Two events of the past year, namely the Covid-19 pandemic threat and the drama of the US Presidential election, have consumed our media feeds and our attention. The world’s reactions to these events have created, as it were, a ‘fog’ that has obscured our wider vision and our ability to focus on other significant and tragic events in our global village.
While our attention has been captured by these events, many situations in the world are going unnoticed and unremarked. We ignore these to our peril, because Christians caught up in these need our prayers and God’s heart is surely grieved when we do nothing.
China’s Communist Party (CCP) under President Xi Jinping
China accelerated its campaign of Sinicisation in an attempt to force its citizens into a united front, toeing the Party line with no tolerance for independent thinking or acting.
China’s leading technology extends to facial recognition software on surveillance cameras linked to its “Social Credit System” which also monitors perceived “loyalty” and any dissension from the Communist creed. Even government-approved churches, both Catholic and Protestant, are under ever-more surveillance, both online and offline. Under-18s are still officially banned from all religious activity.
There is a huge emphasis on ‘re-education’ for those found to be dissenting or even just living their lives, such as the Uighurs. The People’s Armed Police force of over a million soldiers is tasked with enforcing compliance.
As mentioned in previous articles, there is systematic destruction of Christian symbols – crosses, churches, monasteries - and also of mosques and temples. Pastors, imams, monks, and human rights advocates have been imprisoned and yes, tortured for their beliefs. This is all trying to enforce compliance with the CCP.
Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Over the last five years, President Erdogan and his allies have used the image of the Red Apple as a symbol of their ambitions for Turkey. Above all, the Red Apple is a symbol of a vision and quest for modern Turkey — to wield influence and hegemony well beyond its borders into Muslim-majority lands formerly ruled by the Ottomans in the Balkans, Middle East, and the Caucasus.
Turkey has launched military operations in Libya and northern Syria and seeks to extend its influence in Muslim regions from the Balkans, Somalia and Sudan, the Middle East, Central Asia and the South Caucuses. It is using Syrian jihadists and cutting-edge drones (in particular the Turkish-made, tank-eliminating, Bayraktar TB2) to further its ambitions.
It leaves in its wake a trail of dead and displaced Libyans, Kurds, Assyrians and Armenians, along with a multitude of increasingly anxious Greek-speaking Christians. Also, Armenians and Chaldean Christians in the Turkish capital, Ankara, were beaten while others in Istanbul were threatened by right-wing mobs, showing how century-long inter-religious animosity can be stirred up.
There has also been a shift in the identity of Istanbul, to project a more determinedly Islamic front, a move symbolized in 2020 by changing the great Byzantine edifice of the Hagia Sophia into a mosque and renaming it the Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque. A month later, much less publicised, another UNESCO World Heritage church, Chora – was changed from a museum to a mosque.
Nigeria’s Boko Haram and Fulani herdsmen
A comprehensive report published in 2020 is titled ‘Nigeria’s Silent Slaughter: Genocide in Nigeria and its implications for the International Community’. It tracks violence occurring across Nigeria over the past ten years, at the hands of Boko Haram – mainly women and children - and mainly Muslim Fulani militant herders against mainly Christian farmers. The report documents around 86,000 deaths over the past ten years.
Greg Stanton of Genocide Watch says in the report: “What is mistakenly portrayed as a conflict between herders and farmers is actually a genocidal war between ethnic groups that previously co-existed, ignited by Islamic extremists with modern weapons. Fulani militias in central Nigeria are also committing crimes against humanity and genocidal massacres against Christians.”
Nigeria suffers from a weak rule of law, extreme poverty among at least half the population and a spreading environmental degradation and desertification evident throughout West Africa. These factors combine to bring instability and allow groups such as Boko Haram and the Fulani militants to wreak havoc among the population. (see photo above)
We need to pray
We should not let the fog created by world events eclipse our awareness of the struggles in parts of the world where Christians are targeted for persecution.
Let us pray for clarity and truth in reporting so that we may specifically know how to pray.
Lord, please raise more intercessors to intercede for and fight on behalf of your persecuted Church, which risks so much to live, minister, witness and shine there. May prayer for the persecuted continue to grow as God knits together his increasingly global Church using chords of love forged in the flames of persecution, in answer to the prayer of our Lord which he prayed in the garden: that we might be one, that the world might believe (John 17:20-23).
Lord, we pray for your grace and tangible presence in China, Turkey and Nigeria to strengthen your people and give them hope.
Aira Chilcott is a retired secondary school teacher with lots of science andtheology under her belt. Aira is a panellist and editor for PSI and indulges inreading, bushwalking and volunteering at a nature reserve. Aira is married to Billand they have three adult sons.
Aira Chilcott's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/aira-chilcott.html