Wednesday, October 28, 2009

028. October Update; incl. LRA, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, Maldives

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 028 | Wed 28 Oct 2009

OCTOBER 2009 UPDATE -- During the month we prayed concerning . . .

THE LRA (The Lord's Resistance Army), a guerrilla force made up of hard-core fighters and kidnapped, terrorised children. The LRA is led by spirit medium Joseph Kony who claims to be guided by the Holy Spirit even though his spiritism is occultic and obscenely violent. The racist, Islamic dictatorship in Khartoum supports and supplies the LRA to be its proxy militia to attack its opposition in Darfur, Christian Southern Sudan, Uganda, Congo and Central African Republic.

* UPDATE: On 21 October a band of LRA soldiers attacked a camp for displaced Darfuris in Western Bahr al-Ghazal, Southern Sudan. They killed five (including three Southern Sudanese police), wounded many and abducted dozens. Southern Sudanese forces (SPLA) have since managed to rescue 46 Darfuri abductees. The LRA continues to terrorise the region and Kony keeps eluding all efforts to capture or kill him. Kony has been out-manoeuvring the armies of Africa for more than 20 years. According to Lt- Gen. Nhail Deng Nttial, the Minister for SPLA Affairs in the Government of Southern Sudan, 'the LRA seems to be expanding the scope of its murderous activities with alarming rapidity'. Pray that the Sovereign Lord will intervene.


PAKISTAN, where Christians are more vulnerable than ever due to the war between the government and the al-Qaeda-Taliban alliance. Punjabi Islamists seeking to inflame Islamic zeal and recruit jihadis are increasingly targeting Christian communities.

* UPDATE: On 17 October the government launched an offensive against al-Qaeda-Taliban bases in Waziristan (a tribal agency on the AfPak border, north-west Pakistan). The jihadists responded by escalating their terrorist attacks against 'soft targets' like schools. From 2004 to 2008, the military has made four attempts to regain control of Waziristan, but has failed on each occasion, surrendering with 'peace deals' that involve compensation and ceding territory which have significantly advanced al-Qaeda-Taliban power. One thing that can be guaranteed is that the military offensive will result in a large displacement of highly trained jihadists, with many finding sanctuary in militant cells across the nation.

International Christian Concern reported on 16 October that pastors, churches and Christian institutions in Sargodha, Punjab, have received letters from Taliban affiliates warning that, if they do not convert to Islam or submit to Islamic rule and pay jizya (protection money/tax), they would be killed, their property and homes would be burnt to ashes and their women would be treated as sex slaves. And they themselves 'would be responsible for this' said the letter.


UNITED KINGDOM, where Islamisation in advancing and religious freedom -- at least for Christians -- is fading fast.


OCTOBER 2009 ROUND-UP -- Also this month . . .

* IRAN: TWO CHRISTIAN WOMEN versus APOSTAPHOBIC REGIME

Maryam Rustampoor (27) and Marzieh Amirizadeh Esmaeilabad (30) have been incarcerated in Tehran's Evin prison since their March 2009 arrest. Despite severe hardship and failing health, the two Christian women are boldly refusing to renounce their faith in Jesus Christ and return to Islam. On 7 October they were acquitted of the charge of 'anti-state activity' but the serious charges of 'propagation of Christianity' and 'apostasy' remain. Evin Prison is notorious for its shocking conditions and brutality. In totalitarian states like Iran, political prisoners (which includes religious prisoners) are considered to be the worst of all, lower and more dangerous than the worst common criminals. As such, they face the harshest treatment. These women need our prayers. Pray for the Church in Iran.


* IRAQ: 'CHRISTIANS HAVE IT HARD' IN BAGHDAD

St George's Anglican Church stands somewhat as a symbol of Christianity in Baghdad: targeted, struck repeatedly, surviving, still standing but only just -- a remnant defying the odds for the sake of the city. On Sunday 25 October, two massive explosions ripped through three government buildings in Baghdad, killing more than 150 and wounding over 600. St George's Church also was heavily damaged and is now virtually ruined. The massive bomb went off at 10.30am but the service was scheduled for the afternoon when the regular congregation of some 500 Iraqi Christians would have been worshipping. 'Christians do have it hard,' the pastor Canon Andrew White said, adding that last year 93 members of his church were killed, including 11 of the 13 converts he baptised.


