Tuesday, November 27, 2012

RLPB 187. Nov Update, Incl. Egypt, Eritrea, Sudan and South Sudan, Kenya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Somalia, Zimbabwe

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 187 | Wed 28 Nov 2012

By Elizabeth Kendal

'For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.' (Romans 8:38,39 ESV)

NOVEMBER 2012 UPDATE -- During November we prayed concerning . . . 

* EGYPT (RLPB 184), where Salafis (hard-line fundamentalist Muslims) are kidnapping Coptic girls for forced conversion and marriage to Muslims. Surely this is every Christian parent's and every Christian girl's worst nightmare. Please pray against this evil.

UPDATE: Morning Star News (MSN) reports on another trend of Islamic fundamentalist women wearing niqabs (a black face covering, with only a narrow slit for the eyes) attacking Coptic girls and women on trains. MSN knows of three incidents in the past month. In one attack, a 16-year-old Coptic girl was attacked on her way to school by two niqab-wearing women who cut off her hair. About a week later, a 13-year-old girl was attacked in the same way. Then on 10 November two of these women attacked Nareman Smoul (30) as she was travelling to collect her daughter from an evangelical school. After abusing her as an 'infidel', the Muslim women pushed Nareman to the floor, cut off her hair and then kicked her off the train causing her to break her arm. Of course the criminals cannot be identified because they were wearing niqabs.

* ERITREA (RLPB 185), after another Christian prisoner died in custody. We also prayed for Christians caught up in the refugee-trafficking crisis.

UPDATE: On 21 November Christian Solidarity Worldwide reported that Philemon Semere (22), an practising Christian Eritrean refugee, was abducted by traffickers in Sudan while en route to Israel. Philemon is being held by Bedouin traffickers in one of several purpose-built torture-extortion centres operating with impunity in the Sinai. He is being beaten and tortured by captors who are demanding US$25,000 ransom while threatening to take a kidney from him if the money is not forthcoming. According to CSW, 'When payments are not forthcoming, vital organs are illegally harvested in unhygienic conditions, generally resulting in the death of the person concerned.' Pray that Egypt will be forced to stamp out this obscene criminal activity. (Pray Isaiah 59:15b-19.)

* SUDAN (RLPB 186), where President Omar el-Bashir is waging a genocidal jihad against the predominantly Christian Africans (non-Arabs) of the 'new south' (Abyei, South Kordofan and Blue Nile). This obscene genocide, which employs aerial bombardment, ethnic cleansing, government-engineered famine and denial of humanitarian aid, attracts virtually no international attention. It is quite unbelievable that the international community can stand idly by while this Islamist and racist regime bombs and starves its citizens, killing tens of thousands and displacing hundreds of thousands.  Pray for God himself to intervene directly. (Pray Psalm 10.)

UPDATE: Between 20-22 November the Sudan Air Force bombed civilian targets in South Sudan's northern Bahr El Ghazal State, killing at least seven people. According to Persecution Project, 16 people were killed and many more were wounded. Sudan Tribune reports that thousands of terrified civilians have deserted their villages and are fleeing towards the state capital, Aweil. Whilst Khartoum denies bombing the South (witnessed by Reuters journalists) it has not responded to the South's accusation that Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) troops are massing along the border near Raja in Raja County in Western Bahr el Ghazal. The SAF may well be ethnically cleansing the area ahead of a military incursion aimed at capturing it. South Sudan's army is on high alert.

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

* KENYA: TERROR ESCALATES

On Sunday 4 November Islamic militants launched a grenade at 10 am into the church in the Administrative Police compound in Garissa. The grenade hit Chaplain Julius Mukonzi in the head, exploding and killing him instantly. Eleven others were injured, three critically. Police suspect militants from Somalia's al-Shabaab are responsible. Morning Star News reports: 'The Garissa Pastors Fellowship released a statement saying that more than 20 Christians in the city have recently lost their lives to Islamic terrorist attacks.' On Sunday 18 November a bomb filled with ball-bearings exploded on a bus in Eastleigh, the commercial centre of Nairobi's ethnic Somali population, killing nine. Almost immediately ethnic Kenyans were rioting, attacking ethnic Somalis in the street, accusing them of being aligned with al-Shabaab. Security is deteriorating and tensions are soaring.

