“He deals with our sin and He deals with our suffering.”
“We need to pray because this is a spiritual battle and requires spiritual weapons,” said International religious liberty analyst Elizabeth Kendal.
Mega trends from the 20th Century are only now being understood.
Rapid population growth, mass migrations, urbanisation, growth of religions, and the rise of nationalism.
Elizabeth Kendal was a keynote speaker at a recent missions group conference at Nairobi, Kenya, for MANI, (The Mission for African National Initiatives).
Elizabeth said many heads of missions from Africa and overseas attended the conference that focused on prayer for missions.
Of concern was the revelation that many Christian leaders are still unaware of the increasing global trend of persecution and Elizabeth was well equipped to bring delegates up to speed on the topic.
Such was the hunger for Elizabeth’s knowledge, a special follow up Q & A was organised so the information could be passed on.
The future of Islam and Christianity was an exceptionally hot topic.
The revival of fundamentalist Islam is on a collision course, colliding with the phenomenal growth of Christianity in the non-Western world.
Elizabeth described it as a cosmic religious conflict and a religious battle going on in heavenly places.
“The emotion that came through was less one of being deeply moved and one of being flabbergasted because leaders from Africa’s persecuted countries were so pleased this was on the agenda.”
“It was like a great relief to them,” Elizabeth recalled saying the African mission leaders demanded another session with her so they could learn about China and India.
Elizabeth had come prepared with delegates at the conference blown away by her power point presentation on China and India.
They hadn’t realised it was so widespread and had previously thought the persecution was just limited to their region.
One significant contributor has been the population growth that’s soared from around 3-billion in the 1960s to more than 7-billion today.
That’s huge!” declared Elizabeth. “It’s more than doubled in my lifetime.
“This is a big thing and a lot of it has led to these mass migrations.”
Elizabeth mentioned the Soheil region south of the Sahara now turning into desert. While there are a number of reasons for it, one of the consequences is the people living there are migrating into the cities.
“They’re mainly Muslims and they’re migrating south into the cities. They’re traditionally nomadic people lost to modernity.”
“So a city like Jos in central Nigeria has been flooded with people from different faiths and cultures who are now competing for resources – for land, water, food, jobs and political power,” Elizabeth outlined, saying this is causing tensions to escalate.
“It’s just the pressure of population.”
Islam v Christianity
“But when you throw into the mix the religious changes, that’s when things get really dicey and that’s why we’re seeing an escalation of religious conflict particularly in Africa.”
A revived Islam is meeting a growing Christianity and in these tent cities it’s spilling out as religious violence.
To help counter these trends Elizabeth was hoping missionaries and delegates from around the world would take away the information that was unpacked at the Nairobi conference.
She quoted Proverbs 31, that they realise they need to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves.
“That involves advocacy and conversation and to keep the subject alive so it doesn’t become invisible,” Elizabeth stressed.
“The next thing to do is to give generously; James 2:15-17 – if you say to your brother, have faith and be well and don’t give him what he needs to survive what good is that?”
“We really need to give,” implored Elizabeth.
“We’re living in an age where there are hundreds of thousands of Christians who are displaced and living in abject poverty and devastation because of their faith.”
Elizabeth put names to a few of those states – northern Iraq, the Central African Republic, northern Burma – places where Christians coming under persecution need to receive aid.
Then to her third point – to go, but to go to places that are not on the tourist brochures.
“We need to go into these hostile areas where they persecute you because ‘they do not know the Father or Me’ – John 16:3.
Elizabeth’s final point was the need for prayer.
“We need to pray because this is a spiritual battle and requires spiritual weapons,” Elizabeth noted, adding that before we can do these four things we need to overcome four obstacles.
“The first one is ignorance. We have to get our people, that is Christians, believers, churches, informed – signed up to Christian media, the Religious Liberty prayer bulletin and things like that,” Elizabeth suggested.
The second obstacle was fear and in particular the fear that starts at the top.
“The fear I especially see in pastors.” She’s meaning the pastors who fear a loss of money going to their church as a result of more allocated to missions.
“No No No!” Elizabeth highlights. “It’s nothing to fear when you take on the burdens of the persecuted church. You do not compound your own burdens, you displace them,” she explained.
Another obstacle – the misunderstanding that persecution is good.
Hostility and danger
“People say the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church. Persecution is good for the church, who am I to interfere with it?”
Elizabeth said they use it as an excuse to justify their inaction, not understanding that persecution can crush the church.
Persecution, hostility and danger are not signs that we must disengage and flee!
“It’s the opposite, the exact opposite! God is making the ground ready and receptive for the Gospel and we must go!” exclaimed Elizabeth.
But we’re not going just yet. Elizabeth has one final obstacle.
“It’s the obstacle of people’s sense of helplessness. The situation in the world, North Korea, the situation in Central African Republic, and they just think this is too big, it’s too much and it’s just so hopeless!”
Elizabeth reminded people the disciples thought everything was hopeless on that first Good Friday, again Easter Saturday, then came the Resurrection.
“And I reminded them this was the model that the Lord has put in place.”
This is revelation about how God works. We have a God who comes and deals with our problems. He comes right into the middle of the conflict.
“He comes into the warzone. He comes into the darkest places in this world and He deals with our sin and He deals with our suffering.”
“He is not a God who is far off. He is there.”
“He calls us to come and be there with Him and work with Him.”
Elizabeth wrapped it up saying if we can overcome these four obstacles and go ahead with the other four actions then it will be world transforming.
If you would like to listen to the full audio interview click play below
Elizabeth Kendal is a dedicated international religious liberty analyst and advocate. Her ministry gained recognition in mid-1999, when she commenced writing weekly Religious Liberty Prayer bulletins for the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) Religious Liberty Commission (RLC).
From 2002 until April 2009, Elizabeth held the position of WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, writing weekly Religious Liberty Prayer (RLP) bulletins and regular Religious Liberty News & Analysis. Her responsibilities included producing resources annually for the International Day of Prayer (IDOP) for the Persecuted Church. Elizabeth resigned from WEA in April 2009 to continue her religious liberty ministry independently.
Elizabeth maintains two blogs: Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin (RLPB) to facilitate strategic mission, aid, advocacy and prayer; and Religious Liberty Monitoring (providing additional news & analysis). She also maintains a site dedicated to Critical Prayer Requests (CPR) for nations where Christians are persecuted.
Elizabeth is the author of two books: