VOICE OF THE PERSECUTED

Category Archives: Africa

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Burkina Faso: concerns over reported rise in extremism

A church in Burkina Faso, where over 20% of the population is Christian. (Photo: khym54 via Flickr; CC 2.0)

Christian and Muslim leaders in Burkina Faso met last week to discuss interreligious dialogue amidst growing concerns about the spread of violent Islamic extremism in the country, reports Fides.

The landlocked West African nation, which borders Mali, Niger, Benin, Togo, Ghana and Ivory Coast, is majority-Muslim (around 60%), but also has significant numbers of Christians (over 20%, the vast majority of whom are Catholics) and followers of indigenous beliefs (15%), according to the latest census (2006).

On top of a rise in violent extremism, delegates of the Second General Assembly 2018 of the Episcopal Commission for Islamic-Christian Dialogue noted an increase in radicalisation and the use of religion to drive political agendas.

“We are called to live together,” Muslim leader Iman Boureima Drobo told delegates. “We must learn to do it. It is an obligation, otherwise it will be very difficult to be happy on this earth. It is here that Paradise and eternal life are prepared. If we are not in this state of spirit in this world, it will be very difficult to obtain what God has promised us after death.”

Last month the International Crisis Group warned of an “alarming escalation of jihadist violence”, as reports emerged about a group called ‘Islamic Security’, operating from Pouytenga, 150km east of the capital Ouagadougou. The Fédération des Associations Islamiques du Burkina described the group as “the non-armed service of the local Sunni movement”, whose members were guarding mosques and other religious sites during times of worship. The group is now believed to have been disbanded.

Background

Burkina Faso has been the scene of several Islamist attacks, including one in January 2016 in which 29 people were killed, including a US missionary and six Christians on a humanitarian trip.

On the very same day, an Australian doctor and his wife were kidnapped in the town of Djibo, near the Mali border. Ken and Jocelyn Elliott, who are in their eighties, had worked in Burkina Faso since the 1970s. Jocelyn was released after a month, but her husband, who was declared a citizen of the West African nation by an official decree in November 2016, is still missing.

It is believed that he is being held outside of Burkina Faso. In July 2017, he appeared in a video produced by his kidnappers, along with several other Western kidnap hostages. On it, he said: “This video is to ask various governments, in particular the Australian government and Burkina government, to do what they can to help negotiate my release.” Addressing his family, he added: “I just want to say, again, I love you all and I appreciate all your prayers and all your cares. I look forward to one day being reunited.”

World Watch Monitor

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Christians in Sudan Charged in Defense of Church Property Case

(Morning Star News) – A court in Omdurman, Sudan on Wednesday (April 11) charged four Christians who defended church property from a takeover by a Muslim business interest, sources said.

Azhari Tumbara, Muna Matta, George Adam and Kudi Abderhman last year tried to keep authorities from seizing Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church (SPEC) property in Khartoum. Judge Adam Babiker charged the Christians with causing physical harm to police and supporters of a Muslim businessman who tried to take control of church school property in April 2017, the Rev. Yahia Abdelrahim Nalu, SPEC moderator, told Morning Star News.

If found guilty under Article 142 of the Sudan Penal Code, the four Christians could be sentenced to a fine and a prison term of up to six months, said Attorney Adam Abu Anja, their legal counsel. Anja said he doubted they would receive the maximum sentence.

“I am confident – the charges are not that serious,” Anja told Morning Star News. “We have enough witnesses that, if they are convicted, they might be fined, that is all.”

A verdict could come at the next hearing on Monday (April 16).

On April 3, 2017, church elder Younan Abdullah died from injuries sustained in the raid by authorities and the Muslim business interest’s supporters on the school in Omdurman, across the Nile from Khartoum. Abdullah, an elder with Bahri Evangelical Church, died in a hospital after being stabbed while he and others were defending women at the Evangelical School of Sudan, SPEC sources told Morning Star News.

He is survived by his wife and two young children.

Acquitted

At the same hearing on Wednesday (April 11), the judge cleared five church leaders accused in the church takeover case, including Pastor Nalu.

“Five of us were freed for lack of evidence,” Pastor Nalu said.

Pastor Nalu, the Rev. Idriss Kartina, the Rev. Zachariah Ismael, elder Bolus Tutu and Salim Hassan were acquitted.

