By Elizabeth Kendal
Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin (RLPB) 275
Special to ASSIST News Service
AUSTRALIA (ANS) -- August 2014 UPDATE -- During August we prayed concerning ...
* NIGERIA & CAMEROON (RLPB 272), where Boko Haram continues its jihad for a Sharia State.
UPDATE: Praise God no more young girls have been used as suicide bombers. However, Boko Haram appears to have adopted the strategy of taking captives for use as soldiers, in much the same way the Lord's Resistance Army has done. Please pray! On Sunday 24 August Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau released a video statement in which he declared Gwoza town in Borno State part of a new Islamic Caliphate. [Boko Haram seized Gwoza earlier this month.] The United Nations humanitarian office (OCHA) confirms that Gwoza is under rebel control. Vanguard reports: 'Boko Haram is also believed to be in control of other areas near Gwoza in southern Borno, as well as large swathes of territory in northern Borno and at least one town in neighbouring Yobe state. ... Experts have described Boko Haram's gains in r ecent weeks as unprecedented, saying the group was closer than ever to achieving its goal of carving out a strict Islamic state across northern Nigeria.'
* IRAQ (RLPB 273), where Christians have been almost entirely ethno-religiously cleansed from Nineveh Province. Only the most elderly and frail have remained in their homes, forced to either convert to Islam or pay jizya (protection money) to survive. Nineveh's Christians fled en masse into Iraqi Kurdistan where churches are struggling to cope with this massive humanitarian crisis.
UPDATE: Praise God, some 300 Christian families, comprising a total of some 1200 people, who had previously been living in an open field, have now moved into a shopping mall in the Kurdish capital, Arbil. An elderly woman told reporters: 'We have been in this building more than a week and we thank the owner of the building for sheltering us. The building is well aired. But there is no aid reaching us. We are suffering from a shortage of drinking water, food, medicine and milk for children ... .' Indeed, the overall situation remains dire. According to the Assyrian International News Agency at least five refugees are dying daily. There is a desperate need for humanitarian aid in both Arbil and in Dohuk.
In Breaking News, AINA has learned that a 3 year-old Assyrian girl named Christina Khader Christian Ebada, was taken from her family as they fled Qaraqosh. The family's last sight of Christina was of her crying as she was taken away by heavily bearded ISIS jihadists at the Khazar checkpoint. (See AINA for photo)
In what is a truly remarkable development the President of the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG), Massoud Barzani, announced on 18 August that the KRG will accept Assyrian Christian volunteers into the Kurdish armed forces, so that they may protect their homes and villages from the Islamic State (ISIS). May 'baal perazim' -- the Lord of the breakthrough -- go before them. (2 Samuel 5:17-25)
'Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land that I swore to their forefathers to give them.' (Joshua 1:6 NIV) [According to Isaiah 19:25, 'Assyria' will exist, and it will be the work of his hands.]
* UKRAINE (RLPB 274), where conflict erupted after an opposition protest was hijacked by unsavoury elements seeking empowerment, and exploited by foreign powers prepared to risk Ukraine's unity in pursuit of their own interests. A massive propaganda war is under-way. Beneath the belligerence is terrible human suffering and a rapidly escalating humanitarian crisis. There is a desperate need for a cease-fire, a political solution, long-term peace and reconciliation. Pray that the churches -- which are under immense strain -- might lead the way in peace and reconciliation; for the future of Ukraine and for the glory of God.
August 2014 ROUND-UP -- also this month ...
* CHINA: COMMUNIST PARTY TO CONSTRUCT THEOLOGY
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is resurrecting an old, tried-and-failed strategy through which the administration of President Xi Jinping believes it can control the growing Christian Church. The strategy is known as 'theological reconstruction', and the CCP's plan is to construct a theology that makes Chinese Christianity compatible with Chinese socialism. To put it another way: the 'Sinicisation of Christianity' is aimed at constructing a state-approved theology which wi ll serve CCP interests. According to the director of the State Administration for Religious Affairs, Wang Zuoan, this will facilitate the growth of Christianity. However, when this strategy was last implemented (in the 1990s) all it facilitated was escalating persecution which failed to eradicate traditional believers. It seems the Chinese Church is facing a new wave of persecution.
* CHINA: LAYWER GAO ZHISHENG RELEASED
Internationally recognised Chinese human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng, known for his courageous defence of persecuted Christians, has been released from detention. Gao was arrested in December 2006 and tortured severely while serving a three-year sentence. In April 2010 he was 'disappeared' to a secret 'black jail'. Eventually in December 2011 the authorities reported that Gao had been returned to prison for another three years. Released on 7 August 2014, it appears Gao had been kept in solitary confinement the whole time: no communication, no books or input of any k ind. Each day he was fed one slice of bread and one piece of cabbage. Consequently he has lost 22kg and his teeth have rotted due to malnutrition. Furthermore, it seems Goa has been repeatedly tortured; reportedly he is able to speak only in short sentences and much of what he says is unintelligible. He has not been able to see a doctor. Gao's wife, Geng He (who now lives in the US) is appealing to the Chinese authorities to allow her husband to travel to the US for medical treatment. Pray for Gao Zhisheng and that he will be able to get to the US. Many are concerned that he might 'disappear' yet again. Doubtless the CCP's plan is to make sure all Chinese human rights lawyers get the message: this is what happens to those who challenge the CCP! Please pray.
* CHINA: PASTOR ZHANG TO SERVE 12 YEARS
Pastor Zhang Shaojie of Nanle County Christian Church, Henan Province, was arrested in November 2013 along with 23 other church members as they attempted to petition the authorities abou t a land dispute. The church maintained that CCP officials were trying to seize the land on which the church was built. On 4 July 2014 Zhang was fined and sentenced to 12 years' imprisonment for fraud and 'gathering a crowd to disturb public order'. On 21 August Zhang's lawyers were informed their appeal had failed -- the court was upholding the original ruling. The severity of the sentence clearly demonstrates repression is escalating. Critics of the government believe that Pastor Zhang, a prominent leader, has been set-up as the CCP seeks to stem the growth of the Chinese Church. Outspoken human rights lawyer, Zhang Xuezhong, maintains the CCP is cracking down on Christianity as part of a campaign aimed at weakening or eradicating any ideological challenge or source of alternative leadership. Pray for the Church in China.
* IRAN: PASTOR FARSHID FATHI ENDANGERED
Housing only the most violent and hardened criminals, Rajaei-Shahri prison is known as one of Iran's most dangerous prisons. Prisoners are often transferred there for punishment and even to be killed. Iranian-American pastor Saeed Abedini is one such case, having been transferred from Evin Prison (for political prisoners) to Rajaei-Shahri in November last year. [See RLPB 238 (26 Nov 2013).] On 19 August Pastor Farshid Fathi (35) was also transferred from Evin to Rajaei-Shahri. A married father of two, Pastor Fathi was arrested in a Christmas raid on 26 Dec 2010 and subsequently sentenced to six years in prison. Facing extreme pressure from Iranian Intelligence, his family subsequently fled to Canada via Turkey. Nobody knows why Farshid was transferred to Rajaei-Shahri prison. The move puts his life in extreme danger.