Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 350


Date:  March 30, 2016

By Elizabeth Kendal

'I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.' 
(Matthew 16:18b ESV)

MARCH 2016 ROUND-UP - this month we prayed concerning ...

CHINA (RLPB 346), where President Xi Jinping is consolidating power and 
criticism of Chinese Communist Party (CCP) policy is increasingly being 
punished with imprisonment.  

Christian lawyer and defender of the cross, Zhang Kai, was released from 
'black jail' detention on 23 March. Detained since August 2015 [see RLPB 325 
(2 Sep 2015)], Zhang Kai has now returned to his home in Inner Mongolia. 
While the conditions of his release are unknown, it is highly likely that 
Zhang was released upon agreeing to stay out of 'politics' and on the 
understanding that any criticism of CCP policy would result in especially 
harsh punishment. Pray that Zhang Kai will know God's love and blessing, and 
have peace. Pray for China's imprisoned believers. 

BURMA (Myanmar) (RLPB 347) where the Burmese military continues to persecute 
Burma's ethnic nations with military violence fuelled by greed and 
exacerbated by racial-religious hatred and with drugs, with which the 
military is flooding the ethnic regions, with devastating effect.  

On 15 March Burma's new government, led by the National League for Democracy 
(NLD), elected Aung San Suu Kyi's long-time trusted friend and confidant, 
Htin Kyaw (69) - an Oxford university graduate with a degree in economics - 
as Burma's new president. Controversial military strongman, retired 
Lieutenant General Myint Swe (64), was elected as First Vice President; while 
NLD MP Henry Van Hti Yu (58), an ethnic Chin Christian, was elected as Second 
Vice President. The new government will take office on 1 April. Please pray 
for Burma as the military will resist any attempts to roll back its power and 
economic interests. Immediate policy flashpoints include the drugs issue and 
the highly controversial Myitsone Dam project being resisted by the Christian 
Kachin [see RLPB 132 (2 Nov 2011)]. Pray for Burma's long-persecuted ethnic 
nations. Pray for the Church in Burma. 

IVORY COAST (RLPB 348), where a 13 March terror attack in Grand-Bassam, 
perpetrated by al-Qaeda in the Islamic Magreb (AQIM), showed that the 
predominantly Christian south is vulnerable to jihadist infiltration and 

YEMEN (RLPB 348), where Sunni and Saudi Arabian forces are battling ascendant 
Shi'ites and where Islamic State (IS) is competing with al-Qaeda in the 
Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). Without peace and security, the remnant, servant 
church is likely to be eliminated.  

The whereabouts and fate of Father Tom Uzhunnalil remains unknown. A report 
that he had been crucified on Good Friday was nothing but an unsubstantiated 
rumour based on a misinterpreted sermon. IS has not issued any such threat, 
statement or claim. Unfortunately the sensational rumour spread like wildfire 
on social media and has been widely republished. Bishop Paul Hinder of 
Southern Arabia (a region in Saudi Arabia), told Catholic News Agency on 
Monday 28 March that he has 'strong indications that Fr Tom is still alive in 
the hands of the kidnappers.'  So please continue to pray that God will 
protect, comfort, strengthen and ultimately deliver Fr Tom. 

May the face [countenance, disposition] of all Christian captives and 
prisoners reflect their Lord Jesus Christ; and may the Lord of all grace open 
the eyes of their captors and persecutors so they will recognise and embrace 
the Saviour.   

'And we all, with unveiled face, beholding [mirroring, reflecting] the glory 
of the Lord ...' (2 Corinthians 3:18 ESV)   

EASTER DEVOTION (RLPB 349): 'After Saturday Comes Sunday.' Please continue to 
pray for the Church to be convicted, awakened and energised so that she will 
witness to the world through her faith-fuelled willingness to risk much to 
rescue the lost and care for the persecuted.  

MARCH ROUND-UP - also this month ...

A Protestant fellowship in the Kabylie region is being threatened with 
closure. On 18 March al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) launched a rocket 
attack on a gas plant and reiterated its intention to punish the Algerian 
government for supporting France in its 'war against Muslims in northern 
Mali'. With Algerian-led AQIM escalating its attacks across the Maghreb, 
Algerian authorities may feel the need to demonstrate their Islamic 
credentials. Pray for the Church in Algeria.  

