Tuesday, November 18, 2014

RLPB 287. Laos: Christians purged and arrested

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 287 | Wed 19 Nov 2014

LAOS: CHRISTIANS PURGED AND ARRESTED
By Elizabeth Kendal

Laos is a one-party state ruled by the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party. There is are no free media, dissidents are jailed and prisoners are tortured. Whilst the government protects the Buddhism of the ethnic Lao and permits the traditional animism and spiritism of the ethnic minorities, it is hostile towards Christianity which it regards as foreign. Because ethnic Hmong allied with the 'Christian' US against the Communists during the Second Indochina war (the Vietnam War), the regime is especially hostile towards Hmong Christians. When the war ended in 1975 persecution or retribution was so intense that thousands of Hmong -- including nearly all Hmong church leaders -- fled en masse to the US. The regime subsequently expressed a desire to eliminate Christianity. The situation has since improved and the Laos Constitution of 1991 provides for freedom of belief, speech and assembly (Articles 30 and 31) and Ministerial Decree 92 'protects legitimate religious activities'. Yet the hostility towards Christianity remains. Christians comprise just 3.4 percent of the population but are growing at a rate of nearly 6 percent per annum. However, for them religious freedom is little more than a mirage. The Church's needs are enormous, especially as over 90 percent of Laos' 147 ethnic groups are as yet 'unreached' (Operation World 2010).

The traditional animism commonly practised in ethnic minority and tribal areas require the spirits to be constantly appeased through sacrifice and ritual. If the spirits are offended then trouble will come, such as hail or drought, death or disease. Consequently animist villagers feel greatly threatened when members of the village reject animism for Jesus Christ. Fearing angry spirits and seeking to avoid disaster, the animist villagers will demand the Christians renounce their faith and return to appeasing the spirits. When Christians refuse to do so they are usually driven out of their homes, off their lands and expelled from the village. At other times angry villagers will complain to the local authorities who will arrest the Christians for 'disturbing the peace'.

Some of the displaced Christians (RFA)
On 13 November, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported that six Hmong families (comprising 25 individuals) were forced to leave Ko Hai village in Khamkeut district in Laos' central Bolikhamsai Province recently after they refused to renounce their Christian faith and revert to animism. When the local authorities first tried to force the families to renounce their faith in July, they seized two of their men and detained them for over a month. That failed and on 27 August two of the families were expelled. Then on 18 September the other four families were driven out. Though the displaced believers have all found refuge in another village, they have lost everything and no longer have the means to support themselves or to resettle. Destitute, they desperately want to return to their homes and farms. The governor of Khamkeut district told RFA he was unaware of the forced evictions and promised to investigate.

click on map to enlarge
On 2 November seven other ethnic Hmong, including a 14-year-old boy, were arrested in Laos' north-western Luang Namtha Province after they converted from animism to Christianity. Five were released after they renounced their faith, while the two who refused were transferred to the provincial prison. Security officials in Luang Namtha told RFA that the seven were not arrested over religion but were merely taken in for questioning because they were 'disturbing the social peace'. Conditions in Lao prisons are appalling -- squalid and inhumane conditions are the norm, and torture is routine. Several Christian leaders remain imprisoned in the southern province of Savannakhet.

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL --

* move the conscience of Khamkeut district's governor, Thongsam, to recognise injustice and work to set things right. 'The king's heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.' (Proverbs 21:1 ESV) May the displaced Christians be permitted to return to their homes and farms, may they prove to be a blessing to the village and may the Holy Spirit move through Ko Hai village and Khamkeut district.

* be a powerful sustaining presence -- a sanctuary -- to all those Christians imprisoned in harsh conditions in Laos for their faith; may the Holy Spirit fill them to overflowing so that those who abuse them cannot help but be deeply challenged by their enduring faith and their amazing grace.

Remember, the Lord 'is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us' (Ephesians 3:20 ESV).

* provide the struggling yet growing Lao Church with all it needs for the enormous task it faces; may he provide pastors, evangelists, linguists, literature, media, labourers, comforters, supporters and especially an abundance of divine wisdom with which to navigate the social, religious and political situation especially at the village level. 'The Lord is my shepherd . . .' (Psalm 23)

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SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE 
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LAOS: CHRISTIANS PURGED AND ARRESTED

The animism practised by Laos' ethnic minorities require constant appeasement of spirits. When villagers become Christians and stop participating in sacrifice and rituals, animists consider this a serious threat. Fearful and angry, animist villagers drive Christians from their homes and farms, expelling them from their village and leaving them destitute. Six ethnic Hmong families (25 individuals) recently driven out of their village in central Laos are desperate to return. Please pray as the district governor, Thongsam, has agreed to investigate. Also seven ethnic Hmong were arrested in Laos' far north-west on 2 November after they became Christians. Five were released after renouncing their faith, while the two who refused to recant were imprisoned. Lao prisons are squalid and torture is routine. Please pray for Laos and its Church.

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Elizabeth Kendal is the author of
Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today 
(Deror Books, Dec 2012).


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

RLPB 286. Sudan Exposed: 'Starve them', 'empty the camps'

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 286 | Wed 12 Nov 2014


SUDAN EXPOSED: 'STARVE THEM', 'EMPTY THE CAMPS'
By Elizabeth Kendal

On 31 August Sudan's most senior military and security officials met in the National Defense College, Khartoum, for a Military and Security Committee Meeting to discuss the 'Management of Military Activities'. In what can be described only as a major security breach, the minutes of that meeting were subsequently leaked to long-time Sudan researcher, expert and advocate, Eric Reeves. The document has now been fully translated and verified as authentic.