On Feb. 5 a court in Sudan fined seven church leaders who fought the takeover of the school in Omdurman for “objection to authorities,” a church leader said. The court fined SPEC elder Yohanna Tia 5,000 Sudanese Pounds (US$275).

Tia was one of 26 church leaders who appeared in court over a two-week span in the case. Seven church leaders were ordered to pay fines of 2,500 Sudanese pounds (US$137) each, and 19 were freed for lack of evidence, according to Pastor Nalu.

Two pastors – the Rev. Dawoud Fadul, SPEC moderator, and Pastor Kartina – were also fined 2,500 Sudanese pounds each. Church elders Adam George, Bolus Tutu and one identified only as Azhari were also fined, along with school director Ustaz Dauod Musa Namnam.

On Aug. 15, 2017, police raided Pastor Nalu’s home and another belonging to SPEC leader. They evicted the families of Pastor Nalu and the Rev. Sidiq Abdalla, a SPEC pastor who has two children, ages 8 and 10. Pastor Nalu has a 1-year-old boy.

The action was considered part of the government-aided bid by Muslim businessman Hisham Hamad Al-Neel to take over church property. Police told the pastors they were carrying out a court order.

Leadership of SPEC remains in the hands of government-appointed committee members even after a court ruled in November 2016 that the appointments were illegal, sources said.

The Evangelical School of Sudan is one of several SPEC schools throughout Sudan.

In its campaign to rid the country of Christianity, church leaders say, Sudan has designated at least 25 church buildings for destruction.

Harassment, arrests and persecution of Christians have intensified since the secession of South Sudan in July 2011. The Sudanese Minister of Guidance and Endowments announced in April 2013 that no new licenses would be granted for building new churches in Sudan, citing a decrease in the South Sudanese population.

Sudan since 2012 has expelled foreign Christians and bulldozed church buildings on the pretext that they belonged to South Sudanese. Besides raiding Christian bookstores and arresting Christians, authorities threatened to kill South Sudanese Christians who do not leave or cooperate with them in their effort to find other Christians.

Sudan fought a civil war with the south Sudanese from 1983 to 2005, and in June 2011, shortly before the secession of South Sudan the following month, the government began fighting a rebel group in the Nuba Mountains that has its roots in South Sudan.

Due to its treatment of Christians and other human rights violations, Sudan has been designated a Country of Particular Concern by the U.S. State Department since 1999, and the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom recommended the country remain on the list in its 2017 report.

Sudan ranked fourth on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2018 World Watch List of countries where Christians face most persecution.

‘Finally my father is home’ – Slimane Bouhafs released after 18 months in jail

(World Watch Monitor) The daughter of Slimane Bouhafs, an Algerian Christian who has spent the last 18 months in prison for insulting Islam and its prophet, has announced her father’s release.

“Finally my father … has been allowed back to us,” his daughter, Tilelli, wrote on her Facebook page on Easter Saturday. “Thank you for your support.”

Algerian newspaper El Watan reported that Tilelli and her mother had been on their way to visit him in prison when he called, saying that he had been released and was about to take a taxi home. Tilelli reportedly told him to wait, after which they picked him up and travelled home together.

“I am filled with joy to be reunited with my family, who have suffered tremendously,” El Watan reported Slimane Bouhafs as saying. “It was too much… I suffered a terrible injustice. I did not hurt anyone, I did not kill anyone. I was deprived of my freedom unfairly.”

He added that he had “seen unbearable things in prison” and thanked people from all over the world for sending him letters of support.

Who is Slimane Bouhafs?

Slimane Bouhafs, a convert from Islam, was arrested on 31 July 2016 for posting a message on social media about the light of Jesus overcoming the “lie” of Islam and its prophet. He also published photos showing the execution of a civilian by an Islamist terrorist.

He was adjudged to have insulted Islam, the state religion in Algeria. The penal code provides for a penalty of three to five years in prison, along with a heavy fine, for such an offence. Bouhafs was initially given the maximum sentence, before it was reduced to three years and then, following a presidential pardon, further reduced.

However, the family’s request for parole in October, owing to Bouhafs’ ill health, was rejected.

A source who preferred to remain anonymous told World Watch Monitor at the time of the initial sentencing that a five-year sentence was “severe in view of a rather minor offence”. Such comments on social media are common in Algeria without usually triggering the wrath of the authorities, the source added. In January 2017 a court in Bouira (100km east of Algiers) sentenced another Algerian Christian to a year in prison for items he posted on his Facebook page, adjudged to be insulting to Islam and its prophet.

