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China: Must Raise National Flag and Sing Anthem to Reopen Church

A flag-raising ceremony in the Quannan Christian Church. Photo: Bitter Winter

Some state-run churches were allowed to reopen in China after a 5-month lockdown. But only after proving their loyalty to the Communist Party.

(Bitterwinter) The Lishiting Catholic Church in the Shunhe district of Kaifeng, a prefecture-level city in the central province of Henan, reopened on June 14, after staying closed for five months. “We solemnly raise the national flag here today after the epidemic, witnessing the fruits of all people working together under the leadership of Xi Jinping who directs the government and the Party,” a priest told a gathering of about 20 people, supervised by government officials.

The Gangxi Christian Church in the district was also reopened at 8 o’clock that same morning. “The church finally reopened after five months, 147 days, or 21 Sundays, but instead of singing hymns to praise God, the government required us to raise the national flag and sing the national anthem, praising Xi Jinping’s ‘victory in fighting the epidemic,’” a congregation member commented. “This is completely contrary to our belief.”

Some state-run places of worship were allowed to reopen in June, long after other public venues in China returned to normal after coronavirus restrictions have been lifted. But only those who commit to endorsing patriotism are permitted to open their doors to congregations.

The Two Chinese Christian Councils in Henan, Zhejiang, and other provinces demanded that on the relaunch day, churches must promote patriotism, raise the national flag, sing the country’s anthem, and tell believers “moving stories about China’s battle with the pandemic.”

At 7 a.m. on June 13, over 20 clergy members of the Quannan Church, the largest Christian church in Quanzhou city in the southeastern province of Fujian, held a flag-raising ceremony in its courtyard. An eye-catching slogan promoting the core socialist values was posted on the wall behind the flagpole. (see top photo, Quannan Christian Church)

That day, under the supervision of officials from the city’s United Front Work Department and Religious Affairs Bureau, the church pastor praised President Xi Jinping’s achievements in fighting the epidemic.

“We should love the socialist system and the Communist Party,” he said, going on to promote the “superiority of the socialist system” and criticizing the United States for its efforts battling the pandemic.

“The United Front Work Department and Religious Affairs Bureau demand to hold flag-raising ceremonies and promote patriotism,” a church member commented. “From now on, all churches have to do so, or they will be shut down, and their leaders dismissed.”

A preacher from Henan’s Zhumadian city told Bitter Winter that before his church reopened, he had to attend a conference organized by the local Two Chinese Christian Councils. Participants had to study Xi Jinping’s major speeches on preventing and controlling the coronavirus outbreak and listen to “heroic stories of fighting the epidemic.”

“The government demands to promote these things to congregations after churches reopen,” the preacher explained. “These texts are published in a booklet, over 100 pages long. Preachers must mainly talk about the state’s policies. Those who disobey will be arrested.”

A pastor of the Seventh-day Adventist Church thinks that the requirement to raise the national flag and promote patriotism on the day churches reopen is aimed at “disturbing the minds of believers to transform their ideologies and change the essence of their beliefs.” He is concerned that the CCP will further intensify its control over people of faith through patriotic education and indoctrination.

“Its ultimate goal is to make all people believe in communism only, to ‘sinicize’ Christianity,” the pastor added, calling on believers to “stand guard against the CCP’s vicious intentions, not to become prisoners of communism.”

“Three-Self churches should follow the path of house churches and hold meetings in secret, to avoid being controlled by the CCP and save their pure faith,” the pastor concluded.

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VOP NOTE: In a repeat of history, the Chinese government has been implementing tactics to remove not only Christianity but all religion from society. Pressure is being put on Chinese citizens to pledge allegiance and have faith solely in President Xi Jinping and the Communist Party of China.

Numerous Mosques ‘Sinicized’ Amid the Pandemic

Threatening and intimidating Muslims, the CCP implemented forced rectifications of mosques in Hui-populated areas in Henan, Hebei, and Ningxia. According to an imam from Shangqiu city, five mosques were forcibly rectified in the city’s Minquan county in April, following the central government’s orders to “sinicize” over 1,000 mosques across the province. Mosques in Bodang township’s Zhaizhuang village and Huji township’s Zhangzhuang village were among the targeted places of worship. The imam added that officials threatened to arrest anyone who dared to protest or oppose the state’s policies.

