By Elizabeth Kendal
Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin (RLPB) 249
Special to ASSIST News Service
AUSTRALIA (ANS) -- 'May God arise, may his enemies be scattered; may his foes flee before him. Summon your power, God; show us your strength, our God, as you have done before.'(Psalm 68:1,28 NIV)
FEBRUARY 2014 UPDATE -- During February we prayed concerning . . .
* NIGERIA (RLPB 246), where the al-Qaeda-linked terrorist group Boko Haram (which regularly targets the Church) is waging a jihad against the Nigerian government with the aim of making Nigeria an Islamic state and northern Fulani Muslims (backed by Boko Haram and rogue military units) are waging a jihad to colonize and extend control deeper into the Christian-dominated south.
UPDATE: In mid February, Borno State Governor, Kashim Shettima, warned that Boko Haram is better armed and more motivated than the Nigerian military. The government wrote off the governor's comment as 'civilian perception', insisting that it was winning the war against Boko Haram.
However, the killings continue and indeed have escalated, especially in Borno State where some 500 people have been killed in recent weeks. On the night of 15 February Boko Haram militants shouting 'Allahu Akbar [God is greater]' targeted the mostly Christian village of Izghe in Borno. The jihadis gathered the men of the village together and then turned on them. At least half the 106 men or more who were killed were Christian. The jihadis also looted and destroyed homes and shops. A week later Izghe was raided again and this time the militants burnt it to the ground. On Tuesday 25 February Boko Haram militants raided the boarding house at the Federal Government College in Buni Yadi in neighbouring Yobe State at 2 am and massacred at least 59 teenage boys. The militants also assembled the female students, ordering them to abandon their education and get married.
On 19 February Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau released a video statement, claiming responsibility for the killings and threatening more, saying, 'The reason why I will kill you is you are infidels. You follow democracy. Whoever follows democracy is an infidel.' Shekau also threatened to attack the oil-rich Niger Delta.
* BURMA (RLPB 247), where the war between the autonomy-seeking Christian Kachin and the resources-craving Burman-Buddhist regime in Naypyidaw rages on.
* NORTH KOREA (RLPB 248), where Christians continue to suffer extreme persecution for refusing to bow to the cult of Kim.
FEBRUARY 2014 ROUND-UP -- also this month . . .
* ACEH, INDONESIA: SHARIA FOR EVERYONE
Aceh's provincial administration and legislative council have approved a new by-law that will force everyone in Aceh to abide by Sharia (Islamic) Law. The Qanun Jinayat (the by-law governing behaviour) will apply to the territory of Aceh as distinct from applying to Muslim individuals. Muslims and non-Muslims, local population and visitors, will all have to observe Sharia, following Islamic codes of dress and behaviour. Christians who violate Sharia will be tried under Islamic law and punished accordingly (usually lashing). Councillor Abdulah Saleh said it was important to have one law for all so that Muslims did not feel they were being treated unfairly. Clearly Saleh fears that Christian liberty could cause fitna (strife or temptation for Muslims) and accordingly Christian liberty must end so that everyone suffers equally.
* ERITREAN REFUGEES IN SINAI: ALERT
Human Rights Watch (HRW) has released a new report: 'Egypt/Sudan: Traffickers Who Torture', HRW 11 Feb 2014. [Many if not most Eritrean refugees are Christians fleeing from persecution in Eritrea seeking religious freedom in Israel or in Europe.]
* IRAN: PASTOR IRANI RETURNED TO PRISON AFTER SURGERY
Sentenced to five years in jail on charges of 'crimes against national security', Pastor Behnam Irani (40) has since come close to death due to internal injuries caused by routine beatings and severe stress. There has been much prayer for his life. We thank God that on 22 February Pastor Irani finally received surgery to treat his internal injuries and painful bleeding stomach ulcers. He was returned to Ghezal Hesar Prison on 25 February. Please pray for Behnam Irani, his wife, children and congregation. Please pray for Iran's Christian prisoners and that God will continue to build his Church in Iran.
'. . . I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.' (Matthew 16:18 ESV)
* TANZANIA: CHURCHES TARGETED IN ZANZIBAR
On Sunday 23 February a home-made bomb reportedly containing a mixture of ball bearings and chemicals exploded at an Evangelistic Assemblies of God Tanzania (EAGT) Church in Zanzibar. The explosion shook the building just as worship was concluding and there were no casualties. The next day a bomb was remotely detonated outside Christ Church Anglican Cathedral in Stone Town, Zanzibar, about 1 pm. Minutes later, another bomb exploded at a nearby seafront restaurant popular with tourists. The attacks may or may not be connected to the news on 19 February that British police will now join the hunt for the attackers who doused two teenage British girls (both Jews) in acid while on a gap-year in Zanzibar in August 2013. The girls had been working in a local Catholic nursery school and were volunteering at a local charity.
* UKRAINE: JEWS THREATENED IN KIEV
Conservative Rabbi Reuven Stamov comments that, whilst anti-Semitism is not an official policy of the protest movement nor of the new government in Kiev, anti-Semitism is indeed flourishing as anti-Semitic elements exploit the chaos and advance their ideology. Some Jews in Kiev have been threatened and some have received letters telling them to leave; many are afraid. Rabbi Moshe Reuven Azman, a Chabad rabbi in Ukraine, has advised his congregation to leave Kiev and the country, if possible. Representatives of Ukrainian Jewry report that they feel a general sense of unease. This is fuelled mostly by the prominent presence of the far-right, neo-Nazi Svoboda Party, as well as scattered sightings of swastikas spray-painted on walls and the emergence of anti-Semitic vigilante groups. Nevertheless, Jews in Ukraine plan to celebrate Purim on 15-16 March. [Purim celebrates the deliverance of the Jews in Persia at the time of Esther.] Despite the insecurity and volatility, the Ukrainian Church must speak out against anti-Semitism. Please pray for Ukraine.
* VIETNAM: CHRISTIAN LAWYER-BLOGGER JAILED
One of Vietnam's most prominent Catholic dissidents and human rights lawyers lost his court appeal on 18 February and will be jailed for 30 months for alleged tax evasion. In 2006-07, Le Quoc Quan (43) spent five months in Washington, DC, as a Fellow of the National Endowment for Democracy. He was first arrested in March 2007, four days after returning to Vietnam, for alleged subversion. He was subsequently disbarred. Quan was arrested again in December 2012 after the BBC published an article he wrote criticizing the Communist Party's place in Vietnam's constitution. Quan was sentenced in October 2013 and on 18 February lost his appeal. On 2 February he began a hunger strike to protest the fact that he is not being permitted access to his religious books or to a priest for confession and communion. Outside the court, Quan's supporters sang hymns and prayed. Catholics held prayer vigils for Quan the following Sunday across Hanoi. Please pray for the Church in Vietnam.