RLPB 521. Sept. Update incl. Nigeria, Papua, Ethiopia, Algeria, Burkina Faso, India, Iraq, Nepal.
Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 521 | Wed 25 Sep 2019
RLPB is published weekly to facilitate strategic intercessory prayer.
by Elizabeth Kendal
CFF Director of Advocacy
SEPTEMBER 2019 UPDATE — during this period we prayed concerning
* NIGERIA (RLPB 518), where a deeply traumatising Christian crisis, that has its roots in the Saudi-led revival of fundamentalist, imperialistic, militant, Wahhabi Islam, is being perpetuated and fuelled by systemic high-level corruption.
UPDATE: In RLPB 518 it was reported that Baptist pastor Elisha Noma (abducted by Fulani herdsmen on 14 August) had been ‘released unharmed’ on 31 August upon payment of ransom. However, in a subsequent interview with Morning Star News (MSN) Pastor Noma (60) revealed that he certainly was not released ‘unharmed’ as reported in Nigerian media. To extract ransom, Pastor Noma’s Fulani captors phoned his family and then beat, cut and burned their hostage in the hearing of his loved ones. [This method of extracting ransom is reminiscent of that used by human traffickers in Egypt’s Sinai region.] Since being released Pastor Noma has received medical treatment for cuts, burns and a broken hand. MSN reports: ‘In August alone, more than 40 pastors in Nigeria were either kidnapped or suffered some form of violence from herdsmen or Boko Haram terrorists, according to figures obtained from CAN [Christian Association of Nigeria].’ Pastors are particularly vulnerable because of their profession and their distinctive clothing. Please pray.
‘I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.’ (Psalm 121:1,2 ESV)
* WEST PAPUA & PAPUA (INDONESIA) (RLPB 519), lamenting the Christian crisis in eastern Indonesia and the betrayal and abandonment of a Christian people. ‘Unlike their Melanesian brothers and sisters throughout the Pacific, the Papuans were denied the right to self-determination.’ Instead, in 1969 Dutch New Guinea (comprising today’s West Papua and Papua Provinces) was officially incorporated into Muslim Indonesia. ‘It has been all downhill since then.’ Papuan protests against racial-religious hatred erupted in mid-August. Indonesia’s deployment of thousands of extra Indonesian police and soldiers into West Papua and Papua has only emboldened the ‘merah putih’ (red and white / Indonesian nationalist) and jihadist militias which serve as proxies of the Indonesian security forces.
(1) DEATH IN ILAGA, CENTRAL HIGHLANDS
On Tuesday 17 September at least seven Papuan civilians were shot — three fatally — when Indonesian soldiers raided a Dani community in Puncak regency’s Ilaga district in search of ‘rebels’. Local witnesses told advocates in Australia that while a woman pictured with a bullet wound to her chest survived, the toddler she had been holding was killed, as was her 10-year-old. According to West Papuan sources, the attack was perpetrated by Indonesian police and military using ground forces and helicopters. According to the Indonesian military, the Papuans attacked the soldiers, shooting wildly, injuring locals in the process. Photos have emerged purportedly showing Dani huts engulfed in flames.
(2) DEATH IN JAYAPURA
In recent days, Cendrawasih University auditorium has provided temporary shelter for some 300 Papuan students who have returned home from colleges outside of Papua where they no longer felt safe. On Monday 23 September Indonesian security forces ordered the students leave the auditorium. When the students refused, the security forces besieged and then stormed the auditorium. They then forced the students into trucks that transferred them to the Waena Museum and Arts Centre. Students report, ‘We were brutally attacked the minute we arrived at the museum.’ At least two students were shot dead, while ten required hospitalisation. One soldier died after being struck on the head with a bladed weapon.
(3) DEATH IN WAMENA, CENTRAL HIGHLANDS
Violence erupted in Wamena, Jayawijaya regency, on Monday 23 September, as Papuan school students protested a fresh incident of racist abuse in which an Indonesian teacher allegedly referred to a Papuan student as a ‘monkey’. According to the Speaker of the Papua People’s Assembly, Timotius Murib, the student protest was ‘infiltrated by provocateurs’ who instigated a riot. At least 17 people were killed and more than 65 seriously wounded. According to Wamena commander Lt. Col. Chandra Diyanto, the victims died after either being stabbed with sharp weapons or set on fire. Amateur video shows numerous buildings engulfed in flames, including government offices and the airport, while photos on social media show Papuan students shot, wounded and bleeding. According to the Indonesian military, reports that a teacher had referred to a student as a ‘monkey’ were a ‘hoax’, as are reports that soldiers have shot students.
It is absolutely urgent that the Indonesian government allow international observers into Indonesia’s West Papua and Papua provinces. Please pray.
‘The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.’ (John 10:10 ESV)
* ETHIOPIA (RLPB 520), after members of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church took to the streets in major cities across Amhara Region to protest peacefully about the escalating ethno-religious violence that has seen more than 30 churches burned in the past 13 months. We also prayed concerning the rising risk posed by Islamic State in Somalia (ISS) after it released a 3-minute propaganda video with Amharic subtitles.
UPDATE: On Saturday 21 September, Ethiopia’s National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) disclosed that at least ten suspected Islamic terrorists were in custody after the NISS foiled attacks by both al-Shabaab and Islamic State in Somalia (ISS). The alleged terrorists had reportedly been preparing to launch attacks on hotels, government institutions and popular religious gatherings in the capital Addis Ababa and other areas of the country. Praise God these plots were uncovered and thwarted. Please continue to pray that God would complete the good work he has begun in Ethiopia.
