RLPB 465 | July 2018 Update; plus Burkina Faso, China, Iran, Iraq, North Korea

Source: http://rlprayerbulletin.blogspot.com

Date:  July 25, 2018

by Elizabeth Kendal

'Behold, the days are coming,' declares the Lord, 'when the plowman shall 
overtake the reaper and the treader of grapes him who sows the seed; the 
mountains shall drip sweet wine, and all the hills shall flow with it.' (Amos 
9:13 ESV) 

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

* ETHIOPIA-ERITREA (RLPB 462), where the 'door of peace' has been opened. It 
is widely anticipated that peace could transform not just the economies of 
Ethiopia and Eritrea, but the human rights situation as well.  

UPDATE: RAPID RAPPROCHEMENT  The Ethiopia-Eritrea peace initiative is 
advancing apace. On Sunday 8 July Ethiopian Prime Minister Dr Abiy Amhed 
visited Eritrea. He was met at the airport by Eritrean President Isaias 
Afwerki. It was the first time the leaders of Ethiopia and Eritrea had met in 
20 years. At an historic summit on Monday 9 July the two leaders signed 
a 'declaration of peace and friendship' and declared the 'state of war' over. 
On 10 July telecommunication systems were restored and the lines lit up. On 
Saturday 14 July President Isaias Afwerki visited Ethiopia. He was met at the 
airport by PM Abiy. On 16 July the two leaders raised the Eritrean flag at 
the re-opened Eritrean Embassy in Addis Ababa. On Wednesday 18 July Ethiopian 
Airlines resumed flights to Eritrea. After 20 years of painful separation, 
families torn apart by war were finally able to embrace one another. Whilst 
all this is wonderful, the most difficult task still lies ahead: convincing 
the Ethiopian military - which is dominated by the oppositional Tigrayan 
People's Liberation Front (TPLF) - to withdraw from Eritrean territory. The 
human rights situation inside Eritrea is unlikely to change while Ethiopian 
troops remain on Eritrean soil. Please pray.  

(For a detailed report see Religious Liberty Monitoring - 'Ethiopia-Eritrea: 
rapprochement achieved; now for implementation')  

* INDIA (RLPB 463), where the Hindu concepts of caste and karma ensure India 
remains one of the world's most cruel and inequitable societies; while the 
rise of Hindu nationalism - which exploits religion for political gain and 
establishes religious apartheid - ensures India is rapidly becoming one of 
the most dangerous places in the world for Christians.  

UPDATE:  CHURCH ATTACKED; VICTIMS CHARGED  On Sunday morning 8 July 
Christians were worshipping at the Jesus Power Ministries house church in 
Sathyamangalam, Erode District, Tamil Nadu State when a Hindu extremist, 
identified as Ajith Kumar, stormed in and started abusing and assaulting the 
believers. After beating Mrs Pratibha Stephen, the wife of Pastor Paul 
Stephen (who was preaching elsewhere that morning), Kumar stripped her of her 
sari and attempted to rape her. Fortunately others managed to drag him away. 
  When Pastor Paul returned home in the afternoon he insisted on going to the 
police. Outside his house he was attacked by a mob of Hindus. Pratibha's 
brother, Gyana Prashant, threw himself over Pastor Paul to protect him. 
Eventually an ambulance took them all to the hospital, although it was days 
before the family received medical care. Police questioned a church member 
and made a report. Then Ajith Kumar responded with counter complaint. Instead 
of charging Kumar, the police charged Pastor Paul and Pratibha Stephen with 
the non-bailable offence of 'voluntarily causing hurt by dangerous weapons'. 
Pray for justice, and for the Church in India.  

(For more on this story, along with others, see Morning Star News: South 
Asia/India)  

* PAKISTAN (RLPB 464), where terrorism has been escalating ahead of the 25 
July General Elections which threaten to usher in a parliament controlled by 
hardline Islamists. Pray for the Church in Pakistan.  


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

* BURKINA FASO: EIGHT TAKEN CAPTIVE, INCLUDING CHILDREN

On 3 June Pastor Pierre Boena was kidnapped, along with his younger son, 
daughter-in-law, two grandsons, a member of his church and her twin 
daughters, from the village of Bilhore, in northern Soum Province, near 
Burkina Faso's border with Mali. The reason RLPB did not request prayer for 
this was because, just a few days later, credible local sources reported that 
the family had been released. However, World Watch Monitor (WWM) has now 
confirmed that this was incorrect, and that the family remains in captivity. 
Sources suspect the kidnappers are members of a Fulani militia active along 
the Mali and Burkina Faso border. Pastor Pierre's son, Baowend-Som Boena told 
WWM that the kidnappers are demanding ransom from the Assemblies of God 
Church. Pray for the Lord to protect, sustain and deliver the captives - 
along with all other captives in the Malian desert.  

* CHINA: CCP versus THE CROSS IN JIANGXI

In November 2017 South China Morning Post reported that thousands of poor 
Christians in Yugan County, Jiangxi Province, were being told that they could 
not receive government support unless they removed their crosses and 
religious artefacts and replaced them with images of President Xi.  [See: The 
Return of 'Mao-style Terror and Control', Religious Liberty Monitoring, 25 
Jan 2018.] According to China Aid Association, this struggle - the Chinese 
Communist Party (CCP) versus the Cross in Jiangxi - continues and moreover, 
is intensifying. In early July churches across Jiangxi were told to dismantle 
their crosses, replace them with either an image of Chinese President Xi 
Jinping or the national flag and keep their children away from church. While 
some churches have complied (primarily out of fear), others are resisting. 
Whilst one church's cross has been forcibly demolished [a process known as 
'rectification'], other churches have convinced officials to back off (at 
least temporarily). Pray for the Church in China.  