During his incarceration, Bouhafs spent time in three different prisons. Initially he was imprisoned in the northern city of Setif, but was then transferred to Constantine and later Jijel, despite the family’s request that he be moved to Béjaïa – in the Kabylie region where he is from and where there is a relatively large Christian community.

While in prison, his health deteriorated due to his inflammatory rheumatism, a disease that worsens under stress and requires a special diet. He also reportedly suffered aggression from his fellow prisoners because of his Christian faith.

Protests

Bouhafs’ family protested against the verdict, supported by Algerian and international human rights groups. His daughter Tilelli stressed that her father had only shared someone else’s posts on Facebook, adding: “I wonder why there is this rage against my father, who did not have a high profile on Facebook.”

Another daughter, Afaf, described her father as a man who had always defended the interests of his country from a young age. She said he is known for his commitment to democracy and religious freedom in all his writings published on his Facebook page.

According to Said Salhi, vice-president of Algerian League for Human Rights (LADDH), the verdict was “part of an escalation” and a result of “abusive” use of article 144 (bis) of the Algerian law.

In October 2016, a crowd gathered in the northern city of Tizi Ouzou to lobby for Bouhafs to be allowed access to medical treatment.

They also called for a change to the law that punishes anyone deemed to have insulted Muhammad or “denigrated the dogma or precepts of Islam”.

In May 2017 the LADDH organised a rally in support of Bouhafs in Béjaïa’s city centre. In a statement the group said the Algerian government had been responsible for “repeated violations of human rights and freedoms” and demanded “the release of all detainees of political or religious opinions”.

Bouhafs’ conviction was seen by some as a means of silencing him because of his political activism. He belongs to a movement for the self-determination of Kabylie (known as MAK), a separatist group not tolerated by the authorities. MAK activists are regularly harassed and arrested.

Heroic Christian girl boldly refuses to deny her faith when threatened by Boko Haram

As Holy Week begins and we prepare for Resurrection Sunday, a 15 yr. old girl from North Nigeria is standing firm while clinging to Christ in a Boko Haram terrorist camp. Leah Sharibu, Liya in the Hausa language, was among over 100 schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram insurgents from a school in Dapchi, Northern Nigeria  on Feb. 19. The militants released 104 of the schoolgirls on March 22, 2018, with the exception of Leah, the only Christian in the group. Boko Haram members gave Leah an option to gain her freedom, renounce her Christian faith and become a Muslim. However, she refused to deny her faith in Jesus Christ and Leah is still being held captive by the Boko Haram,

During interview with a soldier, one of the released girls relayed information about Leah.

Q. Where is that Christian girl (Leah)?
Dapchi Schoolgirl: We left her there.

Q. why?
Dapchi Schoolgirl: It’s because she refuses to be a Moslem.

Q. Was she crying while you were leaving?
Dapchi Schoolgirl: Yes, I even begged Leah to accept Islam but she refused and said she can’t live with herself if she came back. So she will not that its better to be killed by Boko Haram.

There’s one old man from Damaturu who is also a Boko Haram that brings us water. He also asked Leah to convert to Islam but she said “no.” Where by the news reached to their commander that there is one Christian girl that refused to accept Islam so they brought her before him. She repeated the same thing, and he said “we will kill you.” He showed her one temporary zinc and ordered her to go and sit inside.

Press Statements from the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) President & ECWA President called for her immediate release from an unjust Boko Haram captivity. They sent out a call to prayer in all Churches on the 25th that should continue until her release.

Naturally, the news of the girls release brought great joy for many parents. Though Leah’s parents are happy for the others, they’re grieved ;;

The following is a portion of the transcript of interview with Leah’s parents shared on Facebook “I AM LEAH” (A page dedicated to Leah)

Leah’s Father

IAMLEAH Interviewer: What message do you have for your daughter?

Father: I want Leah from now henceforth not to deny Christ in any situation of suffering and I want her to endure with what she started to the end.

IAMLEAH Interviewer:  What’s your message to the government?

Father: I am pleading for the government to do the right thing and help, as they do before, for bringing the rest to their parents, to do so to our daughter.

IAMLEAH Interviewer:  What’s your message to those that are praying for Leah?

