January 2017 Updates and Roundup

Source:  http://rlprayerbulletin.blogspot.com

Date:  January 25, 2017

by Elizabeth Kendal

* BURMA (Myanmar): PASTORS DETAINED AS WAR ESCALATES

The Burmese army has escalated its military offensive against the Christian 
ethnic Kachin, whose lands they seek to exploit in northern Burma. The 
humanitarian situation is dire, with thousands of Kachin forced to flee the 
northern IDP camps to seek refuge in China. According to reports, the 
government has been preventing humanitarian aid from reaching a number of 
conflict areas. Burma expert Bertil Lintner comments (19 January): 'After a 
17-year respite [a ceasefire held from 1994 to 2011] and now under an elected 
government, Kachin State has arguably never witnessed such debilitating and 
destructive armed combat.'  

On 24 December Burmese military officers abducted Kachin Baptist Convention 
(KBC) pastors Dom Dawng Nawng (65) and La Jaw Gam Hseng (35). The pastors had 
previously helped journalists document the destruction of civilian 
structures, including St Francis Xavier Catholic Church, in Mong Ko in 
neighbouring Shan State. According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), the pastors 
received a call claiming to be from Byuha Gon military base, in which they 
were invited to come and secure the release of a married couple. The pastors 
were last seen on the evening of 24 December, travelling by motor-bike to the 
military base. On 16 January HRW expressed grave concerns after the 
government denied that the military had detained the two men. On 19 January 
the Burmese army confirmed that it had detained the pastors on national 
security grounds and that they are alive. The KBC has requested that the two 
men be handed over to Mong Ko police as soon as possible.  

It is imperative that the soldiers who abducted and illegally detained the 
KBC pastors be held to account. As noted by HRW Deputy Asia Director, Phil 
Robertson: 'Perpetrators of grievous abuses in Kachin and Shan States need to 
be brought to justice. Atrocities won't stop so long as the military can 
commit them against civilians with impunity.' Indeed, two years on from the 
barbaric rape, torture and slaughter of two Kachin missionaries by Burmese 
troops on the night of  19-20 January 2015 [see RLPB 347 (9 March 2016)], 
nobody has been held to account. Pray for an end to impunity and for our 
long-suffering, long-persecuted brothers and sisters in Burma.  

* NIGERIA: CHURCHES DEMOLISHED IN DUTSE, JIGAWA

On 11 January government forces supervised the demolition of two 
long-established churches in the state capital, Dutse. The government 
justified the demolitions by claiming that the churches had been illegally 
built in residential zones. Church leaders reject this, noting that several 
church-owned residential properties were also demolished while nearby mosques 
were not. Though the government claims to have forewarned the churches, 
church leaders deny this also, saying the demolitions commenced without 
warning leaving no time to salvage moveable property. Jigawa State is 99 
percent Muslim and Sharia (Islamic) law has been in force since 2001. 
Christians suffer systematic discrimination and are exceedingly vulnerable to 
persecution. With five more churches scheduled to be demolished, Christians 
are understandably anxious about the future. Please pray that Governor 
Abubakar will relent and that the remaining churches will be spared.  

* SUDAN: CHRISTIANS EXPELLED, IMPRISONED, ABANDONED

EXPELLED: Morning Star News reports that Pastor Koat Akot of the Sudan 
Pentecostal Church left Sudan on 9 December after being expelled by Sudan's 
powerful National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS). Pastor Akot had 
established three churches in the Khartoum-Omburman area.  

IMPRISONED: On 2 January a Khartoum court acquitted the Rev Kwa Shamaal of 
all charges, enabling the head of Missions of the Sudanese Church of Christ 
(SCOC) to walk free. However, his three co-accused were not so fortunate. Rev 
Hassan Abdelrahim Tawor (SCOC), Darfuri convert Abdulmonem Abdumawla and 
Czech aid worker, Petr Jasek, have been charged with serious crimes against 
the state. The judge was expected to deliver his verdict on their cases on 23 
January, now  postponed until Sunday 29 January.  If found guilty, the men 
could receive long prison terms or even a death sentence. Pray for the Church 
in Sudan.  

ABANDONED: Despite the repression and persecution in Khartoum and the ongoing 
genocidal jihads and humanitarian blockades in the Nuba Mountains, Blue Nile 
and Darfur, the out-going Obama administration announced on 13 January that 
it was 'easing sanctions' on Sudan. The US Treasury Department justified the 
move, claiming the Government of Sudan has shown 'sustained progress ... on 
several fronts ... .' Human Rights Watch labelled the statement 
'inexplicable', while long-time Sudan expert Eric Reeves slammed it as 'a 
bald lie'. May the LORD intervene for his people! (See Isaiah 59:14-19) 

* VIETNAM: NGUYEN VAN DAI'S DETENTION EXTENDED  

At the end of December Communist Party officials extended the detention of 
Protestant Christian and internationally acclaimed human rights attorney and 
religious liberty advocate, Nguyen Van Dai (47). It is the third time the 
authorities have extended his detention. Dai has already spent four years in 
prison (2008-2011), followed by four years house arrest (to March 2015) for 
the crime of 'spreading propaganda against the Socialist Republic of 
Vietnam'. He was re-arrested in December 2015 as he attempted to meet 
with European Union representatives who were in Hanoi to investigate human 
rights issues. Dai will now remain detained until April. Please pray for 
Nguyen Van Dai and for the Church in Communist Party-ruled Vietnam.  

* YEMEN: CAPTIVE MISSIONARIES IN CRISIS

On 24 December ISIS released a five-minute video in which captive Indian 
missionary, Father Tom Uzhunnalil (56), makes a fresh appeal for his life. 
Clearly distressed, despairing and in failing health, Father Tom had lived 
and worked in Yemen for some 14 years before he was kidnapped by ISIS on 4 
March 2016 [see RLPB 348 (16 March 2016)]. Father Tom has appealed directly 
to the Pope and to 'bishops everywhere', imploring them to intervene to save 
his life. After nearly ten months in captivity, Father Tom appears 
disturbingly thin, breathless and frail.  

On 10 January unidentified Islamic militants released a 12-second video in 
which captive Australian missionary, Craig McAllister (56), appeals directly 
to the Australian government as a gun is held to his head. McAllister - who 
had lived in Yemen for several years and was working with a Christian charity 
as a football coach when he was kidnapped in September 2016 - assures the 
Australian government that his captors will kill him if their demands are not 
met.  

Please pray for the captives, the prisoners and the persecuted, as if you 
were suffering with them (Hebrews 13:3). 'Are not two sparrows sold for a 
penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 
But even the hairs of your head are all numbered.  Fear not, therefore; you 
are of more value than many sparrows.' (Matthew 10:29-31 ESV)  

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