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Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 123 | Wed 31 Aug 2011

August 31st, 2011
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AUGUST 2011 UPDATE

By Elizabeth Kendal

   during August we prayed for . . .

INDONESIA (RLPB 119), where Christians are facing escalating violent
  persecution fuelled by impunity, primarily in Papua and West Java,
  especially the Bogor and Bekasi districts. It is reported there were 64
  violent attacks on religious freedom in 2010, up from 18 in 2009 and 17
  in 2008. 

UPDATE: In December 2010, Indonesia's Supreme Court and Ombudsman
  Commission ruled in favour of the Taman Yasmin Indonesian Christian
  Church in Bogor, West Java, confirming the legality of its building
  permit. Despite this, the church remains sealed and Bogor authorities
  continue to obstruct and threaten the members. Now the mayor of Bogor,
  Diani Budiarto, is pushing for a law to forbid churches opening on
  streets bearing Islamic names. The Yasmin church is on Jalan Abdullah
  bin Nuh, a street named after the noted Islamic cleric Abdullah bin Nuh
  (died 1987). President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is remaining silent on
  the issue. If mayor Budiarto can defy the courts with impunity, the law
  will be rendered meaningless. Pray for Indonesia. 


SUDAN (RLPB 120), where the predominantly Christian Nuba peoples of South
  Kordofan are facing starvation at the hands of a genocidal regime. 

UPDATE: On Tuesday 23 August, while visiting Kadugli, the capital of
  South Kordofan, Sudan's President Omar el-Bashir announced a two-week
  ceasefire. He also confirmed that no humanitarian aid groups would be
  permitted to enter the war-ravaged region where hundreds of thousands
  of predominantly Christian Nuba have been displaced. The
  Secretary-General of the SPLM-N, Yasir Arman, is accusing Bashir of
  'using food as a weapon'. Arman regards Bashir's declaration of a
  ceasefire as nothing more than a 'public relations stunt'. He believes
  Bashir is actually preparing for a major military offensive in South
  Kordofan. Despite the ceasefire, bombing is reportedly continuing. Pray
  for God to intervene for his people. 


VIETNAM (RLPB 121), where religious persecution is escalating against
  Christian activists in the cities and the ethnic minority Christians in
  the Central Highlands. 

UPDATE: AsiaNews reports (29 August) that the disappeared Catholic
  activists are imprisoned in Hanoi and will go on trial shortly. They
  are charged with attempting to 'overthrow the people's administration',
  under Clause 2, Article 79 of the Vietnam Penal Code. Sources told
  AsiaNews the prisoners have been allowed to receive food and clothing
  but not prayer books. The fate of two Protestants arrested at the same
  time is unknown. In the coming weeks, Vietnamese Christians across the
  nation -- Catholics and Protestants -- will hold candlelight prayer
  vigils for religious freedom. Pray in solidarity with them. 


PAKISTAN (RLPB 122), where Christian security is increasingly tenuous.

UPDATE: As noted in RLPB 122, anti-blasphemy law campaigner Salman Taseer
  was assassinated on 4 January. Now his son Shahbaz Taseer has been
  kidnapped, seized in an ambush on 26 August. Some experts believe
  Shahbaz might be used as a bargaining chip by militants seeking the
  acquittal of Salman Taseer's assassin, Mumtaz Qadri. Meanwhile, in
  increasingly Islamised and Talibanised Karachi, a virtual war between
  militias backed by political parties and sectarian groups has left some
  400 dead. The violence is also hastening the ethnic-religious
  polarisation of the city. Christians are especially vulnerable amidst
  such lawlessness. Christian homes and churches have been threatened and
  pelted with rocks recently in Karachi, mostly by the ethnic Pashtuns.
  They are backed by the Taliban and live in Pashtun-dominated districts
  near the Christian colony. Pray for all Pakistan's Christians and
  religious liberty advocates. 


AUGUST 2011 ROUND-UP -- also this month . . .

