Nigeria (Morning Star News) – A bomb attack in the northern Nigerian city of Kano on Sunday (July 27) killed four Christians and a soldier, sources said.
The bomb was hurled over a fence of St. Charles Catholic Church as parishioners were leaving a worship service, they said; Islamic extremists from the Boko Haram terrorist group were suspected.
“The bomb was thrown by the Boko Haram bomber over the fence behind the church, because the church leadership had mounted a barricade on the entrance of the church,” church member Gabriel George told Morning Star News. “Four members of our church died, and eight others who were injured are in hospital receiving treatment.”
A Christian leader in Kano whose identity is undisclosed for security reasons confirmed that four church members died in the attack on the predominantly Christian quarter of Sabon Gari, where Boko Haram has struck before.
“The attack on the St. Charles Catholic Church here in Kano is a continuing onslaught by the radical Islamic elements of the Boko Haram sect,” he said. “It is unfortunate that we have continued to be at the receiving end of the agenda by Islamists to create an Islamic state in northern Nigeria.”
Kano state police corroborated accounts, saying the bomb was detonated on church premises, killing four church members, a soldier on duty at the facility, and injuring eight others.
Also on Sunday in the city, five police officers were injured in the course of preventing a suicide bomber outside a university, police said. Hiding the bomb under a long black hijab, or full-body covering, the woman blew herself up after police requested that a female colleague frisk her.
Another bomb in the Sabon Gari area exploded at a bus station on Thursday (July 24), killing a woman and injuring eight other people, police said. Boko Haram was also suspected in that incident. At a public health college in Kano on June 23, a bomb blast killed at least eight people, and a suicide car bomb explosion in Sabon Gari on May 19 killed four people, including a young girl.
While Boko Haram (translated as “Western education is a sin”) is the moniker residents of Maiduguri, Borno state gave the insurgents, the group calls itself the Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal-Jihad, translated as “The Congregation of the People of Tradition for Proselytism and Jihad.” It seeks to impose sharia (Islamic law) throughout Nigeria.
The group has links with Al Shabaab in Somalia and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. Christians make up 51.3 percent of Nigeria’s population of 158.2 million, while Muslims account for 45 percent and live mainly in the north.
Secretary of State John Kerry highlighted the plight of American Pastor Saeed Abedini today in his remarks presenting the State Department’s 2013 Report on International Religious Freedom.
In his remarks, Secretary Kerry stated:
In Iran, U.S. Iranian citizen Pastor Saeed Abedini remains imprisoned. The Iranian authorities sentenced him to eight years behind bars simply because of his religious beliefs. We will continue to call for his release and we will continue to work for it. And make no mistake: We will continue to stand up for religious minority communities under assault and in danger around the world, from Jehovah’s Witnesses to Baha’is to Ahmadi Muslims.
So we have a long way to go to safeguard these rights. We also have a long way to go when governments use national security as an excuse to repress members of minority religious groups.
We are thankful for Secretary Kerry’s stated commitment to not just talk about Pastor Saeed’s freedom but in fact “work for it.”
The report itself, a yearly update for Congress on the state of religious freedom across the globe, also mentions Pastor Saeed in several places, explaining the excruciating ordeal that he is enduring:
Christian pastor and dual U.S.-Iranian national Saeed Abedini, detained since September 2012, was sentenced in January to eight years in prison on charges related to his religious beliefs. Officials at Evin Prison reportedly subjected Abedini to physical and psychological abuse during his detention, and repeatedly denied him medical treatment and consular access. On November 3, authorities transferred Abedini to Rajai Shahr Prison, a facility reputed to be overcrowded and with insufficient medical care, placing him in a ward known to house violent offenders. Abedini reportedly remained in Rajai Shahr Prison at year’s end.
The United States has no diplomatic relations with Iran, and therefore has limited opportunity to directly raise concerns with the government over its religious freedom abuses and restrictions. On several occasions, however, senior U.S. government officials, including the President and the Secretary of State, raised directly with their Iranian counterparts the case of Christian pastor and dual U.S.-Iranian national Saeed Abedini, who is being held on charges related to his religious beliefs, and called for his release. The Department of State also publicly called for the release of Mr. Abedini and other prisoners held on religious grounds.
September 26, 2014 will mark the two-year anniversary of Pastor Saeed’s wrongful imprisonment for his faith. Continuing to highlight Iran’s grave violation of his human rights is a critical part of the effort to obtain his release.
On that day, people from all around the world at hundreds of locations are preparing to hold prayer vigils for Pastor Saeed’s freedom. You can learn more about these vigils and how you can participate athttp://BeHeardProject.com/prayer-vigil/Saeed. Also, if you are interested in hosting a vigil, please email email@example.com.
