Tuesday, June 20, 2017

RLPB 411. Kenya: Al-Shabaab incites against Church

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 411 | Wed 21 Jun 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)


KENYA: AL-SHABAAB INCITES AGAINST CHURCH
by Elizabeth Kendal

Somalia-based al-Qaeda affiliate al-Shabaab is inflaming religious tension and escalating its terror attacks inside Kenya, doubtless in an effort to extract concessions ahead of Kenya's 8 August General Elections and possibly even make Kenya's involvement in Somalia an election issue.

On 18 May al-Shabaab released a video featuring Senior Private Alfred Danyi Kilasi, a Kenyan soldier captured in Somalia in January 2016.  Under duress, Kilasi criticises the Kenyan government and appeals to the Kenyan people to 'find a solution for this dilemma'.

click here for video
Then al-Shabaab released another video on 22 May, this time showing al-Shabaab commander and spokesman Sheikh Ali Mahmoud Rage addressing al-Shabaab fighters at a graduation ceremony. Rage describes the graduates as 'muhajireen' (emigrants) who have travelled from 'faraway lands' and endured al-Shabaab's 'intense training sessions' so they might combat 'the enemies of Allah'. Noting that many of the fighters come from Kenya, he exhorts the graduates: 'You have to be the army that will conquer Kenya.' Lamenting the plight of Muslims in East Africa in general and Kenya in particular, Rage devotes most of his 10-minute address to inciting hostility against the Church. He rails against the alleged crimes of Christians and the victimisation and imprisonment of Muslims. He laments that 'Kenyan crusaders' now occupy 'Muslim lands' and that Christians have 'erected churches in the place of mosques' so that in many places the Islamic call to prayer 'has been replaced by the chiming of church bells'.

Since the videos were released, al-Shabaab has markedly escalated its terror attacks inside Kenya, specifically in the Muslim-dominated eastern provinces bordering Somalia. Dozens of people have been killed in ambushes and by improvised explosive devices (IEDs), including four aid workers, a woman with a child, and more than 20 security personnel.

Widow of Elly Oloo Ojiema (left)
(photo, Barack Oduor, 16 June)
On 31 May some 70 al-Shabaab jihadists invaded the town of Fafi in Garissa Province. It seems their objectives were to destroy the Safaricom telecommunication mast and to kill or kidnap the Christian teachers from the local school. Christian school teacher Elly Oloo Ojiema was shot and killed in the school compound, while Christian teacher Joseph Kamau was taken captive. Despite much shooting into the air, no locals were targeted. Only when a Muslim teacher sprang courageously to Kamau's defence was that Muslim taken captive as punishment for siding with an infidel. Morning Star News reports that Ojiema was a member of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, while Kamau belongs to the Presbyterian Church of East Africa (PCEA). After they destroyed the Safaricom mast, the militants retreated back into Somalia, laying IEDs on the roads as they went. It is deeply concerning that numerous Safaricom masts have been destroyed in the eastern border provinces, disabling communications over a wide area. 

On top of all this, an investigation published by the BBC at the end of May reveals that al-Shabaab has been abducting Kenyan women (both Muslims and Christians) from the Kenyan coast. These young women are then trafficked into Somalia where they used as ‘wives’ and sex slaves. The BBC interviewed more than 20 escapees – including Faith, Sarah and Elizabeth – for their BBC Magazine feature and 30-min documentary, ‘The Sex Slaves of al-Shabab’.

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY FOR GOD TO

* comfort the young widow, extended family and friends of Christian teacher Elly Oloo Ojiema; may their faith remain strong through this storm.

* comfort, protect and deliver Christian captive Joseph Kamau; may evil hands be restrained; and may God's amazing grace -- as reflected by Kamau -- be received by his Muslim colleague who risked his life to defy the jihadists. May God redeem this terrible situation for his glory.

* intervene to protect and preserve Kenyan security personnel, and shield and sanctify the Kenya Church -- especially those Christians and fellowships located in hostile Muslim-dominated areas.

'Let the wicked fall into their own nets, while I pass by safely.' (Psalm 141:10 ESV)

 * interpose his strong arm against al-Shabaab (Isaiah 40:10-11), to liberate those being held captive to Islamic jihadists (for propaganda or sex), as well as those being held captive to Islamic jihadist ideology which demands that they kill and be killed (Quran Sura 9:111).

'The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.' (Jesus, from John 10:1-10 ESV)


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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AL-SHABAAB INCITES AGAINST THE CHURCH IN KENYA

Somalia-based al-Qaeda affiliate al-Shabaab is fuelling religious tension and escalating terror inside Kenya as it seeks to extract concessions ahead of Kenya's 8 August General Elections. In a 10-minute video released on 22 May, an al-Shabaab commander exhorts his fighters to 'conquer Kenya'. He rails against Kenyan Christians, decries their alleged persecution of Muslims and laments that they are occupying 'Muslim lands'. This and an earlier video seem designed to incite hostility against the Church. Al-Shabaab has also escalated its terror attacks inside Kenya, specifically in the Muslim-dominated eastern regions bordering Somalia; dozens have been killed, hundreds of mines have been laid and numerous telecommunication masts have been destroyed. On 31 May a Christian teacher was murdered and another kidnapped in an al-Shabaab raid. Please pray for Kenya 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, June 13, 2017

RLPB 410. Pakistan: Who Cares About Pakistani Christians?

