Wednesday, December 21, 2011

139. Christmas: the day the balance of power shifted irreversibly

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 139 | Wed 21 Dec 2011

CHRISTMAS: THE DAY THE BALANCE OF POWER SHIFTED IRREVERSIBLY

A devotional by Elizabeth Kendal

After rescuing Jacob's/Israel's descendants from slavery in Egypt, God brokered a covenant with them at Sinai, promising to be their faithful God if they would just trust and obey him. Thus, God's protection was dependent on the people's faithfulness. The trouble was the covenant required perfect faithfulness from every individual: thus it was too difficult for the people to keep, for sin reigned.

When God agreed to let the people have a king, the king became God's 'vassal', standing before God as the people's representative head. From that point on, God's protection was dependent on the king's faithfulness. The trouble was kings, like commoners, were flawed, fallible and sinful by nature: they routinely let their people down, for sin reigned.

To solve the problems of sin and fallible kings, God promised 'Immanuel' (Isaiah 7:14; 9:1-7). Jesus Christ, son of David, Son of God, is HE (Matthew 1:23). He was born a king (Matthew 2:2). He lived a sinless life of perfect obedience (Hebrews 4:15), thereby totally fulfilling the requirements of the covenant on behalf of his subjects. Then he died a king (John 19:19). As the 'Lamb of God', he paid the penalty for the sins of all who, through faith, would become his subjects (Matthew 1:21). Having secured salvation, Jesus was then glorified by the Father who raised him to life and exalted him to the highest place. From 'the throne of his father David', this King Jesus now reigns forever, for 'of his kingdom there will be no end' (Luke 1:31-33).

'He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill [have supremacy over] all things.' (Ephesians 4:10 ESV)

The coming of Immanuel heralded the beginning of the end for the forces of evil that have reigned in this world. Though Jesus won the decisive battle over sin and death at the cross, the defeated powers have not yet been eliminated and are resisting their inevitable end with everything they can muster.

'They [the combined powers of the world] will make war on the Lamb [Jesus Christ], and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful.' (Revelation 17:14 ESV)

As violent persecution escalates, as Christian security deteriorates and as religious liberty declines globally -- undeniable facts -- it is imperative that we 'take heart' (John 16:33), remembering that Immanuel's kingdom is 'not of this world' (John 18:36) and 'cannot be shaken' (Hebrews 13:26-29). We, who through faith belong to HIM, are eternally secure.

It is also imperative that we never give up. For it was out of love for the world that God gave his only son (John 3:16), so that through him all the peoples of the world might be blessed (Genesis 12:3). The times in which we live are times of immense spiritual conflict, for God is in the process of bringing down all false gods and defeated enemies (Psalm 110:1). Yet ultimately all idols will be discarded and the true Saviour, Jesus Christ, will alone be exalted (Isaiah 2:10-21). As the battles rage, the world's greatest need, though it rejects it, is that the Church, God's instrument of blessing, be upheld in prayer. It is only through the strength provided by our glorious and victorious reigning King Jesus -- strength he gives in answer to prayer -- will these ongoing battles be turned back at the gate (Isaiah 28:5,6; Zechariah 4:6). Though she be assailed on every side, the Church must continue to preach the Gospel of our LORD and Saviour Jesus Christ, the hope of the world. For the promise is this: the world will finally recognise HIM (see Isaiah 2:2-4; Psalm 22:27,28).

Yes, the coming of Immanuel marked the moment when the balance of power in the world shifted irreversibly! No wonder the angels rejoiced (Luke 2:8-14) -- they understood!

May this knowledge -- of who Jesus is and what happened at Christmas -- lead us to rejoice AND inspire us to pray.

'Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns.' (Revelation 19:6b ESV)

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We wish all our faithful intercessors a wonderful and meaningful Christmas. Ponder what the LORD has done and return with fresh zeal when the RLPB ministry resumes on 4 January 2012.

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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

138. IRAQ: Propaganda versus Reality

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 138 | Wed 14 Dec 2011

IRAQ: PROPAGANDA VERSUS REALITY

By Elizabeth Kendal

By 31 December 2011 all US and NATO troops will have completely withdrawn from Iraq. Whilst the US and NATO had wanted to keep thousands of military trainers there, the Iraqi parliament -- dominated by pro-Iran Shi'ites -- ruled that any remaining military personnel would be subject to Iraqi laws and jurisprudence. Without immunity from prosecution, US and NATO forces would not stay. However, if the propaganda is to be believed, the decimated, imperilled, besieged Christian minority will have nothing to fear when the last US and NATO forces leave Iraq after Christmas. On Monday 12 December, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki met with US President Barak Obama at the White House in Washington. The two men had nothing but praise for how the Iraq adventure has turned out. PM al-Maliki boasted, 'We have proven success. Nobody imagined that we would succeed in defeating terrorism and al Qaeda.' President Obama likewise effused that Iraq can be 'a model for others aspiring to build democracy'. The reality, however, is somewhat different.

The Superior of the Dominicans in Baghdad, Fr Amir Jaje, described the atmosphere in Baghdad ahead of the US-NATO withdrawal as 'tense'. 'The extremists,' he reports, 'are taking advantage of tensions to make their voices heard and the faithful are increasingly distressed.' The Latin Archbishop of Baghdad, Mgr Jean Benjamin Sleiman, told Aid to the Church in Need that Iraqi Christians are preparing for a 'Christmas under siege'. Traditions will be quietly kept in the privacy of family homes, while Christmas Masses will only be celebrated during the day for safety reasons. 'It will be a Christmas, between fear and sturdy faith.' Christians, he said, have been reduced to dhimmitude: a state of subjugation, without rights. Helpless before endless mafia and militia attacks, they are forced to pay the jizya (protection money) as mandated in the Qur'an, Sura 9:29.

See: Iraq: Christians prepare for Christmas under siege
Independent Catholic News, Sunday, December 11, 2011

The situation in the Nineveh Plains of Northern Iraq -- the ancient Assyrian homeland -- is no better. On 2 December, following Friday prayers, thousands of Muslims went on a pogrom through the predominantly Assyrian northern town of Zakho. They looted and torched businesses they deemed 'haram', that is, forbidden in Islam. After torching a Chinese massage centre, the rioters moved on to raze liquor stores, hotels and beauty salons -- most of which were run by Assyrian Christians, others by Kurdish Yazidis. According to eyewitnesses, some rioters tried to attack the Christian quarter of the town. Fortunately those guarding the political offices fired over their heads, dispersing the mob. The Kurdistan Islamic Union is believed to have instigated the violence. That local Muslims could be so easily incited into such a destructive pogrom is of great concern. Nobody expects things to improve after the US-NATO forces leave. 'It's a big mess,' said David Lazar of the American Mesopotamian Organization. When asked who would be there to ensure the safety of Christians he answered, 'Basically, no one.'

Archbishop Louis Sako of the Chaldean Catholic Church in the northern provinces of Kirkuk and Sulimaniya has expressed the fear that, if the persecution continues with such intensity, 'Iraq could be emptied of Christians' completely. The Director of the Christian Defense Coalition, Rev Patrick J Mahoney, is likewise concerned, stating that unless the situation is addressed 'the public expression of Christianity will be exterminated. America must realise,' he adds, 'that this horrible extermination of Christians is directly related to our failure in ensuring their safety. It is a tragedy that America's involvement in Iraq did not bring liberation for Christians but brutality, oppression and possible extinction. We cannot abandon them. We must do better.'

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT --

* Iraqi Christians will draw closer to Jesus, their Saviour, be more reliant on the Holy Spirit, their strength, and more dependent on God, their sovereign, faithful Rock. 'In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.' (Isaiah 30:15 ESV)

* God will bless all Christian witness -- active and passive -- with effectual saving power, 'because only through Christ is it [the veil that covers the unbeliever's heart, hardening their mind] taken away.' (2 Corinthians 3:14-16) 'Therefore [believers] be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labour [including suffering and death] is not in vain.' (1 Corinthians 15:58 ESV)

* God will intervene to bring security to Iraq's remnant Christians. (Isaiah 59:15b-19)

SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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PROPAGANDA VERSUS REALITY IN IRAQ

By 31 December all US and NATO troops will have withdrawn from Iraq. Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and US President Barak Obama are touting Iraq as a model democracy that has successfully defeated terrorism. To the contrary, Iraq's besieged remnant Christians are apprehensive that the US-NATO withdrawal will simply open the way for completing the jihad and genocide they have suffered hitherto. Iraq's indigenous Christian peoples have already lost two-thirds of their number through evacuation and genocide, but their most difficult days lie ahead. Their observance of Christmas will be low-key. The propaganda indicates the powers-that-be are more intent on getting good press than preventing the genocide of Christians. The Church must never abandon them. Let us show the world that our God lives, loves, saves and answers prayers.

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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

137. Syria: Christians fear for their future

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 137 | Wed 07 Dec 2011

SYRIA: CHRISTIANS FEAR FOR THEIR FUTURE

By Elizabeth Kendal

When democracy is decoupled from its Judeo-Christian foundations it is diminished, becoming little more than majoritarianism. When majoritarianism is inserted into highly tribal and sectarian cultures it risks enabling and legitimising tyranny by the majority. When the cost of losing power is enormous -- poverty, persecution and death -- tribes and sects have little choice but to resist or to flee.

