Wednesday, October 29, 2014

RLPB 284. October Update, Incl. Iran, Nigeria, Sudan, Syria, The West - UK, USA and Australia

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 284 | Wed 29 Oct 2014

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Supporting International Day of Prayer (IDOP) for the Persecuted Church
IDOP 2014: Sunday 2 or 9 November
See: Critical Prayer Requests (CPR) 
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By Elizabeth Kendal

October 2014 UPDATE -- During October we prayed concerning ...

* KOREA (RLPB 281), where moves appear to be afoot to improve North-South relations for the sake of growing the North Korean economy.  It is a delicate and fraught situation. Please pray for the severely repressed and persecuted Church in North Korea. Pray also that talks will proceed and the North will not use the recent leaflet launch by South Korean activists as a pretext for pulling out.

* MALAYSIA (RLPB 282), where Islamisation is advancing as political figures exploit Islam for political gain. A recent ruling risks establishing the precedent that a breach of the law may be deemed justified if it is done in defence of Islam.

* INDONESIA (RLPB 282), where President Joko Widodo and Jakarta governor Basuki (Ahok) Pernama (a Christian) are facing great pressure as they seek to usher in reforms.

* DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO (DRC -- RLPB 283), where a Ugandan Islamic militia backed by Sudan is terrorising predominantly Christian communities in the north-east.

'And [Jesus] told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart ... "And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?"' (Luke 18:1,7,8 ESV)

Will we have faith to pray and not lose heart?

* October 2014 ROUND-UP -- also this month ...

* IRAN: PASTORS TREATED HARSHLY 

Earlier this year the regime transferred two Christian pastors, Saeed Abedini (34, a US citizen) and Fashid Farthi (35), to Rajaei-Shahri prison, a maximum security prison housing Iran's most violent criminals. Abedini's wife and children are in the US, while Farthi's wife and children have since been forced to flee Iran for Canada. On 19 October pastors Behnam Irani and Matthias Haghnejad, along with Deacon Silas Rabbani were each given six-year sentences for 'crimes against national security' and 'creating a network to overthrow the system'.  The three -- all leaders in the Church of Iran -- will serve their terms in extremely remote locations, making it exceedingly difficult for their families, friends and lawyers to visit and monitor their health and treatment. All three will appeal.

Pastor Behnam Irani
Pastor Behnam Irani (arrested in Dec 2006 and again in April 2010) had already received a six-year sentence in January 2011, so he is now not due for release until 2023. Irani will be transferred to a prison in the remote eastern city of Zabol (1500km from Tehran) on Iran's border with Afghanistan, a lawless and exceedingly dangerous region, with all types of criminals and traffickers. Pastor Haghnejad (arrested in July) and Deacon Rabbani (arrested in May) will be transferred to a prison in Minab, a remote southern city on the Strait of Hormuz (1370km from Tehran). The regime is doubtless hoping these five pastors will all die horrible deaths (to instil fear into other pastors), but not at the hands of the regime -- thereby shielding the regime from blame and censure. Pray that the Lord of Hosts will be with these pastors in all his grace and glory. It is estimated that at least 49 Christians are currently in prison in Iran for their faith. God is moving amongst Persians and a fierce spiritual battle is under way.

'Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.' (Hebrews 13:3 ESV)

* NIGERIA: CHRISTIAN GIRLS TARGETED

On 17 October Nigeria's military declared it had brokered a cease-fire with Boko Haram. However, at least 70 girls have been kidnapped by Boko Haram since then (up to 27 October). According to a 27 Oct 2014 report by Human Rights Watch (HRW), Boko Haram is targeting Christian villages and Christian girls. Of the 30 victims interviewed by HRW, 29 were Christian. In one video testimony a girl says the jihadists separated the Muslim girls from the Christian girls and then released the Muslims. The girls report being threatened with whipping, beating or death unless they convert to Islam, stop attending school and wear the hijab. One girl said they put a noose around her neck and threaten to hang her unless she renounced her faith. The girls were subjected to forced marriage and sexual abuse, including rape; they were used as slaves and forced to witness brutal killings. May the Lord of Hosts intervene in Nigeria. See Isaiah 59:15b-19.

