Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 479

Source:  http://rlprayerbulletin.blogspot.com

Date:  October 31, 2018

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

* BURMA (MYANMAR) (RLPB 475; updated in RLPB 476), where the China-backed 
United Wa State Army (UWSA) has been destroying crosses, closing and 
demolishing churches and arresting and interrogating pastors as it moves to 
exert control over religion in north-east Burma's unrecognised but de facto 
independent Wa State.   

UPDATE: On 16 October Catholic media reported that the UWSA had expelled two 
Salesian priests, three nuns from the Missionary Society of St Paul and three 
lay teachers from the Wa hills. Furthermore, local believers are now 
prohibited from reading the Bible and praying together, even in private 
homes. In a letter dated 22 October, Lahu Baptist leaders called on the UWSA 
to release the 41 Bible students who had been arrested and forcibly recruited 
into the UWSA. They also asked that their churches be re-opened and their 
property returned. According to this later report, a total of 19 Catholics 
have been expelled, along with twelve pastors from the Lahu Baptist 
Convention. The Wa region is home to many ethnic groups, with Christians 
comprising around 30 percent of the estimated 450,000 Wa population. Pray for 
the Church in Burma's Wa region.  

* RLPB 476 of 1000. To commemorate the milestone of 1000 religious liberty 
prayer bulletins, this RLPB comprised a short article dedicated to those who 
bear the burden of persecution for Christ's sake as well as those who help 
bear that burden (see Galatians 6:2) by means of intercessory prayer, 
'advocacy to the highest authority'. RLPB 476 also included updates on Burma; 
on the Nigerian Christian captive Leah Sharibu (15) whom Boko Haram had 
threatened to execute; on North Korea; and on Pakistani Christian death-row 
prisoner Asia Bibi whose Supreme Court appeal had finally been heard.  

As the RLPB ministry commemorated the publication of the 1000th religious 
liberty prayer bulletin, Australian missionary doctor Ken Elliot (84) 
suffered through his 1000th day in captivity. Dr Elliott and his wife, 
Jocelyn, had run a 120-bed charitable medical clinic in Djibo, northern 
Burkina Faso, for over 40 years before they were abducted on 15 January 2016. 
While Mrs Elliot was subsequently released, Dr Elliot remains captive to a 
group associated with Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). He is being 
held in the Malian desert along with several other foreigners, most of whom 
are aid workers and Christian. Pray that the Lord will sustain, comfort, 
encourage and deliver Dr Elliott and his fellow captives.  

UPDATE NIGERIA: CHRISTIAN CAPTIVES DEEMED SLAVES As updated in RLPB 477 (17 
Oct), after executing two Muslim aid workers as apostates (for working with 
the Red Cross), Boko Haram has now officially deemed Christian schoolgirl 
Leah Sharibu (15) and Christian nurse Alice Loksha Ngaddah (24, mother of two 
small children) to be their slaves. In its statement, Boko Haram elaborated: 
'Based on our [Islamic] doctrines, it is now lawful for us to do whatever we 
want to do with them.' Pray for Nigeria and in particular for Leah and Alice; 
may the Lord protect, sustain and deliver them.  

UPDATE NORTH KOREA: PRAY THE DOORS WILL OPEN 
When North Korean leader Kim Jong-un indicated that he would welcome the Pope 
if he were to visit North Korea, South Korean President Moon Jae-in agreed to 
extend an invitation. On 19 October Thae Yong Ho - the highest level diplomat 
ever to defect from North Korea - released a video via Daily NK entitled 
'Hoping for a brave decision from the Pope'.  Thae's insights are both 
fascinating and encouraging. Not only does Thae reveal that North Korean 
diplomats have been engaged in high level 'under-the-table negotiations' with 
the Vatican since the late 1980s, he also reports that, whilst Pyongyang's 
churches are definitely fake - existing purely for propaganda purposes, the 
fake believers dispatched to attend them have mostly become believers. 
Following that line, Thae believes that while any welcome extended to the 
Pope would be similarly fake, his visit could however open the door for love, 
faith and hope to enter North Korea. Pray that God would intervene in North 
Korea so that its 'gates' and 'ancient doors' might finally be opened 'that 
the King of glory [the Lord Almighty] may come in' (Psalm 24).  

UPDATE PAKISTAN: ASIA BIBI STILL WAITING

Always good at talking, the United Nations has issued a lot of statements 
this past month, but not a single statement on the situation facing Asia 
Bibi. Fortunately not everyone is maintaining silence. On Sunday evening 21 
October Australian MP Michael Sukkar (LNP, Deakin) highlighted the plight of 
Asia Bibi as he called on the Australian government to cease foreign aid to 
Pakistan while that country is persecuting Christians and other minority 
groups. Meanwhile, Asia and her family waits. On 19 October World Watch 
Monitor released an informative report which highlights some of the gross 
inconsistencies in the case and includes a video interview with the family. 
Pray for God to intervene in Pakistan, for the country's vulnerable minority 
Christians and especially at this time for Asia Bibi.  