* NIGERIA

KADUNA: TWIN CHURCH BOMBING KILLS ELEVEN
On Sunday 25 November a bus and car drove into the Jaji military barracks in Kaduna, after convincing the guards they were conveying equipment to the church. The bus drove up to the wall of St Andrews Protestant Church and exploded just as the service was ending; there were no casualties. Ten minutes later, however, as worshippers gathered around the bombed-out bus, the car exploded nearby, killing at least 11 people (possibly as many as 20) with some 60 wounded. The church, which serves military personnel and their families as well as civilians in Jaji, is about 40km north of Kaduna City. Morning Star News adds that Rev. Titus Sambo and Israel Olaleye, both students at the Baptist Theological Seminary in Kaduna, were amongst those killed.

KANO: A MISPRONUNCIATION LEADS TO RIOTS
On 22 November an Igbo tailor working in the town of Bichi near Kano in the north, mispronounced the Hausa name for a popular garment. [Igbos are southerners and mostly Christian.] The Hausa [northern Muslims] who heard it were incensed and rioted claiming it was a blasphemy. The Igbo tailor was macheted to death and then seven churches, eight businesses and a house were torched.

* PAKISTAN: ACCUSED OF BLASPHEMY WHILE PREACHING

Morning Star News reported on 9 November that Karma Patras (55), an evangelist from Nankana District in Punjab Province, has been languishing in prison since his arrest on 13 October over a gospel message that offended Muslims. Patras was addressing a Christian funeral gathering when some Muslims in attendance objected to his reference to the sacrificial death of Christ. [Islam not only maintains that Jesus was not crucified, it states that Jesus, when he returns, will wage war against those who say he was.  Quran, Sura 4:157-159] Patras narrowly escaped being beaten but was arrested at his home later that day. A Muslim mob subsequently besieged the Sangla Hill Police Station, demanding that Patras be turned over to them so they could lynch him. However, Patras had already been transferred out of the area. Due to death threats, Patras' extended family, which includes many children, has been forced to flee.

* SOMALIA: YET ANOTHER MARTYR

On Friday 16 November Al-Shabaab militants publicly beheaded Farhan Haji Mose (25) after accusing him of being a spy and leaving Islam to embrace the 'foreign religion of Christianity'. According to Morning Star News, Mose had converted to Christianity in 2010 during time spent in Kenya. Pray for the church in Somalia.

*  ZIMBABWE: GOD BREAKS THROUGH

Harare's Anglicans returned to their churches on Sunday 25 November after the Supreme Court ruled that the excommunicated pro-Mugabe bishop Nolbert Kunonga, who had seized control of the properties by force some five years ago, must return the properties to the Anglican Church. Anglican spokesman Mr Precious Shumba said they had not met any resistance from most priests aligned to Kunonga. Some renegade priests even expressed repentance and have sought re-integration into the Anglican Church. This will require a process of truth, reconciliation, re-education and re-commitment. Kunonga had incurred bills amounting to some $300,000.  The legitimate Bishop of Harare, Bishop Chad Gandiya, praised God for this breakthrough.
Let us also give thanks!
For background, details and updates see:
'Zimbabwe: let justice roll on'
Religious Liberty Monitoring, 20 Nov 2012.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

RLPB 186. Sudan: who cares about genocide?

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 186 | Wed 21 Nov 2012

SUDAN: WHO CARES ABOUT GENOCIDE?

By Elizabeth Kendal 

Sudan has been shattered, impoverished and torn apart by systematic racial hatred and religious intolerance. The Islamist, Arab-supremacist regime of President Gen. Omar el-Bashir has little concern for 'infidels' and 'blacks', especially those who oppose and resist Islamisation and Arabisation.