* SUDAN: AERIAL BOMBARDMENT OF NUBA MOUNTAINS CONTINUES

On Friday 10 October the Islamic government of Sudan dropped four bombs on the Episcopal Church of Sudan (ECS) complex in Al Atmor, near the Tabolo area in South Kordofan state. Rev Youhana Yaqoub told Morning Star News (14 October), 'The bombs have completely destroyed our church compound in Tabolo. A family living at the church compound miraculously escaped the attack, although their whole house and property were destroyed.'  On 16 October the regime bombed a busy market in Heiban in the Nuba Mountains, killing seven (including five children) and wounding dozens. According to retired Catholic Bishop Marcam Gassis, there has been a noticeable increase in bombing raids. He said, 'All the indicators are that a new cycle of violence and bombardment is commencing.'
Samaritan's Purse
The constant aerial bombardment is part of a campaign of ethnic-religious cleansing which has forced hundreds of thousands of predominantly Christian Africans to flee to remote caves and to camps in South Sudan; famine is an ever-looming threat. Pray for the Church in the Nuba Mountains, and for Christian aid groups who risk their lives to deliver food and medical aid.

* SYRIA: THE BATTLE FOR IDLIB

Idlib Province in Syria's north-west lies between the provinces of Aleppo and the coastal Alawite stronghold of Latakia and borders Turkey. The province is now largely under the control of al-Qaeda's al-Nusra Front and al-Nusra's ally the Free Syrian Army. When ISIS captured the Christian village of Knayeh just 8km from the Turkish border in 2013, churches and monasteries were looted and forced to remove crosses. When ISIS withdrew in February 2014 to consolidate in Raqqa, al-Nusra took control, so the approximately 300 remnant Christians have been under extreme pressure for some time. On 5 October rebels abducted Franciscan Father Hanna Jallouf (62) along with 20 other Christians from the St Joseph convent. Though the believers had all been released by 13 October, the rebels are accusing the Christians of 'collaborating' with the Assad regime and they are threatening to try the Christians before a Sharia (Islamic) court. On Sunday 26 October rebels infiltrated Idlib city (the provincial capital) and stormed government headquarters where they executed at least 70 Syrian officials, most of whom were beheaded. Whilst the Army did regain control of the city, the rebels still control most of the province where they are targeting Christians and other minorities. Pray for the Church in Syria.

* THE WEST: CHRISTIANS FACING SANCTIONS
   -- a consequence of Culture Change 
 
UNITED KINGDOM: Trinity Christian School has been told it could face closure if it fails to uphold 'British values'. The school was told that to comply with new regulations it should 'actively' promote other faiths, for example, by inviting Muslim imams to lead assembly. The school must also observe the principles of the Equality Act 2010 by not promoting a 'particular lifestyle' or stating that 'certain lifestyles are wrong'. The school, which aims to 'provide each pupil with a Biblical understanding', has received an 'advice note' from Ofsted (school inspectors) confirming that it 'does not meet the new requirements' and accordingly could face closure.

UNITED STATES of AMERICA: In May the City of Houston enacted the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO), a non-discrimination bill which amongst other things allows men to use ladies' restrooms and vice versa. A coalition of some 400 churches opposed to the 'bathroom bill' collected 50,000 signatures, three times the number required for a referendum. In August the city threw out the petition. Opponents of the bill then moved to file a lawsuit. In mid-October the city's attorneys responded by issuing subpoenas against five pastors, requesting they hand over any sermons and communications dealing with sexuality and gender identity to the city's mayor, Annise Parker (a lesbian). Though not part of the lawsuit, the five pastors are vocal leaders in the coalition of churches opposing the bill. The pastors have vowed to ignore the subpoenas, leaving them liable to fines and even jail. Lawyers from the Alliance for Defending Freedom have filed a motion to try and quash the subpoenas. After an outcry, the wording of the subpoenas was softened and the word 'sermons' was replaced with 'speeches'. Houston's city mayor and city attorney still maintain that if pastors talk politics in their sermons that speech is 'not protected'. (video interview) (pastors press conference)

AUSTRALIA: The Victorian state Labor Party has confirmed that, should it win the state election on 29 November, it will rewrite equal opportunity laws removing religious exemptions so that religious institutions -- including Christian schools -- will not be permitted to hire only those who uphold their beliefs and values. They may even be obliged to promote and display 'diversity' regarding religion and sexual orientation. The Labor Party had attempted to introduce these measures in 2010. When it was voted out of office the Liberal Party scrapped the measures as it had promised.  (Public opinion polls currently indicate Labor will win.) (Labor platform; see pages 69,70)

'But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness ...' (Matthew 6:33 ESV)

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

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

RLPB 283. Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC): Islamic rebels slaughter villagers

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 283 | Wed 22 Oct 2014

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Supporting International Day of Prayer (IDOP) for the Persecuted Church
IDOP 2014: Sunday 2 or 9 November
See: Critical Prayer Requests (CPR) 
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DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO (DRC): ISLAMIC REBELS SLAUGHTER VILLAGERS
By Elizabeth Kendal

Bordering South Sudan, Uganda and Rwanda, the heavily forested, mineral-rich, north-east region of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has long been wracked with insecurity. Numerous armed groups including the Lord's Resistance Army, the M23 militia, the Mai Mai, and most recently the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) have inflicted immense suffering on the predominantly Christian communities that dot the region. For the Congolese Army, it is a perpetual war zone.

