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.
How do Christians under pressure for their faith celebrate Christmas? In the ninth installment of our series, we hear from Nigerians in central Plateau State affected by violence.
(World Watch Monitor) While the Islamist group Boko Haram has gained notoriety for its attacks on civil, military and Christian targets, a second source of violence has become a deadlier threat. Disparate groups of armed ethnic Fulani nomadic herdsmen have attacked villages, homes and people in Nigeria’s verdant Plateau state as the Sahara Desert pushes south and water sources and good pasture become scarcer. The Fulani are mostly Muslim and often the land to which they move their herds belongs to agricultural farmers who are Christian. Therefore although the clashes are primarily about resources, they are being viewed by some through a religious lens, and the government’s perceived failure to protect or compensate farmers is seen as being a continuation of its ambivalence regarding protecting Christians and other civilians in the north of the country from Boko Haram. Many of the communities attacked by Fulani herdsmen say they have received no aid from government or charities.
Solomon Dachung Danboyi lost four nephews in an attack in November on Diyan village in Riyom Local Government Area of Plateau state. Several other relatives were hospitalised. He said neither he nor the boys’ parents could think about celebrating Christmas. “We would only take out time to pray quietly in our home,” he said.
Kano – A suicide bomber blew himself up Thursday in a crowded market in northern Nigeria, killing six people, security sources said, blaming the attack on the Boko Haram jihadist group, according to News24.
The bomber, who passed himself off as a grain merchant, staged the attack in Amarwa village, about 20km from Maiduguri, the birthplace of Boko Haram and the capital of Borno State.
The attack came days after a failed Boko Haram attack on Christmas Day in Maiduguri.
According to the report, at least six persons were reportedly killed on Christmas day after unknown gunmen invaded Utonkon village in Ado Local Government Area of Benue State.
The attackers also seriously wounded several other persons while many were declared missing.
However, the state police command said two people died in the attack.
Eyewitnesses said the four-man gang stormed the community on motorbikes while some of the locals were busy sharing meat they had bought for the Christmas celebration.
An eyewitness said: “I had gone to the village to visit a friend at about 2p.m. when suddenly, we saw about four men on motorbikes, armed with pump action riffles shooting sporadically at the people who were busy sharing the meat they bought for the Christmas festivity.
“People were scampering for safety, women and children were crying and running into nearby bushes to take cover. About six persons were not so lucky as they were gunned down in cold blood.
on Thursday, UNICEF warned of an alarming surge in the number of children being used in conflict zones around the world as parties to conflicts ignore international laws designed to protect the most vulnerable.
The UN body said in a statement that in northern Nigeria and Cameroon, Boko Haram had forced at least 135 children to act as suicide bombers in 2017, almost five times the number in 2016.
NIGERIA (Voice of the Persecuted) Fr. Gideon Obasogie, Director of Social Communications of the Diocese of Maiduguri in northern Nigeria, reported to Voice of the Persecuted (VOP) that two Catechists (pastors) and a student Catechist were killed during a suicide attack carried out by two young women outside a Church in Pulka. The village is located in the Gwoza local government area which borders with Cameroon and the Sambisa Forest.
On 11/12/2017, we gathered that the Boko Haram elements sent two female suicide bombers to blend in with the internally displaced (refugees) returning from the Minawao camp. Pastor Joseph Naga, 56 was nearing a church to interview those preparing for the Sacrament of Confirmation when the two women accosted and hugged him. Concerned by the women’s actions, Pastor John Manye, 38 and student-pastor Patrick, 27 went to assist the older pastor. According to Fr. Gideon, “Little did the Catechists know that the women were suicide bombers.” But as the younger Catechists approached, the two suicide bombers detonated their vests and John and Patrick were also caught up in the blast. Dozens inside the church were injured and rushed to the Hospital, he said. There are no reports of any fatalities from the wounded. The attack was also near an IDP camp hosting the returnees.
The men had been appointed by the Bishop of Maiduguri, Most Rev. Oliver Dashe, to see to the immediate pastoral exigency of the catholic faithful in Pulka. Vatican Radio reported Catechists Joseph Naga was married and with eleven children and had worked as a Catechist for 36 yrs. John Manye, a Catechist for 11 years is survived by a wife and five children. Patrick, the student-Catechist was unmarried, [but will also be sorely missed by his loved ones].