Hundreds of Policemen Sent to Demolish Buddhist Temples

 “The state won’t allow temples to spring up all over the country,” a government employee from the southeastern province of Jiangxi told Bitter Winter. “Religion is certainly restricted in China. People can believe in nothing other than the Communist Party, which will resolutely crack down on anything not supported by it.”

Makers of Religious Statues Suppressed

The Chinese government is expanding the scope of crackdowns on religions by stifling businesses that produce religious items.

Quyang county, administered by the prefecture-level city of Baoding in the northern province of Hebei, is renowned across China for stone carving crafts. During the reign of the Western Han dynasty (206 BC-24 AD), Emperor Wu (157 BC-87 BC) named the area the “carving town.” Religious statues made in the county are sold all over China and also in Taiwan, but amid the CCP’s campaigns against people of faith, even those who make religion-related items are not spared.

 

China: Elderly Christians told to give up faith or lose government benefits

(Bitter Winter) By Even though China’s economy has been severely affected by the coronavirus, and many residents suffer financial difficulties, the CCP threatens to take away the last means of survival from elderly believers—government-issued subsidies. To keep them, they must stop believing in God.

A Catholic from Fuzhou city in the southeastern province of Jiangxi has been receiving monthly 250 RMB (about $ 35) from the government since 2018, the year her husband died. At the end of 2019, local government officials threatened the woman, in her 60s, that the subsidy would be withdrawn unless she removes images of Jesus from her home. “Because the Communist Party feeds you,” they told the woman, “you must only believe in it, not God.” Two months later, the pension was canceled because she refused to remove the symbols.

“It has become difficult to maintain belief in God because of religious persecution,” the woman told Bitter Winter helplessly.

On April 30, community officials in Fuzhou forced to cover up a cross image in the home of an 80-plus-year-old Christian, threatening to scrap her subsistence allowance otherwise.

In late April, the Fuzhou city government intensified religious investigations through “return” inspections—visits to the places that have previously been stifled to make sure that people don’t resume practicing their faith. During one of them, Civil Affairs Bureau officials threatened a Sola Fide believer in a nursing home, who has been paralyzed for eight years, to drive him out of the residence if he continued his belief. His “five-guarantees”—government aid in the form of housing, food, clothing, medical care, and funeral expenses to people who cannot work and have no income—would also be revoked. Officials tore down images of Jesus in his room already last autumn.

“The officials said that I am supposed to believe in the Communist Party since it feeds me, or else all my social benefits would be canceled,” the believer said. “I won’t give up my faith no matter how the government pursues me. If it cancels my benefits, I will meet God earlier.”

On January 19, officials from Jiangxi’s Yingtan city deprived a local Christian of her government aid for hosting religious meetings at home, even though the woman was immobile from an illness. In March, officials from the city’s Yujiang district destroyed religious calendars in the homes of two believers who receive government benefits.

On January 23, Taian city officials in the eastern province of Shandong harassed a Catholic, in her 70s, because of religious symbols in her home. The woman told Bitter Winter that they told her to replace the tokens with portraits of Xi Jinping or Mao Zedong since “she lives on the Communist Party’s welfare,” which might be canceled if she didn’t listen to them.

“By forcing me to remove the portrait of the Lord Jesus, the government tried to stop my belief in God, but they cannot take away my belief from my heart,” she said.

In late April, officials from Heze city’s Cao county in Shandong destroyed crosses and other religious symbols in the homes of several elderly believers who were also receiving poverty alleviation subsidies. A local churchgoer said that these state representatives claimed that no poverty alleviation resources should be given to the people who have religious symbols at home; they must believe in the Communist Party to enjoy aid from the state.

 In April, officials from Kaifeng city’s Lankao county in the central province of Henan removed a religious calendar and couplets with cross images from the home of a poor Christian and scratched her poverty alleviation aid. They also ordered her to renovate the house and install a toilet ahead of an inspection by higher-ups. The demand was against poverty alleviation regulations, which stipulate that the state should cover such expenses.