On Thursday evening 16 October ADF fighters armed with machetes and other blades attacked the Ngadi and Kadowu neighbourhoods on the northern outskirts of Beni City in North Kivu Province, which borders Uganda. Twenty-six local residents were killed and dozens wounded in a rampage of appalling violence. Earlier, on 10 October ADF rebels attacked nearby Oicha, killing nine people including small children. On Friday evening 17 October ADF fighters attacked the town of Eringeti, about 55km north-east of Beni City. Using machetes, axes and hoes, they slaughtered four men, ten women and eight children, bringing the toll from ten days of extreme violence to at least 80 dead, with hundreds wounded and more than 50 women raped.  On Saturday night 18 October unidentified bandits compounded the insecurity when they raided a jail in Butembo, south of Beni, releasing some 370 prisoners. Local people have begun organising their own defence militias, fearing that the Congolese Army is incapable of keeping them secure. By Sunday 19 October the exodus had begun with people fleeing the area.

The Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) is a Ugandan militia that formed in 1989 aiming to  overthrow the Ugandan government of President Yoweri Museveni and replace it with Islamic rule. It is the product of a merger between the Islamic fundamentalist proselytising Tabliq sect and remnant fighters from the (Islamic) National Army for the Liberation of Uganda (NALU). Reportedly the ADF also includes several former commanders from Idi Amin's army. The ADF's founder and leader, designated terrorist Jamil Mukulu (68), was a Catholic and outspoken critic of Islam until Muslim scholars won him over and he converted to Islam. Mukulu spent the early 1990s in Khartoum, Sudan, where he became close to Osama bin Laden and several leading Sudanese Islamists in the ruling regime. The ADF became operational in 1995, committing several terrorist attacks before the Ugandan Army drove it out of the country and into the DRC in 2002.

Mukulu laid low for the next decade, focusing on recruitment, indoctrination, illegal gold mining and timber smuggling. The ADF receives support from the Islamic regime in Khartoum which sponsors proxies to destabilise the predominantly Christian states neighbouring and allied to South Sudan, i.e. Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, DRC and Central African Republic. Since 2002 the ADF is said to have killed around 3000 Congolese and kidnapped over 900, including some 600 Congolese women and girls. Women who have escaped report being kept in a hole in the ground and only taken out to be used for sex. Sources report that in the Oicha region, north of Beni, many priests and doctors have been kidnapped with those refusing to convert to Islam beheaded.

The ADF resurfaced as a fighting force in 2012 and reportedly has developed ties with the Somali terror group al-Shabaab. Ex-ADF fighters report that Mukulu has been sending trained jihadists to Somalia since November 2011. Mukulu was implicated in the September 2013 Westgate shopping mall attack in Nairobi, Kenya, amidst claims that he is seeking to establish himself as an al-Qaeda leader in east Africa. Since January 2014 the ADF has been under severe pressure as the Congolese Army has gained ground, capturing some of its main bases. It seems the ADF is retaliating by escalating its terrorism against civilians. DRC is 92 percent Christian and Uganda is 85 percent Christian. This is a spiritual battle, and 'we are not ignorant of [Satan's] designs'. (2 Cor 2:10-11 ESV)

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL --

* thwart Sudan's plans to destabilise the region, thwart the ADF's plans to terrorise and Islamise Christian peoples and thwart Jamil Mukulu's terrorist ambitions.  'The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; he frustrates the plans of the peoples.' (Psalm 33:10 ESV)

* draw the people of terror-stricken North Kivu province into prayer, may their prayers be answered and may the Church in north-east DRC grow in faith.

* impress his grief on all the churches across DRC and Uganda, so those in the troubled border region are not left to face this trial alone; may believers unite in prayer, calling on the LORD for peace and security in DRC and the wider region. 'Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD ...' (Psalm 33:12a ESV)


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE 
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ISLAMIC REBELS SLAUGHTER VILLAGERS IN CONGO

In 2002 the Ugandan military drove Ugandan Islamic rebels out of the country and into the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) which, like Uganda, is predominantly Christian.  Since then the (Islamic) Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) has killed and kidnapped many hundreds of Congolese civilians with support from the Islamic regime in Khartoum, Sudan. Recently the ADF has forged links with the Somali terror group al-Shabaab and has escalated terrorism in its stronghold in DRC's North-Kivu Province bordering Uganda. Recently the Congolese Army has been making gains against the ADF, capturing several bases. The ADF is retaliating -- at least 80 civilians have been killed, hundreds wounded and some 50 women raped by ADF fighters in the Beni region in the past two weeks. Please pray for the Church in DRC.

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