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)

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

RLPB 194. SUDAN: racial-religious genocide in 'new south'. 'Worse than Darfur' -- but who cares?

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 194 | Wed 23 Jan 2013

SUDAN: RACIAL-RELIGIOUS GENOCIDE IN THE 'NEW SOUTH'
'Worse than Darfur' -- but who cares?
By Elizabeth Kendal

In 1992, during its war against South Sudan, Khartoum declared a jihad against the 'rebellious' Nuba: the African tribes of the north's Nuba Mountains who along with the southerners were resisting Islamisation and racist Arab supremacy. A government-sponsored fatwa legitimised the jihad by labelling Muslim 'rebels' as 'apostates' and Christians as 'kaffirs [infidels / unbelievers] standing as a bulwark against the spread of Islam', and affirming that 'Islam has granted the freedom of killing both categories'. Nothing has changed -- same genocidal regime, same racial and religious hatred, same jihad, same aim: genocide.

Reporting on the situation across Sudan's 'new south' -- Abyei, South Kordofan and Blue Nile -- Dr Mukesh Kapila, the former UN Humanitarian Co-ordinator in Sudan (2003-04) laments: 'The ethnic cleansing is largely complete.  . . . Rebel areas are depopulated and largely empty.' He says that in Blue Nile, some 450,000 people have been affected with fields and villages being razed as Sudanese radio calls for the region to be 'combed' and cleansed of Africans who are de-humanised as 'black plastic bags'. He reports that in South Kordofan -- where soldiers have been ordered to 'sweep out the trash' (i.e. the Africans) and 'eat them alive' -- displaced families have retreated to remote cave networks where food is scarce. Whilst many are determined to remain, saying 'This is our country', others are simply too weak to attempt the long trek south. It is a journey that is itself incredibly dangerous, for Khartoum wants the Nuba not just gone, but dead -- unable to return.  A delegation from HART (Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust) recently confirmed that on 12 December 2012 1700 civilians from Ulu Payam (Kirmuk County) left for South Sudan, only to be attacked en route by SAF (Sudan Armed Forces) ground troops. Many were killed and many children scattered, with only 700 of the original 1700 arriving in Maban, South Sudan.

Dr Kapila adds: 'What I've seen in the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile is all that I've seen in Darfur, plus the addition of modern technology. Ten years after, we have precision guided missiles, land mines which I don't remember seeing in Darfur, anti-personnel bombs, cluster bombs which I did not see in Darfur, we see MiG fighters which I don't remember seeing in Darfur, and we have a much more precision-guided approach with distance over the horizon artillery. So this is not just another Darfur; quite possibly, it is worse than Darfur.'

Human Rights Watch estimates that a total of 900,000 African (non-Arab) Sudanese are now affected. Having razed the farms and villages, the regime maintains a blockade on humanitarian aid, using starvation as a weapon of mass destruction. This has long been the regime's preferred method of mass killing: engineering a famine and just waiting as the population turns skeletal and quietly drops into the dust. Khartoum has a long history of this type of warfare -- indeed President Omar el-Bashir has perfected mass murder and his conscience is untroubled. Despite this, the US administration has assured Khartoum that it is not seeking regime change but rather normalising relations. This is because the US believes friendship with Khartoum is in its geo-strategic interests on the spurious grounds that it thinks Khartoum could be helpful in the fight against terrorism. In truth, the West's interests would be better served if it feared the LORD!

Bishop Andudu Adam Elnail of the Anglican Cathedral in Kadugli only survived the ethnic-cleansing of Kadugli (the capital of South Kordofan) because he was receiving medical treatment in the US when Kadugli was invaded and ethnically cleansed in June 2011. This week Bishop Andudu and Dr Kapila will attend the African Union (AU) Summit in Addis Ababa to lobby for action to end the suffering in Sudan's 'new south'. They have identified Friday 25 January 2013 'Heads of State meeting on Sudan' as a key test of the AU's 'credibility'. Bishop Andudu is praying the AU will soon take action and send humanitarian aid, implement a ceasefire and  send a delegation to the conflict areas. 'That [would] be very helpful,' he said.

