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Christian Girl Kidnapped in Pakistan Says Muslim ‘Husband’ Raped, Threatened Her

Grand Jamia Masjid in Bahria, Lahore, Pakistan. (Meemjee)

Pakistan (Morning Star News) – The Muslim who regained custody of a 14-year-old Christian girl he had kidnapped threatened to kill her and her family unless she gave court statements that she had married him and converted to Islam of her own free will, the girl told Morning Star News.

Maira Shahbaz, who escaped from Nakash Tariq five days ago, told Morning Star News by telephone that he had raped her and filmed her naked in order to blackmail her into giving the court statements. The Lahore High Court on Aug. 4 ordered her return to Tariq after dismissing documents proving she was a minor and evidence of a fake marriage certificate because she testified that, “she’s 18 years old, recited the Kalma Tayyaba to prove she had embraced Islam without any duress, and married Nakash Tariq by choice.”

Tariq and accomplices kidnapped Maira, of Medina Town, Faisalabad, on April 28, according to family members.

“Nakash and two other men took me to an unknown place at gunpoint, where Nakash repeatedly raped me,” Maira told Morning Star News. “He also videotaped me naked and threatened that he would kill me and my family and also upload the video on social media if I told anyone what he had done to me.”

She said she had been forced to sign blank papers and denied that she had willfully become a Muslim.

“I was coerced into making those statements in the courtrooms,” she said. “They threatened to kill us all.”

When her family challenged the underage marriage, a judge had sent Maira to a women’s shelter on July 28 before the Aug. 4 verdict returning her to Tariq.

Maira contracted false marriage with the already married Tariq on Oct. 25, 2019. A family attorney asserted that the cleric whose name was listed on the marriage certificate denied involvement in the sham marriage.

Maira’s attorney, Sumera Shafique, said she had applied for police protection for the girl at the Lahore High Court’s Rawalpindi Bench because Tariq posed a serious threat to her life.

“The judge has ordered the regional police officer to ensure Maira’s security and also probe the video used to blackmail her,” she told Morning Star News. “I have also filed a suit for cancellation of her marriage and forced conversion in the family court.”

She said that Tariq had filed a kidnapping case in Faisalabad against Maira’s mother and other relatives alleging that they had forcibly taken away his “lawfully wedded wife” from his home.

“The family is in hiding due to the case registered by Nakash,” she said. “I was told that the accused is searching for the girl to stop her from revealing the truth, which is why we decided to appear before the Rawalpindi bench of the LHC as a security precaution.”

She said Maira will appear before the Regional Police Officer on Friday (Aug. 28) to record her statement.

Earlier this month, while ruling on a petition filed by Tariq seeking custody of Maira, a Lahore High Court bench presided by Justice Shahid Mahmood Abbasi stated, “The statement of Maria [sic] Shahbaz as well as her general appearance unambiguously show that she is a grown-up young lady who seems to have attained the age of puberty and who acknowledges Nakash Tariq as her lawfully wedded husband.”

The verdict acknowledged that the judge dismissed evidence her family’s attorney provided that the minor could not have contracted marriage without the consent of her guardian and that the marriage certificate was fake.

“As far as proof of marriage is concerned, the other formalities can be ignored and simple acknowledgement of husband and wife regarding their Nikah [marriage] is sufficient to prove the same,” the verdict states. “In such circumstances, the mandatory requirement of presence of two witnesses can be ignored.”

Regarding authenticity of the marriage certificate, the verdict stated, “Only the family court would be in a better position to resolve the controversy between the parties regarding genuineness or otherwise of ‘Nikah Nama.’”

In February the forced conversion to Islam and marriage of another 14-year-old Christian girl was validated in a court ruling in Pakistan. The High Court in Sindh Province on Feb. 3 dismissed a petition to have the marriage and forced conversion of Huma Younus overturned, ruling that both were valid since a girl under sharia (Islamic law) can marry after her first menstrual cycle.

Huma, a Catholic, was taken from her home in Karachi’s Zia Colony on Oct. 10, 2019 while her parents were away and was forced to marry the man who abducted her.

‘Forced Conversions Must Stop’

National Council of Churches in Pakistan (NCCP) President Azad Marshall said that Maira’s case and similar incidents called for immediate steps to ensure that minors from minority communities are not forced into false marriages and conversions.

“Forced conversion and marriages of children belonging to the minority communities is a major issue facing our communities,” said Marshall, who is senior most bishop of the Church of Pakistan.

Pakistan’s senate has introduced a bill calling for seven years of prison and a fine of 100,000 rupees (US$590) for those found guilty of forced conversion. The bill also proposes 10 years in prison and a fine of 100,000 rupees for forcing someone to change religion for marriage.

Marshall said enforcement would be key.

“Legislations are made by parliament, but unfortunately we have witnessed that their implementation is lacking,” he told Morning Star News. “The bill for protection of minority rights is a step in the right direction, and we hope that the government will not only ensure its approval but also make sure that the law enforcement agencies implement it in letter and spirit.”

Under the Protection of the Rights of Religious Minorities Bill, the state would take measures to curb forced conversion of minority communities and would also support victims. Marriage of a minor arranged after changing her/his religion would be considered “coerced” and be declared void.

In a bid to further strengthen protections for minority communities in the 96-percent Muslim country, the draft proposes three years of prison time and a fine of 50,000 rupees (US$295) in case of hate speech or maltreatment of a member of a non-Muslim community. It also bans discriminatory chapters in textbooks.

Those found guilty of discriminating against anyone on the basis of religion would be jailed for one year in addition to a fine of 25,000 rupees (US$147). The bill also protects religious symbols of non-Muslim Pakistanis, proposing a seven-year sentence and a fine of 50,000 rupees in such a case. All of these sentences would be non-bailable.

The senate chairman has forwarded the bill to the relevant standing committee for consideration.

Pakistan ranked fifth on Open Doors 2020 World Watch list of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian, and on Nov. 28, 2018, the United States added Pakistan to its blacklist of countries that violate religious freedom.

The Ignored Genocide of Christians in Nigeria

 

Nigeria-Christian-child-searches-for-parents-VOICE_OF_THE_PERSECUTED™

Nigerian Christian child searching for his parents displaced after the attack

Gatestone Institute

The mass slaughter of Christians in Nigeria, which some international observers have classified as genocide, is reaching unprecedented levels.

According to an August 4 report, at least 171 Christians were slaughtered by Muslim Fulani herdsmen in the space of roughly three weeks:

And these are only those we know of. In reality, the toll is likely to be far higher. Many thousands are also being displaced by the violence from homes and such livelihoods as they had left after covid lockdown brought economic havoc…. Our news desk has been swamped by such stories for many months, yet this relentless and bloody toll of Christian lives is disturbingly absent from wider mainstream media.

In one of the recent raids, on July 10, Muslim herdsmen massacred 22 Christians — “mostly women and children” — and torched many homes in a farming community. “The Fulani came in and were shooting,” recalled Bilkisu James from her hospital bed. “They killed two of my children [and husband].” They also “hacked another five of Bilkisu’s relatives to death with machetes including a mother and her baby daughter and a mother and her two sons.”

A Muslim neighbor had apparently exposed the Christian family to his invading coreligionists: “Before I was shot,” Bilkisu continued, “I saw the Fulani man who is my neighbour, he even identified me. I surrendered to him on my knees” — to no avail. They shot her in the chest and back and left her for dead, even as she “heard them light the match and set the house on fire.”