* MALDIVES: DEMOCRACY BUT NO RELIGIOUS LIBERTY

Maldives successfully transformed into a democracy in November 2008. Mohamed Nasheed (42) -- a former prisoner of conscience and torture victim known as a reformist -- was sworn in as President after winning a second round of polling. However, to secure victory, Nasheed's coalition formed a political alliance with the Islamic fundamentalist Adhaalath party. Adhaalath now controls the Ministry of Islamic Affairs. On 7 October Maldivian authorities deported a South African, Robert Willeman, who had been found with Dhivehi language Christian material: six video CDs, six books, 17 leaflets and one Bible. Despite democracy, Maldives is still not free.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

027. UK: Religious liberty fading fast

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 027 | Wed 21 Oct 2009

UNITED KINGDOM: RELIGIOUS LIBERTY FADING FAST
By Elizabeth Kendal

In London, England, in the 1370s, John Wycliffe suffered intensive persecution for daring to protest for biblical truth. In 1415 John Hus was burnt at the stake in Prague, Bohemia, for doing the same. On 31 October 1517 a German monk named Martin Luther risked martyrdom and worse -- the Inquisition -- when he launched his protest for biblical truth: salvation by grace through faith, not merited by works. He sought reform but got division, and the Protestant Church was born. Religious liberty and the revival of biblical theology brought many positive consequences to the societies that embraced it. As a result, 31 October has traditionally been remembered as Reformation Day. But as Protestant prosperity grew, so too did the rot of pride and arrogance. Before long, Protestant societies were not only forgetting God and the truths that gave liberty to their positive energies and made them great, but 'in pride and arrogance of heart' (Isaiah 9:9b) were rejecting God and his word as irrelevant.

British MP William Wilberforce (1759-1833), though remembered primarily as an abolitionist, was passionate about Britain's need for spiritual reformation as it was in a state of advanced decay. Not only had the nation largely forgotten God but its church had mostly returned to a works-based theology, believing that people merited salvation because they were 'good' -- not that people were good because they were saved by grace through faith. (See William Wilberforce, A Practical View of Christianity, chapter 3.)

The awakening and spiritual reform that Wilberforce launched turned the tide in the UK. But today nearly 500 years on from Luther and some 250 years on from Wilberforce, the UK is in trouble again and is desperately in need of a fresh awakening. Moreover religious liberty is fading fast.

All Nations Church in Kennington, South London, was recently ordered not to use its sound system for its sermons or music so as to avoid offending its (Muslim) neighbours. A Christian office worker from South London, Denise Haye (25), was recently sacked for expressing her disapproval of homosexuality. A Christian nurse from Exeter, Shirley Chaplin (54), was recently threatened with disciplinary action after she refused to remove the cross from her necklace that she had worn without a complaint throughout 30 years of nursing. A Deputy Registrar with Islington Borough Council, Theresa Davies (59), was demoted because she refused to preside over same-sex civil partnership ceremonies. A Christian nurse with 40 years' experience, Anand Rao (71), was sacked after he suggested to a training seminar that distressed palliative care patients could try going to church. A Christian community nurse and professional foster mother (with 80 children's-worth of experience) was recently struck off the register for failing to prevent a 16-year-old Muslim girl converting to Christianity. A Christian homelessness prevention officer with 18 years' experience, Duke Amachree (53), was sacked by Wandsworth Council for sharing his faith with a client who had lost hope. Revd Noble Samuel of Heston United Reformed Church, West London, who debates Muslims on his TV Gospel program, was hijacked in his car by three Urdu-speaking assailants who grabbed him by the hair, ripped off his cross and threatened to break his legs if he continued broadcasting. These cases (all in 2009) are just the tip of the iceberg. If the Equality Bill that is now making its way through parliament passes (as expected), then persecution will increase dramatically.

