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)
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.
#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!
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.
“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.
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.
(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.
Nigeria (Morning Star News) – Muslim residents of Kasuwan Magani in northern Nigeria yesterday killed 12 Christians after an attempt to rescue two Christian teenage girls from Muslims who had kidnapped them and coerced them to convert, area residents told Morning Star News.
James Madaki, a 50-year-old member of the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA), said another 20 Christians were injured, and that Muslims set homes and shops on fire in the predominantly Christian area of the town in Kaduna state, 31 kilometers (20 miles) southeast of the city of Kaduna.
“The names of those killed are not readily available to me at the moment, but I can confirm to you that they are Christians killed in the Christian area of the town,” Madaki told Morning Star News.
In comments corroborated by another area Christian, Madaki said two Christian teenage girls were abducted and forcefully converted to Islam two weeks ago, and that they were being held hostage in the house of the Muslim leader in Kasuwan Magani.
“The case was reported to the police, and the girls were not rescued, so some Christians decided to rescue the girls, but the Muslims in the town attacked them,” Madaki said. “The Muslims did not just attack the Christians that went to rescue the girls, but also went round town attacking Christians they sighted and burned houses belonging to Christians.”
Those killed and wounded belong to the ECWA, Baptist, Assemblies of God and Seventh-day Adventist churches, as well as Pentecostal churches in the town, he said.
“As I talk to you, 12 Christians have been killed and 20 others injured and are being been taken to hospitals in the city of Kaduna,” he said.
He said the violence broke out at about 10:30 a.m. following the attempt to rescue the girls.
Another resident of Kasuwan Magani, Omega Funom, corroborated Madaki’s account in a text message.
“The crisis here occurred because two Christian underage girls were kidnapped and forced to become Muslims by some Muslims in this town,” Funom said. “This is the practice by Muslims in Kaduna state. They abduct small Christian girls and force them to become Muslims, and when Christians reject this, they attack them to create the impression that there’s a religious crisis.”
He told Morning Star News that the sanctuary of Assemblies of God Church in the town was burned down yesterday during the attack on Christians.
“The Assembly of God Church was burnt down,” Funom wrote. “Muslims were armed with AK-47 guns as they attacked Christians. This is a Jihad by the Muslims.”
Nigerian press reports indicated, without citing sources, that the violence resulted from Christian and Muslim youths clashing over their girlfriends dating men of the other faith.
The area, which has seen several religious clashes, is a predominantly Christian community under political control of Muslims. Christians have been the victims of many unprovoked attacks by Muslim Fulani herdsmen in Kaduna state.
The Rev. John Hayap, spokesman for the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Northern Nigeria Chapter, told Morning Star News he was saddened over attacks on Christians and forceful conversions of Christian girls by Muslim leaders.
“There have been such forceful conversion of teenage Christian girls by Muslim leaders in northern Nigeria, and the Nigerian government has not been able to put an end to this,” he said. “I feel very sad about such violence on Christians, but what more can we do than to pray and ask for God’s intervention. We”ll continue to preach peace and tolerance in our churches no matter the level of provocation from our Muslim neighbors.”
Mukhtar Aliyu, police spokesman for the Kaduna State Command, told Morning Star News only that there was a sectarian clash.
“Yes, there was crisis in Kasuwan Magani town today, and we are working towards restoring peace and order in the area,” he said yesterday (Feb. 26).
Samuel Aruwan, media aide to the Kaduna state governor, told Morning Star News that an effort was underway to assist the injured and the displaced from Kasuwan Magani.
“The State Emergency Management Agency has been directed to take inventory of damages and provide relief materials to victims with immediate effect,” he said.
In Nigeria’s capital city of Abuja, a worship service was disrupted on Sunday (Feb. 25) when unidentified gunmen shot at worshippers, wounding a security guard.
The shooting at 10 a.m. into the building of the ECWA Good News Church in Durumi, near Garki, forced members of the congregation to scamper to safety and abandon the service, church member Stephen Markus, 35, told Morning Star News by phone.
“Rabo Danboyi, the security officer manning the entrance into our church, was shot and injured on the leg by the gunmen, and he’s currently being treated at the Federal Medical Centre here in Abuja,” Markus said. “When we heard gunshots and bullets hitting church walls, we all ran out in different directions. Some said the attackers were Boko Haram terrorists who attacked us but were resisted by our church’s security guards.”
After about 30 minutes, the pandemonium subsided, he said.
