Wednesday, July 27, 2016

RLPB 368. July Update, Incl. Egypt, Bangladesh, France, India, Iran, Nepal, Nigeria, Syria, Yemen

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 368 | Wed 27 July 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)


NEW BOOK: Elizabeth Kendal's new book, After Saturday Comes Sunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East (Wipf and Stock, Eugene, OR, USA) was released in June 2016 is now widely available. For more information, including purchasing options see www.ElizabethKendal.com.

PLEASE PRAY that God will use this book to awaken and embolden and facilitate engagement -- for the Christians of the Middle East need all the help they can get. What's more, as the book makes clear, this battle will not be confined to the Middle East, for Mesopotamia (Syria-Iraq), long known as the cradle of civilisation, is but ground zero in a battle for civilisationPLEASE PRAY that God will bless and use this book for the benefit of his people and the glory of his name.


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

* RUSSIA (RLPBs 364 and 365), where President Putin has defied the advice of business and church leaders and even his own advisors and signed into law a controversial 'anti-terror' package which includes anti-mission measures that eviscerate religious freedom. We now wait to see how the law will be applied and how it might be challenged.

* EGYPT (RLPB 366), where Egypt's indigenous Christian Copts face escalating violent persecution at the hands of local radicalised Muslims increasingly confident they will never be charged.

UPDATE: CHURCH BURNED; COPTS STABBED


Burned: Church of the
Archangel Michael, Luxor.
LUXOR: Morning Star News reports that at 2:30am on 16 July Copts in Al-Madamoud in Luxor Governorate were woken by the sound of flames ripping through the roof of the Church of the Archangel Michael. An iconographer, who was sleeping in the church while he worked restoring the church's religious paintings, was trapped inside and had to be rescued by local residents. Firefighters arrived two and a half hours later, after the building had been thoroughly gutted. Local Copts suspect arson.

MINYA: Shortly after 9 pm on Friday 15 July Muslims in Abu Yacoub village, Minya, attacked the homes of Copts, enraged by a rumour that a church might be constructed in the area. Five homes were torched and several Copts received minor injuries.

Stabbed: Naguib Hanna (80)
wataninet
On Sunday evening 17 July a group of Muslims armed with knives and batons attacked the families of two local Coptic priests in Tahna al-Gabal. The attack came after a group of four local Muslims harassed and threatened Pastor Matta'os' son, Mikhail (7), as he played outside the house under the watchful eye of his grandfather. When the grandfather protested, the Muslims became violent, attracting more Muslims. The grandfather Naguib Hanna (80) was stabbed several times in the face, as were Malak Aziz Hanna (40, the brother of another local priest) and a female Christian neighbour Azza Gouma (35). Mr Fam Mari Khalaf (27) was stabbed repeatedly in the chest and died.

* TURKEY (RLPB 367), where President Erdogan is exploiting the failed coup as an opportunity to eliminate his opponents, tighten his grip on power, advance his personality cult and  further his dangerous Islamo-Turkic nationalism. The threat facing alleged 'enemies of the state' -- i.e. Gulenists (liberal Islamists), Kemalists (secularists), as well as all non-Turks and non-Muslims -- is now greatly heightened.

JULY ROUND-UP -- also this month ...

* BANGLADESH: CATHOLIC NURSE BURNED

Maya Karmokar (45) lives with and cares for her elderly mother in the village of Kajura, Jessore District (south-west Bangladesh). A devout Catholic, she works as a nurse in a local Catholic medical facility. On the night of 9 July Maya was asleep in her bed when Muslims broke into her home, poured gasoline over her and set her alight. Alerted by her screams, neighbouring relatives rushed to her aid. Unable to afford specialist medical care, Maya was in hospital for just one day before being released to the care of her local doctor, despite receiving burns to most of her body. According to the parish priest, Fr Ananda Gopal Biswas, Maya is respected and has no enemies. Christians, Hindus, atheists and foreigners are increasingly being targeted by fundamentalist Islamists. In some areas, Hindu and Christian businesses have reportedly received anonymous pamphlets ordering them to observe Sharia, respect Islam and obey Muslims.