Father:  I want the Christians to continue praying for Leah, for it is because of the Christians’ faith in prayers that is why Leah stands in the faith, and I want the Christians not only to pray for Leah, but also the family.

Leah’s Mother

#IAMLEAH Interviewer: How do you feel about Leah’s courage?
Mother: I am happy because Leah is doing the right thing. Even if they shoot Leah there, we believe that she will be with Christ Jesus.

#IAMLEAH Interviewer: What does Leah want to become in the future?
Mother: Leah wants to be a scientist. She always wants to read science.

IAMLEAH Interviewer:  What’s your message to the terrorists?

Mother: I said that even if we are told today that they’ve shot Leah, I thank God that Leah is still Christian, and that one day I will see her again.

IAMLEAH Interviewer:  What message to those praying for Leah?

Mother: May God accept and answer all their prayers.

The courage of this young girl is touching not only those in Nigeria, but globally. Christians are taking notice of her strength of faith and examining their own.

  • I have been silent on the issue of the kidnap, and the release of some of the victims yesterday. I just decided to pray more in this season and trust God to help our nation. However, couldn’t hold my peace when the news of the only Christian girl amongst the kidnapped victims wasn’t released because she refused to recant and deny her faith in Jesus Christ, as her Lord and Saviour. Am not here to talk about the politics or the drama involved in the whole saga, but to talk to Christians and the Christendom in Nigeria.
    I am of the opinion that, if a fifteen (15) years old girl in the far northeast, with very little knowledge of our so called ‘revelations of the Bible’, access to our various and sophisticated study materials, tapes, audios, Christian channels etc; even our ultramodern buildings and gadgets can refuse to deny Jesus, even though that was the only condition giving to her to secure her freedom. And she willingly risked her life for her faith, then we really need to ask ourselves again, “what did she believe”? “Can what we claim to have believed produce the same kind of conviction, boldness and courage”? Especially, we pastors, can we boast of such quality of a disciple as the product of our messages and tutelage?
    Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm, i think this girl’s action is an indictment on us, and should send a very urgent message to us as a whole. It is a call to introspection! Let us look inward again, to reevaluate our motives and messages. No wonder it seems that darkness became powerful in Nigeria overnight or all of a sudden? No, it is either we have built wrongly or majored in the minor!!
    Let our Christianity not only be bogous and loud, let it also have depth. Churches everywhere, yet no depth. It is time to launch into the deep; for deep calleth into the deep now!!!
    I am personally praying first, for myself, reevaluating to see if what i have believed can deny Jesus in the face of death or endure to the end. Oh Lord, help your Church in Nigeria and the world at large. Please, lets keep praying for her, for strength, courage and ultimate release.
    I see an end time army rising, a breed without greed, the remnant that hasn’t bowed to Baal; they will deculturize the present terrain. Yea, i see a new Nigeria! 
    Selah!!
  • It seems Christians are more willing to suffer for their faith in places where they are minorities. Liya (Leah) Sharibu, the only Christian among the kidnapped Dapchi schoolgirls, was held back by Boko Haram reportedly because she refused to be forcefully converted to Islam. A little girl is willing to pay the ultimate price for her faith. This is a country where Christians have reduced their faith to collecting anointing oil and anointed handkerchiefs for “miracles”. We are more fired up by prayers and testimonies over contracts, cars and mansions. Liya has thrown a challenge: there is something deeper worth living and dying for. Vanities. – –
  • Another Shedrach Meshach and Abednego in Nigeria. Dare to be a Daniel.

On Monday, President Muhammadu Buhari  hosted the family of late activist Martin Luther King Jr. in the State House, Abuja. Naomi Barbara King, presented the president with the first Black History Month National Black Excellence and Exceptional African Leadership Award.

Prof. Iyorwuese Hagher, former Nigeria’s Ambassador to Mexico, shared an article titled, “Leah Sharibu: The Shaming Of A Nation”

March 26, 2018 one of the biggest historical ironies of all time took place at Aso Rock, Abuja. His Excellency President Muhammadu Buhari hosted the family members of Martin Luther King Jr. the World’s greatest champion of freedom, justice and equality ever known.

The timing and the optics were hilarious at best, but deeply ominous.  While Dr. Mrs. Naomi Barbara King was posing with the Nigerian President and turning her cheek for a presidential kiss, in far away North Eastern Nigeria, a defiant fourteen year school girl child, Leah Sharibu, was left in the hands of her captors, the dreaded behemoth of evil called Boko Haram: vicious blustering, gloating and imperious terrorists.

