Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 271

Source:  EA Foundation (Australia)

Date:  2014-07-30

by Elizabeth Kendal

WELCOME to the intercessors who have joined the list this month.

'Behold, the Lord's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear ...' (Isaiah 59:1 ESV)

JULY 2014 UPDATE - During July we prayed concerning ...

* BURMA (Myanmar) (RLPB 267), where an anti-conversion law is being drafted that could put those seeking to change their religion, as well as those spreading non-Buddhist religion, at risk of imprisonment.

* INDONESIA (RLPB 268), where reformist leaders have historically faced serious resistance from powerful forces, specifically Islamic fundamentalists and military elites whose interests lie in preserving the status quo.

UPDATE: * A NEW ERA APPROACHES A NEW PRESIDENT FOR INDONESIA (population 245 million) * A NEW GOVERNOR FOR JAKARTA (population 9.8 million)

In October Joko Widodo (Jokowi) will be inaugurated as President of Indonesia. Born into a Christian family, Jokowi may prove to be more sensitive than previous presidents to issues of religious freedom and minority rights. Whilst Jokowi is a Muslim, he converted to Islam in pursuit of a woman, not from an ideological conviction.** As Governor of Jakarta, Jokowi's deputy was Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (Ahok), a Chinese-Indonesian Christian. Together they were known as team 'Jokohok', and their willingness to tackle Jakarta's systemic problems made them extremely popular. Ahok will now ascend to the position of Governor of Jakarta, something the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) have opposed from the beginning and are vowing to resist. According to Jakarta City Council regulations, the Governor of Jakarta is also chief patron or chairman of eight Islamic bodies. Pray for Indonesia, and that God will use Jokowi and Ahok for his purpose. May God frustrate the schemes of the wicked. (Psalm 146:9)

** CORRECTION:  It was reported, above, that Joko Widodo is a convert to Islam. Though widely reported, it appears to be incorrect. According to the birth certificate Jokowi released to dispel rumors, he was born Muslim.

* SUDAN & SOUTH SUDAN (RLPB 269), where, because of Islamisation and persecution in Sudan and civil conflict and famine in South Sudan, the Church's suffering seems never-ending.

UPDATE: MERIAM IBRAHIM AND FAMILY SAFE AND FREE 'In answer to the prayers of many (2 Corinthians 1:11)', Meriam Ibrahim is now safe and free. Meriam, along with her husband Daniel and their two children Martin and Maya flew into Rome on Thursday 24 July, in an Italian government plane, accompanied by Italy's vice minister for foreign affairs, Lapo Pistelli. They were greeted at the airport by Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi. The family subsequently enjoyed a private audience with Pope Francis, who thanked Meriam for her 'courageous witness to perseverance in the faith', in the face of possible death. The family will soon fly to the US where they start a new life close to Daniel's extended family. Sudan may now be less willing to have apostasy dealt with through the courts, preferring instead to leave Sharia implementation in the hands of vigilantes. What will not change is the fact that Islam demands death for apostasy. Please remember Faiza Abdalla (37) who is facing the same fate that Meriam had faced: lashes for adultery and death for apostasy, only without her husband, who fled from persecution to South Sudan some time ago [see RLPB 266 (June update)].

* INDIA (RLPB 270), where more than 50 rural villages in the northern state of Chhattisgarh, have followed the advice of Hindu nationalists to ban all non-Hindu religious practice by exploiting a law that facilitates rural self-governance. Christians are being attacked and denied food rations and water. As every level of government in Chhattisgarh is Hindu nationalist, the situation appears hopeless. Pray that God will intervene for these faithful believers and that this will not create a precedent that will spread around the nation. Pray for India, and that Western nations might care as much about Indian lives as they do about making money using cheap Indian labour.

UPDATE: HINDUTVA versus CHRISTIANITY VHP leader Suresh Yadav blames the Christians, accusing the Christian families in Sirisguda (the first village to ban Christianity) of instigating the unrest by refusing to give donations to the Hindu temple. Yadav says he cannot understand why tribals are still converting to Christianity when there is such a strong VHP and RSS presence in the area; he accuses the Christian missionaries of deception. BJP Rajya Sabha (the Upper House) member Ranvijay Singh Judeo says he will resume the Ghar Wapsi (literally homecoming) campaign soon, to 'return' Christian tribals to the Hindu fold. (Outlook India magazine, 28 July 2014) [For background on Hindu nationalism, see Hindutva! Religious Liberty Monitoring, 23 July 2014.]

JULY 2014 ROUND-UP - also this month ...

* CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: PEACE BUT NO PEACE

On Wednesday 23 July, at the end of a three-day regional summit in Brazzaville, Congo, leaders representing Seleka and Anti-Balaka forces signed a cease-fire. In reality, the deal is next to meaningless. Not only is it unenforceable, but each side is profoundly splintered and the representatives at the talks did not represent all the factions. Critically, the sides did not manage to agree on a disarmament process. The talks were nearly derailed when the Seleka representative Mohamed Dhaffane demanded the partition of CAR. Only after serious pressure did Dhaffane back down, drop the demand and sign the cease-fire. The next day however, Seleka military chief Maj-Gen Joseph Zoundeiko denounced the deal saying his forces would ignore the cease-fire and continue to fight for CAR's partition. Pray for the Church in CAR.

* CHINA: MORE CHURCHES TARGETED IN WENZHOU

In their continuing efforts to de-Christianise the Zhejiang skyline, officials have removed more crosses from the tops of churches. Early Monday 28 July a crane arrived at Longgang Huai En Church in the city of Wenzhou and removed the cross. Since the campaign started in January 2014, at least 130 churches have been impacted, mostly through the removal of their crosses, but some through the demolition of their entire property. On 21 July thousands of Christians rallied to try to prevent the demolition of Kau Yan church in Wenzhou. Police beat their way through the protesters, leaving dozens wounded and many requiring hospitalisation. The protest was successful (for the time being) as the demolition crew ultimately did withdraw. Pray for China, and for the Church in Wenzhou.

* IRAQ: MOSUL NOW EMPTY OF CHRISTIANS

Formerly home to the highest concentration of Christians in Iraq, Mosul, the provincial capital of Nineveh, the ancient historic homeland of the Assyrian nation, is now devoid of Christians. As the last Christians left, ISIS marked their homes with a large red Arabic letter 'n' for 'Nasrani' (the Arabic word for Christian), indicating that their homes were to be forfeit to the Islamic State. The fleeing Christians were met at checkpoints by ISIS militants who took their phones, passports, cash and jewellery - everything but the clothes on their backs. Most of the displaced Christians are now in Kurdistan, being cared for by local churches. The time has surely come for the West to share this burden of care. Western churches should start giving sacrificially to organisations that can get aid to displaced believers and the churches that care for them. Above all, PRAY.

Meanwhile back in Mosul, ISIS is busy destroying the city's cultural heritage. On 4 July ISIS fighters dug up what is purported to be the tomb of Jonah. They also torched 11 of the more than 35 churches and monasteries scattered throughout the city, and demolished statues of literary and historic figures. Three Sunni clerics who tried to resist ISIS were executed. On 24 July ISIS militants returned to the Prophet Younis [Jonah] Mosque, and used explosives to complete the demolition. Muslims who protested the bombing were arrested and summarily flogged. A pastor from Northern Iraq has reported (with photographic evidence)*** that eight young men were publicly beheaded last week after noon prayers; they had been accused of being apostate converts to Christianity. The eight heads were then suspended from an overhead powerline. 'Please pray for us,' he said.

*** CORRECTION: The report of eight alleged apostates being beheaded, came from al-Raqqa in Syria apparently some time ago, and not from Iraq as the pastor source had mistakenly reported.

* MACEDONIA: PROTESTS AND PLANS FOR AN 'ALBANIAN CALIPHATE'

Predominantly Eastern Orthodox Macedonia is 25 percent ethnic Albanian and 33 percent Muslim. Tensions soared in Macedonia through July after a Skopje court issued its judgment against seven ethnic Albanian Islamists charged with murdering five Macedonians in April 2012. The Islamists, all advocates of a Greater Albania, were charged with killing four young 'Christian fisherman' at Smilkovci Lake on Good Friday 2012, before killing a witness. When they were arrested in 2012 'about 1,500 radical Islamists' protested in Skopje, demanding their release, calling for a Greater Albania and chanting Islamist slogans including 'Allahu Akbar' and 'Death to Christians'.

On 30 June 2014 the court sentenced six of the ethnic Albanian Islamists to life in prison. The following Friday (4 July) some 2000 Muslims, many carrying Albanian and Saudi flags, clashed with police in Skopje with 20 police injured. A planned counter-demonstration by ethnic Macedonians failed to materialise. Ethnic Albanian Muslims demonstrated again the next Friday 11 July, chanting 'UCK' (Ushtria Clirimtare Kombetare / National Liberation Army). [The UCK is the Albanian guerrilla force that fought the Macedonia Armed Forces in 2001.] The situation in Macedonia is volatile. Albanian security expert Ilir Kulla estimates that thousands of ethnic Albanian Muslims from across the Balkans have received military training with al-Qaeda in Syria. Furthermore, they are returning with plans for an 'Albanian Caliphate'. Pray for the Church in Macedonia.

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