Situation Updates and Flash Points for Prayer

 

 

With so many distressing events daily filling the news, I have drawn together here a significant compilation for those of you who are blessed with a heart for seeking the Lord concerning key international threats. May He inform our understanding and grant us both the discernment and the willingness to harness these in strategic prayer.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has changed the world forever, and left the West facing huge issues of prioritisation. It is extremely concerning that certain right-wing elements in the new House of Representatives are calling for military expenditure to be reserved for defending America, effectively reducing support for Ukraine. Donald Trump Jr is one of several leading Republicans who denounce Zelensky in unprintable language, while Carlson Tucker, the highly influential commentator with Fox News, actively endorses Putin, despite numerous Russian cyberattacks on American facilities. The war has certainly been the biggest wake-up call NATO has ever experienced; it can only be right to pray that our fundamental unity of both purpose and action continue intact. That is certainly not something we can ever afford to take for granted.

Seeing the war clouds gathering during the 1930s, despite the so-called ‘peace in our time’ agreement between Neville Chamberlain and Hitler, certain far-sighted people continued to develop their work at Bletchley Park. It was such an ‘out-of-the-ordinary’ project that it found itself subject to considerable mistrust and opposition from certain less perceptive officials in the War Office – but what a vital role it was destined to play as a code cracking centre! Day by day these brilliant mathematicians, scientists, chess grand masters and solvers of cryptic crosswords found themselves faced with mountains of radio intercepts and transcripts: sheaves of totally random figures that meant less than nothing because they had been encoded to the nth degree.

Given that there are millions upon millions of possible combinations, how would they ever succeed in breaking into the Enigma code that all the German armed forces relied upon, confident that it was quite unbreakable?
The code breakers knew only too well that if they failed to crack it, the consequences would be devastating in terms of unimaginable numbers of lives being lost on land and at sea.

Praise God for their willingness to ponder night and day – and for a handful of outside episodes that played a major vital role part in making their work possible. I loved learning more about it in Sinclair McKay’s book The Secret Life of Bletchley Park – not least because Mum worked there towards the end of the war.

By comparison, the ‘codes’ and puzzles we have to ponder in our own lives are nowhere near as complicated! !!!!

Our political leaders are engaged with the massive issues facing them at this time, and need our prayers on many fronts. But it is so important that we pray also for them and for our military leaders to remain alert concerning the defence of our nation when it comes to making plans and purchasing capital assets. Especially since, as The Independent reports, ‘Nikolai Patrushev, the Russian security council secretary, said: “The events in Ukraine are not a clash between Moscow and Kyiv – this is a military confrontation between Russia and NATO, and above all the United States and Britain.”’

Father, may people wake up and realise what it really going on and mobilise for action instead of assuming that everything is basically contained and under control, and just hoping for the best.

A Prayer concerning the war in Ukraine

Lord, You who fashioned the ear hear all things. You who formed the eye see all things. You know the consequences of all that is happening. You see Russian forces regrouping and thrusting around Bakhmut. You see all the lives being lost on a daily basis, and You know all that will come of that. We ask to You to overrule everything that Putin continues to do in his profound self-deceit in this horrifyingly violent war.

We give You, too, who and what will come after Putin in the Kremlin – including Yevgeny Prigozhin, the hard-line leader of the Wagner group, whose name is being increasingly touted as a potential future leader of the country. Lord, herein lies nothing of stability or godliness. We cry to You for those obliged to live and serve under these blood-stained yokes, as now at last they do appear to be gaining the upper hand in the region around Bakhmut. You see each home without power in Ukraine and each grieving heart. Each person maimed or hospitalised.

A Prayer for America

Lord, You see the destruction being wrought by the extreme atmospheric rivers that have brought such great storms and deluges to California, adding to the meteorological and political battering that the whole of America has been experiencing this winter. We ask You to oversee all that happens in the very-new look Congress, as well as in the Senate and at a Presidential level. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

Russia’s expansionist aims

There are many dimensions to the renewed tension with Russia, and in this overview, we focus on some of Russia’s broader intentions threats and limitations in space, undersea, the cyber world and in the Arctic.

Even while we are praying and pondering these pints for prayer, there will be Russian soldiers – and a fair few Ukrainians as well – killed or wounded in First-World-War like fighting in Donetsk, as well as right across Ukraine, with missiles continuing to rain down. Lord, have mercy.

The Space Race

We have often highlighted the immense danger that Russian submarines pose as a result of their ability to “snip” Internet cables.

By and large the Russian submarine service appears to be more professionally run than its surface counterpart. See here concerning the new ‘battle of the Atlantic.’

But we should by no means forget the fact that the present arms race – and with it, all global communications – is taking place not just below the surface of the sea, but increasingly above our heads.