“What should I do without my income? How can I reason with them? It’s just like the Cultural Revolution,” the distraught believer lamented.

China: Jiangxi province continues to intensify religious persecution after coronavirus lockdown

Numerous old Local Churches in Shangrao’s Guangfeng district had their crosses removed.

(Bitter Winter) By – Venues of the old Local Church (Laodifangjiaohui, 老地方教會)—unregistered Christian congregations that follow the teachings of the Chinese minister Watchman Nee (1903-1972)— were among many other victims of China’s religious persecution in the past few months. More than 40 churches were suppressed in four cities of the southeastern province of Jiangxi: Shangrao, Jingde, Yichun, and Fuzhou. Some were demolished, while others closed or repurposed by the government.

At least 28 venues were stifled in Shangrao city’s Guangfeng and Guangxin districts and Yugan county. A local government employee revealed to Bitter Winter that the CCP is fighting Christianity for “ideological territory and people’s hearts” in rural areas and wants to limit its development. To achieve this goal, the municipal government requires localities under its jurisdiction to strengthen atheist propaganda, demolish unregistered places of worship, and intensively “sinicize” the state-run venues.

On April 27, as local government officials oversaw the demolition of an old Local Church venue in the Guangxin district, they warned its congregation that “believing in Jesus is believing in a foreign god.” And “since the coronavirus was brought to China from abroad, believing in Jesus means going against the Party.”

“If believers protested against the demolition, they would be labeled as reactionary elements,” a local believer said helplessly. “The Communist Party is so unreasonable!”

On the morning of May 22, an old Local Church in Guangfeng district’s Hengshan town was cleared out on orders from the local government. Its chairs and tables were confiscated. [Without warning,] officials brought in a crane to remove the church’s cross.

In late April, another old Local Church meeting venue in the district’s Shatian town had its cross, the Ten Commandments, and other religious symbols removed. “The government is like a stone, and we are like an egg—we cannot defeat them!” a church preacher told Bitter Winter.

The old Local Churches in multiple areas have been shut down or emptied.

Since quarantine measures were relaxed, authorities throughout Jiangxi intensified crackdowns on Christian churches, even those administered by the state. In the past few months,  crosses were removed from at least 26 Three-Self churches in Duchang, a county in Jiujiang city. From April 18 to 30, 48 Three-Self venues were shut down in Shangrao’s Yugan county.

On May 12, an old Local Church venue in Yugan county was repurposed for an activity center for the elderly. A congregation member recalled that the government arranged people to climb over the church’s courtyard wall to remove its cross. They later used shovels to take off the venue’s signboard.

A local official revealed to Bitter Winter that the government is eliminating unregistered churches now, and state-approved Three-Self churches will soon be targeted for elimination too.

On May 17, seven police officers and village officials raided an old Local Church venue in Taqian, a town in Leping city. They tore down Biblical verses and religious symbols from the walls and burned them, as well as smashed the church’s donation box.

The church’s donation box was smashed, and religious verses removed and burned.

A congregation member told Bitter Winter that the local government pressured the church to register with the state, or the congregation would not be allowed to hold gatherings. They could even be arrested, or the venue could be destroyed.  “We won’t register,” the believer explained. “If we surrender, we’ll be controlled by the government, forced to raise the national flag, and sing the national anthem. It means believing in the Communist Party, not God. But gatherings can’t be organized unless we register. By doing so, the government aims to eliminate our faith.”

 

Christian Boy, 16, Stabbed and Stoned to Death for His Faith in Eastern India

Sambaru Madkami, 16, was killed in Odisha state, India. (Morning Star News)

(Morning Star News) – Incited by Hindu extremists, followers of traditional tribal religion in eastern India last week stabbed and stoned a 16-year-old Christian boy to death for his faith, sources said.

The mutilated body of Sambaru Madkami was found on Friday (June 5) buried in the jungle of Malkangiri, about six kilometers (less than 4 miles) from his village of Kenduguda, Malkangiri District, Odisha state. The village animists had seized him on Thursday night (June 4) after deciding to kill the male heads of the three Christian families in the village, area sources said.

“They had come for me,” Sambaru’s father, Unga Madkami, told Morning Star News, “but I was not at home. I had taken my daughter who was sick to the doctor.”