The next day, a neighboring village was raided: “ten women, a baby and an elderly man were burnt to death in a house where they had taken refuge. Another seven villagers were injured and four houses burnt out.” On July 19, people attending a wedding celebration were among at least 32 Christians massacred in Fulani attacks.

In a separate “horrific night attack during a torrential rain storm on 23 July, at least seven Christians died… as militants brutally hacked unarmed men and women and children to death with machetes.” The report adds that “This was the second attack on the village within days, with seven murdered in an attack days earlier on 20 July.”

On July 29, Muslim herdsmen murdered another 14 Christians — 13 of whom belonged to one extended family. Only one member of the family remained alive; his wife, all his children, aunt, uncle, brother, and other relatives were slaughtered.

Most recently, armed jihadis stormed the Lion of Judah Church in Azikoro and opened fire on worshippers; four Christians were killed.

Listing more atrocities — there are hundreds through the years — is futile in one article. (For a comprehensive look at Christian suffering in Nigeria and other Muslim nations, see Gatestone’s monthly “Persecution of Christians” reports.)

For now, consider just the month of April, 2020:

  • Between April 1 and 2, machete-wielding Muslim herdsmen murdered at least 13 Christians: “[W]e woke up to bury seven people burnt to death… from an overnight attack,” one source said. Those killed “are mostly elderly Christians who were unable to escape as members of the community ran into surrounding bushes during the attack.”
  • On April 7, the Fulani herdsmen slaughtered a pastor and three members of his congregation, including a 10-year-old boy. The pastor, Matthew Tagwai, who was murdered in his home, is survived by a pregnant wife and two small children.
  • On April 10, the Islamic herdsmen murdered pastor Stephen Akpor, 55. “Two herdsmen came to a branch of our church, Celestial Church… where they shot him as he was praying and counseling five members in the church,” his colleagues said. “The herdsmen shot the pastor several times and then stabbed him to death.” He is survived by his wife and five children.
  • On April 11, Muslim Fulani herdsmen shot a Christian farmer dead.
  • On April 13, Muslim Fulani herdsmen decapitated two Christians, in a manner that required them to be “buried without their heads.”
  • On April 14, Muslim Fulani herdsmen butchered nine Christians, six of whom were children, one a pregnant mother. “They were armed with machetes and AK-47 rifles as they attacked us,” a survivor recalls: “They attacked our village at about 8 p.m., and they were shouting, ‘Allahu Akbar!’ as they shot into our houses.” Thirty-three homes were set ablaze.
  • On April 16, Muslim Fulani herdsmen killed Sebastine Stephen, a young Christian student. “The Fulani herdsmen were over 50 carrying sophisticated guns and shooting sporadically. After they killed the young man,” a survivor reported, “they then broke into the house of Mr. Jack Nweke and abducted him with his wife, leaving behind their three children.”
  • On April 19, Muslim Fulani herdsmen killed four Christians. “Thirty-eight houses with 86 rooms were also razed down, while about 87 families are affected,” a source said.
  • On April 20, “A Christian farmer, Titus Nyitar, was shot to death, and his head was cut off,” an area resident said. Titus was “working on his farm when he was killed by the herdsmen.” Afterwards they “proceeded to the village to burn down houses and kidnapped three villagers.”
  • On April 22, Muslim Fulani herdsmen killed 12 Christians; earlier, the report notes, they kidnapped a couple as they were being married inside their church.
  • On April 23, the Fulani “killed two people, kidnapped another and burned down a church building that included the pastor’s home in attacks on predominantly Christian areas in north-central Nigeria.”

Aside from the most scandalous or spectacular incidents—such as the recent rape and slaughter of a Christian student sheltering in a church—the so-called mainstream media does not report on the bulk of the persecution (lest, perhaps, a pattern emerge, and the attacks seem more ideologically driven, as opposed to mere “crimes”).

“It is as if the lives of Christians no longer matter,” said a Nigerian pastor about the wedding attack that claimed 32 lives:

It is very disturbing that these daily onslaughts on Christians … have been going on far too long unattended by the Federal and State governments…. there are no sympathy visits to the remnant victims in the communities… There are no steps taken to alleviate their sufferings by providing relief materials to them since they have been made internally displaced persons in their thousands.

“I strongly believe,” said a survivor of a recent Fulani attack that claimed the life of his sister and four other Christians, “that some of these security personnel who are Muslims are conniving with these armed men to attack our people…. the sad reality is that our people have made representations to the government at both the state and federal levels and nothing has been done.”

“What is the crime of these innocent people against Fulani herdsmen?” another local asked concerning an attack that left a pastor and a 10-year-old child dead.

For how long shall we continue to experience this killing? For how long shall we continue to beg the government and the security agencies to come to the aid of our people?

Such questions are especially relevant in light of recently released statistics: Since 2009, “not less than 32,000 Christians have been butchered to death by the country’s main Jihadists” — with next nothing done about it, a May report found:

Militant Fulani Herdsmen and Boko Haram … have intensified their anti-Christian violence … with hacking to death in the past four months and half of 2020 of no fewer than 620 defenseless Christians [470 by Fulani herdsmen and 150 by Boko Haram], and wanton burning or destruction of their centers of worship and learning. The atrocities against Christians have gone unchecked and risen to alarming apogee with the country’s security forces and concerned political actors looking the other way or colluding with the Jihadists. Houses burnt or destroyed during the period are in their hundreds; likewise dozens of Christian worship and learning centers.

According to numerous Christian leaders in Nigeria, the reason formerly simple Fulani herdsmen have, since 2015, managed to kill nearly twice as many Christians as the “professional” terrorists of Boko Haram is “because President Buhari is also of the Fulani ethnic group,” to quote Nigerian bishop Matthew Ishaya Audu.

In a January statement, the Christian Association of Nigeria, an umbrella group representing most denominations, further accused “the federal government under President Muhammadu Buhari” of “colluding” with the Islamic terrorists “to exterminate Christians in Nigeria.” The Association asked:

Since the government and its apologists are claiming the killings have no religious undertones, why are the terrorists and herdsmen targeting the predominantly Christian communities and Christian leaders?

Some Nigerian leaders go beyond Buhari and blame “the evil called Barack Obama” — in the words of Femi Fani-Kayode, Nigeria’s former Minister of Culture and Tourism. On February 12, the former government official wrote the following on his Facebook account:

What Obama, John Kerry and Hilary Clinton did to Nigeria by funding and supporting [current president Muhammadu] Buhari in the 2015 presidential election and helping Boko Haram in 2014/2015 was sheer wickedness and the blood of all those killed by the Buhari administration, his Fulani herdsmen and Boko Haram over the last 5 years are on their hands.

Although President Buhari’s fellow Fulanis have claimed the lion’s share of attacks on Christians since his presidency, Boko Haram — the original scourge of Christians in Nigeria — is still active. Earlier this year, for instance, it released a video of a masked Muslim child holding a pistol behind a bound and kneeling Christian hostage, a 22-year-old biology student who was earlier abducted while traveling to his university. After chanting in Arabic and launching into an anti-Christian diatribe, the Muslim child shot the Christian several times in the back of the head.

Weeks earlier, Islamic gunmen abducted Reverend Lawan Andimi, a pastor and district chairman of the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria. After the terrorists demanded an exorbitant ransom for his release — two million euros, which his church and family simply could not raise — they beheaded the married father-of-nine. Earlier, in a January 5 video that his abductors released, Pastor Lawan had said that he hoped to be reunited with his wife and children; however, “[i]f the opportunity has not been granted, maybe it is the will of God. I want all people close and far, colleagues, to be patient. Don’t cry, don’t worry, but thank God for everything.”