Her schoolmates, her school and her government abandoned Leah.  Alone in the hands of her captors, Leah did not flinch nor beg for mercy but defiantly refused to convert to Islam from her Christian faith.  Her God alone is with her now as she faces death, threats of death, slavery, or other horrendous possibilities of mutilation, defilement, and transgression.

Each second is life and death to this child while the nation gleefully celebrates the return of her Muslim mates and the government congratulates itself.

The shame of the nation is that we are too blind and too deaf and dumb to perceive that a star is born, a new World icon of no less significance than Martin Luther King Jr. Rosa Parks, and Malala Yousafzai, whose actions and conduct changed the World. The Christians who are clamoring for the speedy release of Leah have sadly missed the point. She is now also a symbol of defiance of the moderate Muslims too who are against extremism. Leah is now a World icon. The whole World should rise up and demand for her release. Read more

In regards to the article, one man shared his frustration with the government and what he believed to be a plan using Boko Haram and the Fulani Herdsmen to increase the spread of Islam in the nation. He was also disturbed by the Church body as a whole.

The silence of Christians over the very True CHILD OF GOD, Leah Sharibu’s agony in the den of terrorists exposes the kind of Christians we have. Has any met with Buhari to appeal to him for her freedom? Has any asked Christians to fast and pray for her freedom? Funny enough some churches are promising her scholarship and property in port Harcour.

Who ever gives Buhari peace award needs to delete the meaning of peace from the Dictoinary. Bloody peace or starvation peace? The Martin Luther family has just told the world that they have sold honour and fame for a pot of porridge.

Christians and all Nigerians must reexamine our consciences and values. We may be a brood of vipers or better still new generations of Pharisees. For the Nigerian government and its expansionist wars for the spread of Islam covertly, it is God’s will that will [be] done, not man’s.—

Her mother also shared that her daughter told her schoolmates that if they made it home successfully, they should inform her parents to continue to help her pray for God to protect her and bring her home safely as well; that whether she survived or not, she still needed prayers.

PLEASE pray with us for Leah and share her story with others, be her voice. Ask your church and prayer teams to join with you in lifting this courageous little sister up to the Lord. Let’s continue to pray until she is released!

 

 

 

Christian Widow, Bereaved Father Show Reality behind Herdsmen Attacks in Nigeria

Chanka Amos, 4, was wounded in March 8 attack. (Morning Star News)

Nigeria (Morning Star News) – Crestfallen, the 48-year-old Christian sat in his house in Miango, central Nigeria, where three of his children were killed a week before.

“These series of attacks have been carried out against us Christians in this area for some time now by these armed herdsmen, and we don’t know precisely why they are doing this to us,” Joseph Gah Nze told Morning Star News. “In spite of these attacks on us, what I can is that we are dependent on God for grace to overcome these challenges. We have no other option than to pray, seeking the face of God, and for these herdsmen to come to know Jesus Christ, as it is only when they know Jesus that they can stop attacking us Christians.”

A member of Evangelical Church Winning All in Nzharuvo village, Miango, near Jos in Plateau state, Nze said Fulani herdsmen broke into his house on at 10 p.m. on March 8 and killed his three children – 12-year-old twins Christopher and Emmanuel, and 6-year Peace Joseph – and 18-year-old nephew Henry Audu. Wounded and receiving hospital treatment was 4-year-old nephew Chanka Amos.

Peace Joseph, 6, slain in attack in Miango, Nigeria on March 8. (Morning Star News)

“My house is located in the outskirts of this area, and so it became the first to be attacked,” he said. “But because the sound of gunshots in my house alerted the other Christians around here, they quickly mobilized themselves and repelled the attackers, forcing them to retreat.”

His wife managed to escape.

In the Klah area in Miango, the Fulani herdsmen terrorized another house that night. Jummai Samaila, a 45-year-old mother of nine children and a member of the ECWA church in Tudun Wada, Miango, was hiding in her house when her husband was shot and killed.

Samaila Isa, 55, was a Fulani Christian.

Jummai Samaila, whose house is located at a Christian mission high school built by SIM missionaries, told Morning Star News in an interview at her home that her husband was resting and listening to news on a radio. She said she had gone to sleep in their bedroom while he remained in front of the house.

