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Home after 21 months, but US pastor Andrew Brunson now can’t leave house till October trial

Pastor Andrew Brunson released from Turkish prison and put under house arrest

A crowd of Turkish Christians from Andrew Brunson’s Izmir Resurrection Church greeted their pastor with cries of “We love you, Andrew!” as he arrived home under police escort on Wednesday afternoon, 25 July.

(World Watch Monitor) After nearly 22 months in detention, Brunson was released at 5.30pm from Izmir’s Kiriklar maximum security prison and transferred to house arrest following a court order responding to his lawyer’s appeal, which cited health reasons.

However, the pastor will now not be allowed to leave the confines of his home until his next hearing, scheduled for 12 October.

Brunson, a Christian pastor from North Carolina who has lived in Turkey for 23 years, has been on trial for terrorism and spying charges – of having links with the Fethullah Gülen movement, which the Ankara government blames for the failed July 2016 coup attempt, and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Last week the Second High Penal Court in the western province of İzmir rejected an appeal to release him in its latest hearing, 18 July, and decided to continue listening to the testimonies of witnesses in the next hearing. Western observers in the court told World Watch Monitor there was not one piece of evidence so far produced to indicate the pastor is guilty of any crime, and that his trial is for political expediency. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan wants Gülen to be extradited back to Turkey (the cleric is currently living in the US) to stand trial for the 2016 coup.

Brunson was detained nearly two years ago, in October 2016, and faces up to 35 years in prison if found guilty. The pastor has completely denied all the charges, calling them “shameful and disgusting”.

The US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) Vice Chair Kristina Arriaga, who attended the hearing in Aliağa, near Izmir, welcomed his release from prison but said more needed to be done.

“This is welcome news,” she said. “It is good that Pastor Brunson will have some relief after being held in a Turkish prison for more than 600 days. But it is not enough. The Turkish government has deprived this innocent man of his due process rights and liberty for too long, and it must completely release him. If it fails to do so, the Trump Administration and the Congress should respond strongly and swiftly with targeted sanctions against the authorities responsible.”—

Keep praying!

 

 

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Judge Rules in Favor of Group of Asylum Seeking Iranians

Advocates for a group of nearly 90 Christian and other religious-minority refugees from Iran are praising a ruling by a federal judge in California earlier this week that forces the Trump administration to reconsider their asylum requests after issuing a blanket denial of all of them earlier this year.

(Mohabat News)  The refugees and U.S. human rights activists representing their interests say the decision is a break-through in a troubling case that has left the group of Iranians marooned in Vienna and has earned the sympathy and attention of a bipartisan group of lawmakers in Congress, as well as high-level Trump administration officials.

Since the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) denied their asylum applications en masse in February, the group has been left in limbo in Vienna, unable either to return to Iran out of fear of further persecution and possible death or to reunite with family members or other sponsors in the U.S.

“It’s a step in the right direction, and we’re happy that the court recognizes that the government can’t just use whatever terms it wants [to deny these applicants]. It has to follow what Congress intended this program to be—to give heightened protections to these Iranian Christians and Mandaeans and other religious minorities,” Mariko Hirose, who serves as the litigation director for International Refugee Assistance Project in New York, told the Washington Free Beacon.

The Iranian individuals and their family members applied for refugee resettlement in the United States under the Lautenberg Amendment, a law Congress first passed in 1989 to facilitate refugee admission of Jews fleeing the former Soviet Union. Lawmakers expanded the program in 2004 to include religious minorities in Iran.

The Iranians had traveled to Vienna from Tehran at the invitation of the U.S. government to complete their applications as part of this unique Lautenberg refugee program.

The program has quietly admitted an estimated 30,000 persecuted Iranians, mainly Jews and Christians, but also Mandaeans, Zoroastrians, and Baha’is, over the last decade at a near 100 percent acceptance rate without incident, according to U.S. lawmakers familiar with the acceptance record.

However, the Obama administration first started imposing a new vetting process for all asylum applicants in 2016, the first roadblocks for the group of nearly 90 Iranians.