(Voice of the Persecuted) Hundreds of years before the Muslim prophet began receiving ‘revelations’ around 600AD, the beginnings of Islam, Christians have lived in the Iraqi city of Mosul for nearly 2,000 years.
ISIS militants imposing harsh Sharia law in Mosul (Iraq’s second largest city) gave Christians a 24 hour ultimatum to convert to Islam, pay a steep tax in submission, leave, or be executed. Thousands of terrified Iraqi Christians evacuated their homes—many headed towards Kurdistan for protection. Unconfirmed reports claim only 20 Christian families still remain. About 100,000 Christians had resided in the city 10 years ago, but their numbers have diminished as they became targets of Islamic hardliners and ongoing violence.
CT reports the Vicar of Baghdad’ Canon Andrew White who visited the UK over the weekend said an ISIS presence was also in Baghdad. He added, “They just go around and shoot the odd person dead.”
“I can’t do anything. I can’t go and visit my people any more.”
“The only answer is that we stay together, we keep loving each other and loving God, that is all we can do. There is no solution in a place where you cannot even have a government.”
“Are we seeing the end of Christianity? We are committed come what may, we will keep going to the end, but it looks as though the end could be very near.”
He called on the British government to do more to help Christians fleeing Iraq.
On Monday, French ministers offered asylum to the thousands of Mosul Christians forced from their homes.
The offer was made in a statement, by Laurent Fabius, the foreign minister, and Bernard Cazeneuve, the interior minister, who said they were shocked by the persecution of the minority.
“France is outraged by these abuses that it condemns with the utmost firmness,” the statement said. “We are ready, if they so desire, to help facilitate asylum on our territory.”
Present-day Mosul encompasses the site of the ancient Assyrian capital of Nineveh, where, the Bible teaches, the Prophet Jonah preached. Although this is disputed, a tradition holds that Jonah was buried within the city, on Tell Nebi Yunus, or Hill of the Prophet Jonah.
An Assyrian church stood over the tomb for centuries. After the Muslim conquest, the church became a mosque.
Last week, ISIS prevented worshipers from entering the mosque and using explosives reduced it to rubble, as a crowd looked on.
Claims that the destruction of the tomb was part of ISIS’s anti-Christian campaign. Scholar Joel Baden pointed out that, in Christian interpretation, the Old Testament story of Jonah prefigures the death and resurrection of Christ. “The destruction of his tomb in Mosul is therefore a direct assault on Christian faith, and on one of the few physical traces of that faith remaining in Iraq.” Another scholar, Sam Hardy, told the Washington Post that the destruction of the tomb shows that ISIS is willing to destroy “pretty much anything in the Bible.”
The violent jihadist group is part of the Salafi movement, a Sunni branch of Islam trying to cleanse the area of anyone who won’t follow an extreme form of Sharia, Islamic law. The movement rejects the centuries of subsequent developments in Islam as unjustified innovations–pagan accretions that adulterated the faith. The veneration of the tomb is considered by them as a kind of idolatry.
Salafi Islam is widespread in Saudi Arabia, where it enjoys the patronage of the royal family. On the Arabian Peninsula, as now in Iraq, Salafis have destroyed the tombs of Islamic holy men. When the Saudi royal family captured the city of Medina in the 19th century, Salafis systematically destroyed the tombs of several of the Prophet Mohammed’s companions and family members, leaving only the Prophet’s tomb. Some think that the Saudi government plans on dismantling even that tomb, but hesitates to do so because of the uproar it would cause.
The fighting between the Sunni Muslim militant group and the Shia-dominated Iraqi military gives us a glimpse into the wider sectarian war plaguing the country. For years, Sunnis and Shiites have been in disagreement with each other about everything from politics to religion to shares of national wealth, and have fought for power. That infighting is now presenting itself on the frontlines in the form of ethnic cleansing — a crime against humanity punishable under international law.
Ethnic cleansing is not easy to define, especially during wartime. At times, it is indistinguishable from forced emigration and it also merges with aspects of deportation and genocide. A 1993 report to the U.N. Security Council, during the Bosnian war, defined ethnic cleansing as “rendering an area ethnically homogenous by using force or intimidation to remove persons of a given group from the area.”
ISIS, now calling themselves IS (Islamic State) has been instilling fear by executing innocent civilians and sharing the atrocities on video.
Where is the moderate majority of Muslims doing more to stomp out the radical factions of Islam and protect minorities, throughout the Islamic world. To not take on this responsibility is consent of the extreme intolerance and violence and they will see the extremism continue to spread. One day, they too will find themselves forced to join the radicals or face the same type of oppression we’re witnessing today.
Please keep Christians, others being persecuted and the nation of Iraq in your prayers.
By Lois Kanalos, Voice of the Persecuted
In a decision that represents a ringing affirmation of the presence of faith in the life of our nation, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals has rejected the American Atheists’ challenge to including the famed “Ground Zero Cross” in the National September 11 Museum.