HISTORICAL NOTE: In 1913 the newly formed Sudan United Mission (SUM) Australia-New Zealand began sending pioneer missionaries into the Nuba Mountains. The first 'Sudanese Church of Christ in the Nuba Mountains' was planted in 1914. By 1936 there were 33 Australian and New Zealand SUM missionaries working in the Nuba Mountains alongside others who had arrived from various missions (in particular Church Missionary Society) and from the USA. After Sudan became independent in 1956 under a repressive Muslim, Arabist government, the missionaries, sensing their time was limited, redoubled their efforts in Bible translation. By the time the missionaries were forced to leave in 1962, Australian SUM (now Pioneers) missionaries had translated the New Testament into five Nuba languages. Today the Nuba are predominantly Christian. Germany, the USA, New Zealand and particularly Australia, all have strong spiritual ties (does that imply responsibilities?) to the people of the Nuba Mountains. May this centenary year be the year the battle is turned back. Remember - our struggle is not primarily against flesh and blood. (Ephesians 6:12)

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT THE LORD OF HOSTS WILL --

* intervene in Sudan, so that 'the wicked will be caught in the schemes that they have devised' (Psalm 10:2b ESV).

* 'Break the arm [the machinery of action] of the wicked and evildoer; call his wickedness to account till you find none' (v15); may the machinery of evil -- the government in Khartoum, the Sudan Armed Forces, the military hardware -- be disrupted so that forces of liberty, justice and equality might be able to rise against it.

* show Omar el-Bashir and all who wield power in Khartoum (vv3-13) that YAHWEH reigns and is King forever (v16).

* see the suffering of the victims (Ps 10:14), hear their cry (v17a), strengthen their hearts (v17b) and provide them with justice (v18a) 'so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more' (v18b).


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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RACIAL-RELIGIOUS GENOCIDE IN SUDAN'S 'NEW SOUTH'


According to Dr Mukesh Kapila, the former UN Humanitarian Co-ordinator in Sudan (2003-04), the ethnic cleansing of Sudan's 'new south' -- Abyei, South Kordofan and Blue Nile -- 'is largely complete'. He comments that due to advances in technology, this war is 'worse than Darfur'. Displaced Africans (non-Arabs) unable to reach the massively over-populated refugee camps in South Sudan have retreated to remote caves. Having destroyed their food supply, the Arab-Islamist regime is blockading all humanitarian aid and using starvation as a weapon of mass destruction. These Africans are predominantly Christian. Christianity in the Nuba Mountains dates back nearly a century to when pioneer missionaries from Sudan United Mission Australia-New Zealand planted the first church there in 1914. Please pray for the Lord to intervene in Sudan.

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

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

RLPB 193. Chechnya (Russia): the long-suffering land

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 193 | Wed 16 Jan 2013

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CHECHNYA: THE LONG-SUFFERING LAND
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by guest writer, Anneta Vyssotskaia

Chechnya (or Chechen Republic) is part of the Southern Federal District of the Russian Federation.  It is located in the Northern Caucasus mountains and borders several other Russian republics and regions: Ingushetia, Northern Ossetia, Dagestan and Stavropolskii. It borders Georgia on the south. The population of Chechnya is now about 1.4 million, over 95 percent of whom are Chechen. Its Russian population was almost 50 percent in 1960s but is now less than two percent. Chechnya became part of the Russian Empire in the mid-16th Century. By the early 19th Century a large community of Russian Cossacks had formed on the territory of modern Chechnya.

Since becoming part of the Russian Empire the Chechen people were almost constantly fighting for their independence, continuing into the Soviet period.  In 1944, by Stalin's decree, over half-a-million Chechen and Ingush people were deported forcefully from their land to Central Asia and Kazakhstan under most severe conditions and many perished during deportation. In 1957-58, during the time of Nikita Khrushchev, the Chechen people were allowed to return to their homeland. However, conflict started between the returning Chechen and the Russian population, especially in the area of the capital city, Grozny. Tensions grew after the collapse of the Soviet Union. This resulted in a series of armed conflicts and two wars, leaving behind multitudes of victims and refugees of different nationalities amongst the civilian population. In 2007 Ramzan Kadyrov became the President of the Chechen Republic with the support of the Russian government. In 2009 the Russian troops were withdrawn leaving Kadyrov in charge of Chechnya.

