Tuesday, November 23, 2021

RLPB 625. November Update, incl. Algeria, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Burma (Myanmar), North Koreans, Togo and Burkina Faso, Sudan, Uganda.

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 625 | Wed 24 Nov 2021
RLPB is published weekly to facilitate strategic intercessory prayer.

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

By Elizabeth Kendal

DIARY

Pastor Salah Chalah, June 2021.
Evangelical Focus, 14 July 2021

5 December: An Algerian pastor and two members of his congregation will face court on 5 December charged with 'calling for the disobedience of laws by a clergyman', 'practising non-Muslim rites without permission' and 'calling to organise an unarmed assembly' (a demonstration). Pastor Salah participated in a peaceful demonstration in October 2019 in front of municipal offices in Tizi Ouzou to protest the forcible sealing of his church [See RLPB 531 (3 Dec 2019)]. He also led protests in June 2021 after three more churches were sealed. If deemed guilty, the maximum penalty is a fine plus 5 years in prison. Please pray.

19 December: Chile's potentially explosive presidential runoff will be a contest between two anti-establishment politicians from opposite ends of the political spectrum: the right-wing conservative lawmaker Jose Antonio Kast (55) and left-wing former student protest leader Gabriel Boric (35). Kast is regarded the front-runner as most centrists are ideologically much closer to Kast than to Boric. Please pray for peace: that, no matter the outcome, there will be no resumption of violent protests and church burnings [RLPB 621 (27 Oct)].

24-25 December: Christmas Eve and Christmas Day for Catholic and Protestant Christians; a time of joyous celebration and, for many, elevated risk of terror attack. Please pray.

NOVEMBER 2021 UPDATE

DURING THIS PERIOD, WE PRAYED CONCERNING:

* ETHIOPIA [RLPB 622 (3 Nov)], as rebels belonging to the US-trained, Marxist, separatist Tigray Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF) and the ethno-nationalist Oromo Liberation Army (OLA, formerly OLF-Shane) advanced towards the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, killing, looting and displacing hundreds of thousands as they went. By the end of October, the TPLF had seized control of the strategic towns of Dessie and Kombolcha (where it summarily executed over 100 youths) while the OLA had seized control of Kemise, 53km south of Kombolcha and just 325km north of Addis Ababa. What needs to be understood is that Ethiopia's TPLF is no different to Sudan's al-Bashir regime: human rights abusers par-excellence, ousted by popular uprisings, yet deeply invested at every level, supported by a well-entrenched deep state and totally unwilling to accept their demise. Ethiopia's Future Hangs in the Balance (RLM 11 July).

UPDATE: URGENT PRAYER REQUIRED

By 20 November the TPLF-OLA had captured Shewa Robit, a highly strategic town only 200 km from Addis Ababa. Reportedly, the rebels freed over 3,000 hardened criminals from Shewa Robit prison and are marching them to Debre Berhan, the new frontline, 120km from Addis. Some reports suggest that the Ethiopian National Defence Force (ENDF) has collapsed and Debre Berhan is surrounded. Others report fierce fighting on the road between Shewa Robit and Debre Sina, 60km north of Debre Berhan. On Monday 22 November Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (45) announced: 'Starting tomorrow, I will mobilise to the front to lead the defence forces.' On Tuesday 23 November the US Department of State warned of the possibility of a terrorist attack in Ethiopia. The breakup/Balkanisation of Ethiopia would result in a Christian crisis of monumental proportions. Parts of the country would be devoured by Ethiopia's salivating, irredentist, politically troubled neighbours, Islamic jihadists would flood in, and ethno-religious genocidal aggression would be unleashed on the Christian Amhara. Please pray that Baal-perazim - the Lord of the breakthrough (2 Samuel 5:17-20) - might intervene to 'turn back the battle at the gate' (from Isaiah 28:5-6).

And [David] said, 'The Lord has broken through my enemies before me like a breaking flood.' Therefore the name of that place is called Baal-perazim' [the Lord who breaks through] (from 2 Samuel 5:17-20).

* NIGERIA [RLPB 623 (10 Nov)], where the Christian crisis in central, Middle Belt state of Kaduna continues and shows no signs of abating.