* THE CHRISTIAN CRISIS IN IRAQ & SYRIA (RLPB 477), where the Assyrian nation 
[the indigenous Christian nation of Mesopotamia (Syria-Iraq)] is in a 
struggle for its very survival.   Pray for the Church in the Middle East, in 
particular for the Assyrians of Mesopotamia for whom the Christian Crisis is 
most severe.  

* SUDAN (RLPB 478), where the Islamist Arab nationalist regime in Khartoum 
continues its campaign to fully Islamise and Arabise all areas under its 
control.   

UPDATE SUDAN: CHURCH IN SOUTH DARFUR DRIVEN UNDERGROUND

Middle East Concern (MEC) has now confirmed that Tajadin Idris Yousef, the 
leader of the group of 13 Sudanese Christians arrested in the city of Nyala, 
South Darfur, on 10 October, will be charged with apostasy. Of the 13 
arrested, three believers from the Nuba Mountains were released when it 
became clear they were all from a Christian background; the rest were 
detained as apostates (converts from Islam). All but one were released ten 
days later after they had recanted their faith under torture and paid a fine 
for 'disturbing the peace'. In their hearts they are still believers. Despite 
beatings and torture, Tajadin Idris Yousef refused to recant, hence the 
charge of apostasy. He was released on 22 October pending a court hearing. 
The Church has since gone 'underground'. Pray for the Church in South Darfur. 
Pray for the believers who under torture recanted with their lips (but not 
their hearts); may they know the Lord's grace, comfort, healing and 
restoration (Psalm 23:3a); may the devil have no victory over them and may no 
division permeate the Church.  Pray for Tajadin Idris Yousef; may the Lord 
sustain, embolden and deliver him.  

'Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as 
serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men, for they will deliver you over 
to courts and flog you in their synagogues,  and you will be dragged before 
governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the 
Gentiles. When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak 
or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that 
hour.  For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking 
through you.' (Matthew 10:17-20 ESV)  


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

* ALGERIA: FIVE TO FACE COURT ON 6 NOVEMBER

Five Algerian Christians - including three from one family - will face court 
on Tuesday 6 November   accused of 'inciting a Muslim to change his religion' 
and 'performing religious worship in an unauthorised place'. The complaint 
was brought by a woman whose husband had converted from Islam to 
Christianity. In Algeria it is illegal to 'incite a Muslim to change his 
religion'.  The believers are all from Bechloul town in Bouira Province, 
100km south-east of the capital, Algiers. Christians continue to face 
pressure in Algeria. On 16 October police officers closed and sealed the 
doors of the Protestant church in Azaghar, a village near Akbou, about 180km 
south-east of Algiers. The church, which is a member of the legally 
recognised Protestant Church of Algeria (EPA), has been active for more than 
five years and has about 300 congregants. As the 2019 presidential poll 
looms, Islam may well be exploited for political gain. Pray for God to 
intervene in Algeria.  

* INDIA: HINDUTVA ESCALATES IN THE SOUTH

For many decades now, Hindu nationalists have concentrated their activities 
in the northern tribal belt. Yet Hindutva (militant Hindu nationalism) is 
escalating in the south. Sources report: 'The southern states of Karnataka, 
Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Kerala saw at least 60 cases of 
persecution of Christians in the first nine months of 2018, compared with 36 
such attacks in the first nine months of 2017.' Christian leaders in south 
India told Morning Star News (MSN) that the escalation of persecution can be 
attributed to the increased activism of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) 
volunteers who incite local Hindus to attack Christians. Furthermore, police 
are increasingly implicated. On 6 October a police inspector with close ties 
to the RSS led five police officers in a violent raid on a house church in 
Aralvaimozhi, Kanyakumari District, Tamil Nadu State. This is but one of many 
attacks. Christian leaders told MSN that the police are misusing their power 
to persecute Christians and that 'it is all happening under the supervision 
of RSS and BJP supporters in the local government'. Pray for the Church in 
India.  

* KENYA: CHRISTIAN TEACHERS TARGETED IN NORTH-EAST

At around 1am on the night of 10 October at least 20 militants - believed to 
be affiliated with al-Shabaab - targeted non-local teachers at the Arabia 
Boys Secondary School in Mandera County, close to the dangerously porous 
Kenya-Somali border. After overwhelming the four security guards, the 
militants threw an explosive device into the house where the school's four 
non-local (and therefore presumably non-Muslim) teachers were sleeping, 
setting it on fire. Philip Okumu (26) and Daniel Wekesa (39) - both 
Christians - were shot and killed as they fled the flames. The school's other 
two non-local teachers, Elijah Nderitu and Kelvin Lomusi, managed to escape 
alive. The militants were clearly working from excellent intelligence; they 
knew exactly where the Christian teachers would be found. It is not the first 
time al-Shabaab has targeted Christian teachers in this predominantly Muslim 
region [see RLPB 411 (21 June 2017)].  Pray for the Lord to protect and bless 
all Christians working in Muslim-majority eastern Kenya.  