“Some of us who braved to return to the worship sanctuary learned that the shooting was done by some unknown gunmen,” Markus said.
The pastor and other church leaders could not be reached for comment. Daniel Kadzai, national president of the youth wing of the Christian Association of Nigeria (YOWICAN), confirmed the attack by unknown gunmen in a text message to Morning Star News.
Police authorities in Abuja confirmed the church shooting but declined to give further details.
Christians make up 51.3 percent of Nigeria’s population, while Muslims living primarily in the north and middle belt account for 45 percent.
Nigeria ranked 14th on Open Doors’ 2018 World Watch List of countries where Christians suffer the most persecution.
By Dan Wooding (Assist News) The Roman Colosseum will be illuminated by red lights later this month to draw attention to the persecution of Christians around the world, and especially in Syria and Iraq.
On Saturday, Feb. 24, at 6 p.m. the Colosseum will be spotlighted in red, to represent the blood of Christians who have been wounded or lost their lives due to religious persecution, according to Crux.
Simultaneously, in Syria and Iraq, prominent churches will be illuminated with red lights. In Aleppo, the St. Elijah Maronite Cathedral will be lit, and in Mosul, the Church of St. Paul, where this past Dec. 24, the first Mass was celebrated after the city’s liberation from ISIS.
The event, sponsored by Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) — follows a similar initiative last year, which lit-up London’s Parliament building in red, as well as the Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Paris and the cathedral in Manila, Philippines. In 2016, the famous Trevi Fountain in Rome was lit.
Alessandro Monteduro, director of ACN, told journalists on Feb. 7 that the “illumination [of the Colosseum] will have two symbolic figures: Asia Bibi, the Pakistani Christian condemned to death for blasphemy and whose umpteenth judgment is expected to revoke the sentence; and Rebecca, a girl kidnapped by Boko Haram along with her two children when she was pregnant with a third.”
“One of the children was killed,” he said, “she lost the baby she was carrying, and then became pregnant after one of the many brutalities she was subjected to by her captors.”
Once she was freed and reunited with her husband, she decided she “could not hate those who caused her so much pain,” Monteduro said. [Read Voice of the Persecuted’s (VOP) report: Held Captive For 2 Years By Boko Haram: Rebecca’s Story and the relief sent to them through VOP’s aid mission, Project 133 Nigeria here.]
Aid to the Church in Need released a biennial report on anti-Christian persecution Oct. 12, 2017, detailing how Christianity is “the world’s most oppressed faith community,” and how anti-Christian persecution in the worst regions has reached “a new peak.”
The report reviewed 13 countries, and concluded that in all but one, the situation for Christians was worse in overall terms for the period 2015-2017 than during the prior two years.
“The one exception is Saudi Arabia, where the situation was already so bad it could scarcely get any worse,” the report said.
China, Eritrea, Iraq, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Syria were ranked “extreme” in the scale of anti-Christian persecution. Egypt, India, and Iran were rated “high to extreme,” while Turkey was rated “moderate to high.”
The Middle East was a major focus for the report.
“Governments in the West and the U.N. failed to offer Christians in countries such as Iraq and Syria the emergency help they needed as genocide got underway,” the report said. “If Christian organizations and other institutions had not filled the gap, the Christian presence could already have disappeared in Iraq and other parts of the Middle East.”
The exodus of Christians from Iraq has been “very severe.” Christians in the country now may number as few as 150,000, a decline from 275,000 in mid-2015. By spring 2017 there were some signs of hope, with the defeat of the Islamic State group and the return of some Christians to their homes on the Nineveh Plains.
The departure of Christians from Syria has also threatened the survival of their communities in the country, including historic Christian centers like Aleppo, ACN said. Syrian Christians there suffer threats of forced conversion and extortion. One Chaldean bishop in the country estimates the Christian population to be at 500,000, down from 1.2 million before the war.
Many Christians in the region fear going to official refugee camps, due to concerns about rape and other violence, according to the report.
ACN also discussed the genocide committed in Syria and Iraq by the Islamic State and other militants. While ISIS and other groups have lost their major strongholds, ACN said that many Christian groups are threatened with extinction and would likely not survive another attack.
A spokesperson for Aid to the Church in Need, said, “We invite everyone to attend, either in person or in spirit, on February 24, 2018 at around 6 p.m. in Largo Gaetana Agnesi, Rome.”