Fr. Gideon shared with VOP,
“THE PLIGHT OF MY PEOPLE: Since Boko Haram’s ferocious campaign and occupation of most communities in the Northeast around the later part of 2014, life hasn’t been wonderful for the survivors and returnees. The Boko Haram fighters moved out of the Sambisa forest, overran most communities bordering the fierce forest and tried to extend their counterfeit caliphate from Gwoza to the north through Pulka and Bama in Borno State. Then, to the north of Adamawa state through Madagali, Michika, Uba and Mubi. With the help of God and the courage of our military men, we saw a twist and the ruthless arm of terrorism was rolled back”
The drama of displaced people caused by Boko Haram
“Gradually, as days rolled into weeks and weeks into months, a considerable number of our people have come home to settle and begin life anew. The destruction had been done and all we are left with is heartache and ulcer pains. The mere thought of the destructive acts of Boko Haram breeds heart attacks and spinal shocks. Little wonder a lot of our beloved friends have passed on in recent times, he lamented. The rate of psychosis is alarming, my people now suffer from a wide range of disorders, heightened fear of the future and nervousness, which were all together alien in our land”.
“Before the end of 2015, we saw our displaced people who sought refuge in save havens courageously traced their steps back to their ancestral homes. Probably they were propelled by the popular saying ‘no place is good as home.’ Some came home to seek their aging parents and sick relatives, while others came not only to count their losses but to rescue some valuables.
The truth of the matter is that our people in the Northern part of Adamawa State, under the Ecclesiastical circumscription of Maiduguri Diocese (Madagali, Michika, Uba and Mubi), are back to their communities. Their means of livelihood in this part of the globe, after the shift of the militants, have become consistently challenging.
Our farms have become comfort zones for the terrorists. We cannot go to the farms since returning. My people can only plant vegetables and grains in the neighborhood. It is worth noting that this is an agricultural community where farming is invaluable. It’s not uncommon that even graduates and most civil servants make time to cultivate their farms to feed themselves and sell their produce likely pay the school fees of their wards.”
It’s no news that Governor Bindow’s administration of Adamawa State has long declared a State of emergency on the Health sectors. “We sincerely hope that this would be a snake oil to the challenging, dilapidating and seemingly total absence of health care facilities in Michika- Madagali axis of the State. The Catholic Church is however, putting made-shift or mobile clinic to see to the immediate needs of our people.”
THE RETURN TO PULKA
Fr. Gideon emphasized that among the millions of displaced, there are over 91,000 people who left Nigeria to take refuge in Cameroon. However, the hostilities they encountered had pushed many to return to Nigeria at the cost of exposing themselves to the violence of the armed Boko Haram group. The Nigerian army has been re-gaining control of most of the north-east. Since the start of 2017, populations slowly began to return to the area. Nevertheless, returnees, including those from Cameroon refugee camps, are coming back to a precarious humanitarian and tenuous security situation as Boko Haram terrorists continue to rage against the innocent civilian population.
The Bishop of Maiduguri was scheduled to visit the Pulka community at a later date to pray with and encourage the faithful. While he calls on the government and military to check and double check all corners so as to completely wipe out the terrorists, he continues to pray for the safety of the community and the victims in this attack.
Fr. Obasaogie said, “The Pulka community was joyfully preparing for the pastoral visit of the Bishop but have now been thrown into this sadness. They are scared, but they say they will stand for Christ and that the death of their Catechists shall not be in vain.”
We are committed to being a VOICE for persecuted Nigerian Christians and bring them comfort, relief, and encouragement. We plan for a long-term mission in Nigeria and they will not be forgotten!
Voice of the Persecuted is on the ground in Nigeria to care for our persecuted Christians including those who’ve fled government camps to escape the ongoing threats and pressure to convert. Our mission also supports families, staying at a Christian IDP camp, from the Pulka community who were forced to flee their homes during Boko Haram attacks. All recent reports confirm their apprehensions of returning back to this dangerous area with their families.
