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Ransom Paid, but Kidnapped Pastor’s Wife Is Killed in North-Central Nigeria

Modified Photo: Domenico-de-ga at German Wikipedia

Nigeria (Morning Star News) – Fulani herdsmen this month kidnapped and killed a pastor’s wife in north-central Nigeria’s Kaduna state three days after suspected herdsmen killed a Baptist pastor in another part of the state, sources said.

Unaware that Esther Ishaku Katung had been killed after being kidnapped in Bagoma, 122 kilometers (75 miles) west of Kaduna City on Sept. 14, her family paid a 250,000 naira (US$690) ransom before discovering her body, said the Rev. Joseph Hayab, chairman of the Kaduna state chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN).

Esther Ishaku Katung—(Morning Star News courtesy of family

Her husband, the Rev. Ishaku Katung of the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) congregation in Bagoma, escaped but was wounded by gunfire when the herdsmen broke into their home on church premises at 11:30 p.m. as they slept, Pastor Hayab said.

“Information we got from some of the kidnapped victims who escaped from the herdsmen’s enclave shows that Esther Katung and two other victims had escaped from the herdsmen’s captivity, but she was recaptured by them,” Pastor Hayab told Morning Star News. “She attempted to escape with two others after they were kidnapped by the herdsmen; this infuriated the herdsmen, leading them to kill her. They broke her legs in order to prevent her from escaping and smashed her head too. This led to her death.”

The kidnappers dumped her corpse in the bush, he said.

“After they had killed her, they were still demanding the ransom without telling her family that they had killed her,” Pastor Hayab said. “It was only after the ransom was paid that it was found by her family that she had been killed by her abductors.”

Baptist Pastor Slain

In Jema’a County about 230 kilometers (142 miles) south of Kaduna City, suspected Muslim Fulani herdsmen shot a Baptist pastor dead on Sept. 11, sources said.

The Rev. Alhamdu Mangadus, pastor of Nasara Baptist Church in Asso, was killed while working on his farm at about 1 p.m., said the Rev. Danladi Boyis Hassan of the ECWA church in the Ungwan Kadara area of Kaduna City.

Given the high level of killings and kidnappings by Muslim Fulani herdsmen in southern Kaduna in recent years, Christian leaders suspect herdsmen killed the pastor. Pastor Hassan, a native of the slain pastor’s village, visited the area after the killing and was told that the assailants were Muslim Fulani herdsmen.

“Pray along with the church and family as they mourn the barbaric act by Fulani terrorists,” Pastor Hassan told Morning Star News.

Pastor Hayab of the CAN also said Fulani herdsmen were behind the killing.

“He was shot dead on his farm, and the attackers injured another fellow from Tanda,” he said. “The corpse of the pastor was taken away by the Fulani herdsmen but was eventually recovered in the bush after a frantic search by our brethren in the area.”

Pastor Hayab said the killing of the pastor was one too many for Christians in violence-wracked Kaduna state.

“We are going back to the era of senseless killings. When will people be safe to go out and seek food to feed their families?” he said.

Nigeria ranked 12th on Open Doors’ 2019 World Watch List of countries where Christians suffer the most persecution.

Please keep these suffering brothers an sisters in your prayers.

Decade of Tears and Blood: 10 Years of Boko Haram Terrorism in Nigeria

Bomb attack by Boko Haram in Abuja, Nigeria on April 14, 2014. (Wikipedia, VOA)

Nigeria (Morning Star News) – A decade after Boko Haram began a bloody campaign to impose sharia (Islamic law) on all of Nigeria, Christian leaders say some areas are still under the control of the terrorists.

This information has been continually confirmed by Voice of the Persecuted sources in Nigeria.

The Rev. Mohammed Abubakar Naga, chairman of the Borno state chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), told Morning Star News that the terrorists are still active in the northeastern part of the country where the group originated and has displaced thousands of people, effectively closing many churches.

“Gwoza East, especially the hills, has been taken over by Boko Haram,” Pastor Naga said by phone. “The terrorists still attack Christian communities there. This is even with the presence of personnel of the Nigerian army in the area.”

