Wednesday, April 25, 2012

RLPB 156. April Update; Incl. Sudan, Burma, Egypt, Kashmir

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 156 | Wed 25 Apr 2012
By Elizabeth Kendal

' . . . casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.' (1 Peter 5:7 ESV)

APRIL 2012 UPDATE -- During April we prayed concerning . . . 

* SUDAN (RLPB 153), where some 700,000 ethnic 'Southerners' had until 8 April to register as citizens of the Islamic state or face loss of citizenship and rights, purely on the grounds of their ethnicity.

UPDATING SUDAN:

(1) THE BATTLE FOR HEGLIG. From late March through to mid-April, South Sudan's army fought and repelled Sudanese forces that had been launching attacks against South Sudan from the disputed region of Heglig. (Heglig is south of the January 1956 border, but after oil was discovered there in the 1970s Khartoum seized it, using Arab militias to drive the Southerners out.) According to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement some 20 percent of the border remains to be negotiated. Khartoum's reluctance to negotiate about Heglig is doubtless because it is historically 'Southern'. After Sudan retook control of Heglig on Thursday 19 April, President Bashir addressed a rally where he vowed never to negotiate with 'insects' that should be eliminated -- the language of genocide. 'Heglig,' Bashir told the cheering crowds, 'is not the end, but the beginning.'

(2) CHURCH TORCHED. On Saturday 21 April, in the wake of Sudan's re-conquest of Heglig, a mob of several hundred Muslims besieged and torched a church, Bible school and dormitory complex in Khartoum's Al-Gerief (Al-Jiraif) district while shouting insults at 'Southerners'. The complex, which is owned by the Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church, is attended mostly by Nuba. The pogrom was reportedly incited by the Salafi imam of a local mosque who called for the Muslims of Al-Gerief to rise up and purge the land of 'infidels'. Allegedly the police helped the mob gain access and did nothing to stop them. Heavy machinery was brought in to aid the destruction. The fire brigade said the fire could not be put out. Furthermore, it has been reported that several other churches have received orders from police to vacate their 'illegal' properties. 

(3) SOUTHERNERS TRAPPED. Compass Direct News reports that ethnic 'Southerners' attempting to travel south have been unable to board flights for Juba. Land routes have also been closed since 9 April. With Khartoum mobilising for war, the regime may well have decided to stop ethnic 'Southerners' from travelling to South Sudan where they might bolster southern forces. Could Sudan's Christians be facing internment or genocide?

(4) LRA REVIVED. According to Ugandan intelligence, Khartoum has resumed contacts with the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) which has moved from its hideout in the forests of Obo, Central African Republic, to an area close to the Sudanese border, sparking fears that the LRA could be returning to the conflict.

(5) AERIAL BOMBARDMENT OF SOUTH SUDAN. Dozens were injured and one young boy was killed on Monday 24 April when Sudanese planes dropped eight bombs in South Sudan's Unity State.

The 'international community' has essentially abandoned the South Sudanese; the Church must not.


* MALI (RLPB 154), where al-Qaeda-linked jihadists, under the cover of a devastatingly violent and destructive Tuareg rebellion, have seized control of northern Mali. With their churches burnt, their charities looted, at least one pastor and his family assassinated and Ansar Dine jihadists enacting Sharia (Islamic) law, northern Mali's traumatised Christians have fled. Please pray for them.

* AFGHANISTAN (RLPB 155), where the infamous Pakistan-based Haqqani network launched the Taliban's Spring Offensive with co-ordinated attacks inside Kabul's most secure areas. Beneath the violence, corruption and chaos, yet rising far above it, is a small but growing Afghan Church that desperately needs our prayers.


APRIL 2012 ROUND-UP -- also this month . . .