The 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that ended Sudan's civil war mandated that, if South Sudan seceded, the three disputed border regions of Abyei, South Kordofan and Blue Nile would each have the right to a referendum to determine whether they would be part of Sudan or South Sudan. Though geographically linked into the north (Abyei less so), they are culturally and politically aligned with the South because they are predominantly non-Arab and non-Muslim. The regime in Khartoum desperately wants the oil reserves in Abyei and South Kordofan and the water of Blue Nile. What it does not want is the oppositional 'infidels' and 'blacks' who live there to exercise their right to self-determination. Bashir launched his jihad before the secession even took place. Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) ethnically cleansed and occupied Abyei in May 2011. For this crime, Bashir was rewarded with impunity; even UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon refused to call it ethnic cleansing on the grounds that the people might return.

Emboldened, Bashir expanded his jihad into South Kordofan. In early June 2011 SAF-allied Arab militias invaded Kadugli, the capital, having been instructed to 'sweep away the rubbish' (i.e. the Nuba, the 'blacks'). After weeks of terror on the ground in which tens of thousands were killed, the aerial bombardment began. Hundreds of thousands of predominantly Christian Africans were displaced as homes and farms were bombed. Again, Bashir was rewarded with impunity. Further emboldened, he expanded his jihad into Blue Nile. By means of massive population displacement along with systematic destruction of crops and denial of humanitarian aid, the regime is effecting a final solution: the elimination of oppositional 'infidels' and 'blacks' from the resource-rich 'new south'. [When the genocide is complete, Bashir will doubtless organise referendums to be lauded by the West as evidence of his transition to democracy!]

According to the anti-genocide Enough Project, 81.5 percent of families in the Nuba Mountains survive on one meal a day and three percent are classed as having Severe Acute Malnutrition, meaning in the absence of medical intervention they will soon die.  These statistics are moving upwards. Local church groups are struggling just to keep the population alive. Agreements concerning humanitarian aid have been signed but never implemented. Why is this behaviour of Khartoum tolerated? Furthermore, refugee camps just over the border in Unity and Upper Nile states, South Sudan, are struggling greatly to host more than 200,000 refugees. Driven by starvation in the displacement camps, some Dinka Ngok have recently returned to Abyei only to find that everything has been destroyed, even their boreholes.

As reported by Christian media agency Morning Star News (MSN), aerial bombardment of Christian towns across South Kordofan has increased considerably over the past month. MSN cites NubaReports, a network of local citizen journalists committed to providing credible coverage of the atrocities being committed against the Nuba in South Kordofan. It was established by an American aid worker who remained when his Christian aid organisation was forced to evacuate. The reports are shocking and include lists of towns bombed in recent weeks, along with names and ages of victims. Due to the absence of medical aid, many of the injured will ultimately die from infection.

Why is the 'International Community' so indifferent to this genocide? Is it because the victims are predominantly Christians and Christian deaths are less economically and strategically significant as they do not increase the risk of regional sectarian war? Why is the media not interested? Is it because the media is only interested in those conflicts from which they can get sensational ratings-boosting live coverage? Is a double-barrelled racism in play: the victims are black, diminishing interest; the perpetrators are Arab-Muslims, diminishing expectation? But the West, if it is to claim any morality, must care about African genocides and demand more from Arab Muslims. One major problem is that the US and much of the West have 'de-coupled' Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile from Sudan policy. This means 'engagement' with Sudan can proceed without reference to these crises. However,  if the West keeps treating Sudan's threatened non-Muslims and non-Arabs as if they do not exist, then it will not be long before they actually do not exist! So much for 'never again'!


For a 5.46 minute film by NubaReports, on the government-engineered famine stalking South Kordofan: see here: A Hidden Hunger.

Prayer for Sudan: Psalm 10

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL --

* arise and lift up his hand (Psalm 10:12) and intervene for his threatened people, bringing the wicked el-Bashir and his evil regime to account (v15) so that the righteous might be spared and the wicked might 'terrify no more' (v18).

* fan into flame the faith of his people, so that they will look to the LORD for all things, trusting in him and witnessing his provision and deliverance.  '. . . a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice.' (Isaiah 42:3 ESV)

* stir up moral indignation and courage so that the West will act against this evil regime according to the will and directions of the Lord of Hosts.

* fire up brotherly love and spiritual fervour in the Church, so that Christians will not rest from intercession until God intervenes and brings peace. 


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SUDAN: WHO CARES ABOUT GENOCIDE?


Sudanese president Omar el-Bashir's genocidal jihad continues unabated against the non-Muslims and non-Arabs in the 'new south' of Abyei, South Kordofan and Blue Nile. The Islamist, Arab-supremacist regime in Khartoum wants the oil and water in its 'new south' but it just does not want the 'infidels' and 'blacks' who live there defiantly opposing Islamisation and demanding basic human rights. According to NubaReports, aerial bombardment of Christian towns has escalated in recent weeks, famine is spreading and there is still no humanitarian aid. The most shameful thing in all this is the indifference of the West. Why does the 'International Community' -- especially the 'moral' West -- not care about this genocide? The Church must care! Please pray for God to intervene in Sudan. Pray Psalm 10.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

RLPB 185. Eritrea: Christian prisoners and refugees suffering unimaginably

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 185 | Wed 14 Nov 2012

ERITREA: CHRISTIAN PRISONERS & REFUGEES SUFFERING UNIMAGINABLY

By Elizabeth Kendal

Eritrea, in the Horn of Africa on the Red Sea coast, has one of the most brutally repressive dictatorships in the world. The population is equally divided between Christians (90 percent Eritrean Orthodox) who live mostly in the highlands and Muslims who live mostly in the coastal lowlands. Eritrea won its independence from Ethiopia in 1991 and Isayas Afewerki has been the president since independence was declared and internationally recognised in 1993. In 2001, in the wake of a two-year border war with Ethiopia (1998-2000), Afewerki began cracking down hard on anything that could be viewed as a threat to national unity. He cancelled elections and closed all independent media. Opposition figures -- politicians, activists and journalists -- were removed, mostly to underground 'secret prisons' for the 'disappeared'.

In May 2002, reportedly at the behest of the Eritrean Orthodox Church (EOC), the government began cracking down on 'foreign' and 'non-traditional' religion. A Biblical revival and renewal movement had exploded within the EOC. While some priests accommodated or even embraced the movement, others resisted, forcing those desiring a more evangelical Christianity to leave the EOC for Protestant fellowships. The exodus has caused great angst in the hierarchy of the EOC. Now only state-sanctioned Muslim, Eritrean Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Mekane Yesus (Evangelical Lutheran) denominations are legal and worshipping in a Protestant fellowship is a criminal offence. However, by mid-2005 the authorities were oppressing the EOC as well, specifically those EOC priests supportive of the renewal movement and protesting religious persecution. When EOC head, Patriarch Abune Antonios, complained about the persecution of his priests, Afewerki had him deposed, placed under house arrest and replaced with a government administrator.

By the end of 2010 an estimated 3000 Eritrean Christians of all denominations (mostly Protestant) were incarcerated purely for their faith; today the number is estimated at around 1500. Whilst most prisoners are held in shipping containers in desert camps, some are kept in underground cells. The conditions are inhumane: children and the elderly are amongst the prisoners sharing skin diseases, dysentery and other horrors in confined, unventilated spaces. Torture is routine. An Amnesty International report published in May 2004 details the tortures suffered by Christian prisoners.Several Christians have died in custody and others have perished in the desert trying to escape.

Because Eritrea has no independent media, news of persecution is difficult to obtain for it must be leaked at great personal risk. Open Doors (OD) reports that on 30 October a Christian by the name of Adris Ali Mohammed (31), a Muslim convert from the town of Tesenai, died in custody. Adris had spent almost two years in a suffocating dungeon located in Eritrea's Aderset Military Camp, where some 100 Christians are believed to be detained. According to sources, Adris had stood firm through two years of terrible suffering and systematic torture aimed at forcing him to renounce his faith. According to OD, 'Military officials secretly buried Adris outside the camp.'

