AUSTRALIAN PRAYER NETWORK NEWSLETTER
- REPRESSION ESCALATES AS REBELS ADVANCE IN SUDAN
- POPE DELIGHTS 40,000 ITALIANS AS HE JOINS MARCH FOR LIFE
- CHILDREN HIRED AS ASSASSINS IN MEXICAN DRUG WAR
- NEW CRACKDOWN ON RUSSIAN CITIZENS DESCRIBED AS UNPRECEDENTED
- BANGLADESH BECOMES A WAR ZONE
- STUDY PROVES PRAYER IMPROVES RELATIONSHIPS
- FEEDING HOMELESS PEOPLE IN UZBEKISTAN HOT ACCORDING TO CHARTER
REPRESSION ESCALATES AS REBELS ADVANCE IN SUDAN
The Arab-supremacist, Islamist regime in Khartoum, Sudan, has been escalating its campaign of systematic persecution against the Church since at least April of 2012. Also targeted are ‘Southerners’ (predominantly Christian Africans from South Sudan) and ‘blacks’ (predominantly Christian Africans from Sudan’s Nuba Mountains). The persecution appears aimed at driving Christians and non-Arabs out of Sudan. Christian ministries (including schools) have been closed and their foreign staff deported. National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) officials are reported to have recently arrested staff members of a university campus ministry.
After interrogating them for a week, confiscating everything of value and deporting three members to South Sudan, the NISS released the believers who were ordered to report weekly. The officers also threatened the Christians, saying they would be ‘buried alive’ if they fail to provide information about who is supporting Christian activities in Sudan. On 17 April 2013 Sudan’s Minister of Guidance and Endowments, Al-Fatih Taj El-sir, announced that no new licences for building churches will be issued on the grounds that new churches are not needed as Christians are leaving and churches are closing.
The escalating persecution coincides with the mounting pressure being felt by the regime. This is due widespread disaffection and economic stress, and with military gains being made by rebel forces. Formed in November 2011, the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) has gone from strength to strength. Recently the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) from Darfur dropped its demand for Sharia Law in Darfur, and formed an alliance with the SRF. On 27 April 2013 the expanded SRF fought as a united front under a single command to seize territory in North Kordofan — just 480km from Khartoum and 100km from a government airbase — and hold it for several hours.
Though the rebels are talking about entering Khartoum, that is unlikely. Even if they did enter Khartoum, they most certainly could not hold it. However, they don’t need to take Khartoum to paralyse the government as they only need to hold South Kordofan, where Sudan’s last remaining oil reserves are located. But while the SRF is strong — and getting stronger as nomadic tribal Arabs and Muslim Africans defect from Khartoum to support the SRF –the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) have probably double the number of troops as well as air power and political control at the centre. The most likely scenario is a ‘vicious deadlock’.
Meanwhile, the regime is employing its well-worn strategy of targeting civilian populations suspected of supporting the rebels. Some 700,000 have been displaced by Khartoum’s aerial bombardments and the 436,000 who are displaced within rebel-held areas are facing famine due to the regime’s aid blockade. Whilst devastating to civilians, the stalemate — the fact that Khartoum cannot win — could pave the way for negotiations where the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) could be re-addressed. This would be especially likely if pressure is brought to bear from outside, something the West — to its shame — has been unwilling to do.
Please pray that-
* God will ‘break’ the regime’s power. Pray that Arab Sudanese decide they are sick of war and withdraw their support for the regime. Pray too that political and military defections will increase forcing the regime to negotiate.
* the ‘New Sudan’ vision of a united, diverse, inclusive, secular and free Sudan be embraced even in the heart of Khartoum (which would be a miracle).
* the Church will know the sustaining power and comforting presence of the Holy Spirit; may she stand firm, growing in faith and numerically despite the opposition she faces; may her righteousness and grace bear witness to the truth of the Gospel.
Source: by Elizabeth Kendal, Religious Liberty Monitoring
POPE DELIGHTS 40,000 ITALIANS AS HE JOINS MARCH FOR LIFE
Pope Francis surprised about 40,000 participants in a March for Life in Rome recently, when he left the Apostolic Palace to greet them personally from his popemobile in the street where they were lined up. Monsignor Ignacio Barreiro, the head of the Rome office of Human Life International, said that for the Pope to have effectively joined the March for Life was highly unusual. Since his election, the Pope has gained a reputation for making spontaneous gestures that have sometimes taxed his security staff, beginning with taking the bus back to his temporary residence with the other cardinals the night of his election, instead of the car reserved for the Pope.