* IRAN: PRISONER UPDATES

Ramiel Bet Tamraz: On 11 July Ramiel Bet Tamraz (an ethnic Assyrian) and a 
friend (unnamed) were sentenced to four months' jail. Middle East Concern 
explains that Ramiel had been charged with 'propaganda against the state by 
attending house churches' which carries a sentence of between three and 
twelve months, rather than 'acting against national security', which brings 
with it longer sentences. Ramiel's mother, Shamiram Isavi Khabizeh, and 
father, Pastor Victor Bet Tamraz, are currently appealing their five- and 
ten-year prison terms on charges of 'acting against national security'. In 
Iran ethnic Assyrians are normally allowed to practise their Christianity 
quietly without reference to the Persian majority. The 'crime' of this 
Assyrian family is that they witness to and worship with ethnic Persians, 
who, despite being born Muslim, are freely turning to Christ in unprecedented 
numbers. Originally arrested on 26 Aug 2016, Ramiel was in Evin Prison for 
six weeks before being bailed. Ramiel's lawyer will appeal for the sentence 
to be reduced or cancelled. Pray for this intensively persecuted family: 
Ramiel, Shamiram and Victor Bet Tamraz.  

Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani: On 22 July Yousef Nadarkhani, a pastor in the 
non-Trinitarian 'Church of Iran', was home on bail awaiting a summons to 
prison following the failure in May of an appeal against his conviction and 
ten-year prison sentence on charges of 'acting against national security'. 
Instead of summonsing Nadarkhani, the authorities sent some ten police 
officers to his home in Rasht. In an act designed to intimidate the entire 
Christian community, the police burst through the front door and violently 
assaulted both Pastor Yousef and his teenage son Danial with fists and 
electric batons, even though they were offering no resistance. The pastor's 
wife and other children were in the house at the time. Pastor Nadarkhani was 
then reportedly taken away to Evin Prison. Pray that Nadarkhani will 
experience a creative intervention from the Almighty Father,  comfort from 
the empathetic Son and the powerful and personal presence of the Holy Spirit. 
 

* IRAQ: ASSYRIANS UNDER PRESSURE

Nineveh Plains: As noted in 'Iraq: Assyrians at risk as Kurds "play with 
fire" ' [Religious Liberty Monitoring, 19 Sep 2017], the Kurds of northern 
Iraq are working to expand their control over 'disputed territories', 
including Sinjar, oil-rich Kirkuk and the Assyrian homeland of the Nineveh 
Plains. Their primary means is through political pressure: they usurp the 
will of the people by supplanting elected Assyrian representatives and 
replacing them with members of the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) who will 
implement the KDP agenda. Alqosh is an Assyrian town in the Nineveh Plains. 
More than 80 percent of the population are Assyrian, mostly Chaldean 
Catholic. Fayez Abed Jawahreh is the democratically elected mayor of Alqosh. 
In July 2017 the majority-Kurdish Nineveh Provincial Council ousted him and 
replaced him with a member of the KDP. However, Nineveh is under the 
authority of Baghdad, not the Kurdish Regional Government, so ultimately the 
Federal Court ordered Jawahreh be reinstated. On 15 July 2018, his first day 
back at work, Jahwareh was arrested without warrant and taken away by Kurdish 
political police known as 'Asayish'. He was released some four hours later, 
severely beaten. The KDP have warned the people that the KDP rules Alqosh and 
will decide what happens there.  

Erbil, capital of Iraqi Kurdistan: On 27 June Assyrians in Ankawa - Erbil's 
majority Assyrian district - discovered that the Kurdish Regional Government 
(KRG) had imposed a new discriminatory business tax exclusively to Assyrian 
districts.  Furthermore, residents in mostly-Assyrian and Christian Ankawa 
pay the highest capital gains tax in the Kurdistan Region - ten percent, 
compared with six percent elsewhere. A Kurdish official allegedly told an 
Assyrian politician that the tax was a form of jizya, justified because 
Ankawa is a Christian town. Please pray for Iraq's indigenous Assyrians; the 
Christian Crisis in the Middle East is anything but over.  


* NORTH KOREA: FORTHCOMING AMNESTY 

On 16 July the North Korean regime announced  it would grant a large-scale 
amnesty to people sentenced for crimes against 'the state and the people'. 
This is the third amnesty since Kim Jong-un came to power in December 2011. 
The first was in 2012, to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of the birth 
of Kim's grandfather, North Korea's founder and the 'Eternal President' Kim 
Il-sung. The second was in 2015, to honour of the 70-year anniversary of the 
liberation of Korea from Japanese colonial rule and the foundation of the 
Korean Worker's Party. This latest amnesty will go into effect on 1 August 
commemorating the republic's 70-year anniversary on 9 September. As yet there 
is no indication of how many prisoners will be released. Analysts suspect the 
latest amnesty is aimed at 'consolidating social unity ... and boosting the 
people's loyalty for Kim amid a changing environment after the North-US 
summit talks in June'.  Duyeon Kim, a visiting senior fellow at the Korean 
Peninsula Future Forum in Seoul agrees, adding that the North might even want 
to 'show [the] world it's improving human rights', although 'it remains to be 
seen if those included will be political prisoners'. Please pray for this 
process, that it will be generous and will include many Christians.  

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