Wednesday, July 27, 2011

118. July Update; incl. Afghanistan, Ramadan, Tajikistan, UK.

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 118 | Wed 27 Jul 2011

By Elizabeth Kendal

Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. (Matthew 18:18 ESV)

JULY 2011 UPDATE -- During July we prayed for . . .

BURMA (RLPB 115), where the predominantly devout Christian Kachin peoples of Kachin State in Burma's far north are fleeing the Burman-Buddhist junta as it seeks to advance its economic interests through the ethnic cleansing of the Kachin.

UPDATE: Despite all the efforts of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), the Burmese military is reportedly closing in on the KIA stronghold of Laiza, where thousands of displaced Kachin are seeking refuge. A humanitarian crisis is unfolding on the Chinese border where up to 20,000 refugees are holed up without humanitarian aid. China is refusing entrance. There have been more reports of systematic rape and of villagers suspected of supporting the KIA being tortured, mutilated and even killed (see http://www.kachinwomen.org/ ). Please pray for the Kachin. May our Mighty God, 'Jehovah Jireh' (the Lord will provide), supply the churches with the aid they need to care for the refugees. And may our Mighty God, Yahweh Sabaoth (the Lord of Hosts / Commander of heaven's armies), rise up in defence of his people.


NIGERIA (RLPB 116), where Boko Haram terror is increasing. Al-Qaeda is backing Boko Haram with the aim of establishing a foothold in Nigeria that would facilitate operations in West Africa. Boko Haram has declared its intent to carry out a massive campaign of terror at the end of July to commemorate the 31 July 2009 death in custody of their founder and leader, Sheikh Mohammed Yusuf. They have declared Christians to be targets. There will be an extreme risk of terror on Sunday 31 July. Please pray for the Church in Nigeria.


SUDAN (RLPB 117), where the Sudan government, having rejected dual citizenship, has passed a law that strips South Sudanese of their Sudanese citizenship, leaving them without rights -- and largely without jobs. Meanwhile in South Kordofan, Sudan's only oil-producing state, there is satellite evidence of mass graves containing many thousands of corpses. This confirms eye-witness reports of mass killings and ethnic cleansing of African, predominantly Christian Nuba peoples by the Arab-Islamist regime in Khartoum and its allied Arab militias. Please pray for God to intervene in Sudan.


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

* AFGHANISTAN: ANOTHER MARTYR

In early July WORLD Magazine received video pictures that reportedly showed the beheading of a convert to Christianity. In the video, Abdul Latif (in his 40s) is accused of apostasy and condemned to death by militants quoting passages from the Qur'an and Haddith (sayings of Mohammed). He is then pinned to the ground and beheaded to cries of 'Allahu Akhbar' (Allah is great). The killing comes as the Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) claims that 'Christian missionaries have stepped up their proselytising activities' ahead of the US withdrawal (APP 18 July). The Ulema Union of Afghanistan (UUA) has reportedly strongly condemned the missionary activities that the UUA claims are carried on 'using the cover' of humanitarian aid and 'under patronage provided by foreign forces'. The Taliban, which is ascendant in Afghanistan, recently punished an unco-operative policeman in Helmand Province by kidnapping and hanging his eight-year-old son. The Taliban has been intimidating police in Uruzgan Province and many are surrendering due to the terror. Pray for God's remnant in Afghanistan.


* PRAY FOR MUSLIMS DURING RAMADAN (STARTING 1 AUGUST)

'And they will do these things [persecute and kill you -- John 15:18ff] because they have not known the Father, nor me.' (John 16:3 ESV.) Muslims need Jesus Christ so they may have their sins forgiven and be saved. Persecuted minority Christians in Islamic States need Muslims to be saved and transformed so that persecution might cease. Pray for Muslims during Ramadan . 'For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.' (2 Corinthians 10:3,4 ESV)


* TAJIKISTAN: PARLIAMENT PASSES REPRESSIVE LAWS

On 21 July Tajikistan's Upper House of parliament passed the highly controversial and repressive Parental Responsibility Law. It also amended the Criminal Code to extend criminal punishment to those who organise or participate in 'unapproved gatherings' such as unsanctioned religious meetings. These were approved by the Lower House on 15 June. (RLPB 114.) The Parental Responsibility Law bans children under 18 from participating in the activities of religious organisations, with the exception of State-sanctioned 'religious education'. 'Specialists' will infiltrate religious groups to monitor them and parents will be held accountable. Furthermore, the law bans parents from sending their children abroad for study without the permission of an appropriate state agency. As one Protestant lamented, 'It will be against the law for children to be in church.' The Parental Responsibility Law will be enacted as soon as President Emomali Rahmon -- who proposed the law -- signs it into force. (Full report: Forum 18)


