'Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.' (Romans 12:15 ESV)
JANUARY 2015 UPDATE - During January we prayed concerning ...
* NUBA MTS, SUDAN (RLPB 292), where Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) troops backed by Rapid Support Forces (RSF - janjaweed militias) had seized control of Angartu, bringing the Islamist forces to within 20km of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army-North (SPLM/A-N) base in Kauda. An urgent prayer request for the imperilled, predominantly Christian Nuba was issued on Friday 16 January.
UPDATE: 'REVERSAL OF FORTUNES' - 'persecuted but not forsaken ...' (2 Corinthians 4:9 ESV) On Friday 16 January, SPLA-N forces launched a full frontal assault on the town of Angartu. During some four hours of intensive fighting the SPLA-N forced the SAF and RSF fighters to retreat to positions in and around Talodi (about 50km south), reversing the gains the Arab-Islamist Government of Sudan (GoS) had made since early January. At much the same time, SPLA-N forces advanced to within 20km of the state capital, Kadugli (about 90km west of Angartu), long held by the GoS. Whilst the Nuba rejoice and praise God for the 'reversal of fortunes', they also know that the battle for life and liberty continues. Praise God for his grace and mercy; may Baal-perazim (the Lord who bursts through [see 2 Samuel 5:17-21]) defend, provide for and ultimately deliver his people.
* NIGER (RLPB 293), where Islamic anti-Christian pogroms erupted after Friday prayers on 16 January. In two days of Islamic rioting, dozens of Christian homes and Christian properties, as well as some 70 churches, were burnt and razed.
UPDATE: 'ARE YOU ALLAHU AKBAR OR ARE YOU ALLELUIA?'
Archbishop Michel Cartateguy of Niamey reports that Christians in Niger are 'in a state of shock'. 'We are re-living Jesus' agony,' he said. 'This could continue if we are not protected. There are people going round asking "are you Allahu Akbar or are you Alleluia?", trying to identify Christians in the city. What will they do next?' The Archbishop is not alone in suspecting the violence was 'manipulated from abroad'. Niger's Interior Minister Massaoudou Hassoumi has said he saw 'Boko Haram flags' in Zinder, which is only about 200km north of Kano, where Boko Haram has staged numerous terror attacks and about 500 km west of Boko Haram's base by Lake Chad. Many suspect that the violence was pre-planned and that the Charlie Hebdo issue served only as a pretext to launch what was an extremely thorough and highly organised attack. Christians in Zinder are living in great fear, with many too afraid to return home. On 23 January the Niger government announced a programme to rebuild the destroyed churches. Until then, Christians are holding meetings in their own homes under the protection of the Niger police.
Pray Psalm 57 for the Church in Niger: 'Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by. I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfils his purpose for me.' (vv1,2)
JANUARY 2015 ROUND-UP - also this month ...
* CHINA: ANTI-CHRISTMAS MEASURES IN SEVERAL CITIES The ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is escalating its attacks on Christianity on the pretext of protecting Chinese culture and national security. On Christmas Eve a university in Xi'an in China's heartland hoisted banners across the campus urging students to 'oppose kitsch Western holidays' and requiring them to attend a three-hour screening of propaganda films on Christmas Day. Also on Christmas Eve, university students in Changsha, the capital of traditionally hostile Hunan Province (Mao's birthplace), staged an anti-Christmas parade with placards reading: 'Chinese should not celebrate foreign festivals'. In coastal Wenzhou, the substantially Christian city in Zhejiang where the CCP has been busy 'de-Christianising' the sky-line (see RLPB blog, label 'Wenzhou'), all Christmas activities in schools and kindergartens were banned. Please pray for China's leaders and for the Church in China (1Timothy 2:1-4).
* LIBYA: EGYPTIAN COPTS TARGETED FOR BEING CHRISTIAN Until NATO backed an Islamist-led regime-change operation, Copts could find good jobs in Libya. However, these days Libya is no longer safe for Christians. On Tuesday 23 December two Coptic doctors in Sirte were shot and killed in their home in front of their children. A teenage daughter was taken captive and her bullet-riddled body dumped in the desert two days later. On 29 December seven Copts were abducted while driving back to Egypt from Sirte. Then, on 3 January 13 Copts were abducted when jihadists raided the complex where they were living, calling for them by name. Expelled from the complex, the remaining Copts hid in farms until arrangements could be made for them to be smuggled out of Libya. On 12 January the IS affiliate in Libya claimed responsibility, posting photos of the captives online (without any ransom demand) and boasting: 'The soldiers of the Islamic State in the province of Tripoli hold captive 21 Christian crusaders.' A Libya researcher at Human Rights Watch, Hanan Salah, said, 'It is extremely disturbing to see a group of people being apprehended simply on the basis of their religion. We have seen this trend before - others have been killed, arrested or kidnapped merely for the possession of a Bible or just for being a Christian.' On 19 January relatives of the abducted workers wept as they protested quietly outside the UN office in Cairo. Among them was Bisheer Estefanos, a farmer from Minya in Upper Egypt, whose brothers, Bishoy and Samuel, were among the captives. 'All we can do is pray to God for help,' he said. 'Behold, God is my helper; the Lord is the upholder of my life.' (Psalm 54:4 ESV)
* MALI: JIHADISTS RE-LAUNCH OFFENSIVE On 5,7,8 and 10 January al-Qaeda-linked jihadists launched hit-and-run attacks in Mali. On Friday 16 January some 20 jihadists on motorcycles opened fire on Malian soldiers manning the checkpoint at the entrance to the central Malian town of Teninkou. A three hour-long fire-fight ensued and the jihadists withdrew. Then, on 17 January jihadists struck the UN base in Kidal, northern Mali. In what was a far more complex assault, the jihadists deployed two suicide car bombs and a barrage of eight rockets. A local government source confirmed that the attackers cried 'Allahu Akbar' (God is greatest) indicating they were Islamic jihadists, not Tuareg separatists. Though French forces drove the jihadists from the cities in 2012, they have now regrouped and re-armed. When jihadists took control of northern Mali in 2012, they enforced strict Sharia, targeting Christians and driving them from their homes. [Background: RLPB 154 (11 April 2012) and RLM blog, label 'Mali'.] Please pray.
* NIGERIA: BOKO HARAM On 3 January Boko Haram seized control of Baga, a fishing village on the shores of Lake Chad, along with the multi-national army base located there. Eager to capture Maiduguri as the capital of its Caliphate, Boko Haram has been hampered by the city of Monguno which is located between Baga and Maiduguri. It is home to 100,000 civilians and a large military base and acts as a buffer. On Sunday 25 January Boko Haram launched simultaneous pre-dawn raids on Maiduguri and Monguno. Under cover of attack helicopters and military jets, the Nigerian military repelled Boko Haram from the outskirts of Maiduguri. However, in Monguno the military was overwhelmed. Thousands more civilians have been displaced and Boko Haram has expanded its territory and acquired yet more armaments. Boko Haram, which controls 'an area about the size of Belgium', makes most of its money from ransoms, extortion (protection rackets) and bank robberies. Nigeria's general elections are scheduled for 14 February. Violence is escalating, tensions are high and the situation is explosive.
* UK: CHRISTIAN VALUES UNACCEPTABLE IN THE COURT: Christian Magistrate Richard Page (68), who has served as a Justice of the Peace in Kent for 15 years, has been disciplined for sharing with two colleagues in a private, closed-door consultation, his belief that a child's best interests lie in being raised by both a mother and a father. He has been publicly reprimanded for 'serious misconduct' and barred from sitting as a magistrate until he has received 'equality training' (a polite term for 're-education'). Page has been under enormous pressure. 'Everyone else seems to be allowed to stand up for their beliefs except for Christians,' he said. Christian Concern co-founder and CEO, Andrea Williams, summed up the situation perfectly: 'Richard Page is accused of being prejudiced on account of his Christian faith. Ironically, closer inspection of this case reveals that the real discriminatory prejudice is that practised by those who would prioritise the placing of this child with a same-sex couple, not on the basis of evidence but on the basis of ideology.' IN THE HOSPITAL: Victoria Wasteney (37), Head of Forensic Occupational Therapy at the John Howard Centre in London, has been suspended for nine months for witnessing to (deemed 'harassing and bullying') a Muslim colleague. Whilst Miss Enya Nawaz (25) did make the complaint, Wasteney believes she was pressured to do so, as the two had enjoyed a genuine friendship over some time, talking openly, sharing interests and attending events together. Regarding her Christian witness, Wasteney says, 'It was a natural and open thing for me to do and she didn't object in any way.'
IN THE SCHOOL: Christian schools continue to suffer as Ofsted inspectors continue to downgrade schools deemed not to be promoting 'British values', which are now defined by the Equality Act. Despite achieving the best academic results in the region, Grindon Hall Christian School, Sunderland, has been downgraded to 'inadequate' and recommended for 'special measures' due to its Christian values. Parents are outraged, particularly as the Ofsted inspectors make their assessments by walking around asking young children extremely inappropriate questions which leave children upset and confused. The inspection was launched after a complaint by a former teacher who had been dismissed due to poor performance. In other words, hostile elements know that the law can be used as a weapon against Christians. The school is considering legal action. Please pray.