President Kadyrov supports traditional Sunni Islam, the main religion in Chechnya. This includes Sharia law, women wearing traditional Muslim clothes, polygamy and honour killings.  Starting in the early 1990s many Chechen people and especially the youth were influenced greatly by radical Islam.

During the Chechen wars many church buildings of different denominations were destroyed, the believers were kidnapped, killed, raped, beaten, tortured or had to flee the country for the sake of their lives. The Baptist church in Grozny once had 300 members but by 2001 there was only a tiny group of elderly widows, others who survived having left the country.

Amongst Chechens, Christianity is considered the religion of the Russian people. It is totally unacceptable for a Chechen to become a Christian or a follower of any other religion. If one family member chooses another religion it is a disgrace for the whole family and brings a lot of persecution on the new convert. Converts are considered to be 'murtad' or traitors of their own religion and people. There are some reports about Chechen people becoming Christians and even pastors and evangelists but they are mainly amongst those who live outside Chechnya. The individual Chechens who become Christians in Chechnya have to remain secret believers because of the threat to their lives.

It is very difficult to obtain reliable information on the overall number of believers and churches in Chechnya.  Information is available on the situation with Russian Orthodox churches of which there are several in Chechnya. During the last few years the Chechen government financed restoration of the Russian Orthodox churches destroyed during the Chechen wars. In 2011 the Russian Orthodox church performed a mass baptism of 35 people in the waters of the Terek River. In October 2012 there was a remarkable and significant event: the first full translation of the Bible into the Chechen language was presented to the participants of the Second Peacemaking conference in Grozny. This resulted from 15 years' translation work by the Institute of Bible Translation. Ominously, however, these advances are provoking escalating criticism and ruthless violence from radicalised Islamic extremists.

PLEASE THANK GOD SPECIFICALLY FOR --

* people who continue to seek truth and become followers of Jesus Christ in Chechnya despite all the persecution, asking him to provide his miraculous protection and cover for all his people in Chechnya.

* the individual faithful believers in Chechnya, praying for complete restoration of his Church there.

* the full translation of the Bible into the Chechen language, praying that he will reveal himself to many people in Chechnya through the Bible.

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY --

* for peace and restoration of the country and God's healing for all who have been wounded physically and emotionally and that feelings of hatred and revenge will give way to forgiveness and a desire to live in peace.

* that God will raise up a new generation of children and young people who will wish and be able to build a new foundation for all people to live in peace and harmony in Chechnya, and see the importance of religious freedom and respect for people of different nationalities and religious views.

'My God, whom I praise, do not remain silent, for people who are wicked and deceitful have opened their mouths against me . . . with words of hatred they surround me; they attack me without cause.' (Psalm 109:1-3 NIV)

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SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN WHOLE ARTICLE:     
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CHECHNYA, THE LONG-SUFFERING LAND


The people of Chechnya have a long history of fighting for   independence. The collapse of the Soviet Union was followed by several armed conflicts and wars. President Ramzan Kadyrov strongly supports Sunni Islam, the country's main religion. However, many younger people have been strongly radicalised by  violent Islamist extremists. Christianity is considered the religion for Russians and any Chechen becoming a Christian would be treated as 'murtad' -- a traitor of Islam and Chechnya who should be killed. However, despite threats and difficulties, there are Christians amongst Chechen people, mostly secret believers or living outside Chechnya. Significantly, the first full Chechen translation of the Bible was introduced at a conference in Grozny, the capital, in October 2012. Please pray for God's protection of believers and the growth of his Church.

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The author of this RLPB, Anneta Vyssotskaia, is a religious liberty advocate with a particular concern for and involvement in Russia and the former USSR.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

RLPB 192. Burma (Myanmar): Junta escalates war against Christian Kachin

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 192 | Wed 09 Jan 2013

BURMA (MYANMAR): JUNTA ESCALATES WAR AGAINST CHRISTIAN KACHIN
(plus IRAN update)
By Elizabeth Kendal 

Kachin State in Burma's far north has a profoundly Christian culture as the ethnic Kachin are overwhelmingly, devoutly Christian. The fact that Kachin State, which borders China, is rich in jade, timber and water for hydro-electricity is of more interest to Burma's Burman-Buddhist supremacist regime. The regime, which has no interest in the Kachin as human beings, is very interested in exploiting Kachin lands for the benefit of the Burman-Buddhist majority. The deeply flawed constitution of 2008 mandates centralisation of government and military against the interests and wishes of the long-marginalised and severely persecuted ethnic-religious minorities. In early June 2011 the junta used the Kachin Army's refusal to disarm, dissolve and become part of the National Army as grounds to end the 17-year-long ceasefire and go to war against the Kachin. The junta's aim is that the Christian Kachin will be terrorised into submission or otherwise they will be ethnically cleansed from their lands. This would be doubtless under a banner of 'democracy', for it is indeed what the majority of the 'elected' but junta-controlled parliament wants. [See RLPB 115 (06 Jul 2011) - Burma (Myanmar): Kachin Flee in Terror.]

In November 2011 Western governments flocked to praise and reward Burma for its 'irreversible reforms'. However, Religious Liberty Monitoring asserted that the 'token reforms' were nothing more than a smokescreen 'behind which [the junta] can pursue its brutal policies of racial and religious hatred; policies aimed at the subjugation and even extermination of the non-Burman, non-Buddhist ethnic minorities that live around Burma's periphery'. The concern was that the West was so keen to draw Burma out of China's embrace into its own that it might be willing to 'reward the tokens while ignoring the genocide'.  [See Burma (Myanmar): Interests, Smokescreens, Chemical Weapons & Ethnic Cleansing, Religious Liberty Monitoring (RLM), 2 Nov 2011.]

These days it is difficult to tell whether the government of President Thein Sein in Naypyidaw, the capital of Burma, is a powerless front put forward by the military junta for Western consumption, or a chameleon that changes its colours according to the direction it is facing. As many as 100,000 Kachin are now displaced and the same regime that boasts reform continues to deny humanitarian aid to areas under Kachin control. Consequently 2013 brings with it the prospect of humanitarian catastrophe. Also, while facing the West the government has been calling for military restraint, but the Tatmadaw (Burmese military) actually has been escalating its war against the Kachin. Laiza is a stronghold of and the headquarters for the Kachin Independence Organisation / Army (KIO / KIA). More than 15,000 displaced Kachin are sheltered there, struggling to survive despite the junta-imposed aid blockade. In efforts to encircle Laiza, the Tatmadaw has established a base at Lajayang, just 20km (8 miles) from the strategic city. Recently the KIA seized control of the road running from the state capital Myitkyina to Lajayang, cutting the Tatmadaw's supply line. On Christmas Day the junta ordered the KIA to clear the road so the Tatmadaw could re-supply. Naturally the Kachin Army refused to stand aside and let its enemy re-supply for war. The junta has responded with aerial bombardment from fighter jets, strafing from helicopter gunships and mortar shelling. Initially the Burmese government denied that it had been bombing and strafing the Kachin. Later it amended its story, saying that the on-going aerial bombardment was an act of 'self-defence' for the purpose of maintaining security and stability. In Laiza the Kachin are digging trenches and bomb shelters. There are fears a ground invasion or a state of siege may be imminent. (To watch for updates, see Free Burma Rangers)

MP Aung San Suu Kyi said she would not intervene without an official invitation from the government. The truth is Suu Kyi had far more power as a political prisoner with nothing to lose than she has now as a lawmaker anxious to preserve her position in parliament. Furthermore, Suu Kyi actually wants what the junta wants: centralised government with the minority Kachin represented in the parliament. But the Kachin know they would be swallowed up in a junta-controlled parliament (just as Suu Kyi has been) through the clever strategy of the junta. The Christian Kachin will defend their lands and continue to press for autonomy, because their lives and liberty depend on it. Thankfully it is their God and ours -- who is not subservient to any junta -- who has power to save. In God we trust! (Psalm 56.)

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL --

* hear the cry of his besieged and imperilled people, and hear our cry as we intercede on their behalf; may the Lord of Hosts (the commander of heaven's forces) intervene for his beloved ones in justice and righteousness and in love, mercy and grace. 'This I know, that God is for me.' (Psalm 56:9b)

* intervene in foreign policy, opening eyes and piercing consciences so that the junta might be exposed and held accountable; so that it might no longer be able to persecute, kill, rape and plunder with impunity born of 'interests'.