After beginning a violent campaign to establish an Islamic caliphate in northern Nigeria 10 years ago, Boko Haram has killed an estimated 35,000 civilians, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). The agency said 37 aid workers lost their lives in the course of serving those displaced by the attacks.

Two of the many pastors Boko Haram killed in northeast Nigeria’s Borno state include the Rev. Faye Pama Musa, then secretary of the CAN’s Borno state chapter, slain on May 14, 2013 after the terrorists followed him from his church building to his house and shot him to death; and Pentecostal pastor George Ojih, captured in 2009 and beheaded for refusing to recant his Christian faith.

Initially targeting government and police officials as part of its campaign against corruption, the insurgency that began in Maiduguri, Borno state increasingly struck Christian educational institutions, health facilities and worship sites, sometimes destroying entire Christian communities.

The CAN’s Naga, who has pastored Pentecostal Believers Covenant Church in Maiduguri for 35 years, said the Boko Haram uprising has been the greatest challenge to Christians in northern Nigeria. Christians were either killed or forced to flee to other parts of the country or to countries like Cameroon and Niger.

In the 2014, Boko Haram attacked congregations of prominent denominations such as the Church of Christ in Nations (COCIN), the Church of the Brethren (EYN), Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA), and Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist and Pentecostal churches, Pastor Naga said.

Commonly referred to as Boko Haram, loosely translated as “[Western] education is forbidden,” the group is now officially part of the Islamic State as ISWAP, the Islamic State in West Africa Province.

Genesis

In 2002, Mohammed Yusuf, a public servant with the Borno state government and an ardent Islamic student under the tutelage of Sheik Ja’afar Mahmud Adam in Maiduguri, broke ties with the Islamic cleric and founded his sect.

Based in Maiduguri, Yusuf’s teachings included opposition to Christianity and Western democracy, which he said had their roots in the Bible and Western political philosophy. He labeled them “haram,” or forbidden.

In 2009, shortly after Yusuf beheaded Pastor Ojih as an example to others of what happens to those who refuse to convert to Islam, he and other Boko Haram members were captured and extrajudicially killed.

Abubakar Shekau took over as leader after Yusuf’s death in July 2009. Increasingly sophisticated attacks followed, and in 2015 the group aligned with the Islamic State. Its suicide bombings and other attacks have displaced an estimated 2.3 million people from their homes, and in 2015 the Global Terrorism Index ranked it the deadliest terror group in the world.

Nigeria’s military has retaken most of the 20,000 square miles that Boko Haram had seized in Borno state, but the group continues to carry out kidnappings and guerrilla attacks. In April 2014 the group abducted 276 students from the Government Secondary Girls School in Chibok, Borno state, and on Feb. 19, 2018 kidnapped more than 100 high school girls in Dapchi, Yobe state.

About 100 of the 276 girls kidnapped from Chibok are still missing. Nearly all of the Dapchi girls were released on March 21, 2018 after the government negotiated their freedom, but Boko Haram retained Leah Sharibu, now 16, because she refused to renounce Christ.

Nigeria ranked 12th on Open Doors’ 2019 World Watch List of countries where Christians suffer the most persecution.

EU Envoy’s threat of trade sanctions played crucial role in Asia Bibi’s freedom

EU Envoy on religious freedom, Jan Figel, meets with Asia Bibi’s lawyer Saif ul Malook in Lahore, December 2017. (Photo: Jan Figel)

World Watch Monitor—Freed Pakistani Christian Aasiya Noreen, known to the world now as Asia Bibi, has pleaded for the many others like her accused of blasphemy who, she says, are still “lying in jail for years – their decisions should also be done on merit. The world should listen to them.

“The way any person is alleged (to have committed) blasphemy without any proper investigation, without any proper proof, that should be noticed. This blasphemy law should be reviewed and there should be proper investigation mechanisms while applying this law. We should not consider anyone sinful for this act without any proof.”

She made this appeal from her refuge in Canada through a series of answers she provided to the UK’s Sunday Telegraph.

Shortly afterward, the European Post released a video that it says was provided by Noreen, in which she speaks in her native Urdu about her faith and urges fair treatment for anyone accused of a crime.

