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(Morning Star News) – Muslim extremists in eastern Uganda last week boarded a boat in which a young evangelist was fishing and killed him, sources said
Dante Tambika, also known as Patrick, was beaten and strangled to death near Nankodo 3 village, Nankodo Sub-County, on Aug. 31 after he and friends went out on Lake Lemwa, said Stephen Mukama, a survivor of the attack. Tambika was 19.
Mukuma, Tambika and two other friends were walking toward the lake when they realized five Muslim teenagers were following them, Mukama said. They knew the five Muslims who stopped them, he said.
“They tried to provoke us by calling us infidels and saying that they were going to crush us just like Allah did to those who used to attack their prophet, Muhammad,” Mukama said.
The four Christians did not respond, continued on to the lake and began fishing from the boat at about 6:30 p.m. As they were returning to shore about two hours later, they saw the same boys, and one shouted the jihadist slogan, “Allah Akbar [Allah is greater],” Mukama said.
“From nowhere we saw six other Muslims approaching our fishing boat, furious and uttering defaming words against us,” he told Morning Star News. “I told my friends that we were in trouble and that each of us should prepare for self-defense. I led them in prayers.”
The jihadists, whom the Christians did not recognize, came close, and one of them jumped into their boat and began beating Tambika on the back with his fist and a stick, