Tuesday, November 29, 2016

RLPB 386. November Update; Incl. Syria, Indonesia, Sudan, Nigeria, China, Iran, Uzbekistan, Vietnam.

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 386 | Wed 30 Nov 2016
by Elizabeth Kendal

Please forward this prayer bulletin widely, and encourage others to sign up to the Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin blog"The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective." (James 5:16 NIV)


NOVEMBER 2016 UPDATE -- this month we prayed concerning ...

* ALEPPO, SYRIA (RLPB 382), where the Battle for Aleppo is in its final days. Turkey's invasion and advance in the direction of al-Bab (just 36km from rebel-held eastern Aleppo) has forced the Syrian government's hand.

UPDATE: As the Turkey-backed, al-Qaeda-aligned 'rebels' come under intensive pressure, thousands of Aleppo residents, long-held as human shields, are now escaping eastern Aleppo for the safety of government-held areas. Reports are surfacing of conflict erupting between rebel groups as hardline jihadists seek to stem the exodus of disaffected fighters and civilians. Those who have escaped confirm that rebels have terrorised residents, executing those suspected of disloyalty and keeping snipers posted at all possible exits. Pray this bloodshed will end soon. Pray for the Church in Syria.

* JAKARTA, INDONESIA (RLPB 383), where Islamic clerics have accused Jakarta's incumbent ethnic Chinese Christian Governor Basuki 'Ahok' Tjahaja Purnama of blasphemy in the hope they can prevent him from contesting Jakarta's February 2017 gubernatorial elections.

'Penjarakan Ahok' (imprison Ahok)
UPDATE: Having concluded their investigations, police have named Ahok as a blasphemy suspect, confirming that the case will go to trial. Islamic fundamentalists are now protesting that Ahok has not been arrested and detained as is the normal protocol in blasphemy cases in Indonesia. This is a watershed moment for Indonesia.

For a full analysis see: Indonesia: Ahok's 'Blasphemy',
By Elizabeth Kendal, Religious Liberty Monitoring, 30 Nov 2016

* SUDAN (RLPB 384), where the Islamist and Arabist Government of Sudan (GoS) continues its war on dissent and its persecution of the Church while preparing for a dry season resumption of its genocidal jihad against the African Christians of the Nuba Mountains.

Bishop Max Gassis
Source: CBN,
includes 12 minute interview. 
UPDATE: NUBA ABANDONED
According to Nuba Reports, some 230,000 Nuba refugees are languishing in the camps of South Sudan, stuck between two horrendous wars: the GoS genocidal jihad in the Nuba Mountains and South Sudan's civil war. With Europe desperate to curb migration, the US desperate for Sudanese intelligence, China and Russia eager to invest and an array of African states keen to normalise relations, the Nuba are being abandoned. Bishop Macram Max Gassis, the emeritus bishop from the El-Obeid diocese in the Nuba mountain area of Sudan, is appealing for international assistance on behalf of the Nuba. He is requesting specifically that Khartoum be pressured to end its aerial bombardment of civilians and allow the entry of humanitarian aid. '[The Nuba] are our brothers and sisters in humanity,' he told Deutsche Welle. 'If we neglect them, we are responsible in front of Almighty God.' May the Lord intervene for his people!

* NIGERIA (RLPB 385), where Christians in ethno-religious fault-line regions -- specifically at this time in southern Kaduna -- face a resurgence of classic Islamic jihad as Fulani Muslim herdsmen and Islamic militants, backed by Muslim political and military figures, work together to displace them and steal their lands.

UPDATE SOUTHERN KADUNA: MORE ATTACKS 
On Friday 25 November Mile One Village in Tafan District, Jemma Local Government Area (LGA) in Kaduna State's deep south was attacked by 'gunmen' who killed four residents and burned several houses. The residents of Mile One and the surrounding villages of Gidan Waya, Ungwuan Ninzo and Ungwuan Kagoro have all fled. The students of the College of Education, Gidan Waya, spent the night hiding in the bush. Neighbouring Pasakori village came under attack a day earlier. Christian leaders lament and have denounced the on-going ethnic cleansing.

UPDATE KANO: BLASPHEMY KILLERS ACQUITTED
On 2 June Bridget Agbahime (74), wife of Pastor Mike Agbahime (pastor of Kano's Deeper Life Bible Church, Northern Nigeria), was beaten to death at her stall in the Kofar Wambai market by an enraged Muslim mob after being falsely accused of blasphemy. According to reports, her accuser had been 'looking to make trouble' for the Agbahimes (who are Christian Igbos from the south) for some time. On Thursday 3 November a Kano court acquitted the five men arrested over the murder, allowing them to walk free. The ruling has horrified Christians. The Christian Association of Nigeria in the 19 Northern States and Abuja has appealed to the Attorney General.


NOVEMBER ROUND-UP -- also this month ...