* BURMA: THE CHRISTIAN KACHIN ABANDONED
The European Union recently lifted its sanctions against Burma, retaining only an arms embargo. This follows similar moves by the US and Australia. The junta -- which remains devoted to ethnic Burman and Buddhist supremacy -- is delighted, for it has been working to legitimise and perpetuate its power. So too are those who are eager to invest in Burma, such as the West, which has been working to secure access to Burma's markets and resources including timber, minerals and cheap labour. On the other hand, most human rights monitors and exiled activists are unhappy that the rewards are coming faster than the reforms with horrific human rights abuses continuing in ethnic minority areas. (See HRW report, 'Untold Miseries'.) According to reports from KachinNews, Burmese troops are massing around Laiza for what is expected to be a massive military assault on the Kachin Independence Organisation's de facto capital, home to more than 25,000 Christian Kachin refugees. The West has essentially abandoned Burma's ethnic-religious minorities; the Church must not. Please pray.

* UPDATING 'EGYPT: SLIDING INTO A DARK AGE' (RLPB 152)
In Abu Al-Reesh village on 4 March, some 1500 armed Muslim villagers rioted against the Notre Dame Language School, besieging two nuns in the school's guesthouse for some eight hours, threatening to burn them alive while the property was being thoroughly ransacked. UPDATE: At a recent 'reconciliation' session, the Christians were told they could have peace in exchange for signing over parcels of land that include the school guesthouse. The school manager, Magdy Melad, refused the terms saying, 'If we give in to that, they will take everything.' However, to end this present spasm of violence, the school had to agree not to press charges against any of the Muslim rioters, vandals and looters, nor against those who besieged and terrorised the nuns or threatened the children. As the school administration notes, such 'reconciliation' sessions are nothing other than legalised extortion. So long as impunity is the order of the day, violent persecution against Christians will only escalate. The situation in Egypt is extremely dangerous. Please pray for Egypt's threatened Christians.

* INDIAN-ADMINISTERED KASHMIR: CHRISTIANS ARRESTED
Mafford Maharaj Singh (62) and his wife Kusum (60), a Christian couple from New Delhi, have been arrested in northern Kashmir and charged with 'promoting enmity' -- a criminal charge under Article 153A of the Ranbir Penal Code. According to authorities the couple, along with a local girl, were distributing leaflets about Christianity. However, the couple's family in New Delhi maintains that their parents travelled to Srinagar on 16 April to attend a wedding and were merely shopping in the Bandipora market when Mr Singh got into a conversation with a vendor. When it emerged that Mr Singh was a Christian, he was set upon, beaten up and then arrested. If found guilty, the believers could face fines and between three and five years in prison. Please pray for justice in Kashmir.


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

RLPB 155. Afghanistan: church, 'a smoldering wick . . .' (Isaiah 42:3 NIV)

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 155 | Wed 18 Apr 2012

AFGHANISTAN: CHURCH 'A SMOULDERING WICK' (ISAIAH 42:3 NIV)

By Elizabeth Kendal

On Sunday 15 April the Haqqani network launched the Taliban's 'Spring Offensive' in Afghanistan. The Haqqani are an ethnic Pashtun network based in Pakistan's tribal border regions with ties to both the Taliban and al-Qaeda. In Mahmud-i-Raqi, the capital of the eastern Kapisa Province, the city's military chief was assassinated. Then at about 1.30pm simultaneous attacks were launched in the capital, Kabul, and three other major cities. The US & NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), which is finalising plans for a transition to Afghan security control, has belittled the strikes as 'largely ineffective'. However, the insurgents have demonstrated their ability to stage complex operations inside Kabul's most secure areas. 'This is just the beginning,' declared Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, who boasted that the insurgents 'can attack anywhere we want'.

In Kabul the insurgents executed a sophisticated, well-rehearsed operation. They stormed and occupied an unfinished tower-block in the central diplomatic area of Wazir Akbar Khan, making it their base. From there they launched gun-battles and suicide attacks while firing rocket-propelled grenades into the German, British, US and Japanese embassies. Before long, the newly built Kabul Star Hotel was engulfed in flames. Camp Eggers, the headquarters of the ISAF, came under rocket attack, while an attack on the Presidential Palace was foiled. On the western side of town, rockets were fired at the Russian Embassy and the Afghan Parliament. When militants subsequently launched a full-scale assault on the parliament they were fought off by some of the MPs who, being former warlords and military men, carry their own weapons. Camp Warehouse, the ISAF base on the Jalalabad Rd, was attacked with mortars. Governors' offices, police training facilities and military bases were attacked in Jalalabad to the east, at Pul-e-Alam in Logar Province and Gardez in Paktya Province to the south. An attack in the northern city of Kundoz was foiled.