The repression has created a refugee crisis with many Christians amongst them. In July The Guardian reported that the Eritrea military runs a business kidnapping Eritrean refugees out of refugee camps in Sudan and trafficking them into the Sinai where they are sold to Bedouin gangs 'who use starvation, electrocution, rape and murder to extort up to $40,000 from relatives in the Eritrean diaspora for their release'. (See also NYT, 31 Oct 2012, for horrific details.) According to Strategic Policy magazine (4, 2012) Maj-Gen. Tekle 'Manjus' Kiflai has been identified as the 'co-ordinator of the human smuggling operation' which reportedly serves as 'a major revenue source for the PFDJ', the ruling People's Front for Democracy and Justice. This very powerful Maj-Gen. Tekle, an ethnic 'Christian', is rumoured to be a possible successor to Afewerki. Eritrea also funds, arms and trains anti-Ethiopian forces across the region, as well as rebels fighting against the Government of South Sudan.

But change is looming. For many years Afewerki had been funded and propped up by Gadhafi (Libya) and Mubarak (Egypt). With these two backers now removed, Eritrea's principal ally is US-allied, Islamist Qatar which is fully occupied trying to orchestrate regime change in Damascus, Syria. Furthermore, Afewerki is so unwell that when he disappeared in March, rumours circulated that he had died. Eventually he quelled those rumours by making an appearance on State TV on 29 April. Afewerki allegedly has a liver complaint for which he has received medical treatment in Qatar. Whilst Eritrea is ripe for change, the rot runs deep.

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL --

* interpose himself in Eritrea to bring deep and radical change; may he bring judgment on all who trade in suffering and terror and bring an end to belligerence and repression. May he open the door to a new era of justice, liberty and peace, to his glory.

'In my distress I called upon the LORD . . . and my cry to him reached his ears. Then the earth reeled and rocked; the foundations also of the mountains trembled and quaked, because he was angry. He rescued me, because he delighted in me.' (Psalm 18:6,7,19b ESV)

* have mercy on his sorely persecuted Church. Lord, comfort and protect them, sustaining them in body and soul, especially prisoners and refugees. Lord, provide all their needs, fanning their faith into flame so they may not lose hope; may their trust be in you.

* redeem this era of intensive persecution by refining and unifying the Eritrean Church and use their stories of faithfulness to soften the hearts and open the eyes of multitudes.


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CHRISTIAN PRISONERS & REFUGEES SUFFERING UNIMAGINABLY IN ERITREA

Eritrea has one of the most brutal dictatorships worldwide and the repression has created a refugee crisis. Since May 2002 Christians have been severely persecuted and an estimated 1500 are suffering torture and appalling prison conditions today, simply for their faith. With no independent media, news is extremely difficult to obtain. Open Doors reports that on 30 October a Christian Muslim convert, Adris Ali Mohammed (31), died in custody after two years of systematic torture aimed at forcing him to renounce his faith. Christians in refugee camps are no safer as the Eritrean military runs a lucrative operation on behalf of the government, trafficking them to Bedouin gangs in the Sinai. Please pray for Eritrean Christians and that God will effect deep and radical change in Eritrea.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

RLPB 184. EGYPT: what Salafis want from Coptic girls

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 184 | Wed 07 Nov 2012


EGYPT: WHAT SALAFIS WANT FROM COPTIC GIRLS

By Elizabeth Kendal

In Islam, a child is given the religion of the father the day he or she is born. In Egypt, as in most Muslim countries, when children turn 16 they receive a State-issued identity (ID) card with their State-designated religion stamped on it. Those born to fathers registered as Muslim are deemed Muslim regardless of the actual belief of the father or the child because identity / affiliation is far more important than faith in Islam. As Muslims, they are not permitted to leave Islam and they are obliged to live according to Sharia Law: observing food and clothing restrictions, remaining separated from Jews and Christians, and other stipulations. Furthermore a Muslim woman must marry a Muslim man.

Christians who wish to convert to Islam -- as nominal Christians sometimes do, mostly for pragmatic reasons -- find getting a new ID card is easy. However, as Muslims are not permitted to leave Islam, their religious identity may not be changed. In recent years two extremely courageous Egyptian fathers, both converts from Islam, have sued the Interior Ministry for their right to change their religious identity. Both were motivated by concern for their children whom the State deems Muslim. Both cases failed because the courts would not permit apostasy from Islam. Death threats forced both families into hiding. Because their children are deemed Muslim, their daughters will be obliged by law to marry Muslim men and their sons, though free to marry a Christian, would be obliged by law to raise those children as Muslims. 

