Tuesday, January 29, 2013

RLPB 195. Jan Update, Incl. Sudan, Chechnya, Burma, Egypt, Eritrea, UK & EU, Iran, Vietnam

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 195 | Wed 30 Jan 2013

By Elizabeth Kendal

'Break the arm of the wicked and evildoer . . . ' (Psalm 10:15a ESV), the 'arm' being the machinery of action that facilitates evil: military and economic supply lines; power structures, relationships and networks; forums that disseminate ideologies of death. Lord, break them all!

JANUARY 2013 UPDATE -- During January we prayed concerning . . . 

* SUDAN (RLPB 194), where the Nuba and other African tribes across the 'new south' (Abyei, Sth Kordfan and Blue Nile) are facing genocide at the hands of the Islamist and racist, Arab-supremacist regime in Khartoum. 

UPDATE: On Friday 25 January some 350 African Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) presented their appeal to the African Union (AU) for action concerning the 'war in South Kordofan and Blue Nile'. Meanwhile, senior leaders of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), including Yassir Arman and Malik Agar, met with the US envoy Princeton Lyman in Washington to appeal for action to prevent genocide. Lyman, however, merely exhorted them to renounce violence and lay down their arms, adding that the Obama administration leans towards a political resolution and believes 'the ongoing tracks are acceptable'. Well, God does not find the situation acceptable! So let us put our trust in God, not humanity, and pray Psalm 10, that HE will intervene in Sudan.

* CHECHNYA, SOUTH RUSSIA (RLPB 193), where remnant Christians live with considerable insecurity.

UPDATE: Two senior jihadist commanders from the 'Islamic Caucasus Emirate', brothers Khuseyn and Muslim Gakayev, were amongst eleven jihadists killed during a military operation in Chechnya on 24 January. The Gakayevs were complicit in numerous terrorist attacks and had been on Russia's proscribed terrorist list for eleven years. Pray for peace, with an end to jihad. Pray especially for God to grace Chechnya with a spirit of peace and that Muslim hearts might be open to receive the gospel.

* BURMA (RLPB 192), where the Buddhist and racist, Burman-supremacist regime in Naypyidaw has launched a full-scale war against the Christian Kachin, deploying helicopter gunships and bomber jets against civilians in Laiza.

UPDATE: Guy Horton of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, says the fighting is unlike anything he has previously witnessed in Burma (see video interview). He writes from northern Kachin State: 'The churches are open on a 24-hour basis. The people pray for deliverance from a conflict where Kachin soldiers, with the support of tens of thousands of civilians, are fighting for survival against an army several times their number.' He notes that the Kachin people are 'bonded by their Christian faith', adding that they are targeted by the Burmese army precisely because of 'their religion and their ethnicity. The law of genocide thus applies.' Horton reports: 'Kachin fixed defensive positions protecting civilians are probably unsustainable. Confronted with jet bombers, artillery, heavy mortars and overwhelming numbers of ground troops, Kachin soldiers may be unable to protect their civilians in the long- or even medium-term.' He expects not a mere humanitarian disaster but 'appalling human rights violations' and regards the West's silence as 'complicity with evil'. (For more detail see Religious Liberty Monitoring.) Pray Psalm 10 for Burma.

JANUARY 2013 ROUND-UP -- also this month . . .

* EGYPT: WHOLE FAMILY SENTENCED TO 15 YEARS' JAIL FOR APOSTASY

The criminal court of Beni Suef (115km south of Cairo) has sentenced an entire family to prison for converting to Christianity. Nadia Mohamed Ali, who was born into a Christian family, converted to Islam when she married Mustafa Mohamed Abdel-Wahab 23 years ago. When Mustufa died in 1991 Nadia decided to return to Christianity, bringing her seven children with her. In 2004 the family decided to take Christian names and have their identity cards amended. Seven Registry Office officials facilitated this. Now Nadia and her seven children have been convicted of apostasy and sentenced to 15 years' jail, while the seven Registry Office officials have each received 5-year sentences. Pray that as Islam reveals its true nature, God will open many Muslim hearts to receive the gospel.