It’s hard to get a specific tally of the numbers known to be imprisoned, either awaiting trial -sometimes for years – for blasphemy, or already convicted. Many are Muslims. One figure World Watch Monitor saw quoted but could not get confirmed, after Asia Bibi was finally freed in May, was that Christians make up 17 of the 40 current ‘blasphemy’ prisoners. Christians form around 2% of Pakistan’s total population according to the Center for the Study of Global Christianity, its Co-Director Gina Zurlo told World Watch Monitor.

One couple who hit the spotlight immediately after Asia Bibi’s acquittal was Shafqat Emmanuel and his wife, Shaguftah, of Gojra, Punjab, both accused of sending blasphemous text messages. Shafqat has to use a wheelchair and has a catheter, after his backbone was fractured in an accident in 2004. Shaguftah was the main breadwinner for their four children.

Lawyer Saif ul-Malook, who – at the risk of his own life – defended Asia Bibi and successfully argued her appeal in Pakistan’s Supreme court, then promptly left Pakistan for the Netherlands (he was reported to have said that he was forced to flee) but said that he would return if her successful appeal was challenged. At the same time, he said he would now take up Shafqat and Shagfuftah’s case.

‘Justice and dignity for all Pakistanis’

The Sunday Telegraph article also referred to the crucial role for Asia Bibi’s freedom played by the EU Special Envoy on Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB), Jan Figel, from Slovakia, who’s worked tirelessly on her case, as well as for prisoners in Sudan and other countries.

He told World Watch Monitor that he had tried to visit Pakistan in his new role ‘from the start’ but that it had taken a year until a Pakistani high-level delegation (Minister of Trade and Attorney General) had visited his Brussels office. They invited him to Pakistan.

(In May 2018 Pakistan’s then-Minister for Interior, Ahsan Iqbal, who is known to support minority groups, survived an assassination after meeting with a group of Christians. Seven years earlier both the then-Governor of Punjab, Salmaan Taseer, and the Minorities Minister Shahbaz Bhatti were targeted and killed for defending Asia Bibi). That particular Islamist network has many members outside Pakistan.

Following her acquittal Asia Bibi was detained for another seven months. Mr. Figel told the Sunday Telegraph “I think Imran Khan’s government and Pakistan’s military used this delay to get the situation in the country under real control.”

In December Canada’s Prime Minister Trudeau publicly announced willingness to offer asylum at the Peace Centennial of World War I.

In January, in Pakistan’s capital, the “Islamabad Declaration” signed by over 500 Muslim clerics, publicly condemned terrorism, violence committed in the name of religion and fatwas (sacred edicts) widespread by radical Islamic leaders. Fides reported that “observers said it represents a turning point especially in the attitude towards religious minorities and sects such as Ahmadi Muslims. In fact, Fides wrote, ‘the Declaration recognizes that Pakistan is a multi-ethnic and multi-religious country, and notes that “it is the responsibility of the government to ensure the protection of the life of non-Muslim citizens in Pakistan”’.

In February, Pakistan’s Attorney-General again visited Brussels where he again met Jan Figel; the latter tweeted that he raised the fact that Asia Bibi, now freed by the Supreme Court, was still detained in effective ‘house arrest’.

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Pakistan’s Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari also visited Brussels. Figel liaised with Asia Bibi herself via Muhammad Amanullah, a human rights activist.

The EU Envoy confirmed directly to World Watch Monitor that the UK was not on the list of possible countries for her asylum, but that ‘there were a lot of rumours and problems around this’.

Asia Bibi was announced to have finally left Pakistan on 8 May, although it was not clear for a few days whether she had in fact joined her daughters who were already in exile in Canada.

Figel told WWM “Canada deserves international acknowledgement for its spirit of solidarity and real hospitality, also for the professionalism of its diplomacy and its immigration services. Security conditions are crucially important for Asia Bibi and her family”.

On June 25, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, signed the Fourth EU-Pakistan Strategic Engagement Plan (SEP) with the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini in Brussels.