On Tuesday 22 March three Islamic militants on a motorcycle intercepted 
Hossain Ali (68), a Christian convert from Islam since 1999, as he undertook 
his routine morning walk in Kurigram, in northern Bangladesh. They attacked 
him with knives, stabbing him, hacking at his neck and slitting his throat. 
They hurled improvised explosive devices at on-lookers before fleeing on 
their motorcycle. Ali is the second convert assassinated this year; Pastor 
Khaza Somiruddin (75) was killed in western Jhinaidah in January. On that 
occasion Islamic State claimed responsibility, boasting: 'Soldiers of the 
caliphate were able to eliminate the apostate, named "Samir al-Din", by 
stabbing him with a knife.' In claiming responsibility for killing Hossain 
Ali, Islamic State declared, 'A security detachment from the soldiers of the 
Caliphate was able, by the grace of Allah the Almighty, to kill the apostate 
[Ali], who changed his religion and became a preacher [witness] for the 
polytheist Christianity.' Once again, the government of Bangladesh has denied 
that Islamic State was responsible. Pray for the Church in Bangladesh.  

Ebrahim Firouzi was arrested for the third time in August 2013 and relocated 
from Evin Prison to the notorious maximum security Rajai Shahr prison in 
October 2014. Though due for release in January 2015, he was held, re-tried 
and sentenced in March 2015 to a further five years in prison for acting 
against national security. Ebrahim has appealed for prayer because his health 
is poor and deteriorating and he wants to remain firm in faith in the face of 
fierce persecution. Please pray for Ebrahim Firouzi, for Iran's Christian 
prisoners, for Iran's Christians and Christian fellowships. May God bring 
liberty to the prisoners, indeed to all Persians held captive by Islam. [To 
write to Ebrahim Firouzi, see RLPB blog.]  

On Monday 21 March armed men kidnapped three United Church of Christ in 
Nigeria pastors as they returned from preparing their site on the southern 
outskirts of Kaduna for an Easter retreat. Rev Dr Emmanuel Dziggau, president 
of the church, the Rev Iliya Anto, deputy president of the church, and the 
Rev Yakubu Dzarma, a retired church leader, were ambushed by six masked men 
armed with automatic rifles. Initially, 100 million naira (US$500,000) was 
demanded as ransom; however, that sum has since been reduced to 10 million 
naira. There is confusion as to whether Rev Iliya Anto was released due to 
his poor health. When church authorities went to the site where the 
kidnappers said they had left him, he was nowhere to be found. It is 
suspected that the gunmen are Fulani Muslims. Please pray that God will 
preserve and deliver the Reverends Dziggau, Anto and Dzarma.  



On Resurrection Sunday 27 March, as Christians gathered in Lahore's 
Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park, an Islamic militant entered their midst and blew 
himself up beside children's amusement rides. The 20kg bomb sent shrapnel 
slicing through the crowd. At least 70 people were killed at the scene (at 
least 45 Christians and 25 Muslims), with more than 300 injured, at least 138 
critically. Local sources report much higher figures. The death toll will 
continue to rise. Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, a faction of the Tehreek-e-Taliban 
Pakistan (TTP: Pakistani Taliban), claimed responsibility for the attack: 'We 
have carried out this attack to target the Christians who were celebrating 
Easter. Also this is a message to the Pakistani prime minister [Nawaz Sharif] 
that we have arrived in Punjab [Sharif's home province].' (This is the same 
group that sent suicide bombers against two churches in Lahore's Youhanabad 
Christian colony 12 months ago [see RLPB 301 - 18 Mar 2015]). The attacks 
came a day after the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (Afghan Taliban) - with 
whom the TTP has close ties - released a statement entitled: 'Only Islamic 
rituals can be celebrated in an Islamic country.' Pakistan's Church is 
gravely imperilled. Please pray.  


Also on Sunday 27 March some 25,000 Sunni fundamentalists gathered in 
Rawalpindi to observe the completion of 40 days of mourning for Mumtaz Qadri, 
the Islamist executed on 29 February for murdering anti-blasphemy campaigner, 
Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer in January 2011. They then marched on the 
capital, Islamabad, and on reaching the police barricades, erupted into a 
violent rampage. They demanded that Qadri be declared a 'martyr' and that 
Aasiya Noreen (Asia Bibi) - a Christian mother on death row for alleged 
blasphemy; the woman Salmaan Taseer was supporting - be immediately executed. 
Some 3000 Islamists then staged a sit-in and paralysed Islamabad's high 
security 'red zone' for a second day. Hundreds have been arrested; tensions 
are soaring. Pray that God will shield Pakistan's vulnerable Christian 
communities from the wrath of angry Islamic fundamentalists.  

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