hinduism to follow Jesus in Belwadih village. From 27 to 29 July Hindu nationalists threatened Pastor Dhiraj and his wife Ravita, who lead a church in Fatehpur township. The threats culminated in a mob attack, from which locals rescued them. On 11 August Nitish Kumar (14) of Katma village was walking home when unidentified men threw flammable liquid over him and set him on fire. The family has been persecuted since becoming Christians two years ago. Nitish is currently fighting for life. 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 

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

RLPB 614. China: The CCP versus Christian Education

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 613 | Wed 08 Sep 2021
RLPB is published weekly to facilitate strategic intercessory prayer.

Subscribe (free) or view archives at: Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin (RLPB) blog. The RLPB is sponsored by Christian Faith and Freedom Inc. 

CHINA: THE CCP versus CHRISTIAN EDUCATION
by Elizabeth Kendal

In evicting a community of young homeschooling families - all members of Chengdu's Early Rain Covenant Church - from their rented homes, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has demonstrated that it is prepared to escalate its persecution of non-compliant Christians to a whole new level. Early Rain Covenant Church (ERCC) has been targeted for severe punitive persecution since May 2018 when it criticised the CCP's new Religious Affairs Regulations and vowed to resist, declaring: 'The highest law of the Christian is the Bible. Any law that contradicts the Bible we will disobey by non-violent methods.' The ERCC disobeys unacceptable CCP laws by continuing to gather for worship, prayer and Bible study while unregistered; and by continuing to witness openly and teach youths under 18 years of age, despite all this being illegal. It also has encouraged like-minded churches to 'embrace civil disobedience' and do the same [see RLPB 483, The CCP's War on Religion Heats Up, 12 Dec 2018].

Chinese Young Pioneers: children are urged to
'have a firm faith to follow the Party from a young age'. 
 Global Times, 1 June 2021 (photo: Xinhua).

For ERCC and fellow non-compliant churches, the cost of discipleship has been high indeed. The evictions, however, may be about more than membership of ERCC. The punitive action may well have been triggered by the fact that these young families were known to be home-schooling their children together. The evictions coincide with a new CCP campaign to re-fashion Chinese culture by stripping it of corrupting Western influences and infusing it with 'Xi Jinping thought'. Some have labelled it 'Cultural Revolution 2.0'. Integral to the campaign is a focus on capturing and controlling the hearts and minds of Chinese youths. China's Compulsory Education Law makes it illegal to homeschool or to operate sishu (private, unregistered schools). Article 2 defines 'compulsory education' as 'the education that all school-age children and adolescents must receive uniformly implemented by the state...' Despite this, education outside of the CCP system has been growing in recent decades as Chinese parents remove their children from the high pressure, exam-orientated, highly ideological, one-size-fits-all system where membership of the CCP's Chinese Young Pioneers (where children are taught to love and serve the Party) is mandatory. With the CCP now moving to reverse this trend, the days of tolerance are probably over.

Shu Qiong (left, holding child) appeals
to passers-by. Chengdu, 2 September 2021.
(China Aid Association)

On Wednesday 1 September - the first day of the new school year - officials, police and a large group claiming to be landlords, approached ERCC member families in Jiaoda Garden residential compound in Chendu's Wuhou district. Individuals wearing red armbands told the believers: 'On behalf of all homeowners of the community, we want to tell you that Christians are not welcomed here.' The next day, sister Shu Qiong was driving home at 4pm when she was stopped at the compound gate by police officers who asked her, 'Are you a Christian?' 'Yes,' Shu replied, 'I am a follower of Jesus Christ.' When the police officers told her, 'That is not allowed here', Shu appealed to passers-by: 'I am a follower of Jesus Christ,' she said. 'Everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life in Him. We have no religious freedom in China. These police officers will not allow me to go home because of my Christian belief.' Later sister Sun, who is pregnant, was also stopped at the gate. [Three years ago -- during the violent raids of December 2018 -- Sun hemorrhaged and miscarried at the hands of Chengdu police.] When brother Li Ying questioned the legality of the police officers' actions, he was arrested, forcibly transported to the police station and charged with 'obstruction of law enforcement'. The Christian families, who occupy seven units within the compound, were given three days to evacuate their homes.

China Aid Association also reports that on 4 September, some 30 religious affairs officials, police and SWAT officers raided Maizi Christian Music High School in Harbin, Heilongjiang Province; a school dedicated to cultivating Christian musicians, specifically for ministry. Having already arrested Principal Xu, the authorities proceeded to confiscate the school's pianos, computers and documents. They also detained the students for 24 hours. Teachers expect to be summoned and interrogated. A day before the raid, Principal Xu told staff that police officers had called his landlord, and he advised staff to prepare for 'the test' (i.e. a spiritual test/trial). The school has appealed for prayer.

