Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 655 | Wed 27 July 2022
RLPB is published weekly to facilitate strategic intercessory prayer.
JULY 2022 UPDATE
by Elizabeth Kendal
DURING THIS PERIOD, WE PRAYED CONCERNING:
* ETHIOPIA [RLPB 652 (6 July)], after the 18 June massacre in Gimbi Woreda (which claimed the lives of some 1600 ethnic Amhara) was followed by a massacre on 4 July in Hawa Gelan Woreda, which claimed the lives of around 300 ethnic Amhara in western Oromia Region. The massacres were perpetrated by Oromo ethno-nationalist militants. Authorities blamed the ‘Shene’ group, which denied responsibility, blaming instead a group linked to the Oromia regional government.
(1) MASSACRES LINKED TO OROMIA REGIONAL GOVERNMENT
On 6 July Hangaasa Ahmed Ibraahim, an ethnic Oromo member of the Ethiopian Parliament and member of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s Prosperity Party, publicly denounced Oromia regional authorities, blaming them for the insecurity in Oromia Region. In a live video message posted to Facebook, Hangaasa Ahmed claimed there are ‘two Shene groups’: the original group now known as the Oromo Liberation Army, and a group he calls ‘Sabotage Shene’, which he maintains is organised by the Oromia Regional Government. Claiming he has abundant proof, Hangaasa Ahmed warned that the massacres will continue unless the Oromia regional state president, the Oromia Prosperity Party head, and the Oromia Police Commissioner are all removed from their positions. Ethnic cleansing (targeting Amhara generally) and ethno-religious massacres (targeting Amhara Christians specifically) have been occurring in Oromia Region for years now. Violence is escalating. Please pray.
(2) AL-SHABAAB NO MATCH FOR A STRONG UNITED ETHIOPIA
|President of Ethiopia’s eastern Somali region,
Mustafa Mohammed with Special Forces.
Twitter 25 July 2022
On 21 July al-Shabaab militants crossed from Somalia’s Bakol zone into Afdheer zone in Ethiopia’s eastern-most Somali region. The jihadists took control of Hulhul town where they battled government forces for three days before ultimately being forced to retreat, having lost around 100 fighters, 13 vehicles and many weapons. Analysts believe al-Shabaab was ‘testing the waters’ to see if Ethiopian forces were still capable of repelling a jihadist attack. Regional officials believe al-Shabaab harbours plans to reach Oromia Region and join forces with the Oromo Liberation Army. However, as Mustafa Mohammed, the president of Ethiopia’s Somali Region said on 25 July, ‘A united people and functioning state can never be intimidated by ragtag outfits like Al-Shabaab.’ RLPB has long warned that a destabilised Ethiopia would be vulnerable to Islamic jihadist infiltration and terror – not only via Somalia but also via Sudan. May God enable Ethiopia to grow in strength and unity for the sake of the Church and the whole Horn of Africa. Please pray.
* PAKISTAN [RLPB 653 (13 July)] where, despite a few acquittals, Christians continue to languish in prisons and rot on death row because of malicious blasphemy accusations. We prayed especially for Christian mechanic Ashfaq Masih (34), Christian brothers Amoon and Qaisar Ayub (aged 42 and 45), and the ailing Pastor Zafar Bhatti (57).
Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body (Hebrews 13:3 ESV).
UPDATE: Christian security will not improve while the Pakistani state continues to promote religious hatred and appease Islamic terrorists. On 20 July, at a press conference in Lahore, the Catholic Bishop’s National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP) expressed its concerns about the Islamic content in textbooks under the country’s Single National Curriculum (SNC). ‘Religious minorities demand textbooks devoid of hate material,’ said Kashif Aslam, the NCJP deputy director. Please pray for this initiative. Meanwhile, just weeks into the Pakistani Taliban’s (TTP) devastating Spring Offensive, the government of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif is desperately seeking a peace agreement. Talks are underway and a temporary ceasefire is in place. The trouble is, peace talks with the TTP not only legitimise the terrorists, they threaten to further the Islamisation of Pakistan, for the TTP’s demands are anything but moderate. The TTP has warned that if it doesn’t get what it wants – including the release of TTP prisoners and control of the tribal areas (FATA) – then jihad will resume. Pray for the Church in Pakistan.
* TURKEY IN SYRIA [RLPB 654 (20 July)] as Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei and President Ibrahim Raisi, seeking a ‘green light’ to re-invade northern Syria.
|Nabil Warda of the Khabour Guards;
maintaining the Christian presence in N-E Syria.
UPDATE: The US, Iran and Russia all agree that any Turkish aggression in northern Syria would enable a revival of Islamic State. Frustrated but not deterred, Erdogan vowed to carry out the invasion anyway, saying he doesn’t need anyone’s permission to advance Turkey’s interests. Analysts suspect Turkey is preparing to invade in early September. Kurds, Assyrian and Armenian Christians, and the Syrian Arab Army are preparing for that eventuality. In the north-west, Aleppo would be gravely imperilled. In the north-east, Christians across the entire Jazira region (the largest and most populous part of Hasakah Governorate) would be imperilled. After 10 years of war against the US-backed Sunni Axis, Islamic State, the Turkish state and its jihadist proxies, a remnant of Christians remains determined to maintain the Christian presence in the north; they desperately do not want to be erased from the map. However, as Nabil Warda of the Khabour Guards warns: ‘The Turkish occupation threatens the existence of the Assyrian people.’ The Christians will resist to their last breath. Please pray it does not come to that. Lord in your mercy, intervene for your people.
JULY 2022 ROUND-UP – also this month:
* CHINA: JAILED PASTOR (MRS) YANG RONGLI IN FAILING HEALTH
|(left) Yang Rongli leaves prison, Oct 2016.
(right) Demolition of Golden Lampstand Church, Jan 2018
Golden Lampstand Church in Linfen city, Shanxi Province, has been under sustained attack by the Chinese Communist Party since 2009, when its pastors Wang Xiaoguang and his wife, Yang Rongli, were first arrested and sentenced to three years’ and seven years’ jail respectively. Pastor (Mrs) Yang Rongli was released in October 2016. In January 2018, the CCP demolished the unregistered church. On 7 August 2021, police in Linfen county detained nine church members, including Pastors Wang Xiaoguang and Yang Rongli [see RLPB 610 (11 Aug 2021)]. On 27 September seven church members were charged with ‘fraud’ and formerly arrested; they are awaiting trial. Prayer is requested as the imprisoned church members are suffering various degrees of maltreatment. Grave concerns are held for Pastor (Mrs) Yang Rongli (67) who is reportedly in failing health in Linfen’s Yaodu District Detention Centre. Yang Rongli’s sister, Yang Kai, told China Aid Association that her sister was being starved, denied visits from family members and denied treatment for her severe diabetes. Please pray.
* NIGERIA: ZERO SECURITY
|Terror on the outskirts of Abuja.
(click on map to enlarge)
ABUJA: On the night of 6 July Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP) raided the maximum security Kuje Prison on the southern outskirts of Nigeria’s capital, Abuja. According to locals, around 100 terrorists arrived on motorbikes at about 10pm and used high powered explosives and firearms to breach the facility. While some security personnel fought and were killed or wounded, most simply fled. Critically, no-one came to assist. A total of 879 of the 994 inmates escaped. While 400 have been recaptured, 443 remain at large, including 69 high-profile Islamic terrorists. The prison break bodes ill for security in Nigeria.
KADUNA-ABUJA: On Sunday 24 July terrorists (suspected ISWAP) released a video showing their fighters flogging captives from the 28 March Kaduna-Abuja train attack. After threatening to kill and sell the captives, they name President Muhammadu Buhari and Kaduna Governor Malam Nasir Rufai as their next targets. On Monday 25 July three elite security officers from the Guards Brigade were wounded when they were ambushed by terrorists on the Bwari-Kubwa road on the northern outskirts of Abuja. Analysts believe the terrorists – who were repelled – were planning to attack the Nigerian law school in the Federal Capital Territory’s Bwari LGA.
KADUNA: On Friday 15 July, in what is become a familiar scenario and emerging trend, two young Catholic priests were kidnapped from church property. The Rev John Mark Cheitnum and the Rev Donatus Cleopas Sulaiman were kidnapped at gunpoint from the parish rectory of Christ the King Catholic Church in Yalding Garu, Lere LGA, in southern Kaduna. Sulaiman managed to escape, but Cheitnum was killed; his body was recovered on 19 July. According to sources, 18 Catholic priests have been kidnapped for ransom thus far in 2022; four have been killed.
|Pastor Daniel Umaru with his family
in happier times.
ADAMAWA: At around midnight on 5 July, three militants attacked the home of Rev Daniel Umaru in Mararaba Mubi, in Adamawa state’s northern Hong LGA, just 12km from the southern border of terror-wracked Borno State. Daniel Umaru pastors an EYN (Eklesiya Yan’uwa a Nigeria / Church of the Brethren) church in Jairi, a village on the outskirts of Mubi. As they struggled to gain entrance to the home, the terrorists shot dead the pastor’s two sons – Kefrey Daniel (19) and Fanye Daniel (24). After telling Pastor Daniel they had been sent to kill him, they (mysteriously) shot him through the knee, and abducted his daughter Ijagla (16). Pastor Daniel was hospitalised with bullet wounds and his wife was hospitalised with trauma. On Sunday 10 July, two days after the family buried their sons (images), their daughter Ijagla was released upon payment of ‘a huge ransom’.