While American efforts have largely been directed in chasing terrorists for the past twenty years, Russia and China have pulled far ahead in terms of their developing their military space capabilities – even to the point of being able to shoot and destroy their own satellites to demonstrate what they can do.

One obvious danger here is that this has occurred at an altitude beyond the recall of Earth’s gravity, meaning that the surviving particles pose considerable risks of damaging other satellites, given the increasing Russian and Chinese capability to take down GPS satellites. Those who would like understand the space dimension in some detail will appreciate Tom Costello’s report on NBC News.

Cyber warfare remains a constant threat. Countries such as Russia, China, North Korea and Iran invest heavily in cyber warfare capacity, but they are far from alone in doing so. The risks to every aspect of our lives are huge and self-evident, and the factors involved are complex.

Lord, as You used those incredibly creative minds at Bletchley Park all those years ago to thwart a great evil, give speed and success to modern day code breakers and analysts we pray.

Why not have a go at turning the points in this short and simple overview into prayer?

Father, You have granted us such a long stretch of peace and we are truly grateful. We recognise, though, that the battle for the Atlantic was an incredibly close-run thing, and owed so much to the extraordinary acquisition of an Enigma machine, and the cracking of its code. Be Lord of how this plays out at every level we pray.

The Ice Curtain

Russia has high ambitions, and firm intentions to maintain its military and economic supremacy in the far north, seeking to control and exploit rich and strategic Arctic resources.

See especially here the link to ‘The country also announced a new naval doctrine last month with a heavy focus on the Arctic.’

For those interested to make an in-depth examination of these issues see this link.

We must not overlook China

Many would say that the West faces still greater challenges in the coming years from China than from Russia – in which case, what are we to make of Germany broadly continuing to pursue Angela Merkel’s policy of cosying up to it just as it did to Russia? The following is just one take on this – there are many others on the web.

For those interested in the behind-the-scenes developments on the economic front, this recent advance in China’s ability to procure its own advanced chips is relevant.

A Marxist Legacy

As long ago as 1980, when I was still relatively new to praying about international matters, I felt the Lord speaking to me about China, with its massive population and militia, all overseen by a staunchly anti-Christian government. These challenges have only grown since then as the result of President Xi Jinping’s determined push to make China great again, and to affirm that ‘this is China’s time.’

President Xi has been ruthless in conducting a vigorous anti-corruption campaign, which may well have done away with many corrupt figures, but which has also served to do away with his closest rivals. In this respect, it is important to recognise that he is setting himself up as a formidable ideological leader, denouncing not only corruption but all western ways. He is quite deliberately seeking to lead the Chinese Communist party back to its Marxist roots. See for instance this speech given some time ago to mark the party’s 95th anniversary.

The Communist Manifesto, once the second bestselling book of all time, is by no means out of vogue in many parts of the world. Thus we see newly resurgent Russia and China, the two biggest countries in the world where Communism first took sway, projecting their forces aggressively, for all that Russia has moved a long way beyond any normal theory of Marxism.

We need to be very clear that outright Marxism (as opposed to well-intended socialist welfare reforms) has wrought havoc wherever it has come to power. Behind its apparent social attractiveness lie deeply satanic roots.

Additional Overview for China

Al Jazeera have released some well researched and thought-provoking documentaries about a whole range of Chinese related topics that don’t feature much, if at all, on British channels. I was particularly impressed by East 101’s overview of China’s expansion of both its spheres of influence and its economic policies including in places such as Djibouti, a country now giving 70% of its GDP to China in debt repayments.

The programme powerfully explores certain aspects of President Xi’s ambitious expansion of the Silk Road. Djibouti opens the way to the populous landlocked country of Ethiopia, where Chinese influence is again considerable, as also it is in Pakistan, particularly in provinces such as Baluchistan.

The intense security behind which the port of Gwadar operates is another case in point. The official line is that Chinese influence is of a purely altruistic nature. But intelligence agents are everywhere to ensure that people toe the official party line. In rare and hard-won glimpses of ordinary life outside of the sponsored projects, it becomes clear that the monetary gains achieved through the port and factories do not spill over to help the immensely hard-pressed local people outside that system, but have indeed made their livelihood very much harder as a result of land claimed for Chinese flagship projects.

As you can imagine, such wide scale expansionism has inevitably aroused the ire of certain sectors of the local population, and there have been armed protests and terrorist attacks against Chinese influence, wanting them to quit Baluchistan.

There is nothing new in major projects causing local suffering and indeed provoking a local backlash. The Australians were quick to remove people in the vicinity of the Sydney Bridge when it was about to be built. Such examples are the untold backstory of human development everywhere, not least in the development of railway systems. What is different here, is the scope and scale of the project.

What lies behind the smiling face and these great promises of co-operation? We have only to look at President Xi, and his own aggressive and grim stance. The economic reality of life of these Chinese-led economies is that Chinese citizens invariably assume the leadership and earn vastly higher salaries than poorly paid locals.

