Tuesday, October 26, 2021

RLPB 621. October Update: Indonesia, Burma (Myanmar), Chile, China, Haiti, India, Lebanon, Sudan.

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 621 | Wed 27 Oct 2021
RLPB is published weekly to facilitate strategic intercessory prayer.

To subscribe (free) or view archives, visit: Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin (RPLB) blog. The RLPB is sponsored by Christian Faith and Freedom Inc. 

OCTOBER 2021 UPDATE
By Elizabeth Kendal

DIARY
* International Day of Prayer (IDOP) for the Persecuted Church: 7 November 2021.
See: Critical Prayer Requests (CPR).
* Nepal: parliamentary elections, Friday 12 and 19 November.
* Chile: general elections (presidential, parliamentary and regional) Sunday 21 November.


DURING THIS PERIOD, WE PRAYED CONCERNING:

* NIGERIA [RLPB 618 (6 Oct)], where Boko Haram and its Fulani proxies have expanded and consolidated in eastern Niger State while wreaking havoc in southern Kaduna and Kogi, three regions which border the Federal Capital to the west, north and south respectively. It is a Christian crisis of monumental proportions. Please pray.

Muhammad Kece

* INDONESIA [RLPB 619 (13 Oct)] after Muhammad Kece - a former Muslim cleric who converted and became a Christian apologist - was accused of blasphemy, arrested, and jailed. On his first night in prison, Kece was violently assaulted in his cell by a group of Islamists led by an Inspector General of Police.

UPDATE: CASE AGAINST MUHAMMAD KECE

The Attorney General's Office is gathering evidence for the criminal prosecution of Muhammad Kece. Kece is suspected of using his Christian apologetics YouTube channel to violate laws on (1) Information and Electronic Transactions (ITE), (2) hate speech in relation to SARA (ethnicity, religion, race and other) and (3) blasphemy. Please pray for Muhammad Kece (Matt 10:16-20), for his lawyers, and that God will redeem this situation for the awakening of many in Indonesia (1 Timothy 2:1-4).

* PAKISTAN [RLPB 620 (20 Oct)], after the 22-member Parliamentary Committee to Protect Minorities from Forced Conversions rejected draft legislation prepared by the Ministry of Human Rights. Though the draft Prohibition of Forced Conversion Act (2021) would have protected underage non-Muslim girls from forced conversion (usually done for the purpose of forced marriage), Islamist clerics, scholars and legislators condemned it as 'un-Islamic', contrary to the Quran and Sharia, and 'dangerous'. The bill now lapses and will not be presented to parliament. In Pakistan today, no Christian girl is safe. Lord have mercy! Please pray.

OCTOBER 2021 ROUND-UP - also this month:

* BURMA: CHIN CHURCHES BURNED; OPERATION ANAWRAHTA LOOMS

MORE CHIN CHURCHES BURNED: As was reported in RLPB 617 (29 Sep) and RLPB 602 (16 Jun), the Tatmadaw (Burmese military) is conducting 'sweeps' in Chin State - which is estimated to be at least 90 percent Christian - burning, killing and looting as they go. On 13 October Burmese troops attacked Rialto village, setting fire to everything, including the Baptist church. On 19 October they attacked Tlang Rau village, torching homes and occupying the Baptist church. Forced to flee into the forest, thousands more ethnic Chin are struggling to survive the rain, cold and hunger. Baptist Pastor Thawng told Fides news agency that the targeting of churches only proves the 'fanatic and anti-religious behaviour of the military'. Catholic priest Fr Noel Hran Tin Thang adds: 'In the general atmosphere of violence, we see attacks on Christian churches, but no destruction of Buddhist pagodas. Why?' Could it be that the junta intends not simply to 'clear' Chin State, but to repopulate it with ethnic Burman/Bama Buddhists?

click on map to enlarge

OPERATION ANAWRAHTA LOOMS: According to veteran defence analyst, Anthony Davis, the Tatmadaw (Burmese military) is currently preparing for Operation Anawrahta (Asia Times, 19 Oct 2021). Troops (increasing from 30,000 to more than 120,000) and materiel (including attack helicopters and jets) are being moved into forward positions. Burma's dry season has just begun. As soon as the ground is dry enough, Operation Anawratha will commence. The main theatre will be Chin State (estimated to be more than 90 percent Christian), along with the Divisions of Sagaing and Magway in the mostly ethnic-Burman Irrawaddy valley heartland. The goal of Operation Anawrahta is to crush the ethnic Burman 'People's Defense Forces' (PDFs) that have proliferated throughout the heartland, along with those who support, train, supply and shelter them: in this case, the Chin. Davis expects the Tatmadaw will conduct 'sweeps' and major 'clearance operations' applying the strategy of the 'three alls': 'burn all, kill all, loot all'.

PRAYER FOR BURMA

Arise, O Lord; O God, lift up your hand; forget not the afflicted. Break the arm [mechanism of action] of the wicked and evildoer; call his wickedness to account till you find none. O Lord, you hear the desire of the afflicted; you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more. (Psalm 10:12,15,17,18 ESV)

Operation Anawrahta will be a major focus of the RLPB ministry in the months ahead.

Background: RLPB 590, 'Christian Crisis Looms', 24 March 2021.

* CHILE: CHURCHES BURNED AMIDST SOARING TENSIONS

A highly polarised Chilean electorate will go to the polls on 21 November to vote for a new president. In recent years, churches have been targeted in anti-government protests, both by urbanites protesting chronic poor governance and by indigenous peoples demanding self-determination. On 18 October 2019 anti-government protests erupted in the capital, Santiago. As violence escalated, a Catholic church was looted and vandalised, its statues beheaded and smashed in the street. On 18 October 2020 the first anniversary of the protests, two churches were torched in Santiago: the Church of the Assumption and the St Francis Borgia Church.

On the night of 18 October 2021 unidentified persons ransacked and torched the premises of the Bishopric of the Diocese of Talca, 255 km south of Santiago, in central Chile's Maule region. Central Chile is home to one of the Americas most enduring self-determination struggles and churches are repeatedly targeted. In the early hours of 12 October two churches were destroyed by fire in Tirúa Commune, Arauco Province, Biobίo region: the Nuevo Pacto Pentecostal Cristiano (New Covenant Pentecostal Christian) and a Catholic church. In June the Evangelical Army Mission church of Canete was torched in the same area. According to the president of the Regional Coordination of Evangelical Churches, Héctor Luengo, more than 60 churches have been burned in the past two years. As tensions soar ahead of the 21 November presidential election, the church is calling for calm and an end to the violence. Please pray.

* CHINA: BROTHER CHEN ARRESTED AGAIN

Chen Wensheng

On 11 October authorities released Chen Wensheng from his sixth detention in 2021. A former drug addict, the now passionate evangelist was arrested early on Sunday 26 September and held for 15-days administrative detention in the Hengyang detention centre. Upon his release Chen wrote on WeChat, 'Hallelujah! Thank you, God, for your grace and presence. Thank you for your prayers. After being detained at Hengyang detention centre for 15 days, police officers and officials of the Unit[ed]-Front Department accompanied me home. They have left. Now I can go out to spread the Gospel again' (see: China Aid Association, 14 Oct). As noted in RLPB 585 (17 Feb 2021), brother Chen was 'one evangelist destined to fall foul of the [Chinese Communist Party's] new Administrative Measures. As was made evident in RLPB 608 (30 July 2021), Chen is not going to stop witnessing, meaning the arrests will continue with ever increasing pressure. Please pray.

* HAITI: PRAYING FOR DELIVERANCE

On Saturday 9 October the '400 Mawozo' criminal gang seized 16 Americans and a Canadian in Haiti's capital Port-au-Prince. The visiting missionaries from Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries were snatched while travelling to the airport after visiting an orphanage. Among the captives are four children and an eight-month-old baby. Neatly groomed, wearing a royal blue 3-piece suit and sporting a large cross, gang-leader Wilson Joseph issued his demands via video on social media. The gangster demanded one million US dollars ransom per captive, adding, 'I swear by thunder that if I don't get what I'm asking for, I will put a bullet in the heads of these Americans.' There have been at least 628 kidnappings in Haiti so far this year, three times last year's total. Please pray, not only for the captive missionaries, but that Haiti might be delivered of its spiritual darkness.