Elsewhere across China, children have started the school year with new textbooks and a new curriculum infused with 'Xi Jinping thought', as the 'Communist Party aims to extend his personality cult to children as young as seven and rear a new generation of patriots...' Teachers have been instructed to 'plant the seeds of loving the party, the country and socialism in young hearts.' As observers note, the introduction of a new curriculum incorporating 'Xi Jinping thought' comes as 'the CCP conducts a wider campaign to fight what it considers corrupting influences on the youth, from video games to celebrities and foreign educational tools'. Wang Dan, a US-based Chinese activist, expressed alarm: 'If this is not Cultural Revolution, what is it?' he asks. 'We have cried wolf about the re-emergence of the Cultural Revolution for many years. Now the wolf has come.'


PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL:

* comfort and bless the Early Rain Covenant Church members who have been evicted from their homes because of their faith and uncompromising discipleship; may the Lord provide their every need.

* protect, comfort, and bless Principal Xu and all the staff and students of Maizi Christian Music High School; may the school secure the lawyer of the Lord's choosing; may all the school's property be returned.

* abundantly bless China's faithful believers with all the wisdom, grace and strength they will need to endure and to navigate these difficult and testing times.

Lord, be gracious to us; we long for you. Be our strength every morning, our salvation in time of distress (Isaiah 33:2 NIV).

Woe to him who gets evil gain for his house, to set his nest on high, to be safe from the reach of harm!… Woe to him who builds a town with blood and founds a city on iniquity!… For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea (Habakkuk 2: 9,12,14 ESV).


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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THE CHINESE COMMUNIST PARTY versus CHRISTIAN EDUCATION

On 1 September children across China started the new school year with new textbooks and a new curriculum infused with 'Xi Jinping thought'. The new curriculum is part of a CCP campaign that many are calling 'Cultural Revolution 2.0'. Integral to the campaign is a focus on capturing and controlling the hearts and minds of youth, to ensure they grow to love and follow the CCP. China's Compulsory Education Law makes it illegal to home-school or to operate unregistered schools. On 1 September eviction notices were served to several families - all members of Early Rain Covenant Church, Chengdu - who live across seven units in a residential compound and home-school their children together. On 4 September police raided Maizi Christian Music High School in Harbin, confiscating equipment and arresting Principal Xu. 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 Inc (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 

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

RLPB 613. Sudan: Bibles Held as Government Wilts

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 613 | Wed 01 Sep 2021
RLPB is published weekly to facilitate strategic intercessory prayer.

Subscribe (free) or view archives at Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin (RLPB) blog. The RLPB is sponsored by Christian Faith and Freedom Inc.   

SUDAN: BIBLES HELD AS GOVERNMENT WILTS
plus Update Ethiopia
by Elizabeth Kendal

Sudan's Arab Islamist Deep State, thoroughly entrenched.
Asharq Alawsat (Saudi newspaper) cartoon (April 2019)
 

Before the April 2019 ousting of the Arab Islamist regime of President Omar al-Bashir, Sudan had been one of the most violent persecutors of Christians and black Africans anywhere in the world. While the New Sudan is in sight it is not yet at hand; the 'people's revolution' is not complete. Unprecedented reforms have been enacted to de-Arabise, de-Islamise and radically transform this long-suffering, war-ravaged, multi-cultural nation. However, after nearly 40 years of Arab Islamist military rule, the difficulty of freeing Sudan from the grip of a thoroughly entrenched and heavily invested Arab Islamist Deep State cannot be overstated. Even at the societal level, resistance is strong, much of it incited by pro-Bashir fundamentalist imams who would like nothing more than to reverse the 'people's revolution' and restore Arab Islamic rule.

In September 2019 Sudan's new Minister of Religious Affairs, Nasr al-Din Mufreh, told Al-Arabiya TV that Sudan is a pluralistic nation ruled by secular law, that will fight extremism in mosques and empower women in society. In November 2019 he told Asharq Al-Awsat that Sudanese people 'of other faiths and religions are free to practise their rituals.' Subsequently, the transitional government declared Christmas Day a national public holiday. Then, in March 2020, the government abolished the state-appointed committees that the former regime had imposed on churches for the purpose of controlling and even acquiring them [RLPB 540 (11 March 2020)]. In July 2020 Sudan's new Harvard-educated Justice Minister, Nasredeen Abdulbari (a Darfuri), signed into law the Fundamental Rights and Freedoms Act 2020 which removed a raft of Sharia-based provisions, including the penalty of flogging and the criminalisation of apostasy (previously a capital crime). Islamists responded with protests in which they cursed Abdulbari as an infidel and called for jihad against the government of Prime Minister Hamdok, who had already survived one assassination attempt [RLPB 559 (22 July 2020)].