Living at home instead of the hostel of his school in Bhejaguda because of a COVID-19 lockdown, Sambaru had been leading daily meetings of a house church whose founding pastor, living in another town, dared to appear only twice a month due to villagers’ growing opposition. The only three Christian families in the village of 210 families met at Sambaru’s house.

“Sambaru knew the Word of God the most from among us,” his cousin told Morning Star News. “So he was the one who led us in a time of prayer and learning from the Bible every day in his house.”

Abduction

Some seven to 10 villagers came to his family’s home at about 11 p.m. on June 4 and called for his father, said an area resident whose name is withheld for security reasons.

As Sambaru’s father was staying overnight at a relative’s house en route to the hospital several miles away where he was taking his daughter for treatment, the villagers abducted Sambaru, the source said.

“They took him a few meters further, where a huge mob was waiting for him,” the eyewitness told Morning Star News, translated from the tribal language by an area pastor. “They tied his hands and started to beat him.”

The assailants then went to the house of Sambaru’s cousin, like his father also named Unga Madkami, and called for him, but his wife stopped him from going out and urged him to run for his life toward the jungle, the cousin told Morning Star News.

The attackers then called out to the third Christian male targeted, 18-year-old Sukka Padiami, who jumped out his back window and fled toward the jungle.

“Both I and Sukka ran all night across the jungle,” Sambaru’s cousin told Morning Star News. “We ran for almost 20 kilometers [12 miles] and then called our pastor, who directed us to go to his friend’s house, and we took refuge there.”

Murder

“The villagers were instigated to attack the Christians at the behest of Hindu extremists,” said area pastor Bijay Pusuru, a close friend of Sambaru’s family.

The assailants dragged Sambaru six kilometers from the village to the jungle, “completely” ripping off the skin on his back, Pastor Pusuru said, citing information from an autopsy report.

Sambaru’s village house church pastor, Inga Madkami, said information from police and the autopsy report indicated the assailants broke the young Christian’s legs and hands, put him in a sack and stabbed him with a knife.

“Several knife stabs are visible on his back, we were told,” Pastor Madkami said.

The autopsy indicated the assailants untied the knotted sack, tore open Sambaru’s mouth from both sides and smashed his face with a huge stone, the pastors said.

“His eyes, nose and face were not visible,” said Pastor Pusuru, sobbing. “It was all smashed.”

The autopsy indicated that the killers then struck the back of Sambaru’s head with a stone before slitting his throat, the pastors said.

“They dug a shallow pit and put his dead body there and covered it with mud and leaves,” Pastor Pusuru told Morning Star News.

Arrest and Confession

Police arrested six people after Sambaru’s cousin filed a complaint, and two of the suspects, Deba Madkami and another whose identity is unclear, confessed to the kidnapping and murder and led officers to Sambaru’s body, according to Inspector Ram Prasad Nag, the investigating officer who is also Station Head Officer of the Malkangiri police station.

“At the confession of two of the arrested, we were able to trace Sambaru’s mutilated body,” Nag told Morning Star News. “We are still in the process of investigation, and with new facts surfacing, the sections of the FIR [First Information Report] are being changed accordingly.”

FIR No. 180, registered on Friday (June 5), names four suspects – Deba Madkami, Budra Muchaki, Aaita Kabasi and Ramu Madi.

Police found Sambaru’s body at 7 p.m. on Friday (June 5) but didn’t recover and transport the body away until the next morning. After the autopsy, Sambaru’s family buried his body at a funeral service officiated by Pastor Pusuru on Saturday (June 6) in the deceased’s native Kenduguda, under police supervision at 9 p.m., Pastor Madkami said.

Sambaru’s cousin stated in his police complaint that Sambaru was abducted and killed for his Christian faith, but those arrested told officers that they killed him because he and the other targeted Christians were practicing “black magic,” according to Nag.

“In the last few weeks, 15 people have died due to various reasons in the village,” Nag told Morning Star News. “Some had swelling in their hands and legs; the villagers were suspecting Unga [Madkami, Sambaru’s father] to be involved in black magic and witchcraft.”