* ERITREA (RLPB 520), after the regime — which recently confiscated all Catholic-run health clinics — ordered that all religious schools be handed over to government authorities. Please pray.
SEPTEMBER 2019 ROUND-UP — also this month
(1) UPDATE REGARDING CHURCH CLOSURE
In RLPB 517 it was reported that the Prince of Peace church in Ighzer Amokrane, Tizi Ouzou Province, had managed to resist closure. When police arrived on 26 August to close the church they faced resistance from some 200 praying believers, the president of the Protestant alliance (EPA), and the EPA’s attorney who informed the police the order was not valid as it had not been issued by a court. Ultimately the police were forced to retreat [see RLPB 517 (28 Aug)]. UPDATE: the police returned at 6:45am on Monday 2 September. Taken unawares, the church has now been sealed shut. Please pray for wisdom and grace.
(2) ALGERIA’S PROTESTANT CHURCH DEEMED SUBVERSIVE
Algeria’s Protestant Church is facing escalating pressure, much of which may be politically motivated. On Sunday 15 September Algeria’s interim president announced that the presidential election – originally scheduled for April, and then July — will go ahead on 12 December. Fearing that the election process could be corrupted, Algeria’s protesters had demanded that the old regime be removed and political reforms be enacted before elections were held. That has not happened and consequently, protests have resumed. The regime is not impressed! This is the context in which persecution is escalating. [For more background see RLPB 449 (4 April 2018).] On 28 August Algeria’s Minister of Interior, as head of the National Security Committee, issued an order instructing regional governors and security heads to investigate the financial activities of non-traditional religious groups — specifically Protestants and two radical Islamic groups. The order describes the Protestant Church as a radical movement with a ‘vicious plan … supported by foreign parties’ … to spread ‘destructive ideas’. Please pray.
* BURKINA FASO: UPTICK IN JIHADIST ACTIVITY
Both al-Qaeda’s Group for Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM) and Islamic State’s West Africa Province (ISWA) have claimed responsibility for a string of terror attacks in Burkina Faso in recent weeks. The attacks have targeted military bases and operations, Burkinabe soldiers have been killed and large quantities of weapons and ammunition stolen. There have also been several incidents where vehicles have driven over improvised explosive devices (IEDs), resulting in mass deaths. The escalation of terrorist violence does not bode well for Burkina Faso or her Church which suffered a string of targeted terror attacks earlier this year. Please pray.
* INDIA: ANOTHER WAY TO LIMIT CONVERSIONS
On Monday 16 September India’s Home Affairs ministry announced restrictive amendments to the Foreigners Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA). The current minister for Home Affairs is Amit Shah, the president of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). As reported by the Economic Times, the amended Act requires that each functionary and member of a non-government organisation (NGO) seeking registration under the FCRA will have to file an affidavit declaring that the individual has not been involved in any act of religious conversion or prosecuted for communal disharmony. According to the new rules, the affidavit will have to be executed by ‘each office-bearer and functionary and member individually on non-judicial stamp paper of Rs 10 and attested by notary public.’ Under the 2011 rules only top office-bearers of NGOs were required to sign an affidavit when seeking public grants. Sajan K George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians, fears Christian NGOs — including those run by local churches and missions which operate schools and clinics across the country — will be ‘selectively targeted’ and their FCRA ‘registration cancelled and their bank accounts frozen’. It is just another way to limit conversions. Please pray.
* NEPAL: NEPALESE PASTOR FORCED INTO HIDING
In March, Pastor Sukdev Giri (59) of Trinity Fellowship Church in Chitwan District (on Nepal’s southern border with India) participated on a panel at the International Christian Media Workers Summit in Kathmandu. During the panel discussion, Pastor Giri was asked to explain the belief systems most prevalent in Nepal, which he did. The session was filmed, but only made available to Christian media workers. By mid-August the footage had been leaked and was freely available on YouTube. Nepalese Hindu nationalists now accuse Pastor Giri of being anti-Hindu. Due to death threats he now cannot return home but instead has been forced into hiding. Meanwhile, his family and friends are also receiving threatening phone calls. Please pray.
* USCIRF HEARING THURSDAY 26 SEPTEMBER: IRAQ
War has left Iraq’s indigenous Assyrian community decimated, displaced, destitute and traumatised. While a remnant would like to return to their lands, gross insecurity amidst a massive land-grab by Sunni Kurds and Shi’ite Shabaks backed by Baghdad and Tehran is making this impossible [see RLPBs 507 (19 June) and 493 (13 March)]. As Chaldean Primate Cardinal Louis Raphael Sako notes, two years after liberation, ‘only one per cent of the displaced has returned to Telkief and Batnaya’. He wants all armed groups withdrawn from the Nineveh Plain and security enforced by a federal police force incorporating locals. On Thursday 26 September the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) will conduct a hearing titled Religious Minorities’ Fight to Remain in Iraq. [For more details see the press release on the USCIRF website.] It is hoped the hearing will shed light on how to help ‘vulnerable populations return, rebuild, and remain’. Please pray for Thursday’s hearing which will be live-streamed and available on the USCIRF website. Please pray for the Church in Iraq.
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).