While the entire opinion is worth reading, two excerpts were particularly important. First, the court unequivocally rejected the most dangerous aspect of American Atheists’ challenge – the argument that acknowledging the historical importance of faith constitutes improper “religious promotion.” To the contrary, the “accurate account of human history” often “requires reference to religion:”
American Atheists point to no precedent holding that when a religious symbol or artifact with genuine historical significance is included in a public historical display, the actual purpose is necessarily religious promotion. To the contrary, the Supreme Court has long recognized that an accurate account of human history frequently requires reference to religion: “The history of man is inseparable from the history of religion.” Engel v. Vitale, 370 U.S. 421, 434 (1962). Indeed, as Justice Jackson observed in Illinois ex rel. McCollum v. Board of Education, 333 U.S. 203 (1948) (Jackson, J., concurring), “it is a proper, if not an indispensable, part of preparation for a worldly life to know the roles that religion and religions have played in the tragic story of mankind. The fact is that, for good or for ill, nearly everything in our culture worth transmitting, everything that gives meaning to life, is saturated with religious influences,” id.
Next, once the display is constitutionally appropriate, it is up to the museum to determine which artifacts to display. It is not up to offended observers to determine how a museum tells the story of our shared history. Here, the court relied on our ACLJ Supreme Court case, Pleasant Grove City v. Summum:
As American Atheists acknowledge, appellees’ choice as to which artifacts to display in recounting the history of the September 11 attacks is a form of government speech. Individuals will generally not be heard to complain that government speech favors one viewpoint over another unless, in the context of a religious discrimination claim, the challenged speech violates the Establishment Clause. See Pleasant Grove City v. Summum, 555 U.S. 460, 467–68 (2009) (collecting cases recognizing that “[i]t is the very business of government to favor and disfavor points of view,” and that a government entity is “entitled to say what it wishes . . . and to select the views it wants to express” as long as its speech “comport[s] with the Establishment Clause”
The ACLJ filed an amicus brief in the case on behalf of the more than 230,000 members of our Committee to Protect the Ground Zero Cross, a brief that heavily relied on our previous victory in Summum.
The American Atheists will likely appeal this decision, so the case is not yet over, but the Second Circuit’s opinion represents a profound defeat for those who wish to drive faith not just out of the public square, but out of public memory.
We are thankful for this victory for the Constitution, our national heritage, and for common sense.
For more information or how you can coordinate a vigil in your area please visit, 2nd Annual Global Prayer Vigil for Saeed Abedini Planned for September 26th
Thank you all so much for your willingness to stand with our brothers and sisters in Iraq. Many of you have been using the Arabic “N” symbol below on your Facebook or Twitter profile to show your concern for Christians being targeted for extortion and/or extinction by soldiers of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). God bless you for identifying with our brothers and sisters under attack.
Others are understandably cynical about simply changing a profile pic as a reminder to pray. You think it’s too small of a gesture—that we must do more. And of course you are right! We all share some of that same attitude, I think. Our American “can-do” mentality begs for a place to direct our anguish. We want to “do” something about the situation. I spoke with a zealous young man today who graciously—yet excitedly—challenged me to “do something.” “We have to do something. Tell me what to do!” He cried.
My first response was to embrace his angst wholeheartedly. We really must do something. Our Christian brothers and sisters have been marked for death. Their wages have been stolen. Their homes and their homeland is now instantly closed to them. If they stay, they will be killed. If they leave, they will lose everything they once relied upon—houses, cars, money, jobs, friends. The situation is brutal. Surely we can do more than pray!
And yet, upon further reflection, I reminded my young friend that prayer is no small thing. We ought not too quickly dismiss its potential for saving our fellow saints. As James reminds us, “The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much” (James 5:16). James uses the example of Elijah whose prayers both caused and cured a drought in Israel which lasted 3 ½ years. Imagine—a man with a nature like ours altering meteorological phenomena for more than 1,000 days in a row! (Talk about man-made global warming!) James could have chosen many other examples such as the prayers by Israel which brought about her Exodus from Egypt and Egypt’s destruction:
During those many days the king of Egypt died, and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. God saw the people of Israel—and God knew” Ex 2:23-25 (ESV).
God knew! Are we to wonder whether God—now that Jesus and the Holy Spirit have been more clearly revealed—is still near and dear to His people? May it never be! Jesus Himself swore that He would never leave nor forsake His people (Hbrws 13:5) and that He would be with them even to the end of the age (Matt 28:20). And so the all-powerful, all-knowing God of infinite love remains faithfully concerned for His people and capable of accomplishing great things on their behalf. With that in mind, we can (and must?) pray in at least these four ways:
Fervently from the heart. Our prayers must be urgent, zealous, fearful, yet fully-fired with faith. Think of it this way: What would you do if you came home from work this evening only to discover that a gang had captured your sister and informed her that she had 24 hours to pay a ransom or die? Would that not be a fiery trial that would cause you to cry out to God on her behalf? Would you not shriek with horror and beg for mercy? Fiery trials no doubt beget fiery prayers. There is a sword at the throat of our family. Pray!