Then in February, after the individuals had already spent nearly a year waiting at an intermediary vetting facility in Vienna—the same facility used for years for the Lautenberg program without incident—the DHS flatly denied the group without providing the reasons behind the decision.

The DHS denials said only that the applicants were being barred from resettling in the U.S. as “a matter of discretion.”

A State Department spokeswoman earlier this year did not elaborate on why DHS had denied the group of Iranians, saying only the “safety and security of the American people are paramount,” and that “Iranian refugee applicants under this program are subject to the same security vetting processes that apply to refugee applicants of other nationalities considered for admission to the United States of America.”

U.S. District Court Judge Beth Labson Freeman on Tuesday ordered DHS to disclose individual reasons for the denials within 14 days of her ruling, which allows the claimants to appeal. The refugees have 90 days to file their appeals, which could reopen their cases.

If they are once again denied, DHS would have to follow their own regulations and provide a substantive reason for the denials, according to Hirose.

In addressing the unique aspects of the Lautenberg Amendment, which governs this group’s applications, Freeman wrote that DHS “retains an enormous amount of authority and discretion to adjudicate refugee applications, but they do not have the discretion to violate the law.”

The vague DHS denial notices, the judge said, leaves the applicants in an untenable position.

“Without a reason for the denial, the applicants are left to guess at which factors and circumstances DHS considered,” she said. “Any meaningful review of the denials becomes impossible because plaintiffs are effectively shadowboxing against themselves.”

Evidence that applications of at least 38 of the individuals denied admission in February received “identical notices of ineligibility raises the inference that the denials were not, in fact, individualized,” she continued.

Hirose says Congress was very clear when it passed the Lautenberg Amendment that if the U.S. government denies an asylum claim, it must provide a reason “to the maximum extent feasible.”

The mass denials were such a devastating blow because the group of Iranians had already uprooted from their home country, leaving jobs and selling possessions and expected a smooth transition to the United States.

After previous asylum seekers left Iran, they were able to travel onward to the United States in just a few months, Hirose said.

“That’s how this program used to be, and it was really a surprise and completely unprecedented when these mass denials happened in February,” she said.

The group’s plight has attracted the attention and support of key lawmakers in Congress who called on Vice President Pence to intervene on their behalf in late January.

Reps. Randy Hultgren (R., Ill.) and James McGovern (D., Mass.), co-chairs of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission in Congress, sent a letter to Pence arguing that the Lautenberg Amendment requires DHS to presume that all Iranian religious minorities are eligible for refugee status in the United States.

“DHS and State must make every effort to continue to accept thousands of Iranian religious minorities currently waiting in Iran and take steps to prioritize and expedite any relevant security checks,” they added.

They also highlighted Pence’s and other Trump administration officials’ repeated promises to come to the defense of persecuted Christians in Iran and throughout the Middle East.

“You have made clear that the Trump administration will take the lead in helping to end these persecutions,” they wrote. “In Vienna, Austria, there are 100 victims of persecution waiting for the United States to act. Thank you for doing what you can to move DHS and State to accept these refugees.”

A White House official told the Free Beacon in January that the administration is paying “careful attention to the issue” and was working to find a solution.

“High-level administration officials are monitoring the progress,” the official said. “Certain complexities exist that the administration has to work through, including human-rights concerns and national security. But the administration is certainly engaged.”/The Washington free beacon

Christians in Iran Seized from Homes, including Violent Imprisonment of Pastor

 

(Morning Star News) – Three Christians in Iran were arrested from their homes following the violent arrest of pastor Yousef Nadarkhani on Sunday (July 22), according to advocacy group Middle East Concern (MEC).

Pastor Nadarkhani, a convert from Islam like the others arrested, was awaiting a summons to begin a 10-year prison sentence after his appeal of a conviction for “propagating house churches” and promoting “Zionist Christianity” was upheld in May.

“Around 10 police officers arrived at the house and physically assaulted Yousef’s son when he opened the door to them,” MEC reported. “Both Yousef and his son were tasered, despite offering no resistance. The manner of their arrest was probably an attempt to intimidate the Christian community, but their friends report that the church has not given in to fear.”

Pastor Nadarkhani was sentenced on July 6, 2017, along with fellow converts from Islam Yasser Mossayebzadeh, Mohammadreza Omidi and Saheb Fadaie. Mossayebzadeh was arrested from his home today, and Omidi and Fadaie were arrested from their homes yesterday evening (July 24), according to MEC.

Pastor Nadarkhani ad Omidi were also sentenced to two years of internal exile, according to MEC.

“Both will serve this sentence in the south of Iran, far away from their families in Rasht,” the group reported in a press statement.

The three Christians arrested today and yesterday have been taken to Evin Prison in Tehran to join Pastor Nadarkhani, who has been put in a “quarantine” ward normally reserved as a form of punishment, according to MEC.

“Please pray that the Lord will comfort and strengthen those arrested and their families and that the Christian community in Iran will trust the Lord and not be intimidated,” MEC’s statement read, also requesting prayer that “Iranian authorities will treat converts and other religious minorities with respect, and that they and their families will not be wrongly and aggressively handled.”

The four Christians were arrested in Rasht on May 13, 2016 during a series of raids by security agents on Christian homes, according to advocacy group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW). They were sentenced by Judge Ahmadzadeh, head judge of the 26th Branch of the Islamic Revolutionary Court in Tehran, who is accused of miscarriages of justice and is subject to financial sanctions in the United Kingdom, according to CSW.

“Their appeal hearing on 13 December 2017 took place before Judge Hassan Babaee and Judge Ahmad Zargar, both of whom are alleged to have played prominent roles in the crackdown on freedom of expression in Iran,” CSW said in a press statement.

Judge Zargar, a Hojjatolislam (clerical position immediately below an ayatollah), was among several Iranian officials deemed responsible or complicit in serious human rights violations in 2012, according to CSW. He was also one of six judges accused in 2014 of lacking judicial impartiality and overseeing unjust trials of journalists, lawyers, political activists and members of Iran’s ethnic and religious minorities, the group reported.

“The national security charges leveled against these men were spurious, and their sentences are excessive, amounting to a criminalization of Christian practice,” CSW Chief Operating Officer Scot Bower said in the press statement. “We are calling for the unconditional release of Pastor Nadarkhani, and for his sentence and those of Mr. Omidi, Mr. Mossayebzadeh and Mr. Fadaie to be quashed.”

Pastor Nardarkhani was also arrested in 2009 after going to his children’s school to question Islam’s exclusive place in religious education for children, which he said was unconstitutional. He was charged with apostasy and sentenced to death in 2010, a decision that was upheld by the Supreme Court in 2011.

On Sept. 8, 2012, he was released from prison following his acquittal on apostasy charges but was found guilty on charges of evangelizing. He returned to prison on Dec. 25, 2012 to complete a three-year sentence for evangelism and was released on Jan 7, 2013.

Iran is a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which guarantees the right to change one’s religion and the freedom of religion. Furthermore, Article 23 of the Iranian Constitution states that “the investigation of individuals’ beliefs is forbidden, and no one may be molested or taken to task simply for holding a certain belief.”

Iran ranked 10th on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2018 World Watch List of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian.

Breaking: Pastor Andrew Brunson Moved From Turkish Prison To House Arrest

(Voice of the Persecuted) Due to health condition, the Turkish court has ruled to allow American pastor, Andrew Brunson to be moved from jail to house arrest. The court ordered that Brunson is banned from leaving Turkey as he waits out his trial to continue at his home in Izmir. In custody since 2016, Brunson was arrested for terror and espionage charges, which he strongly denies. Andrew faces up to 35 years in prison for “committing crimes on behalf of terror groups without being a member and for espionage. All who know this gentle pastor call the trial a sham and the charges outlandish.

We can imagine the joy his family is feeling at this moment as they wait at the prison for his release. Let us lift up the Lord and give him praise for all He is doing in this case and Andrew’s life. May God heal him and give our brother strength. In Jesus holy name, all glory to God.

Egypt: Copts celebrate first mass in new church, seven years since last church’s closure

(World Watch Monitor) Seven years after their previous church was closed by local authorities because of “security reasons”, the Coptic community in the Egyptian village of Kom El-Loufy, 250km south of Cairo, held a first mass in their new church yesterday, 22 July.