NOTE: Haiti is often credited as being 95 percent Christian (predominantly Catholic) but100 percent Voodoo. The main opposition comes from the small but growing evangelical Church. In April 2003 President Aristide made voodoo an official religion in Haiti declaring it to be 'an essential part of national identity'. [See: Boukman, Aristide, Voodoo and the Church, by Elizabeth Kendal, Religious Liberty Monitoring, 26 August 2003.]

* INDIA

(1) KARNATAKA ORDERS INVESTIGATION INTO CONVERSIONS

In light of the fact that
Christian apologist Muhammad Kece
was formerly a Muslim cleric, and 
Christian evangelist Chen Wensheng
was formerly a drug addict . . .
Please pray for Goolihatti Shakhar, that he might
one day be a former Hindu nationalist.
 
On 21 September MP Goolihatti Shekhar, of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), addressed Karnataka's legislature appealing for anti-conversions laws to put an end to the 'rampant religious conversions' plaguing the state. He told of the embarrassment caused to his family by the conversion of his own mother who had stopped wearing vermilion on her forehead, abandoned idol worship and downloaded a Christian song as her ringtone [see: RLPB 617 (29 Sept)]. The BJP-led state government agreed and, on 13 October, ordered an investigation into all churches, ministers and missionaries. The Chief Justice of Karnataka will hear a Public Interest Litigation challenging the motive and purpose behind the exercise. Church in Chains reports (21 Oct) that on 11 October, Shekhar's mother participated in [very possibly under duress] a Ghar Wapsi ('homecoming') ceremony and returned to Hinduism. On 25 October, thousands of Christians participated in a peaceful rally to protest escalating persecution and the proposed anti-conversion law. Please pray.

(2) UTTAR PRADESH: PASTORS ARRESTED

On 10 October seven pastors were arrested during a prayer meeting in Northern India's Uttar Pradesh. Despite being charged with 'unlawful assembly', it is believed the pastors have been accused of violating the state's draconian anti-conversion law. Police also detained some 50 believers in attendance at the prayer meeting. They did not, however, arrest anyone from the fanatical Hindu mob that attacked the prayer house. Furthermore, the police detained two Catholic nuns who were waiting at a bus stop near the prayer house despite their not being involved in the prayer meeting. The pastors intervened and the nuns were released, while the lay believers were detained until later that evening. Three female pastors were released on bail on 13 October. Pastor Dinanath Jaiswal told UCA news (14 Oct) that the three women had been traumatised by their ordeal. Pastor Abraham Shakil told UCA: 'We are scared as [fanatical Hindu nationalists] can attack us any time and put the blame on us. The police and political leadership side with the attackers. Many pastors have stopped conducting prayer services.' Please pray.

* LEBANON: SECTARIAN TENSIONS IGNITE AGAIN

On 14 October supporters of the Shi'ite movements, Amal and Hezbollah, took to the streets, demanding the removal of Tarek Bitar, head of Beirut's criminal court and the judge in charge of the investigation into the August 2020 explosion at the port of Beirut. They want him removed because he has ordered the detention of numerous officials, including Ali Hassan Khalil, a former finance minister and high official of the Shiite Amal Party, a close ally of Hezbollah. The black-clad Shi'ite protesters descended on the 'Green Line' - the road between the Christian neighbourhood of Ain al-Remmaneh and the Amal stronghold of Chiyah. Gun fights erupted as Shi'ite protesters claimed to have been targeted by Christian snipers. The Christian party 'Lebanese Forces' rejected the claim, insisting that some Christians had been forced to defend their properties from Shi'ite invaders. The clashes - the worst in years - left six people dead and 30 wounded. By Friday 15 October, calm had been restored. Shi'ite agitators last stormed Ain al-Remmaneh in June 2020, angry that Hezbollah had been asked to disarm [see: RLPB 556 (1 July 2020)]. Ain al-Remmaneh has long been a hot-spot for Muslim-Christian clashes. The clashes demonstrate how delicate is the sectarian situation in Lebanon. Please pray.