The 13 officials, most of whom are generals, spent considerable time discussing how they might manipulate the 2015 national elections to give themselves 'another five years of legitimacy'. They also discussed international relations, describing Iran as 'our biggest ally in the region', and a 'strategic partner'. [for a case study see: RLM 20 Nov 2013]. The minutes confirm that Sudan is supporting numerous Islamic jihadist movements,  including the al-Houthi (Shi'ites) in Yemen, Hamas in Gaza, and Libya Dawn in Tripoli (Libya). Defence Minister Abdel Rahim Mohammed Hussein even boasts that nobody has a data-base of jihadist groups as extensive as Sudan's. Regarding Khartoum's co-operation on counter-terrorism with the Obama administration (USA), the Defence Minister confirmed: 'We release only limited information to the Americans according to the request and the price is the armed movements file.' This statement gives rise to concerns that the Obama administration might be selling out opposition movements that are merely resisting Islamisation, racial-religious hatred and genocide.

Amnesty International report (June 2014)
Critically, the officials lament that, in the wake of military successes by the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army - North (SPLM/A-N), crop cultivation has gone ahead in large areas of South Kordofan, where the Nuba Mountains are located. Director General of the Intelligence and Security, General Siddiq Amer, insisted that this year's healthy sorghum crop be destroyed. 'We must not allow them to harvest these crops,' he said. 'We must starve them,' so they will desert the SPLM/A-N and be open to recruitment by the Government of Sudan (GoS).

This is exactly what the GoS did in the Nuba Genocide of the early 1990s, when they bombed and starved the people to the brink of death before offering them food and shelter in 'Peace Camps', but only on conversion to Islam, complete with name change, indoctrination and often military recruitment as well. Hundreds of thousands of Nuba chose to starve rather than convert, in what must surely be the most difficult call any parent could make.

click on map to enlarge
 Concerning South Sudan, the minutes are clear: Khartoum has been interfering in and prolonging South Sudan's civil war by arming and backing the forces of the sacked Vice President Riek Machar. The plan is for South Sudan to adopt a federal system as approved by President Kirr and announced by IGAD on 22 October, with Riek Machar ruling over the oil-rich 'Greater Upper Nile' region, comprising Jonglei, Upper Nile and Unity states. It is Khartoum's intention that Greater Upper Nile will secede from South Sudan and be annexed by Sudan, thereby restoring all the oil fields to Khartoum without Khartoum having to fire a shot. To that end, Chief of Joint Operations, Lt Gen. Imadadiin Adawi, proposed that Riek Machar be commissioned and equipped to 'clean [ethnically cleanse] the whole Greater Upper Nile area'.

Samaritan's Purse, Yida Camp
Furthermore, Director of Military Intelligence and Security, Lt Gen. Siddiig Aamir, proposed that regime forces 'infiltrate and empty the refugee camps' in South Sudan's oil-rich Unity and Upper Nile States on the false premise that the Government of South Sudan is arming and supporting the SPLA-N. [Yida Camp in Unity State is run by Samaritan's Purse and is home to many thousands of mostly Christian refugees from the Nuba Mountains.] According to Aamir, the aim is that, once separated from their food and shelter, the traumatised, desperate refugees then could be recruited (doubtless with food and shelter) to fight against the SPLA-N. This is the same GoS signature strategy to be employed in South Kordofan.

PLEASE PRAY (from Psalm 10):

'Arise, O Lord; O God lift up your hand' ... 

* to 'break the arm [strength/power] of the wicked and evil doer' (v15a): may the regime's supply-lines be broken; may fake partnerships and toxic alliances that hurt your people be broken; may weapons, equipment, planes and runways to be used against your people be broken; may channels of funding be broken; may lines of communication be broken -- may the power of this wicked regime be decisively broken once and for all.

* to block the schemes of haughty, wicked men who will spare no effort and no human being to seize power and riches for themselves; Lord, call their wickedness into account (v15b); may none of what is planned come to pass.

* to defend the helpless and afflicted: shield their bodies, preserve their crops, protect their camps, guard their hearts, hear their prayers and build your Church.

Sadly, all of this was predictable [see: Turn Back the Battle -- chapter 9, Christian Security: not in a 'covenant with death']. May the LORD have mercy on the long-suffering but faithful Church in South Kordofan and South Sudan as Christians suffer the consequences of the bad and faithless political decisions of their leaders.

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SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE 
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SUDAN EXPOSED

Due to a serious security breach, minutes of a 31 August meeting of Sudan's most senior defence and intelligence personnel have been leaked. Now verified as authentic, they expose the belligerent and genocidal nature of the regime in Khartoum. The regime's support for various Islamic jihadist groups is confirmed and Iran is lauded as 'our biggest ally in the region'.  Critically, the officials discuss the need to destroy crops growing in South Kordofan so as to starve the Nuba people into submission. They also discuss plans to 'infiltrate and empty the [refugee] camps' in South Sudan so the regime  might then recruit the refugees as fighters. Yida Camp in Unity State is run by Samaritan's Purse and is home to many thousands of displaced, mostly Christian Nuba. Please pray.

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Elizabeth Kendal is the author of
Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today 
(Deror Books, Dec 2012).