The 1,600 Copts from the village in Minya governorate were marking the completion of the first stage of building of their church, the Church of the Virgin Mary and Martyr Abanoub Al Nahisi, with a mass led by Fr. Feltaws Ibrahim, as the Coptic villagers sat on the floor.

The priest of the Saint Abu Sefein Coptic Orthodox Church, in the nearby village of Ezzbet Rafla, had hosted the Copts in his church while they were without a building.

Since the closure of their previous church, the Copts had experienced fierce opposition from their Muslim neighbours. Two years ago angry Muslims set fire to four Coptic homes in the village, suspecting a house would be turned into a church.

It wasn’t until the very end of 2017 when the Copts finally withdrew their complaint against the arson in exchange for permission to build a new church.

With the charges dropped, in January the community started the building process on a piece of land 700 metres outside the village.

Contentious

As World Watch Monitor has reported, Copts in several other villages have faced similar troubles.

In recent years it has been almost impossible for Coptic Christians to obtain a license to build a church, though in theory this changed in August 2016 when the Egyptian parliament passed a new law on the construction of Christian buildings of worship.

However, by March this year there were still more than 3,500 pending applications from churches that needed to be examined by a government commission set up to verify whether they met legal requirements.

The building of new churches remains a contentious issue, with a number of churches that have applied for licenses being attacked by Muslim extremists.

Earlier this month World Watch Monitor reported how a mob recently attacked a church in another Minya village in protest against the church having received approval. Police failed to intervene, while one of the officers apparently promised the protesters that no church would be allowed in the village.

Prayer Call scheduled before Andrew Brunson’s next hearing in Turkish court

JOIN THE PRAYER CALL!

(Voice of the Persecuted) Andrew Brunson is an American citizen who lived in Turkey for over 20 years. He led a small church in Izmir and, along with his wife, had raised their three children there. The couple then decided to apply for permanent residency in this nation of people whom they greatly loved. On Oct. 7, they were called to a local police station with no worries beliving they were finally approved for residency. However, the Brunson’s were detained and his wife released shortly after. Andrew’s arrest followed the failed coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in 2016. The Turkish government is using evidence based on the testimony of a “secret witness’ against Andrew who maintains his innocence. Now Andrew is facing the third hearing of his trial, next week. Some are calling the case a sham trial to force the U.S. to hand over Fethullah Gülen, believed to be the mastermind of the July 2016 failed coup by President Erdogan’s government. In March of this year, his daughter spoke on behalf of her father in front of the U.N. Human Rights Council.

Many are warning of the recent changes taking place in Turkey. It has one of the lowest rankings in the world in terms of freedom of press. The regime continues to abuse the rights of its citizens, including freedom of speech, of association, and the rights of ethnic and religious minorities. Those not belonging to Sunni Islam are under suspicion and Christians in Turkey, a small minority, have been under increasing pressure and victims of intolerance.

At the last hearing, Andrew repeatedly denied charges that he was involved with terrorism and espionage. Brunson said in his defense,

“I am helping Syrian refugees, they say that I am aiding the PKK. I am setting up a church, they say I got help from Gülen’s network.”

There is not one photograph or tape recording praising the PKK at the (Izmir) Resurrection Church. Our church had several Turkish followers. Our doors were open to everyone. I strived to prevent politics entering the church.”

“My service that I have spent my life on, has now turned upside down. I was never ashamed to be a server of Jesus, but these claims are shameful and disgusting.”

In an effort to be united in prayer before and when Andrew enters the courtroom, Voice of the Persecuted and Persecution Watch is inviting Christians to join together on an 8 hour open prayer conference call that will begin at 7 p.m. EST on Tuesday, July 17th and continue to 3 a.m. EST on the 18th.

Andrew’s wife recently shared,

Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for persevering in prayer with us. I pass on your comments to Andrew from time to time. YOU, the body of Christ, are truly amazing! Where else do people love and pray for others they’ve never met? What a testimony YOU have been. The summer heat means Andrew can’t sleep well as he is constantly drenched in sweat. He makes a point of offering that up as a sacrifice. He is not wanting to exaggerate the discomfort of heat – he knows that many have been in much worse conditions.
He has been calmer recently as is trying to see things through the lenses of demonstrating the value, the worth of Jesus – that those whom He loves and who love Him are willing to suffer for him. He often prays “Father, cause to burst into flame in me the love you have for Jesus, that I may be a fervent, ardent lover of Him, willing to undergo whatever is asked.”
Please remember the next hearing date – July 18.

When one hears about the persecuted, they may ask, “What can I do, I am only one person?” It’s simple, that person can pray. James reminds us that the prayer of a righteous person is very powerful and effective. (James 5:16).

Jesus says that if we have faith as small as a mustard seed we can move mountains. For nothing will be impossible for us (Matthew 17:20).

Imagine one person who is righteous and has faith as small as a mustard seed. What can that person accomplish in their prayers? Then imagine hundreds, if not thousands, of intercessors with that same mustard seed faith. What can they accomplish in Christ through their prayers?I

In Hebrews 13:3 we’re asked, “Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.” In this verse, those being described as in prison and being mistreated were Christians experiencing persecution for their faith. The verse also highlights the oneness we should feel as believers in the Body of Christ.

As the next court date draws near, let us not forget the importance of the call in Hebrews 13:3. Brothers and sisters, let us continue to remember, in our prayers, Andrew Brunson and the thousands of brothers and sisters imprisoned for their faith throughout the world.

Please join us on the 8 hour prayer conference call next Tuesday, as we come together praying for the release of our brother, Andrew, and the global persecuted church, believing God will act on their behalf.

“If only you would tear the heavens open and come down, so that mountains would quake at your presence—just as fire kindles brushwood, and fire boils water—to make your name known to your enemies, so that nations will tremble at your presence! When you did awesome works that we did not expect, you who came down, and the mountains quaked at your presence. From ancient times no one has heard, no one has listened to, no eye has seen any God except you who acts on behalf of the one who waits for him.”  Isaiah 64:1-4 (CSB) BELIEVE!

Many are sensing a rising level of expectancy that God will intervene in the imprisonment of Andrew Brunson. For those who would like to pray together for Andrew, before next Tuesday’s 8 hour call, we will host nightly 1-1 1/2 hour prayer calls starting at 9 p.m. EST (use the same call number and access code). Please join us, tonight, as we unite with other believers around the world to pray for God Sovereign purposes to be done in the nation of Turkey and in the life of our brother, Andrew Brunson, and all Christians living there. May the name of Jesus be glorified in our brother’s imprisonment. Call information is below.
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Just as a father hears and answers the cries of his child. Let us trust that God will do great things through our prayers, as he has many times in the past and still doing today.
The disciples of Jesus asked two things of him.  Lord teach us to pray and Lord increase our faith.  My goodness. In the things that we ask God for, are not prayer and faith two most important things. In the short video below, we’re reminded of our holy sovereign Father in heaven through this beautiful depiction of the Lord’s Prayer.

MARK YOUR CALENDARS!

8 HOUR PRAYER CONFERENCE CALL

Location: Any location from your phone

When: Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Length of call: 8 Hours (Note: You’re not required to commit to 8 hours. Come on the call and pray as your time allows.)

Time of the Call:

7 p.m. Eastern time

6 p.m. Central time

5 p.m. Mountain time

4 p.m. Pacific time

Call number: 712.775.7035
Access code: 281207#
We believe prayer works. Stay on the call 5 minutes, 5 hours, or as long as you feel led. Your prayers make a huge difference in the lives of our persecuted brothers and sisters around the world.

Lord willing, I look forward to praying with you on the 8-hour call.

Your brother in Christ,

Blaine Scogin

pwprayercall@gmail.com

Serving Jesus as Prayer Director of Voice of the Persecuted and Persecution Watch.

Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. Mark 11:24

PRINT PRAYER CALL FLYERView and download printable PDF flyer here

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Sixteen Christians arrested for ‘forced conversions’ of tribals in Jharkhand

(AsiaNews) – Police in Jharkhand arrested 16 missionaries on Sunday on charges of converting tribal Adivasi by force to Christianity, the Press Trust of India reported.

