Tuesday, April 25, 2017

RLPB 404. April Update, Incl. Turkey, Indonesia, Egypt, Kazakhstan, Nigeria, Uganda

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 404 | Wed 26 Apr 2017

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)

by Elizabeth Kendal

'I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me' (Jesus, in John 10:14 ESV)

APRIL 2017 UPDATE -- this month we prayed concerning ...

* TURKEY (RLPB 401), where President Erdogan has narrowly won a referendum that grants the president sweeping executive powers.

UPDATE: Though it would have proved enormously popular with his supporter base, President Erdogan did not play the Hagia Sophia card at all. Fortunately, Erdogan also happens to be constrained by Russia, which would not tolerate the Hagia Sophia being turned into a mosque. On the contrary, Russia has repeatedly requested the cathedral be returned to the Orthodox Church, even offering to contribute funds and expertise towards its full restoration. This year Ramadan commences on 27 May, which in Turkey will be followed two days later by Conquest Day when Muslim Turks celebrate the fall of Constantinople to Ottoman forces on 29 May 1453. Hagia Sophia remains a live issue. Its conversion into a mosque would be far more than symbolic with profound implications for all Turkey's Christians. Please pray.

* INDONESIA (RLPB 401), where Basuki 'Ahok' Tjahaja Purnama has lost his bid to continue as Governor of Jakarta.

ELECTION UPDATE: Ahok (a popular and respected ethnic-Chinese Christian) had been the clear front-runner before Islamists started propagating the view that Sura 5:51 of the Qur'an teaches that Muslims must not elect non-Muslims as leaders. When Ahok made light of this, he was charged with blasphemy. This, plus several massive Islamist rallies, left Jakartans feeling intimidated and nervous. The new Governor of Jakarta is Anies Baswedan; the Islamists' choice. Ahok conceded with grace: 'Destiny is in God's hands,' he said. 'God gives power and God also takes it away.'

TRIAL UPDATE: On 20 April Chief prosecutor Ali Mukartono proposed that if Ahok is found guilty of blasphemy he should only be sentenced to two years' probation and a one-year suspended sentence. Testifying in court on 25 April, Ahok hit out at those who he claimed had propagated lies for political gain. He criticised the blasphemy law as unclear, dubious and open to exploitation.
The verdict is expected in early May.

* EGYPT (RLPB 402), where Islamic State has launched a campaign of violence against the Coptic Church. Forty-five died and many dozens were wounded on 9 April when suicide bombers struck a Coptic church in Tanta city and the Coptic Cathedral in Alexandria, where the Coptic Pope was addressing the believers. On 18 April Islamic militants failed in an attempt to breach the security at the iconic 6th Century World Heritage listed St Catherine's Monastery in South Sinai [RLPB 403].

Gamal Gabriel (16)
Found with his throat slit on 13 April
UPDATE: A Coptic youth was found brutally slain in Quai village, Beni Suef Governorate, Upper Egypt, on Holy Thursday (13 April). It is widely believed the killing was perpetrated to 'cast terror into the hearts' (Sura 8:12) of the Copts ahead of Easter.  Allam Bashay Gabriel told World Watch Monitor that he found his son, Gamal (16), with his throat slit and lying in a pool of blood. He could not think of any reason why anyone would want to kill his son. Noting, however, that the method of killing indicated it was an Islamic ritual slaying, Mr. Gabriel believes his son was killed purely because of his faith in Jesus. Also on 13 April, three homes belonging to Copts were torched while other Copts were intimidated and their homes stoned in Kom El-Loufy, Minya Governorate. It seems the Muslims were angry that the Christians had gathered for prayer. Though there is no church in Kom El-Loufy, the 1500 Copts who live there do have permission to gather for prayer. Nobody was arrested and all other gatherings planned for Easter were cancelled because of insecurity. Pray for the Church in Egypt.

* SYRIA (RLPB 402), where Christians living, worshipping and ministering freely in government-held areas watched nervously as the US launched cruise missiles at a Syrian air-base east of Damascus. As Syria's Christians are well aware, the jihadists are close and ready to pounce should the opportunity present itself.