(For the above cases see http://www.christianlegalcentre.com http://www.ccfon.org
http://www.christian.org.uk )

While Christians are being silenced, Islamisation is advancing, with Islamic fundamentalists appeased at every turn by short-sighted politicians who lack political courage and hanker after political gain. While Christians are fined, sacked and sued for expressing their faith, Anjem Choudary's Islam4UK is free to run its Islamic Roadshows all across the country . Independent think-tank Civitas recently reported that Britain already has some 85 Sharia Courts operating openly, advising illegal actions and transgressing human rights with impunity. Not content with this, some 5000 supporters of Islam4UK are expected to join a 'March for Sharia' from the House of Commons to Trafalgar Square on 31 October, which coincidentally is Reformation Day.

(An example of Islam4UK's Islamic Roadshow in action {Birmingham, June 2009} )

As long as the various anti-Christian lobby groups can silence Christians and shut down debate through anti-defamation, anti-vilification and anti-discrimination laws along with threats of violence, they will be on a winning trajectory with little resistance -- that is, until violent conflict erupts. Violent 'race' clashes are already on the increase, mostly in response to protests against Islamisation. The UK is in trouble.


PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT:

* God will greatly bless those Christians who are courageously defending gospel truths and values in the UK's courts and streets, that they will have abundant grace, wisdom and boldness from the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 10:16-20,38,39)

* as Muslims 'March for Sharia' on 31 October -- Reformation Day -- British Christians will remember the courage of Martin Luther and be motivated by the heritage they have in Wycliffe, Ridley, Wilberforce, Carey and others.

* revival will come to the UK Church so that the nation's Christians will step out boldly with gospel truths and values, being prepared to suffer and, in Wilberforce's words, 'be wholly indebted' to the God of grace for everything.

He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. (v29 of Isaiah 40:28-31 ESV)

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RELIGIOUS LIBERTY FADING FAST IN THE UK

Amidst decline in the UK there is a great need for spiritual reformation. Yet religious liberty is fading fast, meaning the Church must be prepared to suffer if she is to speak into this situation at all. While Christians are being routinely fined, sacked and sued for expressing their faith (see http://www.ccfon.org ), numerous anti-Christian lobby groups are free to advance theirs (e.g. see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MwjvVgvclDQ ). Immorality and Islamisation are advancing rapidly. If the Equality Bill now before the parliament passes (as expected) then repression and persecution will escalate further (see http://www.christian.org.uk ). Please pray for the Church in the UK.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

026. Pakistan: Taliban insurgency escalates

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 026 | Wed 14 Oct 2009

PAKISTAN: TALIBAN INSURGENCY ESCALATES
By Elizabeth Kendal

An alliance of al-Qaeda and Pakistani Taliban forces declared war on the government of Pakistan in July 2007. By April 2009 only the Margala Hills lay between the jihadists and Islamabad (see RLPB 002, 29 April 09). Pakistani troops spent the northern summer driving the jihadists back. But the jihadists were not defeated -- they merely staged a tactical withdrawal and melted into the civilian population, awaiting the opportunity to launch rearguard actions (see RLPB 006, 27 May 09). On 5 August 2009 Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud was killed in a US missile strike. No sooner had Hakimullah Mehsud been appointed as the new Taliban chief than he publicly vowed not only to avenge Baitullah's death, but to severely punish Pakistani authorities for their attacks on al-Qaeda-Taliban sanctuaries in the tribal agencies of North and South Waziristan (North West Frontier Province).

