Tuesday, June 28, 2016

RLPB 363. June Update Incl. China, Egypt, Iran, Lebanon, Nepal

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 363 | Wed 29 Jun 2016

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JUNE 2016 ROUND-UP -- this month we prayed concerning ...

VIETNAM (RLPB 359), where the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) deems Christianity a problem and a threat to be managed by means of repression and persecution. Pastors, activists, bloggers and lawyers who speak out against CPV abuses are beaten and threatened; others are imprisoned. We prayed specifically for imprisoned Protestant Pastor Nguyen Cong Chinh (45) and his wife Mrs Tran Thi Hong, as well as imprisoned Protestant human rights lawyer Nguyen Van Dai and his wife Mrs Vu Minh Khanh -- four courageous religious liberty advocates. For more details see Religious Liberty Monitoring (June 2016).

SUDAN (RLPB 360), where the Arab Islamist Government of Sudan (GoS) has plans to starve the Christian Nuba in what is their second genocide in a generation. With rains closing the roads and the GoS banning all delivery of humanitarian aid after yet another season of aerial bombardment, the Nuba are entering yet another season of food insecurity. May the LORD of all mercy and all power, provide the Nuba with all their needs. We also prayed for imprisoned Nuba pastors, the Reverends Hassan Abdelrahim Tawor and Kwa Shamaal. Pray Psalm 10 for Sudan.

NIGERIA (RLPB 361), where church leaders fear that two bills presently under consideration in the federal parliament, if passed, will further the Islamisation of Nigeria. One bill would establish grazing reserves for the Fulani, thereby facilitating Fulani expansion deep into the south, while the other bill would expand the scope and jurisdiction of Nigeria's Islamic Sharia courts. 'Christians must speak up,' urged Christian commentator Nnamdi Okosieme. 'They must shout and they must go down on their knees and pray away the looming danger.' Amen!

CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC (RLPB 362), where clashes between local residents and rebel-backed Fulani Muslims have unsettled the north-west; tit-for-tat religious clashes have escalated in the capital, Bangui; and the occultic Lord's Resistance Army is rising in the east. The Church is appealing for calm and for help.

'May the Lord answer you in the day of trouble! May the name of the God of Jacob protect you! May he send you help from the sanctuary and give you support from Zion!' (Psalm 20:1,2 ESV)

JUNE ROUND-UP -- also this month . . .

* CHINA: UPDATE ON YANG MAODONG

Yang Maodong (also known by his pen-name Guo Feixiong) is a Christian human rights lawyer on hunger strike in prison in China. For the full background see RLPB 356 (11 May). Despite having lost about one-third of his body weight, Yang Maodong is refusing to end his hunger strike. Lawyer Zhang Lei saw Yang Maodong on 20 June and reported that he looked very weak. Gravely concerned for his health, advocates are appealing for Yang Maodong to be transferred to a different prison. Please pray that God will intervene to have Yang Maodong transferred to a safe environment and
ultimately be acquitted and released.

* EGYPT: ENFORCING DHIMMITUDE

Muslim mob outside house, 17 June
source WWM
ALEXANDRIA (north): After Friday prayers on 17 June a mob comprising hundreds of Muslims emerged from the mosque in Qaryat Al Bayda, 15km south of Alexandria, determined to prevent the construction of a church in their village. (There is no church in Al Bayda.) Naeem Aziz, who owns the building, insists he is merely building a house for his son – a visit from a local priest triggered rumours the building would be used as a church. In the ensuing pogrom, construction materials were destroyed, a number of Christians were beaten and some ten homes belonging to Copts were looted. The Coptic priest in the neighbouring village heard what was happening and rushed to the scene, only to be ambushed and attacked en route. Fortunately for him, some friendly Muslims intervened to save him. When the police eventually arrived at the property they arrested six Muslims (who were released almost immediately) and six Christians, including Naeem Aziz and his brother. Detained overnight, the Christians were released on bail the following day after being charged with holding prayers without permission and building without a permit. They will doubtless be forced to choose between 'reconciliation' or a trial. Either way, there will be no justice.

Mrs Thabet (68)
for more: see Wataninet
MINYA (south): On 20 May a mob of some 300 Muslims in Minya, Upper Egypt, set out to punish, expel or kill a Christian Coptic man rumoured to be in a relationship with a Muslim woman, something they both deny. Unable to find him (as he had fled) they seized his elderly mother, whom they stripped naked and violently dragged through the town. Numerous Coptic homes and businesses were looted and torched in the pogrom. This was not IS or al-Qaeda; this was Islam, this is dhimmitude. The victim, Ms Thabet, later released a statement in which she declared, 'I forgive them.' That is Christianity; that is amazing grace. Now the authorities should do what they are expected to do: guarantee security and pursue justice. Pray for the Church in Egypt.

