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(Voice of the Persecuted) Despite endless calls for the Nigerian government to do everything to secure the release Leah Sharibu, the girl who refused to denounce her Christian faith, will spend another birthday, May 14, in Boko Haram captivity.
Human Rights Lawyer, Emmanuel Ogebe, shared with Voice of the Persecuted an event at the prestigious Georgetown university in Washington, Nobel Literature Laureate Wole Soyinka paid a poignant tribute to heroine Christian Schoolgirl Leah Sharibu in an ode to Leah and Chibok last week.
Likening Leah to iconic human rights champion the late Nelson Mandela of South Africa, Soyinka said we must “celebrate the exception who said “no” “ as it reminded him of Mandela who refused conditional release.
Reciting the ode titled “Mandela comes to Leah”, Soyinka said, “ “No”, she said, “Faith is not of compulsion”…her torch undimmed in the den of zealots.”
Prof Soyinka said he could only recite excerpts from the ode because he broke down the last time he had tried to read it.
Prof Soyinka also did an epic takedown of a Georgetown professor’s claim that poverty and desperation was behind Boko Haram terrorism.
He said that it was ideological bordering on the metaphysical and we should not underestimate it. “We’re dealing with something much deeper” he said and recalled the son of a former Chief Justice of Nigeria who was upper middle class but who disappeared with his family to join ISIS abroad.
“There’s a will to deny the possibility of horror and evil. We have reached a point where We have to go beyond the material analysis of this phenomenon. It goes beyond poverty and marginalization. The ideology of sheer morbidity”
Soyinka deplored the 20 American intellectuals who wrote protesting the proposal to designate Boko Haram as a Foreign Terrorist Organization actually saying it would interfere with their “scholarly research” saying it “took my breath away”. “Some were my friends (but) there they were in all seriousness simply because they had a very wrong analytical approach to this problem.”
“We must simply jettison the language of political correctness. Political correctness is turning Africa continent into the graveyard of freedom and liberty if we don’t call things by their proper names…”
“We’re dealing now with the toxin of power which barely manifests itself under the cloak of religion.”
Also on the panel with Soyinka was the ambassador who belatedly announced Obama’s decision to designate Boko Haram as an FTO as then top US diplomat for Africa Assistant Secretary of State Linda Thomas Greenfield.
Greenfield pleaded impotency in responding to the Chibok abductions due to denials by many as to what happened which she said was her biggest challenge. “I had this feeling of impotency – a superpower who couldn’t do anything…I still feel it…there’s no more frustration to be in and I felt frustrated.” She also mentioned a recent attack in Nigeria where girls were taken the previous week.
Ambassador Greenfield paid tribute to some of the girls whom she had met as being strong saying she herself was traumatized just watching the drama “Chibok: Our Story” which preceded the panel discussion.
International human rights lawyer Emmanuel Ogebe who led the successful advocacy effort to designate Boko Haram as a Foreign Terrorist Organization thanked the cast and producer/playwright of “Chibok:Our Story” Wole Oguntokun for giving voice to the Chibok situation despite efforts of the government to silence the advocacy.
He mentioned the sad news that Leah’s 16th birthday was coming up in captivity on May 14 and the good news that one of the escaped Chibok girls he brought to school in the US was graduating with an associate degree in science the same week.
While stating that he forgave ambassador Greenfield for the Obama administration’s delay in designating Boko Haram as a Foreign Terrorist Organization because she delivered the good news, Ogebe noted that the Chibok girl graduated from college without one dime of US government support in the past 5 years. “We can’t bring back the girls but we can all do something,” he added.
Ogebe and Ambassador Greenfield had testified together before the US Congress on the day the FTO designation was announced – she represented the Obama administration while Ogebe and a Boko Haram victim represented civil society https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/CHRG-113hhrg85552/html/CHRG-113hhrg85552.htm
The panel event was part of the Currents Festival at Georgetown University where the Chibok play which has performed in Nigeria and Rwanda made its US debut to rave reviews. Wole Oguntokun the acclaimed producer/playwright is a protégée of Soyinka.