UPDATE: A CHRISTIAN CRISIS OF NO PARTICULAR CONCERN

Of the 121 children taken captive from Bethel Baptist High School in the early hours of 5 July, four remain in captivity. Of the 66 believers abducted from Emmanuel Baptist Church on Sunday 31 October, five were shot (two killed and three critically wounded) on 6 November. It appears that one of those wounded has died, while the other two have been discharged from hospital. The 'bandits' have threatened to starve the captives to death unless food is supplied. Community representatives have been delivering food supplies and are negotiating with the kidnappers. Please pray.

Meanwhile, contrary to the recommendation of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, the US Department of State has removed Nigeria from its list of 'Countries of Particular Concern' (CPC) with regards to religious freedom. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced the new CPC list on Wednesday 17 November, the day before he departed on a tour of Africa. On Thursday 18 November Mr Blinken met with Nigerian President Buhari in Abuja, where he 'reaffirmed with President Buhari the strong partnership between the United States and Nigeria, which is founded upon shared democratic ideals and a spirit of transparency and co-operation'. In a speech delivered in Abuja on Friday 19 November, Mr Blinken referred to Nigeria as a global leader, 'deserving of a prominent seat wherever the most consequential issues are discussed'. He vowed an overhaul of the US approach to Africa that will treat the continent as a 'major geopolitical power' and that will boost development 'with no political strings attached'. Mortified by the inexplicable back-flip, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has requested an explanation. Please pray for the Church in Nigeria.

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... (Psalm 146:3,5 ESV).

It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes (Psalm 118:8-9 ESV).

* IRAN [RLPB 624 (17 Nov)], where peaceful Christians - particularly those who are Persian converts from Islam - continue to be repressed, persecuted and jailed by the Islamic regime.

'I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it' (Jesus, Matthew 16:18 ESV).

NOVEMBER 2021 ROUND-UP - also this month:

* BURMA: OPERATION ANAWRAHTA UNDERWAY
Update to RLPB 621, Operation Anawrahta Looms, 27 Oct 2021

Background:
The goal of Operation Anawrahta is to crush the ethnic Burman 'People's Defence Forces' (PDFs) that have proliferated throughout the Burman heartland, along with those who support, train, supply and shelter them: in this case, the overwhelmingly Christian ethnic Chin.

CHRISTIAN TOWN TORCHED IN CHIN STATE

Thantlang burns, 29 October.

On 29 October the Tatmadaw (Burmese military) returned to Chin State's predominantly Christian Thantlang Township. Virtually all the town's some 10,000 residents fled after troops first attacked the town on 18-19 September [see RLPB 617 (29 Sept)]. The only residents still living in the town were 20 orphan children who, along with their teachers, remained in the orphanage. The Chinland Defence Force was monitoring the situation when a Chin soldier shot and killed a Burmese soldier who was caught looting stores. The Tatmadaw responded with a barrage of artillery: the Church on the Rock, the Presbyterian church and a building attached to the Thantlang Baptist Church - the town's largest congregation - all caught fire in the shelling. Burmese troops then moved in and set fire to some 200 homes, ensuring the town residents would have nothing to return to.

MILITARY VIOLENCE UNLEASHED ON CHRISTIAN CHIN

On Thursday night 11 November Burmese troops raided and looted at least five homes in Tedim Township, 200km north of Thantlang Township. In one home, three soldiers repeatedly gang-raped a 27-year-old mother of three, including a four-week-old infant. They beat her husband around the head and forced him at gunpoint to squat in the toilet while his wife was repeatedly raped. The family has been evacuated to safety. Devout Christians, the Chin are collectively distraught that such a crime should be inflicted on a Chin family. In another home, soldiers tied up a pregnant woman and beat her husband in front of her. Such atrocities, committed with impunity, have long been the Tatmadaw's trademark. Please pray.

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)

* NORTH KOREAN REFUGEES IN CHINA
Update to RLPB 612, China Arrests North Korean Wives, 25 Aug 2021

As noted in RLPB 612, 'Many Chinese and Korean Christians chose to live and work [on the China side of the China-North Korea (NK) border] precisely so they might help and witness to NK refugees.' According to Radio Free Asia (15 Nov), China is preparing to repatriate 1170 North Korean refugees. The refugees, who are already in Chinese custody, include an unknown number of NK wives and at least two children. Some of these NK refugees will doubtless have become Christians in China. Once back in NK, they will be incarcerated, severely mistreated and possibly even executed. Please pray that God would intervene in grace and mercy to redeem North Korea. Please pray that NK refugees who have settled in China will not be repatriated. Please pray that if any Christian is repatriated, the Lord will sustain them and bless their testimony with effective power.