In this case, however, the Vatican appeared to have prepared the event ahead of time. Crowd control barriers had been put in place to guide the popemobile out of St. Peter’s square and across the adjacent piazza and down the Via della Conciliazione that leads up to the Basilica. If organizers knew about a planned appearance by the Pope at the march, they made no mention of it before the event, leaving participants delighted by the unexpected arrival of the pontiff. As part of his usual weekly Regina Coeli address, the Pope briefly welcomed the crowd and endorsed a European-widepro-life petition against embryo research.
The ‘One of Us’ campaign is seeking to gain 1 million signatures as part of a European Citizen Initiative. If organizers of the campaign achieve their goal the European Parliament is duty-bound to schedule a debate on the issue. “I invite you to keep the attention of everyone on the important issue of respect for human life from the moment of conception,” the Pope told the marchers. He also invited all to attend the Vatican’s “Evangelium Vitae Day,” which he said would be “a special moment especially for those who care about the defence of the sanctity of human life,” to take place “in the context of the Year of Faith,” on 15 and 16 June.
March organisers were delighted with the greeting and with the extraordinary surge of numbers from last year’s march. Two years ago the march attracted only 1000 marchers. Last year that rose to 15,000 to about 40,000 this year.This is put down to the hard work of the organisers in helping thousands come by bus from up and down the length of Italy, and to a “renewed awareness” among the public that Italy’s abortion law” must be abrogated.””The welcome of Pope Francis represents the highest recognition for the initiative and the confirmation of the sensitivity of the Pope to the non-negotiable principles, beginning with the right to life,” organisers said.
The Pope is known for his strong defence of the right to life. In 2005, asactivists urged Argentina to legalize abortion, the future pontiff urged Catholics to defend the right to life even if they “deliver you to the courts” or “have you killed.” At a Mass in Buenos Aires in 2005, the then-Cardinal said that promoting life is “a road that is full of wolves.””Perhaps for that reason they might bring us to the courts. Perhaps, for that reason, for caring for life, they might kill us,” he said. “We should think about the Christian martyrs. They killed them for preaching this Gospel of life, this Gospel that Jesus brought. But Jesus gives us the strength.”
CHILDREN HIRED AS ASSASSINS IN MEXICAN DRUG WAR
One of the most shocking aspects of Mexico’s drug cartels is the use of teens and young children for smuggling, theft, and even assassinations. This is happening not only in Mexico but north of the border as well. Teens are sometimes offered as little as $50 to act as drivers for the cartels or the local gangs who support them. Texas officers recently caught a 12-year-old boy in a border county driving a stolen pickup truck containing more than 800 pounds of marijuana. Just this week the US Border and Customs Protection reported that four teenage girls between 15-17 years of age were caught smuggling bundles of heroin at an Arizona checkpoint south of Amado.
Agents say cartels are increasingly using teenagers because they can hire them for a fraction of the cost of experienced smugglers and hit men and because minors are likely not to be prosecuted or to receive only a slap on the wrist. Sadly, transporting drugs is not the worst of it. Criminal organizations are hiring and training minors as contract killers. The tortured and slain body of a 13-year-old who confessed to his involvement with ten murders for Los Zetas was found in March, apparently as a statement that the boy’s bosses weren’t too happy with his confession. Recently two teenage girls hired by the cartels also confessed to gunning down a man.
It is also being reported that Mexican drug cartels, whose operatives once rarely ventured beyond the U.S. border, are dispatching some of their most trusted agents to live and work deep inside the United States, an emboldened presence that experts believe is meant to tighten their grip on the world’s most lucrative narcotics market and maximize profits. We can be sure the tactic of luring children and teens into crime will become a greater threat not only in border cities but within cities in the heart of the U.S. Police encourage parents to keep a close watch on their teens and to talk to them and explain how cartels and gangs exploit teens.
* asking God for the protection of the hearts and minds of young children and teenagers who are being lured into trafficking drugs and/or sex.
* for the tide of the breakdown of the family to turn. Family breakdown is one of the major causes of children being vulnerable to being lured into the trafficking world.
* that any illegal activity will be made known to the proper authorities and arrests will be made without incident. Pray too for the toppling of the cartels and their infiltration into the United States.
