Tuesday, December 14, 2021

RLPB 628. Nigeria: A Christmas of joy, hope, fear and lamentation

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 628 | Wed 15 Dec 2021
RLPB is published weekly to facilitate strategic intercessory prayer.

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

The last RLPB for 2021, comprising a short reflection and a prayer, will be published next Wednesday, 22 December. This week's RLPB includes an update on Indonesia: the trial of Muhammad Kece.

NIGERIA: A CHRISTMAS OF JOY, HOPE, FEAR AND LAMENTATION
by Elizabeth Kendal

RANSOMED
Emmanuel Baptist Church members.
Channels TV, 4 Dec 2021.

On Friday 3 December Muslim Fulani 'bandits' operating in southern Kaduna released the remaining 61 of 66 Christians abducted during a worship service on Sunday 31 October at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Kakau Daji, Chikun LGA, on the outskirts of Kaduna City. Released alongside the 61 church members were nine other hostages. After being collected by the military, the former captives underwent extensive medical checks before being handed over to state officials. The 61 church members were reunited with their families on Saturday 4 December at Albarka Baptist Church in Kaduna City. As is normally the case in these near-daily abductions, an unspecified amount of ransom was paid. Consequently, the Muslim Fulani bandits are growing richer and stronger by the day, while the traumatised and constantly depleting Christian community is being bled dry.

MURDERED
Reverend Dauda Batura,
ECWA, Kaduna.

On Thursday 9 December Muslim Fulani bandits executed the Reverend Dauda Batura. Pastor of the First Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) in Narayi, Igabi LGA, on the southern outskirts of Kaduna City, Pastor Batura had been kidnapped by armed Fulani herdsmen on 8 November while working on his farm in Ungwan Kanti Village, in neighbouring Chikun LGA. Immediately the bandits began negotiating with Pastor Batura's wife, Haddasa, demanding N10million ransom. After she had raised a portion of the ransom the bandits demanded she deliver it to them. On 18 November, when Haddasa delivered the ransom, the bandits took her captive as well, before releasing her on 6 December with the demand that she raise the rest of the ransom. On 9 December the bandits informed the church that they had killed Pastor Batura. Haddasa Batura told church leaders that her husband preached Christ to his captors and prayed for their repentance, infuriating them and likely contributing to their decision to kill him.

On Saturday 11 December Fulani bandits staged simultaneous attacks on a string of predominantly Christian districts in Chikun LGA on the southern outskirts of Kaduna City. At around 1am, some 30 militants wearing military uniforms and wielding heavy weapons entered Sabo GRA [Government Reserved Area; an exclusive (more affluent) residential area] where they attempted to abduct a pregnant woman and her son. When the military intervened, the bandits started firing their weapons indiscriminately. Though soldiers managed to rescue the pair, the pregnant woman sustained bullet wounds to her leg. As the bandits fled they set fire to residents' homes. In a simultaneous attack on nearby Oil Village, bandits abducted a woman, her four children, a policeman, his wife and their child. The captives have been taken to an unknown location. The Christian villages of Unguwar Gimbiya and Unguwar Dodo were also attacked. Unguwar Gimbiya has been attacked numerous times, including a 1am raid on Friday 3 December in which two residents were killed - including a church elder who was brutally murdered - and 50 were abducted.

In August 2020, RLPB 562 titled 'Insecurity Enables Terrorist Expansion', quoted terrorism analyst Jacob Zenn who warned: 'if [terrorist/jihadist] groups [i.e. Boko Haram, Ansaru, or Islamic State] get a foothold among the Fulani in the Northwest, then nothing "will prevent their continued expansion until northern Nigeria becomes overwhelmed".' Since that RLPB was published, Boko Haram has set up base in the Rijana Forest in southern Kaduna's predominantly Christian Chikun LGA [RLPB 623 (10 Nov)]. Boko Haram also runs a mini-Caliphate in Niger State's east where it controls some 500 communities across eight wards of Shiroro LGA, which is contiguous with Kaduna's Chikun LGA and a mere two hours' drive from the nation's capital, Abuja [RLPB 618 (6 Oct)]. Straddling the Kaduna-Zamfara state border, the Rugu Forest has become sanctuary for Fulani bandits, who mostly serve as proxies for Boko Haram and other jihadist groups. Terrorist-bandits have threatened to attack any churches in Zamfara that dare to remain open [RLPB 627 (8 Dec)]. Less that 18months after Jacob Zenn's report was published, it seems Nigeria's north-west is well on its way to being 'overwhelmed'. 

Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari

All the while, the government of President Muhammadu Buhari (a Fulani from Katsina in Nigeria's north-west, and long-time pro-Sharia Islamist), has made no effort to improve security. Predatory migration and banditry in the service of Islamic jihad is not limited to the north-west. In the Middle Belt state of Plateau, militant Fulani herdsmen have ethnically cleansed and occupied some 102 formerly Christian communities in the past 20 years. Furthermore, as reported in RLPB 623 (10 Nov), Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), which is based in Nigeria's far north-east, has reportedly sourced military uniforms and weapons and is preparing to launch major terror attacks during the Christmas season.

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL:

* intervene in corrupt and lawless Nigeria to execute justice for the oppressed, facilitate a liberating awakening of the masses and bring the way of the wicked to ruin (Psalm 146). May every wicked plot being advanced against Nigeria's Church fail and may the LORD continue to build his Church among the Fulani and Hausa Muslims of Nigeria's volatile North and Middle Belt (Matthew 16:18).

* pour his deep peace in the hearts of all those Nigerian Christians who will spend Christmas battling fear and sorrow because they are either in captivity (as hostages or slaves), or because, though at home or in camps, they are grieving the absence of loved ones who have been taken captive, displaced or killed.

* protect, sustain and bless his faithful ones this Christmas as they rejoice in Christ with hope rooted in promise. May the prosperous churches of the south rise up in prayer and protest to demand security in the north for the sake of their long persecuted and gravely imperilled Christian brothers and sisters, so many of whom are displaced, traumatised, and missing.

'Their heart cried to the Lord…let tears stream down like a torrent day and night! Give yourself no rest, your eyes no respite!  Arise, cry out in the night, at the beginning of the night watches! Pour out your heart like water before the presence of the Lord! Lift your hands to him for the lives of your children…' (from Lamentations 2:18,19 ESV).

SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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A CHRISTMAS OF JOY, HOPE, FEAR AND LAMENTATION IN NIGERIA

Across Nigeria's mostly Muslim north, Christians head into Christmas missing loved ones now captive, displaced or killed; their joy and hope in Christ is tempered with fear and lamentation. In the east of Niger State, Boko Haram has seized control of some 500 communities and is operating a mini-Caliphate. In neighbouring Kaduna State, where Boko Haram has established its military base, endless raids by Muslim 'bandits' on Christian schools, churches, towns and villages have paralysed and traumatised whole communities. North of Kaduna, churches in Zamfara State have been warned: close or face attacks. East of Kaduna, in Plateau State, Muslim Fulani have taken over some 102 Christian communities in the past 20 years. Based in Nigeria's far north-east, Islamic State is preparing to unleash terror during the Christmas season. Please pray.

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UPDATE

INDONESIA: THE TRIAL OF MUHAMMAD KECE
Update to RLPB 619, 'Convert Apologist Accused of Blasphemy, Assaulted in Prison' (13 Oct).

Christian apologist, Muhammad Kece.

The trial of Muhammad Kece commenced on 25 November, only to be immediately postponed as the defendant (Kece) was unwell. The trial resumed in the Ciamis District Court on 2 December under tight security. A doctor deemed Kece fit to stand trial despite his blood glucose levels being twice the acceptable human limit. Clearly unwell, Kece fell asleep repeatedly as the 385-page indictment file was read, earning him rebukes from the panel of judges. A former Muslim cleric turned Christian apologist, Kece stands accused 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. There is little doubt that Muhammad Kece's life is in danger. Doubtless plenty of powerful people would stop at nothing to keep this intelligent, articulate, and courageous Muslim convert and skilled Christian apologist from testifying in open court. 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