1. Abuja – National Christian Centre, CAN Hqts Abuja and the Unity Fountain Park
Time: 9am – 12noon
2. Jos – ECWA Hqts Church – Time 12noon -3:00pm
3. Lagos: Realm of Glory Hqts Church
Off Dibor Street, Okota-Isolo, Lagos
YOLA AND PORTHARCOURT NOW ADDED
With also now have two additional Cities:
4. Yola – Unity Chapel.
Adasolid Estate, Opp. FRSC, Numan Road, Kofare.
Jimeta – Yola
Pastor Zidon: 08081919000
5. Port Harcourt –
Date: Mon 13th
@ Cornerstone Christian Foundation, Manila Pepple St by JAMB office off Fruit Market, D/Line, Port Harcourt. 5pm.
Contact: Sis Carol 08081739960
6. London UK Please join us to pray and protest from May 14, 2019 1-1:30pm, the address is: 9 Northumberland Ave, Westminster, London WC2N 5BX. Nigerian High Commission. CSW
7. Washington USA – Leah Birthday Cake-cutting commemoration Hart Senate Building, Capitol Hill May 14, 2019 (email@example.com) AUP & USNLG
8. Washington US – Radio Ogebe’s tribute to Leah on WAVA 105.1 FM at 5:30pm EST Monday May 13 2019 listen live online at http://player.listenlive.co/57651/en
Ogebe encourages people to post and share Leah’s photographs as their temporary profile picture for a day.
VOP Note: Leah has stood for Christ for 449 days. Please continue to pray for her and all others in captivity for their faith.
Nigeria (Morning Star News) – Suspected Muslim Fulani herdsmen ambushed and killed a 26-year-old Catholic on Thursday (May 2) in north-central Nigeria and two other Christians in the same manner on April 27, sources said.
After a herdsmen assault in March 2018 that left 27 Christians dead in the predominantly Christian community of Dong village north of Jos, assailants on Thursday (May 2) killed David Musa, 26, at 5:25 p.m., said Nuhu Ako, 42-year-old Christian youth leader at the area’s St. Monica’s Catholic Church.
“We heard the sound of gunshots around the stream west of Dong village, where you’re now talking to us,” Ako told Mornning Star News. “We rushed there to find out what happened and found again the killing of a member of our community.”
As Muslim Fulani herdsmen have been attacking Dong and Nzehrivoh villages for two years, Ako and other Christians suspect they are behind the slaying of Musa and the April 27 killing of Sunday Adi, 45, and Jonathan Joseph, 29, at 7:25 p.m. on that Saturday.
“We were returning to Dong village after the day’s work at Nzerivoh village, our former village where we were displaced last year, and we heard gunshots,” he said. “We decided not to proceed with our movement and remained where we were. A few moments afterwards, two people riding on a motorbike came to where we were and told us that they saw two corpses not far from the spot where were standing.”
The Christians went to the site and found the two bodies, he said.
“We immediately phoned soldiers of the Special Task Force (STF) and informed them about our findings,” he told Morning Star News. ‘They told us to wait for them at the spot. We waited for them and they never showed up. We left the spot and returned to our homes at Dong, until the following morning, which was Sunday, 28 April, before the soldiers came to the spot and left without picking the two corpses.”
Adi, member of a Catholic church, was buried in the now desolate Nzehrivoh village. Joseph, a member of the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA), was buried in Dong village, Ako said.
He said armed Fulani herdsmen have been attacking Christian residents of Dong and Nzehrivoh villages for the past two years for no reason.
“We are farmers and have not been able to continue with our vocation because of these attacks,” he said. “We and our elders and church leaders have met several times with these herdsmen to understand what is prompting them to attack us without finding any real reason for such acts against us.”
Herdsmen leaders have often assured villagers that “they would impress it on their people to end such attacks on us, but it appears they only do this in order to perfect their plans to attack us the more,” he said.
The herdsmen have destroyed Nzehrivoh village, west of Dong, Ako said.
“The destruction of our houses was carried out right in the presence of soldiers who were brought to the village to protect us,” he said. “Instead, we have been forced to escape to Dong community, and here, too, the herdsmen are now attacking this community. We do not know where to run to since the whole of this area is under attack.”
On April 29 soldiers stationed in Nzehrivoh were evacuated, and the following morning, herdsmen went to the village and burned down the few houses remaining there, he said.
Kadzai Prince Peter, a Catholic catechist of St. Augustine’s church in Jos, said Christians have tried to forestall attacks by welcoming the Fulani herdsmen.
“We have tried to embrace all these Fulani people, to live with them,” Peter told Morning Star News. “We’ve been kind to them; we gave them our land to stay on and to graze their cattle. Unfortunately, they’ve been killing our members.”
His parish in Nzehrivoh has been destroyed and parishioners displaced by the herdsmen, he said.
“The way they attack us is terribly bad,” he said. “We tried to make peace with them, but this has not worked as they keep attacking us. They still kill our members. So, we don’t know what else to do.
“We as Christians see the herdsmen as our brothers and cannot send them away; but, unfortunately, these Fulani herdsmen do not appreciate our hospitality and are killing us and forcing us out of our lands. We just buried one of our members killed by the herdsmen a moment ago.”
Silas Jacob, a 42-year-old Catholic catchiest whose parish was in Nzehrivoh before the village was destroyed, said attacks on the community began on Oct. 13, 2017, killing some and displacing others.
“The Fulani herdsmen attacked us at about 9 pm and killed many of my members,” he said. “Those of us who survived the attack took refuge here at Dong village. After soldiers were brought to Nzehrivoh, we returned there, but in March 2018, again the herdsmen attacked us; this is even with the presence of soldiers in Nzehrivoh village.”
His parishioner returned to Dong, Jacob said.
“Then last Saturday [April 27], the herdsmen ambushed two of our people and killed them,” he said. “And just while we were still mourning the two, one of us was again killed yesterday [May 2] in an ambush again by the herdsmen. This is very disheartening. These attacks on us are being carried out in the presence of soldiers, and yet the Nigerian government has not done anything to end these unprovoked attacks on us.”
Church members have not ceased praying and thanking God for His mercies and protection, Jacob added.
“We use this opportunity to covet prayers of other Christians and also call for support from those who are led by the Holy Spirit to do so,” he said. ‘We have parishioners who have no places to sleep, food to eat, and even medical supplies for health needs. Truly, those of us who have survived these attacks are suffering.”
The government needs to take urgent steps toward finding a lasting, peaceful solution, Jacob said.
“We want a peaceful coexistence in this country, because it is only in doing this that development can take place,” he said. “The Fulani have deliberately been grazing their cattle on farms of Christians, and when these Christian farmers complain about such behavior, they are attacked by the herdsmen. This is not proper.”
The Catholic leaders said the attacks on Nzherivo village in 2017 and 2018 displaced entire congregations from six churches: ECWA Church, St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, Church of Christ in Nigeria (COCIN), Assembly of God Church, Anglican Church and a Seventh-day Adventist Church.
The church leaders pleaded for assistance to enable the them rebuild even one worship hall that would give them a place to pray and worship irrespective of denominational differences.
Nigeria ranked 12th on Open Doors’ 2019 World Watch List of countries where Christians suffer the most persecution.
COLOMBO, SRI LANKA (BosNewsLife)– The senior pastor of a Sri Lankan evangelical congregation says he has forgiven the suspected Islamic militants who bombed his church on Easter Sunday, killing dozens of people. Pastor Roshan Mahesan of the Zion Church in Sri Lanka’s eastern city of Batticaloa also thanked those offering prayer and support.
