RLPB 461. June Update. Incl. North Korea, Eritrea, Iran, Turkey, Ethiopia-Eritrea, Nigeria
Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 461 | Wed 27 Jun 2018
by Elizabeth Kendal
CFF Director of Advocacy
JUNE 2018 UPDATE — this month we prayed concerning …
* NORTH KOREA (RLPB 458) ahead of the US-NK Summit held in Singapore, 12 June.
UPDATE: For all intents and purposes, the historic US-NK Summit was a success. The only people to be disappointed were those with pre-existing biases or unrealistic expectations. Since the summit, North Korea has agreed to return the remains of more than 250 American servicemen who died behind enemy lines during the Korean War (1950-53). Furthermore, North and South Korea have commenced talks on: closer co-operation in the area of sport, resuming family reunions, re-opening the Kaesong Industrial Park, restoring a cross-border military hotline, relocating North Korea’s long-range artillery systems away from the border, and connecting the railways across the border.
Meanwhile, Russian officials have visited Pyongyang and South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in has met with Vladimir Putin in Moscow. The ultimate goal — which would be transformative — is to integrate North Korea into the wider north-east Asia framework. Pray that the issue of political prisoners (including many thousands of Christians) will soon be on the agenda and for wisdom about how the release of political prisoners will be handled, for stability is integral to the process of openness. There can be no doubt that Kim Jong-un has made a significant ‘strategic policy shift’. Please continue to pray.
* PRISONERS AND CAPTIVES (RLPB 459), whose suffering is compounded by isolation.
ERITREA: Thank God for the unexpected and inexplicable release of Pastor Oqbamichel (‘Oqba’) Haiminot of the Kale Hiwot (Word of Life) Church in Asmara, Eritrea. This father of three had spent time in prison in 2003 and again in 2005 during which time he was severely mistreated for refusing to recant his faith. The mistreatment — which included 10 months in solitary confinement and hard labour in a military camp — was so severe that he suffered a breakdown and had to be released. Pastor Haiminot was arrested again in October 2007 and imprisoned without charge. After eleven years in an Eritrean prison, Pastor Haiminot is in need of medical care. Please pray for the Haiminot family, that the Lord will sustain and protect them and provide their every need.
IRAN: On 18 June Ramiel Bet Tamraz (an ethnic Assyrian Iranian Christian) [RLPB 373 (30 Aug 2016)], and another believer (a convert) faced Branch 26 of the Revolutionary Court in Tehran on charges pertaining to national security. Ramiel’s father, Pastor Victor Bet Tamraz, is currently appealing a ten-year prison sentence while his mother, Shamiram Isavi Khabizeh, is appealing a five-year prison sentence, both on similar charges. That a powerful state would persecute a peaceful, faithful family in this way is truly shocking. Ramiel is awaiting the judge’s verdict, due any day now.
* TURKEY (RLPB 460), as the nation headed into a pivotal general election.
THE PARLIAMENT: Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) failed to secure a majority in the parliament (polling only 42.5 percent). However, the ultra-nationalist, extreme-right Nationalist Action Party (MHP) secured 11.1 percent, meaning the AKP-MHP coalition will control over half the seats, and the AKP will be dependent on the MHP to get legislation through parliament, giving the MHP enormous undue influence.
THE PRESIDENCY: Erdogan has claimed victory in the presidential poll, reportedly securing 52.5 percent of the vote. He will govern under a new constitution which grants the president sweeping executive powers [RLPB 401 (5 April 2017)]. Israeli commentator Zvi Bar’el writes: ‘With Erdogan’s re-election, Turkey faces a future as a purely autocratic state, persecuting political rivals and settling scores … [Erdogan] will now begin to build the new Turkish Republic in his own image.’ Indeed; this is a horrifying scenario. How Erdogan will weather the economic storm now visible on the horizon is anyone’s guess. Please pray for Turkey, her Church, and her ethnic minorities.
‘We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore … keep alert with all perseverance,’ and pray! (from Ephesians 6:12-18 ESV)
JUNE 2018 ROUND-UP — also this month …
* ETHIOPIA-ERITREA: THE PEACE THAT COULD CHANGE EVERYTHING
BACKGROUND: Eritrea is one of the world’s most dangerous places for Christians. It has existed in a virtual state of war with Ethiopia since 2002, as Ethiopia has continued to occupy disputed territory in violation of the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission’s ruling. Whilst it is true that powerful people on both sides of the border profit from the status quo, nobody profits as much as Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki. He has long used the pretext of the Ethiopian threat to legitimise his suspension of the constitution and his cruel, despotic, totalitarian rule.
On 5 June Ethiopia’s new president, Dr Abiy Amhed Ali (41) — a Protestant Christian convert from Islam who was sworn into office on 2 April — offered to accept the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission’s ruling of 2002 to end the war with Eritrea and pave the way for rapprochement. Taken by surprise, Eritrean’s President Isaias Afwerki is cautious, acutely aware that peace with Ethiopia would de-legitimise his dictatorship. Analysts believe peace could totally transform both Ethiopia and Eritrea and the strategic trajectory of the Horn of Africa. As with the Korean Peninsula, ‘cosmic powers’ (Ephesians 6:12) will fight against this peace. For the sake of the long-suffering, severely persecuted Eritrean Church, please pray!
For a detailed analysis see:
by Elizabeth Kendal, Religious Liberty Monitoring, 26 June 2018.
* NIGERIA: CHRISTIAN CRISIS IN MIDDLE BELT
Violence exploded across Barikin Ladi Local Government Area (LGA), Plateau State, on Saturday 23 June. As is all too common now, nomadic Fulani herdsmen (Muslims) had led their cattle to graze on the crops of settled ethnic Berom farmers (Christians). Besieged and abandoned, the Berom farmers had two choices: surrender their crops or defend themselves. Clashes ensued in which five Fulani herdsmen were killed. The Fulani retaliated by launching a massive pogrom against eleven villages across Barikin Ladi LGA as well as some villages in Bokkos and Riyom. So far, more than 200 bodies have been found, although many more local people are still missing. Hundreds more were wounded and dozens of homes were torched and farms ravaged.
The next day, furious Berom youths set up barricades on the Jos-Abuja highway and attacked motorists who looked Fulani or Muslim. While no deaths have been reported, one eyewitness claimed to have seen six bodies on the road. Berom families are furious over military moves to restrict access to the affected areas, thereby preventing families from collecting their dead. Many suspect the military of wanting to conduct a secret mass burial to cover up the extent of the massacre and the complicity of soldiers. The killings are part of a campaign of ethnic cleansing pursuant to Islamic expansion. Whilst the killings are perpetrated mainly by Fulani herdsmen, they are orchestrated and supported by powerful Muslim elements in the mosques, the security services and the government. It is a Christian crisis of monumental proportions. Please pray.
Elizabeth Kendal is an international religious liberty analyst and advocate. She serves as Director of Advocacy at Canberra-based Christian Faith and Freedom (CFF), and is an Adjunct Research Fellow at the Arthur Jeffery Centre for the Study of Islam at Melbourne School of Theology.
She has authored two books: Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today (Deror Books, Melbourne, Australia, Dec 2012) which offers a Biblical response to persecution and existential threat; and After Saturday Comes Sunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East (Wipf and Stock, Eugene, OR, USA, June 2016).