“I was woken up by heavy sounds of gunshots,” Samaila said. “The herdsmen shot at our windows, and as I woke up I saw dust all over the room. The room was covered with dust, and I could not see anything.”

Her small child was sleeping with her on the bed.

“I had to move my hand around in the dark in search of my child. I eventually found my child and held tight to it,” she said.

It occurred to her that her husband might still be sitting in front of the house.

“There was shooting going on all around our house, and the whole house was shaking,” she said. “I quickly ran to the children’s room to ensure they were safe, and I found that they were safe. I wanted to go running out of the room, but one of my sons told me not to do so. The window in their room was opened. I lifted the curtain of the window slightly, and outside I saw six armed Fulani herdsmen.”

They were talking in the Fulani language, which she could understand since her husband spoke it, she said.

“I moved away from the window and tried getting out, only to find that my husband was shot and was lying on the floor,” she said. “I could not move since the herdsmen were still in our house. I hid myself in a corner and watched as they carried my husband. Two of them carried his legs, while another two carried him from the chest up. One of them had a torchlight which was switched on to show them the way out of our house.”

They took the family’s goat as they left, she said.

“As they made their way out of our house carrying my husband with them towards a stream just behind our house, my son urged me to open the door so that we can run out to seek for help,” she said. “I opened the door, and we ran out.”

They fled to a house near their church building where other Christians also had taken refuge, and they stayed there until morning, while her 20-year-old son, Yusuf Samaila, remained in their home. When the herdsmen returned to their house that night, she said, one entered a room where Yusuf Samaila was but could not see him in the dark.

Samaila Isa, 55, killed in attack in Miango, Nigeria on March 8. (Morning Star News)

Another herdsman outside ordered the one inside to shoot at anything in the room, but he replied that he couldn’t see anyone in the room and walked out, she said.

“The herdsman outside, not satisfied, placed his gun through the window to shoot inside the room, and then my son, Yusuf, who was overhearing their discussion while hidden in a corner in the room, grabbed the barrel of the gun and used a machete to cut the hand of the man holding the gun,” Samaila said. “There was a painful cry from the herdsman, and the herdsmen immediately left without returning.”

In the morning her husband’s corpse was found near a stream behind their house, she said.

“His father, Mallam Isa, now an octogenarian, is a Muslim Fulani man who decades ago became the first Muslim Fulani man to convert from Islam to Christianity,” she said. “All his children, including my husband, became Christians like their father, and all are married to Christian women in Miango. The Isa family abandoned herding cattle and have lived here in Miango as Christian farmers.”

Faith in God

The Rev. Sunday Zibeh of the ECWA church in Nzharuvo, Miango, told Morning Star News that he and others were standing at the back of the church auditorium at about 10 p.m. on March 8 when the armed herdsmen suddenly began shooting at them.

“We ran as they pursued us and were shooting at us at the same time,” Pastor Zibeh said. “We ran to the area where the district headquarters of ECWA church is located here in Miango. The herdsmen, after a while, withdrew from pursuing us and retreated to the bush where they had emerged.”

The assailants had divided themselves into two groups, he said, one to attack the area behind the ECWA/SIM’s Kent Academy and mission guest-house, and the second to attack close to the ECWA Secondary School.

“It was after the herdsmen had retreated that I was alerted that they killed some children in one of my member’s house,” he said. “I rushed to the house to find that four children were killed in the house, and one was taken to the hospital.”

Pastor Zibeh said he was saddened by the lukewarm attitude of the Nigerian government regarding herdsmen attacks on Christian communities in Nigeria.

“I feel very sad that these attacks against Christian communities have continued without end, and yet we have security agencies in this country whose duties are to protect the people,” he said. “In view this, I can only say that we only have faith in God to give us the grace to surmount these difficult times we are now facing.”

All they can do is pray, he said.

“If all that is happening to Christians at this time is within the plans of God for us his children, then let His will be fulfilled in us, but if this is not the case, I have faith that God will raise he who will rescue us from these attacks of the herdsmen,” he said. “I plead with other Christians to please stand in the gap for us and other Christians facing persecution in northern Nigeria. I also want to plead that should there be others who are being led by the Holy Spirit to help displaced Christians in northern Nigeria, they should please do so.”

Christians are highly disappointed with the government, he added.