It is well known that fundamentalist Muslim men are being encouraged to seduce and marry Christian girls. When married to Muslim men, the Christian girls are not only prevented from increasing the Christian demographic, they are actually used to increase the Muslim population. Fearing the influence of Christians, Salafi Muslims (hard-line Sunni fundamentalists) oppose all interfaith marriage and want it criminalised; they also want the legal marriage age for girls dropped from 18 to nine. It is well known that Salafis kidnap Coptic Christian girls for forced conversion and forced marriage to Muslim men to ensure Christian wombs are producing Muslim babies. In these cases the Salafis always insist that the girls have converted freely, ensuring that the girls cannot be rescued. As soon as the Salafis assert the girl is a convert who deserves freedom of religion, the police, local officials and wider Muslim community will rally to hold on to her as one of their own.

Born on 1 August 1998 in the town of el-Dabaa, 130km south of Mersa Matrouh (north-east of Cairo), Sarah Ishaq Abdelmalek is only 14. She was last seen on 30 September, entering a stationery shop near her school. After her father filed a missing persons report with the police, he received a call telling him that he will never see his daughter again. According to a school friend, the 27-year-old shop owner -- a Salafist and the son of a local Salafi leader -- had been pursuing Sarah for some time. He nowstands accused of abducting her. On 28 October the Salafist Front issued a statement that Sarah, who they maintain is not under-aged, has converted to Islam freely and married a Muslim man.

The case should prove a serious test for President Morsi, for Sarah is under-age according to Egyptian law which states the marriageable age for girls is 18. Will President Morsi bend for the Salafis out of respect for fundamentalist Islam or will he demand that Egyptian law be upheld and Sarah returned to her parents? Will he follow other precedents and have Sarah placed in a secure Muslim girls home until she is of marriageable age or will he allow Sarah the opportunity to freely declare her true faith and then protect her? Egyptian human rights organisations, including the National Council of Women, are lobbying for Sarah to be reunited with her family without delay. Still the prospects are not good. Surely a more obscene abuse of human rights would be hard to find.

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL --

* comfort, strengthen, preserve and ultimately rescue Sarah Abdelmalek (14); may he have mercy on this family and all families likewise grieving the loss of their abducted daughters.

* redeem this case to draw international attention to the plight of hundreds of Coptic Christian girls who have been abducted, raped and trafficked across religious lines; may the LORD of hosts expose and destroy this obscene trade.

* enlighten many -- Muslims included -- to the terrible implications of Islam's apostasy law: not merely that it mandates death but that it forces people to live their whole lives as prisoners of Sharia, with no means of escape, generation after generation.

'The LORD looked and was displeased that there was no justice. He saw that there was no one, he was appalled that there was no one to intervene; so his own arm achieved salvation for him . . . ' (From Isaiah 59:15b-16.)


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WHAT SALAFIS IN EGYPT WANT FROM COPTIC GIRLS

In Islam, a child inherits the religious identity of the father. If that is Muslim, then it is inescapable because rejecting Islam is a capital offence. This religious designation has huge implications as Sharia covers all of life, including whom you can marry. A girl deemed 'Muslim' must marry a Muslim man so that the fruit of the Muslim womb is always Muslim. However, a Muslim man may marry a Christian. Afraid of Christian influence, Salafis disapprove of all interfaith marriage. Salafis are known to abduct Coptic Christian girls who are then forcibly converted and married to Muslim men. Furthermore, by claiming the girls have freely converted to Islam, they say the case is about religious freedom and not abduction across religious lines. May God bring justice to Egypt.

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With persecution escalating and intensifying globally, please consider participating in International Day of Prayer (IDOP) for the persecuted church on 11 November.  'For we wrestle not against flesh and blood . . .' (Ephesians 6:12). See Critical Prayer Requests (CPR)