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].

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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).

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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