The Nigerian government, Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah said about the beheading of another 10 Christians earlier this year, is “using the levers of power to secure the supremacy of Islam… The only difference between the government and Boko Haram is that Boko Haram is holding the bomb.”

Lead photo report

Verdict in Pakistan Portends More Forced Marriages/Conversions of Christian Girls

Pakistan (Morning Star News) – A court decision in Pakistan to return custody of a 14-year-old Christian girl to the Muslim who allegedly kidnapped her and forced her to convert to Islam and marry him will make more Christian girls vulnerable to such trauma, sources said.

Lala Robin Daniel, a rights activist based in Faisalabad assisting the family of Maira Shahbaz, said the Lahore High Court’s refusal to take into account the documented age of the girl and the falsification of documents, including a fake marriage certificate, was unprecedented and would lead to more such cases.

“If the courts of this country start validating underage marriages of girls belonging to the minority communities, it will encourage people from the majority faith to target them with even more impunity,” he said. “A minor child can easily be influenced or coerced into renouncing their faith and marrying someone. This practice needs to be stopped.”

Daniel and the family’s attorney correctly refer to the girl as Maira in court documents, but the court mistakenly called her Maria in its verdict. A Catholic from Medina Town, Faisalabad, Maira contracted false marriage with the already married Muslim, Nakash Tariq, on Oct. 25, 2019 – six months before he allegedly abducted her on April 28, according to her mother, Nighat Shahbaz, a single parent and domestic worker.

According to court documents, Nighat Shahbaz said she and her family were unaware of the fake marriage until after Maira was allegedly kidnapped and appeared in Faisalabad Sessions Court on July 23. At that hearing, Maira told Judge Rana Masood Akhtar that she was over 18 years old, had converted to Islam of her free will and wanted to live with her Muslim husband.

Since the family had challenged the underage marriage, the judge sent Maira to a women’s shelter on July 28 until her age could be determined, as the 2019 Child Marriage Restraint (Amendment) Act bars marriage of a child under the age of 18.

Khalil Tahir Sindhu, lawyer for Nighat Shahbaz and a member of the Punjab Assembly, told Morning Star News that the Lahore High Court (LHC) presided by Justice Shahid Mahmood Abbasi allowed Maira to go with Tariq without considering evidence that the girl was underage and that the marriage certificate was fake.

The cleric whose name is listed on the marriage certificate denied involvement in the sham marriage, and the document failed to show proof of consent from Tariq’s first wife, with whom he has two children, Sindhu added.

“In my arguments before the learned high court, I submitted evidence that according to NADRA [National Database and Registration Authority], Maira’s date of birth is Oct. 30, 2005, and the same is recorded in her school leaving certificate,” the attorney said.

He also argued that the investigating officer of the case, Assistant Sub-Inspector Shahid Wahla, had made no effort to verify the documentary evidence under Section 8 of the Juvenile Justice System Act 2008, which requires determination of age based on birth certificate, educational certificates, and in absence of any such documents, a physical examination by a doctor, Sindhu said.

“When we objected to the inefficient and shoddy investigation by ASI Wahla, the probe was entrusted to Deputy Superintendent of Police Rana Ataur Rehman by the Faisalabad District Standing Board, which oversees complaints against the police,” the lawyer said.

Sindhu added that cleric Muhammad Abu Bakar, under whose name and seal the fake Nikah Nama (Islamic marriage certificate) had been produced in court, had also filed a case against Tariq for presenting a fictitious document.

“It is appalling that the honorable judge ignored these key facts while writing the verdict, even though presenting fake documents in court is a criminal offense and punishable under the law,” Sindhu said, adding that his team will file an intra-court appeal against the single bench’s order and also approach the Supreme Court if it is not accepted.

Sindhu said it was likely that Maira stated she married and converted of her own will due to fear or coercion, as her family has had no contact with her since she was allegedly kidnapped.

“It’s not very difficult to threaten a minor to say what you want them to say,” he said.

Court Admits Dismissing Evidence

The high court’s verdict states that Maira’s family was denied custody because “she stated that she’s 18 years old, recited the Kalma Tayyaba to prove she had embraced Islam without any duress, and married Nakash Tariq by choice.”

“The statement of Maria [sic] Shahbaz as well as her general appearance unambiguously show that she is a grown-up young lady who seems to have attained the age of puberty and who acknowledges Nakash Tariq as her lawfully wedded husband,” the verdict states.

The verdict acknowledges that the judge dismissed evidence her family’s attorney provided that the minor could not have contracted marriage without the consent of her guardian and that the marriage certificate was fake.

“As far as proof of marriage is concerned, the other formalities can be ignored and simple acknowledgement of husband and wife regarding their Nikah [marriage] is sufficient to prove the same,” the verdict states. “In such circumstances, the mandatory requirement of presence of two witnesses can be ignored.”

Regarding authenticity of the marriage certificate, the verdict states, “Only the family court would be in a better position to resolve the controversy between the parties regarding genuineness or otherwise of ‘Nikah Nama.’”

In February the forced conversion to Islam and marriage of another 14-year-old Christian girl was validated in a court ruling in Pakistan. The High Court in Sindh Province on Feb. 3 dismissed a petition to have the marriage and forced conversion of Huma Younus overturned, ruling that both were valid since a girl under sharia (Islamic law) can marry after her first menstrual cycle.

The Catholic girl was taken from her home in Karachi’s Zia Colony on Oct. 10, 2019 while her parents were away and was forced to marry the man who abducted her.

Supreme Court Advocate Saiful Malook told Morning Star News that sharia (Islamic law) allows girls who have reached puberty to marry, and that previous court judgments have endorsed this interpretation.

“Islamic law says that if a girl has attained puberty she shall be treated as a major, and a full bench of the LHC has already declared that a major Muslim girl needs no consent of the Wali or guardian for a valid marriage,” Malook said. “This judgment of the LHC was endorsed by the Supreme Court in a case reported in 2004.”

Malook said that the verdict in Maira’s case follows precedents established by the LHC and Supreme Court, particularly when a girl has repeatedly told courts that she is the legally wedded wife of the accused and desires to lives with her husband.

Malook, a Muslim who represented Aasiya Noreen (better known as Asia Bibi), in Pakistan’s most high-profile blasphemy case and won her freedom, said that forced conversion contradicts the Koran.

“It is clearly stated in the Koran that no person can be forced to renounce their faith and embrace Islam,” he said. “In Maira’s case, the girl has repeatedly proclaimed that she has converted to Islam without duress, hence prima facie it cannot be said that it is a case of forced conversion unless the girl retracts her statements given in court.”

Pakistan ranked fifth on then Open Doors 2020 World Watch list of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian, and on Nov. 28, 2018, the United States added Pakistan to its blacklist of countries that violate religious freedom.

