Tuesday, August 15, 2017

RLPB 419. CAR: Islamic militias "more heavily armed than ever".

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 419 | Wed 16 Aug 2017

Please forward this prayer bulletin widely, and encourage others to sign up to the Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin blog. "The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective." (James 5:16 NIV)

CAR: ISLAMIC MILITIAS 'MORE HEAVILY ARMED THAN EVER'
by Elizabeth Kendal

simple map of divided CAR (WWM)
Gambo is located 70km west of Bangassou, in the Central African Republic (CAR) prefecture of Mbomou. It sits on what is currently the front-line of one of the world's most catastrophic and neglected conflicts. Gambo has been held by ex-Seleka Islamic rebels for the past four years, but this year suffering has escalated markedly as Islamic rebels have split into factions, primarily along ethnic lines, and escalated their attacks on civilians associated with their opponents. Over recent months the ex-Seleka faction known as the UPC (the ethnic Peuhl/Fulani-dominated Union for Peace in the Central African Republic) has escalated its attacks on the local people, especially women. Catholic news-agency, Agenzia Fides, reports that many local women have been abducted from their homes in front of their husbands and later raped. What else is this but a reign of terror?

The Catholic bishop of Bangassou,
the Spanish Comboni missionary
Juan José Aguirre Muñoz.
On 4 August 'anti-balaka' militias (traditional village defence militias turned anti-Muslim and now anti-Fulani vigilantes) entered Gambo to oust the ex-Seleka/UPC fighters. Local Bishop Juan José Aguirre Muñoz of Bangassou, told Agenzia Fides that when the anti-balaka arrived, UN peacekeepers immediately opened fire to repel them. When the anti-balaka returned fire the UN peacekeepers started shooting wildly and indiscriminately, hitting many civilians. When the UN peacekeepers pursued the anti-balaka into the forest, the ex-Seleka/Fulani UPC fighters in Gambo town found a Red Cross team holding a meeting in the hospital and proceeded to slit the throats of all men, women and children present. Six Red Cross volunteers, one a Baptist pastor, were among up to 80 victims. World Watch Monitor reports that Pastor Joseph Tokon had gone to Gambo to work as a medical aid worker. In his 50s, Pastor Tokon leaves behind a wife and seven children.

CAR map showing Batangafo and Gambo
'I ask myself,' says Bishop Aguirre, 'why, once Gambo had been saved from the anti-balaka, did the UN [peacekeepers] leave the people in the hands of the Seleka [Fulani UPC]? These so called peace-keeping troops, whose job is to disarm all the factions in the country, did forcefully disarm the anti-balaka but not the Seleka who appear more heavily armed than ever. Here is a sense of complicity which we fail to understand' (emphasis mine). Fellow peacemaker, Imam Oumar Kobine Layama of the award-winning Interfaith Peace Platform, agrees with Bishop Aguirre that the Moroccan contingent of the UN Peacekeeping Mission is 'trigger-happy' and needs to be removed. Human Rights Watch believes the UN peacekeeping force could do more to protect civilians, noting that in many front-line towns 'Seleka fighters openly circulate with weapons'. Of course the hottest question of all must be: 'Who is funding these Islamic militias?'

Peacemaker Church: a place of refuge
Meanwhile, the situation at the Catholic Cathedral in Bangassou remains explosive [see RLPB 407 (17 May)]. Inside the cathedral, some 2000 displaced mostly Muslim civilians huddle together under the protection of priests and nuns. Outside on the footpath, bands of young Muslim men harass the local people while anti-balaka fighters linger menacingly on the periphery, threatening to kill them all. The violence is spread along the front-line, from the south-east through the centre to the north-west. In the town of Batangafo, 400km north of the capital Bangui, two waves of violence through late July into early August left 24 people dead, 17 injured and more than 10,000 people seeking refuge in the grounds of the hospital after rebels torched the refugee camp and looted its supplies. Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) project coordinator Carlos Francisco laments, 'Much of the general population is in a state of complete helplessness.' On 7 August the UN warned of the spectre of genocide, in the hope of arousing some interest from outside powers.


PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY FOR GOD TO

* 'Break the arm [means of action] of the wicked ...' (Psalm 10), so that CAR (which is 76 percent Christian) will be spared catastrophic bloodshed, ethnic cleansing and even partial Islamic domination; may those who are sponsoring Islamic militancy be exposed and sanctioned and all channels of funding to Islamic militias be totally broken.

* intervene in CAR to rebuke and chase away (Isaiah 17:13) all foreign jihadists (mostly Chadian and Sudanese); to disarm and pacify all belligerents; to remove all unhelpful powers and troops; and to empower all those who are working to improve security for this massively traumatised population.

* protect and bless his peacemaker Church, amplifying her message of reconciliation, her exercise of grace and her call to transformative revival through Jesus Christ.


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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CAR: ISLAMIC MILITIAS 'MORE HEAVILY ARMED THAN EVER' 

The town of Gambo in CAR's volatile south-east has been in the hands of Islamic militants since 2013. Violence has escalated markedly this year as Muslim militias have split into factions along ethnic lines and escalated their attacks on civilians. In Gambo, women have been specifically targeted. On 4 August anti-Muslim defence militias known as 'anti-balaka' invaded Gambo to drive out the ethnic Fulani Muslim militants. As UN peacekeepers chased the anti-balaka into the bush, the Islamic militants in the town invaded a hospital and slit the throats of men, women and children. Church leaders lament that the UN peacekeepers are failing to protect civilians and that the Islamic militants 'appear more heavily armed than ever'. May God intervene; a breakthrough is needed. Pray for CAR and its peacemaker Church.

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Elizabeth Kendal is an international religious liberty analyst and advocate. She serves as Director of Advocacy at Canberra-based Christian Faith and Freedom (CFF), and is an Adjunct Research Fellow at the Arthur Jeffery Centre for the Study of Islam at Melbourne School of Theology.

She has authored two books: Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today (Deror Books, Melbourne, Australia, Dec 2012) 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, June 2016).

See www.ElizabethKendal.com 

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

RLPB 418. India: Serious Threat of Hindutva

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 418 | Wed 09 Aug 2017

Please forward this prayer bulletin widely, and encourage others to sign up to the Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin blog. "The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective." (James 5:16 NIV)


INDIA: SERIOUS THREAT OF HINDUTVA
-- Church is persecuted; tribals free only to be Hindu

by Elizabeth Kendal

The ideology of Hindutva (Hindu nationalism) was formulated in the early 1900s as a means to counter British colonialism. VD Savarkar, the man recognised as the Father of Hindutva, was an Indian pro-independence activist and revolutionary. Savarkar sought to unify India's numerous and diverse peoples under the banner of Hindutva to strengthen the Indian resistance. An avowed atheist, Savarkar objected to Hindu beliefs and sought to redefine Hinduness as race. He wrote his defining work 'Hindutva' while in prison in the early 1900s. Whilst he might have despised the Muslims of the 'Khilafat' (Caliphate) Movement with whom he shared a prison cell, his ideology appears to borrow much from their fundamentalist Islam.

The essence of Savarkar's Hindutva is this: a Hindu is a person for whom 'Hindustan' (the entire Indian subcontinent) is their homeland and holy-land. As the homeland and holy-land of the Hindu race/nation, ‘Hindustan’ should be declared a Hindu Rashtra (Hindu state). The only reason non-Hindus exist in Hindustan is because they or their ancestors were led astray and converted by foreign missionaries, usually through fraud, force or allurement. All non-Hindus are thus called to 'return home' to Hinduism for the sake of Mother India. Refusal to do so is seen as an act of betrayal against the Hindu nation, akin to subversion or separatism. In theory, Hindutva rejects caste, mandating there should be equality within the Hindu race. Non-Hindus however, are to be marginalised as second-class citizens and essentially be punished for their betrayal. The result is religious apartheid with violent persecution.

This pregnant woman and her five children
were thrown out of their village by
her husband and in-laws after she refused
to renounce her Christian faith.
See World Watch Monitor (8 Aug)
It has been a Long (100-year) March, but Savarkar's Hindutva disciples now control the levers of power throughout all India. Formulated to stir up revolution against the British, Hindutva is now used as a political tool to fan majority Hindu pride and dragnet the majority Hindu vote to consolidate the power and privilege of the Hindu elites. The situation facing India's ancient and growing missionary-focused Christian Church is exceedingly serious. Slandered as anti-social elements who instigate strife, threaten social cohesion and risk national security, Christians are increasingly finding themselves without rights or security against a rising tide of politically-orchestrated religious hatred.