* SUDAN: HOPES OF 'NEW SUDAN' CRUSHED IN MILITARY COUP
UPDATE to RLPB 516, Divine help needed if 'New Sudan' is to be realised, 21 Aug 2019.

After a week of massive pro-military and then pro-government rival demonstrations, the Sudanese military has seized power in Khartoum. Security forces arrested Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok early on 25 October. Other members of the civilian government have also been arrested. Military head, Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, announced on state TV that he had declared a state of emergency and was dissolving the transitional government. Thousands of Sudanese poured onto the streets to protest the theft of their 'revolution'. At least seven people have been killed and 80 wounded in the protests, most from gunshot wounds as military forces fired into the crowds. Army and paramilitary forces have closed major roads and are patrolling the cities. Internet access has been cut. Members of the Sudanese Professionals Association are planning to strike. The Forces for Freedom and Change has split into factions. Stratfor Intelligence (26 Oct) warns that the military takeover could trigger months of unrest. Many fear that fighting could erupt throughout the periphery, including in the Nuba Mountains [see: RLPB 567 (15 Sep 2020)]. 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, October 19, 2021

Pakistan: bill to criminalise the forced-conversion of non-Muslims minors rejected as 'un-Islamic'.

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 620 | Wed 20 Oct 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.  

PAKISTAN: BILL TO CRIMINALISE THE FORCED CONVERSION OF NON-MUSLIM MINORS REJECTED AS 'UN-ISLAMIC'
by Elizabeth Kendal

Christian girl Nayab Gill (13) before she was
kidnapped, forcibly converted to Islam,
and married to an already-married
Muslim man (aged 30) in May 2021.
(Morning Star News, courtesy of family)

In November 2019 the Chairman of the Senate of Pakistan established a 22-member Parliamentary Committee to Protect Minorities from Forced Conversions. The committee was tasked with formulating legislation to stop what has become a routine crime in Pakistan: the forced conversion of non-Muslim minor girls (aged under 18-yrs), many of whom are abducted and forcibly married to Muslim men. According to a 2014 report by the Movement for Solidarity and Peace in Pakistan, at least 1000 girls belonging to Christian and Hindu communities - around 300 Hindus and 700 Christians - are forced to marry Muslim men every year. And as the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan noted in its 2019 annual report, 'The government has done little in the past to stop such forced marriages.'

In Islam, religious identity is inherited from the father. To ensure her offspring are Muslim, Sharia mandates that a Muslim woman must marry a Muslim man. Meanwhile, Muslim men are routinely encouraged to marry non-Muslim women, so the offspring of non-Muslim women will be Muslim. As noted in RLPB 574, A Cry for Justice, 4 Nov 2020, 'Not all [victims] are minors and not all are abducted. Some girls and parents are groomed, until they reluctantly become convinced it is the only way to escape poverty and persecution. By this means, Christian and Hindu girls are either lured or trafficked from their own community into the Muslim community where they are exploited, abused and forced to produce Muslim babies.' Conversion is not necessary. The only reason non-Muslim minor girls are 'converted' to Islam is to bring them under Sharia (which permits child marriage) and to strip their Christian or Hindu parents of their parental rights. This crime is facilitated by a culture of impunity. Islamist police turn a blind eye, refusing to investigate or even register complaints. Islamist clerics issue conversion certificates for often drugged and terrorised underage girls in the custody of Muslim gangs. Finally, Islamist judges ignore birth certificates, accept testimonies given under duress and defer to Sharia (which permits child marriage) rather than Pakistani law (which does not).

Islamic cleric paints green (Islam)
over the white (minorities) on Pakistan's flag.
(Cartoon source).

