Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 412


Date:  June 28, 2017

by Elizabeth Kendal
JUNE 2017 UPDATE - this month we prayed concerning ...
PAKISTAN (RLPB 410), where impoverished 'untouchable' Christians are helpless
to resist exploitation and abuse; and from where Christians with means are
fleeing in ever increasing numbers.
On 1 June 'untouchable' Christian sanitation worker Irfan Masih (28) died at
a hospital in Umerkot City, Sindh Province, after doctors refused to treat a
man they looked upon as not merely physically but ritually 'unclean'.
Distraught Christians protested. The following day, Masih's father went to
the police and registered a complaint against Civil Hospital Medical
Superintendent Jam Kunbhar and others, accusing them of criminal negligence
and manslaughter. When Kunbhar was arrested, angry hospital workers
protested. Investigators agree that while the hospital did not cause Masih's
death, it does bear some responsibility. Morning Star News reports that, in
an effort to pressure the family into dropping the complaint, the hospital
has registered a complaint against the Christians. Fortunately the police
have not acted, deeming the complaint 'frivolous'. Pray for justice in
On 13 April Pakistani Members of Parliament vowed to insert safeguards into
the blasphemy law to prevent its misuse [RLPB 405 (3 May)]. Yet, on 10 June a
court in Punjab sentenced Shia Muslim Taimoor Raza (30) to death after
finding him guilty of using social media to 'disseminate' material the court
deemed blasphemous. It is the first time anyone has been sentenced to death
for a social media post. On 15 June police arrested Christian shop-owner
Ashfaq Masih (28) after an observer overheard him explaining to a customer
that Christians believe Jesus was the final prophet. The observer reported
the 'blasphemy' to police, who then came and arrested Masih.  It appears the
Islamic fundamentalists, who have been calling for swifter and harsher
penalties from the courts, are winning the blasphemy battle. Please pray.
KENYA (RLPB 411), where Somalia-based al-Qaeda affiliate al-Shabaab is
escalating its terror inside Kenya and inciting Kenyan Muslims against the
Church in the hope it might extract concessions ahead of Kenya's 8 August
General Elections.
JUNE 2017 ROUND-UP - also this month ...
In early August 2014 Christina Ebada (then aged 3) was literally dragged from
her mother's arms by ISIS fighters as her family fled the Assyrian city of
Qaraqosh [RLPB 275 (27 Aug 2014)]. The harrowing story, as told by her
distraught mother, was one of the most painful to emerge from the ethnic
cleansing of Qaraqosh. Now World Watch Monitor reports that Christina has
been found and reunited with her family. According to Kurdish media, 'The
family's efforts to track her through Arab friends were rewarded on Friday
(June 8), when they got a call telling them Christina had been found in Hayy
al-Tanak, a poor neighbourhood of Mosul.' Iraqi Security Forces retrieved her
and returned her to her family the following day. Healthy, well dressed and
wearing gold earrings, it appears Christina had been kept by a family who
treated her well. To the Lord Jesus, and all the believers who have prayed
for the family over the years, Christina's mother, Ayda, says, 'Thank-you.'
We too say, 'Thank you Lord Jesus.'
Kachin Baptist Convention (KBC) pastors Dom Dawng Nawng (65) and La Jaw Gam
Hseng (35) were abducted by Burmese military personnel on 24 December 2016,
after they helped reporters document destruction caused by Burmese military
aggression [RLPB 391 (29 Jan 2017)]. On 24 January the military handed the
pastors over to police who accused them of spying and charged them with
'illegal association' [RLPB 392 (1 Feb 2017)]. In a recent conversation with
Morning Star News, Khon Peng, wife of Pastor Nawng, revealed that her husband
is discouraged and his health is deteriorating. Nawng was transferred from
Muse, 174km south to Lashio in April and the four-and-a-half hour road trip
makes visiting difficult. Peng said her husband - who shares a cell with some
40 other prisoners - 'suffers from asthma' and 'has diarrhoea often'.
Attorney U Brang Di confirmed to Morning Star News: 'He lacks nutrition. As
he is old, it makes it worse. He seems very weak.' The two pastors faced
court for the first time on 3 May. Please pray.
Communist Party-approved 'Three-Self' pastor Zhang Shaojie of Nanle County
Christian Church, Henan Province, was arrested in November 2013 along with 23
other church members after they accused the Communist Party of attempting to
seize church land. In July 2014 Zhang was sentenced to 12 years' jail; an
appeal in August 2014 failed [see RLPB 275 (27 Aug 2014)]. According to China
Aid Association (CAA) Zhang recently launched a fresh attempt to appeal his
sentence, igniting the wrath of prison officials. His daughter, US-based
Esther Zhang, told CAA that her father is now being punished with 'strict
supervision'. Newly released inmates have told her that her father is being
subjected to sleep deprivation and starvation and that he is depressed and
'barely alive'. Please pray.
On 26 June the Holy See expressed its 'grave concern' over the disappearance
of Msgr Pierre Shao Zhumin (54), Bishop of Wenzhou, in the coastal province
of Zhejiang. The bishop disappeared on 18 May after being invited to attend
an interview at the local office of Religious Affairs. Rumour has it that he
is being detained in a police residence in Wenzhou but nobody has been able
to contact him. Fearing this Vatican-approved yet unregistered bishop could
be facing pressure to submit to unreasonable Communist Party demands, the
Catholic Church in Wenzhou has appealed for prayer.
As reported in RLPB 409 (31 May), Eritrean authorities arrested nearly 100