“32,000 Christians Butchered to Death”: The Persecution of Christians, May 2020

On May 8, 2020, a man tried to torch the Surp Asdvadzadzin Armenian Church in Istanbul, which in previous years was repeatedly attacked with hate-filled graffiti, among other desecrations. (Image source: Vmenkov/Wikimedia Commons)

  • “The atrocities against Christians have gone unchecked and risen to alarming apogee with the country’s security forces and concerned political actors looking the other way or colluding with the Jihadists.” — The Nigerian Voice, May 14, 2020
  • Earlier this year, Christian Solidarity International issued a “Genocide Warning for Christians in Nigeria.”
  • “This [using a church as a personal toilet] is only the latest incident … [I]t has become extremely common for Greek Orthodox Churches to be vandalised and attacked by illegal immigrants on Lesvos…. As a deeply religious society, these attacks on churches are shocking to the Greek people and calls to question whether these illegal immigrants seeking a new life in Europe are willing to integrate and conform to the norms and values of their new countries.” — Greek City Times, May 16, 2020.

(Raymond Ibrahim) The following are among the abuses Muslims inflicted on Christians throughout the month of May 2020:

The Slaughter of Christians

Nigeria: From January 2020 to mid-May 2020, Muslim terrorists massacred at least 620 Christians (470 by Fulani herdsmen and 150 by Boko Haram). According to a May 14 report:

“Militant Fulani Herdsmen and Boko Haram … have intensified their anti-Christian violence … with hacking to death in the past four months and half of 2020 of no fewer than 620 defenseless Christians, and wanton burning or destruction of their centers of worship and learning. The atrocities against Christians have gone unchecked and risen to alarming apogee with the country’s security forces and concerned political actors looking the other way or colluding with the Jihadists. Houses burnt or destroyed during the period are in their hundreds; likewise dozens of Christian worship and learning centers.”

The report further states that, since 2009, “not less than 32,000 Christians have been butchered to death by the country’s main Jihadists.”

Earlier this year, Christian Solidarity International issued a “Genocide Warning for Christians in Nigeria,” in response to the “rising tide of violence directed against Nigerian Christians and others classified as ‘infidels’ by Islamist militants…” More recently, in a May statement, the Christian Rights Agenda, another human rights group, expressed concern for “the seeming silence of Nigeria’s President, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, who as the commander-in-chief of the armed forces has not only failed to protect the Christian communities but has remained silent over these killings. To date, no Fulani herdsmen have been arrested and prosecuted over the killings, a development that has helped to embolden them.” It is worth noting that Buhari himself is a Fulani Muslim.

Separately, the Muslim man who murdered Michael Nnadi, an 18-year-old seminarian at the Good Shepherd Seminary, confessed from his jail cell that he did so because the youth “continued preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ” to his captors. According to the May 3 report, “the first day Nnadi was kidnapped … he did not allow [Mustapha Mohammed, his murderer] to have peace” due to his relentless preaching of the Gospel. Mohammed “did not like the confidence displayed by the young man and decided to send him to an early grave.”

Democratic Republic of Congo: Muslim fighters from the Allied Democratic Forces, which earlier pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (ISIS), murdered at least 17 people, possibly many more, in the Christian-majority (95%) African nation. “They fired several shots in the air,” a local said. “When the population was fleeing, they captured some people and cut them up with machetes.” In late 2019, the same group murdered a pastor after he refused to stop preaching and convert to Islam.

Attacks on Christian Churches, Cemeteries, and Crosses

Greece: Muslim migrants ransacked and transformed a church into their personal toilet. This public restroom was once the St. Catherine Church in Moria, a small town on the island of Lesvos, which has been flooded with migrants who arrived via Turkey. “The smell inside is unbearable,” said a local. “[T]he metropolitan of Mytilene is aware of the situation in the area, nevertheless, he does not wish to deal with it for his own reasons.” According to the report:

“This is only the latest incident … [I]t has become extremely common for Greek Orthodox Churches to be vandalised and attacked by illegal immigrants on Lesvos….

“As a deeply religious society, these attacks on churches are shocking to the Greek people and calls to question whether these illegal immigrants seeking a new life in Europe are willing to integrate and conform to the norms and values of their new countries.

“These continued attacks have ultimately seen the people of Lesvos, who were nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2016, become increasingly frustrated by the unresolved situation that has restricted and changed their lives as they no longer feel safe on their once near crime-free island.”

Other incidents on Lesvos include “African immigrants ridiculing and coughing on police in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, and thousands of olives trees being destroyed.”

Turkey: On May 8, a man tried to torch a church in Istanbul; the church had been attacked in the previous years, sometimes with hate-filled graffiti. When police detained the arsonist, he said “I burned it because they [Christians] brought the coronavirus [onto Turkey].” Discussing this incident, another report said that “Minorities in Turkey, such as Armenians, Rums and Syriacs [all Christians], as well as their places of worship, are occasionally targeted in hate attacks.”

Two weeks later, on May 22, in broad daylight, a man climbed the fence of a historic Armenian church in Istanbul and proceeded to yank off its metal cross and hurl it to the ground, as captured on surveillance footage. The man, who looks more like a Westernized “hipster” than an ardent Islamist, walks up to and stares at the cross for a while — he even looks at and strikes a pose for the security camera — before attacking the crucifix.

Pakistan: After Friday prayers on May 8, an armed Muslim mob shouting “anti-Christian slogans” attacked and tried to set fire to the Trinity Pentecostal Church in Hakeem Pura. Built 22 years ago, the church was desecrated, and a large cross and part of a wall broken. The Muslim man behind the attack had sold land to the growing church a year earlier, and now wanted it back. A Christian eyewitness said that the mob, “after attacking the walls and the cross, challenging anyone who dare oppose them, fled… Not only was the cross broken, but our hearts were crushed too.”

Separately, Muslim “land grabbers” seized, desecrated, and ploughed over the graves of a century-old Christian cemetery with a tractor. According to the May 22 report:

“The Christian community there reportedly protested against the violation and tried to stop the vandalism. However, they were allegedly threatened with guns… [A]ll graves that were destroyed had crosses fixed on the top… [S]ome of the houses occupied by the Christians were demolished and people were forced to flee from their homes. Amid widespread discrimination against the Christian community in Pakistan, the properties owned by the minorities are often subjected to injustice including land grabbing and being the target of criminals. Moreover, the economic disparities and religious bias in Pakistan’s judiciary have increased the struggles Christians face to recover the lost land.”

Serbia: On Sunday, May 31, two Muslim migrants entered the St. Alexander Nevsky Church in Belgrade during service and robbed several of the mostly elderly congregants. “There were two of them. They broke into the church during the liturgy, which was in progress, and they stole two purses along with three mobile phones,” a church leader said, adding:

“Upon entering the temple, they split up on two sides, and after the people saw what was happening, they managed to catch one of them and take away his mobile phones and the money he stole. The other managed to escape. He took two purses, in one there were 3,500 dinars, while in the other there were 18,000, which was the entire pension of one woman. We handed that young man over to the police, while the other managed to escape. This is an insult. Isn’t anything sacred to people, such as the liturgy? Terrible.”

Egypt: On May 30, 2020 — two days before President Trump recognized Global Coptic Day — Egyptian authorities demolished the only Coptic church in village of Koum al-Farag, even though it had stood for 15 years and served 3,000 Christians. According to the report:

“The destruction of the church was a punishment for the ‘crime’ of building rooms for Sunday school…. When the work began, some extremist Muslims began to attack Christians.”

A separate report on this incident relates:

“According to an ancient Islamic tradition, or common law, churches are prevented from being formally recognised or displaying any Christian symbols if a mosque is built next to them.”

The authorities decided to solve this issue by demolishing the church, which took a tractor “six long hours,” a Copt recalled:

“The decision was not welcomed by the Christians in the village, so they protested by appearing at the site in possession of the documents. However, the police and some radicals began to insult and assault Christians, including women and children. The church leader received so many punches in the face and chest that he passed out.”