WW1 saw the break-up of the Ottoman Empire and the end of the Caliphate with Syria coming under French rule. The French disempowered the Sunni majority by empowering the religious minorities, elevating them to positions of authority in the military and the government. Over the course of five or six decades, the Alawites (a Muslim sect and the largest minority at 12-15 percent) and the Christians (10 percent) went from being persecuted dhimmis -- vulnerable, second-class citizens subjugated under Islam -- to principal, elite power-brokers. Like other secular dictatorial regimes in the Middle East, Syria's ruling Baathist party has respected religious freedom to a large degree while crushing political threats, especially that of fundamentalist political Islam. In this regard, the main difference between Iraq and Syria is that in Iraq, Saddam Hussein maintained secularism by repressing an Iran-backed political Shi'ite majority whilst in Syria, the Assad regime has maintained secularism by repressing a Saudi-backed Sunni majority influenced by the Muslim Brotherhood.

The current uprising in Syria is not about 'democracy' as the West knows it. It is about restoring majoritarianism (Sunni domination), Arab hegemony and the Islamic order to Syria. Salafi and Muslim Brotherhood elements -- local and foreign, ideological and militant -- are inciting and exploiting the protests within which are many genuine voices calling for political and human rights reform. Furthermore, the conflict in Syria has regional dimensions. Syria is not merely allied to Shi'ite Persian Iran and to Shi'ite Hezballah in Lebanon, it is integral -- politically, militarily and geographically -- to the Iranian axis and 'Shi'ite Crescent'. Yet Syria is 90 percent Arab and majority Sunni. Consequently, a proxy war is being playing out in Syria for Syria, between the Iranian axis and the US-Saudi / Gulf Arab axis. Israel has long been threatened by the belligerent anti-Semitism of the Iranian axis but the belligerent anti-Semitic fundamentalist Islam rising to power in the Arab states in the wake of the 'Arab Spring' may yet prove worse. This would leave Israel wondering if it is a case of 'better the devil we know'! Significantly, Hamas is leaving its headquarters in Damascus and relocating, not to Tehran, but to Cairo.

Syrian Christians maintain that the fall of the Assad regime would be disastrous for Syria's nearly three million Christians, including hundreds of thousands of Assyrian-Chaldean refugees from Iraq. To discredit this, Western and Arab media are spreading the propaganda that Assad is fear-mongering, exploiting the Christians' supposedly unreasonable and irrational fears of Islam. However, the Christians are not only reflecting on their own history but are looking around at their co-religionists facing genocide in Iraq and massacres in Egypt. Even now, reports are leaking out about Syrian Christians being forced out of their homes and arson of Christian businesses. One chant being heard in the protests has been: 'The Alawites to the grave and the Christians to Beirut'. Consequently, Christians fear that should the Assad regime fall or Syria break up, Christians would be left defenceless before a flood of violent persecution and ethnic cleansing. Their fears are definitely justified.

For more background see:
Syria: Christians Vulnerable
by Elizabeth Kendal, Religious Liberty Monitoring, 16 May 2011

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY FOR --

* WISDOM: that Christian community leaders might have strategic wisdom to direct their local / ethnic communities; that the church's leaders might have spiritual wisdom to lead their denominations, congregations and fellowships; that Christian parents might have divine wisdom to guide their families through this crisis to the glory of God.

* FAITH: that all Christians in Syria might grow in faith as they fix their eyes on Jesus, 'the founder and perfecter of [their] faith'. (Hebrews 12:2 ESV)

* God to intervene to still 'the tumult of the peoples, so that those who dwell at the ends of the earth [might be] in awe at [his] signs. (Psalm 65:7b,8a ESV).


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN WHOLE ARTICLE
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CHRISTIANS IN SYRIA FEAR FOR THEIR FUTURE

The uprising in Syria is not about 'democracy' as the West knows it. It is about restoring majoritarianism (Sunni Muslim domination), Arab hegemony and the Islamic order to Syria. Furthermore, a proxy war is playing out in Syria for Syria, between the Iranian-Hezballah axis and the US-Saudi / Gulf Arab axis. The fall of the Assad regime would be disastrous for Syria's nearly three million Christians, including hundreds of thousands of Assyrian-Chaldean refugees from Iraq, who could find themselves defenceless before a flood of violent persecution and ethnic cleansing. Their fears are fully justified, considering the situation in Iraq, where Christians are facing genocide, and in Egypt, where Christians are facing escalating violent persecution and massacres. They are already being attacked amidst the Syrian protests. Please pray for the Church in Syria.

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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

136. Nov. Update; Incl. Burma, Nigeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Egypt, India, Nepal, Vietnam.

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 136 | Wed 30 Nov 2011

By Elizabeth Kendal

We must understand the times in which we live (Luke 12:54-56): persecution is escalating at an alarming rate. So: 'Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.' (Ephesians 6:18b NLT)


NOVEMBER 2011 UPDATE -- During November we prayed concerning . . .

BURMA (RLPB 132), where ethnic Kachin Christians are being driven from their lands behind a smokescreen of mini-'reforms'.

UPDATE: KACHIN IMPERILED; BURMA REWARDED.

Ten people were killed (all children) and 27 were injured on Sunday evening 13 November when a parcel bomb was thrown into an orphanage in Myitkyinar, Kachin State, during a study. The owner-manager of the orphanage, Dayaung Tangoon, was away travelling with Christian pastors at the time. Though Tangoon, a leader in the Kachin community, lost a son, a daughter and grandchild in the attack, he was arrested. Meanwhile the 27 wounded, including Tangoon's wife, are in hospital, barred from receiving visitors.

Furthermore, the regime is deploying chemical weapons against the Kachin. Residents of Mai Ja Yang village recently fled their homes reporting toxic and caustic 'yellow rain'. Likewise, residents fleeing Prang Ngawn village in western Kachin also reported that a plane had delivered 'yellow rain' to their village. On 17 November the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) announced that Myanmar (Burma) will chair ASEAN in 2014. Pray for the besieged Christian Kachin of northern Burma.

NIGERIA (RLPB 133), where the al-Qaeda-linked terror group Boko Haram, which wants Nigeria run as an Islamic State, is escalating its campaign of terror against Christian, educational and democratic institutions across the north.

UPDATE 1: BOKO HARAM STRIKES IN YOBE STATE.

On Saturday 26 November Boko Haram unleashed another wave of terror, this time targeting Geidam Local Government Area, Yobe State (north-east Nigeria). Armed with Kalashnikov rifles and explosives, the militants bombed Geidam police station, freeing suspects and looting the armoury before rampaging through the town, robbing a bank and looting a shopping complex. They torched numerous businesses, an abandoned beer parlour, a court, the local government secretariat and at least eight churches. Four police were killed. When claiming responsibility for terrorising Geidam -- -- the hometown of the Yobe state governor Ibrahim Geidam -- Boko Haram warned: 'Until all our members in detention are released and the Yobe state government stops intimidating and harassing our members we will continue carrying out attacks in the state.'

UPDATE 2: MUSLIMS MASSACRE CHRISTIANS IN PLATEAU STATE.

Compass Direct News reports that Fulani Muslim herdsmen, backed by Muslim soldiers, recently killed 45 ethnic Berom Christians around the town of Barkin Ladi in Plateau State. After accusing the Berom Christians of stealing cattle, the Fulani Muslims started randomly killing Christians: three on 20 November, two on 21st and another beheaded on 22nd. On Wednesday 23rd the Muslims attacked a church in Barkin Ladi, killing four Christians. The next day, straight after the morning call to prayer, hundreds of armed Muslims joined forces in a major assault. Chanting 'Allahu akbar' (Allah is great) they massacred nine Christians in Barkin Ladi and 26 Christians in nearby Kwok village. Please pray for the Church in Nigeria.

SUDAN (RPLB 134), where genocidal ethnic cleansing continues in the north (in South Kordofan and Blue Nile) while an oil war looms over South Sudan, threatening to engulf not only the whole nation but the wider region.

UGANDA (RLPB 135), which is launching a fresh offensive against the LRA, assisted by 100 US Special Forces troops. It is urgent that we pray for a spiritual breakthrough so that multitudes of the LRA -- most of whom are just kidnapped, traumatised, brainwashed children -- might be spiritually and physically freed to leave the LRA for rehabilitation. Pray for the religious leaders who are working to this end, especially for the Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative. Pray that Ugandan Christians will unite across tribal lines to address historic injustices and inequity, for the sake of long-lasting peace and for the glory of God.

NOVEMBER 2011 ROUND-UP -- also this month . . .

'ARAB SPRING': ISLAMIST POWER RISES ACROSS NORTH AFRICA

1) TUNISIA: EVIDENCE OF RADICAL IDEOLOGY SLIPS OUT

Last month, Tunisia's Islamist, long-banned Ennahda party emerged victorious winning 89 of 217 assembly seats in the first election of the 'Arab Spring'. Ennahda has been striving to present itself as 'moderate'. Yet on 13 November Tunisia's new Prime Minister, Ennahda's Hamadi Jebali, told a rally, 'My brothers, you are at a historic moment in a new cycle of civilisation, God willing. We are in a sixth caliphate, God willing.' With a Hamas MP by his side, Jebali declared that 'the liberation of Tunisia will, God willing, bring about the liberation of Jerusalem'. When this upset his prospective coalition partners, Jabali simply said his words had been misunderstood and taken out of context.('Moderate' and jihadist Islamists have the same radical goal and differ only regarding tactics.) Pray for the Church in Tunisia.