Pakistan has just suffered four highly significant terrorist attacks in the space of seven days. On 5 October a suicide bomber wearing the uniform of the Frontier Constabulary walked into the UN's World Food Programme office in the heart of Islamabad and blew himself up, killing five and wounding four. Then on 9 October a car bomb exploded in the busy Khyber Bazaar in Peshawar, the NWFP capital, killing 49 and wounding more than 100. The car's doors had been fitted not merely with over 100kg of explosive, but with a great quantity of machine gun ammunition to maximise casualties. On 10 October suicide jihadists wearing Pakistani Army camouflage uniforms infiltrated Army General Headquarters in Rawalpindi, just outside Islamabad. Grenades were thrown, guns were fired, people were killed and hostages were taken before Pakistani elite troops contained the militants and took control. The sole surviving militant, a senior Taliban commander and terror-mastermind named Muhammad Aqeel alias Dr Usman, is now in custody. Dr Usman, who had been arrested previously for his involvement in the September 2008 Marriott bombing, served in the Pakistani Army Medical Corps until 2006 when he deserted to the jihadists. The fourth attack was on 12 October when a suicide jihadist drove a massive car bomb into a military convoy in Shangla, NWFP, killing 41 including six security personnel.

Security officials report that the militants who attacked the army headquarters appeared to have links to Punjab, the province where anti-Christian violence is rampant (see recent RLPBs 012, 016, 023). For decades now -- while all the focus has been on NWFP, the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and the AfPak border -- Islamic fundamentalist Salafi madrassas have been proliferating across Punjab. For years politicians have been pleased to use Punjab's main fundamentalist organisations as vote banks, making quid pro quo deals for political gain. These groups were created by the security services in the 1980s to facilitate the Islamisation process but now they are aligning themselves with the Pakistani Taliban of Hakimullah Mehsud. Any government effort to root out fundamentalist Islam in Punjab could trigger a massive eruption, further splitting the military and shredding the social fabric.

God is sovereign and there is no doubt he is at work in and through all this, including whatever is to come. But Pakistan's 3.6 million Christians need our prayers that they will find sanctuary amidst this storm.

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY FOR:

* the Holy Spirit of God to uplift and shield all Pakistani Christians so they may be firm in their faith, not afraid, with eyes fixed on Jesus; may they find sanctuary in their sovereign Lord (Isaiah 8:12-14).

* God to bless the witness of Pakistan's Christians as they seek to display grace, love, peace and faith in the midst of severe trial; may God be pleased to use their witness for his glory and for saving many lives.

'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, who made heaven and earth, the sea and all that is in them, who keeps faith forever . . . The way of the wicked he brings to ruin.' (Excerpts from Psalm 146 ESV)

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PAKISTANI TALIBAN INSURGENCY ESCALATES

Since declaring war on the Pakistan government in July 2007, the Pakistani Taliban has made great gains. After Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud was killed in a US missile strike on 5 August 2009, the new Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud vowed revenge. Four recent major terrorist attacks within the period of a week killed around 100 and wounded many more. As this war intensifies, it is becoming apparent that Punjabi fundamentalists and rogue military pose a serious threat to Pakistani security. The more the Taliban insurgency escalates the more vulnerable Pakistan's 3.6 million Christians become amidst the turmoil. The situation is critical. Please pray that God will draw Pakistan's Christians close to him and use their witness for his glory.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

025. LRA terrorises central Africa

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 025 | Wed 07 Oct 2009

THE LORD'S RESISTANCE ARMY (LRA) TERRORISES
-- Southern Sudan, northern Congo, eastern Central African Republic (CAR), Uganda.
By Elizabeth Kendal

In 1986 a Catholic self-proclaimed 'prophetess' named Alice Lakwena founded an ethnic Acholi militia in northern Uganda in response to what she believed was the voice of the Holy Spirit ordering her to overthrow the Government of Uganda (GoU). By 1987 Lakwena's 'Holy Spirit Movement' was finished: Lakwena had fled (she died in Kenya in 2007) and some 5000 of her soldiers lay dead. Under the leadership of Joseph Kony, a spirit-medium and former Catholic altar-boy, the survivors regrouped, forming the 'Lord's Resistance Army' (LRA). Lacking popular support, the LRA keeps its ranks filled by abducting children whom they terrorise into submission, indoctrinate and send out to kill and be killed. Around 90 percent of all LRA soldiers are believed to have been abducted as children. This is one reason why the GoU has been reluctant to attack the LRA with lethal force.