SAHEL: TERROR ATTACKS IN TOGO AND BURKINA FASO
Update to RLPB 607, Africa's Afghanistan? Christians Imperilled, 21 July 2021)

Regional map,
showing the location
of Togo's Kpendjal Prefecture.
Click on map to enlarge.

Background: As France is withdrawing from the Sahel, jihadist groups are preparing to fill the security void, consolidate and even expand south into the countries of the Gulf of Guinea: Ivory Coast, Ghana, Togo and Benin, all of which border Burkina Faso.

On the night of 9 November, Togo suffered its first jihadist terror attack on its territory. The jihadists - reportedly members of the al-Qaeda-affiliated Group for Supporters of Muslims and Islam (JNIM) - are believed to have crossed from southern Burkina Faso into northern Togo's Kpendjal Prefecture where they attacked a security post. While the Togo military prevailed without casualties, the nation is now on alert for future border clashes and terror attacks as jihadists seek to expand towards the Gulf of Guinea. On 14 November JNIM militants attacked a security post in northern Burkina Faso's Inata town, a gold mining centre in the Sahel region, close to the border with Mali, killing four civilians and at least 49 military police officers, essentially wiping out the Burkinabe base. The Burkina military is being forced to focus on the crisis in the Liptako tri-border (Mali-Niger-Burkina Faso) region, leaving the southern border largely unprotected. 

According to Father Etienne Tandamba, a priest in the diocese of Fada N’Gourma, in eastern Burkina Faso, 120 km due north of the Togo border:  'The security situation in the country is worsening day by day, armed groups are advancing . . . they are subordinating the population to their will... Kidnappings and confiscations are the order of the day... Schools remain closed, as do some chapels, and the state of the city administration is precarious.' The Sahel and Gulf of Guinea states have mixed populations and a tradition of communal harmony, religious freedom and respect for Christian mission. Please pray. 

* SUDAN: HOPES FOR RELIGIOUS REFORMS DASHED
Update to RLPB 621, Hopes of 'New Sudan' Crushed in Military Coup, 27 Oct 2021.

In 2013 the racist and Islamist regime of President Omar al-Bashir, seized administrative control of the Sudanese Presbyterian Evangelical Church (SPEC) in Khartoum, ordering the Ministry of Guidance and Endowments, which regulates religious affairs in Sudan, to appoint a committee to administer the church's affairs. This occurred in the context of escalating Islamic belligerence and persecution in the wake of the secession of South Sudan [see RLPB 200 (6 March 2013)]. In 2015 the Supreme Court ruled the move illegal and ordered the illegally-constituted committees be dismissed and administrative control be returned to the churches. The regime ignored the order.

Following the April 2019 ouster of the al-Bashir regime, SPEC filed a case before the administrative court against the Ministry of Guidance and Religious Affairs and the illegitimate committee, seeking the implementation of the supreme court's 2015 decision. In July 2021 the Ministry of Guidance and Religious Affairs agreed to implement the decision, although an administrative court review was required before any action could be authorised. But, on 25 October, the Sudanese military staged a military coup and ousted the civilian members of Sudan's transitional government. Christian Solidarity Worldwide reports (18 Nov): 'On 15 November an administrative court judge decided to dismiss the case to return power to the legitimate church committee as the one with the legal authority to act on behalf of the church, rejecting both the [July 2021] agreement and the 2015 Supreme Court decision. The judge failed to give any reasoning for the decision, indicating that the action was political.' The decision may indicate that the religious reforms of recent years are about to be rolled back. Please pray.

* UGANDA: TERROR COMES TO KAMPALA
Update to RLPB 616, D.R.Congo (DRC): Jihad and Conversion, 22 Sept 2021.

Background: Before 2017, the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) was just a criminal militia whose origins were in Uganda and whose base was in north-eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). In 2017 its Ugandan leader, Musa Baluku, forged connections with Islamic State (IS). In 2019 the ADF pledged allegiance to IS and became the DRC chapter of IS-Central Africa Province (ISCAP). Since then, ADF violence has escalated markedly. As noted in the more detailed RLM post of 21 September, it seems 'Islamic State is working to consolidate and expand in the remote north-east border regions of DRC. If successful it may well move to expand further, not only into Uganda, but possibly, in the future, into South Sudan and the wider "Christian" region.'