About the writer: Dan Wooding, 77, is an award-winning author, broadcaster and journalist who was born in Nigeria of British missionary parents, Alfred and Anne Wooding, and is now living in Southern California with his wife Norma, to whom he has been married for nearly 55 years. They have two sons, Andrew and Peter, and six grandchildren who all live in the UK. Dan has written numerous books, and his most recent reporting trip for ANS was to Kurdistan in Northern Iraq.
HELP SAVE THE PERSECUTED
VOP is on the ground helping persecuted Christian refugees from Nigeria and Pakistan. Together with your generous help, we can reach the goal to alleviate horrific suffering. In darkness and desperation, let us serve in love, with open arms and giving hands to provide light and hope. Every day, we thank God that He is working through you to care for His children and to further His Kingdom! As you greatly bless others, may God continue to bless you. Thank you so much for your support. We couldn’t do it without you!
(Agenzia Fides) – “We are happy; to God be the glory”, said Sister Agatha Osarekhoe, Superior General of the Sisters of the Eucharistic Heart of Christ, announcing the release of the three sisters and three reverend sisters abducted on 13 November 2017 in the State of Edo, in southern Nigeria (see Fides 18/12/2017). “One was said to have been released on Saturday, 6 January while the others on Sunday 7. Now they are fine. They are receiving some medical check-up in a hospital”, she said.
The first to be released was Veronica Ajayi, around 6 pm on Saturday 6 January. The three sisters, Sister Roseline Isiocha, Sister Aloysius Ajayi, Sister Frances Udi, were released along with two others on Sunday, January 7 at noon.
On November 13, the six religious women had been forcibly taken by some armed men who had invaded their residence in Iguoriakhi. The criminals went away with six of them in a speed boat.
According to the local press, the kidnappers were said to have later demanded a ransom of N20 million (about $ 54.00). However, the Superior General stated that no ransom was paid: “No ransom was paid. We know that the Police did their best because they are aware. They had to do their work. The most important thing is that our sisters are free”.
The police commissioner, Johnson Kokumo, said that the sisters were rescued during an operation by policemen from the command. “Police operatives closed in on the daredevil kidnappers and they had no other option than to release the reverend sisters”.
On Sunday, December 17 after the Angelus Pope Francis had launched an appeal for the release of the religious with these words: “From the heart, I unite myself to the appeal of the Bishops of Nigeria for the liberation of the six Sisters of the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus, kidnapped roughly a month ago from the convent in Iguoriakhi”. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides, 9/1/2018)
Nigeria (Morning Star News) – At first the commercial motorcycle drivers I needed clamored for my business, but when they found out I was going to Kwanti village, in northern Nigeria’s Kaduna state, they all dispersed without haggling over prices.
Kwanti and its surrounding villages of large estates inhabited mostly by farmers have been taken over by armed bandits believed to be Muslim Fulani herdsmen and terrorists. They are working in concert to terrorize local communities through kidnappings and thus force people from their lands.
“Even if you give me 1 million naira [US$2,750], I will not take the risk to take you to Kwanti,” one of the drivers told me.
Unable to convince one of them to be my guide to the area, I watched as they discussed in hushed tones among themselves in the Gbagyi language. I approached them again with a Gbagyi greeting “Agife,” and they engaged me in talk of how mine was a trip of no return. Finally one elderly fellow consented to take me there – at five times the usual charge.
“If going to Kwanti will bring into the open our plight as a people, I am prepared to die for it so that my people can be rescued from kidnappers who have made our lives miserable,” he said.
On the one-hour drive to Kwanti, we did not meet a single soul on the roads. At every village we passed, the driver would stop and inquire how safe it was to proceed. The answer was always the same: “Watch out, but is the risk worth it?”
The “road” was a bush path that only vehicles fitted with special gears can negotiate. My guide was sweating profusely. Surrounded by forest, his eyes were roving from side to side checking for lurking kidnappers. To him we were traveling in the shadow of the valley of death, and I recited Psalm 23 to him, telling him that we were protected by the power above that is greater than that of the kidnappers.
When we arrived Kwanti, we found a ghost village. There were four abandoned church buildings – Catholic, EKAS, Baptist, and Assemblies of God – and numerous houses deserted out of residents’ fear of kidnappers. We met some few persons in the village who were moving their belongings out.
Once inhabited by prosperous, large-scale commercial farmers, the village had been attacked by marauding kidnappers four times within one year, I learned. Many lives were lost, many people were kidnapped and millions of naira had been paid as ransom for mostly women victims.