Speaking to AsiaNews, Sajan K George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), said that “In Jharkhand, extreme right-wing groups systematically persecute members of religious minorities, especially Christians.”

The arrests took place in the District of Dumka, after Ramesh Hembrom, village chief in Phoolpahari, filed a complaint.

Seven women were among those taken into custody. Police Superintendent Kishore Kaushal said that those arrested were part of a group of 25 “preachers” held hostage “by an angry mob of tribals living in the village”.

According to the policeman, the Christians were held for two days by residents in the Shikaripara area, who accused them of insulting a place of tribal worship.

The police did not disclose the names of the Christian missionaries involved in the case of alleged forced conversions. “We are verifying the allegations,” Kaushal said.

The officer noted that in his complaint, Hembrom claimed that the attempt to convert the tribals to Christianity had been going on for several months.

He said that he had seized several posters and copies of religious texts in the possession of the accused.

Manoj Kumar Thakur, head of the Shikaripara police station, told the Indian newspaper that his officers are trying to identify “the network behind the conversion attempts” that violate the Jharkhand Freedom of Religion Act. Read more

International Community Ignores Genocide of Christians in Nigeria

VOP Note: For the past 5 years, Nigerian Christian leaders and rights activists have been trying warn the world that a genocide was taking place against the Christians in the North. The barbaric acts of jihadist groups, Boko Haram and Fulani Herdsmen, still continue unabated as more than 6000 Christians have been killed since the start of 2018. Where is the international concern and outcry? (Raymond Ibrahim) —In what the Christian Association of Nigeria is calling a “pure genocide,” 238 more Christians were killed and churches desecrated by Muslims last week in the west African nation. According to a joint statement by the Christian Association, an umbrella group of various Christian denominations, “There is no doubt that the sole purpose of these attacks is aimed at ethnic cleansing, land grabbing and forceful ejection of the Christian natives from their ancestral land and heritage.”

The statement condemned the recent attacks, “where over 200 persons were brutally killed and our churches destroyed without any intervention from security agencies in spite of several distress calls made to them.”

The statement adds that the majority of those 6,000 Christians massacred this year were “mostly children, women and the aged…  What is happening in … Nigeria is pure genocide and must be stopped immediately.”

The details of the murder of these thousands, though seldom reported, are often grisly: many were either hacked to death or beheaded with machetes; others were burned alive (including inside locked churches or homes); and women are often sexually assaulted or even raped before being slaughtered.

For long, both the Nigerian government and the U.S. government have sought to present this protracted jihad as territorial clashes between the haves (apparently always Christians) and haves-not (apparently always Muslims).

For instance, in 2012, Bill Clinton said that “inequality” and “poverty” are “what’s fueling all this stuff” (the “stuff” being a reference to the ongoing Muslim slaughter of Christians in Nigeria).  Following the 2012 Easter Day bombing of a Nigerian church that left 39 worshippers dead, former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Johnnie Carson, said, “I want to take this opportunity to stress one key point and that is that religion is not driving extremist violence” in Nigeria.  Similarly, the Obama administration reportedly agreed to spend $600 million in a USAID initiative launched to ascertain the “true causes” of unrest and violence in Nigeria—which naturally lay in the socio-economic, never the religious, realm.

In its recent statement, however, the Christian Association of Nigeria denied these claims. After saying that those responsible for slaughtering Christians are always allowed to “go scot free” by the Nigerian government—which further portrays the attacks as “farmers/herdsmen clashes”—it inquired:

“How can it be a clash when one group [Muslims] is persistently attacking, killing, maiming, [and] destroying, and the other group [Christians] is persistently being killed, maimed and their places of worship destroyed? How can it be a clash when the herdsmen are hunting farmers in their own villages/communities and farmers are running for their lives?”