On 23 October Islamic State Central Africa Province (ISCAP) claimed responsibility for two minor, low casualty terror attacks in central Uganda: one targeting a pork eatery and one targeting a passenger bus. Then, on Tuesday 16 November, ISCAP suicide bombers perpetrated a far more sophisticated twin terror attack in the heart of Kampala. At around 10am, a suicide bomber detonated himself outside Kampala's Central Police Station. Minutes later, two suicide bombers on motorbikes detonated themselves outside the entrance to the Parliament. Police foiled a third attack, shooting the potential suicide bomber. In all, five people were killed and 33 hospitalised with injuries (21 of whom are police officers). Security has been heightened and President Museveni has warned the public to 'maintain vigilance of checking people at entry points to bus parks, hotels, churches, mosques, markets'. Please pray that God will protect Uganda's churches this Christmas season, not only from ISCAP terrorists, but also from the radicalised fundamentalist Muslims who are escalating their persecution of minority Christians - especially converts from Islam - in Uganda's Eastern Region [see Morning Star News / Uganda].

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

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone. . . For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulders, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this (the promise of Isaiah 9:2,6,7 ESV).

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

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, November 16, 2021

RLPB 624. Iran: Christians repressed, persecuted and jailed

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 624 | Wed 17 Nov 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. 

IRAN: CHRISTIANS REPRESSED, PERSECUTED AND JAILED
- Persian prisoners write letter; groups launch petition over right to Persian worship.
by Elizabeth Kendal

Amin Khaki with his wife Laleh
 and son Ateen (5) outside the
Civil and Revolutionary Court of Fardis,
before his transfer to Ghezel Hesar prison.
10 November 2021

In November 2020 Iranian Intelligence agents raided the homes of Persian converts, Amin Khaki, Milad Goodarzi and Alireza Nourmohammadi, in Fardis, west of Tehran, confiscating phones, laptops and everything relating to Christianity. In May 2021 the three converts became the first Iranian Christians to be charged and convicted under the penal code's newly amended Article 500, when they were fined and handed the maximum sentence of five years in prison for 'engaging in propaganda that educates in a deviant way contrary to the holy religion of Islam'. In August the fine was removed and the sentences reduced to three years on appeal. Article 18 reports (8 Nov): 'The three men, who have all spent time in prison before because of their Christian faith and activities, have until Wednesday, 10 November, to hand themselves in to the prison authorities in Karaj.'

In June 2020 brothers Sam and Sasan Khosravi and Habib Heydari were among seven Iranian Christians from Bushehr, on Iran's south coast, to be sentenced for 'propaganda against the Islamic Republic by promoting Christianity'. While the men were handed custodial sentences, the women were fined and banned from work. Sam, Sasan and Habib were sentenced to serve one year in prison, after which the Khosravi brothers must also serve two years in internal exile. In January 2021 an appeals court upheld their custodial sentences on the grounds that the men are indeed guilty of 'organisation of house-churches and promotion of Christianity, which are clear examples of propaganda against the state' [see RLPB 584 (10 Feb 2021)]. At that time, Sam and his wife Maryam were also fighting to retain custody of their special needs daughter Lydia (2), whom they adopted from an orphanage as an infant. Because Lydia was 'born Muslim' and Sam and Maryam are Christian, the court deemed them unfit to raise her [see RLPB 571 (14 Oct 2020)]. Their struggle continues. Sasan and Habib began their prison terms on 8 February but were furloughed in March, doubtless due to the stress COVID-19 was inflicting on the prison system. On 11 November Sasan and Habib returned to Bushehr Central Prison to complete their sentences.

Zaman (Saheb) Fadaie (40)
with his wife Marjan and daughter Martha (15),
during a 15-day leave from prison in September 2021.

Meanwhile, Zaman (Saheb) Fadaie (40) - imprisoned since July 2018 - was recently informed that he has been denied parole for a second time. Saheb - whose 10-year sentence was reduced to six years on appeal - was surprised because he had not even applied for parole. Incarcerated in Tehran's Evin Prison, Saheb has consistently refused to apply for conditional release because, as Article 18 explains, he cannot accept the conditions of release; specifically the condition that he have no further involvement with a house-church. The conditions for those charged under the amended Article 500 are even worse, including no contact with 'sect' members in the 'real or virtual sphere' (i.e. in person or on-line; so as to prevent 'mind control' and 'psychological indoctrination'). Saheb Fadaie is one of three Persian Christians currently serving long prison sentences for their membership of a house church who have written a joint letter and recorded video statements, asking the authorities where they should worship once they are released. For, while Armenian and Assyrian Christians are permitted to meet for Christian worship, they are not permitted worship in the Persian/Farsi language or welcome Persian converts into their fellowship. Consequently, Persian converts have no choice but to meet in secret house-churches which the regime has banned as 'sects' and 'enemy groups'.