* FRANCE: CATHOLIC PRIEST SLAUGHTERED 

Pastor and marytr:Rev. Jacques Hamal
On Tuesday 26 July two knife-wielding men pledging allegiance to Islamic State (IS) stormed a Roman Catholic church in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, Normandy, northern France, during a celebration of the Mass. A nun who fled the scene told French TV that she saw the attackers force the priest, Rev Jacques Hamal (85) to his knees before slitting his throat. Another believer, whose throat was also slit, remains in a critical condition. French police shot the two Islamic terrorists as they left the church. One of the killers, Adel Kermiche (19), was known to French intelligence services as he had previously been arrested trying to join the jihad in Syria. IS has taken credit for the attack, via its Amaq news agency. This is the first Islamic terror attack on a church in Europe and cannot be expected to be the last. Pray for revival in Europe.

* INDIA: SIKH CONVERT PASTOR ATTACKED
Pastor Singh's mother (90)

The Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI) reports that on Sunday 3 July a group of 12 to 15 Sikh men violently attacked Sikh convert pastor Satpal Singh (48) along with his elderly mother, son and nephew. The family was at the church early with a group of around 15 church women making preparations for the luncheon that was to follow the worship. While the church women were able to flee, the pastor and his family were trapped, abused and beaten. Pastor Singh's 90-year-old mother was struck on the forehead with a brick and required hospitalisation. Pastor Singh told EFI that their church in Mallian village, Gurdaspur District, Punjab Province, has a congregation of some 60 members, all from different faiths. 'While we have a good testimony in our neighbourhood, these eight Sikh families have come together and have been threatening us for more than a year now for spreading the Word and conducting Church and prayer services in the village.' Please pray for Pastor Singh, his family, his congregation and his ministry. Pray also for his attackers that they will repent and believe.

* IRAN: MERCILESS OPPOSITION

NADARKHANI: Having already endured several years in prison -- between October 2009 and December 2013, including a death sentence for apostasy, subsequently overturned -- Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani is again being threatened by the Iranian regime. On 13 May the pastor and his wife, Tina, were temporarily detained after Iranian Security Service (VEVAK) officers raided their home in Rasht as part of a series of raids targeting approximately ten Christian households [see RLPB 358 (May Update)]. On Sunday 24 July Pastor Nadarkhani was summoned to the 13th Branch of the Revolutionary Court in Rasht. He was formally charged with 'acting against national security' and accused of Zionist activities and evangelism. He has been given until 31 July to raise 100 million Toman (US$33,000) bail or face arrest.

MARYAM: Though granted medical furlough in June 2016, gravely ill Christian prisoner Maryam Naghash Zargaran was escorted back to Evin Prison on 27 June after the court ruled she must continue serving her four-year prison sentence on charges of 'acting against national security' [see RLPB 363 (June Update)]. Still gravely ill and suffering both physical pain and psychological distress, Maryam commenced a new hunger strike on 5 July, demanding 'immediate and unconditional release'. An Iranian court has rejected her demand at the request of the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence (MOIS). Prison medical staff who examined Maryam on 20 July report that her blood pressure is very low and that she has pains and numbness in her feet; possibly early signs of multiple sclerosis. Please pray for Maryam and for the Church in Iran.

* NEPAL: EVANGELISTS CHARGED

source: World Watch Monitor

Eight Christian teachers/counsellors charged in June with proselytising will soon face court. The seven men and one woman (pictured) were arrested on 9 June for distributing religious booklets in a Christian school [see RLPB 363 (June Update)]. In April the Himalayan Times reported that Christian-run orphanages with access to foreign funds are 'preaching Christianity to young minds'. Like schools, orphanages are in the firing line, and in the past few weeks a number of Christian social workers who run orphanages in Nepal have been arrested for proselytising and charged with human trafficking. Chinimaya Blown runs a children's orphanage in the capital, Kathmandu, and prays with the children in her care. She was arrested on 24 June and is currently being held in a Kathmandu jail facing charges related to human trafficking. On 19 July police in Chitwan (about 160km south-west of Kathmandu) arrested Pratik Sunar and his wife whom they accuse of running an unregistered children's home where they engage in 'unnecessary promotion of Christianity'. Whilst Mrs Sunar was freed after objections from local residents, Mr Sunar remains in police custody. Pray for the Church in Nepal.