Christians during May. It has now been confirmed that a further 22 arrests
occurred at the end of May and the beginning of June. Seventeen Christian men
were arrested in the Godaif neighbourhood of the capital, Asmara, on 28 May,
while a further five Christians were arrested from their homes in Dongolo on
6 June. While Eritreans (including many Christians) are fleeing at the rate
of 5000 per month, it is a high-risk endeavour. While many drown in the
Mediterranean Sea, others fall prey to human traffickers who sell them to
terrorists in the Sinai or Libya who torture them for ransom. If ransom is
not forthcoming, their organs are harvested. Furthermore, Eritreans are
increasingly being refused asylum in Europe and Israel. May God intervene in
Suzan Ashraf Rawy (22) disappeared on 5 June as she walked from her home in
the Cairo suburb of Al Khosous to her job at the nearby Virgin and Pope
Kyrillos Coptic Orthodox Church. Local Copts believe Suzan has been abducted
by a Muslim gang, making it the third such abduction since 30 May when a
Muslim man was accidentally shot dead by a Coptic man. While the abductions
are believed to be 'retaliatory', the Coptic shooter was arrested, is in
police custody and has been charged with manslaughter. With three local women
'disappeared' in three weeks, local Coptic women are now too afraid to leave
their homes. Please pray.
On 21 May police detained 72 tribal children and the eight adults supervising
them as they travelled to Nagpur for a church-run Vocational Summer School
(VSS). Next day, police detained 11 tribal children and the two adults
accompanying them as they travelled to the same VSS. The adults were charged
with kidnapping and forcible conversions. However, the case collapsed when
parents of the children produced documents to show that they were already
Christians. Despite this, six of the Christian leaders remain in detention.
On 13 June police detained Sister Beena Joseph of the Carmelite Sisters of St
Teresa congregation, along with the four young tribal women travelling with
her to a church-run education centre in Bhopal. The women were interrogated
and held for some 12 hours before being released at midnight. Emboldened by
the rise of PM Modi (nationally and internationally) Hindu nationalist groups
are stepping up efforts to ensure nobody violates the Madhya Pradesh Freedom
of Religion Act, which makes conversion from Hinduism a punishable offence
unless done with the permission of local government (Hindu nationalist)
officials. Pray for the Church in India.
On 23 May the IS-aligned Maute Group stormed Marawi, burned the Catholic
Cathedral and took its priest and some 15 believers hostage [RLPB 409 (31
May)]. A month later, the battle between the Philippine military and this
band of well-trained, battle-hardened, mostly foreign Islamic jihadists rages
on. The jihadists reportedly still hold between 10 and 20 percent of the
city, along with thousands of civilians who are being kept as human shields.
Catholic priest, Father Chito Sugarnob was seen alive on Sunday 25 June, when
militants met with Muslim leaders to propose a prisoner swap. The jihadists
offered to exchange the priest for Abdullah Maute's terror-sponsoring
parents. President Duterte declined the offer and reiterated the government's
policy 'not to negotiate with terrorists'. Meanwhile, on 21 June some 300
militants from the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) - which, like
Maute, has pledged allegiance to Islamic State - attacked Pigkawayan, a
farming town in North Cotabato, 160km south of Marawi City. They ransacked
the Catholic church and took civilians hostage in the local school. However,
the Philippine military prevailed and the rebels were forced to retreat.
Security has been increased across the region. Please pray.
In mid-June Russia launched air-strikes at a gathering of IS commanders on
the outskirts of Raqqa after receiving intelligence that Islamic State's
founder and leader, Caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi would be present. The fact
that IS has not produced any evidence to suggest al-Baghdadi is alive gives
weight to Russia's claims that al-Baghdadi has indeed been killed.
Unfortunately, instead of working with Russia as President Trump promised to
do during his election campaign, it seems he may be preparing to launch
devastating missile strikes against the Syrian government. Should this
happen, the consequences for Syria's beleaguered Christian community would be
dire. The only place Syrian Christians can live securely and with full
religious freedom is inside government controlled areas. Please remember
Syria's Christians and pray.
[For more analysis on the situation in the Middle East, watch the Religious
Liberty Monitoring blog.]
Central Highlands Protestant Pastor Nguyen Cong Chinh (45) was arrested in
April 2011 because of his Christian witness. In July 2012 he was sentenced to
11 years in prison. Not only does Pastor Chinh suffer persecution in prison,
but his wife, Tran Thi Hong, also suffers violent persecution because of her
religious liberty advocacy [see RLPB 359 (1 June 2016)]. On 25 May 2017 a
delegation from the US Consulate visited Pastor Chinh in prison. Despite
having been warned in advance not to say anything negative against the state
of Vietnam, Pastor Chinh told the US delegation about the tortures, threats
and mistreatment he has endured in prison. These include regular beatings,
having shards of glass mixed in with his food, being held in stocks and
having to endure long periods in solitary confinement. Now he is being
punished for talking and his wife fears for his health and safety. Please

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