In support of the prisoners, several Christian advocacy groups have co-authored an open letter to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet. Dated 9 November 2021, the letter requests the High Commissioner seek answers from the Iranian regime to the question of 'where Persian-speaking Christians can gather to worship freely without risking harassment and imprisonment on excessive charges.' As the letter explains: 'In 2020 alone, there were at least 115 known separate instances of the authorities targeting Christians for the peaceful exercise of their religious belief in which a total of 237 individuals were targeted, and combined prison sentences of 147 years (1,760 months) were handed down. So far in 2021, at least 53 Christians have been arrested, and many more await imminent court hearings. At present, at least 17 Christians targeted on account of the peaceful practice of their religious belief are serving sentences of between two to 10 years. Two more are in state-ordered internal exile, having already spent years in prison.' That number no doubt includes Morteza Mashhoudkari, Ayoub PourRezazade and Ahmad Sarparast, three Persian converts arrested in Rasht at around 10pm on the night of Sunday 5 September - two from a prayer group and one from their home. Their whereabouts remain unknown.

You can read the full text of the letter and sign the petition HERE:  https://articleeighteen.com/news/9587/


PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL:

* comfort and sustain Iranian believers - men and women - who are imprisoned, exiled or awaiting trial simply for exercising their Christian faith through prayer, worship and witness; may their Almighty Father protect them; may Christ the Good Shepherd lead them and supply their needs; and may the ever-present Holy Spirit draw them into prayer and fill them with 'the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding' so as to guard their hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (from Philippians 4:3-7). 'But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head' (Psalm 3:3 ESV).

'Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body' (Hebrews 13:3 ESV).

* 'carry' Sam, Maryam and Lydia safely into a secure and settled future where they can live as a family to the glory of God. 'Behold, the Lord God comes with might... He will tend his flock like a shepherd... he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young' (from Isaiah 40:10-11 ESV).

* continue to build his Church in Iran (Matthew 16:18); in this, we pray especially for Christ's rapidly growing Church of Persian converts; may their testimony of liberation, transformation, salvation and redemption ensure Christ's light will shine ever brighter until Iran's darkness is no more.

* break through and demolish every stronghold in and over the nation of Iran: having loosened Islam's spiritual grip over the people, may God now break Islam's political grip over the nation - for the glory of Christ, AMEN!

SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
------------------------------------------
CHRISTIANS REPRESSED, PERSECUTED AND JAILED IN IRAN

In May, Persian converts, Amin Khaki, Milad Goodarzi and Alireza Nourmohammadi, were sentenced to five years in prison for 'engaging in propaganda that educates in a deviant way contrary to the holy religion of Islam'. The sentences were reduced to three years on appeal. The men entered prison on 10 November. In June 2020, brothers Sam and Sasan Khosravi and Habib Heydari were among seven Iranian Christians sentenced for 'propaganda against the Islamic Republic by promoting Christianity'. Furloughed from prison after a month (due to COVID-19) Sasan and Habib recommenced their prison terms on 11 November. Meanwhile, Sam and Maryam continue the struggle to retain custody of their adopted daughter, Lydia (2), after the court deemed them (as Christians) 'unfit' to raise her. Please pray for the Church in Iran.

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

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, November 9, 2021

RLPB 623. Nigeria: Christian Crisis in Kaduna

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 623 | Wed 10 Nov 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: CHRISTIAN CRISIS IN KADUNA
- Boko Haram sets up base in Rijana Forest, Chikun LGA.
Also UPDATE on Ethiopia Crisis
by Elizabeth Kendal

Ransomed child is reunited with family.
Source: Punch (25 July).