Sambaru’s relatives roundly denied the allegations, reiterating that the motive for the killing was, in the words of one, “purely our Christian faith.”

Mobbing villagers appeared little restrained by the arrests.

“Killing Sambaru was not enough, the villagers gathered together [on Friday, June 5] and decided to kill all the members of the three Christian families,” Pastor Pusuru told Morning Star News.

All members of the three Christian families had to lock their homes and flee from the village, he said.

To celebrate the gruesome murder, the villagers prepared a feast, Sambaru’s anguished cousin said.

“Villagers the next day looted one of Sambaru’s pigs and two quintals [about 440 lbs.] of rice from his house and went to the jungle, where they cooked the pig and the rice and celebrated ‘Odia Bhoji’ [a festival showcasing food from the Odisha state],” he said.

False Propaganda

Local media have repeated the false allegation of “black magic” as the motive for the killing, which in the minds of many villagers justifies horrific murder.

Pastor Pusuru said contaminated drinking water led to the recent deaths in the village, as local news channels had reported prior to the killing. The accusation of Christians practicing black magic as the cause of the deaths was later fabricated as an attempt to justify the killing, he said.

The Rev. Vijayesh Lal, general secretary of the Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI), said his heart grieves with the family.

“The manner in which Sambaru was killed was most gruesome,” Lal told Morning Star News. “A promising young life was snuffed out because of the hatred that seems to have permeated the very soul of this nation, seeping into the very grassroots.”

The attempt to shame the victim evident in made-up stories of witchcraft is an indicator of the hostility that persists against the minority Christian community in India, he said.

“I know that Sambaru’s sacrifice will not be in vain – only God can bring good out of it, and my prayer is that He will,” Lal said.

Pastor Madkami, 27, who began visiting Kenduguda in 2018 and was leading Sunday and Friday fellowships in Sambaru’s house, said villagers had threatened him many times, telling him to stop visiting their village for prayer and fellowship.

“They planned to attack me several times, but somehow God saved me,” Pastor Madkami told Morning Star News. “I used to be very scared to go to their village. Though our scheduled meetings were on every Sunday and Friday, there were months when I only went twice a month on Fridays, fearing attack from the villagers.”

The church would worship silently, refraining from singing, and he would visit for only 30 minutes and leave immediately, he said.

“The complete village was against the Christian families and threatened them every now and then, trying to force them to leave Christianity,” Pastor Madkami told Morning Star News.

For his part, Pastor Pusuru said he had complained twice at the Malkangiri police station about rising threats against the Christians in the village, without effect.

Remembrance

“At such a young age, Sambaru had great zeal for God and for ministering to God’s people,” Pastor Pusuru said, in tears.

Pastor Madkami said Sambaru was a great soul.

“Sambaru was my church youth leader,” he said. “He was selected for children’s ministry as well. He would minister to the children whenever he came to my home church.”

Shibu Thomas, founder of advocacy and aid group Persecution Relief, said the murder has exposed the mentality and attitude of religious fanatics today.

“This by far has to be the most disturbing case of Christian persecution that I have encountered in the past four years,” Thomas told Morning Star News. “I am dumbfounded at the brutal nature of the crime.”

Dibakar Parichha, secretary for the Diocesan Commission for Justice Peace and Development from the Archdiocese of Cuttack-Bhubaneshwar, said it is not acceptable that such crimes continue to happen during the coronavirus pandemic.

“The government should take the toughest action towards the perpetrator of the crime so that peace can be brought to the locality,” he said.

Lal said EFI’s Religious Liberty Commission has chronicled at least 10 incidents of persecution against Christians in Odisha state this year.

On June 11, two lawyers from the Human Rights Law Network visited Sambaru’s family, as well as the two other targeted Christians, and recorded their statements. The HRLN team aided by local lawyers expects to petition the High Court of Odisha for a high-level inquiry into the case.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom on April 28 urged the U.S. State Department to add India as a “Country of Particular Concern” to its list of nations with poor records of protecting religious freedom.