In a separate attack in the early hours of May 16, “an air conditioning technician threw a Molotov cocktail inside the Virgin Mary Church in Alexandria.” According to the report:

“Security camera footage led to his apprehension. Fortunately, no one was injured in this attack. Predictably, however, the prosecutors appear to be [pursuing] an acquittal on the claim that the perpetrator of the religious hate crime is also mentally ill. Based on precedent, it is extremely unlikely that this perpetrator will face any consequences for his attempt to torch a church.”

Mozambique: Islamic terrorists attacked a monastery. The four monks residing in it managed to hide and emerge unscathed. However, the hospital they were building for a nearby village was destroyed by the armed Muslims. According to the May 18 report:

“Little is known about the insurgents, and until recently there were doubts they were actually islamists, but they have claimed to be fighting for the imposition of Sharia law in the North of Mozambique…. The attack on the monastery, which included the destruction of a hospital that the monks were building in the village, is the second most serious attack against a Christian target since the troubles began. Last month a Catholic mission was also attacked, although, as here, nobody was killed. Other communities have not been so lucky, as the insurgents have left a trail of death and destruction behind them in the towns and villages they attack.”

Nigeria: On May 7, a helicopter bombed and destroyed a church. The building was empty at the time; no casualties were reported. According to a local leader,

“The helicopter used to hover around the area, dropping some things. We don’t know what they have been dropping but yesterday in the afternoon, the helicopter came and dropped a bomb … [The] Assembly of God church was destroyed including a nearby building…. Hours after the incident, a group of people numbering about 100 pass through the village carrying guns. Some were trekking while others rode on motorcycles. One of them was carrying a flag which is not a Nigerian flag; one other person was making some incantations in Arabic… People have fled the village… The question is who was in the helicopter dropping bomb?… We are very concerned … If it was a mistake by security agencies, they should come out and explain so as to allay the fears of the community.”

Algeria: Four Muslim guards responsible for protecting a church vandalized and overturned its statue of the Virgin Mary. According to the report,

“[T]he chapel of Santa Cruz built in stones extracted from the mountain of Murdjadjo where it is perched, was the object of an attempted theft… Four looters allegedly destroyed the statue of the Virgin Mary by attempting to steal it. They have even destroyed other holy monuments in their path….

It was later found, however, that the chapel’s four hired guards were themselves the “looters” responsible for the desecration. The report continues:

“In addition, the Christian community in Algeria denounces… the intimidation which the faithful are subject to. Many Christians have denounced the series of closings of churches in the national territory. Several evangelical associations and organizations have called for an end to ‘the increasing pressure and intimidation from the Algerian government.'”

Iran: On Sunday, May 17, a Christian cemetery was set ablaze, just two days after the tomb of the biblical Esther and Mordecai was also set on fire on the 72nd anniversary of the creation of the State of Israel. Damage at the tomb — a holy site shared by Jews and Christians — was reportedly minimal. Few other details concerning the burned Christian cemetery aside from video footage showing smoke billowing over its walls are available. A Hindu temple was also reportedly set on fire in May.

France: Unknown vandals cut down an iconic iron cross that had stood on the summit of Pic Saint-Loup since 1911 and was visible for miles around. According to the May 14 report,

“While Europe has experienced a growing number of acts of vandalism and profanation of Christian sites, the greatest number of such acts have occurred in France, where churches, schools, cemeteries, and monuments ‘are being vandalized, desecrated, and burned at an average rate of three per day,’ according to reports drawing from government statistics.”

Although the identity of the vandals responsible for this latest outrage is unknown, it appears that Western European nations that have large Muslim migrant populations are seeing a disproportionate rise in attacks on churches and Christian symbols. According to a 2017 study on France — which has the largest Muslim population in Europe — “Islamist extremist attacks on Christians” rose by 38%, going from 273 attacks in 2015 to 376 in 2016; the majority occurred during Christmas season and “many of the attacks took place in churches and other places of worship.” Similarly, around Christmas 2016, in a German region where more than a million Muslims reside, some 50 public Christian statues (including those of Jesus) were beheaded and crucifixes broken.

Abduction, Rape, and Forced Conversion of Christian Women

Nigeria: Between March 23 and April 30, six young Christian girls and one older married woman were kidnapped. “We are saddened to report to you the battles we have been fighting even amidst the lockdown,” the Hausa Christians Foundation reported on May 4, adding that it “has been working on the following tragic incidences of abduction and forceful Islamization, despite the fact that the lockdown has limited our efforts.” The statement continues:

“The usual practice is that these girls will be forced into marriage and perpetually be abused sexually, physical and emotionally. We are doing our best to rescue these precious lives but our efforts have been truncated by the current government imposed lockdown that has put everything on hold…. The simple reason for the injustice and the persecution we have been subjected to… is because of our faith in Christ Jesus.”

Two of the young girls have since been rescued.

Pakistan: Another young Christian girl was kidnapped. According to a May 2 report,

“On Sunday, April 26, a 14-year-old Christian girl … was abducted by a group of armed Muslim men… [T]he Christian girl’s family has filed a police report and is begging police to recover their relative…. Myra Shehbaz was abducted by a group of Muslim men led by Muhammad Naqash. Eye witnesses claim that Myra was attacked while she was traveling to her workplace as a domestic worker on Sunday afternoon…. Myra’s abductors forced her into a car and Myra tried to resist…. [The] abductors were armed and fired several shots into the air…. [The girl’s mother] fears her daughter will be raped, forcefully converted is [sic] Islam, or even killed…. [A]n estimated 1,000 women and girls from Pakistan’s Hindu and Christian community are assaulted, abducted, forcefully married to their captor, and forcibly converted to Islam every year.”

Egypt: In a May 22 report, Coptic Solidarity, a human rights organization focused on the plight of Egypt’s Christians, made the following remarks:

“The indigenous Coptic Christians of Egypt continue to experience increasing persecution, by the government and society…. To illustrate, at least five Coptic women, including some minors, have reportedly been kidnapped or disappeared in just the last few weeks, and Egyptian state security has made no concerted effort to recover them…. Ranya Abd al-Masih, a Coptic wife and mother of three from a town just north of the capital, Cairo… remains hidden despite protests, including from the region’s church, which laments ‘the total lack of reaction by the authorities.'”

Hate for and Abuse of Christians

Austria: A local newspaper reported:

“A graffiti that rightly causes a lot of agitation. The lettering “Christians must die” can be seen at the Traisen-Markt train station. Above it, in the same style, the words “Allach Akkbar” [sic]. The removal of the graffiti has already begun and will cost about 500 Euros.”

Uganda: A Muslim father burned his daughter for converting to Christianity. While traveling with her father, a sheikh (respected elder) of the Muslim community, Rehema Kyomuhendo, 24, heard the gospel and secretly converted. On the night of May 4, while she and her father were staying at her aunt’s home, she called a Christian associate: “As she was sharing Christ with me, I was so overjoyed,” Rehema later explained, “and my father heard my joy and woke up, came from his bedroom furiously and started beating me up with blows, slaps and kicks.” He also shouted that he was “going to kill her.” He broke a gas container, lit the pieces with the unspilt fuel, and began to burn his daughter. Her cries awakened her aunt, who protected her from the sheikh. Last reported, Rehema was expected to need more than a month of hospitalization due to “serious burns on her leg, stomach, rib area, near her neck and on part of her back.” No one has “reported the assault to police for fear that her father might try kill her.”