2) MOROCCO: ISLAMISTS WIN ELECTIONS

Last week Morocco's Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD) emerged victorious, winning 107 of 395 assembly seats in the second election of the 'Arab Spring'. Though being lauded in the West as 'moderate', the PJD is the political wing of the Uniqueness and Reform movement which represents the Muslim Brotherhood in Morocco. Earlier this year, as the Middle East simmered in discontent, Morocco's ruling elite lessened the risk of mass revolt by enacting constitutional 'reforms'. According to the new constitution, Morocco is no longer a 'unitary sovereign state', but a 'Muslim sovereign state'. And whilst clause three of the preamble was amended to include the goal of 'deepening the sense of belonging to the Arab-Islamic umma [nation/community]', clause two of article 25 that guaranteed the 'freedom of conscience' was dropped entirely. Of the Moroccans who voted, 98.5 percent approved the constitutional amendments. Pray for the Church in Morocco.

3) EGYPT: MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD RISING

Egyptians are now voting in what is the third election of the 'Arab Spring'. The Islamist Muslim Brotherhood's long-banned Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) is widely expected to do well in a three-stage legislative election that began on Monday 28 November and concludes in January. There have been numerous reports of vote-buying and religious sloganeering. Christians are mostly voting for the Egyptian Bloc list headed by the liberal Free Egyptians Party, which is strongly opposed to the FJP. They are anxious about the future. If Islamist power rises in Egypt, the Copts will be in a very vulnerable situation indeed. Even now the media, the army, the Salafists and masses of radicalised 'loyal' Muslims are ready to subjugate the Copts as dhimmis under Islam. According to Islam, any resistance to dhimmitude may be met with jihad (slaughter). Pray for the Church in Egypt.

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* INDIA: PERSECUTION RAMPANT IN KARNATAKA (south-west India)

Since coming under the rule of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in 2008, persecution of Christians has escalated in Karnataka. On Saturday 26 November members of the Bethel Ministry Church were praying together in a home on the outskirts of Kushalnagar village, Karnataka, when a mob of Hindu militants burst in. After accusing the Christians of engaging in forced conversions, the militants called the police who came and arrested a Mrs Janakiyamma, taking her to Madikeri Prison. This is the 41st case of anti-Christian persecution officially registered in Karnataka this year.

Two other church groups were attacked in Karnataka during the month, both in the district of Hassan. On 12 November six members of the Ministry of Bethel Church were attacked as they waited for a bus after attending a prayer service. The militants beat the believers and marched them off to the police station where they were subsequently placed under arrest. After an intervention by the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) three women and a child were released but the men are still imprisoned. The next day Pastor Nagaraj, of the Church of Immanuel Prarthanalaya in Arkalgud, had just started the Sunday service when a mob of Hindu militants stormed the church and began tearing up Bibles. When the police arrived they arrested the pastor and three believers who are still in prison. This is India! Pray for the Church in India.

* NEPAL: RELIGIOUS LIBERTY UNDER ATTACK

A crude bomb exploded in Thapathali, Kathmandu, on 22 November, outside the offices of United Mission in Nepal (UMN), a Christian non-governmental organisation (NGO) that has been working to relieve poverty in Nepal since 1954. A second bomb was disarmed. No one was injured. Police found leaflets at the site from the Nepal Defense Army (NDA), a militant Hindu nationalist group that has targeted Christians previously. The leaflets accused the UMN of converting Hindus to Christianity. Then on the following Sunday, 27 November, a suspicious parcel was discovered outside the Assemblies of God Navajiwan Church in central Kathmandu. The police bomb squad who defused the bomb said it contained three powerful explosives that would have done considerable damage had the bomb exploded. Meanwhile, on 22 Nov, two Christian brothers, Panchman Tamang and Buddhiman, were violently assaulted and expelled from their predominantly Buddhist village in Sindhupalchowk district, north of Kathmandu near the border with Tibet. On Instead of defending religious liberty, the government is appeasing the belligerent by drafting anti-conversion laws. Pray for the Church in Nepal.

* VIETNAM: EXTREME VIOLENCE WITH IMPUNITY

Leaders of the 2200-member Agape Baptist Church (ABC) -- a house church network near Hanoi -- were violently assaulted on Sunday 13 November, Compass Direct News reports. They were meeting in Lai Tao village, Bot Xuyen commune, My Duc district at the home of evangelist Nguyen Thi Lan, a former Communist Party (female) official who recently converted to Christianity. Unhappy about conversions in the village, the gang of over a dozen local thugs (including plain-clothed police) burst in savagely beating the leaders while looting and ransacking the home.

Nine pastors and other church leaders along with several of their teenage children sustained serious injuries. Most critically injured was Pastor Nguyen Danh Chau who was unconscious for several hours. When ABC head Nguyen Cong Thanh visited on 15 November he said, 'All they could do was weep, and I also could not prevent my tears from flowing.' With local hospitals proving reluctant to aid the pastors, ABC eventually evacuated the most critically wounded to a hospital in Ho Chi Minh City. Nguyen Thi Lan and Pastor Nguyen Danh Chau have suffered potentially crippling injuries. No one has been arrested and the gang is threatening to kill Nguyen Thi Lan if she ever returns. The impunity granted to the persecutors guarantees that persecution will only escalate. Pray for the Church in Vietnam.

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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

135. Uganda: moves to quell LRA

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 135 | Wed 23 Nov 2011

UGANDA: MORE MOVES TO QUELL LRA

By Elizabeth Kendal

The Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) is a blasphemous cult militia established in the late 1980s ostensibly to fight for the rights of the long-marginalised and abused Acholi people of Northern Uganda. The LRA quickly lost its political focus, becoming infamous for its unrivalled brutality, most of it directly targeted at Christian communities, churches and seminaries. Squeezed out of Uganda, the LRA moved to South Sudan and more recently to Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Central African Republic. The LRA has long been armed and funded by the Islamist regime in Khartoum, which has employed the LRA as a proxy force against the South Sudanese and their Christian allies. The LRA's founder and present commander, Joseph Kony, is a former Catholic altar boy turned occultist / spirit medium. Children who have escaped Kony's camps have told social workers that when Kony gets 'possessed' -- he claims by the Holy Spirit -- he will demand worship, crave human blood and prophesy things that come 'exactly true'. This goes some way to explaining why this band of rebels has eluded capture for more than 20 years. In such an overtly spiritual battle, it should be unsurprising that prayer has proved to be the most powerful and effective weapon of all. In the opinion of this writer, the most effective local force against the LRA has been Northern Uganda's religious leaders and particularly the long-suffering and supremely courageous pastors and bishops of the Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative (ARLPI).

With the stated aim of seeing the LRA removed from the battlefield, the US recently sent 100 combat-ready Special Forces troops to Uganda, tasked with providing 'technical assistance'. The LRA's evil and the local suffering may well be not the main reasons why the US has entered Uganda. Other possible motives include the discovery of oil in Uganda five years ago and China's quick investment in it. Also a quick moral victory in Africa would look good on President Obama's resume in the lead up to the 2012 US presidential elections. Importantly though, an 'oil war' is looming in Sudan, and the LRA -- long a proxy of the Republic of Sudan -- is presently lurking in the hills of South Sudan awaiting orders. Eliminating the LRA would greatly assist South Sudan. Furthermore, American Special Forces assistance in East Africa could be helpful in countering al Shabaab or at least in seeing that Kenya and Uganda are rewarded for their counter-terror efforts. All these possible reasons aside, removing the LRA from the battlefield would be a very good outcome indeed.

However, as the ARLPI notes, military means have never worked against the LRA. In December 2008 US military advisors assisted Uganda, DRC and the South Sudan-based Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) as they joined forces in Operation Lightning Thunder to fight the LRA in the heavily-forested Garamba National Park region of north-eastern DRC. Mysteriously alerted to the allied advance, the LRA tactically retreated and dispersed. In early January 2009 the alliance boasted that the LRA had been routed but by late January the LRA was enacting reprisals and terrorising civilian populations across the region. By March the Ugandan army had pulled out. The military operation, which cost a huge 500 billion shillings, was an unmitigated disaster, subsequently blamed on 'leaky intelligence'. Today the region is relatively calm and though sporadic violence continues (see LRA Crisis Tracker), the ARLPI believes that gains are being made through dialogue which offers a more holistic outcome than military action ever could.

So the dilemma is this: whilst everyone wants to see the end of the LRA, most Acholi do not favour a military solution. One reason why the ARLPI is opposed to the military option is because the LRA never had popular appeal and it could only fill its ranks by kidnapping young children. Consequently, apart from its top leadership, the LRA comprises mostly abducted, traumatised, terrorised Acholi children, who, after being forced at gunpoint to murder their own parents, were then brainwashed to believe they have no other home nor life than the LRA. However, the churches of Northern Uganda have, in great generosity of spirit, worked very hard over many years to prove that this is not so. These children deserve the opportunity of rehabilitation and reconciliation.

For more background on the LRA see blogs --
Religious Liberty Monitoring label: Lord's Resistance Army (LRA).
also
Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin label: LRA

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT --

* Yahweh Sabaoth -- the Lord of Hosts (literally the commander of heaven's forces) -- will open the door to victory on earth by delivering a victory in heavenly realms; may demonic spirits be bound, through '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).

* Joseph Kony and the other senior leaders of the LRA will be removed from the battlefield in accordance with the will and purpose of God.

* multitudes of abducted children will be spiritually and physically freed to leave the bush and surrender themselves to those who will in amazing grace -- and usually to the bewilderment of the children -- love them, rehabilitate them and facilitate reconciliation.

* Ugandan churches -- both northern and southern -- will unite across deep tribal divides to pray for the above outcomes and to work together as one people in Christ for peace, justice and equity across the nation.

SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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MORE MOVES IN UGANDA TO QUELL LRA

The Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) is a blasphemous cult militia established in northern Uganda in the late 1980s. For decades it has wreaked terror across the largely Christian regions of central Africa, often directly targeting churches and seminaries. Its leader Joseph Kony is a spirit medium. The Islamist regime in Khartoum arms and funds the LRA as a proxy against the South Sudanese and their Christian allies. The US has sent 100 combat-ready Special Forces 'advisors' to Uganda to help fight the LRA. All past efforts to destroy the LRA militarily have failed and even made things worse. Lacking popular appeal, the LRA fills its ranks with abducted local children. Ugandan religious leaders are very concerned but they are making real gains through dialogue. Please pray for them and the Church.
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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

134. SUDAN: refugees bombed; 'oil war' looming

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 134 | Wed 16 Nov 2011

SUDAN: REFUGEES BOMBED; 'OIL WAR' LOOMING

By Elizabeth Kendal

Religious Liberty Monitoring noted in its 14 May 2010 posting, 'SPLM-NCP alliance: a "covenant with death" (Isaiah 28:15)': 'There will be a massive war for control of the oil fields presently situated on the southern side of the North-South border.' It appears that the predicted 'oil-war' is looming.

When South Sudan seceded from the north in July, the Republic of Sudan lost about 25 percent of its land mass, 80 percent of its forests and 75 percent of its oil. Consequently, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) was never popular in Khartoum, especially amongst Islamists and the regime's military elite. Compounding the situation, Sudan's remaining oil fields were located in the region of Abyei and the state of South Kordofan, whilst the bulk of its hydroelectric power emanated from Blue Nile. Long politically marginalised and violently persecuted on racial and religious grounds, the mostly Christian and non-Arab peoples of this 'new south' have long supported the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM). So that it might cement its control over the resource-rich 'new south', Khartoum has been ethnically cleansing the region. In May, the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) surged into Abyei. On 5 June the regime unleashed genocidal jihad on South Kordofan and extended this to Blue Nile on 1 September. Untold thousands of mostly Christian non-Arabs have been slaughtered and many hundreds of thousands displaced. To hasten the genocide, Khartoum has sealed the region off to humanitarian aid, condemning the displaced to death by mass starvation. For some shameful reason, Western media do not seem to regard this as newsworthy.

President Omar el-Bashir was in Blue Nile recently to celebrate the 'liberation' (conquest and ethnic cleansing) of Kurmuk, a highly strategic Blue Nile town on the border with Ethiopia and formerly the main bastion of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement North (SPLM-N). Addressing a rally in the Blue Nile capital Al-Damazin on Sunday 6 November, el-Bashir declared that Khartoum was ready to return to war with the South where it would repeat 'the lessons of Abyei, Kadugli [South Kordofan] and Al-Damazin [Blue Nile]'. Doubtless the regime intends to use the military to seize as much as possible of South Sudan's oil-rich territory, re-drawing the North-South border to 'recover' at least some of what was 'lost' through the CPA.

On 8 & 9 November Antonov bombers from the SAF airbase in El Obeid, North Kordofan, attacked two locations inside South Sudan. The remote region of Guffa in Upper Nile state, where Oxfam is caring for some 50,000 refugees from Blue Nile, came under aerial attack on 8 November. Oxfam workers reported that the four-hour-long bombing and heavy artillery fire destroyed several structures while killing seven people and wounding many more. The next day Yida refugee camp in Unity State was bombed. Run by the Christian charity Samaritan's Purse, Yida is home to more than 23,000 mostly Nuba registered refugees from South Kordofan. The attack left 12 dead and some 20 wounded, but it could have been much worse. A bomb that landed outside a school building where over 200 students were in classes failed to detonate. Praise God and persevere in prayer!

Satellite Sentinel Project (SSP) has confirmed that the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) has been upgrading airbases recently captured from the SPLA-N in Blue Nile's border regions. The airstrip in Al-Damazin has been lengthened. Helipads are being developed at Kurmuk for helicopter gunships and the runway re-laid for Russian-built Antonov bombers. With an operating radius of some 1100km, Antonovs from Kurmuk would be able to reach Juba, the capital of South Sudan. On Friday 11 November, 18 died and 73 were wounded when a Khartoum-backed militia launched a daring cross-border raid into Kuek, Upper Nile State, South Sudan, attacking the SPLA military base. SPLA colonel, Philip Aguer, reports that the militias are massing along the border in preparation for an attack on the oil-producing regions of Upper Nile. 'This is an oil war now,' he said.

For full background on Sudan see Religious Liberty Monitoring, label: Sudan
Map of Sudan & Southern Oil Concessions (sudanreeves.org: best source on Sudan)


PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT --

* God will be a 'refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble' for all Sudanese Christians -- in the North and in the South -- who will faithfully trust HIM through these tumultuous times (Psalm 46:1-3); may they find peace and comfort in the assurance that their sovereign LORD is with them (vv4-7) and that HE will be exalted in the earth (vv8-11).

* the LORD's fearsome anger might be roused (Psalm 76:7), that he might rise to 'establish judgement' and save the humble (vv8,9). May Sudan's 'men of war' and its leadership be hamstrung, reduced and made subject to HIM (vv5,6,10-12).

SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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SUDAN: REFUGEES BOMBED; 'OIL WAR' LOOMING

The Republic of Sudan Arab-Islamist regime has been waging genocidal jihad against the mostly Christian non-Arabs of the 'new south': Abyei, South Kordofan and Blue Nile. The regime has now escalated its attacks inside South Sudan. On 8 & 9 November it bombed refugees from South Kordofan and Blue Nile as they sheltered in South Sudan's Unity and Upper Nile States. On 11 November a Khartoum-backed militia attacked a Southern military base in Kuek, Upper Nile, South Sudan. Many have been killed and wounded. Satellite images reveal that Khartoum is establishing and supplying forward bases and massing militias along the border ready for a full-scale 'oil war'. Please pray for Sudan's Christians, in the North and in the South. May God be their fortress, deliverer and peace.

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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

133. International Day of Prayer (IDOP) for the Persecuted Church; plus Nigeria

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 133 | Wed 09 Nov 2011

INTERNATIONAL DAY OF PRAYER (IDOP) FOR THE PERSECUTED CHURCH

By Elizabeth Kendal

The security of Christians is deteriorating. In countries where Christians have long suffered discrimination and persecution, violence is escalating. Anti-Christian forces have been advancing for decades, gaining momentum through the radicalisation of the masses. Christians who were once at risk from militants are increasingly at risk from their own neighbours. As religious hardliners gain political influence, hateful and criminal elements discover that they can persecute, kill and loot Christians with impunity. In Egypt, Pakistan and parts of India the situation is absolutely critical.

Furthermore, terrorism is increasing. In Iraq and Somalia, al-Qaeda affiliates are training jihadists for local and international jihad. Amidst this, the Assyrian-Chaldean Christians indigenous to Iraq are facing genocide while the Church in Somalia is being systematically eradicated. Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Margreb (AQIM) will doubtless benefit greatly from the so-called 'Arab Spring': in particular the rise of Islam, the decline in security and the looting of Libya's arms caches.

Unfortunately, as the West discards its biblical foundations to facilitate 'culture change' -- the transition from 'Judeo-Christian' to 'post-Christian' (non-Christian) -- it becomes just like the rest of the world: harsh, with less respect for human life and hostile towards the Gospel. A civilisation that ceases to respect religious liberty at home is not going to defend it abroad. Already, supposedly rights-affirming Western governments have demonstrated that they are quite prepared to sacrifice principles -- even whole Christian people groups -- in exchange for geo-strategic gains or lucrative contracts. Severely persecuted Christians in highly strategic or resource-rich states routinely find themselves abandoned. This is the sad reality for example for the Kachin in Burma (Myanmar), the Papuans in eastern Indonesia, the minority Protestants in Central Asia, and the Assyrian-Chaldeans of Iraq. So whilst the West has long been a powerful advocate of religious liberty, increasingly as culture changes and influence wanes (through loss of economic leverage) this is less the case.

It is imperative that as the security situation for Christians deteriorates, we come to terms with the reality that the West cannot save the Church; neither can the UN (which is now dominated by non-free states) or the EU (which is cursed with confusion just like the original tower of Babel) or NATO (which has done more to advance Islam than Islam itself) or 'democracy' (which is doing a wonderful job of empowering anti-Christian forces throughout the world) or any other creation of arrogant, independent humanity.

PRAISE GOD there is another reality: the LORD of hosts is for us and able to save! But he 'waits' (holds back / tarries expectantly) for us, so that we will 'wait' (hold back / tarry expectantly) for him (Isaiah 30:18). What he seeks is faith -- that we would look to HIM and pray -- that he might answer our prayers and reveal to all that he alone is the LORD (Isaiah 37:20). Such prayers are not desperate wishful thinking but expressions of expectant faith anchored in the promises of God.

Prayer is thus the highest form of advocacy. On her knees, the Church is the most powerful body on earth, for through her petitions, the hosts of the Lord of hosts are unleashed to change the course of history. Please join with us on 13 November to pray for the Persecuted Church.

A Prayer for IDOP

SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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PRAYING FOR THE PERSECUTED CHURCH

The security of Christians is deteriorating. Violent persecution is escalating, as is terrorism. As the West discards its biblical foundations to undergo 'culture change', religious freedom loses its reason to exist and disappears with the 'old order', traded away for 'peace'. Strategic agreements, lucrative contracts and access to resources are paramount. As persecution escalates globally, we must come to terms with the reality that the world cannot save the Church. Prayer is thus the best and highest form of advocacy. On her knees, the Church is the most powerful body on earth for, through her petitions, the hosts of the Lord of hosts are unleashed to change the course of history. Please join in the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church on 13 November 2011.

