Date: October 26, 2016
OCTOBER 2016 UPDATE - this month we prayed concerning ... * RUSSIA (RLPB 378), where new anti-mission measures - which have more to do with politics than religion - are causing grief and stirring debate. UPDATE: Russia's new anti-mission measures are stirring debate within the Orthodox Church. On 7 October activists associated with the 'Orthodox Advocacy Analytic Centre' (OAAC) summarily detained and then handed to police eight Jehovah's Witnesses they accused of illegal missionary activity. Russian Orthodox theologian and commentator Sergey Khudiev slammed the action in an article on Pravmir.ru (Orthodoxy and the World website). Khudiev condemned the harmful actions of Orthodox 'vigilantes' who bring 'nothing to the faith, the church, or the salvation of souls, except harm. ... [They] are not a testimony to Orthodoxy. They are testimony against it,' he said, recommending instead 'a ministry of love'. Lawyers from the OAAC went on the attack, publicly criticising Khudiev. Citing a list that includes Baptists and Pentecostals, they referred to the 'sects' as 'wolves in sheep's clothing' who hide 'their evil and violence against people' behind 'Christian symbols and quotations from Sacred Scripture'. Using highly evocative language, the OAAC insisted it has a 'sacred obligation' to 'defend our neighbours from this plague that is vigorously penetrating our country'. A spiritual battle is under way. Please pray for Russia and its Church. (Romans 8:28 ESV). * CHINA (RLPB 379), where new regulations targeting churches and lawyers herald dark days for the Church. For a more complete analysis, see: 'Persecution of Church to Escalate as Zhejiang Experiment Goes National', by Elizabeth Kendal, Religious Liberty Monitoring (17 Oct 2016). UPDATE: China Aid reports that local government authorities in Lishui city in Zhejiang Province have instructed teachers at the Lishui Vocational and Technical College to instil atheism, exclude theism and eradicate religious activity on campus. ALSO: The four-day 6th Plenum of the Chinese Communist Party's 205-member Central Committee commenced on Monday. By the end of the week President Xi will have been confirmed as the 'core' of the CCP. This will put Xi Jinping on a par with Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping, as a leader whose rule may not be questioned. Pray for China and its Church. * GERMANY (RLPB 380) where the Church is in decline, Christianity is in crisis and Christian asylum seekers are persecuted with impunity. Without reformation, revival and divine intervention, Germany will be lost. Pray for Germany on Reformation Sunday, 30 October. [For prayer points see RLPB 380 (19 Oct).] UPDATE: In addition to the report referenced in RLPB 380, Open Doors has now also released a case study which profiles a refugee centre in the central German town of Rotenburg an der Fulda. Sobering reading, the report includes an open letter and appeal for help from Iranian Christians living in the Rotenburg facility. Appendix 2 calls for an end to the 'integration experience' which is being undertaken at the expense of Christians and appeals for the swift implementation of various protective measures. Critically, the report highlights the role of the local church in supporting Christian refugees, monitoring their situation and advocating on their behalf to bring about change. Report: 'Attacks on Christian Refugees'. Open Doors, October 2016 A case study: the refugee reception centre in Rotenburg an der Fulda, Hesse. OCTOBER ROUND-UP - also this month ... * IRAQ: ELEVATED RISK DURING BATTLE FOR MOSUL Despite having been driven from their homes in Mosul and the Nineveh Plains in June-August 2014, the now-displaced Assyrian remnant will face elevated risk during the Battle for Mosul. At present most are hunkered down in Ankawa, on the northern edge of Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan. The ISIS counter-offensive has included attempts to open new fronts. On 21 October ISIS suicide bombers and snipers attacked the contested but Kurdish-held oil-rich city of Kirkuk. On 23 October ISIS launched a fierce three-pronged attack on Rutba in western Anbar Province. During the attack on Kirkuk, a group of ISIS fighters (at least one in suicide vest) took up positions inside the home of seven female Christian university students. Unable to escape, the girls hid under their beds, texting their priest in Erbil. He in turn, rallied the church to prayer and notified Iraqi and Kurdish forces. It is nothing short of a miracle that these girls remained undetected and were rescued, not simply alive but unharmed. Priest Ammar told World Watch Monitor, 'It's a miracle. A true miracle. We prayed a lot and God answered.' Pray for the Christian remnant in Iraq: 'Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings ...' (from Psalm 17:6-9). * PRISONERS: PRAISE GOD for the release in IRAN of Behnam Irani, pastor of the 300-member Church of Iran in Karaj. During his six years in prison, he had at times been close to death. PRAISE GOD for the release in CHINA of Yang Rongli, pastor of the 50,000-member Linfen Church in Shaanxi province; she had served her full 7-year detention. PLEASE continue to 'Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.' (Hebrews 13:3 ESV) * UK: BELFAST COURT RULES AGAINST ASHERS BAKERY Belfast's Court of Appeal has ruled against Ashers Baking Company deeming its refusal in 2014 to decorate a cake with the words 'Support Gay Marriage' constituted 'direct discrimination'. This was despite recognising that the openly Christian bakery manager, Mr Daniel McArthur, did not refuse the service because the customer, Mr Gareth Lee, was gay; indeed, Mr Lee (a gay rights activist) had been a regular customer at Ashers bakery. 'What we refused to do,' said Daniel McArthur, 'was to be involved with promoting a political campaign to change marriage law.' Northern Ireland's Attorney General John Larkin QC had argued that, 'No one should be forced to be the mouthpiece for someone else's views when they are opposed to their own - whether in print or in icing sugar,' noting that would amount to 'coerced expression'. Simon Calvert of the Christian Institute agreed, protesting: 'Equality laws are there to protect people from discrimination, not to force people to associate themselves with a cause they oppose.' The case against Ashers Baking Company was brought by the taxpayer-funded Equality Commission for Northern Ireland, which is now demanding the McArthurs pay costs amounting to more than 88,000 pounds. As the McArthurs consider their options, the tide of public opinion is turning. In an online opinion poll conducted by The Telegraph, 88 percent of respondents voted 'No' when asked if the court had made the right decision. Pray for the McArthurs and for awakening in the UK.