REMEMBER THE CHURCH

Back in May 2010 a privately-run Afghan television station, Noorin TV, broadcast video footage reportedly showing Afghani converts being baptised and participating in Christian worship. Angry Muslims protested, demanding the expulsion of foreign 'missionaries'. MPs called for the Afghan converts to be murdered or publicly executed as apostates. To appease the Islamic fundamentalists President Karzai ordered that measures be taken to prevent apostasy. More than 20 Afghan Christians were subsequently arrested and tortured, triggering a retreat underground and an exodus to India and beyond. (See RLPB 059 and RLPB 062)

In January 2012 Open Doors CEO Carl Moeller wrote, ' . . . after the nationally televised exposure of Afghan Christians on the internet, it became widely known that Afghan Christians actually exist. Though many were angry about this revelation, others started to ask questions and began to seek. In recent years a number of well-educated and skilled Afghanis have become believers and begun participating in underground Christian activities.' [This was confirmed by Mohabat News in a 27 March report which added that even some MPs had embraced Christianity.] 'Although the complete lack of religious freedom for Afghan Christians makes gatherings of believers dangerous and difficult,' continues Moeller, 'family and friend groups have started to meet together. There is a growing awareness among Afghan believers that they are not alone.'

The principal gospel witness and Bible teaching comes via Afghan Christian radio, satellite TV and internet ministries (see Afghan Christian media). The Afghan Church might be very small in number and profoundly imperilled, but God has promised: 'A bruised reed he will not break, and a smouldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice. (Isaiah 42:3 NIV)'

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL --

* give his profoundly imperilled Church refuge, security and comfort in the shadow of his wings until the storms of destruction pass by. (Psalm 57:1b ESV.)

* prepare the hearts of the longsuffering Afghanis and empower every word of gospel witness from courageous local believers and from radio, satellite and internet ministries, so that the harvest might be a hundredfold (Matthew 13:8).

* meet the needs of all Afghan gospel ministries for funding, equipment and workers (Psalm 24:7).

* frustrate the plots of those who would like to eradicate the Church (Psalm 146:9) and direct the government to see that without religious freedom Afghanistan will never recover (Proverbs 21:1).

SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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AFGHANISTAN CHURCH 'A SMOULDERING WICK' (ISAIAH 42:3 NIV)

On 15 April Islamic militants attacked Kabul and three other major cities. After occupying a building in Kabul's most secure sector, attacks were launched against the German, British, US, Japanese and Russian Embassies, as well as against government facilities and military bases. Amidst all this,the Church in Afghanistan, though very small and 'underground', is a reality and is growing. A massive crackdown followed TV scenes of Afghani converts participating in baptisms and worship in May 2010. This triggered an exodus of some Christians as well as a growing awareness of and interest in Christianity. It is reported some members of Kabul's influential elite have since become Christians. Christian radio, satellite TV and internet ministries are the principal means of outreach and teaching. Please pray for the Church in Afghanistan.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

RLPB 154. MALI: Christians flee imposition of Sharia

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 154 | Wed 11 Apr 2012

MALI: CHRISTIANS FLEE IMPOSITION OF SHARIA
(plus a Nigeria update)
By Elizabeth Kendal

Having seized the capitals of the three main northern provinces in three days -- Kidal, on 30 March, Gao on 31 March and Timbuktu on 1 April -- the National Movement for the Liberation of the Azawad (NMLA) declared it had achieved its military goal. (NMLA is the ethnic Tuareg rebel group that has seized control of northern Mali.) Consequently, on Thursday 5 April the NMLA announced a ceasefire. Whilst the NMLA has been fighting for political ends -- specifically for autonomy in their homeland -- they have been aided by Islamic jihadists who have been fighting for religious ends, specifically an Islamic state where Sharia (Islamic) Law is enforced. No sooner had the NMLA achieved its goal, the jihadists of Ansar Dine hoisted the black flag of al-Qaeda and announced the imposition of Sharia. Some 100 Nigerian Boko Haram militants who assisted in the capture of Gao have also established a presence there. Sources advise there are four distinct flags flying in Goa: the NMLA, Boko Haram, Ansar Dine and Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). However, it is the jihadists calling the shots, not the professedly secular NMLA.