Amongst points relevant to Asia Bibi’s plight were to “Develop mutually agreed co-operation on the implementation of the UN Security Council on Women, Peace and Security”, and (under ‘Democracy, Rule of Law, Good governance, and Human Rights’) the plan mentioned “Working together to ensure…protection of human rights at national and international levels” and “Enhancing…inter-faith dialogue and understanding to promote tolerance and harmony”.

EU Envoy on Freedom of Religion or Belief – role

Jan Figel, a former EU education and culture commissioner, was appointed in May 2016 when the post was created by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. Twice extended for an additional year, Figel’s current mandate ends next month.

A report by Polish MEP Andrzej Grzyb, accepted by the European Parliament, but yet to be formally implemented, argued that Figel had “developed effective working networks” within the EU institutions and praised him for “continuous engagement and co-operation and complementarity of actions with the EU Special Representative for Human Rights”.

It also recommended that the Special Envoy’s role needs to be substantially reinforced, and that his new remit should include extending his term to match that of Commission’s five-year term, and “consolidated with sufficient human and financial resources”.

Figel does not currently have a budget and formal status in the EU institutions, beyond serving as a special advisor to the EU’s Development Commissioner. His staffing budget covers minimal assistance, less than the German government’s Commissioner for Global Freedom of Religion.

Campaigners also argue that freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) is not given the importance it deserves in the EU institutions.

The MEPs’ report also recommends the setting up of a “regular advisory working group of member states’ FoRB institutions and European Parliament representatives, together with experts, scholars, and representatives of civil society, including churches and other faith-based organisations”.

After the US, Canada was among the first countries to appoint a Special Envoy who could focus on the issue of Freedom of Religion or Belief, Andrew Bennett, although his role per se did not last into Justin Trudeau’s government. Since then, the UK has appointed Lord Ahmad to the first-ever UK FoRB role, the need for which has recently been highlighted by the Bishop of Truro’s independent review into the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s response to the persecution of Christians globally.

This summer, the Netherlands has appointed its own Ambassador with an emphasis on FoRB, Jos Douma, a former Ambassador to both Iran and the Holy See.

Illegally Detained Christian Tortured to Death in Custody in Pakistan, Family Says

Pakistan (Morning Star News) – Police in Lahore, Pakistan tortured to death the Christian father of 14-day-old and 7-year-old sons, relatives said.

Officers on Aug. 28 illegally detained 28-year-old Amir Masih on a false charge of theft and tortured him for four days before he died in a hospital on Sept. 2, his brother Sunny Masih told Morning Star News.

Interrogating officers in the 96-percent Muslim country “urinated on Amir’s face and body and mocked his Christian faith” while trying to torture him into a false confession, Masih said.

After filing an application with police on Aug. 31 alleging forced disappearance of Amir Masih, a member of the Church of Pakistan, relatives were informed that he had been taken into custody by a sub-inspector identified only as Zeeshan in connection with a theft case. Their repeated attempts to meet Sub-Inspector Zeeshan were blocked. They did know of Amir Masih’s whereabouts until an officer phoned Sunny Masih on Sept. 2 to tell him that his brother was not well and that they should come and take him to the hospital, Masih said.

“We rushed to the police station, where we were handed a semi-conscious Amir,” he said. “He was beaten up mercilessly, and his body was full of bruises. While we were taking him to the hospital, Amir told us that Inspector Nasir Baig, Sub-Inspector Zeeshan and four unidentified constables had tortured him continuously for four days.”

Sunny Masih said that while police released without a scratch all other employees who worked with Amir Masih, a gardener, after they were summoned about the alleged theft, his brother was subjected to severe torture because he was a poor Christian whom police believed could be coerced into a false confession.

“He told us that the police officials had urinated on him while cursing him for being a Christian and tried to force him to confess to the crime,” he said. “But my brother was innocent, and he refused to admit to something that he had not done, which further infuriated his interrogators. They increased the intensity of the violence, also subjecting him to electric shocks.”

Doctors at Services Hospital tried to save his life, but he succumbed to his injuries after a couple of hours, Masih said.

Working as a gardener in PAF Colony, Amir Masih was summoned to North Cantt Police Station in a phone call from Zeeshan regarding a theft case registered by his employer, Rana Mohammad Hanif, Masih said.

