AUSTRALIAN  PRAYER  NETWORK  NEWSLETTER – INTERNATIONAL NEWS 20th JANUARY 2014

  • SOUTH SUDAN: BACKGROUND TO THE CURRENT CRISIS
  • CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: CHURCH AND NATION FACE MASSIVE CHALLENGES
  • AUSTRALIA WARNED OFF ARMENIA WITH ANZAC THREAT
  • STONINGS AND CUTTING OFF OF HANDS AS BRUNEI INTRODUCES SHARIA LAW
  • CHRISTIAN CONFRONTS PURSE THEIF: PAYS FOR HIS GROCERIES
  • EGYPT’S PRESIDENT IN RARE VISIT TO COPTIC CHRISTIANS

SOUTH SUDAN: BACKGROUND TO THE CURRENT CRISIS

Fighting erupted in Juba, the capital of South Sudan, on Sunday 15 December 2013 within the presidential guard. What followed was a rapid descent into widespread ethnic violence. The violence has its roots in decades of unresolved ethnic tensions, in painful memories and wounds buried for the sake of peace. However, buried wounds do not disappear but they fester. Unless there is an immediate cessation of hostilities followed by deep and honest reflection and healing, South Sudan could disintegrate. All through 2013 tensions were escalating in Juba between President Salva Kiir, a Dinka, and his Vice-President Riek Machar, a Nuer. 

Machar had been agitating for regime change all year, playing the ethnic card to rally his Nuer tribesmen behind him. In April Kiir reined in Machar, limiting him to only those powers defined in the constitution. Meanwhile, tensions were escalating also in Khartoum, Sudan, between the cash-strapped Government of Sudan (GoS) and its disillusioned citizens. Short of funds, the GoS had no option but to remove the government subsidy on oil. As the price of fuel and food escalated, so too did the people’s anger, especially that of Islamists who blame the economic crisis on the secession of South Sudan, which they blame in turn on the government of President Omar al-Bashir. 

With the crisis in Khartoum deepening, the GoS embarked on a military build-up, purchasing combat aircraft, upgrading and expanding southern bases and recruiting foreign mercenaries.  Khartoum has been preparing for a war intended to solve its political and economic problems. On 8 June 2013 Sudan’s president suddenly blocked the flow of oil from South Sudan, threatening to cripple South Sudan’s economy. On 30 June President Kiir sent Vice-President Machar to Khartoum to secure Juba’s rights. Instead Machar negotiated in such a way that Khartoum reportedly told Arab diplomats that it would dialogue with Juba only if the government was run by Machar. 

On 3 July the GoS launched aerial attacks and ground invasions in South Sudan’s Unity and Upper Nile states. Yida refugee camp, where Samaritan’s Purse is caring for many thousands of Nuba refugees, was targeted. Whilst the SPLA (South Sudan’s army) was able to repulse the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF), the political damage was done. Machar — who created the crisis — demanded Kiir stand down. Opposition to Kiir mounted; the government became paralysed. On 23 July Kiir issued a presidential decree, removing Machar and dissolving the government. Machar’s Nuer allies and all other opposition were purged. Tensions soared. 

Tensions also soared in Sudan where protesters were calling for a change of government in Khartoum. In 1997 Khartoum supported Machar in his fight against the Dinka-dominated SPLA which was resisting Khartoum’s Islamisation of the predominantly Christian south. After the war Machar was absorbed into the government of South Sudan and his various militias were drawn into the Dinka-dominated SPLA. Whilst intended to foster reconciliation, it did the opposite. Fighting broke out on 15 December after Kiir ordered that the Nuer members of the presidential guard be disarmed. Nuer soldiers allied to Machar subsequently attacked army headquarters. 

Dinka soldiers then went on a revenge-fuelled rampage killing ethnic Nuer. As news of this spread, Nuer in Unity and Upper Nile responded by killing Dinkas. Riek Machar appears to be less interested in peace than in power. Consequently, he might not negotiate until he has acquired leverage through the seizing of oil fields or Juba itself. However, unless hostilities cease immediately, South Sudan’s future will be bleak. As reported, Khartoum has been preparing for war. Chaos in South Sudan would present Khartoum with a perfect opportunity to invade and seize the oil fields of Abyei, Unity and Upper Nile. 

The duplicitous GoS, which is blocking humanitarian aid to the persecuted Nuba in Sudan, is reportedly sending humanitarian aid to South Sudan. On 6 January 2014 Sudan’s duplicitous president Omar al-Bashir met with President Kiir in Juba. According to Sudan’s Foreign Minister Ali Karti, South Sudan has requested talks with Sudan on deploying a joint force to secure oil fields (i.e. Kiir might invite the Sudan Armed Forces into the oil fields). However, many observers, including SPLA spokesman Philip Aqueir, believe the GoS has already struck an alliance with Machar. May God have mercy on the long-suffering, mostly Christian peoples of South Sudan. 

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL — 

* give wisdom and authority to those who mediate this crisis: politicians and community leaders, religious leaders and regional leaders, especially the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD). 