It is so important that the news of how the Uigurs have been treated is at last being more widely publicised. This is effectively a vast expansion of what has been going on for decades in the Chinese Gulag to new depths and on a province-wide scale. Even in today’s ‘wired’ world, stringent attempts are made to conceal these realities.

Chinese Mission

The question is: can the Lord make use of this Chinese expansionism, somewhat along the lines of how He used the legions, the marching wing of the mighty Roman Empire, as His means of taking the gospel to the farthermost parts of the Empire. (There is evidence of the gospel reaching places as far away as Carlisle by the seventh decade of the first century for example.)

I heard some years ago of Chinese Christians being commissioned by their home churches to set out with one-way tickets to become missionary witnesses to the West, and in particular to Jerusalem. Their enthusiasm was outstanding, but they did not understand the ways of the countries that they went to. They were disheartened therefore not to experience the heartfelt spiritual responses they had become used to in China, and were confounded by the lack of it in response to their passion and witness. May the Lord find new ways for Chinese believers to serve as missionaries to the West – we need their zeal and fervour!

Lord, raise up true and living witness within China, we pray, and be Lord of what this Chinese expansion means on a global scale and as it is felt and experienced in each region and location. Place such a call upon the believers You are causing to travel this Silk Road for You, that they may be utterly effective in making disciples for You wherever they go. In Jesus’ name.

Pour out a Spirit of courage and clarity on all who have been arrested, or who are under investigation. Keep them from kicking themselves for having sought to bring ‘incriminating’ Christian literature into the country.

Heightened Tensions

It may be that, behind the scenes, President Xi’s position is not quite as unassailable as it might appear from the outside. I gleaned a lot of insight into this through reading Tom Clancy’s powerful novel Threat Vector.

Although written a decade ago, that is before Xi’s aggressive decade-long reign, Clancy foresaw the sequence of belligerent measures that China would take in the South China Sea, as well as its highly robust stance toward Taiwan. Just in the last few weeks, we have seen great provocative movement toward the islands, challenging both American and Taiwanese air defences. See for example, this very near miss between Chinese and American planes.

China’s military expansionism has been deeply concerning – but still more concerning perhaps are the enormous resources it has long been investing vast manpower as well as resources in extensive cyber operations, hacking deeply into the most significant data bases of the computer networks of America and others.

Xi has of course invested billions in creating what Matthew Henderson called an ‘Orwellian web of digital national security to detect and suppress criticism of himself and the Communist Party’. We know that he is steeped in profoundly secular thinking, and convinced that China’s time to shine has come. Despite being such an ancient civilisation, we could perhaps look on China as being like a young stag rising up to challenge US dominance.

History teaches us that where there is all a strong pretender – think stags in the natural world! –sooner or later this pretender moves to launch his challenge. Issues related to trade are certainly becoming ever more barbed, and could easily stray beyond strong economic competition into something worse.

The balance of power has not been helped by RAF pilots agreeing for phenomenal pecuniary reward to show Chinese pilots how to overcome RAF missiles. In generations past such behaviour would surely have been considered treasonable.

In China the state is the apex, ruling everything, along somewhat similar lines to fundamentalist Islam in seeking to cover every aspect of life, and to which all citizens must conform. Under Xi, all power has been focused in his hands in unprecedented ways, so that he has taken control of the Party, the State, and the military. As surveillance extends to cover, and ultimately control, every aspect of life. While the penalties for non-conformity are severe, they are also coming to be viewed as normal.

Of course, this puts huge pressure on Christians. The following is a helpful overview of what it is like to live in a society with hundreds of millions of facial recognition cameras, which are even being installed in churches.

As ‘Voice of the Martyrs’ testify, despite the threat of a lowered “social credit score” (and loss of pensions rights and even imprisonment), many who are faithful to Christ continue bravely to proclaim the gospel and to make disciples of Christ in their highly restricted homeland.

Those who flee their homeland are not necessarily safe from pursuit. The following article highlights something that many of us may have been unaware of: that China has set up many dozens of unofficial ‘police station operations’ around the world, ostensibly to help Chinese people with their paperwork but very often to persuade those who have left to return to China, coupled with the most thinly veiled warnings of what will happen to their families back home if they refuse to do so.

In a major report about this, according to a Safeguard Defenders report that is quoted in the Daily Telegraph, in just one year recently, a huge number of Chinese nationals have been repatriated in this way, bypassing usual extradition facilities and affording little or none of the protection theoretically ensured under both national and international law,” as well as avoiding having much additional attention paid to its human rights record. See amongst many such reports, and this one from Canada.

May the Lord oversee and restrain China from embarking on open conflict with other nations. It is becoming very finely poised.

May God keep China from coming into open conflict with other nations. And may this be a year where we move the hand of God in prayer on behalf of many people and concerning many topics.