By Elizabeth Kendal
Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin (RLPB) 212
Special to ASSIST News Service
AUSTRALIA (ANS) -- ATTENTION Canberra, Australia.
Elizabeth Kendal: Symposium on the Persecution of Christians in the 21st Century: Analysis of global trends and the Biblical response to a confronting reality.
Saturday 29 June 2013 from 7p.m. at the Canberra House of Prayer for All Nations, 28 Guilfoyle Street, Yarralumla.
'O you who hear prayer, to you shall all flesh come.' (Psalm 65:2 ESV) May men, women and children everywhere bring their prayers to the Lord, for only he can 'still . . . the tumult of the peoples' (v7). 'All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you.' (Psalm 22:27 ESV) Lord, hasten the day!
MAY 2013 UPDATE -- During May we prayed concerning . . .
* IRAQ (RLPB 208), where sectarian (Sunni vs Shi'ite) and ethnic (Kurd vs Arab) tensions are escalating along with violence, threatening the tenuous peace and attracting al-Qaeda elements, heightening the risk to Iraq's Christian remnant.
* SUDAN (RLPB 209), where systematic repression and persecution are escalating in line with social disaffection and rebel advances. The fighting between the Islamist, Arab-supremacist regime in Khartoum and the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) -- an alliance of rebel forces fighting for a secular, democratic state -- is deadlocked. Meanwhile, the regime continues to bomb civilians and block humanitarian aid. Continue to pray for a breakthrough.
UPDATE: On 18 May Sudan's defense minister Abdel-Rahim Hussein addressed troops being deployed to the war zones. He declared that the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) will continue their 'holy crawl' until they have annihilated all rebellion from the country, i.e. until they have killed or subjugated all who resist Khartoum's racist policies and forced Islamization. Meanwhile, the SRF has called on the citizens of Khartoum to join a popular uprising and topple the ruling regime. They are also appealing to members of the SAF to 'stand alongside the people, rather than defend tyrants'. In response, the regime reportedly has been distributing weapons to citizens, calling on them to fight the SRF. Pray for the Church in this dangerous, volatile environment. May the Lord liberate Sudan. (Psalm 10)
* CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC (CAR) (RLPB 2010), where Arabic-speaking Muslim rebels with many foreign jihadis in their ranks have seized control of this French-speaking predominantly Christian state. The coup has all the hallmarks of being a foreign backed and funded operation to effect regime change.
UPDATE: The rebels are restless and not united. Many have protested that while they are hungry and homeless, rebel leader and self-proclaimed president Michel Djotodia has taken up residence in the Hotel Ledger Plaza, a five-star luxury hotel. Pray that the rebels -- who continue to kill civilians at will -- will splinter and the rebellion will collapse. Meanwhile, Church leaders in CAR lament that the world is more interested in the plight of CAR's elephants (with dozens massacred by rebels) than the plight of the civilian population who are bearing the brunt of the crisis. An Italian Carmelite monk warned Aid to the Church in Need that CAR was at risk 'of being left to its own devices and of becoming a hell on earth'. Pray for the Church in CAR.
* CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC (CAR) (RLPB 2011) and the threat of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA).
UPDATE: Uganda's Amnesty Act 2000 was due to expire on 24 May 2013. However, religious leaders from northern Uganda petitioned the parliament and on 15 May the Ugandan government extended the Amnesty Act for another two years. The Acholi Leaders Peace Initiative expressed profound gratitude, though there are some complications that will need to be resolved. Most LRA soldiers were kidnapped as children and desire to return home; fear, mostly implanted by Kony, dissuades them. Pray for mass defections and that God, by his own hand, will bring an end to LRA leader Joseph Kony.
MAY 2013 ROUND-UP -- also this month . . .
* IRAN: REGIME TARGETS FARSI CHURCH
Middle East Concern (MEC) reports that on 21 May Pastor Robert Asserian of the Assemblies of God (AoG) church in Tehran was arrested while leading a prayer meeting at the church. Earlier all his computer equipment and books were confiscated. Pastor Robert is now incarcerated in Tehran's Evin Prison. After months of intensive pressure, the AoG church in Tehran has now closed. The AoG church in Ahvaz has been closed since December 2011. On 1 May 2013 its pastor, Farhad, his wife Shahnaz, and two members, Davoud and Naser, began a one-year prison sentence. MEC reports: 'The authorities have made clear that they will consider releasing these four and Pastor Robert if the AoG agrees to cease all services in Farsi.' The authorities simply do not want Iranian Muslims hearing the gospel in their own language. May God confound the regime's every effort! On 8 May Pastor Saeed Abedini, a US citizen in Evin Prison, was released from solitary confinement and returned to the general prison population. Saeed's wife, Naghmeh, told Voice of the Martyrs how Saeed experienced God's presence in that 'small dark hole'. [For details see: The Promised Presence.] Several imprisoned believers are in dire need of medical attention. Pray for Iran's imprisoned Christians. Pray for the Church in Iran.
* SAUDI ARABIA: TWO BELIEVERS IMPRISONED OVER CONVERSION
(Updating RLPB 175, 4 Sep 2012.)
In July 2012 Maryam (28), a Saudi convert to Christianity, fled the country. Subsequently, her employer, Henna Sarkees (51), a Christian Lebanese national, was charged with abusing his position by coercing her to convert. Also, an un-named Saudi national was charged with facilitating Maryam's flight from the country. On 11 May 2013 Al-Khobar District Court sentenced Sarkees to six years in prison and 300 lashes for the crime of 'evangelism' (Lebanese media) or 'brainwashing' (Saudi media). The Saudi national was sentenced to two years in prison and 200 lashes. Lawyers for both men say they will appeal. However, Maryam's Muslim father has rejected the ruling as inadequate. He too will appeal, saying, 'We will ask the court to keep him [Sarkees] behind bars until our daughter comes home.' Pray for Maryam, Henna Sarkees and the Saudi national. Pray for the growing but perpetually imperiled Saudi Church.
* SYRI A: CONFLICT SET TO ESCALATE; CHRISTIANS STRUGGLING
On Tuesday 28 May France and the UK convinced the European Union (EU) to let its arms embargo on Syria lapse. So, while Russia and the US are trying to organize peace talks in the hope of finding a political path to peace, France and the UK will be free to pump more weapons into the jihad (which, it might be noted, is blowing back into Iraq). The decision will fuel escalation. Meanwhile, sources in Aleppo report that rebels are blockading government-held areas so that food cannot get in unless enormous 'taxes' are paid. Christians are kidnapped almost every day. Bishop Yohanna Ibrahim, head of the Syriac Orthodox Church in Aleppo, and Bishop Boulos Yaziji, head of the Greek Orthodox Church in Aleppo, were kidnapped by Chechen jihadists on 22 April. They remain in captivity. No group has claimed responsibility and no ransom demand has been made. Whilst a spokesman for the opposition's National Coalition maintains that the bishops are in 'good health', nobody has been permitted to have even phone contact with them. Pray for the Church in Syria.