In great hardship, they thank God and feel extremely blessed that He has kept His hand on them. They have been so encouraged and thankful for each one of you who have joined this mission through your prayers and support. Your gifts have brought so many smiles. THANK YOU! There are at least 200 men, women and children still living in the camp. Food, clothing, medicine and medical attention are their greatest needs. If you would like to show your compassion for those who’ve faced unimaginable persecution please support our Nigerian relief mission, today. 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. We pray they will experience much joy as they glorify God, this Christmas!
HELP SAVE THE PERSECUTED
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!
You may also send your gift to:
2740 Third St
P.O. Box 122
Trenton, MI. 48183
If the Lord is placing it on your heart and you are able, please help us to continue the mission in Nigeria. It will be a long term project. Donations always desperately needed
Nigeria (Morning Star News) – When the 50-year-old church elder and leader of Kano state’s Samaila village heard gunshots shortly before midnight, he rushed out of his house to try to find security agents.
It was a natural reaction for Mai’angwa Samaila, given recent Islamist attacks in northern Nigeria. What the elder for the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) did not know was that the armed Islamic extremists, having killed two Christians in front of their Catholic church building, were coming for him next.
Not finding him at home that night (Aug. 15), they instead kidnapped his wife, Safiya Samaila, 45. They then kidnapped two other women, 20-year-old Yaha Gabriel and Hauwa Bebi, 18, both members of the St. Michael’s Catholic Church in Samaila, in Tudun Wada Local Government Area (LGA).
Such kidnappings, along with threats of massacres by Islamic extremists, are continuing with the approval of some state officials in a concerted effort to eliminate Christianity, church leaders said.
Mai’angwa Samaila told Morning Star News how the killing of Yohanna Audu, 45, and Audu’s son, 18-year-old Micah Yohanna Audu, and the kidnappings were carried out. The gunmen first went to St. Michael’s Catholic Church, where Yohanna Audu, a church member whose house is beside the Catholic building, went outside.
“He went to find out who were the men on the premises of the church at that time of the night when they shot him, and he died instantly,” Samaila said. “His son, who heard the sound of the gunshot, ran out to find out what had happened since his dad had just gone to the church; he too was shot and killed.”
The armed Muslim extremists then went through the village to kidnap the three women, starting with his wife.
“As the shooting and capturing of the women was going on, some residents in our village rushed to the Catholic church and rang the church’s bell, alerting others on the attack on the village,” he said. “This forced the armed Muslim men to beat a retreat. This saved so many lives that would have perished during the attack.”
As the gunmen retreated, they shot at those who had run to the church building, Samaila said.
“The three women kidnapped were taken away,” he said. “I frantically called on heads of security agencies in our area, the police and army, but I was told that they were unable to come to our aid because their vehicles had no fuel or were in bad working condition.”
The gunmen contacted him and others the following day, demanding 10 million naira (US$27,510) for the release of the women, he said.
“We pleaded with them to release the women, but they refused,” he said. “They threatened to kill the women unless we paid the ransom. We had no other option than to tax ourselves and pay the money.”
The gunmen accepted 3 million naira (US$8,253) and released the women a week later, on Aug. 22, Samaila said. He and others recovered them in the Falgore Forest.
“We believe that Christian communities here are being persecuted because of our faith,” he said. “The government is aware about such invasions of Christian communities but has not done anything to put an end to the menace. The sad thing is that it is only Christians that are being killed or kidnapped in our area, as there was never any Muslim community attacked or a Muslim kidnapped.”
Morning Star News found that kidnappings of Christians in the Tudun Wada area have forced many Christians to flee, while many others continue to receive text messages and letters threatening massacres in their villages if no payments are made to kidnappers.
Haruna Samaila, a Christian who has received persistent phone threats from Islamic extremists, played recorded phone conversations he had with them.
“They threatened that unless I pay them 3 million naira [US$8,253], I will be killed,” he told Morning Star News. “I reported the threats to our church leaders, and they asked me to report the matter to police. When I did so, I was instead arrested by the police and detained. It took the intervention of our church leaders to get me released.”
Church leaders threatened to sue police for illegally detaining him, Samaila said.
“I will never allow them to kidnap me alive, they just have to kill me,” Samaila he said. “The government is insensitive to our plight. This is a conspiracy against us Christians in Kano. Those in authority and government know those armed Muslims carrying out these attacks against us, and that is the reason they are not concerned about our plight. It is a battle against Christianity and Christians in Kano state.”