* CHINA: ANOTHER CHRISTIAN LAWYER DISAPPEARS


Jiang Tianyoung (source: RFA)
Beijing-based Christian human rights lawyer Jiang Tianyong (45) disappeared on the evening of Monday 21 November. He had travelled to Changsha, the capital of Hunan Province, to meet with relatives of lawyers detained in the July 2015 crackdown. Having already purchased his train ticket, Jiang was due to leave Changsa for Beijing at 10:53pm that night (21 November). His wife Jin Bianling, who fled China with their daughter some years ago, has had no contact with Jiang since 10pm, 21 November, and holds grave fears for his safety. It is feared that Jiang -- who was abducted and tortured for two months in 2011 -- has again been abducted by security officials. One of China's most prominent human rights lawyers, Jiang has had numerous high profile clients over the years, including tortured Christian attorney Gao Zhisheng.  May God have mercy! Pray for disappeared Christian lawyers Jiang Tianyong and Zhang Kai. Pray for the Church in China.

* IRAN: AZERI CHRISTIANS RELEASED ON BAIL

Update to RLPB 372 (24 Aug 2016): Praise God that Yusif Farhadov (51), Eldar Gurbanov (48) and Bahram Nasibov (37), three Azeri Christians from Baku, Azerbaijan, who were arrested on 24 June while attending a wedding in Tehran, have been released on bail. After two months of solitary confinement and months of hardship in Evin Prison's Ward 350, the men were released on 29 October. They were allowed to return to Azerbaijan on 6 November after paying the full amount of bail. Middle East Concern reports (7 November): 'They faced charges of engaging in missionary activity and propaganda against the regime, but it is hoped that they will be acquitted of these charges.' Praise God for this mercy.

* UZBEKISTAN: PRISONER RELEASED ON BAIL, BUT WARNED


Tohar Haydarov
Source: VOM
Praise God that Christian convert Tohar Haydarov (33) has been released from prison, six years and ten months into his 10-year jail sentence. In early 2010, after local Muslims complained about Haydarov's conversion and witness, Uzbek authorities arrested him, claiming to have 'found drugs' on his property. In March 2010 Haydarov was sentenced to ten years imprisonment. Compounding his grief, his Muslim father died -- allegedly of 'accidental electrocution' --  the very day he was due to testify in court in defence of his son's good character. Haydarov was released on parole on 8 November. He has returned to his home in Gulistan, eastern Uzbekistan. His fellow Baptists told Forum 18, 'We are thankful to everybody who prayed for him and sent letters to him while in prison.' However, they request continued prayer for Tohar, anticipating he will face problems; indeed, he has already been warned. Pray for Tohar Haydarov and for the Church in Uzbekistan.

* VIETNAM: PROBLEMATIC LAW PASSED

On 18 November Vietnam's new Law on Belief and Religion passed in the National Assembly with 84.58 percent approval. Vietnam's Communist Party-run media hailed it as a great leap forward for religious freedom. Whilst the final text has not yet been made public, it is not expected to differ significantly from previous drafts. The draft Law on Belief and Religion started from the position that religion is a threat to national security and social order, a problem to be micro-managed. In hailing the law's passing, the state-run media noted that, whilst guaranteeing religious freedom for all, the law bans religious activity that could (amongst other things) harm social order and/or national unity, or prevent the performance of civil rights and obligations, or offend the honour of any persons. Such vague and subjective parameters ensure the Communist authorities will have plenty of grounds upon which to repress and persecute religious believers. As is common in much of Asia and Africa, the Church is at the centre not only of humanitarian work but of most pro-democracy and human rights advocacy. Please pray for Vietnam and its Church.

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Elizabeth Kendal is an international religious liberty analyst and advocate. She serves as Director of Advocacy at Canberra-based Christian Faith and Freedom (CFF), and is an Adjunct Research Fellow at the Arthur Jeffery Centre for the Study of Islam at Melbourne School of Theology.

She has authored two books: Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today (Deror Books, Melbourne, Australia, Dec 2012) which offers a Biblical response to persecution and existential threat; and, After Saturday Comes Sunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East (Wipf and Stock, Eugene, OR, USA, June 2016).

See www.ElizabethKendal.com

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

RLPB 385. Nigeria: Church Bleeds Under Fulani Jihad

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 385 | Wed 23 Nov 2016

Please forward this prayer bulletin widely, and encourage others to sign up to the Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin blog. "The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective." (James 5:16 NIV)


NIGERIA: CHURCH BLEEDS UNDER FULANI JIHAD
plus Indonesia Update: Ahok to face court
by Elizabeth Kendal

Fulani cattleman with his herd
During the later half of the 20th Century, modernisation and environmental factors such as drought and desertification left many Fulani and Hausa Muslims struggling to maintain their traditional, nomadic way of life. While many abandoned cattle grazing and migrated into the cities in search of work, others still lead their cattle south in search of food and water. The situation has put immense strain on Nigeria's ethno-religious 'fault-line', where Fulani Muslim 'settlers' from the north and southern Christian 'indigenes' now compete for land, water, jobs and political power. For decades, successive northern Muslim military dictators empowered the Fulani. In today's democratic Nigeria, Muslim fundamentalists -- political leaders, military personnel and Islamic jihadists -- back the Fulani and use them as proxies to expand Islamic territory at the expense of local Christians, a record number of whom are now displaced. The seemingly endless violence perpetrated by Muslim Fulani against Christian indigenous communities across the 'fault-line' and ever deeper into the south needs to be understood in the context of predatory migration, ethno-religious cleansing and classic imperialistic Islamic jihad.

