Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 434

Source:  http://rlprayerbulletin.blogspot.com

Date:  November 29, 2017

by Elizabeth Kendal

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

* NIGERIA (RLPB 431), where, after another spat of Fulani violence, a 
coalition of 25 ethnic nationalities in Plateau State had demanded the State 
Assembly initiate a bill against open grazing. On 8 November, Jubilee 
Campaign published a report by Stephanos Foundation which included photos and 
interviews with survivors of the 16 October attack in Bassa Local Government 
Area (LGA).  

UPDATE: On Tuesday evening 7 November gunmen ambushed and opened fire on 
Christians in Rim village in Riyom LGA, Plateau State, as they returned home 
from a nearby market. According to a local eye-witness, whilst some of the 
gunmen were clearly herdsmen, others were dressed in military fatigues. 
Eleven Christians were killed and four wounded. In communications with 
Morning Star News the president of the Church of Christ In Nations (COCIN), 
Rev Dacholom Datiri, confirmed that nine of the dead were members of the 
COCIN church. Others were members of the Evangelical Church Winning All 
(ECWA). Chairman of Riyom LGA, Emmanuel Jugul, was outraged by the attack, 
telling World Watch Monitor that most of the residents of Mahanga and Gweba 
have been displaced, adding, 'Fulanis are saying that they have captured the 
place.'  

BENUE: On 14 November World Watch Research released a report on Fulani 
violence in Benue State. The report, sponsored by Open Doors International 
and Voice of the Martyrs Canada, catalogues the crimes committed against 
Christians by Hausa-Fulani herdsmen between January 2014 and August 2017. 
With more than 4,200 killed, more than 3,000 injured, more than 30 churches 
destroyed and some 100,000 people displaced, the report concludes that the 
violence amounts to ethnic cleansing. Benue enacted anti-open grazing laws on 
1 November. The Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) 
has protested and appealed for federal government intervention. In response, 
Benue lawmakers have appealed directly to President Buhari, requesting he 
support the Anti-Open Grazing Law to put an end to the 'carnage and massive 
destruction' being caused by 'heartless terrorists operating under the cover 
of Fulani herdsmen'.  

PRAY for Nigeria and for the suffering Church in the North. Pray especially 
for a movement of the Holy Spirit amongst the Fulani and that all Nigerians 
will ultimately be 'one in Christ Jesus' (from Galatians 3:25-28)   

* CHINA (RLPB 432), where it was reported Christian human rights lawyer and 
religious liberty advocate Gao Zhisheng - missing since 13 August - had 
finally been located. According to local sources, state security services are 
holding Gao in a secret prison in Shaanxi Province, in solitary confinement 
and in total darkness. Gao Zhisheng is one of many Christians currently being 
punished for criticising the repressive and violent policies of the Chinese 
Communist Party (CCP). What makes his case so significant is that Gao is 
recognised and respected internationally. Gao is thus a test case: if Gao is 
not safe then no Chinese human rights or religious liberty advocate is safe. 

* BURMA (RLPB 433), where ethnic Kachin pastor Dumdaw Nawng Lat (67) of the 
Mong Ko Kachin Baptist Church and his nephew, youth pastor Langjaw Gam Seng 
(35), have been sentenced to prison as punishment for exposing the Burmese 
military's destruction of Mong Ko town. The Kachin Baptist Convention is 
preparing to appeal.  

UPDATE: According to a report by the United Nations Office for the 
Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (September 2017), almost 100,000 ethnic 
Kachin are currently displaced: more than 89,000 in 146 camps throughout 
Kachin State and more than 9,400 in 33 camps in neighbouring northern Shan 
State [where Mong Ko is located]. PRAY for Burma (Myanmar) and for her 
suffering Church. Pray especially for a movement of the Holy Spirit amongst 
the ethnic Burman Buddhist majority and that all Burmese will ultimately be 
'one in Christ Jesus' (from Galatians 3:25-28)  


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

* INDIA: DECEMBER ELECTIONS IN GUJARAT

Elections for a new State Assembly will be held in Gujarat on Saturday 9 and 
Thursday 14 December, with the result to be announced on Monday 18 December. 
Though the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has governed 
Gujarat since 1989, polls indicate that the Congress Party is closing in and 
that it will be a tight race.  On 21 November the Archbishop of Gandhinagar, 
Rev Thomas Macwan (65) issued a letter to the state's Catholics exhorting 
them to pray. 'Not a single day goes without an attack on our churches, 
faithful or institutions,' he wrote. 'Pray ... we may have such people 
elected in the Gujarat State Assembly who will remain faithful to our Indian 
Constitution and respect every human being without any sort of 
discrimination.'  

