Date: February 28, 2018
by Elizabeth Kendal 'For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.' 2 Corinthians 10:3,4 ESV FEBRUARY 2018 UPDATE - this month we prayed concerning ... * UGANDA (RLPB 441), in particular for severely persecuted Christians in the Muslim-dominated Eastern Region. We prayed specifically for Munabi Abudallah, Mulangira Ibrahim (a former sheikh) and the widow Nafamba Madina and her children. All are converts from Islam who are paying an extremely high price for their faith in Jesus. Please continue to lift them before the Lord. * NIGERIA (RLPB 442), as the government deployed troops to the volatile Middle Belt, ostensibly to tackle the 'Fulani Crisis'. UPDATES FULANI CRISIS: The most disturbing aspect of the 'Fulani Crisis' is the way in which it is inflaming Nigeria's ethnic-religious tensions. Despite this being a law-and-order issue pertaining to the right to private property, it is evolving into an ethno-religious conflict which is threatening Nigeria's unity. As noted in RLPB 442, Nigeria's Minister of Defence has publicly blamed Christians for the crisis, saying it stems from their refusal to accommodate their 'fellow Nigerians'. It is a claim being echoed by other Muslim leaders, including Prof. Ango Abdullahi, a former Vice Chancellor of Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria, northern Kaduna. As spokesperson of the Northern Elders Forum, Abdullahi justified the Fulani killings as pre-emptive killings committed in self defence. Totally ignoring the issue of private property, Abdullah asserted that if an Igbo can set up his business in the north, then a Fulani should be able to graze his cattle in the south. It is not difficult to see where such a claim could lead. Clearly, the suggestion is that if the Fulani [Muslims from the north] are not permitted to graze their cattle in the south, then the Igbo [mostly Christians from the southeast] should not be permitted to set up business in the north. Such language threatens to re-ignite the threat issued in the Kaduna Declaration of June 2017 [See RLPB 422 'Muslim Youths Beat Drums of War' (6 Sep 2017)]. Watch and pray. CONVERSION CRISIS: On 11 January Nigeria's Department of State Security Services (DSS) arrested Simput Dafup (engineer) and Daniel Hassan (driver) in relation to the alleged 'forced conversion' of Miss Nabila Sanda (19), the daughter of a powerful Muslim elder in Borno State. After being interrogated in the DSS office in Jos, Dafup and Hassan were transferred to Abuja where they were detained on charges of 'forced conversion' [see RLPB 439 (24 Jan)]. Viewpoint Nigeria reports that the leadership of CAN (Christian Association of Nigeria) worked with the president of ECWA (Evangelical Church Winning All), the Reverend Jeremiah Gado, to pressure the DSS. Eventually, on 27 January, Dafup and Hassan were released into the custody of Rev Yakubu Pam, the CAN Northern Chairman, one of the sureties for Dafup's bail. The men travelled immediately to ECWA headquarters in Jos, where they were welcomed and prayed for. Legal battles loom. The plight of convert Nabila Sanda is unknown; presumably she was forcibly returned to her father's custody. Please pray. * DAGESTAN, SOUTH RUSSIA (RLPB 443), after Islamic State claimed responsibility for a terror attack on Kizlyar's Orthodox St George's Cathedral, which claimed the lives of five women. UPDATE: KIDNAP AND KILL CHRISTIANS IN 'RUSSIAN-OCCUPIED MUSLIM AREAS' Though three Muslims have been arrested in connection to the 18 February terror attack on the Orthodox church in Kizlyar, Dagestan, South Russia, the terror threat remains elevated. On Thursday 22 February Site Intelligence Group published a letter purportedly by Islamic State (IS). Entitled 'Strike Their Necks and Strike Each One of Their Sons', the letter glorifies the killer as an 'extraordinary mujtahid' and urges IS supporters in 'Russian-occupied Muslim areas' to kidnap and kill Christians. [The order 'strike their necks' comes from the Quran, Sura 47:4 https://quran.com/47/4 .] IS hopes that the Kizlyar church attack will 'be the spark for more bloody attacks' and that many Christians 'will be killed as a punishment for their disbelief in Allah the Great, and it will plant fear and horror inside the hearts of hundreds of thousands of their brothers and make them flee with fear'. Pray for the