Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 425

Source: http://rlprayerbulletin.blogspot.com

Date:  September 27, 2017

by Elizabeth Kendal

'Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.' (Matthew 
5:9 ESV)

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

* NIGERIA (RLPB 422), where a coalition of Northern Muslim youth groups 
issued a chilling ultimatum in Kaduna on June 6. The 'Kaduna Declaration' 
gave the Igbo (the mostly Christian Africans indigenous to Nigeria's 
south-east) a deadline of 1 October (Nigerian Independence Day) to leave the 
North, after which time they would be forcibly ejected. Subsequently, 
anti-Igbo hate speech has proliferated across the north, sending 
ethnic-religious tensions soaring.  

UPDATE: In early September the government of President Muhammadu Buhari 
launched Operation Python Dance 2 and sent military forces into Umuhia, the 
capital of Abia state, to arrest IPOB leader Nnamdi Kanu. [IPOB (Indigenous 
People of Biafra) advocates for the independence of Biafra/Eastern Nigeria. 
It is not a militant group and does not have an armed wing.] On 12 September 
tanks and other armoured vehicles descended on Kanu's home, triggering 
protests from horrified IPOB supporters. Clashes ensued, resulting in 
numerous deaths. Video footage posted to social media showed Nigerian 
soldiers beating, torturing and killing unarmed Igbo. This in turn triggered 
ethnic-religious skirmishes in other cities in neighbouring states as Igbo 
sought revenge. 

JOS: On 14 September the cycle of violence escalated further as Hausa-Fulani 
Muslims attacked Igbo traders in Jos, capital of the volatile Middle Belt 
state of Plateau. At least three Igbo were killed (including two known 
Christians) and several injured before the police managed to calm the 
situation. Security was strengthened at churches on Sunday 17 September to 
prevent further attacks.  

SOKOTO: On 17 September a mob of some hundreds of Muslim youths attacked Igbo 
traders in Sokoto, the capital of Sokoto State in Nigeria's far north-west. 
The Igbo fled for their lives as their properties were looted and torched.  

BLAME THE VICTIM: The government subsequently proscribed IPOB as a terrorist 
organisation, rendering anyone who participates in the group's activities 
liable to a jail term of 20 years. Catholic Cardinal John Onaiyekan slammed 
the move noting: 'The title of terrorists should not just be thrown at 
anybody. And there is a danger that if we continue this way, it may become 
more and more difficult for us to arrive at a peaceful solution.' He wondered 
why IPOB had been deemed terrorists while the Fulani herdsmen 'who are armed, 
lethal, murderous, vicious and have been killing people in our communities' 
were not. Operation Python Dance 2 - which one commentator has likened to 
'killing a fly with a sledgehammer' - is ongoing in five south-eastern 
states. 

The situation in Nigeria is absolutely dire. The stage has been set for a 
serious ethno-religious crisis. Please pray! May the Lord protect and 
preserve his precious people. 

* NORTH KOREA (RLPB 423), as the leaders of North Korea and the USA continue 
to ramp up the war rhetoric. Please pray for God to intervene to the benefit 
of his beloved Korean/Chosun people - in  particular, his long-suffering 
persecuted remnant Church in the North.  

* IRAQ (RLPB 424), ahead of the highly controversial 25 September Kurdish 
referendum on independence.  

UPDATE: ASSYRIANS IMPERILLED AS CRISIS LOOMS The Kurds came out in force on 
25 September to vote overwhelmingly for Kurdish independence. Tensions are 
soaring, both inside Iraq and across the region. Baghdad is threatening to 
ban flights into Iraqi Kurdistan, while Turkey and Iran are threatening 
sanctions and border closures - all moves designed to starve and strangle 
Iraqi Kurdistan into submission. Furthermore, the referendum has inflamed 
Kurdish independence zeal, but the result is not binding and the masses will 
not get what they voted for. President Massoud Barzani of the Kurdish 
Regional Government (KRG) may well have started something he will have no 
chance of controlling. Caught in the middle of this new crisis is Iraq's 
already traumatised and largely displaced, remnant Assyrian Christian nation. 
Please pray!  


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

* AFGHANISTAN 

As noted in RLPB 424 an unnamed Finnish aid worker abducted from a Kabul 
guesthouse on 20 May [RLPB 409 (31 May)] was released on 14 September. No 
further details are available and no-one has claimed responsibility for her 
abduction. We praise God for this mercy and continue to pray for the gravely 
imperilled, 'underground' Afghan Church. Pray also for the Afghan diaspora 
(in your own country and across the world), amongst whom the Afghan Church is 
growing.  

* CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC (CAR) ABANDONED TO CHAOS AND KILLINGS 

On 1 September dozens of Islamic militants from Sudan invaded Zemio town in 
CAR's south-east. They looted and ransacked the Catholic Church compound, 
causing the 15,000 people sheltering there to flee across the border into the 
Democratic Republic of Congo. The attack was allegedly perpetrated in the 
presence of UN troops believed to be from Morocco. Doctors Without Borders 
(MSF) laments that Zemio has become a 'ghost town' of looted shops and burnt 
houses. The population has dropped from 21,000 to under 1,000, the only 
people left being 'those who could not run away - the elderly and the 
disabled'.  

On 2 September, at a farm in Zambaguia village on the outskirts of Zemio, 
Father Louis Tongagnesi was hacked to death by Islamic militants believed to 
be from the Fulani-dominated and ironically named Union for Peace in the 
Central African Republic (UPC).  

On 3 September Father Robert Wieczorek, a Polish missionary who has been 
serving in CAR for more than 20 years, was kidnapped by Islamic militants who 
attacked his parish in the north-western town of Ndim. He was tortured but 
released alive. Wounded and having lost a lot of blood, he was hospitalised 
for treatment. The female mayor of Ndim was also kidnapped, tortured and 
released. The attack has been attributed to the Patriotic Movement for the 
Central African Republic (MPC), although they deny it.  

Please pray for the Church in CAR.  

* EGYPT: CRITICISM OF MUSLIMS NOT ALLOWED 

On 26 May (Ascension Day) 28 Coptic Christians were massacred and some 23 
wounded in Minya Governorate when their bus was ambushed by Islamic jihadists 
while en route to the Monastery of St Samuel the Confessor [RLPB 409 (31 
May)]. In the wake of the terror, Bassem Abdel-Malak Fahim (25), a Copt from 
the village of Ezbat El-Sheikh Nageim, Minya Governorate, expressed his 
frustration on Facebook. Bassem accused Islamic leaders of inciting the 
killings and criticised the Egyptian government for failing to crack down on 
Islamic militants within Egypt's borders. He later deleted the post, but not 
before it had been shared by his friend Younan Samuel (25). On 6 September 
some Muslims in his village discovered the post. Feigning 'offence' they 
shared the post widely and incited Muslim rage against the Copts. Tensions 
soared. On 7 September Bassem and his father visited local Islamic leaders to 
whom they apologised and explained that no offence was intended. Tensions 
eased. However, late on 14 September, after security officials withdrew, a 
mob formed and attacked the Christians, hurling bricks, smashing windows, 
looting homes and destroying property. Security forces returned and restored 
calm; however, Bassem and Younan are now facing charges of inciting sectarian 
strife and insulting Islamic leaders. It is so much easier to blame the 
victim. The result however is gross injustice and deadly dangerous impunity. 
Please pray.  

EGYPT: BRING BACK OUR COPTIC GIRLS

World Watch Monitor (WWM) has published a really significant article on one 
of the most serious issues confronting Egypt's Copts. Entitled, 'Egypt: 
ex-kidnapper admits "they get paid for every Coptic Christian girl they bring 
in" ' (published 14 September 2017), the article is built around an interview 
with an Egyptian former Muslim and former trafficker. His personal testimony 
gives credence to the oft-repeated claim that Salafi Muslims across the 
region are running a highly organised and well funded campaign to traffic 
Coptic Christian girls. While the crime is shameful, so too is the 
international silence that shrouds it, coming from the West's tacit surrender 
to the Islamic paradigm that criticism of Muslims is not allowed.   

* KENYA: MORE CHRISTIANS SLAUGHTERED

At around 3am on 6 September some 30 heavily armed Islamic al-Shabaab 
militants entered Bobo village in Lamu County, accompanied by a number of 
local Kiswahili speakers. Dressed in military gear and armed with AK-47 
rifles, they surrounded the homes of known Christians before calling them out 
by name. Sources explained to Morning Star News that the militants had 
previously abducted men from Bobo area and forced them to reveal the names of 
Christians. Hillary Njuguna, one of the Christians abducted, was killed. Upon 
hearing their names, three Christians - Guchu Peter, Jared Maiko and Jospeh 
Kinuthia - emerged, only to be seized by militants who then slit their 
throats. [According to Coast Regional Police Chief Larry Kieng the men were 
shot and then decapitated.] Terrified families fled into the bush. On 
Wednesday morning locals burned tyres on the roads to protest the lack of 
security. Please Pray.  