The Tuareg rebellion has left northern Mali devastated. There have been reports of pack rapes as well as massive destruction and looting. The UN's office of humanitarian affairs reports: 'Malians in the northern towns of Gao, Kidal and Timbuktu are hiding in their homes in fear following the weekend takeover by rebel groups, during which hospitals, health clinics, government buildings, and most NGO and UN offices and warehouses were looted, and in some cases destroyed, leaving the bulk of humanitarian operations suspended.' (IRIN, 3 April.) Head of the Malian office of Norwegian Church Aid (NCA), Julia McDade, told IRIN: 'Everyone [in Gao] is in hiding, everyone's vehicles have been stolen … every single office has been ransacked.' Caritas Mali reported that its local office in Gao was destroyed along with the local church which served Gao's 200-strong Catholic community.

Reportedly, Ansar Dine has distributed leaflets containing a contact number saying that anyone who feels threatened or endangered should call Ansar Dine for assistance. One resident reports being on a bus of families fleeing Gao that was ambushed by Tuareg militants who were robbing everyone. People called the Ansar Dine 'hotline' and jihadists were quickly on the scene. The passengers then watched in horror as the jihadists slit the throat of one of the Tuareg militants to cries of 'Allahu Akbar'.

The shocking violence and destruction, but especially the Islamist threat, has forced virtually the entire Christian population of northern Mali to flee for their lives. The Guardian received an unconfirmed report that the Christian prefect of the town of Bourem had been executed along with his whole family. More than 90 percent of Timbuktu's approximately 300 Christians have fled according to Baptist Pastor Nock Ag Info Yattara, whose congregation has worshipped in Timbuktu since the 1950s. He added that not one of its 205 people is left. In Timbuktu, Ansar Dine is controlling the city and its military base, while the NMLA is camped out at the airport. 'What I deplore,' laments Ousmane Halle, the mayor of Timbuktu, 'is the departure of the Christian community . . . I cannot guarantee their safety. And these are people that have lived side by side with us for centuries.' (See AP)

For more details see Religious Liberty Monitoring

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL --

* guarantee the safety of his displaced and threatened people and supply all their needs: spiritual, emotional and physical (food, medical supplies and refuge).

* 'frustrate' (NIV) / 'thwart' (NASB) the way of the wicked (Psalm 146:9c) so that northern Mali will not become an Islamic state and al-Qaeda sanctuary; may he intervene to restore democracy and liberty to northern Mali so that the light of Christ might shine there openly.

* redeem the present sufferings for his own ends, turning the schemes of the wicked 'upside down' (Psalm 146:9c KJV), so that falsehood might be exposed and rejected, truth might be illuminated and lifted up and doors long closed might be opened for gospel ministry.

'The LORD watches over the sojourners; he upholds the widow and the fatherless, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.' (Psalm 146:9 ESV)

SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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MALI CHRISTIANS FLEE IMPOSITION OF SHARIA

Ethnic Tuareg rebels have seized control of northern Mali. Whilst the main rebel group, the National Movement for the Liberation of the Azawad, is professedly secular, its ally, a jihadist faction known as Ansar Dine, has wrested control, hoisted the black flag of al-Qaeda and announced the imposition of Sharia Law. The Tuareg rebellion has devastated northern Mali. There have been reports of pack rapes and violence, whilst the massive destruction and widespread looting has left the humanitarian aid sector totally crippled. Christian charities and churches have been destroyed. With Christians being targeted, virtually the entire Christian population of northern Mali has been forced to flee. Please pray for the Church in Mali.