“Amir was present at Hanif’s house when he received the inspector’s call,” he said. “The watchman of the house told him that all employees had been summoned by the police to record their statements, and he should do the same. My brother went to the police station of his own will, but when he reached there the cops seized his phone, bundled him into a vehicle and spirited him to some unknown place.”

When he did not return home that evening, Sunny Masih and other relatives went out to search for him, he said.

“When I reached Hanif’s house to inquire about Amir, the watchman told me that he had been summoned by Sub-Inspector Zeeshan to record his statement,” he said. “For the next two days, we continued to search for both Amir and the police officer but failed to find any trace of their whereabouts.”

Autopsy

A post-mortem report on the death states that torture marks were visible on his hands, feet, back and arms. His ribs were also broken.

After news of the killing in custody spread on mainstream and social media and drew public ire, Punjab Inspector General of Police Captain Arif Nawaz Khan ordered registration of a case against Inspector Nasir Baig, Zeeshan and four other police officers and ordered a detailed report on the case.

Police have taken Baig and Zeeshan into custody, but the four other officers accused are still at large as no serious efforts have been made to arrest them, Masih said. Police at the same station where his brother was tortured registered his complaint for murder, illegal detention and torture.

Both Punjab Minister for Minorities and Human Rights Aijaz Alam Augustine and Shunila Ruth, a member of the National Assembly, said that they were making efforts to ensure justice for the grieving family of Amir Masih. Both officials are Christians.

Augustine said that he had visited the family and was in contact with police officials to ensure arrest of the absconding accused.

“This is a grave crime, and the accused police officers will be severely punished,” Augustine said, adding that the government would not show any leniency in cases of torture and custodial killings.

Ruth, who visited the victim’s family along with Punjab Gov. Muhammad Sarwar, said she would raise the matter in the National Assembly.

“The family’s claim that Amir was subjected to torture because of his Christian faith is not unfounded,” she said. “Unfortunately, there are segments in our society who continue to be prejudicial towards members of the marginalized communities.”

The two Christian officials said they believe they’ll be able to bring the perpetrators to justice, but attorney Saiful Malook, who gained fame for securing freedom for high-profile Christian blasphemy convict Aasiya Noreen (commonly known as Asia Bibi), said he feared the case would be swept under the carpet after the media hype dies because “police are known to protect their own.”

“Amir Masih’s murder in police custody is not only a serious crime but also a severe violation of the constitution,” he said. “Therefore, it should be taken up very seriously, and the police alone should not be trusted in this regard.”

Malook said that the First Information Report of the case also should have included the names of the deputy superintendent of police of the zone and the station house officer, as they were the supervisory officers and it was their responsibility to ensure that no citizen was subjected to illegal detention and torture.

“I’m sure the police misguided the complainant into naming only the six accused in order to save their seniors,” he said. “I am ready to provide pro-bono legal assistance to Amir Masih’s family, because I believe that they deserve justice on merit.”

Pakistan ranked fifth on Christian support organization Open Doors 2019 World Watch list of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian, and on Nov. 28, 2018, the United States added Pakistan to its blacklist of countries that violate religious freedom.

Kidnapped Baptist Pastor in Nigeria Freed after 17 Days of Torture

Muslim Fulani herdsmen injured Baptist pastor Elisha Noma while holding him captive. (Morning Star News)

Nigeria (Morning Star News) – A Baptist pastor kidnapped and tortured last month in Nigeria was released over the weekend after his family and Christian leaders paid a ransom, sources said.

Muslim Fulani herdsmen in Kaduna state who abducted the Rev. Elisha Noma on Aug. 14 received 3 million naira (US$8,181) before freeing him on Saturday (Aug. 31), the chairman of the state chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) told Morning Star News.

“He was released after a ransom was paid following a series of negotiations with the bandits on the ransom,” the Rev. Joseph Hayab told Morning Star News in a text message. “We thank God for his mercies. We pray for God’s intervention in the calamity that seems to have befallen us as a nation.”