On 13 October 2021, after heated debate, the parliamentary committee rejected the Prohibition of Forced Conversion Act, 2021, prepared by the Ministry of Human Rights, after the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony opposed the law. Opposition to the bill - evident from the outset - had escalated sharply in recent months as the draft circulated and debate raged in the media. On 15 September the top trending hashtag on Twitter in Pakistan was #Islam mukhalif bill na manzoor (reject anti-Islam bill). Insisting forced conversion of non-Muslim minors was 'not a problem' in Pakistan, numerous Muslim clerics, scholars and legislators condemned the bill as 'anti-Islam', 'against Sharia' and 'dangerous', particularly for minorities who they warned could suffer Islamist wrath. Opponents of the bill seemed to direct their ire at Naveed Amir Jeeva, the Christian legislator who has championed the bill since 2019. Allegedly, Prime Minister Imran Khan - who in 2018 had promised to protect religious minorities from forced conversion - recently assured the Ulema (Muslim scholars) that no such law would be enacted during his government.

The rejection of the bill sparked a nation-wide outcry, particularly from religious minority legislators, community leaders and members. The draft bill proposed that a non-Muslim who is not a minor, who is both willing and able to convert, apply for a certificate of conversion from an Additional Session judge in the area where they live. Upon receipt of the application, the judge would be obliged to interview the applicant to ensure the conversion was not taking place under duress or due to deceit or fraudulent misrepresentation. If undecided, the judge could order the applicant do a 90-day study in comparative religions before returning to the office. The applicant's age would be determined by either the birth certificate, school enrolment certificate, or National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) B-Form. Only in the absence of such forms could the child's age be determined by medical examination. The draft bill also prescribed a fine, plus five to ten years' jail for anyone guilty of forcibly converting a minor; and a fine plus three to five years' jail for anyone who abets the forced conversion of a minor [see: Dawn, 19 Oct 2021]. Deemed un-Islamic, the bill now lapses and will not be submitted to parliament. Pakistan's Christian crisis only gets worse - 'no Christian girl is safe'.


PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL:

* intervene in Pakistan to protect and ultimately deliver every Christian (and Hindu) girl who has been groomed or trafficked into the Muslim community through forced conversion and marriage; may 'the Lord roar from Zion' (Amos 1:2a) and may 'justice roll down like waters'. (Amos 5:24a ESV)

* protect, embolden and amplify the voice of every courageous lawyer, activist, journalist, community leader and politician willing to risk much by speaking up for the rights of Pakistan's long-persecuted and gravely imperilled religious minorities; may more and more voices be raised - both inside Pakistan and around the world - in defence of Pakistan's daughters, for the sake of the Church in Pakistan.

* stir up indignation and arouse compassion in Pakistan's Muslim parents and citizens of conscience; may Pakistan's moral crisis be redeemed for the awakening of many!


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
------------------------------------------
PAKISTAN: BILL TO STOP FORCED CONVERSION OF MINORS REJECTED

On 13 October a parliamentary committee rejected a bill to criminalise the forced conversion of non-Muslim minors (aged under 18). Prepared by the Ministry of Human Rights, the Prohibition of Forced Conversion Act, 2021, was designed to end impunity and protect the children of religious minorities. It failed because Muslim legislators, clerics, scholars and organisations condemned it as un-Islamic and whipped up massive opposition to it. On 15 September the top trending hashtag on Twitter in Pakistan was 'reject anti-Islam bill'. For Pakistan's imperilled religious minorities, it is a crushing blow. An estimated 300 Hindu and 700 Christian girls are forcibly married to Muslim men each year. Many are kidnapped, many are forcibly converted, and many are minors. However, according to Pakistan's Islamic leaders, this is 'not a problem' in Pakistan. Please pray.

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

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, October 12, 2021

RLPB 619. Indonesia: Convert Apologist Accused of Blasphemy, Assaulted in Prison

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 619 | Wed 13 Oct 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. 