Hindu nationalists then accused the Archbishop of seeking to 'generate fear' 
and 'divide people on the basis of caste and creed', and demanded 'immediate 
action'. On 25 November, the Election Commission issued the Archbishop with a 
notice asking him to explain why his letter should not be viewed as a 
violation of the Model Code of Conduct. The Archbishop reiterated that he was 
merely calling his people to pray for 'humane leaders faithful to the 
Constitution'. Hindu nationalist zeal will surely escalate in the lead-up to 
the polls. Pray for India, for her longsuffering persecuted Church and for 
the elections in Gujarat.  


* IRAQ: ASSYRIANS VULNERABLE AS POWERS CLASH
[Update to RLPB 424: Assyrians request prayer as Kurds 'play with fire' (19 
Sept).] 

Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) President Massoud Barzani's 25 September 
referendum on Kurdish independence backfired spectacularly. After brokering a 
deal with Kurdish opposition leader Jalal Talabani, Baghdad - with support 
from Iran (and no resistance from Talibani forces) - seized oil-rich Kirkuk 
from Barzani's forces in a blitzkrieg. On 1 November Barzani stepped down 
from the presidency. Tensions are high across the 'disputed areas', including 
the Nineveh Plains, as Kurdish and Iraqi forces, backed by Shi'ite militias 
(many led by Iranians), fight for control of territory. On 24 October clashes 
in the Assyrian town of Teleskuf forced hundreds of recently returned 
Assyrian Christians to flee their town yet again.  

The first stage of the Battle for Mesopotamia involved the crushing of the 
minorities by proxy forces. The next stage, developing now, will see the 
powers clash as they seek to establish their presence on the ground. The 
biggest winner in the Kurdish fiasco has been Iran, which has consolidated 
its military control in Kirkuk and its presence in Northern Iraq. Long-time 
religious liberty advocate Nina Shea reports that 'Iran is aggressively 
establishing schools and mosques and libraries and other structures within 
the main Christian towns'. For the Assyrian remnant, their very survival as a 
people is at stake. Pray for the Assyrians; may God intervene to help them.  


* IRAN: PERSIAN CONVERT TO STAY IN JAIL
[Update to RLPB 414: Massive Jail Terms for Many Believers (12 July).] 

In May, Persian convert Naser Navard Gol-Tapeh and three Azerbaijanis were 
sentenced to ten years in jail for 'missionary activities' and 'conducting 
activities against national security'. Whilst the Azerbaijanis were permitted 
to return home after posting bail, Naser Navard Gol-Tapeh (an Iranian 
national) was sent to prison. On 12 November an Iranian court upheld all four 
10-year sentences; Naser Navard Gol-Tapeh will remain in prison. Please pray 
for Naser and for all Iran's Christian prisoners.


* PAKISTAN: THE BATTLE FOR PAKISTAN ESCALATES

On 25 November the government of Pakistan capitulated to Islamic 
fundamentalists whose 'sit-in' had paralysed Islamabad for 20 days. Claiming 
anti-blasphemy indignation as a pretext, the 'sit-in' - which attracted some 
2000 Muslims daily - was led by Allama Khadim Hussain Rizvi, the leader of 
the Tehreek-e-Labaik, an Islamist political party which advocates for a pure 
Islamic State governed by Islamic Sharia Law. Whilst the issues are far too 
complex to explain in a paragraph, it is enough to say that Rizvi has been 
playing the religion card for political gain and to raise Tehreek-e-Labaik's 
profile ahead of Pakistan's 2018 general elections. [See the RLPB blog for 
links to key articles.] Having forced the government to capitulate to their 
primary demand - the resignation of Law Minister Zahid Hamid, whom they 
mischievously accused of blasphemy - Rizvi and Tehreek-e-Labaik have emerged 
from the 'sit-in' victorious and greatly empowered. In this context it must 
be noted that other demands had included the immediate execution of Asia 
Bibi. Pray for the Church in Pakistan.  

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