Pakistan: In another example of abuse of Christians, this time in connection to COVID-19, “an Islamic cleric claims his organization is using COVID-19 food aid to convert non-Muslims to Islam,” according to a May 8 report. Speaking on Pakistani television, the cleric boasted of how when a destitute Christian man came for aid, the “staff of the organization offered him conversion against food which he accepted.” The man was subsequently renamed Muhammad Ramadan, signifying his conversion had occurred during the Muslim holy month. The cleric had added that Muhammad was then fasting (which is ironic considering hunger is what prompted him to convert in the first place).

Raymond Ibrahim, author of the recent book, Sword and Scimitar, Fourteen Centuries of War between Islam and the West, is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Gatestone Institute, a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center, and a Judith Rosen Friedman Fellow at the Middle East Forum.

About this Series

While not all, or even most, Muslims are involved, persecution of Christians by extremists is growing. The report posits that such persecution is not random but rather systematic, and takes place irrespective of language, ethnicity, or location.

Mary Mohammadi given suspended prison sentence and lashes

(Forum 18) Twenty-one-year-old Iranian Christian convert Fatemeh (Mary) Mohammadi has been sentenced to three months plus one day in prison, and ten lashes.

The sentence relates to Mary’s alleged participation in anti-government demonstrations following the downing of a Ukrainian passenger plane in January.

The sentence is suspended for one year, and depends on her future conduct.

Mary has not appealed against the verdict, but commented:

“There was no evidence against me, so I ought to have been acquitted, but instead I was sentenced not only to imprisonment, but also flogging.

“And it should be mentioned that even before the verdict was handed down, I and my family were forced to endure all kinds of torture, none of which was sanctioned by law, and which ought to be considered crimes in themselves. So even if I would have been acquitted, it wouldn’t have been a real acquittal!”

“We have refrained from appealing against the verdict because the appeal courts have turned into confirmation courts!”

During Mary’s court hearing last week, the judge questioned her about her religious views, even though the charges were unrelated to her faith.

He cited no evidence against her, saying that her presence in the area where the rally was taking place was evidence in itself.

Mary’s hearing had previously been scheduled for 2 March, but was postponed due to coronavirus.

After her hearing was rescheduled, Mary tweeted that it would be a “crime against humanity” to send anyone to prison under the current circumstances.

Background

Mary has already spent six months in prison as a result of her participation in house-churches, for which she was convicted of “action against national security” and “propaganda against the system”.

In July last year she faced fresh criminal charges relating to her “improper” wearing of hijab. Those charges, which were eventually quashed, were brought against her after she initially went to police to complain of an assault.

Then in December, Mary was kicked out of her Tehran university, without explanation, on the eve of her English-language exams.

Just a few weeks later, on 12 January 2020, Mary was arrested as protests took place in Azadi Square.

There was no word about Mary’s whereabouts for a month, before it was confirmed that she was being held in Qarchak women’s prison, south of the Iranian capital Tehran.

After her arrest, Mary was forced to sit in a yard, for hours, in extremely cold weather and opposite the toilets, and not given any food for 24 hours.

She was beaten so badly – by male and female officers – that the bruises were visible for three weeks.

Mary was also strip-searched twice by female officers, who told her that if she refused to remove her clothes, they would rip them from her.

Mary is a rare example of a Christian activist still living in Iran. She launched a campaign last year called “Kahma”, fighting for the rights of all Christians – whether from Christian homes, or Christian converts – to be given the right to attend church.

UPDATE on Anita

We had asked you to pray for Anita, a Christian convert who was charge with promoting the underground church in Iran. Her hearing took place on April 15th. The Iranian court had recommended 6 years in prison, but we were encouraged that the judge, who is known to be harsh, had treated her kindly during the trial. After the hearing she was released to house arrest and told the judge would send his final verdict. Sadly, she received a verdict of 10 years in prison. Please pray for Anita and her attorney who will likely appeal the sentence.

Tonight on the Persecution Watch Prayer Call: India

 

(Voice of the Persecuted) Again, we want to lift up two persecuted witnesses for the Lord and pray for Leah Sharibu and Alice that this year will be the year where they will be set free. And also pray for Pastor Wang Yi to be released from Prison.

India

Population: 1.7 billion, Christians 66.2 million

The level of violence and persecution against Christians—and other religious minorities—in India is vast and shocking. Led by radical Hindu nationalists, who seem to operate with impunity and little interference from local, regional or national governments, persecution against Christians in India has reached epidemic levels. A rise in far-right extremist groups—some of whom have links to armed radical groups—have clearly resulted in a sharp spike in violent incidents, and overall persecution against religious minorities. Radical Hindu nationalism in India is vocal, omnipresent and very violent, particularly against anyone who converts to Christianity from Hinduism. For these radicals, to be Indian is to be Hindu; therefore, to be Christian is to revoke your Indian identity.

More than 11,000 nongovernmental organizations have lost their licenses to accept foreign funds since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took office in 2014.

 Seven states in India have anti-conversion laws on the books that criminalize conversion through allurement or other fraudulent means. However, the conversion laws are often abused by Hindu nationalist groups that oppose the existence of Christian missionaries or ministries in their communities.

Persecution 

Rural India can be a difficult place for recent converts to Christianity. Threats from radical Hindu nationalists, neighbors, and even family are a common part of the conversion experience in India’s unreached places.  Kasturi, a Christian woman from Tumhara village located in Odisha state, experienced these threats firsthand after she converted to Christianity in 2019. According to Kasturi, she converted to Christianity because the church community helped carry her daily burdens. This sense of community helped bring Kasturi a sense of peace.

However, the day she was baptized she began to face aggressive abuse from her husband. According to Kasturi, her husband would verbally abuse her, call her demeaning names, curse her, and throw her out of the house for days at a time. During these times she would stay with her cousin, but would return to care for her children. On January 19, 2020, Kasturi went to a Sunday worship service while her husband was away. When she returned from the service, her husband was home and welcomed her with a brutal beating. After this incident, Kasturi’s husband told her he would not let her leave the house unless she renounced her Christian faith. In the end, Kasturi could not abandon her new found faith and the peace that it brought her.

  • Pray for the government leaders in India to change their attitudes and create room for religious freedom.
  • Pray for God’s protection over Christians who boldly evangelize in the growing number of states with anti-conversion laws. Pray they will be wise in their evangelism efforts.
  • Pray for protection over Christians converts from Hinduism who are forcefully pressure to recant their faith
  • Pray for the protection of all, not only Christian women and young girls from rape and violence.
  • Pray for changes in rules and regulations as the work of Christian non-profits has suffered from the fact that it has been made very difficult to receive financial support from abroad. Pray for changes in rules and regulations.
  • Pray to the Lord to give NGO’s favor in covert work to and minister and support Christians.
  • Pray people have freedom to access Christian materials online as almost everyone in the country now has Internet access and as a result Christians and others have more access to Christian materials.
  • Pray to the Lord to hold His hand of protection over the Christian media in India and uproot all efforts of Hindu hard-liners attacking the Christian media by accusing them of evangelism.
  • Pray for God’s protection over Christians who boldly evangelize in the growing number of states with anti-conversion laws. Pray they will be wise in their evangelism efforts.
  • Pray that believers remain joyful amid suffering and forgive their persecutors
  • Pray to the Lord to continue to add to the numbers of believers daily and that His Church, the community of the saints, will continue to experience extraordinary growth.