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* NIGERIA: BOKO HARAM HITS NINE CHURCHES

On Friday 4 November al-Qaeda affiliate Boko Haram launched attacks in Damaturu and Potiskum (Yobe State) and in Maiduguri (Borno State). The death toll from the co-ordinated bombings (including suicide bombings) and gun battles presently stands at 150 and is expected to rise. Nine churches were targeted, along with mosques, a bank, an anti-terrorist court, police stations and army posts. In Damaturu's mostly Christian New Jerusalem district, six churches were bombed. According to one resident, 'The whole city is traumatised.' Nigeria's The Nation reported on 7 November, 'In spite [of] their churches being burnt, Christians in Damaturu yesterday defied the security panic and held their Sunday service in [the] open air at the premises of their burnt churches.' According to Boko Haram spokesman Abul-Qaqa, 'More attacks are on the way.' Please pray for the Church in Nigeria.

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Monday, November 7, 2011

A Prayer for International Day of Prayer (IDOP) for the Persecuted Church

By Elizabeth Kendal

TO OPEN: an affirmation.
(Psalm 121:1,2 ESV)

Leader: I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?

Congregation: My help comes from the LORD,
who made heaven and earth.

Leader: Let's pray . . .


Dear Father,

We know that Christ is building his Church and that the gates of hell will not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18). We see the evidence of this all around us, as people are coming to Christ from every tribe, language, people and nation. We praise you for your redeeming love, transforming power and gracious mercy.

Please dear Father, help us fulfil the will for Christ and become ONE Church in spirit (John 17:20-23). Transform our selfish hearts into hearts that love one another as you love us. May the Holy Spirit do a work in us so that we might see as you see and love as you love, even though it may hurt and be costly. Inject into our hearts a deep compassion for our brothers and sisters -- a love that will compel us to intercede for them and bear their burdens (Galatians 6:2).

Dear Father, we are faced with so many horrific situations that are completely beyond our ability to address: whole regions and peoples that are oppressed, nations tearing apart in violent conflict, genocides, mass cruelty, gross injustice . . . We confess that many of these terrible situations persist because we have been unfaithful in witness, righteousness and prayer; because we have been uninterested in suffering and injustice; because we have sat back, washed our hands and let the devil get a foothold. We repent of our sin, ask for your forgiveness and seek your mercy for those who suffer.

We pray for our brothers and sisters who suffer under Islamic oppression and jihad; for those who live under Communist rule and cruel totalitarian regimes; for those suffering persecution on account of militant religious nationalism; and for those who suffer humiliation, ridicule, scorn and crippling discrimination simply because they love and follow Jesus Christ and will not compromise for the sake of personal security or financial gain.

We pray for those who are in prison and in concentration or forced labour camps on account of the name of Jesus (John 15:21). We pray for those who go hungry, for those who grieve and for those who have been cast from their homes and lands simply on account of the name of Jesus.

We pray for those who are displaced and imperilled on account of war. We beseech you Father: rise up in defence of your betrayed, abandoned and threatened people (Isaiah 59:15b-19), so that their enemies might 'be scattered' (Psalm 68:1) and 'put to shame and confusion' and 'turned back and brought to dishonour' (Psalm 70:2). Provide for your suffering people O LORD, just as you did when you provided manna in the wilderness (Exodus 16) and water from the rock (Exodus 17); just as you did when you instructed the ravens to feed Elijah and resupplied the widow each night (1 Kings 17). We know you rule heaven and earth. We know that with you, nothing is impossible (Luke 1:37).

Father we ask that your Holy Spirit, who is present within each believer, will comfort, encourage, revive and counsel them. May they be assured in the depths of their hearts that nothing can separate them from your love (Romans 8:35-39). Draw them into prayer and then answer their prayers that their faith might be fanned into flame. May the devil have no victory over them.

Father we pray for those who persecute the Church. We know that they do this because they do not know you (John 16:3). May the Holy Spirit fill us with love them so that we might pray for them and be courageous in our witness to them. We pray that through the power of the Holy Spirit, persecutors will come under conviction of sin. We pray for many of those miracles of transformation whereby persecutors are turned into preachers (Galatians 1:23). We pray that you will establish leaders in the nations who will be committed to justice, righteousness, peace and liberty so that Christians may live in peace and security and so the gospel may be preached freely to lost and dying souls (1 Timothy 2:1-4).

Finally we ask that your Holy Spirit will help us to prevail in prayer: not giving up, not being distracted, not fooled by the tricks of the devil, but compelled by love into prevailing prayer with hearts full of assurance and faith (Hebrews 10:19-23). For we know that we are ultimately wrestling not with men/women, or governments, or systems -- but we are fighting against principalities and powers of darkness (Ephesians 6:10-18). We know we cannot do this on our own -- and so we come before you now to humbly seek your direction and your intervention. We do not ask these things because we deserve your help, but because you are merciful (Daniel 9:18b).

So now O LORD our God, intervene on behalf of your besieged, suffering and threatened people -- your persecuted Church -- that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone are the LORD (Isaiah 37:20).

AMEN

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

132. BURMA: Interests, Smokescreens & Ethnic Cleansing

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 132 | Wed 02 Nov 2011

BURMA (Myanmar): INTERESTS, SMOKESCREENS & ETHNIC CLEANSING

By Elizabeth Kendal

Burma has been subject to Western political and economic sanctions for decades because of its repression of democracy. However, since the mid-1990s ascendant China has been taking Burma into its embrace, supplying it with loans and commodities, trading freely and building infrastructure -- but not out of benevolence. China is pursuing its own interests, in particular gaining access to Burmese ports on the Bay of Bengal, where there has long been a power vacuum. Motivated by this threat, the US is now pursuing engagement with Burma. Consequently Burma's geo-strategic value is rising in line with China's economic and military ascendancy, which means Burma (like Indonesia -- RLPB 119) can now play geo-politics to its own advantage. To this end, the regime is welcoming the US overtures as they offer a way to counter the anti-China sentiment rising inside Burma.

The West is highly excited over Burma's recent reforms: the release of some 200 political prisoners (despite over 1000 still behind bars); talks held with Aung San Suu Kyi; improvements in press freedom and the introduction of debate into its parliament. Burmese generally are highly sceptical of the reforms which need to be seen in the light of Burmese domestic realities. Domestically the regime wants to lessen its dependence on China. It also wants to chair the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in 2014 (which will be decided this month). The only reform that has really captured the imagination of the Burmese is the regime's 30 September decision to suspend until 2015 the immensely controversial Myitsone Dam Project in Kachin State. A joint project between the previous Burmese junta and the China Power Investment Corporation, the Myitsone Dam project was not only opposed by the Kachin -- a Christian people whose lands would have been decimated -- but by many Burmese. Not only would 90 percent of the output and 70 percent of the profits go to China, but the impact on the Irrawaddy River -- Burma's life source -- would be catastrophic. So even this move must be seen in the context of the regime's survival strategy amidst Burma's internal reality of escalating anti-China sentiment.

Whilst the regime has suspended the Myitsone Dam Project, its war on the Christian Kachin -- a war triggered in part by the dam project (see RLPB, label: Burma) -- continues unabated. In an 18 October report, Human Rights Watch estimates 30,000 Kachin are now displaced. While UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has inexplicably downplayed the situation, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Burma, Tomas Ojea Quintana, told the UN General Assembly on 19 October that recent fighting had resulted in more than 15,000 displaced Kachin being confined to a remote mountainous area on the Chinese border in conditions that can only be described as 'perilous'. According to Quintana, the UN informed the Burmese authorities that it was willing to help these Internally Displaced Persons but Thein Sein's government declined the offer.

Furthermore, it is being reported that China is blocking the delivery of food, emergency shelter and medicines, leaving some analysts wondering if Kachin State is being ethnically cleansed at China's behest. Is the suspension of the dam project just a smokescreen behind which Burma will have three years to ethnically cleanse Kachin State? With the US working to bring Burma out of China's embrace into its own, will the US reward the tokens while ignoring the genocide (exactly as is happening in Papua, Indonesia)? No matter what the world does, the Church must not ignore the persecution of her sisters and brothers.

With the Kachin people being over 90 percent devout Christian, the Church is being hit hard. Churches in Kachin State have been attacked, seized, used as prisons and burnt. The Christian Kachin are being raped, brutalised, enslaved, starved and slaughtered. Christian Solidarity Worldwide reported on 31 October that in Maw Wan Ward, Phakant Township, the town administration is now requiring Christians to seek official permission to read the Bible, pray and fast, amongst other Christian 'cultural' activities. Requests must be accompanied by recommendations from other departments and must be submitted to the Township Administration Office 15 days in advance.

With war and repression escalating behind a smokescreen of token reforms from a Burman-Buddhist-supremacist regime operating from a position of increasing geo-strategic significance, the Christian Kachin need our prayers for God's intervention now more than ever.

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT --

* the LORD will rise up in defence of his own people (Isaiah 59:15b-19); may their enemies 'be scattered' (Psalm 68:1), 'be put to shame and confusion' and 'turned back and brought to dishonour' (Psalm 70:2 ESV).

* the God who provided manna in the wilderness (Exodus 16) and water from the rock (Exodus 17), who instructed the ravens to feed Elijah and resupplied the widow each night (1 Kings 17), who performs miracles (Matthew 14:13ff) and opens and closes doors definitively and at will (Revelation 3:7) will meet the needs of all the displaced Christian Kachin.

