(March 30, 2023) Elizabeth Kendal, RLPB, shares and requests further prayer…
During March we prayed concerning the following –
(1) Brutalised grandmother
Regarding the vexatious civil lawsuit being brought by three Muslim men against Mrs Thabet, the Christian grandmother whom they brutalised, there is no further news.
(2) Adoption denial
As reported in RLPB 686 (March 22), the court declined to rule in the lawsuit brought by a Christian couple regarding their right to adopt Shenouda, a boy they had raised for four years since he was found abandoned inside a church as a newborn [RLPB 682 (March 1)]. Consequently, the State’s decision stands: Shenouda (5) will not be returned to his adoptive Christian parents. It is imperative that the law be amended to give Christians the legal right to adopt children under Christian Family Law.
TURKEY: Concerning adoption
Islam permits guardianship (foster care) for orphaned and abandoned children. However, it bans adoption so as to ensure non-biological children do not receive inheritance. On February 6, Turkey was struck by a series of devastating earthquakes which are estimated to have killed up to 46,000 people. In response to questions about whether children orphaned by the quake could be adopted, Turkey’s Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet) issued a fatwa (religious ruling) explaining that, while Islam bans adoption, ‘there is no obstacle for marrying’ earthquake-affected children.
[According to the Diyanet, the minimum age for marriage for girls is eight years old.] May God sustain and amplify Turkish outrage (which is considerable) and use this fatwa to further expose the moral deficiency of Islam. May no orphaned or lost Christian child be exploited in this way.
NIGERIA: Battle has barely begun
[RLPB 683 (3 March)] Four presidential candidates, including the two leading opposition candidates – Atiku Abubakar of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and Peter Obi of the Labour Party – have filed petitions at the presidential election tribunal. Meanwhile, Tinubu jetted off to Paris for a medical check-up, after which he headed to Saudi Arabia so he might spend the first days of Ramadan in Mecca. It was the worst possible result, not only for Nigeria’s Christians, but for Nigeria, as it portends to four more years of APC systemic corruption and misrule, all but guaranteeing four more years of economic decline and catastrophic insecurity.
Had Obi (an ethnic Igbo Christian) won the election, Nigeria would certainly have seen an eruption of Islamic rioting. Currently the situation is relatively calm as the Islamists are appeased. Furthermore, Atiku (PDP) and Obi (Labour) did move quickly to exhort their followers to embrace peace, reject provocation and let the judicial process take its course. One day at a time! Our God can be trusted; He knows what He is doing.
(1) Villagers massacred
Fulani terrorists continue to wage terror on the Christian villages, massacring villagers while looting and burning homes, farms, crops and businesses. On March 10, they killed 17 villagers in Ungwan Wakili village. On March 14 they killed 10 villagers in Langson village, also in Zangon Kataf LGA.
An area resident named Barnabas, who lost five family members, told Morning Star News, ‘Our attackers were Muslim Fulani herdsmen who came along with terrorists to invade our community.’ There can be no mistake, this is a campaign of ethnic cleansing.
(2) Clergy murdered and kidnapped
At around 2am on Thursday March 23, gunmen targeted the home of Reverend Musa Mairimi, minister in charge of the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA), Buda community in Kaduna’s Kajuru LGA. They had come to kidnap him, but when on resistance they shot him dead and kidnapped his wife instead. (confirmed by the Hausa Christians Foundation).
In the weeks prior to this attack two other clergy were abducted for ransom. Lamenting the situation, Rev. Joseph Hayab asks, ‘Who will you cry to and who will you run to, after all, since the carnage of kidnapping started in Kaduna, no concrete arrests have been made.’ We will cry to the Lord who hears and saves.
(1) CHIN STATE: Fresh military offensive?
On March 9 and 10, convoys of 30 and 80 military vehicles were observed entering Chin State (population 500,000; a Christian nation). It is alleged the vehicles were transporting supplies and reinforcements into the state in preparation for a fresh offensive ahead of the rainy season (June through October). Chin resistance fighters are monitoring the convoys, which they say are fanning out to various townships. They have also launched attacks on these convoys; but this comes at a cost. On March 11, Chin forces ambushed a convoy in a valley near Tedim Township. In response, junta troops took 30 Chin residents as human shields. Furthermore, the troop reinforcements are ‘receiving air cover from jet fighters and helicopter gunships that are circling townships in the Chin Hills every day.’