The few people left in the village told me all the church leaders had left because all the residents had fled. I got a phone number of one of the pastors and called him. He was shocked that I was in Kwanti. He urged me to leave the village immediately.
“The kidnappers are heartless,” he said. “They can kidnap you if they spot you. They strike any time, and ransom must paid before a victim can be released. Sometimes you may not be lucky to come out alive if they kidnap you. So please leave Kwanti now, and let me know if you’re out of the place safely.”
Other villages attacked within that triangular “axis of evil” include Ungwar Rimi, Bauta, Kunuko, Ronu, and Taso 2.
On our way out, as a safety measure we took a different route out of the village, but like the road in, it had broken culverts that forced us to drive into stream water to find our way. My guide’s relief was palpable when we arrived back at Kaduna city, but even as we thanked God for journey mercies and protection, my heart was still with those in Kwanti struggling to move their belongings out.
Surprisingly, the next morning some of the villagers phoned me to inquire whether I had safely reached Kaduna. They had been praying for my safe ride back.
The federal and Kaduna state governments urgently need to investigate the extent of lawlessness in this triangular axis between Kajuru, Jere, and Sabon Wuse/Ganya. Officials need to take measures to end the kidnappings that have become dreaded monsters devouring innocent lives of our citizens.
Kidnappings are not just a menace in southern Kaduna state but are becoming a phenomenon pushing the country to the brink. Leaders of the Roman Catholic Church recently lamented that the whereabouts of three nuns kidnapped in Benin City, Edo state in southwest Nigeria, are still unknown after two months. They were abducted along with three student-nuns at a convent by armed gunmen on Nov. 13.
The Rev. Alfred Adewale Martins, archbishop of Lagos Archdiocese of the Catholic Church, told reporters on Jan. 1 of his sadness over the incessant invasion of churches, kidnappings of priests and pastors and attacks on Christian communities across the country.
“It is disheartening that the security agencies have not been able to get the sisters out, and one wonders why this is the case,” he said. “We still do hope that the security agencies would do much more than is being done now to ensure that the sisters are released.”
Roseline Isiocha, Aloysius Ajayi and Frances Udi, along with the three nuns in training, were kidnapped at about 2 a.m. from a convent of the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus (EHJ) Sisters, in Iguoriakhi village, near Benin City.
Unless drastic measures are adopted to curtail kidnapping, the practice threatens to spread into a dangerous conflagration.
Nigeria (Morning Star News) – A mass burial on Sunday (Jan. 7) was announced for 49 of at least 65 Christians killed in Muslim Fulani herdsmen attacks in Benue state, Nigeria that began on New Year’s Day, sources said.
Benue Gov. Samuel Ortom announced on Saturday (Jan. 6) that coffins would be provided for the state-sponsored funeral as he visited Benue State University Teaching Hospital-Makurdi’s hospital morgue. Brandishing heavy weaponry as well as cutlasses, Muslim Fulani herdsmen attacked several predominantly Christian villages in the Guma and Logo Local Government Areas (LGAs) on Jan. 1-2 and on Friday and Saturday (Jan. 5-6).
The governor of the Middle Belt, majority-Christian state told journalists that 49 corpses recovered from the Christian communities in Guma and Logo Local Government Areas had been kept in morgues across the state. He said a mass burial was necessary because the bodies were decomposing. The governor announced three days of mourning to be observed after the funeral.
“What I have seen here is far beyond the report we received,” he said. “Several innocent people have been killed. Women and children murdered with their throats slit open. Many people are still missing while several houses have been destroyed. The whole of Guma and Logo have been turned into desolate lands.”
The state has begun implementing an anti-grazing law passed on Nov. 1, 2017 that Muslim Fulani herdsmen have ignored. Guards armed only with cutlasses assigned to protect the predominantly Christian farmers’ lands were reportedly helpless against the attacks, with several losing their lives. Local residents said more than 50 people were killed in the Jan. 1-2 attacks.
Gov. Ortom said herdsmen groups have issued threats since the passage of the anti-grazing law.
“Now, those people who have been killed, their blood will cry to the federal government and, if the federal government does not do something, their blood will cry to the Almighty God, and I’m sure that God will deal with the situation Himself,” Gov. Ortom said. “This is not fair, and it is not acceptable.”