“We are hurt. We are angry also, but still, as the senior pastor of Zion Church Batticaloa, the whole congregation and every family affected, we say to the suicide bomber, and also to the group that sent the suicide bomber, that we love you and we forgive you,” he said in a video message obtained by BosNewsLife.
The explosion at Zion Church reportedly occurred during the Easter morning service, leaving 28 people dead and more than 70 seriously injured. It was one of eight attacks, some of which targeted three hotels and two other churches in the Asian nation, killing hundreds of people. The Islamic State group claimed the attacks, but Sri Lankan authorities are still investigating who was responsible.
However, “No matter what you have done to us, we love you, because we believe in the Lord Jesus Christ,” Pastor Mahesan added. “Jesus Christ on the Cross, he said: ‘Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.’ We also, who follow the footsteps of Jesus Christ, we say, for the Lord: ‘forgive these people.”
The pastor spoke before news emerged Saturday, April 27, that militants linked to Easter suicide bombings in Sri Lanka opened fire and set off explosives during a raid by local security forces on a house in the country’s east, leaving behind a grisly discovery: 15 bodies, including six children.
ISLAMIST GROUPS BANNED
As part of the security operation, Sri Lanka’s president banned two Islamist groups suspected of involvement in the suicide bombings on churches and hotels that left more than 250 people dead, many of them devoted Christians.
The National Thawheedh Jamaath and Jamathei Millathu Ibrahim groups were banned under his emergency powers, President Maithripala Sirisena said in published remarks. Both are believed to be inspired by organizations such as Islamic State who seek to establish states based on strict Islamic law.
Amid the bloodshed, Pastor Mahesen said in his video message that he wanted to “take this opportunity to thank every church around the world, every believer, every person is known to me and unknown to me who has contacted me, calling me, sending messages of condolences, and then words of encouragement.”
In the video shared by Sri Lankan Christian group ‘The Life’ he pledged that his congregation would “stand and continue what the Lord has purposed in our life and we are ready, and we will continue to fulfill the mission the Lord has given us.”
Pastor Chrishanthy Sathiyaraj, who leads a Sri Lankan church uniting Tamil and Sinhalese Christians and founded ‘The Life’ group, spoke with Pastor Mahesan earlier this week while he was visiting Britain.
SHOCKING THE WORLD
“These atrocious attacks have shocked the world, the violence has impacted my friends and family, and many in the Sri Lankan community in the UK know people who have died,” she said in remarks sent to BosNewsLife.
“If only we can hear Pastor Roshan Mahesan’s words and respond with forgiveness instead of hate. Jesus Christ calls us to love even those who persecute us, and what is more powerful than to choose to love in the circumstances such as these. Let’s forgive, stand together and build the kingdom of God. Don’t give up.”
The Evangelical Alliance, which represents millions of evangelical Christians, agrees. Its director, Steve Clifford, told BosNewsLife in a statement that he had joined a Sri Lankan prayer gathering earlier this week following the attacks. “I am mourning with my Sri Lankan brothers and sisters in Christ as they bury loved ones, as church communities are shaken by the violence inflicted on them and as others live in fear that the same might strike them.”
Yet, he remained hopeful. “Pastor Roshan offers love and forgiveness that can only come from knowing that we are forgiven by Jesus. I will continue to pray for him and all the believers in Sri Lanka, that they will know hope in Jesus that overcomes all fear.”
Sri Lanka’s worst attack against Christians in years shattered the tense calm that the Buddhist-majority country has seen since a 26-year civil war with mainly Hindu ethnic Tamil separatists ended a decade ago. Authorities have already warned of more attacks against churches and other religious centers, prompting Catholic churches to postpone Mass.
President Sirisena and the government of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe have faced intense criticism after it emerged that India had repeatedly given warnings of the possibility of attacks. Both Sirisena and Wickremesinghe have said intelligence was not shared with them. Commentators say those remarks underscore rifts at the top of the government and raised questions about its ability to deal with the security crisis.