* PAKISTAN: CHRISTIANS KILLED AND FALSELY ACCUSED

On 30 August Sharoon Masih (17) was on his second day at high school in 
Vehari, Punjab, when he was beaten and killed by Raza Ahmed, a well-built 
Muslim student with a reputation for fighting and bullying. A classmate who 
attempted to intervene was also beaten. The teacher, Nazeer Ahmed (who had 
slapped and abused Sharoon in front of the class) was absent from the 
classroom at the time of the fatal assault. The family is absolutely 
convinced their son was targeted simply for being a Christian.  

On 14 September Nadeem James, a young Christian father of two, was sentenced 
to death for blasphemy. The court found Nadeem guilty of sending a 
blasphemous poem using the WhatsApp instant messaging service, despite being 
uneducated and illiterate. Nadeem was arrested in July 2016 in Gujrat 
District on the complaint of former friend, Yasir Bashir, who is suspected of 
sending the poem to himself using Nadeem's phone. Nadeem's brother, Shahbaz 
James told Morning Star News that the police only charged Nadeem because 
Islamic leaders had threatened to protest if they did not. Similarly, 
security concerns meant the trial had to be held inside the jail. The family 
has been forced to flee their home. The judgement will be appealed.  

Please pray for the Church in Pakistan.  

* PHILIPPINES: ARMY ADVANCES YET THREAT OF JIHAD LINGERS  

As noted in RLPB 424, Philippine soldiers have regained control of the Bato 
mosque, one of the last jihadist strongholds in Marawi city, rescuing 
hostages Father Suganob (51) and Mr  Acopio (29) in the process. Since then, 
three more hostages have been rescued. Some 40 hostages are still being held 
by some 60 to 80 jihadists, ten of whom are foreigners. Captain Arnel 
Carandang comments the jihadists are well trained, well directed and well 
armed with high-powered weapons, night vision goggles, the latest sniper 
scopes and surveillance drones. Not only has he seen many foreigners amongst 
the dead jihadis, but 'We have been hearing in their transmissions some 
English speaking terrorists.' The military expects the operation to be over 
by the end of October. Please pray.  

HOSTAGES: According to Father Suganob, the hostages are a mix of local 
Christians and tribal people. To its credit, the Philippine army is doing 
everything in its power to protect and preserve the lives of the hostages. 
However, transmission intercepts indicate that the jihadists will not 
surrender, but are planning for a bloody final stand involving suicide 
bombings. The situation of the hostages is dire. Please pray! May the Lord of 
Hosts deploy his angels to rescue the remaining hostages. ALSO: The military 
and police are closely monitoring Bayang town on the south side of Lake Lanao 
(opposite Marawi), after black-clad armed men stormed into the area on 
Wednesday 20 September and fired on a military detachment there. A fire-fight 
ensued and all is now calm. Pray for the Philippines! May all Filipinos come 
to enjoy peace, justice, fairness, security and liberty.  

* TURKEY: A NATO MEMBER THAT PRACTISES WHAT IT PREACHES Children in Turkey 
started their new school year on 18 September with a new curriculum. There is 
less science, less Ataturk (Turkey's secularist founding father) and more 
Islam, including jihad. Defined as 'religious war' by the dictionary of the 
Institute of Turkish Language, 'jihad' will be taught as an Islamic value and 
integral element of Islamic law. One teachers' union expressed fears the new 
curriculum would encourage a 'religious and nationalist' mindset. It should 
be unsurprising, therefore, that photos secretly taken inside Diyarbakir's 
Surp Giragos Armenian Apostolic Church 18 months after the government seized 
it reveal an empty desecrated shell. First built in the 1600s, Surp Giragos 
had been closed in the 1960s but then renovated with the support of the 
Armenian diaspora and the Sur municipality before a grand reopening in 
2011. The church - the largest Armenian cathedral in the Middle East - was 
seized in March 2016 by a government that has no interest in its survival 
[see: RLPB 355 (4 May 2016)]. Pray for the Church in Turkey.  

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