Many blessings,

Andy, Prayer Call Moderator for Persecution Watch

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What is Persecution Watch?
Persecution Watch is a U.S. national prayer conference call ministry that prays specifically for the global Persecuted Church. For over a decade, Blaine Scogin led this national network of believers who faithfully pray for the persecuted and the global harvest for the Kingdom of God. The group meets via a free call-in service every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday night at 9pm Eastern (please check your time zone). Blaine also served as Prayer Director for Voice of the Persecuted and our missions became one. The prayer mission of Persecution Watch is an important part of our own. With the passing of Blaine into glory on December 26, 2019, Voice of the Persecuted is committed to continue the prayer conference call for the persecuted along with our dedicated prayer warrior team.

On occasion, persecuted brothers and sisters have been invited on the call to share the trials they’re facing. The team serves to encourage them by washing their feet in Spirit led prayer. Time is often reserved for those on the call to ask questions. We believe this helps to gain a better understanding of the situation that persecuted Christians endure in their specific nations. Q&A also helps us to focus our prayers based on their current needs.

Persecution Watch also hosts callers who want to pray united from other nations. If your heart is perplexed by the sufferings of our persecuted brothers and sisters, you no longer need to pray alone. We welcome all who desire to pray for the persecuted church and consider it a joy to pray together with you. If you’re new to the call and can’t find your voice, listen in and pray silently or on mute. We are grateful and thank the Lord for bringing us all together to pray in agreement for our persecuted family in Christ. We can all be prayer warriors on this call!

NOTE: Persecution Watch has a new email address for the prayer team and those who would like to receive urgent prayer requests, weekly call prayer points and notification of special prayer events and special guest speakers. Please fill out the form below to be included in our new distribution list to receive this important information. Since the passing of Brother Blaine Scogin, we thank you for your patience as we have transitioned into this new season. We are grateful for your prayers and to the Lord for guiding us as we continue the Persecution Watch prayer call mission.

Note to Voice of the Persecuted (VOP) readers: The Persecution Watch prayer team is also the prayer team of Voice of the Persecuted. SIGN UP today.

Heinous Attacks Against Christians in Nigeria under-reported

The coronavirus affecting Nigeria is dominating the headlines which has pushed news reports of Christians being slaughtered by Islamists even further to the back burner.

 April 16 – A Christian student was killed in an attack by Muslim Fulani herdsmen in Kaduna state on Thursday night (April 16), a week after a pastor was slain at his church building residence in southern Nigeria, sources said. According to area residents, After his college in northwest Nigeria was closed due to the coronavirus, Sebastine Stephen was visiting his home in a suburb of the city of Kaduna, when armed Fulani attacked at about 11:30 p.m. , reported Morning Star News.

“Sebastine Stephen was shot when the armed Fulani herdsmen attacked Gbagyi Villa area in Chikun Local Government Area in the southern end of the city of Kaduna,” area resident Hosea Yusuf told Morning Star News. “Stephen raised alarm, warning residents about the invasion of our community as he was still outside at the time the herdsmen came to attack the community. The herdsmen instantly shot him and then proceeded to enter one of the houses close to them, where they kidnapped a couple.”

“The Fulani herdsmen were over 50 carrying sophisticated guns and shooting sporadically,” Chris Obodumu told Morning Star News. “After they killed the young man, Sebastine Stephen, they then broke into the house of Mr. Jack Nweke and abducted him with his wife, leaving behind their three children.” He said he feared the herdsmen may return to attack again. Gbagyi Villa community leader Martins Emmanuel said the herdsmen simultaneously attacked both Gbagyi Villa and the nearby area of Mararaban Rido.

April 14 – Six children and a pregnant woman were among nine people that Muslim Fulani herdsmen killed in north-central Nigeria 0n April 14, sources said.

About a dozen herdsmen armed with rifles and machetes raided Hura-Maiyanga village, in the Miango area of Kwall District in Plateau state’s Bassa County, shouting the jihadist slogan “Allahu Akbar [God is greater],” sources said.

“They were armed with machetes and AK-47 rifles as they attacked us,” Hanatu John, a woman who survived the attack, told Morning Star News. “They attacked our village at about 8 p.m., and they were shouting, ‘Allahu Akbar!’ as they shot into our houses.” The assailants were speaking Fulfulde, the Fulani language, as they shot into homes, she said.

“Most families had already retired into houses to sleep when these Fulani gunmen came into the village and were shooting into houses. As the herdsmen shot at us, we all ran out from our houses into the surrounding bushes. Some of the herdsmen chased after us and shot at us, while others were burning down our houses.”

“Hura hamlet of Maiyanga village in Kwall District, Miango Chiefdom in Bassa Local Government Area, Plateau state was invaded on the night of 14th by suspected armed Fulani herdsmen, who surrounded the entire area and unleashed mayhem on the unsuspecting natives,” Mwantiri told Morning Star News by text message. “As a result, nine persons were gruesomely killed and two injured while 33 houses were completely torched by fire. Most of the persons killed were children.”

The ages of the children were 3, 6, two were 7, 15 and an unborn baby.  Over 250 persons, mostly women and children, have been displaced.

Miango resident Grace Gye sent a message to the Plateau state government on April 15, calling on state and federal governments “to protect the people and their property.” She questioned why Fulani herdsmen were moving about freely in spite of a lockdown in the face of the novel coronavirus.

The Rev. Ronku Aka, a former Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) pastor and now community leader of the Irigwe ethnic group, lamented incessant attacks on predominantly Christian communities.

“So many of my people have been killed over the years, including the attack of last night, In spite of promises from the government to my people, the herdsmen have continuously been attacking our communities.”

“I am begging the international community to come to the aid of our people! this killing is too much,” Aka told Zenger. “More than the COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria, the Fulanis are killing my people. Despite the lockdown,” Aka told Zenger News.

The attack on Maiyanga comes on the heels of attacks by herdsmen in the area last month. On March 31, Christians were killed at Ancha village; the next day three more Christians were slain in the predominantly Christian community of Nkiedow-hro village, and seven others were killed in Hukke village. On Jan. 14, 2018, armed herdsmen killed one Christian and wounded two others in an attack on Maiyanga village.

There is also a report shared on April 16 of Moses Gata, a resident from a targeted village, being abused by authorities after he criticized Nigerian police and military for withdrawing from a region where Muslim militants have killed at least 20 Christians.

“I blamed the security for withdrawal of soldiers at the checkpoints and hence the attacks when it was barely a week after the withdrawal,” Gata told Zenger News, explaining why he may have been targeted for retaliation.

“I also complained about the government inability to set up programs such as bringing relief materials to homeless people, rehabilitation program, resettlement program, reconstruction program of any sorts,” he said.

He claimed the captain told him, ’You’re going to respect the uniform from now on, aren’t you, little boy!’ as he hosed me down from head to toe in ice cold water.”  Gata said he was ordered to roll back and forth on the concrete porch of a temporary army barrack for close to two hours until he was rescued by an elected official who had heard from family about his predicament.

April 13 – Muslim Fulani herdsmen in Nigeria decapitated two Christians in Benue state.

According to residents, herdsmen ambushed two members of a Catholic church in  Ologba village at about 8 a.m. on Monday. “Oche Alaade and his friend who had visited the village were traveling out of the village on their way back to Obagaji town where they reside when they were ambushed by the Fulani herdsmen and their heads cut off,” area resident Louis Oguche told Morning Star News in a text message. Oyaje Sule, uncle of Oche Alaade, confirmed the killings in a statement issued to local press on Monday evening. The murders follow a herdsmen attack on two Christians the previous week who are receiving hospital treatment for their wounds, Sule said. Agatu, a predominantly Christian area in the north-central state of Benue, has been under siege by herdsmen in the past four years, with many Christians killed and displaced.