“Christians are being attacked and hunted by herdsmen, and nothing is being done to curtail these attacks,” he said. “The irony too is that, even military personnel brought to the affected areas are helpless as they are not able to confront the armed herdsmen for fear of the Nigerian president, who’s a Fulani man just like the herdsmen.”

The attacks coincided with the arrival of President Muhammadu Buhari to Jos on March 8 for a two-day visit. Over the next week, killings in the Basa and Bokkos areas (Miango is in the Bassa area ) followed in which herdsmen were reported to have killed at least 100 people. In turn, Fulani herdsmen reported attacks by ethnic Irigwe militia that killed five people and displaced hundreds.

“In spite of the shortcomings I see in our government in Nigeria, I believe God will rescue us from this calamity,” Pastor Zibeh said. “God alone can wipe away our tears in this part of Nigeria. As Christians, all we need do is to remain faithful to Jesus Christ, and this we can do by getting on our knees and being prayerful.”

Christians make up 51.3 percent of Nigeria’s population, while Muslims living primarily in the north and middle belt account for 45 percent.

Please continue to pray for our brothers and sisters in Nigeria.

UN ‘failing’ Eritrea’s detained Christians

“Thousands” of Christians are facing detention as “religious freedom continue[s] to be denied in Eritrea” – UN Watch (Photo: David Stanley)

Eritrea’s human rights record was again in the spotlight at the UN Human Rights Council earlier this week. Kate Gilmore, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, said in her opening remarks that over 100 people were arrested in Eritrea in 2017 for practising religions not officially recognised by the state, reports World Watch Monitor.

A monitoring group for the UN, United Nations Watch, said “thousands” of Christians are also facing detention as “religious freedom continue[s] to be denied in Eritrea”. The group also asked why the report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea, Sheila B. Keetharuth, “failed to closely assess this situation”.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide, a religious freedom and human rights advocate, mentioned the arrest of dissidents and their family members and noted that the Commission of Inquiry had found that “Eritrea had committed crimes against humanity”.

The Special Rapporteur did highlight the detention this month of hundreds of perceived opponents, some as young as 13, following the death, in custody, of a 93-year-old school director who defied government orders, as Reuters reported.

Haji Musa Mohamednur was the director of a private Islamic school in the Eritrean capital, Asmara. The government orders that he disobeyed included a ban on the veil and stopping of religious teachings.

His arrest in October led to student protests on the streets of Asmara – a rare sight in the strictly governed East African nation.

Video: During peaceful protest, PFDJ shot at civilians as they marched against the dictatorship for their rights. Approximately 28 people were killed.

Six pastors arrested following shutdown of 700 churches

Sainte-Famille Church in Kigali (Photo: Flickr/Adam Jones/CC)

(World Watch Monitor) Six pastors have been arrested and accused of “masterminding” a ploy to disobey the Rwandan government’s order to shut down over 700 churches in one province.

The pastors were alleged to have held “illegal meetings with bad intentions”, the BBC reported.

The churches in the central province of Kigali were ordered to halt operations until they meet building regulations, safety and hygiene standards, and pollution laws, according to South Africa-based News24.

Rwanda National Police spokesperson Theos Badage told journalists on Monday, 5 March, that the six “ring leaders” were aiming to mobilise other clergy against the authorities. It is not clear when the arrested clergymen will appear in court.

Other church representatives have criticised the government’s order. Bishop Innocent Nzeyimana, president of the Churches Forum in Kigali’s Nyarugenge district, said: “Those that failed to implement a few requirements should be reopened and allowed to work while fixing the problems raised.”

Rwandan president Paul Kagame said last week that he was surprised at how many churches there were in Kigali.

“Seven hundred churches in Kigali? Are these boreholes that give people water? I don’t think we have as many boreholes. Do we even have as many factories? But 700 churches, which you even had to close? This has been a mess!” he was quoted as saying by Kenya-based Nairobi News.

Churches in other provinces are also expected to be affected by the crackdown in the coming months, according to News24.

Rwanda is deeply Christian – 44 per cent Catholic and 38 per cent Protestant – but the government strictly regulates all public events, including church services. In 2014, several Pentecostal church leaders were arrested for forming an unauthorised branch of the Church.

The country is now preparing a new law on faith-based organisations, which will require preachers to undertake theological courses. The law is expected to allow the authorities to control preachers more closely.

