By Elizabeth Kendal
Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin (RLPB) 284 Wed 29 Oct 2014
Special to ASSIST News Service
AUSTRALIA (ANS) -- Supporting International Day of Prayer (IDOP) for the Persecuted Church
IDOP 2014: Sunday 2 or 9 November See: Critical Prayer Requests (CPR)
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 (arrested in Dec 2006) 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 i s 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 recent Human Rights Watch (HRW) report, 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 t hey 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 Mountain s, 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.' 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: In May the City of Houston enacted the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO), a non-discrimination bill which amongst other thin gs 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'.
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.)
'But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness ...' (Matthew 6:33 ESV)