A Christian whose adult son was killed by Islamic extremists in 2016 said he received a threatening letter from the gunmen on Nov. 21.
ECWA member Aminu Sallau, 60, told Morning Star News that a gang of nine Muslim extremists rode into Katsinawa village in the Tudun Wada LGA on motorbikes on Feb. 6, 2016 and shot his son, Usman Aminu, to death.
“Even yesterday [Nov. 21], the gunmen again sent a letter to me saying they were not yet done with me,” he said. “They stated in the letter that I should keep aside 3 million naira [US$8,253] for them, as they’ll be coming for the money at any time, and that failure on my part to give them the money would mean death for me.”
Sallau said he had no money to give them.
“I am prepared to die if that is the only price I have to pay for being a Christian,” he said.
Sallau said he narrowly escaped death in the attack that killed his son.
“I was listening to news on the radio when nine armed Muslim men stormed my house,” he said. “They came on three motorbikes and started shooting into the air. Three of them pointed their guns at my head and demanded I give them money.”
He had 80,000 naira (US$220) in the house and gave it to them.
“The gunmen were not happy that I had only a little money on me, so they tied my hands and legs and were about to take me away when one of them, who was standing guard in front of my house, rushed in to tell his colleagues that he had shot and killed my son, Usman,” he said. “On hearing this, I began to cry and shout, and in the midst of the confusion, the gunmen abandoned me and fled.”
Usman Aminu’s widow, 25-year-old ECWA member Hauwa Usman Aminu, said that her husband had returned from a business trip and had decided to check on his mother in their family home.
“He decided to visit his mom in their family home about 200 meters from our house,” she said. “It was there that the gunmen killed him. I heard sounds of gunshots shortly after my husband had gone out and knew that something was wrong.”
The Rev. Ayuba Hassan of the ECWA Church, Tudun Wada Dankadai, and chairman of the Tudun Wada Local Area Chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), said that armed Muslims are carrying out attacks and kidnappings on Christians in order to force them to embrace Islam.
“Christians here are being persecuted for refusing to embrace Islam,” he said. “We are constantly under attack. We are not allowed to freely worship as Christians. These kidnappings are aimed at forcing us to recant or make us run away from here so that they can take over our lands and expand Islam’s frontiers.”
The Rev. Murtala Marti Dangora, vice chairman of the CAN Kano State Chapter, told Morning Star News that Muslim officials in the state government are behind attacks on Christians in the state.
“These attacks are being instigated and supported by the agents of the Muslim-controlled Kano state government to force indigenous Hausa Christians, who we are, to embrace Islam,” he said. “Our refusal to do their biddings is what has made them adopt this strategy of kidnappings and attacks in order to force our people to tow their line. This is a jihad against the church of Jesus Christ.”
Kano state officials declined to speak with Morning Star News about attacks on Christians in the Tudun Wada LGA. The state police headquarters in Kano, a spokesman confirmed the attacks but declined to speak further, saying only that the cases are being investigated.
Hassan said Christian communities and villages attacked include Samaila (Tuku), Katsinawa, Beguwa, Jarkaya, Gidan Kuzuntu and Jitta Dutse.
“In Beguwa village, on 14 July, 2016, three Christians were kidnapped,” he said. “Those kidnapped are Shamaki Ali, Bature Hassan, and Magaji Salisu. A Christian woman was also raped there. The four victims are members of the ECWA Church in Beguwa village.”
On the same day in Jarkaya village, another Christian community, three members of the Catholic church were kidnapped, identified only as Abdu, Jamilu and his son, he said.
In Gidan Kuzuntu village, also a predominantly Christian community, Baba Yaji was kidnapped at about 1:30 a.m. on July 12, 2016, and the Rev. Julius Gospel, a Roman Catholic priest, was kidnapped on June 30, 2016, in predominantly Christian Jitta Dutse, the ECWA pastor said.
Nigeria ranks 12th on Open Doors’ 2017 World Watch List of countries where Christians suffer the most persecution. Christians make up 51.3 percent of Nigeria’s population, while Muslims living primarily in the north and middle belt account for 45 percent.