USCIRF annual report highlights negative religious freedom conditions in Eritrea

 

 

In 2019, religious freedom conditions in Eritrea worsened, with increasing interference in and restrictions on religious groups. In spite of the significant regional political changes and the 2018 peace agreement between Eritrea and Ethiopia, Eritrea continues to have one of the worst religious freedom records in the world, and has shown little interest in concretely improving the situation. No new religious institutions were officially registered, and thus only four religious communities remain legally permitted to operate: the Coptic Orthodox Church of Eritrea, Sunni Islam, the Roman Catholic Church, and the Evangelical Church of Eritrea, a Lutheran-affiliated denomination.

During 2019, there was an increase in political activism and calls for democratic reform by secular and religious Eritreans. The government responded harshly to both registered religious groups as well as unrecognized ones, such as the Pentecostal and Evangelical Christian communities, and accused religious actors of political interference for defending their beliefs and human rights. Christians were arbitrarily arrested and detained, including in waves of arrests in May of more than 171 adults and children gathering for worship around Asmara. In August, another 80 were reportedly arrested for practicing their faith. In April, Eritrean Catholic bishops wrote a joint letter calling for national truth and reconciliation. Throughout the year, the government forcibly took over and closed multiple faith-based schools as well as 22 additional Catholic Church-run health centers.

Read full report available in English and Tigrinya here.

USCIRF Commissioner Johnnie Moore cautions that religious freedom conditions in Eritrea continue to trend negatively. The governmentt maintained severe restrictions on religious practice and conducted waves of arrests of religious minorities.

Please keep our Eritrean brothers and sisters in your prayers.

Turkey: Armenian church in Istanbul vandalized

ISTANBUL (Armradio) — The Surp Grigor Lusavorich (St. Gregory the Illuminator) Armenian Church in Istanbul’s Scutari district has been attacked, Ermenihaber.am reports.

According to the source, on May 23, an unknown person brutally ripped off a cross from the church door. The moment of the attack was caught on cameras.

The church leadership has issued a statement on the incident, noting that a complaint has been filed with the police.

A new cross has been placed on the gate.

Istanbul police arrested the suspect caught on video, Diken news site reported.

The incident comes weeks after an attack on an Armenian church in Istanbul’s Bakirkoy district.

Pakistan: Muslims attack Protestant church in Sheikhupura

At least one wall destroyed and a cross broken. The culprits wanted to take back land already sold to the church. This is a case of reverse blasphemy. For Punjab lawmaker, the cross has value for Christianity and Islam. “Not only was the cross broken, but our hearts were crushed too,” said a local Christian. A group of Muslims attacked the Trinity Pentecostal Church in Hakeem Pura, Sheikhupura district, a few dozen kilometres from Lahore, Punjab. The building, built 22 years ago, was desecrated, a wall destroyed, a cross and other valuables broken. Read More

Christian Mother, Mother-in-Law Shot in North Central Nigeria

Plateau state, Nigeria. (Uwe Dedering, Wikipedia)

Nigeria (Morning Star News) – Lami David was in her kitchen preparing dinner for her family in north-central Nigeria on Thursday evening (May 7) when two Muslim Fulani herdsmen broke into her home and shot her and her mother-in-law, sources said.

The 32-year-old mother of four had her 2-year-old wrapped on her back in her home in predominantly Christian Nkietohu village, Plateau state, when she heard the first shots in the room where her mother-in-law, 60-year-old Elizabeth (Lisa) Nchu, was resting, according to community leader Josiah Zongo.

Her mother-in-law was shot in the shoulder, and David was then shot in her chest and legs, Zongo said.

“The woman was shot with her baby on her back – the child was not hurt as well as other children were not,” Zongo told Morning Star News. “The woman was found lying in a pool of blood behind the house where she’d tried to run away from the gunmen. She fell down because of the shot. She was also heard saying it was the Fulani herdsmen who came from Rafin Bauna village, a nearby Hausa/Fulani community.”

Her husband, who was in his room with the other three children at the time of the attack, escaped, Zongo said. The family was sheltering in their home at 7:45 p.m. due to a curfew to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.

“The gunmen also followed the man as he ran for his life but could not get him,” he said.

David was shot three times, and because of the critical nature of her injuries was receiving treatment at Bingham University Teaching Hospital (Jankwano), in Jos; Nchu was being treated at Enos Hospital, Miango, Bassa County, sources said.