Whilst claiming to be the Lord's army led by the Holy Spirit, the LRA is deeply occultic. It receives support and supplies from the Islamic regime in Khartoum, Sudan. Khartoum uses the LRA as a proxy militia against African Christian, animist and even Muslim (Darfur) communities that reject Khartoum's Arab Islamic imperialism. As is common in occultism, LRA soldiers routinely collect their victims' genitals, livers, hearts and the like for use as occult charms (juju) in cannibalistic blood rituals. According to testimonies from defectors and rescued children, Kony routinely enters a trance to become possessed by a spirit -- claimed to be the Holy Spirit. If Kony talks while possessed, by repute whatever he says comes exactly true. The spirit reportedly alerts Kony to military movements, instructs him whom to kill and is always hungry for more human blood.

The LRA was decimated by a rash of defections starting mid-2003 and by Operation Lightning Thunder in 2008, a joint exercise in DR Congo by the armies of South Sudan, Uganda and DR Congo. However, a revived and re-supplied LRA is now terrorising the border regions of Southern Sudan, northern Congo and eastern CAR. Bishop Eduardo Hiiboro Kussala of Tombura-Yambio in remote Southern Sudan recently appealed through Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) for international attention and intervention (ACN 29 Sep 09). In early September a large band of LRA soldiers stormed into a church in his diocese, desecrated the building and abducted 17 youths. Three escaped, one was later found dead and mutilated and 13 remain in LRA custody. According to Bishop Hiiboro, 12 people were subsequently abducted from a village near Nzara, and six people ambushed in the forest outside Nzara were killed after being nailed to pieces of wood fastened to the ground. Those who discovered the bodies likened it to a grotesque crucifixion scene. After a spate of similarly horrendous attacks in August, some 20,000 Christians of all denominations across Western Equatoria State, South Sudan, walked more than two miles barefoot in sackcloth and ashes in prayer and silent protest. On 6 October, Uganda's Daily Monitor quoted Congolese officials reporting that some 3000 LRA soldiers, wearing new uniforms and carrying new weapons, have crossed from CAR into northern Congo and are now advancing towards Sudan. Father Benoit Kilalegu reported from Congo that the LRA attacked Digba on 25 September, killing 22 people with machetes.

Whilst the LRA is actually little more than a rag-tag band of guerrillas, under Kony's command they have been out-witting and out-running the official armies of Uganda, Southern Sudan, CAR and DR Congo (separately and combined) for some 20 years. There is more to the LRA than mere human evil. In its wake lie millions of mostly Christian traumatised victims in a region where virtually all services, provision of shelter, humanitarian aid, healthcare, education, care of orphans and rehabilitation of victims is provided by the Church.

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT:

* 'Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him (1 Peter 3:22 ESV)' will intervene in this conflict as a bulwark against demonic forces, thus enabling the defeat of Joseph Kony, who is the LRA personified.

* supply-lines between the LRA and Khartoum will be severed (Psalm 146:9c). 'Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.' (Psalm 20:7 ESV)

* God will bless all the churches and Christian communities across the region that are carrying heavy loads of both grief and ministry on account of LRA terror; may God supply all their needs of both provision and healing.

* God will bless central and east Africa with a widespread awakening and revival that would rid the region of occultism and syncretism, promoting justice and righteousness so that the devil will no longer have a foothold there.

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THE LORD'S RESISTANCE ARMY (LRA) TERRORISES

The LRA is an occultic Ugandan guerrilla force. It blasphemously claims to be of the Lord and led by the Holy Spirit. It is supported from the Arab Islamic regime in Khartoum, Sudan, which uses the LRA as a proxy force against mostly African Christians who reject Khartoum's Arab Islamic imperialism. The LRA engages in occultic, cannibalistic blood rituals. Joseph Kony, its leader, routinely becomes possessed by a spirit (claiming it is the Holy Spirit) who reveals things to him, gives him orders and is always hungry for more human blood. The LRA, which abducts children for forced conscription as child soldiers and 'wives', is presently terrorising the predominately Christian peoples of Southern Sudan, northern Congo and eastern Central African Republic. Please pray for the Lord's merciful, powerful and decisive intervention.