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SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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ETHNIC CLEANSING IN BURMA BEHIND TOKEN REFORMS

Whilst the West is lauding Burma for its reforms, these reforms are not about democracy but regime survival and advancing the regime's interests as anti-China sentiment inside Burma is soaring. Burma's duplicity is evident in that its war against the Christian Kachin people continues unabated. The regime appears intent on ethnically cleansing Kachin State where China wants to build a massive dam and hydro-power scheme. Some 30,000 Kachin are displaced, most without food, shelter or medical aid. The regime is imposing severe restrictions on Christianity in some Kachin towns. War and repression are escalating behind a smokescreen of token reforms from a Burman-Buddhist-supremacist regime operating from a position of increasing geo-strategic significance. The Christian Kachin need our prayers for God's intervention now more than ever.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

131. Oct Update; incl. Papua (Eastern Indonesia), Libya, Malaysia, Tunisia, Kazakhstan, Maldives, Somalia, Sudan

By Elizabeth Kendal

OCTOBER 2011 UPDATE -- During October we prayed for . . .

IRAN (RLPB 128), where repression is escalating and Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, who has been sentenced to death for apostasy, awaits the 'opinion' of the supreme leader Ayatolla Ali Khamenei. Please continue in prayer. Any resolution will be posted to Religious Liberty Monitoring.

RUSSIA (RLPB 129), where proposed amendments to the Law on the Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organisations (1997) threaten to impact non-Russian Orthodox denominations negatively and significantly restrict religious freedom.

EGYPT (RLPB 130), where Copts are reeling from the 9 October Maspero Massacre, when Egyptian security forces attacked Coptic Christians (and sympathetic Muslims) who were peacefully protesting against religious discrimination. Twenty-six people -- mostly Christians -- were killed and over 300 were wounded as the army beat, shot and drove armoured vehicles into the protesters whom they abused as 'infidels' and 'sons of dogs'. The military has assumed control of the investigation. The Copts are the indigenous people of Egypt and the descendants of the Pharaohs. The Copts have been Christian for 2000 years. A full report is available on Religious Liberty Monitoring.


OCTOBER 2011 ROUND-UP -- also this month . . .

* INDONESIA: DEATHS IN PAPUA (formerly Irian Jaya)

Some 5000 Papuans from across the Eastern Indonesian province gathered in Jayapura for the third Papuan Congress from 17 to19 October, its 50th anniversary. The Congress opened with prayers and included several church leaders amongst the speakers, including Rev Benny Giay, Rev Socrates S Yoman and Rev Yemima Krey. By 8am on 19 October the streets were lined with some 3100 military and police officers wearing full combat gear and holding assault rifles. Armoured vehicles and police trucks were also out in force. As in past Papuan Congresses (1961 & 2000), a declaration of independence was read and the Morning Star flag raised. The police responded by storming the Congress ostensibly to put down the 'coup'. More than 300 Papuans were arrested, dozens wounded and six killed. The Melanesian Christian Papuans seek an end to the racial-religious discrimination and persecution they suffer at the hands of Javanese Muslims and the Indonesian government. Please pray. (For extended reports, see Religious Liberty Monitoring: 26 Oct 2011 & 10 Nov 2011.)

* LIBYA: SHARIA TO RULE NEW LIBYA

On Monday 24 October, National Transitional Council leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil declared Libya to be 'liberated'. Operating free of any democratic constraints, Jalil also declared that the law against polygamy will be repealed (bad news for women), Islamic banking will be adopted (bad news for the economy) and Sharia (Islamic) Law will form the basis for all Libyan law (bad news for all who desire religious liberty). As has happened in Iraq and Afghanistan, any concession to religious freedom will be rendered void by the supremacy of Sharia which prohibits fitna (anything that could shake the faith of a Muslim), especially proselytism (Christian witness), blasphemy (criticising Islam) and apostasy (leaving Islam). Please pray for the Church in Libya.

* MALAYSIA: ISLAMISTS DEMAND END TO APOSTASY

On 3 August Islamic religious leaders and police raided the church of Pastor Daniel Ho, ostensibly to prevent 'apostasy'. Whilst Muslims were present, the meeting was actually a dinner for people involved in the church's welfare programmes, including single mothers and HIV/AIDS victims. The raid caused a stir in Malaysia. On Saturday 22 October an Islamist non-government organisation, with permission from the ruling Umno and police, held an anti-apostasy rally in Shah Alam on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur. An estimated 5000 slogan-chanting Muslims attended, though the organisers had hoped for a million. BN-Umno (which rules, but with a greatly reduced majority) doubtless supported the event hoping to dragnet the Muslim vote. This can only embolden Malaysia's intolerant Islamist forces.

* TUNISIA: ISLAMISTS EMERGE VICTORIOUS

Tunisia's once-banned Islamist 'Ennahda' party has claimed victory in the first democratic elections of the 'Arab Spring'. Ennahda party officials have said they are prepared to form an alliance with two left-wing secularist parties, the Congress for the Republic and Ettakatol. Early results indicate that Ennahda will win more than 40 percent of the 217 seats. The anti-Islamist Progressive Democratic Party (PDP) will lead the opposition. Ennahda leader, Rachid Ghannouchi, recently returned from 22 years in exile in the UK. Prior to the elections, the formerly-banned party opened offices across the nation and flooded it with fliers, though where the funding came from is unclear. The Ennahda-dominated national assembly will have one year to draft a new constitution. Pray for tolerance and religious freedom to survive in the new Tunisia.

ALSO --

* KAZAKHSTAN: On 13 October President Nursultan Nazarbayev signed into law two amendments that will effectively repress all non-officially sanctioned expression of religion. The new laws came in to force on 24 October. (See RLPB 127, 29 Sep 2011).

* MALDIVES: Any lingering hopes for reform may be discarded as Maldivian authorities expel an Indian teacher accused of spreading Christianity after he was found with a Bible in his house. The Ministry of Islamic Affairs is signalling its intention to enforce fully the Protection of Religious Unity Act (1994) which bans the promotion of any religion other than Islam or any opinion that disagrees with Islamic scholars. This is the result when reformists hold power only by means of alliances with Islamists as it gives Islamists the balance of power, the most powerful position.

* SOMALIA: It was recently reported that Guled Jama Muktar, a 17-year-old Somali Christian, was kidnapped from his home and beheaded by al-Shabaab militants in Hudur City in south-western Somalia last month. After quickly burying their son, Guled's parents, also Christians, fled for their lives. Nobody has heard from them.

* SUDAN: On 12 October the president of Sudan, Omar el-Bashir, announced that Sudan will go ahead with plans to adopt an entirely Islamic constitution and strengthen Islamic law. Meanwhile authorities in Omdurman, on the Nile River opposite Khartoum, have threatened to demolish three churches in the Madinat al Fath area if they continue to conduct worship services. One Christian leader told Compass Direct News he fears that 'evil plans' are being directed against the churches and against Christianity in Sudan. The Islamic jihad continues in South Kordofan and Blue Nile where the SPLM-North is fighting for the survival of the Christians and non-Arabs of Sudan's 'new south'. Humanitarian corridors remain closed.

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Please join with multitudes around the world for International Day of Prayer (IDOP) for the Persecuted Church on 13 November 2011 .

I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the LORD,
who made heaven and earth.
(Psalm 121:1,2 ESV)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

130. Egypt: Islam, Dhimmitude and the Maspero Massacre

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 130 | Wed 19 Oct 2011

EGYPT: ISLAM, DHIMMITUDE & THE MASPERO MASSACRE

By Elizabeth Kendal

Islam is a political religion that aims to achieve dominance -- demographically or through military or political conquest -- so that Muslims might rule and Sharia (Islamic Law / the law of Allah) might be applied. Where Islam is dominant, atheists and polytheists have two choices: convert to Islam or die. Jews and Christians (the People of the Book), however, have a third choice: dhimmitude -- they may pay for their 'protection' (i.e. their right to life) with 'jizya' ('tax': religiously sanctioned extortion) and by submitting to total subjugation and abject humiliation (Sura 9:29). The people subjugated are known as dhimmi (singular) and dhimma (plural). The state of subjugation -- dhimmitude -- is one of immense insecurity, vulnerability, perpetual anxiety and psychological trauma. The agreement between Muslims and the dhimma is known as the dhimma pact. If the dhimma pact is violated, then 'protection' ends and jihad resumes. Europe's rise and Islam's decline -- commencing in the late 17th Century and culminating in defeat for Islamic forces in the 20th Century's two world wars -- saw dhimmitude wane. Today, however, Islam is back and so too is dhimmitude -- and nowhere is this more evident than in Egypt.

On 30 September thousands of Muslims went on a pogrom in Elmarinab village in Egypt's Aswan Province after being incited in their mosques during Friday prayers. The military watched on without intervening while the Muslims destroyed St George's Church and other properties owned by Coptic Christians. State-run media subsequently whitewashed the incident. (NOTE: The Copts are the indigenous people of Egypt, the true descendants of the Pharaohs. They have been Christian for 2000 years.) The Muslim pogrom was launched in response to church renovations. Though the Christians had legal permission to repair their dangerously dilapidated church, church repair is nevertheless something clearly prohibited by the dhimma pact, for the Christians must be seen to be humiliated.

On Sunday 9 October Christians, along with numerous sympathetic Muslims, peacefully protested outside Cairo's Maspero building, the home of Egyptian state television and radio. They were calling for an end to religious discrimination, but to demand equity and justice instead of accepting subjugation and humiliation is to rebel against the dhimma pact. This time the reprisal came first and foremost from the Egyptian military. As violence escalated outside Maspero, state media falsely reported that armed Coptic protesters had attacked the military, killing three soldiers, and issued an appeal for loyal Muslims to rise up to defend their military. Thousands of angry Muslims responded. So that the truth could not be reported the military attacked the studios of al-Hurra (The Free One) TV, targeting Christian reporters and forcing its closure.