BETHEL BAPTIST HIGH SCHOOL: On Sunday 31 October the Vice-President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (19 Northern States and Abuja) and CAN's chairman in Kaduna State, Rev. Joseph John Hayab, issued a statement regarding the four remaining captives from Kaduna's Bethel Baptist High School. The captive children are the last of the 121 students abducted from the school's hostel in Damishi, Chikun Local Government Area (LGA), by Fulani bandits in the early hours of Monday 5 July [RLPB 605 (7 July 2021)]. Since Sunday 25 July the bandits have been releasing the children in batches as ransom is paid. The last release occurred on 5 October; there has been no word since and fears for the children's safety and well-being are mounting. To hinder the region's out-of-control banditry, Kaduna authorities have suspended all telecommunications in the area. Unfortunately, this also means that Christians cannot phone for help when they come under attack and parents and intermediaries cannot contact kidnappers and vice versa. 'We have prayed, and we are still praying', said Rev Joseph Hayab as he lamented the government's slow response. 'The pains and trauma their parents are going through cannot be described. We must not forget these children.' Please pray.

Fulani gunmen/'bandits' (jihadist proxies)

EMMANUEL BAPTIST CHURCH: At 10am on Sunday 31 October Fulani gunmen surrounded Emmanuel Baptist Church in Kakau Daji, Chikun LGA, Kaduna State. Worship was in progress when the bandits began firing their weapons. One worshipper was killed, one was seriously wounded and 66 were taken captive. Then on Saturday 6 November the captors opened fire on their captives, killing two and wounding three who are now in hospital in a critical condition. On Sunday 7 November the President of the Nigerian Baptist Convention (NBC), Rev. Israel Akanji, confirmed that the bandits were carrying out their earlier threat to kill hostages until the government agrees to a round-table discussion. Not only does Rev. Israel Akanji have no authority to grant the kidnappers' request, he cannot even speak to President Buhari at the moment because the president is out of the country - in London, return date unknown. The remaining 61 captive church members are therefore in a diabolical situation. Please pray.

Kaduna LGAs
click on map to enlarge

TERRORISM: Located on the western edge of southern Kaduna, Chikun LGA is contiguous with Niger State's Shiroro and Munya LGAs where Boko Haram now controls some 500 communities [see: RLPB 618 (6 Oct 2021)]. According to reports, Boko Haram has relocated its base from the Sambisi Forest in Borno State to the Rijana Forest in Chikun LGA. According to reports, Boko Haram bomb makers - known as Amaliyyahs - have recently arrived at the Rijana Forest base. The State Security Service (SSS) - also called the Department of State Services (DSS) - has asked security agencies in Kaduna to brace themselves for likely attacks. Meanwhile, in Nigeria's north-east, Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) has reportedly procured fake military uniforms from Libya. The uniforms and other military supplies are allegedly in Cameroon, awaiting transport to the ISWAP base in the Lake Chad basin area of Borno State. According to the intelligence, ISWAP is planning major attacks on Nigerians during the Christmas season. Please pray.


PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL:

* protect, sustain and ultimately deliver the four remaining captive children from Kaduna's Bethel Baptist High School. We pray also for Christian captive Leah Sharibu, held by Boko Haram in Yobe State since March 2018 [see: RLPB 448 (28 March 2018)] and for the more than 100 mostly Christian girls still missing after being abducted by Boko Haram from their school in Chibok, Borno State, in April 2014 [see: RLPB 257 (23 April 2014)]. Lord in your mercy, protect, sustain and deliver them all.

* intervene to save the believers abducted from Kaduna's Emmanuel Baptist Church; may the killing not continue. May the Holy Spirit help the believers to fix their eyes on Jesus (Hebrews 12:1-3) who assures us, 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me,' and has promised, 'I am with you always' (Matthew 28:18-20).

* grant Nigeria's Christian leaders great wisdom and discernment as they are forced to negotiate with terrorists while seeking help and solutions from state and federal officials; we pray especially for those in crisis-wracked Kaduna. Lord in your mercy, guide them, sustain them and deliver Kaduna from the evil which plagues it.

* intervene in Nigeria to disrupt the plans of Islamic jihadists, including those wreaking havoc in the north-west and those in the north-east plotting Christmas terror; may supply lines be cut, may confusion abound and may those plotting evil devour themselves (Psalm 127:2).