* supply the Christian Kachin with all their needs, spiritually and materially, that they will praise God for his goodness, and that many will see it and believe.


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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BURMA (MYANMAR): JUNTA ESCALATES WAR AGAINST KACHIN


The Kachin Army is defending the lands and rights of the Christian ethnic Kachin in Kachin State against Burma's Burman-Buddhist supremacist junta. This year brings with it the prospect of a humanitarian catastrophe because as many as 100,000 Kachin are now displaced and the regime continues to deny humanitarian aid to areas under Kachin control. The Burmese military has Laiza (the Kachin headquarters) virtually besieged, running a base only 20km away. Since Christmas Day Kachin positions close to Laiza have suffered aerial bombardment, strafing from helicopter gunships and mortar shelling. A ground invasion or state of siege may be imminent. MP Aung San Suu Kyi says she will not intervene without regime approval. It is God, however, who has power to save. In God we trust! (Psalm 56.)

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UPDATE TO RLPB 191 (2 January).
IRAN
: After being taken into custody on Christmas Day, Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani was released from prison on 7 January. Christians Rash Behzad Taalipasand and Mohammadreza (Johann) Omidi, arrested in Rasht on 31 December, remain in custody as does Pastor Vruir Avanessian, an ethnic Armenian arrested while celebrating Christmas with converts on 27 December. Pastor Avanessian requires dialysis for chronic kidney disease. He is being held in Tehran's infamous Evin Prison.

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

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

RLPB 191. From Christmas to New Year: persecution calls for faith

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 191 | Wed 02 Jan 2013

FROM CHRISTMAS TO NEW YEAR: PERSECUTION CALLS FOR FAITH

By Elizabeth Kendal 

Before Christmas we prayed for God's divine hand to be over several regions where gathered Christians risked terrorism and mob violence. While Christmas was not without incident, we can thank God that the violence was minimal and that the heightened security was effective.

UPDATING RLPB 190

NIGERIA: Despite increased security, gunmen (presumed Boko Haram) managed to attack two churches in the north-east: one in Yobe and one in Borno. In each case, the pastor and five worshippers were killed: a total of 12 believers slain in worship. Pray for the bereaved and for the traumatised congregations. 'Weep with those who weep' (Romans 12:15b ESV). Pray for God to intervene in Nigeria.

INDONESIA: Security in Indonesia was high, with police protection provided to 38,499 registered churches throughout the religious 'hot-spots'. While there were no casualties, rioting Muslims were able to prevent members of the Filadelfia Batak Christian Protestant Church gaining access to their land in Bekasi, West Java, where the local authorities refuse to allow them to build. More than 380 police did little to uphold religious freedom and stop the Muslims from hurling rotten eggs and bags of sewerage at the believers. However, the police did convince the Christians eventually to abandon Christmas celebrations and return to their homes.

OTHER CHRISTMAS PERSECUTION

SUDAN: KHARTOUM. Just days before Christmas, the racist and Arabist-Islamist regime in Khartoum arrested two Coptic priests for baptising an Arab convert from Islam. A group calling itself Al-Qaeda in the Nilien States has threatened violence against Copts in Sudan unless the woman convert is 'returned', claiming she has been 'kidnapped'.

SUDAN: SOUTH KORDOFAN. Christian villages in South Kordofan spent Christmas Day under aerial bombardment, with at least eleven fatalities. A Nuba Christian leader told Morning Star News, 'We are surprised why the international community is so silent about the killing in South Kordofan.'

LIBYA: MISRATA. After Christmas, on Saturday 29 December two Egyptians were killed and others wounded when a bomb exploded in Mar Girgis (St George) Coptic church in the town of Dafniya in Misrata Province just as believers were emerging from evening mass. Reports indicate that a home-made bomb or grenade may have been thrown into the church.

TANZANIA: ZANZIBAR. A few months ago the Islamist separatist group Uamsho issued a death threat against all Zanzibar's Christian pastors. On Christmas Day, militants (presumed to be Uamsho) ambushed and shot Rev. Ambrose Mkenda through the face as he arrived at his home in Tomondo on the outskirts of Zanzibar city. He is now fighting for his life in intensive care in Dar-es-Salaam.