The Maspero Massacre left 26 dead and more than 300 wounded. Eye witnesses have testified that soldiers and police chased, shot and beat Christians while abusing them as 'infidels' and 'sons of dogs'. Whilst the state media did apologise for its false report (blaming a 'nervous reporter') the military publicly denied they had killed any Christians, despite volumes of video and mobile phone footage showing armoured vehicles running down Christians and crushing them amidst cries of 'Allahu Akbar' (Allah is great). On Sunday 16 Oct, Magdy Fahim Mosaad became the 27th Christian protestor to die when he succumbed to the injuries he received on Sunday 9th when he was run over by an armored personnel carrier.

The ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) has taken control of the investigation. SCAF will doubtless call for 'reconciliation' whereby the military makes peace with the Christians in exchange for the Christians dropping all charges. Such 'reconciliation' appeases the short-sighted, 'can't-be-bothered' West and satisfies Egypt's Islamists because the dhimma pact prohibits Christians testifying against Muslims. The rise of intolerant Islam, the return of dhimmitude and the guarantee of impunity for acts of violent persecution bode ill for Egypt's Christians.

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL --

* comfort those who mourn and bring peace to those who fear by confirming his presence and everlasting love, wielding his right arm of justice. 'Be strong; fear not! Behold your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.' (Isaiah 35:4 ESV)

* bring down the idol of Islam in Egypt and draw Egyptians to look beyond all idols -- Islam, the military, political leaders -- to the Living God; may the LORD make himself known to the Egyptians (Isaiah 19).

* awaken all who support human rights worldwide to the reality of Islamic religious apartheid and the gross affront of dhimmitude to universal human rights; may a cry go out around the world against it. 'For nothing will be impossible with God.' (Luke 1:37 ESV)

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EGYPT'S COPTIC CHRISTIANS AND THE MASPERO MASSACRE

On Sunday 9 October Egypt's indigenous Coptic Christians protested peacefully outside Cairo's Maspero building, the home of Egyptian state television and radio, calling for an end to religious discrimination. Eventually the Egyptian military intervened violently crushing the protest. Video footage shows military armoured vehicles running down unarmed Christian citizens, crushing and killing them amidst cries of 'Allahu Akbar' (Allah is great). Eye witnesses testify that soldiers and police chased, shot and beat Christians while abusing them as 'infidels' and 'sons of dogs'. State media issued false reports about what was happening and called for Muslims to rise up against the Christians to defend the military. The military has whitewashed the massacre which claimed 27 lives and left more than 300 wounded. Please pray for Egypt's imperilled Christians.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

129. Russia: proposed amendments to the Religion Law

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 129 | Wed 12 Oct 2011

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RUSSIA: PROPOSED AMENDMENTS TO THE RELIGIOUS LAW SIGNIFICANTLY RESTRICT RELIGIOUS FREEDOM
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By Anneta Vyssotskaia
-- a religious liberty advocate with a particular concern for and involvement in Russia and the
former USSR.

On Thursday 6 October the Russian Ministry of Justice made known to the public the proposed new amendments to the Law on the Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organisations (1997) and allowed its Russian citizens to discuss them only until Monday 10 October. If accepted, the proposed amendments will restrict religious freedom in the country significantly.

The most restrictive effect of the amendments will be on unregistered religious groups which currently have the freedom to meet for worship and provide religious instruction to their followers. At present such groups comprise 20-30 percent of religious congregations in Russia. The amended version of the law, after removing their present right to exist and be involved in religious activities, will require them to apply for registration. At the same time the amendments also introduce a new article in the law setting up State religious expertise and providing more grounds for it to refuse registration.

Another restriction affects the rights of the registered local religious organisations that do not provide documentary proof of being a member of a large centralised religious organisation. Lev Levinson, an expert with the Institute of Human Rights, says they will not be permitted to have their own educational institutions or Sunday schools, or to create foreign entities. They will not be allowed to perform religious ceremonies in hospitals, prisons or orphanages, nor to print and distribute religious literature and mass-media for ten years. They will not be able to invite overseas visitors for professional ministry. All these activities would be restricted to organisations like Russian Orthodox Church parishes that are part of a centralised body. In Levinson's opinion it would prevent any alternative religious movement while spiritual and religious development is prohibited. However, it would benefit large church structures by protecting them from groups splitting off.

The proposed amendments force independent congregations to become part of centralised church unions.

Active State Advisor of the Russian Federation, Class I, and religious rights expert Dr Andrey Sebentsov says: 'The purpose of the proposed law is to create new hindrances for the activities of associations of the "non-traditional" religions. The exclusion of religious groups from the [religious] law will in fact create a situation that prohibits religious activities without registration, and all the other proposals contradict the spirit of the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights to such an extent that it is just amazing how we [i.e. Ministry of Justice] can manage to create precedents that aggravate the problems under the pretense of solving them.'

The Russian Minister of Justice, Alexander Konovalov, studied theology in Svyato-Tikonovskii Orthodox University and is a committed supporter of the Russian Orthodox Church. Since he became Minister of Justice, his Ministry has made several attempts to introduce amendments to the Law on Religion intended to regulate strictly the activities of the religious organisations and groups. In 2009 the Ministry of Justice proposed a separate law to regulate missionary activities but it was rejected by all religious organisations.

Dr Roman Lunkin and Dr Inna Zagrebina from the Guild of Experts on Religion and Law posted an appeal to all Christians in Russia on the Guild's website. In it they call the proposed amendments the first serious attempt of the judicial authorities to change radically the existing Religion Law in Russia. They provide a detailed analysis of the proposed amendments. Home meetings of unregistered religious groups and especially missionary activities, as well as religious education of believers without registration, will be considered illegal. They will be punishable by fines and prosecution. All religious organisations will have to apply for registration through a filter of religious expertise conducted by Expert Council for Conducting State Religious Expertise under the Russian Ministry of Justice. This is led by a Russian Orthodox Church expert, Alexander Dvorkin, who is an active opponent of minority religious groups and specially targets Protestant churches. Believers, religious organisations and literature will be checked with double vigour for extremism. A discriminatory ten-year period will be applied to groups not belonging to large centralised organisations.

Lunkin and Zagrebina say: 'The prosecution of any unregistered religious activity, an increase of the opportunity for abused discretion through expertise and checking for extremism place Russia among the countries violating religious freedom and their own Constitutions and opposing the international norms and standards in the area of freedom of religion and beliefs.'

[Sources include http://www.portal-credo.ru , http://religionip.ru , http://www. interfax.ru/ , http://www.sclj.ru/ , http://www.ng.ru ]

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY FOR --

* the Russian Government, the Ministry of Justice and its minister, Alexander Konovalov, to respect and protect people's constitutional rights regardless of their religion.

* God's protection for all his people in large and small, registered and unregistered churches, and for God's wisdom, guidance and unity for church leaders.

* wisdom and protection of the religious and human rights experts in Russia, for unity between them and practical assistance to the churches at this difficult time.

The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. (James 15:16b, NIV)

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RUSSIA PROPOSING CHANGES TO RESTRICT RELIGIOUS FREEDOM

The Russian Ministry of Justice allowed its citizens to discuss proposed amendments to the religious law only from Thursday 6 October to Monday 10 October. If adopted, they will restrict religious freedom in the country significantly. The amended religious law would make it illegal for unregistered religious groups to meet for worship or instruction, or be involved in any other religious activities, including hospital and prison chaplaincies. Their literature and other material would be banned. To be registered, small groups of churches and independent congregations would have to be part of large centralised organisations, effectively impossible. The amendments are obviously designed to serve the interests of large, traditional churches. Please pray for religious freedom and God's protection and blessing on all believers in churches large and small, registered and unregistered.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

128. Will Iran risk this execution?

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 128 | Wed 05 Oct 2011

WILL IRAN RISK THIS EXECUTION?

By Elizabeth Kendal

As was reported in RLPB 127 (28 Sep 2011) the trial court has ruled that whilst Youcef Nadarkhani was not a practising Muslim before his conversion to Christianity, he is an apostate because of his Muslim ancestry. As mandated by the Supreme Court, Pastor Nadarkhani was brought before the trial court on 25, 26, 27 & 28 September and provided with a daily opportunity to renounce Christ and return to Islam. Those who maintain that this blatant disregard for religious liberty is contrary to Islam are wrong. Some schools of Islamic jurisprudence maintain that three opportunities should be provided on the grounds of Sura 4:137. Other schools of Islamic jurisprudence maintain that no opportunity should be given on the grounds of Sura 2:217 that deems fitna (anything that shakes the faith of a Muslim) worse than killing. Also the Hadith (sayings of Muhammad) is very clear: 'He who changes his [Islamic] religion, kill him.' (Sahih Al-Bukhari (9:57)) This is about Islam and politics: sanity has really nothing to do with it. Meanwhile, standing firm in his faith, Youcef Nadarkhani has refused each opportunity to renounce Christ and return to Islam.

The case has caused an outcry in the West -- not 'internationally', as is widely reported -- with Western leaders decrying the situation as appalling and demanding Pastor Nadarkhani's immediate release. But, it must be noted, no such outcry is emerging from the Muslim world or from the regimes behind emerging powers such as China or Russia, or from the UN. Furthermore, as noted in RLPB 126 (21 Sep), Iran is working hard to exploit the Arab uprisings with the aim of drawing Sunni Arab Islamists into the Iranian (political) axis. As Islam rises and Western leverage and influence declines, the Iranian regime may decide that a stand for Islam in defiance of the West can only profit them.

