Sunday, August 3, 2014

Elizabeth Kendal's message in solidarity with Syrian and Iraqi Christians.

On the afternoon of Saturday 2 August, several thousand Syrian and Iraqi Christians gathered in Melbourne's Federation Square to stand in solidarity with Christians suffering severe persecution under ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham/Syria -- now known as IS).

For background please see:
Raqqa, Syria: Christians in the lions' den
By Elizabeth Kendal, 4 March 2014
Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin (RLPB) 250.

ISIS takes the war back to Iraq
By Elizabeth Kendal, 11 June 2014
Religious Liberty Monitoring.

Upper Mesopotamia: Christians at the mercy of ISIS
By Elizabeth Kendal, 17 June 2014
Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin (RLPB) 265.

IRAQ: Christians Flee the Killing Fields
By Elizabeth Kendal, 13 Aug 2014
Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin (RLPB) 273.

 For many of those present at the rally, the victims are not merely their co-religionists, but their relatives: grandparents, parents, cousins, aunts, uncles, brothers and sisters.

They were joined in Federation Square by a spattering of sympathetic fellow Christians, but not nearly enough.

The rally included a series of short speeches given by guest representatives from various religious, ethnic, political and advocacy groups.

Following the speeches, a group of Assyrian youths presented a short skit in which they re-enacted the way ISIS treats Christians.

After enacting their capture, humiliation and massacre, the Christian youths rose up, lifted up a giant cross and declared: "We are Christians and we are proud! Save Iraqi Christians!"

I was greatly honoured to be given the opportunity to address the rally.

Speech by Elizabeth Kendal 
"The March in Solidarity for the Persecuted Christians of Iraq".
Federation Square, Melbourne, Saturday 2 August 2014

Thank-you for giving me this opportunity to address this gathering.

I would like to make two appeals:
1) To the Australian Church
2) To my Christian brothers and sisters from Syria and Iraq

To the Australian Church I would like to say:

You have heard on the news that for the first time in the history of Iraq, Mosul is now devoid of Christians.

But I want to tell you, the crisis stretches far beyond Mosul.

This year, Christians have been driven out of towns as far west as Armenian town of Kessab in Syria's the far north-west corner. Even now, remnant Christians are being driven out of towns right across Syria’s north and east – out of Al-Raqqah, from where photographic evidence of public executions and even crucifixions have emerged, and out of the Al-Hassekah and Deir al Zour. In Iraq they are being driven out of Nineveh, while a decimated remnant survives in Baghdad. Indeed, across the entire Christian heartland of Upper Mesopotamia, those who choose to remain Christian have no choice but to flee.

This is the land where the disciples of the Jesus Christ were first called Christians (Acts 11:26).

This is the land from where mission was launched west in Europe and east in to Persia and China.

Christianity has been decimated in its historic heartland, in our lifetime and before our eyes.

What’s more, Christianity is in the process of being eradicated from its historic heartland.

All we need to do for this to eventuate is nothing.

It will happen – unless we step up and be the Church God demands we be and has gifted and empowered us to be.

The day has arrived when Church passivity must end.

We are exhorted in Galatians 6:2 – “bear one another’s burdens, for in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” / the law of love.

And unless we want to hear the Lord say to us, “Whatever you did not do for the least of these children of mine, you did not do for me” – then we had better get serious.

My message to my Christian brothers and sisters from Syria and Iraq is this:

It is possible that those who have fled their homes and lands in recent years -- in order to save their lives -- may never see their homes again. Upper Mesopotamia is in the eye of a very big storm that will probably wreak havoc for a long time yet.

But – God has promised that one day, a highway will stretch from Egypt through Israel to Assyria (Isaiah 19:23f) -- and there will be peace. In that day the Lord will declare: “Blessed be Egypt my people, Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel my inheritance.” (v25)

As Christians, all of us are called not merely to live righteous and just lives – but to advance righteousness and justice in the world. And so, following the manner of the prophets and apostles, we lobby the king – we exhort our leaders to do what God expects them to do: “speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves . . .  plead the cause of the needy.” (Proverbs 31:8-9).

BUT – we do not put our faith in princes, or in humanity (Psalm 118:8-9)

NOR do we put our trust in horses and chariots (military hardware) (Psalm 20:7)

RATHER – we put our trust in the Lord Almighty, for he who promised is faithful (Hebrews 10:23)

After all – what will this Assyria of Isaiah 19 be – but the work of HIS hands.

“But,” you might ask, “how do we keep faith alive through these dark days?”
ANSWER: By remembering.

When the Israelites lamented over the fall of Jerusalem – crying “God does not see, God does not care” (Lamentations 1-2), God exhorted them to remember, saying (Isaiah 40:27f): Why do you say God doesn't see and God doesn't care? Remember! "The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable." In other words: he sees!
What’s more, he cares! For he lifts up, revives and empowers those who wait for  / trust in HIM;
   "they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
    they shall walk and not faint." (v31)

Remember – that your faith might be energised, that you might soar in his strength.