As animists who traditionally vote Congress, the tribals have long been the prime targets of Hindutva activists seeking religious conversions for political gain. To their fury, they find themselves competing with Christian missionaries who are almost exclusively Indian nationals working locally or cross-culturally. Along with literacy, education, vocational training and healthcare, these Indian missionaries also introduce peace, love, dignity, grace and abundant life in Jesus Christ to peoples historically disregarded by the Hindu caste system as little more than rubbish. Like the high caste (who recoil at the notion of equity) the Hindutva activists regard Christian missionaries as their number one enemy on earth.

Christian missionary: Gospel for Asia 

ANTI-CONVERSION LAW FOR JHARKHAND

Five northern tribal-belt states have enacted anti-conversion laws (ironically known as 'Freedom of Religion' bills): Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Odhisa. A similar law also exists in Arunachal Pradesh, which as yet has not been implemented. On Tuesday 1 August the Jharkhand Freedom of Religion Bill 2017 was approved by the cabinet of Jharkhand Chief Minister Raghubar Das. The law will be enacted later this year when it is approved by the Hinduvta-dominated State Legislative Assembly. As in the other states, Jharkhand's Freedom of Religion Bill will criminalise religious conversion, mandating prison terms and a fine for anyone found guilty of attempting to convert another person by fraud, force or allurement -- all undefined. The penalty is increased if the convert is a minor or a member of a scheduled caste or tribe. As human rights advocate Tehmina Arora notes, 'This law, like the ones in the other States, will only further incite violence against religious minorities.' Similarly, Church leaders warn that such laws merely foster hatred against minority communities and lead to persecution of Christians.


PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY FOR GOD TO:

* intervene in power and grace to thoroughly subvert the Hindutva project [which is essentially just another Tower of Babel -- a vain and rebellious project aimed at forging social cohesion without reference to God (Genesis 11)].  'The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.' (Jesus, Luke 18:27 ESV)

* rise up in defence of his persecuted and threatened Church and in defence of India's harassed and helpless masses.

Gospel For Asia 
'O Thou my soul, forget no more
The friend who all thy misery bore
Let every idol be forgot 
But O my soul, forget him not. 
Jesus for thee a body takes, 
Thy guilt assumes, thy fetters breaks, 
Discharging all thy dreadful debt; 
And canst thou e’er such love forget?’ 

(Attributed to Krishna Pal, Bengali convert to Christianity, baptised December 1800.)


DAY OF PRAYER FOR INDIA: the Evangelical Fellowship of India is inviting intercessors worldwide to join with the Indian Church on Sunday 13 August as they observe a 'Day of Prayer for the Nation'. Further resources can be found at https://www.nationaldayofprayer.in/  and https://www.facebook.com/EFoIndia 


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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SERIOUS THREAT OF HINDUTVA IN INDIA

The ideology of Hindutva (Hindu nationalism) was formulated in the early 1900s as a way to counter British colonialism. Today, Hindutva is a political tool used to fan Hindu pride and dragnet the Hindu vote to consolidate the power and privilege of Hindu elites. Whilst Hindutva supposedly promotes equality of Hindus, non-Hindus are marginalised as second-class citizens. Refusal to 'return' to Hinduism is viewed as a betrayal against the Hindu nation. The result is religious apartheid with violent persecution. As animists who traditionally vote Congress, the tribals have long been the prime targets of Hindutva activism. These activists view Christian missionaries -- almost exclusively Indian nationals -- as their principal enemies. Five northern tribal states already have anti-conversion laws; another will soon follow. Please pray for India and its Christians.

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Elizabeth Kendal is an international religious liberty analyst and advocate. She serves as Director of Advocacy at Canberra-based Christian Faith and Freedom (CFF), and is an Adjunct Research Fellow at the Arthur Jeffery Centre for the Study of Islam at Melbourne School of Theology.

She has authored two books: Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today (Deror Books, Melbourne, Australia, Dec 2012) 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, June 2016).

See www.ElizabethKendal.com