* turn the hearts of South Sudan’s leaders, changing their direction from self-interest to national interest; from personal power to peace; from revenge to healing; from personal glory at any cost to life and hope for the long-suffering citizens of South Sudan (Proverbs 21:1). 

* redeem this crisis for his glory; may it lead to an awakening in the nation for the need of transformational renewal and spiritual revival that leads to genuine reconciliation and long-lasting peace (Isaiah 2:3-4). 

Source: Religious Liberty Monitoring by Elizabeth Kendal

 

CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: CHURCH AND NATION FACE MASSIVE CHALLENGES

On January 10 Michel Djotodia, former rebel leader and self-proclaimed ‘first Muslim president of CAR’, conceded to international pressure, resigned his office and left the Central African Republic (CAR) for Benin where he has been granted political asylum. Christian celebrations were short-lived, however, as “Christian” anti-balaka militiamen, rushed to settle scores. Established as village defence units responsible for protecting villagers from machete-wielding criminal gangs, the anti-balaka militia are now on the offensive with insatiable fury against the Seleka rebels — local and foreign Islamists – who attacked Christians and spared Muslims. 

Many Muslims profited from Seleka’s crimes through receiving goods looted from their Christian neighbours. Consequently traditional community trust totally evaporated, creating a sectarian tinderbox. A Christian father whose sons had been tortured by Seleka. said ‘In the beginning, the relations between Christians and Muslims were good here but the Muslims supported the Seleka and now things have changed.” The Christians feel betrayed by the Muslims and feel vengeance in their hearts. Whilst Seleka targeted Christians, causing disproportionate grief and loss, the anti-balaka — ignoring the Church’s appeal for grace and reconciliation — are now targeting Muslims. 

The worst post-Djotodia violence has been in the town of Bozoum. There the Central African Red Cross reported that clashes between ex-Seleka rebels and anti-balaka militias had claimed the lives of 97 people, mostly civilians. Furthermore, 107 had been wounded and 14,000 displaced. At least 912 homes had been burnt. Identified in the mainstream media as Christian militias, the anti-balaka are ‘Christian’ only in the broadest sense. These angry young men are deemed Christian by virtue of their tribe. They are nominal syncretistic Christians who might attend church on Sundays but otherwise practise occultic religion.

Inthe orgy of violence that followed Djotodia’s departure, one anti-balaka in Bangui hacked to death a young man on the grounds that he ‘looked Muslim’. The attacker claimed to be avenging the deaths of his pregnant wife, sister-in-law and niece who were butchered by Seleka rebels. After hacking him to pieces, anti-balaka fighters cannibalised the body in broad daylight — causing onlookers to vomit and screech in horror. This is demonic behaviour routinely seen in occultic violence. Amongst the anti-balaka are doubtless some immature, confused young believers who think they are fighting for the liberty of their country and the security of their families. 

Most have been thoroughly traumatised and not only do they carry the burden of having been unable to protect and save their families but they are resentful of having been betrayed by Muslim neighbours and abandoned by the world. The head of the 135-member National Transitional Council, Alexandre-Ferdinand Nguendet, will act as president for the next two weeks before a new leader is chosen. Elections will be held in February 2015.  Nguendet is recalling CAR’s security forces whilst also calling for calm and appealing for citizens to forgive each other and reconcile. Around half the population of 2.2 million people is in desperate need of basic humanitarian aid. 

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL — 

* give acting-PM Alexandre Nguendet great wisdom and authority to restore order and remove all belligerent foreign elements; may all wicked plots of greedy foreign powers be thwarted — may the Lord rebuke them (Psalm 2). 

* give all Christian leaders — civil and religious — great wisdom and authority to lead the masses through their grief, fear and trauma and along the path of healing and peace through grace by the power of the Holy Spirit. ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.’ (Matthew 5:8 NIV) 

* pour out his Spirit to do a wonderful work in this needy nation; may the citizens of CAR — specifically those who are not already born again — learn what it means actually to be a Christian: i.e. a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. 

Source: Religious Liberty Monitoring by Elizabeth Kendal

 

AUSTRALIA WARNED OFF ARMENIA WITH ANZAC THREAT

Turkey has warned Australia against any further formal recognition of the Armenian genocide to avoid undermining its relationship and the special centenary commemoration of Gallipoli in 2015. NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell has retaliated, saying it was ”deplorable” for the 100-year anniversary of the Gallipoli landing to be used for political purposes. Turkey has also made it clear that NSW MPs are not welcome to attend the ceremony because of bipartisan support for a motion moved in Parliament by Mr O’Farrell which recognises and condemns the Armenian genocide. 

The Turkish speaker of the parliament, Cemil Cicek said: “One of only two things that could disrupt good relations between Turkey and Australia”, he said, was for Australia “to support any claims about genocide without hearing the Turkish side … this could cause huge rifts between the nations and even jeopardise commemorations around Gallipoli.” Mr Cicek called on the NSW Parliament to withdraw its resolution, saying reports of an Armenian genocide were ”still inconclusive.” ”We have no problem with Armenian communities in Turkey,” he said. ”We have a problem with the Armenian diaspora who are still propagating this argument.” 