So the Australian Church I say
– get to work!
Don’t be passive observers of suffering!
Don’t leave the sacrifice to others!
Get down; get active!

And to my Iraqi and Syrian brothers and sisters in Christ, I say – arise!
And keep your eyes fixed on Jesus for he is your shield, your glory and the lifter of your head. (Psalm 3:3)

May we stand together – One Lord – One Body.

Elizabeth Kendal is the author of
Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today
(Deror Books, Dec 2012)

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Nigeria: A Shroud of Horror Descends over Chibok

By Elizabeth Kendal

At 11pm on the night of Sunday 13 April, Boko Haram militants invaded the Christian enclave of Chibok in the south of Borno State, in north-eastern Nigeria. The attack, which lasted until 4am on the Monday morning, culminated in the abduction of around 270 girls who had been boarding at the local Government Girls Secondary School. [For background see Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin (RLPB) 257, 22 April 2014.]

Now a spate of suicide bombings in which the all bombers have been teenage girls has caused a shroud of horror to descend upon the mothers and fathers of the Chibok abductees, who are left to wonder, "Could these be our girls?"


Sunday 27 July: KANO (one girl)
A girl estimated to be 15-years of age, blew herself up near a temporary university site. It is alleged she was targeting police; however she killed no-one but herself.

Monday 28 July: KANO (two girls)
A teenage girl joined a queue of women buying kerosene at the petrol station before blowing herself up, killing herself and three others and wounding six. Hours later a girl estimated to be 18-yrs of age blew herself up in a trade show / shopping mall, killing no-one but herself.

Tuesday 29 July: YOBE (two girls)
Two girls entered two mosques in the town of Potiskum, killing thirteen worshippers.

Tuesday 29 July: KATSINA (girl arrested)
Police arrested three suspects, believed to be members of Boko Haram; one of the three was a ten-year-old girl with explosives strapped to her body.

Wednesday 30 July: KANO (one girl)
A teenage girl blew herself up at the Kano Polytechnic, killing six and critically wounding six others. The victims were all students who had gathered to collect their call-up letters for the National Youth Service Corps.

Previously, on 25 June, Boko Haram claimed responsibility for a bombing in Lagos which was also carried out by a female suicide bomber.

New Trend

Nigerians spoken to by Nigerian Tribune wondered why Boko Haram might be using teenage girls as suicide bombers. Some posed the question, "How can we be sure they are not the Chibok girls kidnapped so long ago?"

Former Minister of Education, Oby Ezekwesili tweeted: “this new trend and serial pattern of female suicide bombers surely should particularly worry us. It worries me stiff because of our Chibok girls. Kano again and again. Female suicide bombers again and again - becoming trend. Our Chibok girls still in the enemy den. Are we thinking? Our Chibok girls really need to be rescued from the clutches of evil. We must all not stop praying and demanding that the Federal Government acts for results. We have no apology for being agitated. We have nothing to defend for crying out for their rescue.”

A human rights group has called on the Federal Government to conduct comprehensive forensic test of the corpses of the dead bombers so as to ascertain their identities.

"This," the group told the Tribune, "was to disabuse the minds of observers already insinuating that the female bombers may be from the kidnapped schoolgirls, who might have been hypnotised." Others have expressed fears that the Chibok girls might have been "indoctrinated or coerced" to become suicide bombers.

The fact is, the girls would not need to be hypnotised or indoctrinated. Their captors would only need to assure the girls that there is no escape, and, that if they fail to do as they are told then their mothers and sisters will be raped and their fathers and brothers will be killed. That would be enough to make a young girl kill herself. Islamic militants around the world have been exploiting young girls like this for years. The fact that some girls managed to kill only themselves could indicate that they might actually have been trying quite hard to not kill anyone.

Political blogger Japheth Omojuwa decried the use of young girls as suicide bombers and questioned whether Boko Haram might have simply found a way to save their men for combat.

The Federal Government attempted to douse anxiety on Wednesday by denying, without evidence, that the suicide bombers had anything to do with the Chibok girls. But not everyone is convinced.

As it turns out, the 10-year-old girl arrested strapped with explosives in Katsina State on 29 July, was a Muslim child in the company of her Muslim sister (aged 18) and a male. Personally, I suspect this case is a separate case, unrelated to the others.

The identities of the dead girls must be ascertained by expert forensic testing as soon as possible.

Regardless of who the dead girls were, they were still young girls.

That Islamic fundamentalist militants are willing to use young girls as bombs and human shields only proves that their ideology is not merely morally vacuous, but profoundly evil.


Elizabeth Kendal is the author of
Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today 
(Deror Books, Dec 2012).