RLPB 470 | August 2018 Update; plus Assyrians, China, India, Nepal, Nigeria

Source:  http://rlprayerbulletin.blogspot.com

Date:  August 29, 2018

by Elizabeth Kendal

AUGUST 2018 UPDATE - this month we prayed concerning ...

* PHILIPPINES (RLPB 466), after the assassination of three Catholic priests, 
all of whom had been openly critical of President Rodrigo Duterte's murderous 
policies. We also prayed concerning the situation in southern Philippines, 
now that Pres. Duterte has signed the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL).  If it 
manages to pass a plebiscite and survive a legal challenge, the BOL will 
establish what would essentially be a mini-Islamic State within the Republic 
of the Philippines. Rather than establishing peace, the BOL may well trigger 
a fresh wave of conflict. Pray for the Church in the Philippines.  

* COMOROS (RLPB 467), where the constitution has been amended to enshrine 
Sunni Islam as the state religion and framework for all law. While the main 
purpose of the amendment is to ensure Shia (and pro-Shia) Muslims are 
excluded from political office, Christians - who are mostly expatriates and 
comprise less than 2 percent of the population - are concerned that this will 
inflame religious sensitivities and fuel persecution ahead of the 2019 
presidential elections. Pray for Christians in the Comoro Islands.  

* ETHIOPIA'S SOMALI/OGADEN REGION (RLPB 468), where churches were burnt and 
priests killed as supporters of the corrupt and cruel regional president, 
Abdi Mohamed Omar (known also as Abdi Iley), rioted in protest at the 
reforming actions of Ethiopian Prime Minister Dr Abey Ahmed. Much of the 
protesting had been incited by fake news spread via social media which framed 
the government intervention as an ethnic-religious attack, when in reality 
the government intervention was aimed at ending the gross human rights abuses 
in the region.  

UPDATE: Order has been restored and Abdi Iley, who has now been stripped of 
his immunity and formally arrested, will face justice for his crimes and 
human rights abuses. May God bless Ethiopia.  

* INDONESIA (RLPB 469), after President Joko Widodo's shock announcement that 
Ma'ruf Amin (75) will be his running mate in the April 2019 presidential 
election. As one of Indonesia's most influential hardline Islamist clerics, 
Amin was a key facilitator of the blasphemy fatwa, protests and trial that 
sent popular ethnic Chinese Christian Basuki 'Ahok' Tjahaja Purnama to prison 
for two years. Widodo's party and coalition partners hope that by appeasing 
Amin they can shield Widodo from an 'Ahok-style' attack. Clearly, in this 
post-Ahok era, the 'sword' of weaponised Islam hangs over the head of every 
potential leader.  

UPDATE: NEW 'BLASPHEMY' CASE TRIGGERS BACKLASH In July 2016 an ethnic-Chinese 
Buddhist woman named Meiliana complained to a neighbour that the local 
mosque's loudspeakers were now so loud that the Islamic call to prayer was 
hurting her ears. News of the complaint spread amongst local Muslims, who 
responded by rioting through the north Sumatran port town of Tanjung 
Balai, burning the homes of ethnic Chinese and at least 14 Buddhist temples. 
Blame fell on Meiliana, who was then charged with blasphemy. On Tuesday 21 
August 2018 an Indonesian court deemed the 44-year-old mother-of-four guilty 
of blasphemy and sentenced her to 18 months in prison.  

Praise God, the backlash against this draconian ruling has been swift and 
effective. By Friday 24 August more than 115,000 Indonesians had added their 
names to an online petition condemning the ruling. In fact the outcry was so 
strong that Indonesia's Ministry of Religious Affairs was forced to issue new 
guidelines on the use of loudspeakers. The guidelines recommend operators 
avoid anything that would 'arouse antipathy towards mosques'; that the call 
to prayer be 'melodious and easy on the ears'; and that sound levels not be 
raised while conducting prayer. Naturally, some mosques will comply and 
others will resist. What is truly significant here is the backlash. The May 
2017 jailing of Ahok really did send tremors through the nation; maybe the 
'awakening' we have been praying for has already begun [see prayer points, 
RLPB 469]. A ferocious spiritual battle is underway; please pray for 
Indonesia.  

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)  


AUGUST 2018 ROUND-UP - also this month ... 

* ASSYRIANS: THE STRUGGLE FOR SURVIVAL CONTINUES 

Assyrians are the indigenous people of Mesopotamia (also known as the Fertile 
Crescent, Iraq-Syria); they are a Christian nation.  

(1) IRAQ 

In August 2017 Basim Bello became the second Assyrian mayor in Iraq's Nineveh 
Province to be illegally ousted from office by Kurdish forces and replaced 
with a member of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP). [For the case of Fayez 
Abed Jawahreh, Mayor of Alqosh, see RLPB 465 (25 July)]. Praise God, Mr Bello 
was reinstated as Mayor of Tel Kepe on 7 August 2018 after he won his case in 
the Iraqi Federal Court. With forces conspiring to change the demographics of 
the Nineveh Plains and to snatch and annex Assyrian lands, the Christian 
Crisis in Iraq is anything but over. [For more information on the situation 
in Iraq see: 'Erasing Assyrians', a report by the Assyrian Confederation of 
Europe, September 2017]. Pray for the Assyrian remnant in Iraq.  

(2) SYRIA 

The Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) - which is the Syrian wing of the 
Turkish Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) - has declared itself to be the ruling 
authority in Syria's north-eastern Hasaka Province. The PYD has mandated that 
all Assyrian and church-run private schools must re-register and adopt a new 
Kurdish teaching curriculum. On 7 August Kurdish authorities closed an 
Assyrian school in Derbiseye after school officials refused to adopt the 
Kurdish curriculum. Not only do Syria's Armenians and Assyrians reject the 
Kurdish curriculum as unacceptably ideological, they also believe it would 
not be accepted by the Syrian government which consequently might not 
recognise their children's credentials. Assyrians are demanding the PYD 
immediately revoke the decision to impose their curricula, and that they 
allow the reopening of Assyrian schools in Derek and Darbasiya before the new 
school year commences in early September. Pray for the Assyrian and Armenian 
remnant in north-east Syria.  

* CHINA: PRESSURE MOUNTS ON CHRISTIANS

(1) GAO ZHISHENG: ONE YEAR 'DISAPPEARED'

On 13 August 2017 long-persecuted Christian human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng 
(54), with the help of two associates, escaped house arrest in Shaanxi 
province; he desperately needed medical and especially dental care. Though 
the men evaded police for 23 days, ultimately Gao was captured and taken into 
secret detention [see RLPB 432 (15 Nov 2017)]. One year has now passed, and 
still nobody knows his whereabouts. Grave fears are held for his safety and 
wellbeing. Please intercede for Gao, remembering that 'intercessory prayer is 
advocacy to the highest authority' (Turn Back the Battle, page 110).  

(2) ENFORCING THE 'MASS LINE'

The ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is working to rein in the Church. 
Unregistered fellowships are being forcibly closed and landlords are being 
pressured not to lease property to church groups. In China's northwest Gansu 
Province, summer camps have been closed down and Catholic priests dismissed. 
In Henan Province churches have been raided, believers arrested and 
Christians forced to sign letters of commitment, promising not to join 
Christianity but to follow the CCP. In Beijing, the city's seven largest 
house churches have been forced to relocate, a process the authorities hope 
will result in closures. Across the country, churches are being forced to 
take down their crosses and replace them with Chinese flags. Some churches 
have been forced to display posters extolling socialism's core values, sing 
nationalistic songs during services and display images of Chinese President 
Xi Jinping. This is all part of President Xi's campaign to enforce the 'mass 
line' (i.e., ideological conformity).  

* INDIA: DRACONIAN BILL PASSED IN PUNJAB

On Tuesday 21 August the Vidhan Sabha (Legislative Assembly) in India's 
north-western state of Punjab unanimously passed a Bill which, if approved by 
the central government, will have enormous ramifications.The Bill aims to 
enact Section 295-AA of the Indian Penal Code and would criminalise sacrilege 
to holy books - Guru Granth Sahib, Bhagavad Gita, Koran and Bible - or any 
religion, with the intention to hurt religious sentiments. Such offences 
would be cognisable (no warrant required for arrest) and non-bailable, and 
would attract a sentence of life imprisonment. Pray this bill does not 
advance.  

* NEPAL: ANTI-CHRISTIAN HOSTILITY RISING

(1) ANTI-CONVERSION LAW NOW IN FORCE In August 2017 the Nepali parliament 
passed a bill criminalising religious conversion and the 'hurting of 
religious sentiment'. Clause 158 of section 9 bans the hurting of religious 
sentiment and is similar to Pakistan's blasphemy law. Clause 160 in section 9 
severely restricts religious conversion and is similar to the anti-conversion 
laws in force in India [RLPB 421 (30 Aug 2017)]. The law officially came into 
force on 17 August 2018. Christians are anxious that the law will be abused, 
especially as anti-Christian hostility is rising, fuelled in part by a wave 
of malicious fake news and false flags: violent crimes being 'claimed' by an 
alleged Christian 'Army' which no Nepalese Christian has ever heard about. 
Persecution seems likely to escalate. Pray for the Church in Nepal.  

(2) 'JUSTICE IS TURNED BACK' (from Isaiah 59:14 15a ESV) 

On 7 June Pastor Govinda Prasad Dhakal (63) was sentenced to 10 years in 
prison after a court deemed him guilty of raping a minor he and his wife had 
adopted in 2016. Unbeknown to the Dhakals, the young girl in question (now 
aged 12) had been raped in 2015 by a local boy from a wealthy family. On that 
occasion, the rapist's family settled the matter out of court with a cash 
payment to the mother. Unaware of the child's traumatic past, the Dhakals 
returned the girl to her mother in September 2017 claiming she was 
unmanageable. The mother then accused the pastor of rape in the hope she 
might receive a cash payment. Instead, Pastor Dhakal maintained his innocence 
and the case went to trial. When the mother realised the pastor would be 
convicted, she repented and confessed in court that she had fabricated the 
story in pursuit of cash for her daughter's education. Christians believe the 
court's decision to imprison Pastor Dhakal reflects the rising anti-Christian 
sentiment in the country and highlights the corruption in the legal system, 
because Pastor Dhakal had refused to pay a bribe. Pastor Dhakal has appealed 
the verdict; he filed a petition in the Makwanpur High Court on 10 July. He 
is currently detained in Chitwan jail. Please pray. [Full story: Morning Star 
News]  

* NIGERIA: CAPTIVE LEAH SHARIBU IS ALIVE 

In February 2018 a faction of Boko Haram abducted some 110 girls from a 
school in Dapchi town, Yobe State, northern Nigeria. Then, on 21 March, after 
their international sponsors chastised the jihadists for taking Muslim girls 
captive, they returned the girls - all except one: Leah Sharibu (15), a 
Christian girl who 'refused to co-operate' and convert to Islam to secure her 
freedom [see RLPB 448 (28 March)]. Nigerian independent online newspaper The 
Cable has managed to obtain proof-of-life. The jihadists sent The Cable a 
photo of Leah dressed in a hijab and sitting on a mat, along with an audio 
file in which Leah appeals for 'the government and people of goodwill to 
intervene to get me out of my current situation'.  Pray that the Lord would 
intervene in Nigeria. Pray for the suffering Church in Northern Nigeria, and 
that Leah Sharibu will be returned to her family.  

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. He will send from heaven and save me; he will put to 
shame him who tramples on me. God will send out his steadfast love and his 
faithfulness! (Psalm 57:1-3 ESV)  

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