* UK: THE BATTLE FOR BRITAIN HEATS UP

The UK Islamic fundamentalist group, Muslims Against the Crusades (MAC) have declared their intention to enforce Sharia (Islamic) Law in the Yorkshire towns of Bradford and Dewsbury, and in East London's Tower Hamlets. (MAC was formerly Islam4UK and before that, al-Muhajiroun, changing their name each time they are banned.) As part of its 'Islamic Emirates Project', MAC has erected posters in various districts warning: 'You are entering a Shariah controlled zone -- Islamic rules enforced.' MAC's first target for Islamisation will be Waltham Forest. According to the MAC leader, Anjem Choudary, Sharia will be enforced by thousands of volunteer 'Sharia cops' or Islamic 'Guardian Angels'. MAC is planning an 'Islamic Emirates March' on Saturday 30 July from Leyton Underground Station to Walthamstow Central. MAC hopes this will be a catalyst for nationwide campaigns during Ramadan, which starts on 1 August. MAC's 'Islamic Emirates Project' comes straight after Baroness Cox's proposal for an Arbitration and Mediation Services (Equality) Bill that would criminalise any attempt to subjugate British law to another system. The battle has begun. Please pray for the UK, in particular for genuine Christian revival.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

117. SUDAN: Southerners lose citizenship; evidence of Nuba genocide

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 117 | Wed 20 Jul 2011

SUDAN: SOUTHERNERS LOSE CITIZENSHIP AND JOBS
plus EVIDENCE OF NUBA GENOCIDE

By Elizabeth Kendal

On 19 December 2010 Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir addressed a rally in Gedaref, northern Sudan, about 400km south-east of Khartoum. He told the crowds, 'If South Sudan secedes, we will change the constitution and at that time there will be no time to speak of diversity of culture and ethnicity. Sharia [Islamic law] and Islam will be the main source for the constitution, Islam the official religion and Arabic the official language.' The President was never going to accept cultural diversity -- at least not with equality and liberty. Islamic imperialism and Arab supremacy are the root of all Sudan's troubles. That is exactly why South Sudan seceded on 9 July 2011. And this is why ethnically and religiously diverse Sudan will never have peace under the regime of Omar el-Bashir.

On Wednesday 13 July 2011 Sudan's parliament in Khartoum passed a new nationality law that automatically strips South Sudanese of their citizenship. As MP Ismail al-Haj Musa confirmed: 'All the southerners are going to lose their Sudanese nationality directly.' Whilst dual citizenship will be available in South Sudan, it will not be available in Sudan. Essentially, southerners will have to decide whether they want to take northern or southern citizenship. While hundreds of thousands of southerners have recently returned to the south, more than a million still live in the north, with many having lived there all their lives. According to the Sudan Tribune (13 July) government institutions have sacked their southern employees and government advertisements are calling for private sector companies to provide a list of their southern employees. From now on South Sudanese will be treated as foreigners in the north, needing residency and work permits. Prominent lawyer and human rights advocate Dr Amin Maki Madani maintains that the law is unconstitutional.

In a speech to the National Assembly on Tuesday 12 July, President el-Bashir told the parliament that Sudan was entering a new era, a 'second republic'. Adlan el-Hardello, a political science professor at the University of Khartoum, believes el-Bashir is posturing and appeasing, raising the hopes of those who long for change, without the intention of ever delivering any. El-Bashir also offered to extend the deadlines for 'popular consultations' in South Kordofan and Blue Nile, 'to allow the people of both states more time to consult and remedy the situations'. Whilst this sounds generous, doubtless its intent is either to surreptitiously deny the citizens their rights or to provide Sudan's Armed Forces and Arab militias more time to complete their ethnic cleansing. On 1 July el-Bashir unashamedly declared on State television: 'I ordered the Sudanese Armed Forces to continue their operations in South Kordofan until they cleanse the state of rebels.' Consultation is so much easier after the opposition has been annihilated.