Pastor Noma, 60, of the Baptist Church Ungwan Makeri in Kaduna, identified the kidnappers as armed herdsmen. After his release, he received medical treatment for injuries while in captivity.

His left hand was broken, and his captors switched on their phone to let his family hear him cry in pain as they beat, cut and burned him to compel them to pay the ransom, according to CAN. He was left with scars from burns on his head and face.

In August alone, more than 40 pastors in Nigeria were either kidnapped or suffered some form of violence from herdsmen or Boko Haram terrorists, according to figures obtained from CAN.

“We will also continue to call on the government and the security agencies to do everything within their powers to stop the increasing spate of criminality across the country, especially the increasing wave of kidnappings in Kaduna state,” Pastor Hayab told Morning Star News.

James Kantiyok, a deacon at the kidnapped pastor’s church, expressed joy over his release in spite of mistreatment while in captivity.

“We can’t hold back our joy for his freedom, despite all he went through,” Kantihok told Morning Star News. “Let’s all pray for his total recovery as he is currently receiving medical treatment. We thank you all for praying with the family and the church.”

About 20 Muslim Fulani herdsmen kidnapped Pastor Noma and his son, Emmanual Noma, after storming their home at about 1 a.m. on Aug. 14. They released the pastor’s son a few hours later with a demand to raise 20 million naira (US$55,155) in ransom.

The kidnappers later lowered the demand to 7 million naira (US$19,304), Pastor Hayap told Morning Star News at that time.

In the city of Kaduna on Aug. 4, Fulani herdsmen killed pastor Jeremiah Omolewa of Living Faith Church in the Romi New Extension area of the city and kidnapped his wife, a church source told Morning Star News. Attacked along the Kaduna-Abuja highway on their way to Abuja, he was killed when the herdsmen shot at their car after the pastor finished leading three services at his church, the source said.

Pastor Omolewa’s wife was released after the church paid 3 million naira (US$8,273) to the herdsmen as ransom, the source said. A press statement from the church reported that the ransom was paid after negotiations with the herdsmen brought the amount down from 10 million naira (US$27,577). She was released on the Aug. 8 at about 10 p.m.

Nigeria ranked 12th on Open Doors’ 2019 World Watch List of countries where Christians suffer the most persecution.

Nigeria Says Leah Sharibu Is Alive; Herdsmen Attacks Continue

National Mosque in Abuja, Nigeria. (Wikipedia)

Nigeria (Morning Star News) – More than a month after an aid worker indicated in a video that kidnapped Christian teenager Leah Sharibu had been killed, a government official in Nigeria on Saturday (Aug. 31) said she was alive.

Citing intelligence from security agencies, presidential spokesman Garba Shehu released a statement reaffirming that the government is negotiating with terrorists for the release of Leah and other captives.

“Contrary to false reports, she [Leah] is alive, given assurances from our security agencies, and the government is committed to her safe return, as well as all other hostages to their families,” Shehu said. “Instead of giving up, the government is carrying forward processes that should hopefully yield her release by her captors.”

Lines of communications remain open with the kidnappers of Boko Haram, now called the Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP), to secure her release, he said.

“With the abduction of loved family and friends, the government understands how difficult these times are for them, but the government is pursuing many options to ensure the safe return of Leah Sharibu,” Shehu said. “The worrying cycle of speculations on whether Leah Sharibu, the kidnapped Dapchi schoolgirl, had been harmed by her abductors is what has made us to speak out.”

Though the government negotiated with Boko Haram for the release of the other girls, Shehu said that the administration does not encourage payment of ransom to secure the release of captives. For this reason, he said, the government was not rushed to yield to demands of the terrorist group.

“Kidnapping for ransom should never be encouraged,” he said. “This means not capitulating to the demands of terrorists; refrain from rewarding their heinous crimes with payment.”

Leah, 16, has been in Boko Haram captivity since Feb. 19, 2018, when she was abducted alongside more than 100 other students of the Government Girls Science and Technical Secondary School in Dapchi, Yobe state, in north-east Nigeria. While the other girls were released in March 21, 2018 after the kidnappers’ negotiations with the government, the terrorists retained Leah because she refused to renounce Christ.