* ERITREA: REGIME'S GRIP IS FRAGILE (updating RLPB 185)

The regime of President Isaias Afewerki is one of the most cruel and repressive in the world. Since 2002 thousands of Christians have suffered imprisonment and torture simply because of their faith. Some have died in custody whilst others have perished in horrific circumstances while fleeing. But, as was noted in RLPB 185, change is looming! On 21 January 2013, up to 200 soldiers and officers seized control of the Ministry of Information building, which also houses the state television network. A newsreader read out their demands on live television, including the release of all political prisoners and the implementation of the 1997 constitution which calls for a democratically elected government. Troops loyal to Afewerki encircled the building and eventually put down the coup which was reportedly organised by several senior military figures, possibly even the Army and Air Force chiefs (both now reportedly dead). (Stratfor Intelligence, 22-23 Jan) See prayer points on RLPB 185. Pray Psalm 10 for Eritrea.

* EU: CHRISTIANS LOSE IN THE BATTLE OF THE RIGHTS

On 15 January 2013, the European Court of Human Rights delivered a landmark ruling against two British Christians who had been seeking redress for what they believed were unfair dismissals. Gary McFarlane, a Relate counsellor, had been sacked for seeking to be exempted from providing sexual therapy to homosexual couples, and Lillian Ladele, a marriage registrar, had been sacked for seeking to be exempted from solemnising same-sex relationships. Their employers deemed their conscientious objection to affirming homosexual lifestyle was in breach of Equality laws. The UK courts agreed. (See RLM, label 'UK'.)

So the pair appealed to the European Court of Human Rights, seeking 'reasonable accommodation' for their convictions. The court threw out the cases and it is now being widely acknowledged that those who cannot affirm homosexual sex and same-sex marriage may be lawfully excluded from many public sector jobs. Homosexual magazine queerty.com lampooned the pair as 'a couple of bigoted Brits'.  Pinknews.co.uk maintained it was a victory for freedom: Christians are totally free to keep their beliefs and totally free to go and get another job. As British barrister Paul Diamond observes: 'Tuesday's judgment in the European Court on cases affecting the rights of Christians in Britain is a Magna Carta moment. Its verdicts will have a profound impact on the civil and religious liberties of millions of people in the UK and beyond.' (See BBC News video clip)

* IRAN (continuing the updates from RLPBs 191 & 192)

Pastor Vruir Avanessian, arrested on 27 December 2012, was released on 10 January after posting $60,000 bail, using real estate as security. Avanessian requires regular dialysis. According to Middle East Concern, the date of his trial is not yet known and no formal charges have been brought against him.

On 27 January an Iranian Revolutionary Court sentenced US pastor Saeed Abedini (32) to eight years in prison on charges of endangering national security. The charges relate to house churches he founded after his conversion in 2000. In 2005 Abedini was arrested for his Christian work, but released after pledging never to work in the house church movement again. Abedini is now a US citizen with an American wife and two young children in Idaho. Whilst he returns to Iran regularly to visit relatives, he maintains he has always honoured his pledge. In detention since mid-2012, Abedini was not permitted to attend his own trial. His Iranian family tried to visit him during the week only to find he was missing, reportedly receiving medical treatment after being beaten and tortured. Abedini's wife, Nagmeh, is greatly distressed and confused by the US State Department's silence and inaction. Pray for this family and for all Iran's Christian prisoners. Pray that Iran, a strategic nation, might be freed from its captivity.

* VIETNAM: REPRESSING THE HOUSE CHURCHES

A new religious decree came into force in Vietnam on 1 January 2013. Replacing Decree 22/2005 ND-CP, Decree 92/2012 ND-CP will give a 'veneer of legality' to a policy of religious repression. Protestant human rights lawyer and religious liberty advocate Nguyen Van Dai maintains, 'the goal of Decree 92/2012 ND-CP is to completely abolish the organisational structure and religious operations of the Protestant denominations that were formed less than 20 years ago and have not been registered according to Decree 22/2005 ND-CP. This is a step backward in the right to freedoms of belief and religion in Vietnam.' Catholic leaders have decried the degree as a 'draconian' and 'backward' measure that violates the 'rights of citizens' by placing 'severe restrictions' on freedom of worship. The Vietnam Evangelical Fellowship, an umbrella organisation for about 25 house church organisations, issued a letter on 23 January calling for prayer and fasting, as Decree 92 effectively makes house churches illegal. Pray for wisdom, grace and divine protection.


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Elizabeth Kendal is the author of
Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today
(Deror Books, Dec 2012)