Source: International Prayer Council
NEW CRACKDOWN ON RUSSIAN CITIZENS DESCRIBED AS UNPRECEDENTED
Since Vladimir Putin’s return to the presidency, civil society has been the target of a government crackdown whose scale and severity is unprecedented in post-Soviet Russia, two leading international human rights organizations claim. Restrictive new laws, invasive checks on hundreds of nongovernmental groups, propaganda that demonizes certain NGOs, harassment and criminal prosecutions threaten the viability of civil society, representatives from Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International told journalists in Moscow. They claim the current situation is like a foot resting on the throat of critical and divergent voices.
That foot has not been pushed all the way down, and it may not be. But it can be pushed down, and that is enough,” said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia program director at Amnesty International. The Moscow Times said not only do NGOs feel the threatening “boot on the larynx,” as Dalhuisen put it, but they have also been caught up with burdensome requests from government inspectors. They began appearing at the offices of groups in dozens of regions in early March, said Oleg Orlov of the Memorial human rights centre.The Moscow Times said Memorial Moscow had to hand over copies of 8,766 documents for its five separate legal entities.
“Imagine how many people we had working on this. It really distracted us from our work,” Orlov said. He added that 2006-2007, when a similar clampdown took place, were “salad days” by comparison. The Moscow Times said most groups were asked for a standard set of registration, tax and financial documents. Other checks were more intrusive and demanding. According to the Moscow Times, an anti-discrimination centre in St. Petersburg was asked to prove that its staff had been vaccinated for smallpox, while a group that carries out educational and peace building programs in the North Caucasus was ordered to present lung x-rays of its staff members.
Source: ASSIST News Service
BANGLADESH BECOMES A WAR ZONE
On Sunday 5 May, Islamists fulfilled their threat to lay siege to Dhaka. By the end of the day, 28 were dead, hundreds were wounded and Dhaka’s business district – the Motijheel Commercial Area – resembled a war zone. At least 100,000 Islamists enforced a blockade, cutting off Dhaka’s road links with the rest of the country. Activists from Hefajat-e-Islam — which translates as “protectorate of Islam” — marched through six highways, paralysing road transport between Dhaka and other cities and towns demanding amongst other things new blasphemy laws for Bangladesh.
The Islamists are demanding the government agree to their 13-point list of demands that would essentially turn Bangladesh into a Islamic Taliban-style state. Prime Minister Shaikh Hasina had urged the group to call off their demonstration, contending that existing laws were considered sufficient to punish blasphemy. She even promised to introduce tougher penalties for those who defame Islam. The Islamists, however, are demanding that those found guilty of defaming Islam be sentenced to death. With their confidence, power and rage growing, the Islamists will not be easily appeased. This battle is far from over.
Source: Religious Liberty Monitoring
STUDY PROVES PRAYER IMPROVES RELATIONSHIPS
Researcher Frank D. Fincham, director of Florida State University Family Institute, has concluded that praying for one’s partner, whether it be a romantic one or simply a close friend, leads to more cooperation and forgiveness in that relationship. Fincham believes the findings are significant because they are the first in which the partners who are the subject of the prayers reported a positive change in the behaviour of the person who prayed. “My previous research,” said Fincham, “had shown that those who prayed for their partner reported more pro-social behaviour toward their partner, but self-reports are subject to potential biased reporting.
This set of studies is the very first to use objective indicators to show that prayer changed actual behaviour and that this behaviour was apparent to the other partner, the subject of the prayer.” Some specific areas in which prayer was effective included partners being less vengeful, more positive, and more cooperative than partners who did not receive prayer from loved ones. Results of the study were recently published in the journal Personal Relationships/
Source: Charisma News
FEEDING HOMELESS PEOPLE IN UZBEKISTAN HOT ACCORDING TO CHARTER
Police recently raided a Protestant youth conference, claiming to check identity documents. Forty three of the 70 young people at the Conference were taken to a police station where they were finger printed and photographed. Two days after that raid, police, tax inspectors and local officials raided a Protestant Church in the capital Tashkent. At the time of the raid, church members were feeding homeless people. Officials complained this was “not according to their registered charter” and police detained several church members. Following an alleged raid on a birthday party, ten Pentecostals, 8 of them pensioners – were fined 100 times the minimum monthly wage.
Source: Forum 18