* IRAN: UPDATE ON MARYAM

 An urgent prayer request was added to the end of RLPB 359 (1 June) for Iranian Christian prisoner, Maryam (Naseem) Naghash-Zargaran (36). Seriously ill, Maryam had commenced a hunger strike to protest the authority's refusal to allow her medical treatment. When Maryam was hospitalised on 6 June (on a large bond) we thanked God for his grace in answering the prayers of many. On 19 June the court ordered Maryam to return to prison. With Maryam still weak, unwell and receiving treatment, her family applied for an extension to her medical leave. The court refused and on 27 June Maryam was escorted back to Evin Prison. Pray that the Lord will uphold Maryam and intervene to bring justice and liberty.

* LEBANON: SYRIAN WAR HITS CHRISTIAN VILLAGE 

tanks patrol Al-Qaa
At around 4:30am on Monday 27 June four suicide bombers were making their way through the predominantly Christian village of Al-Qaa in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley when they were discovered by a local resident who shot one of them. The wounded terrorist triggered his explosive vest, after which the three other suicide bombers detonated themselves at intervals as soldiers and others arrived at the scene. The bombings, which killed five and wounded 15, occurred about 150m from a Lebanese customs border point on the road linking the Bekaa valley to the strategic Syrian town of al-Qusayr. That evening, as family members gathered outside St Elias Church to mourn the victims, two men on a motorcycle threw a grenade at the group before detonating suicide vests, wounding up to 20 people. This was pure punishment against the Christian community. While no group has claimed responsibility, Hezbollah-owned news agency Al-Manar blamed the Islamic State although this is far from certain as numerous 'rebel' groups are active in the Qalamoun Mountains along the Lebanese-Syrian border. Lebanese Prime Minister Tammam Salam expressed his fear that this could be the start of a new wave of terrorist operations inside Lebanon. Pray for the Church in Lebanon.

* NEPAL: NEW ANTI-CONVERSION LAW CLAIMS FIRST VICTIMS

5 of the 8 Christians detained on 9 June,
and released 17 June.
Eight Christians were arrested in Dolakha District, 130km east of Kathmandu, on 9 June after being accused of converting others to Christianity. Amongst those arrested were the Christian principals of Mount Valley Boarding School and Modern Nepal School, as well as some of the staff of Teach for Nepal, a Christian volunteer organisation. They were arrested for handing out the book 'A Great Story' to 885 students. The Federation National Christian Nepal appealed directly to the Minister for Home Affairs, Shakti Bahadur Basnet, and on 17 June the seven men and one woman were released. Whilst the Church gives thanks for this mercy, the local politicians who reported the 'offence' to police are pressing for charges to be laid on the grounds that Article 26 (3) of the 2015 Nepalese Constitution (passed in September 2015) prohibits missionary activity. [See RLPB 321 (Aug 2015).]

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Elizabeth Kendal is the author of Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today (Deror Books, Melbourne, Australia, Dec 2012) which offers a Biblical response to persecution and existential threat; and, After Saturday Comes Sunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East (Wipf and Stock, Eugene, OR, USA, June 2016).

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

RLPB 362. Central African Republic (CAR): Church at risk from Fulani, Seleka & LRA

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 362 | Wed 22 Jun 2016

Please forward this prayer bulletin widely, and encourage others to sign up to the Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin blog. "The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective." (James 5:16 NIV)
  

CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC (CAR): CHURCH AT RISK FROM FULANI, SELEKA & LRA
By Elizabeth Kendal

Seleka rebels/jihadists
CONTEXT: In March 2013 France and the West stood back and watched as Central African Republic (CAR) -- which is French-speaking and 76 percent Christian (mostly Protestant) -- fell to Seleka, an exceedingly well armed and funded alliance of mostly Arabic-speaking local and international Islamic jihadists. The conquest of the capital, Bangui, was but the climax of Seleka's jihadist advance southward that involved massive looting, destruction, killing and sexual violence against the mostly Christian population. Thousands were killed and around one million displaced. Many Muslims sided with the rebels against their Christian neighbours, shattering decades of peaceful co-existence. 
anti-balaka 
Local village defence militias (the 'anti-balaka') -- originally designed to protect villages from 'balaka' (machete) wielding criminals -- went on the defensive. Though identifying as 'Christian', the anti-balaka are in no way connected to the Church, which denounces their retaliatory violence. Only when anti-balaka militias started driving Seleka jihadists (and many other mostly-immigrant Muslims) out of Bangui, did French and UN peacekeepers intervene. The peace-deal signed in July 2014 was totally meaningless and unenforceable [see RLPB 279, (24 Sept 2014)], leaving the Islamic rebels free to re-organise in the north. Many suspect they plan to partition the country. Consequently, recent eruptions of violence in north-west CAR and in Bangui are cause for concern. 

