Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 440


Date:  January 31, 2018

by Elizabeth Kendal

JANUARY 2018 UPDATE - this month we prayed concerning ...

* BURMA (RLPB 438), where intensive fighting is underway in Burma's northern 
Kachin State with the military eager to seize control of valuable gold, amber 
and jade mining areas.  

BURMA UPDATE (1): Ndup Yang Camp sits on the bank of the Malikha River, east 
of Sumprabum, some 200km north of the Kachin capital Myitkyina. Clashes 
between the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and the Burmese military erupted 
in the area on 17 January. With Burmese troops firing artillery from the 
opposite bank of the river, residents of the Ndup Yang Camp - a total of 260 
households consisting of 949 people - fled for their lives into the jungle, 
many with nothing but the clothes on their backs. The camp is now empty and 
the whereabouts of the displaced Kachin are unknown. Reverend Bang Seng, who 
is in charge of Ndut Yang Camp, has been informed that one pregnant woman has 
since given birth in the jungle. Please pray for Burma's long-suffering 
Kachin believers. 

BURMA UPDATE (2): On 2 January the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO) 
elected General N'Ban La (70) as its new chairman. Gen. N'Ban La also serves 
as deputy chair of the Federal Political Negotiation and Consultative 
Committee (FPNCC), an alliance of seven armed ethnic groups yet to sign the 
Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA). [They refuse to sign while the junta's 
preconditions include disarmament and acceptance of the flawed 2008 
constitution.]  Pursuing economic interests, the West has essentially 
abandoned the Christian Kachin, citing their refusal to sign the NCA. Eager 
to advance its own interests, China is now wooing the Kachin, offering to 
facilitate the flow of humanitarian aid into Kachin State from China. 
Observers expect that under Gen. N'Ban La, the KIO will give up on the West 
and look East instead. Of course this will leave the Kachin vulnerable to the 
machinations of the Chinese Communist Party. Please pray.   

* SYRIA (RLPB 438; updated in RLPB 439), where, on 8 January, Christian 
properties in the Old City of Damascus were hit by rebel shells and where 
Christians in northern Afrin are imperilled due to Turkish shelling and 
aerial bombardment, as well as from Turkish-backed al-Qaeda-linked jihadists.

SYRIA UPDATE (DAMASCUS): Nine civilians were killed and 21 wounded in Bab 
Touma on Monday 22 January, as jihadists based in Eastern Ghouta shelled the 
predominantly Christian district of the Old City. Three-year-old Elias, whose 
parents were critically wounded, was amongst the dead. The shelling commenced 
just as school had finished for the day; several youths from the Church-run 
Al Riaya School were amongst those killed and seriously wounded. Please pray.

SYRIA UPDATE (AFRIN): Rev Abdalla Homsi, of the Evangelical Christian 
Alliance Church of Aleppo, has issued a statement condemning Turkey's 
'unjustified aggression'. With Turkish forces fighting alongside rebel and 
Islamic factions, Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch, Mar Ignatius Aphrem 
II appealed (again) for the West 'to put an end to all forms of external 
support for irregular militias and armed groups operating in Syrian 
territory'. Turkey's President Erdogan has declared his intention to launch 
an attack on Manbij (100km east of Afrin) and to continue the fight eastward 
until no 'terrorist' (read: Kurd) is left 'right up to our border with Iraq'. 
In reality, the Turkish military is struggling to hold on to its gains. 
Failure could trigger a nationalist backlash against minorities in Turkey. 
The situation is extremely volatile and dangerous. Please pray.

'Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you' (1 Peter 5:7 NIV). 

* NIGERIA (RLPB 439), where the extra-legal arrest of a convert from Islam 
and her Christian friend has triggered a religio-political crisis, because 
Nigeria's constitution guarantees religious freedom. No further news is 
available. [See also The Islamisation of Nigeria, Religious Liberty 
Monitoring (23 Jan 2018)].  

JANUARY 2018 ROUND-UP - also this month ...  


On the night of 15 January Boko Haram militants stormed Roum village in 
Cameroon's Far North region (which borders Nigeria's Borno State), setting it 
ablaze. Two churches (one Evangelical, one Catholic) were destroyed, along 
with 93 huts, 20 food storehouses, and 11 motorbikes. Not far from Roum, a 
health centre belonging to the Evangelical Church was also attacked. One 
church leader told World Watch Monitor (29 Jan) that the violence and looting 
has become routine. It must be terrible to live with such insecurity; please 


China's new Religious Affairs Regulations come into force on 1 February. The 
regulations give the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) full control over 
religion. Unregistered religious activity will be illegal and all approved 
religious activity will be heavily regulated and monitored. Resistance will 
result in demolitions and administrative detentions. [See: The Return of 
'Mao-style Terror and Control', Religious Liberty Monitoring (25 Jan 2018).] 
Meanwhile, the Vatican has already capitulated, retiring one bishop so he 
might be replaced by a CCP appointee. Hong Kong's Cardinal Joseph Zen 
(retired), who in November 2016 urged the Vatican not to take this path [see 
RLPB 387 (5 Dec 2016)], has accused the Vatican of 'selling out the Catholic 
Church in China'. Meanwhile, having already demolished much of the 
residential accommodation at Larung Gar (possibly the largest centre of 
Buddhist learning in the world), the CCP is now preparing to take over all 
administration, installing scores of CCP cadres at the site - in every 
department, at every level and in every corner - to ensure total compliance. 
Pray for China. May God give his precious Church much wisdom and grace to 
navigate the 'New Era'.  


JHARKHAND: Morning Star News (MSN) reports on several incidents of violence 
against Christians over Christmas. In each case, Christians had been engaged 
in peaceful worship when they were violently attacked by Hindu nationalists. 
As MSN reports, Jharkhand's Adivasis (indigenous tribes) are also harassing 
and threatening Christians. This is because Jharkahand's Hindu nationalist 
(BJP) state government is exploiting the issue of religious conversion 
deliberately to divide the tribals. The BJP's goal is to set the Adivasi 
animists against the Christians who have been leading a campaign for land 
rights, justice and equity. [See: The Shameful Politics Behind Jharkhand's 
Anti-Conversion Law, Religious Liberty Monitoring (1 Sep 2017).] Pray for the 
Church in Jharkhand.  

TAMIL NADU: Morning Star News reports that on 20 January, church members 
discovered the body of their Pastor Gideon Periyaswamy (43) who had been 
murdered. It seems that upper caste Hindus in the area had been unhappy that 
persons of lower caste were entering the area, drawn in by Pastor Gideon's 
Gospel ministry. Only one week earlier, Pastor Gideon informed police that 
Hindu nationalists were threatening him. Pray for the Church in India.  


On 6 January, in a Revolutionary court in Tehran, Shamiram Isavi, the wife of 
Assyrian Pastor Victor Bet Tamraz, was sentenced to five years in prison. 
Judge Ahmadzadeh found Shamiram Isavi guilty of 'acting against national 
security by organizing home churches, attending Christian seminars abroad and 
training Christian leaders in Iran for the purpose of espionage'. Isavi 
denies that she ever acted against Iran's national security. Isavi and her 
husband were arrested in their home in Tehran on 26 December 2014, along with 
their son, Ramin Bet Tamraz, and 12 Christian converts. In June 2016, Pastor 
Victor and three converts were sentenced to 10- and 15-year prison terms [see 
RLPB 414 (11 July 2017)]. Their appeals are pending. Furthermore, on 28 
December converts Eskandar Rezaei and Pastor Soroush Saraei were each 
sentenced to eight years in prison for 'acting against national security'. 
Pray for the Church in Iran.  


Located in Kyrgyzstan's north-eastern Issyk-Kul [Ysyk-Kol] Region, Kaji-Sai 
Baptist Church (established 1990; registered 1994) has long endured 
harassments and threats. Led by government-appointed imams, local Muslims are 
resisting the Christian presence. The police unashamedly back their fellow 
Muslims. In January 2011 the police in Karakol responded to one attack by 
convening what was essentially a 'reconciliation session' (as occurs in 
Egypt). Under duress, the Christians were coerced to write a letter of 
forgiveness, essentially absolving their Muslim attackers. With Muslims now 
confident of impunity, persecution has only escalated. The persecution 
culminated on 2 January when unidentified attackers attempted to burn down 
the church. On Sunday 7 January the Baptists worshipped in the ashes. They 
have vowed to continue services and restore the church. Without police 
protection, this situation could get much worse yet. Please pray.  

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the 
Almighty. I will say of the Lord, 'He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, 
in whom I trust.' (Psalm 91:1,2 NIV)  

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