Church in Dagestan, Chechnya, Ingushetia and Russia's other Muslim-majority regions. FEBRUARY 2018 ROUND-UP - also this month ... * CHINA: LAWYER DEAD AS PERSECUTION FLOODGATE OPENS China's new Religious Affairs Regulations came into effect on 1 February [see: 'The Return of Mao Style Terror and Control', Religious Liberty Monitoring, (Jan 2018)]. In the early weeks of February churches were warned that the crackdown would begin after the Chinese New Year festivities which commenced on 16 February and continue for 15 days. Churches without official government permits will be fined or demolished. Crosses are to be dismantled (even indoors) and replaced with a Chinese flag; the national anthem is to be sung at services. Buddhists and Muslims are being subjected to the same repression. Pray for the Church in China. On Monday 26 February well-known Chinese Christian human rights lawyer Li Baiguang (49) died suddenly, allegedly of liver failure, in No 81 People's Liberation Army Hospital. Human rights advocates regard the circumstances as highly suspicious; especially considering Li was known to be a non-drinking, non-smoking, healthy young man. According to the authorities, Li was admitted with a stomach ache; he died only hours later. As an outspoken advocate for religious freedom, Li had been in the Communist Party's sights. In October 2017 he was abducted, beaten-up and threatened with death by plain-clothed security agents. On 8 February he attended the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington DC with China Aid Association founder and president, Bob Fu. Pray for the Church in China, continuing to uphold Christian human rights lawyer and religious liberty advocate Gao Zhisheng, who is currently being held in secret detention, most probably in solitary confinement and in darkness. * INDONESIA: 'AHOK' APPEALS HIS BLASPHEMY CONVICTION In May 2017 the Christian, ethnic Chinese former Governor of Jakarta, Basuki 'Ahok' Tjahaja Purnama, was sentenced to two years in prison on a politically motivated charge of 'blasphemy'. [For background, see 'Ahok's Blasphemy', Religious Liberty Monitoring, Nov 2016.] Hoping to clear his name, Ahok has petitioned the court to overturn his conviction. The first hearing was held in the North Jakarta District Court on Monday 26 February as hundreds of both supporters and Islamists protested outside. A second hearing will be held next week, after which the case and dossier will be forwarded to the Supreme Court. Ahok is appealing on the grounds that Buni Yani, a communications professor from Jakarta, has since been found guilty of tampering with the allegedly blasphemous video. Prosecutors will maintain that, whilst Yani is indeed guilty of tampering, Ahok is still guilty of 'blasphemy' for questioning the interpretation of a verse of the Qur'an. The Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) has called on the court to reject the appeal. The conviction must be overturned if Ahok is to re-enter Indonesian politics. Prospects are dim. Please pray, especially that God will sustain Ahok through his trials. * IRANIAN REFUGEES: ABANDONED AND BETRAYED SWEDEN: In August 2017 Sweden refused refugee status to Aideen Strandsson (37), an Iranian convert to Christianity. Aideen had travelled to Sweden on a work visa three years earlier, ostensibly to escape Islam and pursue truth in freedom. In Sweden in 2014 she was baptised as a Christian and took a Swedish surname. With her visa due to expire, Aideen applied for asylum on the grounds of religion. In rejecting her application for refugee status Swedish authorities told her, 'If you decided to become a Christian, it's your problem.' Fortunately for Aideen, Hungary stepped in and offered asylum, so if she is eventually forced to leave Sweden, then at least she will be able to go to a country that cares for persecuted Christians. USA: Some 100 persecuted Iranians, mostly Christian religious minority believers, are currently facing deportation from Austria after the US reneged on its agreement. The asylum seekers, who had been vetted while still in Iran, travelled to Austria at the invitation of the US so they could apply to enter America as refugees under a law known as the Lautenberg Amendment. This process has been operating since 2004. Now the US has reneged, some 100 Iranians are facing the prospect of deportation