On May 2, the National Christian Elders Forum — a wing of the Christian Association, the members of which average the age of 75 and come from Nigeria’s six geopolitical zones — met with the British High Commission in an effort to receive support. (Days before the meeting, around 30 Muslim herdsmen had stormed a church during early morning Mass and murdered nearly 20 parishioners and two clergymen.) The group’s executive summary of issues included:

It is clear to the Christian Elders that JIHAD has been launched in Nigeria by the Islamists of northern Nigeria led by the Fulani ethnic group [the “herdsmen”]. This Jihad is based on the Doctrine of Hate taught in Mosques and Islamic Madrasas in northern Nigeria as well as the supremacist ideology of the Fulani. Using both conventional (violent) Jihad, and stealth (civilization) Jihad, the Islamists of northern Nigeria seem determined to turn Nigeria into an Islamic Sultanate and replace Liberal Democracy with Sharia as the National Ideology. The object of course, is to supplant the Constitution with Sharia as the source of legislation. The current 1999 Constitution is plagued with dual conflicting ideology of Democracy and Sharia. There are certain values which are non-negotiable in a pluralistic society and it seems the advocates of the Caliphate do not respect this. A dual-ideology-driven Nigeria cannot be the Nigeria of our dream. We want a Nigeria, where citizens are treated equally before the law at all levels…. Bearing in mind that Christians constitute over 50% of the Nigerian population, the goal of the Islamists is bound to create serious conflicts which if not checked is capable of escalating into another civil war. Already, the Islamists are murdering Christians with impunity and destroying vulnerable Christian places of worship and communities at an alarming and inhuman rate.

That 6,000 Christians, “mostly children, women and the aged,” have been butchered in just the first six months of this year is a reminder of how violence only escalates when left unchecked. That is the story of the Muslim persecution of Christians in Nigeria.

It took three times as long (a year-and-a-half, between December 2013 to July 2015), for example, for the same Muslim herdsmen to slaughter a total of 1,484 Christians (532 men, 507 women, and 445 children), critically wound 2,388 Christians (1,069 men, 817 women, and 502 children), and burn or destroy 171 churches.

The Nigerian government and the international community, however, have from the start done little to address the situation. This lack of participation is not surprising: they cannot even acknowledge its roots, namely, the intolerant ideology of jihad. As a result, the death toll of Christians has only risen — and will likely continue to grow exponentially — until such time that this reality is not only acknowledged but addressed. Cross posted on Gatestone Institute

Calls for action

Sent to Voice of the Persecuted by one of our contacts,

“I am very far from Nigeria but the sad and bad news from Plateau State are not far from me. I hear that herdsmen are on the prowl again and there is bloodshed, murder of infants, youths, men and women in huge numbers in our beloved land of “peace and tourism”. The flagrant and despicable taking of human lives and the continued destruction to homes and means of livelihood is a disgrace to humanity and a shameful projection of a negative image of Nigerians.

The  gruesome murders have robbed me of the enthusiasm, energy and pride with which I came to Canada and America. I came boasting to the various audiences I had – whether in Church prayer gatherings or discussion groups, at media interviews or during interactions with officials of Foreign Affairs  Ministry, about the huge potentials in Nigeria and how even in the midst of violence caused either by Boko Haram, militant herdsmen or the yet to be identified “foreign invaders”, peace is very possible as we are determined to sustain the culture of civilized conduct and peace. I declared emphatically that I am proud of being a Nigerian and cannot apologize for that conviction. I have talked to hundreds of people in Canada and the United States of America, assuring them that Nigerians are a hard working, religious, resilient and peaceful people. I told my friends who have been postponing their visit to Nigeria for ten years now due to security issues not to be afraid. I told them to “come and see”. Last year, I hosted visitors from 12 countries from South America, Asia and Europe and they all returned home safely after visiting Jos and even  Maiduguri.  I therefore renewed my invitation to my friends to come to Jos and they will experience that the people are a kind-hearted, loving and peaceful people and not what they read in exaggerated media reports.

While I am still here making frantic positive propaganda for my country Nigeria,  inhuman and diabolical killings have taken place in parts of Plateau State. What do I tell the friends I have convinced to come, the youths I interacted with telling them how beautiful Nigeria is? What of the messages of hope  about Nigeria that I gave  in Vancouver, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, New York, Portsmouth, Milwaukee, etc, telling everyone about the goodness of my beloved country? Was I lying? Why should I be confronted with such embarrassing news while I am still on “active duty” here as an unrecognized and unappreciated ambassador for Nigeria – a duty I have performed selflessly in many parts of the world for over two decades now. Wherever I find myself I have tried to promote the positive image of our dear country, of course, not neglecting it’s dark sides.