Like South Kordofan, Blue Nile is an ethnically diverse, predominantly non-Arab state in the north. Like South Kordofan, Blue Nile is defended by the army of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement North (SPLMN). The Sudan government recently deemed the SPLMN army a foreign (i.e. southern) force -- which it is not -- and ordered the disarming of all SPLMN soldiers. Naturally, the long-persecuted, war-ravaged peoples of South Kordofan and Blue Nile are resisting. Of course the regime is using this resistance as a pretext for war. According to the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), South Kordofan (which has oil) and Blue Nile (Sudan's main source of hydroelectric power) are entitled to determine their own futures by means of 'popular consultations'. If the CPA is not implemented, war will span the whole width of Sudan, through Darfur (west), South Kordofan (centre) and Blue Nile (east).

NUBA GENOCIDE

The Satellite Sentinel Project (SSP) has revealed visual evidence of mass graves in South Kordofan, which it says 'corroborates new eyewitness reports . . . of systematic killings and mass burials'. The three mass graves recently appeared adjacent to the Episcopal Church of Sudan compound in Kadugli. Each measures about 26m by 5m so is large enough to hold many thousands of corpses. Many members of the Diocese of Kadugli are believed to be among the dead. Bishop Andudu Adam Elnail of the Episcopal Diocese of Kadugli is stranded in the US where he has been receiving medical treatment. He said he is devastated that his 'friends, brothers and sisters, children, my flock, have been killed mercilessly and are lying now in mass graves in Kadugli'. The UN expresses concern for some 7000 Nuba who were receiving aid and protection in the UN Headquarters in Kadugli. They were forcibly removed by Sudanese forces on 20 June and remain 'unaccounted for'.

Why, O LORD, do you stand far away?
Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble? (Psalm 10:1 ESV)

Like the wicked of Psalm 10:2-9, President Omar el-Bashir crushes the helpless (v10) while saying in his heart: 'God has forgotten, he has hidden his face, he will never see it (v11). [He] will not call [me] to account' (v13).

PLEASE PRAY FOR SUDAN (using Psalm 10)

* 'Arise, O LORD; O God, lift up your hand; forget not the afflicted' (v12). This we know: God does see and take note in order that he might act (v14).

* O LORD, break the power -- political, economic, military -- of the wicked and evildoer, 'call his wickedness to account till you find none' (v15).

* O LORD, you who are king forever, hear the desire of the afflicted; strengthen their heart; incline your ear to do justice, 'so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more' (vv16-18).

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DISCRIMINATION AND GENOCIDE ROCK SUDAN

South Sudan seceded from the north on 9 July 2011. Only four days later, Sudan's parliament in Khartoum passed a law that stripped citizenship from over a million South Sudanese who live in the north. Those predominantly Christian Southerners are also losing their jobs and rights. President El-Bashir has already stated he will amend the constitution, making Islam the state religion, Islamic Sharia the main source of law and Arabic the official language. Meanwhile, the Satellite Sentinel Project has revealed visual evidence of three mass graves capable of holding many thousands of corpses, adjoining the Episcopal Church of Sudan compound in Kadugli, South Kordofan. Many thousands of African, predominantly Christian Nuba are believed to be buried there, victims of the new Nuba Genocide. Please pray for Sudan and its Christians.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

116. Nigeria: Boko Haram Strikes

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 116 | Wed 13 Jul 2011

NIGERIA: BOKO HARAM STRIKES

By Elizabeth Kendal

On Sunday 10 July around 2:30pm Boko Haram jihadists riding a motorcycle threw a bomb at the All Christian Fellowship Mission on Church Road in Selija, Niger State (Northern Nigeria), only 40km from the capital Abuja. Whilst the worship service had ended and most people had left, a number of members had stayed behind for a meeting. Two of them were killed instantly in the blast, two others died in hospital and seven more were seriously wounded. The explosion was powerful enough to damage the Faith Mission Church next door. Had the bomb been thrown during worship the toll would have been enormous. Later, at about 11 pm, a bomb exploded outside the Ngozi Beer Parlour in Kaduna city, Kaduna State (Middle Belt), seriously wounding more than 20 people.