Kaduna -- one of Nigeria's twelve Sharia states -- sits in Nigeria's volatile Middle Belt with Fulani Muslims in the north, Christian tribes in the south and its divided capital straddling the ethno-religious fault-line. On the evening of Sunday 13 November Fulani herdsmen besieged and attacked five villages -- Kigam, Kitakum, Unguwan Magaji, Unguwan Rimi and Kizipi -- in Chawai Chiefdom in Kauru Local Government Area (LGA) in Southern Kaduna, about 300 km south-east of the Kaduna metropolis. Armed with guns, knives, machetes and explosives, the Fulani killed 45 mostly women, children and elderly Christian residents while wounding dozens more and displacing thousands. Numerous vehicles and over 120 houses (including eight house-churches) were looted and torched. [Photos (graphic)]

According to local eyewitnesses, a Fulani herdsman named Haruna had approached a local farmer in September, requesting permission to graze his cattle on his land. The farmer refused, explaining that he had just finished preparing the land for planting yam in October. Despite this, the cattleman moved his cattle in and even built huts on the farmer's land. Reluctant simply to submit and surrender his land, the farmer eventually called the police who intervened to remove the cattleman and his herd. When the cattleman subsequently returned, local youths chased him away. That was when the Fulani decided to ethnically cleanse the whole area.

Frustrated by the endless carnage, the Chairman of the Southern Kaduna Peoples Union, Solomon Musa, reiterated calls for the establishment of a military base in Southern Kaduna. 'It has now become abundantly clear,' he said, 'to even the worst sceptics, that Southern Kaduna has become a killing field where genocide is taking place unabated.' Most analysts would concur with Musa's analysis that powerful people are sponsoring terrorists to eliminate people.

Church leaders accuse the government of not giving enough attention to security. It is just as the Reverend Zachariah Gado of Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) explains: there is a 'well-funded, organised and executed campaign not only to make life unbearable for the entire Southern Kaduna territory through threats, intimidation and psychological warfare, but also to occupy the land through what can only be described as ethno-religious cleansing by Fulani herdsmen militia.' Whole Christian communities are disappearing, being replaced with Fulani Muslims. The Church is bleeding under this Fulani jihad.

ECWA press conference, 16 Nov 2016 (image source: World Watch Monitor).
For more details on the press conference, and a link to
 the ECWA statement, see Christian Solidarity Worldwide.

PLEASE PRAY THAT THE LORD OUR GOD WILL

* draw very near to the Christians in Southern Kaduna -- in particular (at this time) those in and displaced from Kaura LGA -- as they struggle against fear and despair, and against temptations to hate, to retaliate, and to doubt; may the Lord draw them close and lift their heads, that they will look to him for comfort, justice and security. May the devil have no victory here! May divine grace prove effective as a healer and as a witness.

'But you, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.' (Psalm 3:3 ESV)

* influence the government of Nigeria, in particular President Muhammadu Buhari and Kaduna Governor Nasir el-Rufai, convicting and energising them to act decisively to:
strengthen security in Christian regions;
crack down on the illegal activities of the Fulani; and
smash the nexus between the Fulani cattle herders, the Islamic militants, rogue Muslims in the military, and powerful Muslim fundamentalist figures (clerics and politicians) with Islamic imperialist ambitions.


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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CHURCH BLEEDS UNDER FULANI JIHAD IN NIGERIA

Security is failing in Kaduna, a volatile Sharia state which straddles Nigeria's ethno-religious 'fault-line'. On the evening of Sunday 13 November Fulani Muslims besieged and attacked five villages in Kauru Local Government Area in predominantly Christian Southern Kaduna. Armed with guns, knives, machetes and explosives, the Fulani killed 45 mostly women, children and elderly Christian residents while wounding dozens more and displacing thousands. Numerous vehicles and over 120 houses (including eight house-churches) were torched. Frustrated by the endless carnage, Christian leaders have reiterated the call for more security, including the establishment of a military base in Southern Kaduna. The organised ethno-religious cleansing taking place must be seen in the context of classic Islamic jihad. With whole Christian communities erased, the Church is bleeding. Please pray for Nigeria and for its Church.

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INDONESIA: Update to RLPB 383 (9 Nov 2016)

On Wednesday 16 November police named Governor Basuki 'Ahok' Tjahaja Purnama as a blasphemy suspect, confirming that the case against him will proceed to court. Police are currently working to complete Ahok's case dossier so the trial -- which will be open to the public and televised live -- can commence. Now that Ahok has been named, Islamic fundamentalists are demanding he be arrested and incarcerated as is the tradition in Indonesia. Islamic leaders are organising rallies for Fridays 25 November and 2 December to protest against Ahok's freedom. Police have vowed to disperse any protests that block streets or cause disruptions. This is a watershed moment for Indonesia, as well as for Ahok, whose life, liberty and future are on the line.

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Elizabeth Kendal is the author of 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