(2) KACHIN STATE: Junta closes IDP camps
[RLPB 684 (March 8)], occasion of the Global Day of Prayer for Burma, the junta announced that it is closing 25 IDP [Internally Displaced Persons] camps near the Kachin capital, Myitkyina. It demanded that the IDPs vacate the camps by the end of March. Aid groups are complaining that this is being done ‘without a viable plan for rehabilitation.’
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is concerned that IDPs will be returning to home villages that have been contaminated by landmines and unexploded ordnance, or that are occupied by active Burmese military forces. Kachin State has a population of 1.7 million, most of whom are Christian, and 101,500 of whom are displaced. Around 11,900 of those have become displaced since the February 2021 coup; the rest have been displaced since war resumed in 2011 [RLPB 114 (Jun 29, 2011)].
The IDP’s plight is exacerbated by the fact that the junta maintains a humanitarian blockade on all areas not under its control, leaving local churches to carry the burden of caring for the displaced.
INDONESIA: Christian theologian still missing
[RLPB 685 (March 15)] There is no update on theologian and apologist Gratia Pello (40) who remains ‘disappeared.’ No trial date has been set and there has been no news of Pello since he was arrested ‘for blasphemy’ at his home on December 6, 2022. This is deeply disturbing.
SUDAN: Intense intolerance
[RLPB 686 (March 22)] Islamic intolerance and state repression can be intense. As noted: ‘The difficulty of freeing multi-racial, multi-religious Sudan from the grip of intolerant fundamentalist Islam and a thoroughly entrenched and heavily invested Arab Islamist Deep State cannot be overstated.’
Please continue to pray for Christian convert Awatif Abdalla Kaki, that God will provide her with a safe house and with Christian support; and for the Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church (SPEC), that God will intervene to ensure justice prevails.
AZERBAIJAN: Armenians 100 days under siege
On December 12 Azerbaijani forces enacted a siege of Artsakh putting its 120,000 residents at risk of a humanitarian crisis. On March 21, 30 days after the United Nations’ highest court ordered Azerbaijan to end the blockade Armenians marked 100 days of siege. Recently, Azerbaijani troops discovered that Armenians were using a rough dirt road just north of the Lachin Corridor to circumvent the blockade.
Russian peacekeepers too have been running what Eurasia.net described as ‘a large-scale blockade-busting operation’ to keep Armenians supplied with essential food and medicines. Russia – which has ordered the Azerbaijanis to ‘cease the engineering work and to withdraw their forces to their previous positions’ – is ‘negotiating with the Azerbaijani side to ensure their retreat.’
Many suspect Turkic Muslim Azerbaijan is poised to ethnically cleanse Christian Armenians out of Artsakh.
(1) XINJIANG: Released after 15 years
Uyghur Christian Alimujiang Yimiti (50) has been released from prison after serving his 15-year sentence. Born into a Muslim family, Yimiti converted to Christianity in 1995 and went on to become a house church pastor. In 2007, authorities in Kashgar, Xinjiang, charged Yimiti with ‘illegally proselytising Christianity to the Uyghur community and disseminating Christian propaganda under the guise of “work”…’ In 2008, in a secret trial with no defence lawyer, Yimiti was charged with ‘leaking state secrets’ and sentenced to 15 years in prison.
China Aid Association reports (March 15): ‘While other details are unconfirmed, the Uyghur house church pastor is home with his family’ (wife Gulinuer, and two children). Christian Uyghurs account for about two percent of Xinjiang’s estimated 26 million residents. Yimiti’s release comes at a time when Chinese Communist Party (CCP) pressure on Xinjiang’s non-Han (Uyghurs, Kazaks, Kyrgyz, Tajiks, Hui and others) is unrelenting and unprecedented in its severity. The surveillance is suffocating and cultural genocide is well underway. The trials of this faithful family are anything but over.
(2) ZHEJIANG: Atheism mandatory
In March, Christian parents in Longwan District of Wenzhou, Zhejiang, reported that they were being required to sign a pledge in order to have their children in kindergarten. The document (‘Kindergarten Family Commitment Not to Believe in Religion’) obliges the parents to lead ‘civilised families’ who ‘do not believe in religion, do not participate in any religious activities, and do not teach religion to children.’
Parents must commit to keeping their children away from Falun Gong, ‘xie jiao’ (evil cults; i.e. religious groups not approved by the CCP) and ‘feudal superstition’; and to teach their children to ‘have faith in science, socialism, and the Chinese Communist Party.’ Church schools and home-schooling are illegal in China. The CCP is tightening the noose.