While I am out here, people are still asking me questions about the Chibok girls, the Dapchi girls, especially of Leah. They ask me what they hear about the murderous terrorists called herdsmen who kill priests and lay faithful at worship or defenseless people on the farms. They join me in worrying that these murderous agents don’t seem to have in sight the end of their massive destruction to lives and property.

In the course of my journey I have also met with government officials and tried to put up strong arguments about why there is violence and destruction in our land, blaming  corruption, poverty and bad governance and begging them (officials abroad) to genuinely intervene to speed our socio-economic progress. Now, with this indescribable wickedness of killers in Plateau State and other parts of the Middle Belt where the poison of extreme violence is emitted intermittently from the wells of their evil hearts, meant to cause monumental loss to lives and property, is there still justification in telling the “good news” about Nigeria?

I have shared the story of multidimensional peace efforts in Nigeria, using our Dialogue Reconciliation and Peace (DREP) Centre in Jos as an example. DREP is an initiative of the Catholic Archdiocese of Jos meant to offer a neutral place where reconciliation of aggrieved parties takes place and also the Interfaith Vocational Training Centre in Bokkos near Barkin Ladi, where Muslim youths and Christian youths are trained for two years in vocational skills and helped to appreciate the civilized culture of dialogue instead of hostile confrontation at the slightest feeling of provocation. I explained how shortly before I left Nigeria we were at meetings in DREP Centre in Jos with the Fulani and Irigwe ethnic groups to strategize on how to evert further killings. We even agreed to hold an interfaith prayer session in August.

Today, when I heard that the killings have resumed, I called His Excellency, Governor Simon Lalong and my Vicar General Msgr. Cletus Gotan, who both kindly explained the pathetic situation to me,  and all of them felt so flabbergasted at the turn of events by the gruesome murders.
Could our President come out clearly, categorically and courageously to explain to his kinsmen why dialogue is the best solution. Cattle, as important as they are, cannot be valued over human beings. That does not mean that cows should be wounded, stolen or killed. I believe not enough has been done to challenge the herdsmen killings. Is it because of the so-called “hidden agenda” or  simply the absence of courage, determination,  patriotism  and political will? The Igbos who merely attempted secession were brutalized and suppressed. Who will suppress these raging evil killers? Quod erat demonstrandum.” —Bishop Ignatius Kaigama

“World watches in awe as 12 boys are being rescued from imminent death by floods in Thailand while Nigeria watches as hundreds die avoidably for cows.” —Nigerian human rights lawyer, Emmanuel Ogebe

Nigeria’s bishops call again on president to save country from ‘avoidable chaos’ or resign

“It can no longer be regarded as mere coincidence that the suspected perpetrators of these heinous crimes are of the same religion as all those who control the security apparatus of our country, including the President himself,” the statement said. “Words are no longer enough for the President and his service chiefs to convince the rest of the citizens that these killings are not part of a larger religious project.”

“While we vehemently condemn any shedding of human blood and ask the Police to speedily arrest and prosecute the perpetrators of these crimes, we must point out the double standards applied by the same Police any time the herdsmen are attacked and killed. In this latter case they react very swiftly and the law promptly takes its course. Would that the same swiftness be applied to all cases.

“Once again,” the bishops said, “we ask President Muhammadu Buhari to please save this country from further pain and avoidable chaos, anarchy and doom.” Should he not take action to promote peace, he should step down from his role, the statement said, as he would lose “the trust of the citizens.”  Read more

HELP SAVE THE PERSECUTED

VOP is on the ground helping persecuted Christian refugees from Nigeria and Pakistan. Together with your generous help, we can reach the goal to alleviate horrific suffering. In darkness and desperation, let us serve in love, with open arms and giving hands to provide light and hope. Every day, we thank God that He is working through you to care for His children and to further HELP SAVE THE PERSECUTEDHis Kingdom! As you greatly bless others, may God continue to bless you. Thank you so much for your support. We couldn’t do it without you!

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