April 11 – A group of herdsmen in Plateau state on shot a Christian farmer dead.

Muslim Fulani herdsmen killed 30-year-old Christian farmer Mabur Mallo Gwang in Maiduna village, Daffo District of Bokkos County, area residents said. Armed with guns and machetes, four armed herdsmen forced their way into the victim’s house attacked him. Neighbors fled into the nearby bushes when they heard the gunshots, The victim was a member of the local Church of Christ in Nations (COCIN) congregation. Yusuf Machen, chairman of the Bokkos Local Government Council, confirmed the attack when contacted by Morning Star News. “We are deeply saddened about such incessant attacks on the communities in Bokkos Local Government Area,” Machen said.

Herdsmen have attacked Christian communities in Bokkos County over the past three years, as well as Christians in the counties of Barkin Ladi, Bassa, Jos South, Mangu and Riyom, residents told Morning Star News. In the Daffo area in the past two years, more than 40 Christians have been killed, 11 communities destroyed and more than 7,000 people displaced, they said.

April 10 – In southern Nigeria’s Delta state, church members identified two armed men who came to the church building the night of April 10 and shot and stabbed pastor Stephen Akpor as Fulani herdsmen. He was 55.

Pastor Akpor, whose residence was on the church premises, was praying and counseling members of his church in Ibusa at about 8:30 p.m. at Breakthrough Cathedral, a local fellowship of the Celestial Church of Christ, church leaders told Morning Star News via text messages. “Two herdsmen came to a branch of our church, Celestial Church at Ibusa in Oshimili North Local Government Area of Delta state, where they shot him as he was praying and counseling five members in the church,” a senior leader of the church, Isaiah George, church, told Morning Star News.

Pastor Akpor reportedly retreated to his room before the assailants shot him through a window. The pastor’s wife was inside the building at the time, but she and the other church members escaped unhurt, George said. “The herdsmen shot the pastor several times and then stabbed him to death,” he said.

Another church leader, Peter Lotobi, said he received a phone call at the time of the herdsmen attack and immediately contacted police. “By the time the police got to the church, the herdsmen had already killed the pastor and retreated from the church premises,” Lotobi told Morning Star News. “His corpse was removed and taken by the police to the mortuary of General Hospital, Ibusa.” Pastor Akpor reportedly is survived by five children along with his wife.

Attacks by armed Muslim Fulani herdsmen, most of them in the north-central part of the country, have drifted to southern Nigerian states as far back as 2016. Recently Muslim Fulani herdsmen in southern communities have reportedly taken over farmlands.

March 22 – Herdsmen attacked Div-Nzaav village in Kwande County as Christians were about to begin worship in the village church. “The Fulanis attacked us on Sunday; they shot and killed Tarfa Simon, while Ngusonon Kighir, a woman and member of our community, was cut with a machete,” Amande said in a text message to Morning Star News.

The attacked members of the Universal Reformed Christian Church (Nongu u Kristu u i Ser u sha Tar, or NKST) who escaped fled to Jato-Aka village, he added. “The herdsmen also kidnapped two Christian women from the village who were rescued a few days after the attack,” Amande said. “These attacks against us by the herdsmen have become incessant for several years.”

March 5 – Herdsmen also attacked Mbanyiar village in Guma County at about 2 a.m., residents said. Oliver Tyoor Chado of Mbanyiar said the herdsmen kidnapped his wife and destroyed houses, food and animals belonging to Christians.

“The herdsmen, who were about a dozen, were armed with AK-47 rifles,” Chado told Morning Star News. “My wife and two other members of our village were kidnapped and taken away by the herdsmen; but they were eventually rescued by security agents after they were tortured by the herdsmen.” He said displaced Christians have fled to Daudu town.

March 6 – In Guma County, seven NKST members were killed when Muslim Fulani herdsmen attacked villagers at a funeral wake in Chongu village, sources said. Chongu resident Zaki Usuah he and others were holding a wake at about 11 p.m. when the Fulani herdsmen attacked. “The wake was for one of our deceased elders in our church, NKST church, who was to be buried the following morning at Chongu,” Usuah said. “Suddenly we heard sounds of gun shots all around us. Those killed in the attack include Chikwa, Taza Abuur, Tarnum Yanum and four others.”

March 3 – In Abaji village three weeks earlier, also in Kwande County, armed herdsmen stormed the area in droves, residents said. They attacked at about 10 a.m on March 3, according to area resident Aloysius Yaga.

“Eight of our people were killed, and six others were kidnapped by the herdsmen during the attack,” Yaga told Morning Star News by text message. “The herdsmen shot indiscriminately at us and injured many others through machete cuts. I narrowly escaped being killed.”

March 2 – In northwestern Nigeria, Muslim Fulani herdsmen in Niger state on March 24 killed at least 20 people in two predominantly Christian villages and on March 2 kidnapped eight Christians in raids on a mission station, sources said.

The attacks on the villages of Galkogo and Zumba, killing more than 20 people, displaced 3,000 people, area residents told Morning Star News.

In Niger state’s Shiroro County, Fulani herdsmen raided a school in Maruba run by Calvary Ministries (CAPRO), kidnapping four missionaries, two volunteer staff members, another staff member and one student, according to Niyi Gbade, the ministry’s national director. Ask God to release them unharmed now,” Gbade told Morning Star News in a text message. The school’s head teacher was shot and received hospital treatment, he said. “Pray for the remaining missionaries on the base, that they will not be kidnapped, and that those being held should be released from any form of captivity,” Gbade said.

Herdsmen also raided Global Glorious Mission in Gofa, Shiroro County, on March 22, forcing missionaries and students to flee into bushes, according to a mission press statement last month. “The Fulani herdsmen entered, ransacked and looted our Gofa field of Shiroro LGA, Niger and environs,” the statement read. “Some of the brethren have gone back in the night, and some returning this morning. Please stand with us in prayer for God’s intervention over this menace.”

In the past year, armed Fulani herdsmen have carried out a series of raids on Christian communities in the northwest, sending people fleeing to camps for the displaced.

On Jan. 30, (CSI) issued a genocide warning for Nigeria, calling on the Permanent Member of the United Nations Security Council to take action. The warning was issued in response to “a rising tide of violence directed against Nigerian Christians and others classified as ‘infidels’ by Islamist militants in the country’s north and middle belt regions.’

Dr. Samson Ayokunle, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) President said, “Christians have become an endangered species in their own country. “Nigeria is under a siege orchestrated by the murderous bloodthirsty and criminally-minded Boko Haram terrorists, Fulani terrorist herdsmen, bandits and kidnappers.” He also called the government to account for its inaction in the face of the escalating conflict and the culture of impunity in Nigeria.

sources here, here and here

Please pray for our brothers and sisters in Nigeria.

URGENT Prayer Request 3/19/2020

 

We were informed one of the persecuted Christians that Voice of the Persecuted is caring for abroad is very sick and may have the COVID-19 virus. Please pray for Neda to be healed and keep praying for our persecuted brothers and sisters, worldwide. 🙏

May the Lord bless, protect and give you peace so you can encourage others and shine His light during these trying times.

The Voice of the Persecuted Team

 

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