Now that the court has confirmed Nadarkhani is an apostate and sentenced him to death, the regime has three options. It may: (1) defiantly execute Pastor Nadarkhani for apostasy, making a stand for Islam in defiance of the 'colonialist' and 'Christian' West; (2) condemn Nadarkhani's apostasy, confirm his death sentence and then release him in a very public 'humanitarian' gesture before making sure he is quietly eliminated by the secret services. This is exactly what Iran did in 1994 in the case of Pastor Mehdi Dibaj. The Church will get the message, even if the Western political and journalistic elite do not. Or it may (3) change the charge to one that otherwise discredits the accused and evokes revulsion (such as rape), and for good measure throw in a charge that, according to the constitution, is punishable by death or life imprisonment (such as treason).

Presently it appears Iran is considering using strategy (3): the false charge -- used against Christianity from its earliest days. Today, all over the non-free world, the false charge remains the most common means of removing 'problematic' Christians. Christians currently languish in prisons in China, Vietnam, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and elsewhere after being falsely charged and slandered as drug traffickers, swindlers, rapists, blasphemers and threats to national security.

The West needs to talk to Russia, Iran's Orthodox ally, to ensure that if any harm comes to Nadarkhani severe sanctions will make it costly for Iran. The Iranian regime will only execute Nadarkhani if they believe that in doing so they stand to gain more than they would lose. If Pastor Nadarkhani were executed or assassinated, it would indicate that the Iranian Church is facing a whole new level of defiant, politically motivated, unrestrained persecution by the regime.

Further to all this, Christian Solidarity Worldwide reports that on 14 September eleven Iranian Christians who had previously fled Iran received emailed threats from a group calling itself 'The Unknown Soldiers of the Hidden Imam [the Mahdi: the Shi'ite Messiah]'. The letter -- presumed to be from the Iranian secret police -- demanded that the Christians repent and return to Islam, warning that if they refuse they will be killed. The threats are being taken very seriously.

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY --

* that God will redeem the suffering of Iran's Church, so that this persecution will actually have the opposite effect to what is intended. 'For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.' (Habakkuk 2:14 ESV)

Lord, have mercy on Iran.
Awaken its people to the truth: for the sake of the Church;
for the sake of multitudes who are lost;
and that God might be glorified throughout the world.

* that God will fill Youcef Nadarkhani, his family and church with a powerful outpouring of his Holy Spirit, that they will boldly exercise faith, know his peace, display his grace and reveal his majesty.

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WILL IRAN RISK THIS EXECUTION?

From 25-28 September Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani resisted four opportunities to renounce Christ before an Iranian court and return to Islam. He therefore stands condemned as an unrepentant apostate sentenced to death. Due to the outcry emanating from the West, Iran is now considering altering the charge to rape and treason so they can maintain that nobody is being executed for religious belief. The Iranian regime will execute Pastor Nadarkhani only if they believe that would gain them more than they will lose: influence in the Islamic world versus sanctions. Furthermore eleven Iranian Christian refugees living abroad have received letters, presumably from the Iranian secret police, threatening them with death if they do not repent and return to Islam. Please pray for the Nadarkhani family and for the Church in Iran.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

127. Sept. Update; Incl. Algeria, Indonesia, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Sudan

By Elizabeth Kendal

'What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called the Christ?' Pilate asked. They all answered, 'Crucify him!' (Matthew 27:22 NIV) 'If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.' (John 15:18)

SEPTEMBER 2011 UPDATE -- During September we prayed for . . .

NIGERIA (RLPB 124), where ethnic Muslims in the volatile ethnic-religious fault-line city of Jos have been raiding ethnic Christian communities at night, inflicting terror by slaughtering unarmed civilians in their beds, doubtless with the aim of triggering an exodus. This is nothing short of ethnic cleansing. Those who commit these night-time invasions -- which are like the night-time invasions that characterised the 1990s jihad in Algeria -- doubtless justify their actions from the Qur'an: 'How many a township have we destroyed! As a raid by night, or while they slept at noon, our terror came unto them.' (Sura 7:4.)

UPDATE: NIGERIAN JIHAD

TERROR IN KADUNA STATE
. On Sunday 18 September some 20 Fulani herdsmen stormed a Christian farming community in Bitaro village, Jaba Local Government Area of southern Kaduna state about 1am as the villagers slept. Armed with machetes and knives, the Muslims killed two men (both husbands and fathers) and a 13-year-old girl and wounded at least 10. Though notified immediately, police arrived too late to apprehend the attackers. Soldiers have been deployed to guard the area.

TERROR IN NIGER STATE
. About 8pm on Thursday 22 September suspected Boko Haram militants converged on shops owned by Christians in Madala. Demanding the Christians recite verses from the Qur'an, the militants shot and killed those who could not. Five Christian traders were murdered.

TERROR PLANNED FOR ABUJA. On Saturday 1 October Nigeria will celebrate 51 years of independence. Boko Haram has vowed to attack selected high profile targets in the federal capital.

SOMALIA (RLPB 125), a land of terror and martyrdom, where the al-Qaeda-linked jihadist group al-Shabaab is systematically eliminating Somalia's Christians.

IRAN (RLPB 126), where state belligerence and persecution are escalating.

UPDATE ON PASTOR YOUCEF NADARKHANI: The trial court has ruled that, whilst Youcef Nadarkhani was not a practising Muslim before his conversion to Christianity, he is an apostate because of his Muslim ancestry. The Supreme Court has given Youcef four opportunities to renounce Christ and return to Islam, once daily on 25, 26, 27 & 28 September. Youcef will be executed if he does not comply. [Watch Religious Liberty Monitoring for an update.]

SEPTEMBER 2011 ROUND-UP -- also this month . . .

* ALGERIA: CHRISTIAN APPEALING FIVE-YEAR JAIL TERM

RLPB 110 (1 June 2011) reported the14 April arrest of Algerian Christian, Krimo Siaghi, on charges on illegal proselytism and insulting Muhammad. At his 25 May trial the judge imposed a severe five-year jail term along with a massive fine. Krimo's appeal will be heard on Thursday 29 September. Please pray. The verdict will indicate the degree to which the state is or is not prepared to protect religious liberty.

* INDONESIA: CHURCH SUICIDE BOMBING IN SOLO, CENTRAL JAVA

On Sunday 25 September the second worship service at the 700-strong Bethel Full Gospel Church (Gereja Bethel Injil Sepenuh) in Kepunton ended as usual at 11am. At the moment the believers started moving out a suicide bomber detonated his explosives by the main glass doors of the sanctuary. Twenty-two believers were injured -- eleven seriously and one has died in hospital. The bomber was reportedly a member of an Islamist militant cell in Cirebon, West Java. Security has been heightened and police will now screen all church visitors.

* KIRKUK, IRAQ: THREE CHRISTIANS KIDNAPPED

On 21 September, Muslim gunmen abducted three Christian men near Fakhira village, southern Kirkuk. The Christians were ambushed when returning home to Arfa, northern Kirkuk, from a regular hunting trip. The militants killed the Christians' hunting dogs and torched their car before taking them to an unknown location. Iraqi security forces are searching for them. As tensions mount in flash-point Kirkuk, Christians are becoming increasingly vulnerable to ethnic-religious hate crimes, Islamic terrorism and opportunistic criminality including kidnappings. Please pray for God's protection of Iraq's Christian remnant.

* KAZAKHSTAN: NEW LAW WILL HURT MINORITY PROTESTANTS

On 21 September Kazakhstan's Lower House passed the controversial Law on Religious Activity and Religious Associations. Foreign missionaries will now have to re-register annually and anybody who fails the 'theological examination' or is deemed to pose a threat to 'public peace' will be expelled. In a land without a history of religious liberty or tolerance, such a law could cripple Protestant missions as Protestantism is considered 'new' and 'foreign'. Furthermore the law requires churches to have 50 adult members to be registered as a legal 'local' entity. That will be a problem for many small Protestant fellowships as Protestants account for less than one percent of the population. Unregistered worship will be illegal. Also banned is religious observance -- in particular prayer -- in all state institutions. According to the government, the legislation is designed to 'protect the people of Kazakhstan from pseudo-religious movements and cults'. The Senate is expected to approve the law and President Nursultan Nazarbayev reportedly plans to sign it. Protestants are already facing escalating repression, with one Baptist pastor lamenting to Forum 18: 'A new wave of persecution has begun once more.' Please pray that God will grant Kazakhstan's Christian leaders courage, faith and divine wisdom to face the storm.

* SUDAN: WAR ESCALATES IN BLUE NILE

[Updating RLPB 124 (7 September) and Religious Liberty Monitoring 'Sudan: War spreads across "new south" into Blue Nile' (13 September)]. The Arab-supremacist Islamist Government of Sudan has been bombing the Blue Nile capital, Kurmuk. Humanitarian agencies have been targeted, including the office of Save the Children. Insecurity has forced the state's only hospital to close. Satellite Sentinel Project imagery reveals a massive mobilisation of Sudan Armed Forces -- including some 3000 troops along with tanks, artillery, and helicopters -- travelling south from Khartoum to Blue Nile. Everything indicates a major military invasion is imminent. Without international action to disable Khartoum, civil war will engulf the country and impact the whole region. Sudan and South Sudan are accusing each other of supporting the other's rebel forces. Tensions are high. Please pray for the Church in Sudan.

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