Boko Haram -- also known as 'the Nigerian Taliban' -- was founded in 2002 in the north-eastern city of Maiduguri, capital of Borno State, by a religious leader named Sheikh Mohammed Yusuf. When Sheikh Yusuf died in police custody on 31 July 2009 Boko Haram declared jihad against the government of Nigeria. In mid-June 2010 Boko Haram formalised its links to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). AQIM is seeking to gain 'strategic depth' in sub-Saharan Africa and the solid foothold in Nigeria required for operations in West Africa (See RLPB 079). Terrorism has escalated, targeting particularly the police, beer gardens, traditional and religious leaders, churches and centres of non-Islamic education.

On 16 June 2011, Boko Haram perpetrated Nigeria's first ever suicide bombing. The bomber struck Police Headquarters in Abuja, killing eight and wounding dozens, the day after the Inspector General of Police, Hafiz Abubakar Ringim, boasted that Boko Haram's days were numbered. In claiming responsibility, Boko Haram declared they had done it 'to prove a point to all who doubt our capability'.

Terror is now routine in Maiduguri. Rev David Usman of the Church of Christ in Nigeria and an assistant were ambushed and shot dead in their church on 7 June. On 26 June a young woman pretending to be a Christian worshipper was caught attempting to smuggle a bomb into a church service. Security officials are on high alert. Some churches have closed their doors, while others are worshipping under tight security. The University of Maiduguri has closed its doors indefinitely in response to general terror and specific bomb threats.

Seven soldiers in the Joint military Task Force (JTF) were killed on 6 July when Boko Haram militants threw a bomb at their patrol van. The subsequent fire-fight between JTF soldiers and Boko Haram continued through the weekend, leaving scores dead. During this time Borno's State Governor Kashim Shettima narrowly escaped an assassination attempt when security agents intercepted a 10-year-old boy who was approaching the governor bearing a bomb. After this daring and shocking incident JTF soldiers reportedly went 'berserk', seizing and shooting anyone they suspected of supporting Boko Haram. The soldiers claim to be frustrated by what they say is the refusal of some locals to volunteer information about the militants.

On 9 July Nigeria's Saturday Tribune reported sources close to the administration had confirmed that Boko Haram is planning a massive terror campaign to coincide with the 31 July anniversary of the death in custody of their founder and leader Sheikh Mohammed Yusuf. Boko Haram claims that more than 100 jihadists trained by AQIM in Sudan and Somalia have returned ready to be deployed. They have warned Muslims not to obstruct them and to avoid Christians, security agents and government employees, who are all regarded as 'infidels . . . marked for elimination'.

(See Religious Liberty Monitoring, 'Nigeria: the Boko Haram threat', 10 July 2011, for more background and detail.)

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT --

* Yahweh Sabaoth (the Lord of Hosts / the commander of heaven's armies) will protect and defend his people and that the deadly plots against them will all come to naught.

'But my eyes are toward you, O GOD, my Lord; in you I seek refuge; leave me not defenceless! Keep me from the trap that they have laid for me and from the snares of evildoers! Let the wicked fall into their own nets, while I pass by safely.' (Psalm 141:8-10 ESV)

* God will give Nigeria's leaders the wisdom, courage and conviction they need to tackle Boko Haram and resist Nigeria's Islamisation.

* God will turn this terror on its head and use it for his glorious purposes: may the violence and terror shake many Muslims and generate an exodus from the darkness of Islam to the light of Christ.

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BOKO HARAM STRIKES IN NIGERIA

Boko Haram, 'the Nigerian Taliban', formalised its links with al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) in mid-June 2010. Consequently terror has escalated. On 16 June 2011 Boko Haram perpetrated Nigeria's first ever suicide bombing, attacking the Police Headquarters in the capital Abuja, killing eight. Whilst some church bombing plots have been foiled, four Christians died when militants bombed the All Christian Fellowship Mission in Selija, Niger State, 40km from Abuja, on Sunday 10 July. Boko Haram is reportedly planning a massive terror campaign to coincide with the 31 July anniversary of the death in custody of its founder-leader Sheikh Mohammed Yusuf. It has warned Muslims to avoid Christians, police and government employees, declaring these all to be 'infidels . . . marked for elimination'. Please pray that God will protect his people.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

115. Burma (Myanmar): Kachin flee terror


Religious Li
berty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 115 | Wed 06 Jul 2011

BURMA (MYANMAR): KACHIN FLEE TERROR

By Elizabeth Kendal

Kachin State, which borders China in Burma's far north, is home to Burma's ethnic Kachin minority. Most Kachin are devout Christians and the state is defined by its Christian culture. Like other ethnic-religious minorities in Burma, the Kachin are politically marginalised and persecuted on racial and religious grounds. When the junta wants to impose its will, it usually does so through extreme brutality fuelled by racial and religious hatred -- a manifestation of militant Burman-Buddhist supremacy. Because the Kachin have resisted the junta's demand that they disarm, the junta has labelled them 'separatist'.