IRAN: RASHT. Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani (35) was released from death-row in September after spending nearly three years in prison on charges of apostasy. On Christmas Day he was taken back into custody when authorities maliciously decided that the remaining 45 days of his 3-year sentence for evangelising should be spent in prison rather than on probation. This is nothing but pure harassment, doubtless aimed at driving the family from Iran and also sending a message to all Iranian Christians that the regime can and will persecute them with impunity. This includes those presently in prison, one of whom is US citizen Pastor Saeed Abedini. Two more Christians, Behzad Taalipasand and Mohammadreza (Johann) Omidi, were arrested in Rasht on 31 Dec.

IRAN: TEHRAN. Middle East Concern reports that regime authorities raided a Christmas celebration in Tehran on 27 December. Some 50 believers, mostly converts from Islam, were interrogated and forced to provide numerous personal details including computer passwords and social media accounts. They also had to state how they came to convert from Islam to Christianity. Phones were confiscated and the believers were advised that they would be summonsed individually when investigations were complete. Pastor Vruir Avanessian, an ethnic Armenian, was taken into custody. His home was subsequently raided by security agents, causing great distress to his wife and children. Pastor Avanessian, who has chronic kidney disease, has been incarcerated in Evin Prison.

PAKISTAN: ISLAMABAD. At noon on Christmas Day, riotous Muslims attacked believers as they emerged from various churches in Iqbal Town, Islamabad. While no fatalities were recorded, numerous believers received bullet wounds and various blunt force injuries. Christians of Iqbal town spent the rest of Christmas Day under siege until Mr Basharat Khokhar, a human rights activist, came to their aid. Muslim clerics had issued a fatwa banning any Muslim participation in Christmas celebrations 'because it is against the concept of monotheism in Islam'.

SPEAKING OF CHRISTMAS FATWAS -- A number of Islamic clerics in free (non-sharia) states also issued fatwas banning Muslims from participating in Christmas in any way. In Indonesia a fatwa from the Ulema Council was over-ridden by the government. In Australia a fatwa from Lakemba Mosque was withdrawn after an outcry. Muslim clerics will doubtless learn from this and be better prepared to make their fatwas stand in 2013. Failing to comprehend the Christian doctrine of the One God as a Trinity, Islam regards Trinitarian Christianity as both polytheism and blasphemy. (See Qur'an Sura 5:72-75)

PERSECUTION CALLS FOR FAITH. As we prepare to face another year of advancing enemies and escalating persecution with soaring casualty rates and death tolls, may 2013 also be a year of advancing faith and increasing prayer. A mighty flood of persecution is upon us and we cannot turn back the battle in our own strength. Persecution calls for faith! And so we stand firm, exalt the Lord and pray! '. . . blessed are all those who wait for him.' (Isaiah 30:18)

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL --

* bring comfort and healing to those who start this new year filled with grief, trauma and anxiety. May the Lord comfort and encourage their hearts and provide all their material, emotional and spiritual needs.

'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)

* fan our fragile, flickering faith into flame and fill our hearts with his love, that we as followers of Jesus Christ might stand as one body, firm in faith against the flood, that the devil might have no victory over us; may the Church of Jesus Christ entrust her security to Christ alone who lives and loves, sees and hears, answers prayers and intervenes with grace in response to faith.

SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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FROM CHRISTMAS TO NEW YEAR: PERSECUTION CALLS FOR FAITH

Having endured State and vigilante terrorism, war and violent persecution, multitudes of Christians will enter 2013 filled with grief, trauma and anxiety. Over Christmas, Christians were violently attacked in Nigeria, Zanzibar and Pakistan; bombed in Sudan and Libya; arrested in Iran and abused in Indonesia. This was the tip of the iceberg. Furthermore, 2013 holds no promise of relief. Rather, the situation is set to escalate further with Christians in South Kordofan (Sudan) and right across the Middle East at risk of genocide. A mighty flood of persecution is coming upon the Church and we cannot turn back the battle in our own strength. Yet Christ is building his Church! And he lives and loves, sees and hears, answers prayer and intervenes with grace in response to faith.
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Elizabeth Kendal is the author of
'Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah speaks to Christians today' (Deror Books, Dec. 2012)