back to Iran. On 21 February Austrian police raided an apartment building in Vienna where some of the Christian Iranians have been living, seizing their documents and passports and threatening them with deportation. Their situation is dire. Please pray. [For the full story see 'Broken Faith', by Mindy Belz, World Magazine, 19 February 2018.] * KENYA: AL-SHABAAB RECRUITS LOCALS, KILLS CHRISTIANS Somalia-based al-Qaeda affiliate, al-Shabaab has again targeted Christian school teachers in eastern Kenya. [For previous attack see RLPB 411 (21 Jun 2017)]. At 1am on Friday 16 February suspected al-Shabaab gunmen raided the sleeping quarters of Qarsa Primary School in Wajir County (which borders Somalia). They shot dead Christian teachers Kevin Shari and Seth Oluoch Odada, who was killed with his wife, Caroline. Another Christian teacher was wounded. The insecurity is so great that the Teachers Service Commission is transferring non-local teachers from Wajir County to their home areas. As most teachers are Christians from outside the region, many schools are now facing closure. A local pastor told Morning Star News that area residents believe local Kenyans are joining al-Shabaab. 'I think these are the people who killed the three Christians,' he said. The Regional Commissioner said as much when he described the militants as 'our boys'. If al-Shabaab is recruiting local people to do their killings, the threat is dramatically increased as cross-border infiltration is no longer necessary. The same threat exists in the coastal south where al-Shabaab militants are known to be praying openly in local mosques and where Christians have been executed for their inability or refusal to recite the Islamic shahada (creed) [see RLPB 421 (30 Aug 2017)]. Please pray. * PAKISTAN: BLASPHEMY LAW STRIKES AGAIN Led by the new Barelvi party, Tehreek-e-Labaik Ya Rasool Allah (LeT), [see RLPB 434 (29 Nov 2017)] hundreds of Muslims took to the streets of Lahore on Monday 19 February, threatening to burn the homes of Christians and demanding that police arrest Patras Masih (20), a Christian youth and resident of Dher Village in Shahdara Town area of Lahore, whom they accuse of posting a 'blasphemous' image to Facebook. Fear spread through the Christian community; some 800 Christian families fled their homes. According to World Watch Monitor, the protestors dispersed only after the local police chief assured them that the accused had been arrested. On Friday 23 February Patras' cousin, Sajid Masih (24) was summoned to the police station for questioning in relation to the case. During the interrogation, Sajid jumped out of the fourth floor window and sustained serious injuries including multiple fractures. Interviewed in hospital, Sajid claims the police beat him and Patras before trying to force him to commit a sex act on his cousin. To escape, Sajid jumped out of the window. The police claim Sajid jumped after the interrogators took his cell phone. They are charging him with the crime of attempting suicide. Whatever is the case, nobody jumps from a fourth floor window unless they are absolutely terrified and distressed beyond measure. Grave fears are held for the wellbeing of both Sajid and Patras Masih. Please pray. * TURKEY: ISLAMO-TURKISH NATIONALISM BOILS Turkish belligerence in northern Syria was matched this month by the Turkish government's threat to invade Greece, indeed to reclaim all the lands of the former Ottoman Empire. Fortunately though, while Turkey's President Erdogan might exude neo-Ottoman ambition and aggression, his depleted army cannot match his rhetoric. Whilst Turkey's neighbours need not fret, its ethnic and religious minorities have every reason to be anxious about the ever escalating Islamo-Turkish nationalism now threatening their continued existence. On 8 February Turkey's population registers were officially opened to the public via an online genealogy database. The demand was so great that the system quickly crashed and was not restored until 14 February. Many appealed for the database to remain closed for it threatens to reveal how many 'Turks' have European, Greek and even Armenian ancestry - their ancestors having been forcibly Islamised and 'Turkified' before or during the Armenian Genocide. 'Pandora's Box' has been opened and, in this environment, it could prove explosive. Pray for the Church in Turkey.