INDONESIA: CONVERT APOLOGIST ACCUSED OF BLASPHEMY, ASSAULTED IN PRISON
by Elizabeth Kendal

Muhammad Kece, 21 August 2021

On 25 August Indonesian police arrested Muhammad 'Kece' Kosman, a convert to Christianity and former Islamic cleric from Pangandaran Regency, West Java. Whilst a Muslim, Kece taught at an Islamic boarding school and went on the hajj pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia three times. He began publicly critiquing Islam after being baptised as a Christian in 2014. In July 2020 he established a YouTube channel - 'MuhammadKece' - where he offers an intellectual critique of Islam and defence of Christianity; in all he has uploaded more than 400 videos. His last video, streamed live on 23 August, has been viewed more than 70,000 times. On 21 August Kece uploaded a critique (viewed almost 37,000 times) in which he declared: 'Muhammad is unknown by God and is only known by his followers because he is surrounded by jinn/devils.' He also changed the words of a common greeting used by Muslims, replacing Allah's name with Jesus' name. Assalamualaikum, warrahmatuyesus wabarakatu (translation: Peace be upon you and Lord Jesus' mercy and blessings) and Alhamduyesus hirabbilalamin (translation: All praise is raised to the presence of the Lord Jesus, the Father in heaven who is worthy of praise and worship).

Finally, Indonesia's powerful Islamic organisations had had enough; the fight back would begin. On 21 August Abdul Muiz Ali, the administrator of the Central Board of Nahdlatul Ulama (PBNU) Da'wah Institute and Deputy Secretary of the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) Fatwa Commission, fired the first shot, openly asserting that Kece was engaged in 'a form of blasphemy'. He then issued what could be regarded as a veiled threat: '[Kece's] words violate the law,' he said. 'If the authorities don't arrest him immediately, [the clerics] are worried that Muslims will show their anger.'

On 25 August, Kece was arrested in Bali, transported to Java and incarcerated in isolation in the Criminal Investigation Agency (Badan Reserse Kriminal or Bareskrim) detention facility in South Jakarta. That night, four prisoners broke into Kece's cell and attacked him. The gang was led by Inspector-General Napoleon Bonaparte, a high-level officer who, on 10 March, was fined and sentenced to four-and-a-half years jail for accepting a bribe from fugitive Djoko Tjandra (wanted for embezzlement) to cancel the Interpol Red Notice against him. Napoleon was in the Bareskrim detention facility awaiting the outcome of his Supreme Court challenge. The attack on Kece started at 30 minutes past midnight and continued for an hour. The gang was able to enter Kece's cell because Napoleon had organised with the prison warden (a non-commissioned officer) that the padlock on Kece's cell be replaced with a padlock provided by Napoleon. After smearing Kece's face and body with human faeces, the physically powerful Napoleon and his three accomplices - one of whom is reportedly a former member of now-banned hard-line Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) - mercilessly beat the helpless Kece.

(left) Inspector-General Napoleon Bonaparte (10 March 2021)
(right) Christian apologist Muhammad Kece, (26 August 2021)


Kece filed a complaint, triggering an investigation. Numerous witness - including officers and inmates - have been questioned. Napoleon was questioned for some 10 hours on Monday 20 September. Prior to questioning, Napoleon published an open letter explaining his actions. 'Anyone can insult me,' he said, 'but not my Allah, the Koran, the Holy Prophet, and the creed of Islam. Hence, I pledge to take any action in a measured manner against those who dare to do so ... I am truly disappointed that the government has [not] yet taken down all of those uncivilised people's contents from the media. And last but not least, I will take responsibility for all my actions towards Kece regardless of the risks.' He also insisted that Kece's alleged blasphemies threaten Indonesia's unity, integrity and religious harmony. Clearly the corrupt and violent Napoleon intends to establish himself as a principled defender of Islam and patriotic champion of Indonesia; a man driven by righteous indignation, simply responding to the hurtful blasphemies of a dangerous apostate.

Christians, journalists, and Western diplomats must watch these cases closely: (1) the blasphemy case against Muhammad Kece, and (2) the persecution case against Inspector-General Napoleon Bonaparte. These related cases could trigger an explosion of Islamic zeal which some might seek to exploit for political gain. This would not bode well for the Church in Indonesia.


PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL:

Muhammad Kece,
bruised but smiling.