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
------------------------------------------
NIGERIA: CHRISTIAN CRISIS IN KADUNA

Christian leaders have called upon Nigerians not to forget the victims of Kaduna's Bethel Baptist High School abduction. Of the 121 children abducted on 5 July, four remain in captivity and there has been no word from their captors since 5 October. Meanwhile, on Sunday morning 31 October, Fulani gunmen attacked Kaduna's Emmanuel Baptist Church, killing one believer, wounding another and abducting 66. The terrorists threatened to kill captives until the government agrees to talks. On Saturday 6 November they opened fire, killing two hostages and critically wounding three. Unfortunately, negotiator Rev. Israel Akanji does not have the authority to grant the terrorists' request and President Buhari is currently out of the country. Both attacks occurred in southern Kaduna's Chikun Local Government Area, where Boko Haram is establishing its new base. Please pray.

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

ETHIOPIA CRISIS
UPDATE to RLPB 602, Christian Crisis Looms as Rebels Advance, (3 Nov).

On Sunday 7 November over one million Ethiopians came together in Addis Ababa to voice their support for the government of Prime Minister Abiy and to protest TPLF-OLA belligerence, foreign interference, US duplicity, and Western media bias. It was the largest demonstration in Ethiopia's history. Smaller demonstrations also occurred in other major cities throughout the country. Meanwhile, the OLA continues its fight to sever the A2 highway, while the TPLF/TDF is fighting in Afar Region for the strategic town of Mille on the A1 highway. Ethiopian forces are reportedly massing in Shewa Robit ahead of a counter-offensive. While it is highly doubtful the TPLF-OLA could capture Addis Ababa, let alone hold it, there is absolutely no doubt about how much destruction they are prepared to unleash and how much Ethiopian blood they are prepared to spill. Please pray.

Over one million Ethiopians march in support of the government.
Addis Ababa, Sunday 7 November 2021.

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

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, November 2, 2021

RLPB 622. Ethiopia: Christian Crisis Looms as Rebels Advance

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 622 | Wed 03 Nov 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

ETHIOPIA: CHRISTIAN CRISIS LOOMS AS REBELS ADVANCE.
by Elizabeth Kendal

Enabled by foreign powers - particularly Egypt, the Sudanese military and the US Biden administration - the Marxist, separatist Tigray Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF, also known as the Tigray Defence Force) and the ethno-nationalist Oromo Liberation Army (OLA, formerly OLF-Shane) have achieved a strategic and possibly pivotal victory. Despite lacking popular support, the hated rebels are now poised to advance on the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa. The collapse of Ethiopia would herald a Christian crisis of monumental proportions as the TPLF and OLA would move with genocidal intent against the Christian ethnic Amhara. In October 2020 the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) warned that the fragmentation of Ethiopia (population 105 million) would be 'the largest state collapse in modern history', and would likely lead to 'mass inter-ethnic and inter-religious conflict [code for a genocidal war against Amhara Christians]; a dangerous vulnerability to exploitation by extremists [code for Islamic jihadists]; an acceleration of illicit trafficking, including of arms; as well as a humanitarian and security crisis at the crossroads of Africa and the Middle East on a scale that would overshadow the existing conflicts in South Sudan, Sudan, Somalia, and Yemen'.

Not short on looted funds, the rebels have won the struggle for Information Dominance; their propaganda is everywhere. The claim parroted by mainstream media, that the war in Ethiopia started when PM Abiy sent troops into Tigray, is simply untrue as is the claim that the Ethiopian government is deliberately starving ethnic Tigrayans. The TPLF launched its planned war against the Ethiopian government in the early hours of 4 November 2020 with surprise attacks on the Northern Command's headquarters in the Tigray capital, Mekelle, and bases across Tigray. TPLF fighters and sympathisers within the Ethiopian National Defence Force (ENDF) slaughtered ethnic Amharan soldiers in cold blood so they might loot the army's heavy and mechanised weaponry. The TPLF called the attacks 'a pre-emptive strike' for the purpose of 'self-defence'. The Ethiopian government took the multi-pronged attack for what it was - a declaration of war - and sent in the troops. By the end of November 2020, the ENDF had captured Mekelle. A caretaker government was subsequently installed comprising members of Tigrayan opposition parties. The TPLF staged a strategic retreat but continued the fight in rural areas. This, as Tigrayans were struggling to avoid famine amidst Tigray's worst locust plague in 25 years.

Christmas in Amhara's famous Lalibela,
which fell to the rebels in August 2021.