The NSW Premier said ”Bipartisan motions concerning the genocide were passed by the NSW Parliament in 1996 and 2012.  It’s deplorable anyone associated with the Turkish government would use the centenary of the Gallipoli landing for political purposes.” In opposition, Treasurer Joe Hockey called for formal recognition of the Armenian genocide in Federal Parliament, but is now reluctant to make any further comments that might jeopardise his dealings with Turkey in forums including the G20 which Australia will host next year. He said the Armenian genocide ”is one of the least known, least understood and least respected human tragedies of the modern era.” 

Armenian National Committee of Australia executive director Vache Kahramanian said it was ”extremely troubling” the Turkish government had threatened to ban NSW MPs who had recognised the Armenian genocide. ”For almost 100 years the Turkish state has continued to deny what is publicly and widely known as a historical reality.” A spokesman for the Turkish embassy said that while it could not respond to the comments, ”it is highly inappropriate for foreign parliaments to politicise this matter and pass one-sided judgments on a controversial period of Turkish history.”

Source: Australian Media reports

 

STONINGS AND CUTTING OFF OF HANDS AS BRUNEI INTRODUCES SHARIA LAW

A new Islamic criminal law that could include penalties like amputation for theft and stoning for adultery will be enforced in the next six months, the Sultan of Brunei has told his people.  Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah said the Sharia Penal Code, which would be applied to Muslims only, should be regarded as a form of “special guidance” from God and would be “part of the great history” of the tiny, oil-rich monarchy on Borneo island. “By the grace of Allah, with the coming into effect of this legislation, our duty to Allah is therefore being fulfilled,” the sultan said at a legal conference in Brunei’s capital. 

Brunei’s Islamic court previously handled mainly family-related disputes. The sultan has been hoping to implement the new law for years to bolster the influence of Islam in Brunei, where Muslims comprise about two-thirds of the population of nearly 420,000 people. The minorities are mainly Buddhist, Christians and people of local indigenous beliefs. Brunei’s Mufti Awang Aziz, the country’s top Islamic scholar, told the conference that the Sharia law “guarantees justice for everyone and safeguards their well-being. ‘  Awang said. “It is not indiscriminate cutting or stoning or caning. There are conditions and there are methods that are just and fair.” 

Under secular laws, Brunei already prescribes caning as a penalty for some crimes. Awang said there should be no concerns that foreign travellers might end up avoiding Brunei after the law is implemented. “Do all potential tourists to Brunei plan to steal? If they do not, then what do they need to fear,” he said. “Under our Shariah criminal law, everyone, including tourists, will receive proper protection.” The implementation of Sharia criminal law is not expected to face vocal opposition in Brunei. Sultan Hassanal, who has reigned since 1967, is Brunei’s head of state with full executive authority. Public criticism of his policies is extremely rare in Brunei.

Source: News.com

 

CHRISTIAN CONFRONTS PURSE THEIF: PAYS FOR HIS GROCERIES

Jessica Eaves, an outreach leader at First Christian Church of Guthrie, was shopping one day last month when a man snuck up behind her in the grocery store and stole her wallet. Speaking to her local televisions station,  Eaves recalled her initial response to the crime. She stated that as she boldly tracked down the man in the store, she thought of the Lord’s admonition to turn the other cheek. So, Eaves walked up to the man and said, “I think you have something of mine. I’m going to give you a choice. You can either give me my wallet and I’ll forgive you right now, and I’ll even take you to the front and pay for your groceries.” If not, she warned him she would call the police.

At first the man was dumbfounded, but then handed Eaves’ back her wallet saying, “I’m embarrassed. I have kids, I’m broke and I’m sorry.” True to her word, Eaves proceeded to the checkout register where she paid for the man’s groceries—a total of just over $27. “I had $28 cash in my wallet,” noted Eaves, adding that she almost never carries cash on her, “and so I knew in that moment it wasn’t me. It was clearly a God moment.” The fact that seemingly inconsequential God Moments can become headlines that touch others’ lives is evident in the fact how far this story has spread.  Which begs the question: Do you have a “God Moment” waiting for you to respond to today?

Source: Breaking Christian News

 

EGYPT’S PRESIDENT IN RARE VISIT TO COPTIC CHRISTIANS

In a highly symbolic move, Egyptian president Adly Mansour has visited the head of his nation’s Coptic Church, Pope Tawadros II. They met at St. Mark’s Cathedral in central Cairo. A church statement said the meeting was “a kind visit that carries love, affection and fraternity.”  Coptic rights lawyer Naguib Gabriel said the visit carries a message of reassurance to Christians in Egypt. President Mansour said the “unity of Muslims and Christians will remain strong” and that if we “remain one nation we can stand up to all challenges.” This is only the second time an Egyptian president has personally visited the Church. The first time was President Gamal Abdel Nasser in 1968.

Source: Voice of Russia