Tuesday, November 14, 2017

RLPB 432. China: Christian advocate confined in an 'infinite darkness' -- the plight of Gao Zhisheng

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 432 | Wed 15 NOV 2017

Please forward this prayer bulletin widely, and encourage others to sign up to the Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin blog. "The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective." (James 5:16 NIV)


CHINA: CHRISTIAN ADVOCATE CONFINED IN AN 'INFINITE DARKNESS'
-- the plight of Gao Zhisheng
by Elizabeth Kendal

In 2001, the Chinese Ministry of Justice officially recognised committed Christian human rights attorney, Gao Zhisheng, as 'one of China's top ten lawyers'. Eventually, however, Gao's ardent defence of the oppressed and persecuted, as well as open letters protesting Chinese Communist Party (CCP) policy and practice, saw him fall foul of the system. Stripped of his lawyer's licence, Gao was first imprisoned in 2006. Since then he has been in and out of prison, forcibly 'disappeared', beaten and brutally tortured, held for extended times in solitary confinement, isolated and denied access to medical care -- all because he refuses to be silenced. In 2009, Gao's wife and children escaped to the US. Content in the knowledge that his family is safe, Gao has steadfastly refused to leave China; for he is convinced that God has called him to 'bear his cross' inside China.

When Gao Zhisheng emerged from three years secret detention in August 2014, the internationally acclaimed human rights lawyer and religious liberty advocate was a shadow of his former self; indeed many surmised he'd been 'utterly destroyed' [see RLPB 275, August Update (Aug 2014)] Clearly the CCP was sending a message: 'This is what happens when you criticise the CCP.' Doubtless the CCP assumed it had broken Gao and terrorised all rights advocates into silence. Doubtless China's rulers were 'testing the waters' to see how much violent repression the 'international community' would allow them. [Plenty, so it seems!]

Gao's daughter, Grace Geng in
Hong Kong with her father’s book, June 2016.
(Photo: Kin Cheung, Associated Press)
Subsequently placed under house arrest, isolated and denied access to medical care, Gao could have withered and died; but he did not. Like Samson, he recovered and re-focused. After years of secret detention, Gao threw his energy into secret writing. Defying serious health issues and intensive supervision, he was able to write both a memoir and a 40-page human rights report while working on a new constitution. Smuggled out of the country at great risk, Gao's secret writings have since been published [see below]. Furthermore, Gao also communicated secretly. In an interview with the Chinese language New York-based New Tang Dynasty Television on 7 August, he criticised the CCP for its suffocating repression and brutal tyranny. Then, on 13 August, Gao 'disappeared'. [See RLPB 421, August Update, (Aug 2017).]

On 3 November China Aid Association (CAA) revealed that Gao had escaped from his government minders with the assistance of two friends who had been desperate to get him medical care. Though they managed to evade the authorities for 23 days, the large contingent of officers deployed to find him eventually succeeded. Gao was quickly 'disappeared' into secret detention while his friends -- Shao Zhongguo and Li Fawang -- were both arrested. Whilst Shao has not been seen since, Li (a diabetic) has been released, albeit not before suffering a bout of cruel punishment.

On 12 November Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported that the Gao Zhisheng Lawyers' Concern Group had managed to locate Gao. According to the group, Gao is being held in a secret prison in Shaanxi Province in solitary confinement, in total darkness and denied access to medical care. In a smuggled sound-bite delivered to RFA, Gao said the conditions are even worse than those he experienced in Shaya Prison, Xinjiang (2011-2014). He said he feels like he is confined in an 'infinite darkness'. His supporters fear for his life.

As long-time religious liberty expert and advocate, Benedict Rogers, wrote recently in the Hong Kong Free Press (11 Novembers): 'Gao's work is a challenge to us all. It deserves to be read in the corridors of power. He has acted with extraordinary courage and is paying a very high price for his conscience. It is time for the rest of the world to rediscover its conscience, stand up to China and, at a minimum, demand Gao's release.'