In June 2021 the US Biden administration forced the Abiy government to declare a unilateral ceasefire. Tigray's caretaker government fled Mekelle, the TPLF returned and thousands of withdrawing ENDF troops were taken captive. Rejecting the ceasefire, the TPLF then went on the offensive, taking their war into Afar and Amhara regions [see: 'Ethiopia's Future Hangs in the Balance' RLM, 11 July 2021]. On 5 August the TPLF seized control of the historic city of Lalibela - a UNESCO heritage site, famed for its ancient rock-hewn churches. On 11 August the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) announced it had forged an alliance with the TPLF to oust the government of Prime Minister Dr Abiy Ahmed [see: RLPB 611, 'TPLF-OLA Move to Escalate War,' 18 Aug 2021]. Fighting has been concentrated in the east of Amhara Region, particularly in North Wollo Zone (where Lalibela is located) and South Wollo Zone (where the strategic towns of Dessie and Kombolcha are located). Dessie and Kombolcha sit on Ethiopia's A2 highway, which links Addis Ababa to Mekelle, historic Adwa and the two main border crossings into Eritrea. Industrial Kombolcha is a junction town from where the B11 highway starts its route east into Afar Region, where it meets up with the A1 highway which connects Addis Ababa to ports in Assab, Eritrea and Djibouti.

Click on map to enlarge.
For updates see: Livemap

On Sunday 31 October the TLPF claimed to have seized control of Dessie and its 'twin city' Kombolcha, along with its airport. The government denied the claim, insisting the ENDF is still in control amidst fierce fighting. PM Abiy also claimed that foreign fighters were fighting with the TPLF in Dessie and Kombolcha and that the TPLF had rounded up and summarily executed some 100 youths in Kombolcha - a claim the TPLF has not denied. Meanwhile the OLA claims to have captured Kemise, 53km south of Kombolcha on the A2 and just 325km north of Addis Ababa, in Amhara Region's Oromia Zone (which is 86 percent ethnic Oromo). The Amhara regional government has declared a state of emergency and ordered all government institutions to suspend regular services and divert their budgets to the 'survival campaign'. According to news on Livemap, senior Ethiopian government members are making get-away plans, pre-booking flights and getting their families to safe havens. On Tuesday 2 November the US Biden administration escalated pressure on Ethiopia, revoking trade preferences over alleged gross human rights abuses. The TPLF and OLA have now physically linked up south of Kombolcha. As The Africa Report warns (2 Nov), 'A likely advance on Addis Ababa now seems imminent.'


PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL:

* draw Ethiopians and Christians throughout the world onto their knees for the nation of Ethiopia - an ancient nation of great geo-strategic significance and missions powerhouse!

* protect and sustain his precious Church in Ethiopia - the ancient Ethiopian Orthodox Church, as well as the Catholics and Protestants, which includes ever increasing numbers of converts from Islam - as we recognise that this is first and foremost a spiritual battle.

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armour of God ... praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints' (from Ephesians 6:12-18).

* protect our brother Prime Minister Dr Abiy Ahmed and his government and grace them with divine wisdom, discernment, courage to strengthen and to deliver justice and turn back the battle.

In that day [of existential threat] the Lord of hosts will be a crown of glory, and a diadem of beauty, to the remnant of his people, and a spirit of justice to him who sits in judgment, and strength to those who turn back the battle at the gate (Isaiah 28:5-6 ESV).

[Isaiah's prophecy was fulfilled when a repentant King Hezekiah returned to the way of faith. His 'wait' over (Isaiah 30:18), God responded in grace and the Assyrian conquest of Jerusalem - which was both imminent and inevitable (Isaiah 36) - was miraculously turned back at the gate (Isaiah 37).]

Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God… the Lord loves the righteous… but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin (from Psalm 146). Please pray!

SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
------------------------------------------
ETHIOPIA: CHRISTIAN CRISIS LOOMS AS REBELS ADVANCE

Enabled by foreign powers - particularly Egypt, the Sudanese military and the US Biden administration - the Marxist, separatist Tigray Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF) and the ethno-nationalist Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) have achieved a strategic and possibly pivotal victory. On 31 October the TPLF claimed to have captured the strategic towns of Dessie and Kombolcha on the A2 highway in Amhara Region's eastern South Wollo Zone. The OLA then claimed to have captured Kemise, 35km further south, also on the A2. Fierce fighting continues and Amhara Region has declared a state of emergency. These widely hated rebels are now poised to advance on the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa. A Christian crisis of monumental proportions looms as the TPLF and OLA move with genocidal intent against the Christian ethnic Amhara. 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