NORTH-WEST CAR: In Ngaoundaye, about 500 km  north-west of Bangui, clashes between local anti-balaka militias and Fulani cattle herders backed by former Seleka rebels have claimed at least eleven lives. According to reports, well-armed former-Seleka and Fulani fighters recently attacked the north-western town of Ngaoundaye, killing six, after the local inhabitants refused to let the Fulani lead their cattle through the town. Peacekeepers have been deployed to the region. According to Fides newsagency, the Islamic rebels who attacked Ngaoundaye did not return to their base near Paoua, but withdrew to Kollo on the border with Chad, from where they issued an ultimatum -- pay protection money or expect another attack. Much of the population of Ngaoundaye is now hiding in the bush. According to a priest in the area, tensions are soaring and armed gangs are re-forming. The Church is appealing for more peacekeepers.

Bishop Nzapalainga in Bangui.
BANGUI: Tit-for-tat sectarian violence erupted in Bangui on Sunday 12 June and has escalated to claim several lives. On Sunday 19 June heavily armed Seleka rebels abducted six police officers as gunfire rang out around the capital. The Catholic archbishop of Bangui, Bishop Dieudonne Nzapalainga, has appealed for calm and for help.

SOUTH-EAST CAR -- THE LRA RISES: Founded in Uganda in the 1980s, the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) is an occultic militia aided and protected by Sudan's Islamist regime, which has long used it as a proxy against its Christian neighbours. Thriving on insecurity, the LRA will soon also benefit from the withdrawal of Ugandan forces from CAR. The withdrawal of Ugandan forces, announced on 10 June, will give the LRA virtual free reign in predominantly Christian CAR. Buoyed with renewed confidence, the LRA has dramatically escalated its attacks in recent months. This has specifically included kidnappings, with 252 abductions in the first three months of 2016, compared with 113 during all of 2015. It seems the LRA is replenishing its ranks. Last week the LRA kidnapped 29 people from two villages in south-east CAR. 

MAP (source: World Watch Monitor, July 2015)
edited to show locations of June 2016 clashes/crimes and the
alleged location of LRA leader, Joseph Kony.


PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT

* our sovereign God, the King of kings, will intervene to ensure that Central African Republic receives all the diplomatic, military and humanitarian assistance it needs to resist Islamic jihad, eradicate foreign militants and defeat the LRA, while liberating its captives.

'May the Lord answer you in the day of trouble! May the name of the God of Jacob protect you! May he send you help from the sanctuary and give you support from Zion!' (Psalm 20:1-2 ESV)

* God our merciful and compassionate Father will hear and answer the prayers of his traumatised and fearful children; may he protect and deliver them from all the evil plots of men and the devil.

* the Spirit of God will work powerfully and effectively through all CAR's Christian leaders -- political, civic and religious -- giving them great spiritual wisdom and insight to know how to respond to their country's crisis; may all CAR's Christians, especially Christian leaders, commit themselves to prayer.

'Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.' (Psalm 20:7 ESV)

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REMINDER: Pray for Muslims during RAMADAN, 6 June to 5 July. See http://pray30days.org/

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SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC CHURCH AT RISK FROM FULANI & LRA

Central African Republic (CAR) is French-speaking and 76 percent Christian. In March 2013 CAR was overrun by foreign-backed, Arabic-speaking Islamic rebels from the north. Thousands were killed and around one million displaced. Only when local non-Muslim militias started driving the rebels (and other Muslims) out of Bangui did France and the UN intervene. A meaningless peace deal was brokered which allowed the rebels to re-organise in the north. Clashes between local residents and rebel-backed Fulani Muslims have erupted in the north-west, while tit-for-tat religious clashes in Bangui have also escalated. Meanwhile, the occultic Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) is rising in the east, replenishing its ranks through a dramatic escalation in kidnappings, ahead of the withdrawal of Ugandan troops. CAR's Christian leaders are appealing for calm and for help. Please pray.

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(Deror Books, Melbourne, Australia, Dec 2012) which offers a Biblical response to persecution and existential threat.

Her new book, After Saturday Comes Sunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East, (Wipf and Stock, Eugene, OR, USA, June 2016) is now available through the publisher and will be available more widely in the coming weeks. Review copies can be requested from Wipf and Stock (USA/international) - OR if in Australia, through their distributor, Morning Star Publishing.