* NIGERIA: EVANGELIST ASSASSINATED 
Evangelist and martyr:
Eunice Olawale.
Morning Star News

On Saturday morning 9 July Eunice Mojisola Olawale (41), a deaconess in the Redeemed Christian Church of God which her husband pastors in a suburb of Abuja, went out preaching in the streets of Kubwa as was her routine. That Saturday, however, was to be anything but routine for that morning, as Eunice preached 'the blood of Jesus', a band of Islamists stabbed the mother of seven to death. Eunice had been street preaching for some six years, following in the footsteps of her evangelist mother. Though grieving deeply, her husband, Pastor Olawale Elisha said his one desire is that 'the killers repent and join her in heaven'.

Meanwhile, many southerners, especially Christians, are concerned that, of the 122 government appointments President Buhari has made since being elected, 77 posts have gone to northern Muslims. What is more, they are highly strategic posts, including Senate President, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Chairman of the Electoral Commission, Chief Justice, Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Chief of Army Staff, Chief of Air Staff, Defence Minister, Inspector General of Police, Chief of Defence Intelligence, Controller of Immigration and more. (Source: Stratfor Global Intelligence). Continue to pray for Nigeria.

* SYRIA: A FIREY MESSAGE TO THE CHURCH IN QAMISHLI 

On the night of Monday 18 July a group of gunmen attacked an Assyrian Orthodox Church in Watwatiyah District, 13 km north-east of Qamishli city which is in north-eastern Syria close to the border with Turkey. The militants broke into the church and, after looting it, detonated explosives. Though security forces were able to extinguish the fire, the church was destroyed. Although the perpetrators have not yet been identified, Assyrian activists accused Islamic State militants of being behind the attack. Pray for the Church in Syria.

NOTE: The strategic situation may be about to shift in a way that bodes well for Syria. Recognising that it has run out of options, the US has agreed to co-operate with Russia in the fight not only against Islamic State, but against al-Nusra (al-Qaeda) which has long been protected by its close ties with US-backed 'rebels'. Furthermore, Turkey -- which has done more to facilitate the jihad in Syria than any other state -- has buckled under the stress of Russian sanctions, apologised for shooting down a Russian jet, and is seeking rapprochement with Moscow. This could lead to Syria's stabilisation and save Syria from a US-Turkey-Arab backed Islamist takeover. May GOD bring peace and security to Syria.

* YEMEN: KIDNAPPED PRIEST MOST PROBABLY ALIVE

On 19 July a photo appeared on the Facebook account of Father Tom Uzhunnalil that appears to be a photo of the kidnapped Indian Salesian priest. Father Tom (56) had been praying in the chapel of a Missionaries of Charity care home in Aden when it was stormed by Islamic State jihadists on 4 March. Eight residents and four nuns were killed, while Father Tom was kidnapped [see RLPB 348 (16 March 2016) includes earlier photo of Father Tom]. Bishop Paul Hinder, the Apostolic Vicar of Southern Arabia, believes the photo is authentic and that it is Father Tom. There is no indication of who posted the photo or why. Please pray for Father Tom and for the Church in Yemen.
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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). For more information see: www.ElizabethKendal.com

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

RLPB 367. Turkey: Christians Face Elevated Risk

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 367 | Wed 20 Jul 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)


TURKEY: CHRISTIANS FACE ELEVATED THREAT 
by Elizabeth Kendal

Shortly before midnight on Friday 15 July a faction within the Turkish military and Gendarmerie seized control of strategic locations in Istanbul and Ankara. Subsequently, Turkish fighter jets fired at the National Intelligence Organisation, the Presidential Palace and the National Assembly. Soldiers seized control of the national broadcaster, forcing the presenter to read a declaration that the Committee for National Peace had taken charge to prevent any further erosion of democratic and secular values. However, what the faction failed to do was seize control of President Erdogan who was holidaying in the resort town of Marmaris. At 12:30am on 16 July Erdogan issued a live statement via the smartphone app FaceTime, calling his supporters out onto the streets. Islamic religious leaders and mosques loyal to Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP) amplified the call, with mosques repeating the call to prayer throughout the night to encourage people to join the counter-coup. By 2am the coup was falling apart; by morning it was over and the elected government was back in control.

