Date:  September 27, 2023

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 712

By Elizabeth Kendal


AZERBAIJAN AND SUDAN [RLPB 709 (6 Sept)], as Armenian Christians in Azerbaijan’s besieged Nagorno-Karabakh, and Nuba Christians in Sudan’s war-ravaged South Kordofan, faced the prospect of starvation.

UPDATE AZERBAIJAN: On Tuesday 19 September Turkic Muslim Azerbaijan launched what it called an ‘anti-terror’ operation in its Armenian Christian enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh (N-K). Prior to the offensive Azerbaijan already controlled the high ground of Susha (which overlooks the capital Stepanakurt) and it had already closed the Lachin Corridor, the only road linking N-K to Armenia. So, when the shelling started and Azeri troops advanced, there was little N-K’s exposed, vulnerable and half-starved Armenian civilians could do but bunker down in their basements and wait for the end.

On Wednesday 20 September, after 24 hours of terror – during which five Russian peacekeepers and at least 200 ethnic Armenians were killed – N-K’s ethnic Armenian government agreed to a Russian-brokered cease-fire. The terms of the ceasefire require N-K Armenian Christians enter into talks on demilitarisation and ‘reintegration’ into Turkic Muslim Azerbaijan. On Friday 22 September Moscow confirmed that N-K’s defence forces had started surrendering their weapons and that the process would continue through the weekend with the help of Russian peacekeepers.

Leaving everything behind, Armenians flee N-K by any means possible. ABC, 26 Sept 2023 (video report 1:33mins)

Azerbaijan’s Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov assured the UN General Assembly: ‘Azerbaijan is determined to reintegrate ethnic Armenian residents of the Karabakh region of Azerbaijan as equal citizens.’ Having enduring centuries of persecution and genocide, no ethnic Armenian believes that. By Sunday 24 September a mass exodus of Armenians was underway, eager to escape ethno-religious persecution and ethnic cleansing. They leave behind their homes, farms and businesses, along with hundreds of ancient churches and monasteries (many dating back to the 10th Century and some even earlier) and a land – Artsakh – that has been Armenian for millennia.

David Babayan, an adviser to N-K’s President Samvel Shahramanyan, told Reuters he expected almost everyone to leave. He said: 'Armenians do not want to live as part of Azerbaijan – 99.9 percent prefer to leave our historic lands. The fate of our poor people will go down in history as a disgrace and a shame for the Armenian people and for the whole civilised world. Those responsible for our fate will one day have to answer before God for their sins.’ (See Proverbs 24:12)

Everyone knew this day was coming: see RLPB 575, Genocide Postponed? 11 Nov 2020. Going forward, threats include: (1) ‘cultural erasure’ [see RLPB 577 (25 Nov 2020) and Cornell University College of Arts and Science (21 Sept 2023), ‘Hundreds of Armenian heritage sites at risk in Nagorno-Karabakh’, ]; (2) the territorial integrity of Armenia, as Turkey and Azerbaijan prepare to move on Syunik (Armenia’s southern-most province) [see RLPB 591, Armenia-Azerbaijan: new war looms, 31 March 2021, and Reuters (26 Sept 2023),  ‘Azerbaijani and Turkish leaders hold talks, eye land corridor via Armenia’ … ‘whether Armenia likes it or not’]. Lord have mercy!

NEPAL [RLPB 710 (13 Sep)], where Hindutva (Hindu nationalist) activists and political parties are exploiting the current political chaos and paralysis to advance the Hindutva cause. This is resulting in a marked escalation in violent persecution of Nepal’s rapidly growing Church. Please pray.

NIGERIA [RLPB 711 (20 Sep)], after more massacres – the aim of which is ethno-religious cleansing for the purpose of Fulani expansion – were reported in southern Kaduna and north-west Plateau.

UPDATE: (other September reports from Morning Star News)

Kaduna: Seminary student Na’aman Danlami 
(Aid to the Church in Need)

KADUNA (North West Region): On Thursday night 7 September gunmen attacked the rectory of St Raphael’s Catholic Church in Fadan Kamantan, in southern Kaduna’s terror-ravaged Zangon Kataf LGA. Intending to kidnap the parish priest, Rev. Emmanuel Okolo, the terrorists attempted to gain entry to the priest’s residence. When that failed, they set fire to the property. Whilst Rev Okolo and his assistant managed to escape, seminary student Na’aman Danlami (25) was trapped; he perished in the flames.

TARABA (North East Region): At around 2am on Sunday 10 September terrorists invaded the Mile Six area of Jalingo, the capital, located in the state’s north. A source in the area told ChannelsTV (10 Sept) that the assailants operated for hours, moving from one house to the other without interference by security operatives. The kidnappers have demanded ransom. The killings came just days after two Christians were killed and at least six kidnapped on the Takum Road in the state’s south-west. 

PLATEAU (North Central Region): Before dawn on Wednesday 13 September gunmen invaded Maigyemu community, Jos East LGA. They broke into the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) compound in Nuku village and kidnapped the Reverend Usman Umaru from his residence. Two other Christians were also abducted.

NASARAWA (North Central Region): On Wednesday morning 20 September Muslim Fulani militants attacked Kola village, in Nasarawa state’s Akwanga LGA, killing one Christian, wounding three others – including Baptist pastor, the Rev. Thomas Wakayi – and displacing all residents.

Please pray for the Church in Nigeria’s Islamic North and jihad-wracked mixed Middle Belt.


- worship in Persian (language) or witness to Muslims and you’ll go to jail!

(1) Ethnic Armenian Iranian Pastor Joseph Shahbazian was arrested on 30 June 2020 when agents from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps raided his house church gathering in Tehran [RLPB 557 (8 July 2020)]. He was sentenced in June 2022 to 10 years in prison to be followed by two years internal exile for ‘founding or leading an organisation that aims to disrupt national security’. However, in February 2023 the Supreme Court granted him a retrial and in May his sentence was reduced to two years. Then, on the evening of 13 September, Pastor Joseph Shahbazian (59) was summoned to the Evin Prison office and informed that he had been pardoned and was free to leave prison and return to his family, including his first grandchild, born while he was incarcerated. Thank-you Lord!

(2) Ethnic Armenian Iranian believer Anooshavan Avedian was arrested on 21 August 2020 when agents from the Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) raided a prayer gathering in his home in north-east Tehran. He was sentenced in April 2022 to 10 years in prison, to be followed by 10 years ‘deprivation of social rights’, for ‘establishing and leading an illegal group with the aim of disrupting the security of the country through educational and propaganda activities, contrary to and disturbing to the holy religion of Islam, through the dissemination of false claims’. His appeal in May 2022 was not successful. On Wednesday 13 September 2023, Anooshavan Avedian (61) entered prison to commence his 10-year jail term. May the Lord intervene for Anooshavan Avedian as he did for Joseph Shahbazian. In the meantime, may the Lord protect, sustain and comfort him. Please pray.


Map showing location of Mocímboa da Praia (far north).
(Click on map to enlarge)
map source: worldometers

At around 3pm on Friday 15 September local militants affiliated with Islamic State invaded the village of Naquitenge village in the district of Mocímboa da Praia in Mozambique’s northern-most province of Cabo Delgado. Sources told Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) that the militants first summoned all the residents to a meeting. Once the residents had gathered, the militants then proceeded to separate the Christians from the Muslims. Then, according to missionary Friar Boaventura from the Institute of the Fraternity of the Poor of Jesus, ‘They opened fire on the Christians, riddling them with bullets.’ At least eleven Christians were killed in the attack, and many more were left seriously wounded; homes were burned and property was destroyed. Islamic State has claimed responsibility. The attack comes as displaced residents were starting to return to their homes, and a month after Mozambique forces reportedly killed Bonomade Machude Omar, the leader of the Islamic State group in Mozambique. Having ambushed a detachment of soldiers, Omar and his fellow jihadists were killed in the subsequent firefight. Please pray for Mozambique (estimated to be 62 percent Christian) and for the imperilled Church in jihad-wracked Cabo Delgado.


On Wednesday 6 September evangelists Philip Bere and Mudenya Sirasi participated in an evangelistic event in Eastern Uganda’s Kituuti town. According to Sirasi, many people accepted Christ, including Muslim women and two young Muslim men. About 7:40pm, as the evangelists travelled home to Katiryo, they were ambushed by Muslims angry about the conversions. Bere was struck and pulled from the bicycle as Sirasi fell but escaped into a tunnel under a bridge. Captured, Philip Bere (33) was subsequently bashed to death with a large rock. The pastor of Bere’s church told Morning Star News that police in Katiryo, Kibuku District, took statements about the killing and assured him they were searching for the killers. The pastor laments: ‘Our evangelist was killed because of his passion for preaching the good news of Jesus Christ, especially to Muslims.’ Apparently Bere was well-known for his preaching among Muslims in Buseeta, Lwatama, Katiryo and other parts in eastern Uganda. Please pray.