* NORTH KOREA (RLPB 403), where a long-suffering Church watches on nervously as belligerent rhetoric escalates and geopolitical tensions soar. North Korean's long-suffering Christians yearn to be liberated, not annihilated.

APRIL 2017 ROUND-UP -- also this month ...

* KAZAKHSTAN: FINED FOR MEETING OVER EASTER


In the Central Asian state of Kazakhstan, unregistered religious activity is illegal and registration is difficult to get. A local organisation requires 50 adult male members in order to achieve registration, something virtually impossible in regional and remote areas, especially for non-Orthodox denominations. The law gives police the authority to fine groups and individuals without going through the courts. The churches raided on Easter Sunday were Baptist house churches -- one in Temirtau in the central Karaganda Region and another in Taraz in the southern Jambyl Region. The raids culminated in four Baptist leaders receiving hefty fines. Meanwhile, other Protestants had temporary bans placed on their worship and an Indian Protestant was deported. According to Forum 18, the raids are part of a 'new wave' of repression. Pray for the Church in Kazakhstan.

* NIGERIA: EASTER MASSACRE IN KADUNA

On the evening of Holy Saturday, 15 April, gunmen believed to be Fulani herdsmen attacked Asso village in Jema'a Local Government Area, in Kaduna State's Christian-dominated south. Shooting sporadically as they made their way through the village, the gunmen burst into a church where believers had gathered for an Easter vigil. At least 12 believers were killed and many more wounded. Though Governor Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai extended his condolences and claimed to have ramped up security, many Christians suspect he may actually be complicit.  Pray for the Church in Nigeria.

* UGANDA: PASTOR TERRORISED IN EASTERN REGION

Christopher James Kalaja pastors the Agape Sanctuary International Church in Nakabale Village, Kaliro District, in Uganda's Muslim-dominated Eastern Region. Morning Star News has learned that on 27 March, a band of nine Muslims invaded Kalaja's property and, to shouts of 'Allah Akbar' (Allah is greater), hacked down the trees on his farm and tore down the church on his land. Kalaja, a married father of six, fled for his life. Though he reported the case to police, they launched an investigation only after he filed a legal case in the Budaka District Court. Kalaja has been leading the congregation of some 80 members for ten years and has been witnessing to Muslims for decades. Long the target of serious persecution, Kalaja believes the Muslims, who have already killed his mother and his livestock, are trying to drive him from the region. Uganda's radical, run-away and corruption-riddled decentralisation has left Christians in majority-Muslim districts exceedingly vulnerable to violent persecution. [An article on this is being prepared for Religious Liberty Monitoring.]

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Elizabeth Kendal is an international religious liberty analyst and advocate. She serves as Director of Advocacy at Canberra-based Christian Faith and Freedom (CFF), and is an Adjunct Research Fellow at the Arthur Jeffery Centre for the Study of Islam at Melbourne School of Theology.

She has authored two books: 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).

See www.ElizabethKendal.com 

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

RLPB 403. North Korea: Uncertainly looms over long-suffering Church

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 403 | Wed 19 Apr 2017

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)


NORTH KOREA: UNCERTAINTY LOOMS OVER LONG-SUFFERING CHURCH
plus news alert -- EGYPT: Sinai monastery attacked
by Elizabeth Kendal

The Korean Revival of 1907 (also known as the Korean Pentecost) stands in history as one of the great transformative revivals of the 20th Century. Geopolitically, it was a tense time. Aware that a spirit of fear and negativity pervaded the annual winter (January) Pyengyang Bible Class, its organisers bathed the event in prayer.

Pengyang Bible Class, January 1907
On the evening of Monday 8 January 1907, the Holy Spirit descended in power on the gathering of some 1500 Korean Bible teachers, pastors and missionaries. The result was an out-pouring of prayer, marked by a deep sorrow over sin. The next day it continued: the Class was gripped by a spirit of repentance which culminated in confession, forgiveness and reconciliation. Over time the movement spread to the point that the Korean capital, Pyengyang (Pyongyang) became known as 'The Jerusalem of the East'. But, in the mystery of God, the Korean Church would not be permitted to remain on the spiritual mountaintop for long.