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Gao Zhisheng’s memoir was published in Taiwan in Chinese in June 2016, and in the US in English in January 2017. 

An English translation of his 40-page report, ‘2016 Human Rights Report for China,’ was published in October 2017. Briefing and summary & Full Text 
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PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL:

* intervene to ensure Gao's writings are not only spread and read far and wide, but that they will have the desired impact; may they facilitate change in China.

* intervene to facilitate the release of Gao Zhishang and all China's abused and incarcerated human rights defenders.

MAY OUR MERCIFUL GOD pour out his Holy Spirit abundantly to comfort and sustain our brother Gao Zhisheng:

* may he rest in the assurance that nothing that separate him from the love of Christ Jesus who is all the while interceding on his behalf. READ and pray Romans 8:31-39 

* may his cell become a sanctuary, i.e. miqdas (Hebrew) a place where God dwells (from Isaiah 8: 11-15).


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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IN CHINA, CHRISTIAN ADVOCATE CONFINED IN AN 'INFINITE DARKNESS'

When Gao Zhisheng, committed Christian human rights attorney and religious liberty advocate, emerged from three years' secret detention in August 2014, many surmised he was 'utterly destroyed'. Confined to house arrest and denied access to medical care, Gao (who has survived appalling torture) could have withered and died, but he did not -- he recovered. Despite intensive supervision, Gao wrote both a memoir and a 40-page report on human rights in China. These secret writings were smuggled out and have since been published. On 13 August Gao 'disappeared'. Recently Gao's supporters discovered that he is being held in a secret prison in Shaanxi Province, in solitary confinement, in total darkness and denied access to medical care. They fear for his life. Please pray for Gao and for China and its Church.

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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).

See www.ElizabethKendal.com

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

RLPB 431. Nigeria: Fulani used as proxies for Islamic jihad

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 431 | Wed 08 Nov 2017

Please forward this prayer bulletin widely, and encourage others to sign up to the Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin blog. "The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective." (James 5:16 NIV)

International Day of Prayer (IDOP) for the Persecuted Church
IDOP 2017: Sunday 5 or 12 November


NIGERIA:  FULANI USED AS PROXIES FOR ISLAMIC JIHAD 
by Elizabeth Kendal

Plateau State (postcode map)
click on map to enlarge
In the early hours of Monday 16 October, ethnic Fulani Muslim cattle herders dressed in military fatigues stormed the mostly Christian, ethnic Irigwe village of Nkyie Doghwro in Bassa Local Government Area (LGA), in the north of Plateau State. Knowing that an attack was imminent, the villagers had requested extra security from the Special Task Force soldiers based nearby. The soldiers disarmed the residents and gathered them into in a schoolroom where they were to sleep under the protection of military personnel from Operation Safe Haven. However, when the Fulani invaded, the soldiers withdrew, leaving the residents defenceless. Christians have accused the military of complicity in the massacre which claimed 29 lives [graphic image] and emptied the village. The military denies this, claiming the soldiers were simply overwhelmed (an equally disturbing, though highly unlikely, proposition).

The Muslim Fulani attack at night, killing and displacing the mostly Christian indigenous residents. The emptied villages are subsequently occupied by Fulani Muslim settlers from the north. During the first two weeks of October, Christian villages in Plateau were attacked on an almost daily basis. [See recent reports from Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), World Watch Monitor (WWM) and Morning Star News (MSN).]

Church elder, Dauda Samuel Kadiya (38)
only narrowly escaped when Fulani attacked
his village at 11pm on 13 October. (MSN) 
In Bassa LGA alone, over the course of five weeks, numerous attacks targeting two indigenous Irigwe communities, left 72 villagers dead, 23 injured, 489 houses burnt and 13,726 mostly Christian Irigwe displaced out of a population of 80,000. The attacks continued despite a government imposed curfew. On 19 October the Nigerian Air Force announced it had deployed troops, fighter aircraft and attack helicopters to Jos, Plateau State, to join the military efforts in curtailing the violence, in particular to 'prevent reprisals from the natives'.