* protect and sustain Muhammad Kece: may Jehovah Rapha, the Lord our healer, bring health and healing to Kece's battered body and comfort to his soul; may Yahwey Sabaoth, the Lord/commander of heaven's hosts/angels, protect him from further attacks. 'Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings.' (Psalm 17:8 ESV)

* grace our brother Muhammad Kece with that 'peace of God which surpasses all understanding', to guard his heart and mind in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7 ESV); may the Holy Spirit be pleased to speak through him as he is 'dragged before governors and kings for [Christ's] sake' (from Matthew 10).

* intervene in the judicial process: may impunity be denied, may justice be achieved, and may righteousness be advanced for the sake the Church and the Gospel in Indonesia; AND may free speech be respected, may violence be rejected, and may hearts and minds be opened - not only in the courts, but also on the streets. 'For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost' (Jesus, from Luke 19:1-10 ESV).

SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
-----------------------------------------
INDONESIA: CONVERT APOLOGIST ACCUSED OF BLASPHEMY, ASSAULTED IN PRISON

Muhammad 'Kece' Kosman is a convert to Christianity (baptised 2014) and former Islamic cleric. In July 2020 Kece created a YouTube channel through which he offers an intellectual critique of Islam. On 21 August one of Indonesia's most senior clerics accused Kece of blasphemy and insisted he be arrested lest Muslims 'show their anger'. Kece was arrested on 25 August and detained in South Jakarta. That night, four prisoners, led by Inspector-General Napoleon (imprisoned for corruption) and aided by the prison warden, broke into Kece's cell and beat him mercilessly. Kece filed a complaint, triggering an investigation. Napoleon has demonstrated his intent to establish himself as a principled defender of Islam and patriotic champion of Indonesia. These related cases, against Kece and Napoleon, could trigger an explosion of Islamic zeal. Please pray.

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

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, October 5, 2021

RLPB 618. Nigeria: Jihad Expands in Niger and Kogi

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 618 | Wed 06 Oct 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.

NIGERIA: JIHAD EXPANDS IN NIGER AND KOGI
- bandits and herdsmen employed; churches and academics targeted; Abuja increasingly encircled.
by Elizabeth Kendal

Niger Governor Abubakar Sani Bello, 27 April 2021

Niger State: North Central Region. The people of eastern Niger State are mostly ethnic Gwari/Gbari; of whom 38 percent follow ethnic religions, 29 percent are Muslim and 33 percent are Christian (mostly Roman Catholic). It has been six months since Boko Haram overran 42 communities across Shiroro and Munya Local Government Areas (LGAs) in the state's far east (bordering southern Kaduna), seizing an untold number of women and displacing some 5000 villagers [see RLPB 596 (05 May 2021)]. So what has happened in the six months since Boko Haram hoisted its flag a mere 'two hours drive from Abuja' (Nigeria's capital)?

According to Suleiman Chukuba, chairman of Shiroro LGA, Boko Haram now controls around 500 communities across eight wards of Shiroro LGA. He told Reuters (3 Oct), 'Shiroro local government has an uncountable number of Boko Haram fighters.' Bello Ibrahim, a resident of the area and co-convener of Concerned Shiroro Youths, told Nigeria's Daily Trust (4 Oct) that, in all the villages it controls Boko Haram has established itself as the supreme authority. He said the terrorists move around freely and have ordered that all villagers - Muslim and Christian - defer to them for all dispute resolutions (not the police), replace secular education with Islamic education, and marry off all girls aged 12 and over. They have reportedly also threatened to take over Shiroro Hydro Power Station, one of Nigeria's largest power stations, and are recruiting, arming and training locals for a fight against the government.

