(January 26, 2023) Elizabeth Kendal requests urgent prayer for the following…
These January updates are but the tip of the iceberg! Always remember that the context is spiritual!
‘For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places’ (Ephesians 6:12ESV).
Therefore, please keep always praying and interceding for the saints.
* AZERBAIJAN: 120,000 Armenian crisis
Background: Nagorno-Karabakh (N-K) is a mountainous Armenian Christian enclave inside Turkic Muslim Azerbaijan. The most recent conflict – which saw Azerbaijan (along with Turkish and numerous jihadist forces) seize large swathes of N-K’s surrounds – occurred in October-November 2020 (see RLPB 570 [6 Oct 2020]). The short but bloody war ended with a Russia-brokered ceasefire [see RLPB 575, Genocide Postponed? (11 Nov 2020)].
Update: Since December 12, fake ‘eco-activists’ sponsored by the Azerbaijani government have been maintaining a blockade of the Lachin Corridor. Over 1000 N-K residents are stranded in Armenia, while around 120,000 besieged N-K residents face a looming humanitarian catastrophe. Schools are shut due to lack of food and, while some food and basic medicines have been delivered by various alternate means, it is far from enough. Store shelves are empty and medications for diabetes, cancer and other serious conditions have run out. Who will stop Turkey-allied, oil-rich Azerbaijan from completing its ethnic cleansing of Armenians from N-K? (Answer: No-one who wants its oil!) BarnabasAid is raising funds to deliver aid to its partners inside besieged N-K.
* BURKINA FASO: Priest assassinated
On January 2, armed men assassinated Father Jacques Yaro Zerbo (67). Travelling through Soro village in the Boucle du Mouhoun region to accomplish a mission for his bishop, he was intercepted and murdered. Before his death, the Mali-born priest had taught in seminaries and formation centres throughout Burkina Faso. Aid to the Church in Need reports, ‘Over the past few years he focused his ministry on helping young people at a centre for addicts in Gouyèlè.’ The region has been wracked by terrorism for years.
* BURMA (MYANMAR)
(1) Baptist leader charged again
Background: Reverend Dr Hkalam Samson is one of Burma’s most influential religious leaders and human rights activists. Arrested on December 4, 2022 [see RLPB 675 (14 Dec)] he was charged with two counts of ‘unlawful association’ on the basis of footage showing members of the Kachin Independence Organisation attending worship services where he was preaching.
Update: Jailed in Myitkyina, capital of the predominantly Christian Kachin state, Pastor Samson has now also been charged with ‘incitement’ UCA reports (16 Jan): ‘If found guilty, he could face three years in jail for the unlawful association, another two years for incitement and have to cough up a fine.’ Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia Division, comments that by going after Samson, ‘the junta is effectively declaring war against Kachin civil society organisations and the people whom they assist with their daily needs.’
(2) Junta escalates airstrikes
The junta has been escalating its airstrikes against civilians, doubtless pressing for a surrender. In September junta forces bombed a school in Sagaing’s Depayin township, killing twelve, including seven children. In October they bombed a concert in Hpakant township, killing more than 60, making it the deadliest single airstrike since the junta seized power in February 2021 [see RLPB 675 (14 Dec)].
(3) Bombings on…
On January 10-11 junta forces conducted two bombing raids on Camp Victoria, headquarters of the Chin National Army located high in the Chin mountains. On January 12 they destroyed the main hospital inside the camp using two precision-guided bombs. [Camp Victoria’s Christian-run hospital features prominently in Matt Davis’ documentary, Myanmar’s Forgotten War (Aug 2022): see RLPB 659 (24 Aug 2022)]. Seven members of the Chin resistance were killed and over 20 civilians were injured. At least 200 Chin refugees fled over the border into India after the strikes.
On January 12, junta forces bombed Lay Wah village, destroying two churches and the school as well as many other structures. Fortunately, the school was not in use as cautious teachers had already moved their classes into the forest. However, two women were wounded and several villagers – including a mother and her child, a Baptist pastor and a Catholic deacon – were killed. The people have fled.
* D.R. CONGO: Church massacre
On Sunday January 15, believers gathered at a Protestant church in Kasindi to worship and conduct a series of baptisms. However, during the service a bomb exploded sending burning shrapnel ripped through the congregation. At least 14 worshippers were killed and around 70 wounded, many seriously. Islamic State Democratic Republic of Congo (IS-DRC) claimed responsibility for planting the explosive in the church. Morning Star News reports (22 Jan): ‘Church elder Paluka Kivugha said two men entered the church building and left a bag, which contained an IED (Improvised Explosive Device) that soon detonated.’