CHRISTIANS INCREASINGLY TARGETED
The political turmoil added to concerns among Christians who make up over 7 percent of the country’s 23 million people.
Besides the latest bombings, there were already 86 verified incidents of discrimination, threats and violence against minority Christians, said the National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka (NCEASL), which represents more than 200 churches and other Christian groups.
In 2019, the NCEASL so far recorded 26 such incidents, including one in which Buddhist monks allegedly attempted to disrupt a Sunday worship service, with the last one reported on March 25.
The attacks were linked to extremists of Buddhist, Hindu and Islamic communities
Christian advocacy and relief group Open Doors says persecution of Christians impacts especially those from Buddhist or Hindu backgrounds. They are treated “as second-class citizens and can face slander and attacks,” the group noted.
“Believers from Buddhist or Hindu backgrounds face harassment and discrimination from their families and communities. They are pressured to recant their new faith, as a conversion is regarded as a betrayal of their ethnicity.”
Additionally, most state schools do not teach Christianity as a subject, “so Christian schoolchildren are forced to study Buddhism or Hinduism,” Open Doors said. Before the Easter Sunday bombings, several churches in rural areas were already attacked or closed, and Christians were assaulted, the group added. Rights activists and the Christian community now fear more attacks in Sri Lanka.
Note from our Prayer Director, Blaine Scogin and the Persecution Watch/VOP Prayer warrior team
My Brothers and Sisters, the greatest Injustice ever done to a man was done to the Lord Jesus Christ. Sinful men nailed him to the cross for no crime he had ever committed. And yet the most powerful words that Jesus ever uttered from the cross were Father forgive them for they know not what they do. ( Lk. 23:34 ).
Jesus exemplified what he taught in The Sermon on the Mount. In his discourse, Jesus said love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you ( Mat. 5:44 ). Obviously such a love for enemies cannot be manifested in the flesh. When in our anger we cry out retribution against those who have wronged us. The Spirit inside of us says forgive them. Only he can work out that transformational love that comes out of a fruit born through Christ living in us.
Where Jihad teaches hate and Islam says kill the infidel, Jesus teaches love your enemy.
In the next few days Ramadan will start where Muslims will seek their god through prayer and fasting. Let us pray that during this time of Ramadan that Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who bore their sin, will appear, even in dreams and visions, and direct Muslims to the true and living God. Let us pray that Muslims will receive him who is love. That they will welcome Christ to live in their hearts who will show them a much better way than Jihad would teach. Pray their eyes will be opened that Jesus came to love them and to die for their sins and bring the fruit of the Spirit. That which we would know as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; would flow out of their hearts.
Indeed let that be true of us who know Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord, that the fruit of his Spirit would flow from our own hearts by the presence of our Lord through his Holy Spirit in us. Pray also for strengthening of every believers faith, come what may, that we will continue to remain in Christ alone.
(L’Observatoire de la Christianophobie) On Thursday, April 25, when protests organized by trade union centers in Bogota, Colombia, took place, a bunch of leftist fanatics attacked the cathedral and the episcopal palace of the capital, and tagged their walls in abundance. They also stoned the police deployed outside the entrance of the cathedral to prevent any intrusion. Thirty-five people were arrested by the police. The video below, in Spanish, shows images of the misdeeds committed.
Source: ACI Prensa , April 26, 2019.
VOP Note: Thank you to Daniel Hamiche for his concern and dedication to the Persecuted Church. Hamiche is a journalist and president of the Association Amitié catholique France / United States. In 2007, he launched the blog Americatho (now a member of the reinforcement portal Riposte Catholique). He is administrator and editor of the blog The Observatory of Christianophobia.