Second, Despairingly—from a position of weakness. This may sound odd, but I take my cue from the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 1:8-11,
8 For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life; 9 indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead; 10 who delivered us from so great a peril of death, and will deliver us, He on whom we have set our hope. And He will yet deliver us, 11 you also joining in helping us through your prayers, so that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the favor bestowed on us through the prayers of many.
Notice how Paul admitted being excessively burdened—beyond any human strength. Is that not the burden our brothers and sisters are under now in Iraq? What earthly power is (a) willing to save them and (b) able to save them? Some (like the U.S. Military) seem able but not willing. Others perhaps are willing but not really able. So, where are Christians to turn? As we pray for our brothers and sisters, we should pray from the position of complete and utter despair of human deliverance. In that position, Paul says, we find our sure hope of trusting not in ourselves but in God who raises the dead!
Third, Victoriously—as though Christ has truly been raised from the dead. Who could ever have imagined that eternal life would spring from the humiliating execution of a stricken, smitten Jewish carpenter? And yet, our Christ has been raised from the dead! The Apostle Paul took courage and believed in his own deliverance from the mouth of death because of the Resurrection life of Christ. Pray for our brothers and sisters to move from thedespair of their current situation to the victory of Christ’s
Resurrection. God is no less able to deliver today than he was when Paul was preaching the gospel in Asia (and the Middle East). So pray to God that he would raise the dead to new life in Mosul, Iraq. Pray for the current loss to be made gain. After Stephen was martyred (Acts 7), the early church was scattered on account of the increasing persecution. Nevertheless, the gospel went forth with power everywhere the Christians fled. Even so, God’s gospel will triumph somehow. Pray for His people in Iraq to trust God’s purposes by faith.
Fourth, Effectively—as though you expect your prayers to affect much. The prayers of saints saved Paul’s life. Why not now? Why not the lives of those in Mosul, Iraq? If, as we see in 2 Cor 1:11, the churches were able to secure Paul’s release from certain death, then why would not be possible today for our prayers to be the very means God uses to deliver Iraqi Christians from what appears a certain death? Is our God no longer able to deliver? Surely, God is no less powerful now than He was on the day He delivered Daniel or Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego!
My friend and I talked about how we would love to help others learn to pray for the persecuted church. We will continue thinking about our prayers for the persecuted, and we hope to be providing much more helps in the future, Lord willing. So, stay tuned…
About Greg Cochran
A pastor, professor, and advocate for the persecuted church, I want to encourage us to love Christ’s church as He does and give ourselves for her. My official title is Director of the Bachelor of Applied Theology program in the School of Christian Ministries at California Baptist University. However, my heart beats as a pastor. Genuine biblical shepherds are my heroes. Together, we can encourage both shepherds and the sheep.
According to an international news agency the Prime Minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif’s government goes on with committing and tolerate the persecution of Ahmadis, Christians, Hindus, and Shiites. They assert that the government’s imposition of the oppressive blasphemy laws has privileged the religious fanatics.
The news agency claims that under these blasphemy laws 40 Pakistanis are currently jailed — predominantly anti-Ahmadi laws also seriously animate dangers to the religious-freedom abuses while providing opportunities to the religious extremists. They continue to criticize the Pakistani Government of giving a free hand to the murderer Shahbaz Bhatti, a Pakistani Christian and former Pakistani minister for interfaith harmony whereas the government has failed to bring his killers to justice.
They went on to say that the United States should go on to raise concerns about these killing of the religious minorities. The administration should also follow recommendations provided in the House-passed fiscal-year 2015 budget to prioritize any necessary foreign-aid reductions to target those countries that abuse religious freedoms.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) – an independent government organization that supervises religious freedom abroad. USCIRF and members of the House of Representatives have recommended that all three of these countries — China, Iran, and Pakistan — be listed by the U.S. State Department as Countries of Particular Concern (CPC) for religious freedom because of these and other atrocities.
The State Department has answered our calls on China and Iran in the past; it is time that Secretary John Kerry does the same regarding Pakistan. Secretary Kerry must press for Pakistani government leaders to protect religious freedom to stem its frightening spiral toward extremist violence and instability. USCIRF has recommended this designation, and congressional leaders have requested it. The Obama administration must improve and make protection religious freedom a pillar of its foreign policy. As the United States turns a blind eye, so too does the world. We must open our eyes now, act accordingly and show these governments and the world that these acts will not stand.