(3) HENAN: ‘Smart religion’
Christians in Henan Province wanting to attend a church activity must first complete an on-line form – available through the ‘Smart Religion’ App – and receive permission from officials. China Aid Association reports (March 6): ‘Applicants must fill in much personal information before they can make a reservation. Those who are allowed into the church must also have their temperature taken and show a reservation code.’
According to the Henan Daily (Feb 24), authorities deem it ‘necessary to strictly manage religion in a comprehensive way, [to] unite and guide the majority of religious believers to follow the Chinese Communist Party unswervingly.’ The only alternative to ‘Smart Religion’ is illegal religion, with the risks that entails.
MALI, WESTERN AFRICA: Jeff Woodke released
On Monday March 20, French journalist Olivier Dubois and American Christian aid worker Jeffery Woodke arrived at Niger’s Diori Hamani International Airport having been cleared to fly home. Dubois had been kidnapped in Mali in April 2021, while Woodke – who had lived in Niger since 1992 – had been kidnapped in October 2016 [RLPB 396 (March 1, 2017)]. Held captive by a splinter group of Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), the men were released in the tri-border region. Woodke’s wife, Els Woodke told World Watch Monitor (21 March) that Jeff was ‘in good condition,’ and thanked Christians for their prayers and support.
The same Nigerien intelligence services that obtained Dubois and Woodke’s release, obtained American nun, Suellen Tennyson’s release in August 2022. She was kidnapped by jihadists in Burkina Faso in April 2022 [RLPB 656 (Aug 3, 2022)].
There is no update on Australian captive, Dr Ken Elliott, kidnapped in Burkina Faso in January 2016 [RLPB 341 (Jan 27, 2016)]. Dr Elliott (87) remains a captive of, and medical slave to, al-Qaeda-aligned jihadists based somewhere in northern Mali.
UGANDA: Conversion intolerance/Pastor attacked
(1) Pastor Adinani Bulwa (42) of Muterere village, Bugiri District, had been under pressure from Muslim relatives to recant his faith in Jesus. Not only did he refuse to renounce Christ, but in February led four members of his extended family to Christ. On the night of March 10, a group of Muslim relatives took him out of his home, away from his wife and five children, and brutally murdered him.
His wife, Zabiina Newumbwe, found his body, telling Morning Star News (28 March), ‘I could not control my emotions and shouted in a loud voice. Thereafter I fainted due to shock… The children and I are living in great fear from the relatives – our security is at stake. We had to seek help elsewhere. We need prayers so that God may guide us on what to do next.’
(2) On March 15, Pastor John Balidawa (35) and son, Gilbert Sanja (14), were at Ebenezer Christian Centre, Kigulu village, setting up the venue for an all-night prayer vigil when a group of Muslim fundamentalists descended on the property ordering them to leave. On refusal, the Muslims attacked! Balidawa regained consciousness in hospital to find his son in the bed beside him and the church’s senior pastor, Gerald Kato Wakabi (39), watching over them. The pair suffered numerous broken bones and extensive bruising. Muslims had destroyed the church property along with its seating.
Next day Pastor Wakabi found a note at the site of demolished church reading, ‘No more church in this area. This area is holy ground for Allah’s worship only.’ Established in January 2022, the church has 47 members, including 12 converts from Islam. Currently searching for a new gathering place, Pastor Wakabi told Morning Star News (March 22), ‘The priority now is to safeguard the faith of Christians… especially those members who converted from Islam to Christianity.’
- Please pray urgently that our merciful God will protect, intervene, sustain and energise…
‘The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective’ (James 5:16b).
Elizabeth Kendal is an international religious liberty analyst and advocate for the persecuted church. To support this ministry visit www.ElizabethKendal.com. Above updates excerpted from RLPB reports.
Elizabeth, an Adjunct Research Fellow at the Arthur Jeffery Centre for the Study of Islam, Melbourne School of Theology, has authored two books: Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today (Deror Books, Melbourne) which offers a biblical response to persecution and existential threat; and After Saturday Comes Sunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East (Wipf and Stock, Eugene, OR, USA).
My wife and I pray for and support the ‘persecuted church.’ In light of the incidents shared in this article, we are so blessed to live with a greater measure of civil and religious liberty in our country, yet do we really appreciate it as much as we should. We know the Lord sees and hears the desperate cries of these His people, we pray He will defend them, deliver them from evil and use us in the ‘free world’ to do all we can for them.