Death and destruction as Boko Haram launches fresh attacks in Cameroon

A Christian family in northern Cameroon look through what is left of their home after it was burned down on 23 February by Boko Haram militants (World Watch Monitor)

(World Watch Monitor) Boko Haram insurgents continue to carry out attacks outside the borders of Nigeria, where the group began.

The Islamists recently attacked two villages in northern Cameroon, close to the north-eastern border with Nigeria, leaving one person dead and many homes destroyed by fire.

The 23 February attack on Virkaza and nearby Tchebechebe was the fourth time Boko Haram has raided villages in Cameroon this year.

During the latest attack, militias set fire to more than 100 huts, a Catholic church and school. The fires claimed the life of one person, who has not yet been named.

A survivor of the attack told World Watch Monitor what happened.

“They attacked Virkaza and Tchebechebe at about 8pm. We started hearing gunshots way before, but it seems that is when they started their attack. We saw the flames at about 8.30pm,” said the survivor, who did not want to be named.

A church leader in Tourou said he could see the fire 25km away.

According to the survivor, Boko Haram militants arrived in the villages “and simply did as they pleased. The army fired shots from afar and the attackers stopped their carnage for a while, but, when they couldn’t hear shots anymore, the attackers simply started burning again, attacking the two villages at the same time”.

There was no resistance from security forces because the area is “very difficult to access”, they said, and the insurgents left the area at around 2am “when they disappeared back across the Nigerian border”.

This latest attack is not the first time that Boko Haram has ventured beyond its borders.

In 2017 there were 32 attacks in Cameroon, two in Chad, and seven in Niger, according to the BBC. There were fewer cross-border attacks last year (41) than in 2016 (47), but the incursions were into the same three countries, all of which border north-eastern Nigeria – the group’s stronghold. There were 80 Boko Haram attacks in Nigeria in 2016, and 109 in 2017. Figures show a growing emphasis on the use of suicide attacks in both Nigeria and Cameroon.

Other attacks in northern Cameroon
Earlier in February, a Boko Haram attack in Gitawa left six dead, including a pregnant woman. Five of the victims were Christian.

The group claimed responsibility for the 15 January attack on Roum, which left four dead after the militants stormed the village and set fire to homes and two churches. On 17 January Boko Haram militants set fire to four houses in Dafidalo.

A church leader in the region told World Watch Monitor the attackers’ aim is to “push us out to occupy these zones”, and that they are seeking revenge for counter-attacks by government forces.

Another church leader, from Mozogo, said: “It is very difficult for the people here. They don’t have anything left for themselves. [Boko Haram] leave no house standing… They took away the money of the church, which was kept in safes… In the night, we just call on God to help us to see the day.”

Before this year’s cross-border attacks on Cameroon, the region had enjoyed a period of relative calm. The last attack was in August 2017 when Boko Haram kidnapped six siblings from Moskota, after killing their father. All the children, aged between three and 15, later managed to escape when their guard fell asleep. They were found by vigilantes and handed over to the Cameroon military.

Police reported that at least 13 people had been killed in clashes that broke out on Monday (26 February) between Christian and Muslim youths in Kaduna state. Police commissioner Austin Iwar said: “We don’t want to jump to conclusions as to what led to the mayhem. The speculation was that some Christian boys were not happy that their girls are befriending Muslim boys.”

Parts of Kaduna state lies in Nigeria’s Middle Belt region, where thousands of Christians have lost their lives in recent years in non-Boko Haram related violence. This has been marked by a growing number of attacks on Christian farmers by mainly Muslim Hausa-Fulani herdsmen. Last year researchers said that in 2016 violence in the Middle Belt had accounted for more deaths than those caused by Boko Haram.

110 schoolgirls still missing
Meanwhile, an attack on The Government Girls Science and Technical College in Dapche, part of northern Nigeria’s Borno state, has led to fears of “another Chibok”.

Most of the 926 students escaped, were rescued or later returned to the school, but an estimated 110 girls are unaccounted for. According to Reuters, two girls were killed.

It took the Nigerian government a week to confirm that 110 girls had been kidnapped, reported AP, and only on Tuesday (27 February) were their names released.

Leah Sherubu is the only Christian student among the list of missing girls, in what is a Muslim-dominated area.

President Muhammadu Buhari said the kidnapping was a “national disaster” and apologised to the girls’ families.

The military said it withdrew from Dapchi weeks before the attack because the town was “relatively calm” and its troops were needed elsewhere.

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