The counter-coup prevails
In pictures: Daily Mail
The details of this coup get murkier the deeper you dig and it may be some time before the truth becomes clear. Whilst it is not the place of the Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin to examine murky details and intrigues [watch the Religious Liberty Monitoring blog for that], it suffices to say that the failed coup seems not to have been a 'Kemalist'/secularist coup as claimed. This is relatively unsurprising as Erdogan -- who is a pro-Muslim Brotherhood conservative Islamist -- had already purged the military of powerful secularists. Rather, it seems the coup leaders are indeed linked to the influential Gulen movement, a liberal Islamist movement that once supported Erdogan -- even facilitating his rise to power -- but is now essentially at war with him and the AKP. Nobody doubts that President Erdogan will use this crisis to tighten his grip on power, advance his personality cult and even further his dangerous Islamo-Turkic nationalism.

As soon as he regained control, President Erdogan set about purging the 'virus' (as he calls it) from society; he has signalled that he is ready to reinstate the death penalty. By Tuesday night 19 July the number of military personnel arrested had risen to some 6,000 (including at least 34 generals), along with nearly 3,000 judges. Furthermore, nearly 9,000 police have been sacked, as have some 1,500 civil servants in the finance ministry and 492 from the Religious Affairs Directorate. More than 1,500 university deans have been ordered to resign and the licences of 21,000 teachers working at private institutions revoked. Twenty-four radio and TV channels have also had their licences cancelled.

Middle East Concern reports that two churches were attacked by Muslim mobs during the counter-coup. At the Catholic church of Santa Maria in Trabzon on the Black Sea coast, windows were smashed before the church's Muslim neighbours repelled the perpetrators and contacted the priest. Likewise, windows and glass door panels were smashed at the Malatya Protestant Church in south-east Turkey.
Taksim Square after the coup
In pictures: Daily Mail
It is of greater concern that the coup and counter-coup have fuelled a dramatic escalation in Islamic zeal and Islamo-Turkic nationalism. Responding to the call to remain in the streets, Erodogan's supporters are out in full force dressed in Islamic (not Western) garb, chanting Islamic slogans in Arabic. This will elevate the threat facing Turkey's non-Sunni Muslims (particularly the Alevis, who are already reporting pressure) and all non-Muslims (particularly Armenian, Assyrian and Greek Christians, and Muslim converts).

Furthermore, because the leader of the Gulen Movement, Fethullah Gulen (77), lives in the USA and because Erdogan believes the Gulen Movement provides a front for the CIA (American intelligence) activities abroad, Erdogan and the AKP have accused the US of being 'behind the coup'. Whether this is true or not, the accusation alone will elevate the threat facing Turkey's Gulenists, Kemalists/secularists, Kurds and Christians, as well as any foreigners perceived to be aligned with the US. The threat facing Turkey's Christians may be greater now than at any time since Kemal Ataturk abolished the Caliphate in 1924.

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT 

* our Father, the Almighty God, will intervene in Turkey to restore peace and order so the Church (the Body of Christ) might be secure. May the Church’s Muslim neighbours reject every attempt to incite violence against Christians, and resist every temptation to exploit the situation to their own advantage.

* the ever present Holy Spirit will grace Turkey’s Christians with holy wisdom in abundance as they seek to navigate the difficult and dangerous days ahead.

* Christ our redeemer will redeem this crisis, subverting and defeating the enemies of the Gospel and sanctifying the Church that the Kingdom of God might grow in grace and number across all Turkey.
 
'Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.' (Ephesians 3:20,21 ESV)


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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CHRISTIANS FACE ELEVATED THREAT IN TURKEY

The coup attempt of 15-16 July, along with the 'people's counter-coup' that put it down, has fuelled a dramatic escalation in conservative Islamic zeal and Islamo-Turkic nationalism. The threat facing non-Sunni Muslims and all non-Muslims (particularly Armenian, Assyrian and Greek Christians, and Muslim converts) is now greatly elevated.  Furthermore, the failed coup has empowered President Erdogan (a conservative Islamist) and provided him an opportunity to eliminate his opponents, tighten his grip on power, advance his personality cult and even further his dangerous Islamo-Turkic nationalism. The threat facing alleged 'enemies of the state' -- i.e. Gulenists, Kemalists/secularists, non-Turks, non-Muslims -- is now greatly heightened. The threat facing Turkey's Christians may be greater now than at any time since Kemal Ataturk abolished the Caliphate in 1924. Please pray for Turkey and its Church.

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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