The Benue State Police Command reported arresting eight herders in connection with the killings in the Guma and Logo areas. Police spokesman Moses Joel Yamu said in a statement that herdsmen were suspected in the slayings.
Demonstrators took to the streets in Makurdi, the state capital, on Wednesday (Jan. 3) to protest President Muhammadu Buhari’s silence over the attacks. Barricading roads, making bonfires and chanting, they reportedly called on him to act immediately to stop continuous killings by gunmen in Benue state or resign.
The protest reportedly turned violent, with three people losing their lives and many injured.
The Benue State chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) said in a statement that incessant attacks by Muslim Fulani herdsmen violate fundamental rights and Nigeria’s constitution. State CAN Chairman Akpen Leva lamented the failure of the federal government to halt the unprovoked killings and destruction of property.
Jan. 6 Attack
Following the New Year’s attacks that claimed at least 50 lives, on late Friday night and early Saturday (Jan. 5-6) Muslim Fulani herdsmen killed at least 15 Christians in the predominantly Christian Logo area’s Tombu and other villages, sources said.
Area resident Joseph Anawa told Morning Star News that all the victims were members of the Universal Reformed Christian Church, in Nigeria known as the NKST (Nongo U KristuU I Ser Sha Tar). He identified some of them as evangelist Kwaghkighir Ukende; Kwaghve Baaki, 70; Suushater Kwaghve, 7; Mlahaga; Terhile Tyozho; Verinumbe Jam; Pinega Mbavuur; Iana Kpenger; Mnenge Ayaibo; Kwaghve Baaki; Terhemen Kwaghve; Ioryue Tsehemba; Zahemen Tsavkuleve; and Ahemba Shaku.
Villages attacked included Tse Akombo, Tse Vii, Tse Agule, Turan, Ukemberagya, Tswarev, Gaambe-Tiev, Tswarev, Tse Toradi, Channel One, Akenawe, and Meeme, Anawa said.
“So far, corpses of Mr. Verinumbe Jam and Mr. Pinega Mbavuur of Mbaamase were discovered at Toradi village, while those of evangelist Kwaghkighir Ukende, Mr. Iana Kpenger, and Mr. Mnenge Ayaibo were picked up at Channel One settlement, all in Tswarev District, Logo LGA,” Anawa said.
Cephas Hough, another resident of Tse-Kimbir village, identified five of those killed as Kwaghve Baaki, Terhemen Kwaghve, Ioryue Tsehemba, Zahemen Tsavkuleve, Ahemba Shaku, and an unidentified victim.
“The herdsmen went from house to house, shooting sporadically and killing six Christians,” he told Morning Star News.
Richard Nyajo, chairman of the Logo LGA, told Morning Star News by phone that the casualty figure is higher than reported as many women and children are missing and unaccounted for.
“Thousands of people have been displaced,” Nyajo said. “Corpses of those killed have been evacuated to morgues in hospitals in Katsina Ala and Gboko. We are still taking records of the victims, both the living and the dead. The true casualty figures may not be known now, but we are hoping that in weeks to come we shall have detailed information on these attacks.”
New Year’s Day Attack
Attacked on New Year’s Day were the villages of Tse Igbudu Taraka, Tomotar, Tse Abi, Nongov, Mbashav, Mbagber, Turan and Gaambe-Tiev, all in the Guma or Logo LGAs.
“Many have been forced to flee their homes,” area resident James Gbudu told Morning Star News.
Some of the wounded were taken to NKST Church Hospital in Anyiin, area resident Peter Ugondo told Morning Star a News.
Authorities of the Benue State Police Command said the New Year’s Day attacks began around 10 a.m. as Christians were at church worship services and lasted until 2 a.m. on Jan. 2.
Benue State Police Command spokesman Yamu confirmed the attacks.
“The communities came under heavy attack by well-armed herdsmen who stormed the communities late Friday night till the early hours of Saturday,” he said in a statement. “The fact is that much more must have been killed, but we will confirm that in the coming days as more bodies are recovered from the affected communities.”
Last year Muslim Fulani herdsmen launched attacks that killed at least 29 Christians in the first 10 weeks of 2017, and in February 2016 more than 300 in the Agatu area of the state were slaughtered in attacks by the herdsmen.
Christians make up 51.3 percent of Nigeria’s population, while Muslims living primarily in the north and middle belt account for 45 percent.
Nigeria ranks 12th on Open Doors’ 2017 World Watch List of countries where Christians suffer the most persecution.