* IRAQ: MANY CHURCHES BOMBED IN KIRKUK

On Monday 15 August a bomb exploded outside Saint Ephrem's Syrian Orthodox 
Church in Al Ummal Square, central Kirkuk, causing major damage but no 
casualties. It was the third church bombing in Kirkuk in two weeks. The 
previous night, four bombs exploded simultaneously inside Kirkuk's Saint 
Afram Syriac Orthodox Church. Whilst there were no casualties, it was the 
first time insurgents had managed to detonate bombs planted inside a 
church. On 2 August, 15 people were wounded including church staff when a 
car bomb exploded about 5:30am outside the Holy Family Syrian Catholic 
church in Kirkuk. Bombs were subsequently found and defused outside the 
Saint Giwargis Church of the East and the Evangelical Presbyterian Church 
in the Almass district. Kirkuk Archbishop Louis Sako told Aid to the 
Church in Need, 'This is only happening because we are Christians. Maybe 
the people responsible want to empty the city of Christians. Please pray 
for us. Pray for peace and stability. We are afraid. ' Pray for Iraq's 
besieged Christians.  


* IVORY COAST: ONGOING DIRE SITUATION FOR CHRISTIANS

The UN peacekeeping mission in Ivory Coast is deeply concerned about 
continuing serious human rights abuses in Ivory Coast. From mid-July to 
mid-August the mission documented 26 extra-judicial killings, 85 illegal 
arrests and 11 rapes, all committed by the former rebels who now make up 
the official army of Ivory Coast. According to the acting human rights 
chief in the UN Operation in Cote d'Ivoire (UNOCI), Guillaume Ngefa, 
predominantly Christian ethnic groups continue to suffer cruel and 
inhumane treatment and violation of property rights at the hands of pro-
Ouattara Islamic forces. Pray for the Christians of Ivory Coast.  


* NIGERIA: CHRISTIANS TARGETED IN PLATEAU STATE

Twenty-four Christians were killed in Plateau State during August in 
targeted attacks by Islamic militants in collusion with uniformed Muslims 
from the Nigerian Army. Ratsa Foron village was attacked on 11 and 15 
August: 6 dead. Chwelnyap community in Jos was attacked on 14 August: 2 
dead. Heipang village was attacked on 15 August leaving 10 dead, including 
9 members of one family. Kwi, Loton and Jwol villages were attacked on 21 
August: 6 dead. In each attack uniformed soldiers of the Nigerian 
military, including those from the Special Task Force (a unit tasked with 
stopping sectarian attacks), accompanied the militants and even 
participated in the killings. Plateau governor Jonah Jang has called for 
immediate withdrawal of the Nigerian Army because, he said, Muslims in the 
army are taking sides with the Islamist assailants. This situation is 
extremely serious.  

Gada-biu is the Christian-dominated district of North Jos Local Government 
Area where multiple bombs exploded on 24 December 2010 resulting in around 
90 deaths. (Boko Haram claimed responsibility.) Consequently, local 
Christians did not want Muslims celebrating Eid-el-Fitri (end of Ramadan) 
in that area and so made a formal request that they celebrate elsewhere. 
On Monday 29 Aug 2011 strife erupted between the district's local ethnic 
Christians and Muslims going down Rukuba Road to celebrate Eid-el-Fitri in 
the sensitive area. The clash left 20 people dead and more than 100 
wounded. Reportedly 'most' of the dead and wounded were shot by soldiers 
firing indiscriminately. At least 50 vehicles, 100 motorcycles and two 
shops were torched. Accounts vary widely about who provoked whom and what 
actually occurred. Tensions are high. Please pray for Nigeria.  