In late July Boko Haram released a video in which a Christian aid worker kidnapped on July 18, Grace Taku, mentioned that Leah and three other Christian women in captivity had been killed.

“I beg that Nigeria government should please, I’m begging again, please do something to see that we’re released, because this had occurred before in this organization, Red Cross, where some ladies were caught – Hauwa and Zipporah, they asked to be released, but because Nigerian [government] did not do anything about it they were killed,” she said in the video. “I’m begging on behalf of all of us here that Nigeria should not allow such to happen to us. And it also happened again with Leah and Alice [Ngaddah], because Nigeria could not do anything about them they were not released, they were also killed.”

In the video, Taku pleads with Christian leaders, the Nigerian government and international agencies to intervene to secure their release.

The Rev. Stephen Baba Panya, president of the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) said in a text message to Morning Star News that Christians in Nigeria, and especially in the ECWA to which Leah and her family belong, no longer trust that the government is genuinely working to free her and other captive Christians.

“We no longer rely on the Nigerian government’s assurances, which often amount to nothing,” Panya said. “Instead, as the Scriptures say, the just shall live by faith concerning Leah and many other national issues.”

Panya said he and other Christians must put their trust in God rather than the government.

“Our defense, confidence, is faith in God. We are praying and trusting God to bring back Leah Sharibu, Alice Loksha, Sister Grace, and the remaining Chibok girls back to us safely in Jesus name,” he said. “If God decides to still use the Nigerian government or security agents for that, to God be the glory.”

ECWA General Secretary Yunusa Nmadu, Jr., said the church is happy over news that Leah is still alive. He urged the government to intensify efforts towards securing her release and that of other Christians.

“ECWA welcomes the statement from the federal government of Nigeria reassuring citizens that the world’s most popular prisoner of religious freedom, Leah Sharibu, is still alive,” Nmadu said in a text message to Morning Star News. “We urge the government to do more beyond assurances of her being alive and see to the speedy release of Leah Sharibu.”

The government needs to do more to reduce the insecurity in the country, he added.

“We are slowly sliding into a failed state due to the spate of insecurity, and the government seems to be helpless in the hands of bandits to the extent that some state governments are now holding talks with bandits that should be behind the bars,” he said.

Five Christians Killed

Much of the country’s descent into lawlessness has taken place in Kaduna state, in north-central Nigeria. On Thursday (Aug. 29) Muslim Fulani herdsmen killed five Christians and destroyed many homes in an attack on predominantly Christian Kiri, in Kaduna’s Kaura County, area residents told Morning Star News.

The attack came two years after a herdsmen assault in the same area that displaced many people who had returned to try to start their lives anew.

In last week’s attack, the herdsmen mounted a surprise invasion while most people were still working in their fields, area resident Jude Bako told Morning Star News by phone.

“Five of our people have been killed, and two others are still missing as we do not know where the herdsmen took them to,” Bako said. “The Fulani herdsmen attacked our village while we were still working on our farms. Our people who were in the village at the time were forced to flee for their lives, too.”

Another village resident said he narrowly escaped being killed.

“I escaped being killed by the herdsmen when they attacked us at about 4 p.m.,” Musa Gabriel told Morning Star News. “Four of our people were killed during the attack, and the fifth person died from gunshot wounds yesterday morning, Friday.”

Gabriel said that in the attack two years ago, the herdsmen burned down the worship buildings of the Church of Christ in Nations (COCIN) and ECWA.

Bege Katuka, chairman of the Kaura Local Government Council, confirmed Thursday’s attack.

“Five persons were killed, while two others are still missing,” he said. “A number of houses were destroyed during the attack.”

Police also confirmed the attack.

Kaduna State Police Command spokesman Yakubu Sabo confirmed that four persons were killed in the attack on Thursday (Aug. 29), and that a fifth person died the next day from gunshot wounds.

“On Friday, Aug. 30 while our men were combing the area, they discovered four corpses, and the 35-year-old Daniel, who was injured during the attack, later died, making five people who were killed,” Sabo said.

Nigeria ranked 12th on Open Doors’ 2019 World Watch List of countries where Christians suffer the most persecution.

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