Burma Rivers Network reports: 'Large dams are being constructed on all of Burma's major rivers and tributaries by Chinese, Thai and Indian companies. The dams are causing displacement, militarisation, human rights abuses, and irreversible environmental damage, threatening the livelihoods and food security of millions. [. . .] Neighbouring countries benefit from this situation by gaining electricity without bearing the social and environmental costs.' This is one reason why the junta has a renewed interest in controlling Kachin lands. As reported in RLPB 114 (June Update) China wants to build nine hydro-power mega-dams in Kachin State, even though the Kachin have warned China that the dams could trigger civil war in Burma.

Fighting erupted in the second week in June and reports of extreme brutality, ethnic cleansing and humanitarian crises are now emerging. The Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), the political wing of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), reports that some 16,000 Kachin refugees are living in five camps in and around Laiza, a town still under KIA control. KIO adds, 'So far no international humanitarian agency has offered any help to them.' In Myitkyina, 220 displaced people have taken refuge in the Catholic Church of St Joseph and 330 in the Baptist Church. Another 4,000 Kachin refugees are reportedly fleeing through the jungle, trying to avoid Burmese soldiers. A further 10,000 -- possibly as many as 20,000 -- are languishing at the Chinese border; Beijing will not accept them and no international agency is able to get aid to them. Meanwhile, the Burmese Army is sending up reinforcements, mostly in small groups dressed in civilian clothes. The Kachin Women's Association Thailand (KWAT) recently reported that at least 18 women and girls from age 15 to 50 were gang-raped in the war-zone by Burmese soldiers between 10 & 18 June. Four of the women were killed after being gang-raped (one in front of her husband) while another died from her injuries. KWAT believes gang-rape is being systematically employed as a weapon of war and means of terror.


A local priest confirmed to Fides news agency that Burmese soldiers are killing old people and children, raping women, burning homes and confiscating properties. 'They use ruthless methods [for] ethnic cleansing,' he said, adding that 'almost all [the victims] are Christians'. KIA Vice Chief of Staff, Gen. Gun Maw, believes the junta has broader military goals than just protecting the dam sites. Indeed, the junta is doubtless exploiting the dams issues as a pretext to launch a concerted campaign of ethnic cleansing. According to the KIA military commander in neighbouring Shan State, Col. Zau Raw, 'We are in for a major war.' The Bishop of Myitkyina, Mgr Francis Daw Tang, has been speaking through Radio Veritas, encouraging the people -- most of whom are Protestant -- to 'stay united' and remember, 'The Lord is near you. Have faith in him,' and '. . . continue to pray for peace.'

Open your mouth for the speechless,
In the cause of all who are appointed to die.
Open your mouth, judge righteously,
And plead the cause of the poor and needy
Proverbs 31:8,9 NKJV

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT --

* God will intervene (in this rainy season) to bring humanitarian aid to the Kachin people: food, medicines and shelter.


* God will intervene to bring peace: may China be held as accountable as the Burmese junta, and may God turn their hearts towards achieving peace.


* all God's Kachin people will know and experience the love, presence and provision of their faithful LORD. (Isaiah 40:27-31)

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KACHIN FLEE TERROR IN BURMA (MYANMAR)

Civil war has erupted in Burma's Kachin State, a state defined by its Christian culture and home to a predominately devout Christian people. The trigger has been China's building hydro-power mega-dams that will displace hundreds of thousands and threaten the food security of millions of Kachin. Reports of massive displacements, brutal killings of civilians, gang-rapes and property confiscations have led some to conclude that the junta is actually engaged in a campaign of systematic ethnic cleansing, fuelled by ethnic and religious hatred and greed. About 16,000 Kachin refugees are in five camps in and around Laiza and 4,000 in the jungle. Some 20,000 are massed on the Chinese border, but China denies them entry. No humanitarian assistance is getting through. Please pray for our Kachin brethren.