ZIMBABWE: ANGLICAN PASTORS EVICTED

On 4 August Zimbabwe's Chief Justice issued a temporary ruling placing all 
Anglican properties under the control of excommunicated, pro-Mugabe bishop 
Norbert Kunonga.  (See 'Zimbabwe: Chief Justice grants excommunicated 
Kunonga control over Anglican properties', 
http://elizabethkendal.blogspot.com/2011/08/zimbabwe-chief-justice-
grants.html Religious Liberty Monitoring 17 Aug). According to The 
Zimbabwean (27 August) Kunonga's thugs have evicted 27 Anglican pastors 
and their families violently from their church-owned homes since the 
ruling was issued. Reverend Jonah Mudowaya was severely beaten in Chinhoyi 
on Wednesday 24 August by a Kunonga gang. In a bid to stop the evictions, 
lawyers representing the Anglican Diocese of Harare have filed a 
Constitutional appeal against the Chief Justice's ruling on the grounds it 
was issued while the matter was the subject of a Supreme Court appeal. The 
Chief Justice has noted the Constitutional appeal but says it will not 
interfere with his order. While the Anglican Church awaits the Supreme 
Court ruling, the excommunicated Kunonga is exploiting the opportunity 
this gives him to seize the church's assets. Please pray for justice in 
Zimbabwe.

Prayers

Romans 9-11(15)

August 31st, 2011
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Scripture of the Day: Romans 11: 16-27

16 If the part of the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, then the whole batch is holy; if the root is holy, so are the branches.

17 If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, 18 do not consider yourself to be superior to those other branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you. (NIV)

God made a covenant with the fathers of Israel. That’s into what you have been engrafted.

19 You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in.” 20 Granted. But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but tremble. 21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either.

22 Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off. 23 And if they do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. 24 After all, if you were cut out of an olive tree that is wild by nature, and contrary to nature were grafted into a cultivated olive tree, how much more readily will these, the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree!

A warning about hubris. You trusted in God’s righteousness – that he fulfilled his faithfulness to the covenant in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Don’t ever trust in your own superiority in whatever form it takes.

25 I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in, 26 and in this way all Israel will be saved. As it is written:

“The deliverer will come from Zion;

he will turn godlessness away from Jacob.

27 And this is my covenant with them

when I take away their sins.”

Paul’s first point is for us to understand is that it is God’s plan for both Jew and Gentile to become the people of God. He wants at all times for them both to come into the restored people of God. He has not rejected Jew or Gentile. Neither is superior to the other. God’s will is not that anyone perishes or that anyone finds themselves in hell. He is working with one thing in mind: that all come to repentance within the framework of freedom.

Thus, there are no absolutes about how many or how few will reject the wonderful gift of salvation. But we can have no doubt about God’s surprising and enduring love for all.

Message for the Day

Romans 9-11 (14)

August 30th, 2011
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Scripture of the Day: Romans 11:28-36

28 As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies for your sake; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, 29 for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable. 30 Just as you who were at one time disobedient to God have now received mercy as a result of their disobedience, 31 so they too have now become disobedient in order that they too may now receive mercy as a result of God’s mercy to you. 32 For God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all. (NIV)

So we find out that if their hardening it is only temporary because God’s ultimate purpose is to extend mercy to all. God’s sovereignty is one of love towards all of mankind.

Obviously any solution to how and when has its problems when we try to second guess God.

What we do know is: there is no discrimination in God’s family; he wants to extend his salvation to all; he is a merciful God.

I think the next section, while it is primarily a praise of God’s wisdom, it also has a warning:

33 Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!

How unsearchable his judgments,

and his paths beyond tracing out!

34 “Who has known the mind of the Lord?

Or who has been his counselor?”

35 “Who has ever given to God,

that God should repay them?”

36 For from him and through him and for him are all things.

To him be the glory forever! Amen.

Thus don’t second guess God. He is sovereign and everything will come together according to the depth of his wisdom and knowledge. He has not sought our advice, in fact we have nothing to give him, so don’t speculate God into our worldview. Just stand in awe with great anticipation as the Spirit of God liberates his creation from bondage in to the glorious liberty of the children of God.

Message for the Day