The Roman Catholic family belongs to the area’s Church of Immaculate Conception, local resident Patience Moses said. She said David’s other children are ages 12, 8 and 5.

When herdsmen come in small numbers they are increasingly targeting one or two homes, she said.

“The herdsmen usually attack a house they first see as they emerge from surrounding bushes,” Moses told Morning Star News. “If they’re few, they attack one or two houses and then retreat, but if they’re a large group, the herdsmen proceed to attack an entire village.”

The attack in Nkietohu village comes on the heels of similar attacks in Miango and Kwall Districts of Bassa County by Muslim Fulani herdsmen using guerrilla tactics on Christian communities.

In the past three months, armed Fulani herdsmen and bandits have targeted Christian communities in what appears to be “well-planned and calculated efforts geared towards exterminating them,” said Tom Chiahemen, spokesman for advocacy group the Christian Rights Agenda (CRA), in a press statement.

“In the last few years, no fewer than 60 villages and communities have been displaced in Plateau state, taken over and renamed by Fulani herdsmen with such impunity,” Chiahemen said.

‘Genocide’

The Christian communities have been left defenseless as there seems to have been no genuine effort by authorities to protect them, end the killings and return seized lands to them, Chiahemen said.

“The CRA is worried by the seeming silence of Nigeria’s President, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, who as the commander-in-chief of the armed forces has not only failed to protect the Christian communities but has remained silent over these killings,” he said. “To date, no Fulani herdsmen have been arrested and prosecuted over the killings, a development that has helped to embolden them.”

Leaders of the CRA are concerned that the assailants have intensified attacks in recent weeks during the lockdown and restriction of movement due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Chiahemen said.

The CRA called on the international community, especially the United Nations, European Union, the governments of the United States, United Kingdom and Canada, and the International Criminal Court “to take note of the ongoing genocide against Christians in Nigeria.”

Chiahemen said the pattern, mode and intensity of the massacre in Nigeria is reminiscence of the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

“The CRA is worried about the failure of the Nigerian government to arrest and prosecute perpetrators of these killings over the years, which has emboldened them the more,” he said. “Consequently, the CRA will liaise with the affected communities to, among other things, institute actions at the International Criminal Court against the Nigerian government for war crimes.”

CRA records show that between 2016 and 2019, there were 358 attacks on Christians resulting in 561 deaths, 210 injuries, 4,720 houses burnt, 2892 farms destroyed and 123 cattle rustled, he said.

From Jan. 1, to April 19, 22 Christian communities were attacked a total of 33 times, resulting in 40 deaths, 15 persons hospitalized with injuries, 1,105 rooms with property burnt, 104 farms destroyed and 67 food storage barns destroyed, according to the CRA.

A human rights attorney’s letter to the governor of Plateau state earlier this month also decried recent attacks.

“Parts of Bokkos, Barkin Ladi, Riyom, Mangu and Bassa Local Government Areas are now ruled by fear rather than by law,” Redzie D. Jugo of law firm Black Palms Consult wrote in the letter, a copy of which was sent to Morning Star News. “Children are caught in crossfires; pregnant women are killed with their unborn babies never knowing the joy of suckling. For these people, their version of peace has a semblance of bloody order and violent decorum.”

Since Jan. 1 in an area of the predominantly Christian, ethnic Irigwe, Jugo wrote, 45 people have been killed and 15 injured, with 1,434 rooms, 104 farms and 67 barns destroyed.

“For some reason the lockdown has been favorable to the attackers,” Jugo wrote. “The dead are not just statistics; Sir, the killings and destruction have to stop, and we need to see leadership in this regard.”

Four Christian men were gunned down on an open stretch of road in the Irigwe Chiefdom on May 3 between Kwall village and Miango, he noted.

“Four enterprising, promising, young Christians, Chohu Gado, 27; Tanta Abba, 27; Friday Musa, 25; and Emmanuel Kure, 22, were gunned down in what many described as a staccato of automatic gunfire,” he wrote.

Nigeria ranked 12th on Open Doors’ 2020 World Watch List of countries where Christians suffer the most persecution but second in the number of Christians killed for their faith, behind Pakistan.

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