Photo by Jean Marc MOJON - AFP

Although the Fundamental Rights and Freedoms Act 2020 eliminated customs duties for religious literature, customs officials are refusing to release a shipment of Bibles. According to the Rev Saad Idris Komi, chairman of the Sudan Pentecostal Church, the officials have rejected his denomination's application for tax-exempt status for the shipment. Boutros Badawi, a Christian and senior adviser to Religious Affairs Minister Nasr al-Din Mufreh, raised the issue during a workshop on religious freedom in Khartoum on 8 August. He also criticised the government for taking no action on returning confiscated church buildings. Badawi's advocacy was courageous and not without risk. On 2 July Badawi was driving home at 11pm when he was ambushed and dragged from his vehicle by five armed men who beat him and threatened to kill him if he continued to advocate for the rights of churches. Mr Badawi believes that elements of the former regime remain entrenched in the system and are determined to obstruct his work, be it by slander (to ruin him) or by violence (to silence him). As Christian Solidarity Worldwide notes, the threats made against Mr Badawi bear similarities to those made against Osama Saeed Musa Kodi, the president of a Christian youth organisation, who was detained in Wad Madani in Gezira State earlier this year. The government's response to these attacks and intimidation has been totally unsatisfactory.

In January, protests erupted in Khartoum over a history textbook included in Sudan's new curriculum because it contained a picture of Michelangelo's 'Creation of Adam', which Islamists deemed 'heretical.' The protests were incited during Friday prayers by a pro-Bashir imam who accused Omer al-Qarray, overseer of the National Centre for Curriculum and Educational Research, of promoting infidelity and atheism. Mr al-Qarray (a liberal Muslim) subsequently received death threats. In the face of mounting pressure, Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok wilted and froze the introduction of the new curriculum. Mr al-Qarray resigned from the curriculum project in protest, saying: 'I find myself unable to proceed with a government brought by a popular revolution but ... which surrendered to the pressures of the remnants of the defunct regime.' Sudanese journalist Zeinab Mohammed Salih observed: 'The government appears to be more concerned with being in harmony with more conservative views rather than becoming a representative government that reflects the diversity of the country.' As the Church awaits a decision on the Bibles, there are concerns that, with Christians comprising a mere six percent of the population, their rights might be deemed expendable - something to be traded for peace with Islamists. But with every trade-off, the New Sudan moves further away.


PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL:

* grace Sudan's civilian transitional government with: (1) moral conviction to stand firm in face of Islamic resistance; (2) courage to resist belligerent Islamists; and (3) strength to endure, to see the 'people's revolution' through to completion.

In this we pray especially for Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, Justice Minister Nasredeen Abdulbari and Religious Affairs Minister Nasr al-Din Mufreh ... that God might do as he did with Cyrus: take them by the hand and use them for his good purposes, although they do not acknowledge him (Isaiah 44:24 to 45:8).

* bless and protect our brother Boutros Badawi - a senior adviser to the Religious Affairs Minister - as he advocates for the Church in Sudan; may the Spirit of God be pleased to take his courageous advocacy and use it to great effect. 'Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labour in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.' (Psalm 127:1 ESV)

* grant Sudan's long-persecuted Church all the grace and 'spiritual wisdom' required to navigate safely and honourably through these difficult days. Prayer for Sudan's Church: Colossians 1:9-14.


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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SUDAN: BIBLES HELD AS GOVERNMENT WILTS

It is unsurprising that the transitional government's reforms to de-Islamise the state have attracted Islamic resistance from elements and supporters of the former Arab Islamist regime and from Islamic fundamentalist mosques and individuals. Earlier this year the government relented on a new history curriculum, wilting in the face of Islamist pressure and threats. Today, customs officials are refusing to release a shipment of Bibles in defiance of the Fundamental Rights and Freedoms Act 2020 which eliminated customs duties for religious literature. Many who have supported the 'people's revolution' for a New Sudan are increasingly concerned that the transitional government seems more eager to appease Islamists than defend rights and freedoms. Comprising a mere six percent of the population, Christians fear their rights might be deemed expendable and traded away for peace with Islamists. Please pray.

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UPDATE ETHIOPIA: AMHARAS MASSACRED

click on map to enlarge

An investigation by the Telegraph has confirmed that 'between late July and early August', TPLF forces 'systematically destroyed agricultural communities and indiscriminately bombed civilian areas in a series of attacks in the Amhara region.' At 6am on Sunday 8 August, TPLF forces attacked Agamsa village in North Wollo zone, Amhara Region. After meeting stiff resistance, the TPLF shelled the village with artillery, then went house to house killing residents and torching homes and fields, along with cattle. According to Gizachew Muluneh, the head of Amhara regional communication bureau, the regional government is fighting TPLF 'aggressors' in numerous locations throughout Amhara Region. On 18 August OLF-Shane fighters attacked Kiramu district in East Wollega zone, Oromia Region, firing indiscriminately, killing at least 150 residents, mostly ethnic Amhara. The next day, Amhara fighters carried out ethnic-based reprisals, killing at least 60. Please keep praying for Ethiopia.

For background and prayer points see: RLPB 611 (18 Aug).

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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