In the face of escalating violence in Plateau, a coalition of 25 ethnic nationalities has given the Plateau State House of Assembly two weeks to initiate a bill against open grazing and six months for it to be passed into law. Such a law would mandate that cattle be raised in ranches and banned from grazing on the gardens and crops of indigenes. Other states with Anti-Open Grazing laws are Middle Belt states Benue (law enacted 1 November) and Taraba (law to be enacted in January 2018).  Whilst Anti-Open Grazing laws could go a long way towards curtailing the crisis, Fulani violence is about more than feeding livestock.

While the Bible mandates Christians spread the Good News that God reconciles sinners to himself through Jesus Christ, Islam mandates Muslims expand the territory under Allah's rule (i.e., under Islamic Sharia Law -- a political mandate). Forced out by the ever-encroaching desert, the traditionally nomadic Fulani cattle herders migrate south in search of food and water for their livestock. These Fulani are then exploited by jihadists and other Islamists -- including those in the military and in the government -- who use them as proxies in an Islamic jihad to expand Muslim territory at the expense of Christians. This is why they routinely attack with high-powered automatic weapons, and wear bullet-proof vests and military fatigues. It is also why they are virtually never caught and never brought to book. Many suspect they also are supported by Islamists at the highest levels of government. Banning open grazing would actually eliminate one of the Islamisation strategies.

Whilst the most recent violence has occurred in Plateau, Fulani expansion is certainly not limited to Plateau. Speaking at a forum on 30 October, former head of state General Abdulsalami Abubakar released some grim statistics. In 2016, Fulani cattle herders killed 2,500 and displaced 62,000 mostly Christian indigenes in Plateau, Kaduna, Nasarawa and Benue alone. Human rights advocates and Christian leaders have criticised President Muhammadu Buhari (a Fulani Muslim from the north) for his silence over the crisis. They also question why, on 16 October, the United Nations rewarded the Buhari government by re-electing it to the UN Human Rights Council.


PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL:

* richly bless all Christian evangelistic ministry to Fulani Muslims, pouring out the Holy Spirit in abundance and with great power. '... they will do these things [i.e. persecute you] because they have not known the Father, nor me.' (John 16:1-4a ESV)

* bless and protect all Fulani Christian converts committed to evangelising their own people, not only in the interests of the Fulani, but also in the interests of peace. As converts, their lives are gravely imperilled. May the Lord guide them, bless them and be their shield. 'But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.' (Psalm 3:3 ESV)

* bless and supply the Bible Colleges that are training Fulani converts and other evangelists to work amongst Nigeria's Muslims. Fulani are coming to faith in Christ! May the Lord continue to build his Church in Northern Nigeria.

* intervene in Nigeria's political processes to enable the progress of Anti-Open Grazing laws where they are needed; may he also enable the traditionally nomadic Fulani to embrace the concept of ranches and remove all obstacles to their establishment. 'With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.' (Matthew 19:26 ESV)


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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FULANI IN NIGERIA USED AS PROXIES FOR ISLAMIC JIHAD 

Attacks by ethnic Fulani Muslim cattle herders on mostly Christian, indigenous villages in Nigeria's volatile Middle Belt have escalated markedly. During the first two weeks of October, attacks in Plateau State occurred almost daily, despite a government-imposed curfew and the presence of Nigerian troops. In Bassa Local Government Area alone, 72 villagers were killed and 23 injured, 489 houses were burnt and 13,726 mostly Christian Irigwe were displaced, from a population of 80,000. Emptied villages were subsequently occupied by Fulani Muslim settlers from the north. Whilst the traditionally nomadic Fulani are genuinely seeking food and water for their cattle, they are being armed and used as proxies by jihadists and other Islamists in a jihad to expand Muslim territory at the expense of Christians. Please pray for Nigeria and its Christians.

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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).

See www.ElizabethKendal.com