Located as it is between China and Japan, Korea had long been the site of proxy wars as her powerful, imperialist neighbours fought for control over the peninsula. On 22 August 1910 imperialist Shinto nationalist Japan annexed Korea, ushering in a 35-year period of intensive religious persecution. In 1919 (in the wake of World War 1) Korean Christians led a movement for independence. But the hoped-for Western support did not eventuate. Instead, they were imprisoned and the persecution intensified. One consequence of this terrible period was that Christianity became associated with Korean nationalism and the profile of the Church was raised.

During the course of World War 2 the Korean Peninsula came to be divided along the 38th parallel, with the north under Soviet occupation and the south occupied by America. On 25 June 1950 the communist north invaded the south, triggering the Korean War. Though a ceasefire was declared in 1953, the war was merely frozen, not ended. After the border closed, an estimated 2,300 churches with about 300,000 members disappeared from the north. Under the rule of the Kim family, Christianity is prohibited with the threat of death for the believer and labour camp for the extended family. Thus the Christians of North Korea have known little else but intensive suffering for over 100 years. Despite the persecution, the Church has survived and is believed to number between 300,000 and 500,000. Those who are not struggling to endure horrendous prison labour camps, survive as secret believers. God alone sustains them, and one day they will emerge as Korea's light, salt and healing.

 Pyongyang, military parade, 15 April 2017
Today, geopolitical tensions are approaching boiling point. North Korea is convinced the US-led West would not have removed Saddam Hussein in 2003 if Iraq actually had weapons of mass destruction; and that the US-led West would not have removed Colonel Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 had he not given up Libya's weapons of mass destruction. So North Korea will not willingly disarm, but will retain its weapons program for the purpose of deterrence. It remains to be seen how the Kim regime responds to a real existential threat. It is difficult to know how to pray, for though we want to see the situation change, we do not want to see Korea's long-suffering Church engulfed in apocalyptic fire. All we can do is give the situation to God, plead for his mercy and ask that he interpose himself into the Korean crisis for the well-being of his Church and the glory of his name.


PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY FOR GOD TO

* intervene in the Korean crisis creatively, according to his wisdom, to fulfil his good purposes, that ultimately the Church in North Korea might be liberated to be a blessing to the whole Korean Peninsula and a witness to the watching world.

'Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by. I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfils his purpose for me. He will send from heaven and save me; he will put to shame him who tramples on me. God will send out his steadfast love and his faithfulness!' (Psalm 57:1-3 ESV)

* pour out his Holy Spirit in power upon his beloved Korean Church, that she might erupt yet again in Spirit-led prayer that the Korean Peninsula might once again be transformed.

'Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let your glory be over all the earth!' (Psalm 57:5 and 11 ESV) 'Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.' (Zechariah 4:6 ESV)


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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UNCERTAINTY LOOMS OVER LONG-SUFFERING CHURCH IN NORTH KOREA

North Korea will not willingly disarm as its weapons are a deterrent against foreign intervention. Tensions are reaching boiling point. Despite more than 100 years of severe persecution -- under Japanese occupation, Soviet occupation and the Kim family -- the Church is believed to number between 300,000 and 500,000. Christianity is prohibited with the threat of death for the believer and labour camp for the extended family. God alone sustains believers struggling to survive in labour camps or as secret believers. One day they will emerge as Korea's light, salt and healing. While we want to see the situation change, we do not want Korea's long-suffering Church engulfed in apocalyptic fire. Please pray that God will intervene for the well-being of the Korean Church and of the whole Korean Peninsula.

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EGYPT: Sinai Monastery Attacked

St Catherine's Monastery, South Sinai
A policeman was killed and four more were wounded on Tuesday 18 April, when Islamic militants attacked a security checkpoint outside St Catherine's monastery in Egypt's South Sinai. The world heritage listed 6th Century monastery is popular with pilgrims and tourists and is said to stand at the site of the biblical Mt Sinai. Islamic State has claimed responsibility. Please pray for Egypt and its Church.

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Elizabeth Kendal is an international religious liberty analyst and advocate. She serves as Director of Advocacy at Canberra-based Christian Faith and Freedom (CFF), and is an Adjunct Research Fellow at the Arthur Jeffery Centre for the Study of Islam at Melbourne School of Theology.

She has authored two books: 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).

See www.ElizabethKendal.com