Please pray for the Church in Nigeria.
* SUDAN: FOUR BELIEVERS CHARGED WITH APOSTASY
On 22 June Sudanese police raided a Baptist church in Zallingei in central Darfur, arresting the four Christian men (aged 20-22) praying there. The men – four of nine believers the authorities were hunting for apostasy – were beaten and released. On 28 June they were summoned to the police station to collect their belongings. Instead, they were charged with apostasy under Penal Code Article 126, as if the police had forgotten that the civilian administration (ousted in October 2021) had repealed the article [see RLPB 559 (22 July 2020)]. The four believers were bailed on 3 July, on a relative’s guarantee; they had all been tortured. Then, because the law against apostasy has been repealed, the case had to be closed. Though glad to be out of prison, threats from fundamentalist Muslims have forced the converts to retreat into hiding. Please pray for the Church in Sudan.
* TOGO: FIRST TERROR ATTACK TO TARGET CIVILIANS
On 13 July jihadists from Burkina Faso abducted a suspected informer from Bombengou village in Togo’s northern Kpendjal Prefecture; his body was found later, riddled with bullets. Then, on the night of 14 July, the jihadists launched almost simultaneous attacks on Togo’s northern villages of Kpemboli, Blamonga, Lalabiga and Sougtangou, killing around 30 civilians. On 15 July, as the commissioner of Mandouri, the seat of Kpendjal, travelled to the scene, his vehicle ran over an Improvised Explosive Device. The commissioner and two of his aides were wounded and one person was killed. This is the first attack to target civilians. Previous attacks have targeted a security post [RLPB 625 (24 Nov 2021)] and a military base [RLPB 646 (25 May 2022)]. The terrorists are reportedly working hard to recruit disaffected youths to the Islamist cause. Please pray: especially for Togo’s Christian churches and ministries that are working to address disadvantage in the region and influence youths for good. May the Lord protect them, bless them, and use them for his glory.
* TURKEY: ETHNO-RELIGIOUS HATRED ON DISPLAY
On 15 July the Jewish community in Istanbul, woke to the news that Hasköy Jewish Cemetery in Istanbul’s Beyoğlu district had been attacked. Not only had 81 marble headstones been broken, but some of the graves had been excavated. The perpetrators – five children, aged 11-13 years – have been detained. Just two weeks earlier, on 29 June, Assyrian Christians visiting the cemetery in the Mor Fetrus and Mor Favlus Chapel, in the Yemişli (Enhil) Neighborhood of Mardin’s Midyat district (south-eastern Turkey), found that headstones had been destroyed (some 1000 years old) and graves had been opened and the bones scattered. These hate crimes emanate from a society that is increasingly ethno-religious (Turkic-Muslim), nationalist and intolerant. The Turkish curriculum is rife with Turkic-Muslim supremacism, and hatred of ethnic and religious minorities. Turkey is a ‘tinderbox’. Please pray for the Church in Turkey.
* UGANDA: DEATH FOR APOLOGETICS
In what is becoming a common occurrence in Uganda, Muslims have responded to an open-air debate about Christianity and Islam, not by doing their homework and presenting answers or better arguments, but by violently attacking the Christian apologists. Morning Star News (MSN) reports that, on 6 July, Robert Bwenje (28) accompanied Assistant Pastor Ambrose Mugisha (25) of Elim Pentecostal Church in Nyamiringa village, Kiboga District, to an open-air debate about Christianity and Islam in Sirimula village, in neighbouring Kyankwanzi District, 140km north-west of Kampala. After the debate, eight Muslims put their faith in Jesus Christ. As Bwenje and Mugisha were returning home they were ambushed by a mob of angry Muslims shouting ‘Allahu akbar’ (Allah is greater). The Muslims forced Bwenje and Mugisha to hand over their Bibles and Christian literature, which they burned while beating the believers with sticks. Mugisha managed to escape; but by the time Bwenje was rescued, he had sustained serious injuries. Both men were hospitalised, but on 10 July Bwenje succumbed to serious head injuries. Police have arrested and charged the lead instigator and are searching for the other assailants. The MSN report includes several cases of serious persecution in the same area. Please pray for Uganda – which is around 82 percent Christian with religious freedom – that it will rise to the challenge posed by escalating Islamic radicalisation and intolerance.
Elizabeth Kendal is an international religious liberty analyst and advocate for the persecuted Church.
Elizabeth 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). She is also an Adjunct Research Fellow at the Arthur Jeffery Centre for the Study of Islam at Melbourne School of Theology.