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NIGERIA: GIVE THANKS AND KEEP PRAYING

On Easter Sunday a Boko Haram bomber attempted to get access to the 1st Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) on Gwari Road, Kaduna. However, his car was turned away at the barricades despite his having a military uniform folded on the back seat. As he drove away, the massive bomb exploded outside a hotel opposite the church. So far 39 people have died, most of whom were Okada (motor-cycle taxi) drivers parked at the hotel. The massive explosion damaged the ECWA Good News Church and the nearby All Nations Christian Assembly Church, blowing in the windows and destroying fans and roofing. However, the churchgoers worshipping at Easter services inside were protected. Thank the Lord while continuing to pray that he will protect his people (Psalm 125:2) and frustrate the schemes of the wicked (Psalm 146:9).

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

RLPB 153. Sudan: pivotal moment in ethnic cleansing (plus Easter)

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 153 | Wed 04 Apr 2012

EASTER: THE BATTLE HAS BEEN WON

by Elizabeth Kendal

SUDAN: PIVOTAL MOMENT IN ETHNIC-RELIGIOUS CLEANSING

Easter Sunday is the last day for ethnic 'Southerners' (who are predominantly Christian) to register as citizens of the new Sudan which will soon have a Sharia-based constitution. If they fail to register they will be treated as illegal immigrants. The message essentially is this: submit to Sharia or get out. Churches may well be be targeted immediately and aggressively starting 9 April. All across the Sudan, churches have been emptying as ethnic Southerners -- including those born and raised in the north -- flee south. This could eventually become a pretext for closing them. Under-developed, under-resourced and poverty-stricken, South Sudan is struggling to cope with the incoming tide of desperately-needy displaced families. As competition for land and resources intensifies so too does tribal tension and conflict. It may well be Khartoum's intention that its policies might facilitate South Sudan's collapse.

Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) are continuing the aerial bombardment of Nuba civilian populations in the Kauda Valley, South Kordofan. Khartoum has systematically engineered the conditions for famine and is still refusing to allow humanitarian aid into South Kordofan and Blue Nile. The regime's aim is nothing short of the genocide of the non-Arab, non-Muslim, predominantly Christian Nuba, a people who have lived in the region for millennia.

In the year 2000 the All Sudan Council of Churches held an Easter Celebration in Green Square, Khartoum. Presumably the government permitted the three-day rally on the assumption that few Muslims would be interested. However, that Easter Sunday more than 210,000 mostly Arab Muslim Sudanese turned out to hear the gospel. Never again would the regime permit such an event. Only God knows what is behind the facade and how fragile is Islam's grip on the people.

PRAYING FOR THE PERSECUTED THIS EASTER

Only God knows what is behind the facade of any totalitarian society. We see the iron curtain, the bamboo curtain, the curtain of swords: curtains erected by political and religious dictators; curtains erected for the benefit of those dictators, not their captives.

Multitudes of Christians head into this Easter season facing threats of military violence, Islamic jihad, Islamic terrorism, systematic state violence, imprisonment, torture, beatings and deprivation. There are simply too many to list. So pray that the LORD will lay a people upon your heart -- then pray for that people with all your heart as one called by the LORD to intercede for them. In obedience, advocate for them before the throne of grace, a throne we have access to because God has already torn open the greatest curtain of all: the one that separated us from God (Matthew 27:51).

FATHER WE PRAY THAT --

* the power that raised Christ from the dead on the first Easter day will be mightily at work in and through your faithful people today (Ephesians 1:17-21), sustaining faith, empowering witness and providing comfort, courage, peace and hope beyond measure.

* you will supply your faithful ones with all their needs -- material, emotional and spiritual -- according to your riches in glory in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19).

* the same power that raised Christ from the dead on the first Easter day will tear through the curtains erected by the dictators of this world, so that the Church will be free to witness and that men and women will be free to receive the wonderful, life-transforming gospel.

'Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD of hosts.' (Zechariah 4:6b ESV)