* NIGERIA: SLAUGHTER IN JOS 

On the evening of 27 September, gunmen - some in military uniforms, others in 
all black - went on a killing spree in the quiet, residential neighbourhood 
of Rukuba Road, in the south-western outskirts of Jos, the capital of Plateau 
State. In total, 15 people were killed. Blessing Kogi (23) lost ten members 
of her family that night and World Watch Monitor (WWM) names them all in its 
report.  Twelve members of the family had gathered for a meal when the 
militants burst in, shooting wildly. Blessing and one cousin survived with 
injuries. Her father arrived home from work to find most of his family dead. 
According to Blessing, 'The people wearing black clothes spoke Hausa and 
Fulani, while the others wearing army uniforms spoke correct English.' What's 
more, as the gunmen were leaving she heard one of the men in army uniform 
say, 'We have finished our work; they should come and pay us our money.' 
Blessing requested prayers for her father, whom she described as a broken 
man. Questions are being asked as to how gunmen can commit such carnage in a 
suburb of a state capital and within walking distance of a military barracks. 
Pray for Nigeria; may the Lord intervene in grace and mercy so the 
Islamisation and terror will end.  

* NIGERIA: CHAOS IN KADUNA

Pandemonium erupted in a market in Kasuwan Magani in the Kajuru Local 
Government Area of Kaduna on 18 October after a Muslim cried 'thief' to 
deliberately trigger a riot. The cry quickly changed to 'Allahu Akbar' as 
Muslims attacked homes and businesses belonging to Christians (mostly ethnic 
Igbo); one church was also torched. A total of 55 people were confirmed dead, 
many burned beyond recognition. A later skirmish claimed another 27 lives. On 
19 October the revered tribal leader of a majority-Christian area in southern 
Kaduna came to visit the site of the violence only to be kidnapped; his 
security detachment was killed. Despite ransom being paid, Raphael Maiwada 
Galadima, a Catholic, was executed; his body was found on 26 October. The 
violence has sent ethnic-religious tensions soaring. The Nigerian Air Force 
has deployed combat helicopters, surveillance aircraft and a detachment of 
Special Forces to the area to restore order. While commercial activities are 
slowly resuming, most Igbo businesses remain closed. Pray for Nigeria; may 
the Lord intervene to save this country from civil war.  


* PAKISTAN:  LIFE IN PRISON FOR BLASPHEMY

As Christian death-row blasphemy prisoner Asia Bibi awaits the ruling of the 
Supreme Court (which heard her appeal on 8 October) harsh and manifestly 
unjust sentences continue to be handed down to those accused of blasphemy. In 
June 2015 Yaqoob Bashir, a 25-year-old mentally disabled Pakistani Christian, 
was accused of burning a booklet that allegedly contained verses of the 
Quran. On 28 September 2018 the district court in Mirpur Khas, Sindh 
Province, deemed Bashir guilty of blasphemy and sentenced him to life in 
prison. His lawyer will appeal, but, as in Asia Bibi's case, the appeal 
process can take many years during which time the prisoner's survival is not 
guaranteed. Pray for a breakthrough in Pakistan, and may the Lord protect, 
sustain, comfort and encourage his Church.  


* VIETNAM: IMPRISONED PASTOR'S HEALTH DETERIORATES

Protestant pastor Nguyen Trung Ton (46) was arrested in July 2017 for his 
pro-democracy and religious liberty advocacy. At that time, Ton was carrying 
severe leg injuries acquired during a vicious beating in February 2017 [see 
RLPB 448 (28 March)]. On 5 April 2018 Ton and five other members of the 
Brotherhood for Democracy group were tried in a Hanoi Court and charged with 
'carrying out activities aimed at overthrowing the People's administration' 
[RLPB 450 (11 April)]. Ton was sentenced to 12 years in prison. The February 
2017 beating left Ton with a torn ligament and crushed leg muscles. Confined 
to prison and without medical care, Ton's legs have never healed. On 23 
October Ton's wife, Nguyen Thi Lanh, told Radio Free Asia that her husband's 
health is deteriorating. 'Prison authorities have not allowed me to send him 
any medication, and now he can't walk and is very ill,' she said. On 7 June 
2018 two of the Brotherhood for Democracy prisoners - leader Nguyen Van Dai 
and his assistant (Ms) Le Thu Ha - were released from prison and exiled to 
Germany [RLPB 459 (13 June)]. Pray that God will intervene for Pastor Nguyen 
Trung Ton.  

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