At 2am on Thursday 30 September, 'bandits' on motorbikes and in cars overran Kachiwe community in Sarkin Pawa Ward of neighbouring Munya LGA. They set fire to all the houses and barns, sending residents fleeing for their lives and wiping out the entire community. Ten people were burned alive and ten women were abducted. The 'bandits' then went on to slaughter nine people in Shapè Village under the Sarki Pawa ward and seven people in Gogope ward. They also stopped and killed two people whose vehicle had broken down; at which point three of the captive women managed to escape. While many in the media and even in government continue to speak of 'bandits', Niger State Governor Abubakar (also known as Yahaya) Bello, insists they are all terrorists. Like many, Governor Bello believes that Boko Haram has formed 'some kind of an alliance with bandits' and is arming and supporting them to further their own jihadist agenda.

click on map to enlarge

Kogi State: North Central Region. Located at the confluence of the Niger and Benue Rivers, bordering Niger State and the Federal Capital Territory, the geographically strategic central state of Kogi comprises primarily three ethnic groups: the mostly Christian Igala of Kogi East, the mostly Muslim Ebira of Kogi Central and the most Christian Okun of Koji West. African traditional religions are also practised widely across the state.

On Sunday 19 September, Fulani herdsmen attacked an Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) church in Okedayo-Kabba, Kabba/Bunu LGA, Kogi West. According to Pastor Matthew Atayi, around six armed herdsmen burst into the church during worship and opened fire on the congregation. Reuben Gbenga (45) was shot dead, several others were wounded and three worshippers were abducted. One of those abducted (possibly the main target) was the pioneer Provost of the College of Education Technical Kabba, Chief Julius Oshadumo (78), for whom the kidnappers demanded an unobtainable ransom. On or around 2 October Julius Oshadumo was killed in crossfire during a botched rescue attempt. Another captive church member was rescued, albeit with bullet wounds and one church member remains in captivity. Reports differ as to whether the rescuers were Nigerian security forces or vigilantes. Oshadumo's wife was shot and seriously wounded during the church invasion. The attack came only weeks after an attack on Winners Chapel at Osara, Adavi LGA, Kogi Central, in which three worshippers were abducted. They were released five days later after payment of ransom.

On 27 September armed herdsmen kidnapped Professor John (or James) Alabi, a Christian who served as Head of Management Sciences Faculty at Kogi State University. The herdsmen reportedly seized Prof. Alabi from his home in Anyigba, Dekina LGA, Kogi East, and threatened his family, saying that unless they pay a huge ransom he would be killed. Prof. Alabi was rescued on Saturday 2 October by Kogi State Police Command. At 8:30pm on 1 October Fulani herdsmen raided Emonoja village, Olamaboro LGA, Kogi East. Chief Idoko Emmanuel and Paul Onoja were abducted and Miss Blessing Akoh was shot in the leg. On 2 October Kogi State Police rescued the kidnap victims, having pursued the abductors until they abandoned their captives. At 1am on 2 October three Christians were killed by Fulani herdsmen during a botched abduction in Okene LGA, Kogi Central. The killings are under investigation. 

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL: 

* intervene in Nigeria to end corruption, facilitate security, discredit Islam, and initiate constitutional reform; by the power of the Holy Spirit may Nigerians come to the LORD, to learn from his ways and walk in his paths (Isaiah 2:2-4); may the Nigerian Church be revived and reformed to this end (Isaiah 2:5).  [Isaiah 2:1-5 ESV]

* protect, comfort and sustain all those Christians currently living under Boko Haram rule or imperilled on account of escalating terror amidst severe insecurity; may God give them grace, wisdom and discernment as they navigate these difficult days, one day at a time. In this we pray especially for pastors and all Nigerian Christians in positions of leadership and influence; may the Lord be pleased to bless and use them for his glory.  

I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth (Psalm 121:1-2 ESV).


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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NIGERIA: JIHAD EXPANDS IN NIGER AND KOGI STATES

In April, Boko Haram seized control of 42 communities in eastern Niger State, hoisting its flag a mere ‘two hour drive from Abuja’ (federal capital). Today, Boko Haram controls some 500 communities in eastern Niger. Residents have been ordered to defer to them (not police); replace secular education with Islamic education; and marry off all girls aged 12-yrs and over. Terror is widespread. Bordering Niger State and the Federal Capital Territory to the south is the geographically strategic state of Kogi. Terror attacks are escalating across Kogi as ‘bandits’ and Fulani herdsmen target churches and Christian academics in killings and kidnappings. It is widely believed that Boko Haram has forged an alliance with ‘bandits’ and Fulani herdsmen and are arming and supporting them to further their own jihadist agenda. 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