Canada: (video report linked below) St. James’ Anglican Church in Roseneath, Ontario was completely destroyed by what authorities are calling a suspicious fire on April 9, 2019. Alnwick/Haldimand Fire Chief Mark Diminie said, “Based on the fact that we have had two (fires) in the last month, this being the third one … I am going to call it suspicious. Just based on having a vacant building at 10:30 or 11 p.m. at night and the fact it is the third one in a month, we are going to treat it as suspicious until hopefully we can prove otherwise.” He also mentioned the church had a lot of sentimental value to the community.
Local firefighters battled two other recent fires in the area. On March 19, fire destroyed a historic house under renovations and on March 26, a blaze destroyed a commercial building which housed a real-estate office located a few doors down from the March 19 fire scene.
According to St. James’ website, the historic church building was erected in 1863 by pioneers. “Descendants of the original pioneer families still attend St. James as part of today’s congregation.” The church had a small congregation of 15 in regular attendance. The church also has an active outreach program. View this link to see the video interview with the pastor of St. James’ Church.
In Jesus precious name, let us pray for our brothers and sisters of St. James Church during what is surely a most difficult time for them. Almighty Father, may they feel Your abundant love enfolding them and bring peace to their hearts. Nothing can separate us from Your love. Amen
What a tragedy. Praying for the firemen on the scene.
Below links from The Guardian Live news feed on the Cathedral
- French billionaire pledges €100m to rebuilding efforts
- The “worst has been avoided”, says Macron
- Fire started accidentally – preliminary investigation
- Two towers saved, but fireman seriously injured – reports
- Main structure “saved and preserved
- Macron arrives at the scene
- Next hour and a half is “crucial” says Paris fire department
See more updates here
VOP NOTE: France has had several weeks of escalating vandalism and arson attacks on churches. Compared to the 1st quarter of 2018, France has seen a 53% rise in anti-Christian acts during the 1st quarter of 2019. Please keep France in your prayers.
Prosecutors demand 18-month term for Christian youth accused of mocking the burning of an Islamic flag.
Prosecutors in Indonesia have demanded an 18-month jail term and a $715 fine for a Christian student accused of insulting Islam.
Agung Kurnia Ritonga, 22, a student at the University of North Sumatra in Medan, is currently on trial for insulting Islam in an Instagram post by mocking the burning of an Islamic flag in October last year.
Three Muslim youths in Garut, West Java burned a tawhid flag presumed to belong to Hizb ut-Tahrir, a banned militant group on Oct. 21, 2018.
Ritonga’s Instagram post on Oct. 24, was said to have insulted the tawhid flag that has script describing the monotheistic God in Islam and God himself.
“What’s the matter if the tawhid flag is burnt? Your God apparently gets burnt also? So, don’t take many recitations that teach culture, that makes fools. Your God is just silent over there, playing guitar, getting drunk, and writing porn poetry, why are you so busy?” Ritonga wrote.
He was arrested the next day after hundreds of Muslims surrounded his house in protest.
During trial proceedings this week, prosecutors told the panel of judges that Ritonga’s actions could have damaged interreligious harmony.
Muhammad Irwansyah Putra, a local mosque official who made the initial blasphemy complaint, said he was satisfied with the trial’s outcome and agreed with the jail term demanded by prosecutors.
“I agree with the proposed sentence as it should appease anger and avert possible violence,” he told ucanews.com.
Hamdan Hasonangan Harahap, Ritonga’s lawyer, said the student had shown remorse and apologized to Muslims.
“What he wrote did not aim to insult Muslims, he only wanted to debate [with them],” he said.
Bonar Tigor Naipospos, deputy director of Setara Institute for Democracy and Peace, regretted that such a case required a jail sentence.
“It was because of pressure from radical Muslim groups,” Naipospos said.
He referred to the case of a Buddhist woman, also from Medan, who was jailed for 18 months in August last year for complaining about the noise from a local mosque’s loudspeakers during the call to prayer.
The blasphemy law is discriminatory, he said.
VOP Note: As Christians, we must ask the Lord to give us discernment to choose our words wisely for the glory of His Kingdom.