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 410 | Wed 14 Jun 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)


PAKISTAN: WHO CARES ABOUT PAKISTANI CHRISTIANS? 
by Elizabeth Kendal

Many Pakistani Christians are 'untouchables' or choorahs -- so low on the social scale they are beneath the caste system. Despite their 'untouchablity' having its origins in Hindu India, the tradition continues in Pakistan. As choorahs, these Christians are condemned to a life of either street sweeping or sanitation work [youtube]. Indeed, whilst Christians comprise a mere 2.3 percent of Pakistanis, virtually all Pakistani street sweepers and sanitation workers are Christians. Whenever a city's sewerage lines are blocked, officials don't call in unionised plumbers with expensive machinery; rather they call up the 'untouchable' sanitation workers who must plunge into manholes and unblock the sewerage manually. Despite the fact that this routinely releases deadly poisonous gases, the workers are not provided any protection, presumably because as infidel choorahs, these Christians are deemed valueless and disposable.

On 1 June Christian sanitation worker Irfan Masih (unmarried, aged 28) was at a job in Umerkot City, Sindh Province, when a fellow worker, Yaqoob, lost consciousness in a sewer because of poisonous gas. Irfan jumped in to rescue him, but as Yaqoob was being lifted out the rope failed, causing Yaqoob to fall back into the manhole on top of Irfan, who then also lost consciousness.  A third worker, Shaukat, jumped in to help but also lost consciousness. At that point the other workers called the men's families who came to the rescue.

Irfan Masih's mother, Arshad Bibi
grieves the loss of her son (BBC)
The families raced their unconscious loved ones to the hospital only to have three doctors refuse to treat the both physically and ritually 'unclean' chooras. The families washed the men while a fourth doctor stepped in to help, but it was too late for Irfan. While the other two workers were raced to another hospital, Irfan was pronounced dead. This was not an isolated incident, for Christians -- especially choorahs -- are routinely refused medical treatment in Pakistan. Whilst it is shameful yet unsurprising that a virtually failed Islamic state would refuse aid to Christian choorahs, it is shameful and shocking that, as Morning Star News reports, some Christians will not touch them either.

The fact is, though, no amount of status will protect a Pakistani Christian from persecution. Indeed, intolerance and insecurity are escalating by the day as the state reaps the whirlwind (Hosea 8:7) of three-and-a-half decades of Saudi-funded 'Wahhabisation' and state sponsorship of regional terrorism. Today, Pakistan's Islamic fundamentalists are simply out of control -- they dictate to the state which stands powerless and paralysed before them, unable to change anything even if it wanted to. Anyone who agitates for reform is assassinated. Christians with means are fleeing in ever increasing numbers. Sadly, many never find the life of liberty and security they crave.

Family of Ijaz Masih, in Thailand (ICV)
A report to the British Parliament in February 2016 found that of some 11,500 Pakistanis seeking asylum in Thailand, the majority are Christian. Many are locked up in appalling conditions; all are struggling unimaginably. Compounding their troubles is the fact that, like persecuted Christian asylum seekers the world over, they are provided with Muslim translators whose only desire is to hinder and not help them. 

Pakistani Christian Ijaz Masih (35) fled Pakistan in 2013. He travelled to Thailand with his wife and three children to seek asylum on the grounds of religious persecution. World Watch Monitor reports that, on 26 May 2017, Ijaz Masih died of a heart attack in Thailand after being refused treatment. International Christian Voice (ICV) founder Peter Bhatti condemned the blatant disregard shown by Thai officials and the UNHCR (UN High Commission for Refugees).

So who cares about Pakistani Christians? We know that God cares and we should realise by now that, by and large, 'the world' does not. The Church -- local and global -- must step up as "God's human instruments" to imitate Christ in love and obedience and as a service to God who is Father to us all.

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY FOR GOD TO

* fire up the local churches in Pakistan and the global Church in the world, so Christians will stand as one, imitating Christ, demonstrating sacrificial love and standing in courageous solidarity with Pakistan's suffering believers.

'For as many of you as were baptised into Christ have put on Christ.  There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise.' (Galatians 3:26b-29 ESV)

* come to the aid of Pakistani Christian asylum seekers stranded in Thailand and across South-east Asia.

* intervene in Pakistan so that what seems inevitable (victory for intolerant fundamentalist Islam) will not come to pass; may God send 'the rod of [his] anger' (Isaiah 10:5) against those who would shatter and scatter his precious Church.


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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PAKISTANI CHRISTIANS NEED OUR PRAYERS

Many Pakistani Christians are 'untouchables'. Viewed as valueless and disposable, they are  condemned to work as street sweepers and in sanitation, often in dangerous situations. On 1 June Christian untouchable Irfan Masih (28) died, having being denied medical care after a workplace accident. Not only untouchables are treated like this; medical care is routinely denied to Christians in Pakistan, no matter their status. As persecution and insecurity escalate, Christians flee in ever greater numbers. Unfortunately, most never find the liberty and security they crave. Many thousands of Pakistani Christians are struggling to survive in centres across SE Asia. On 26 May Pakistani Christian asylum seeker Ijaz Masih (35, married, father of 3) died of a heart attack in Thailand after being denied medical treatment. Pakistan and its Christians need our prayers.

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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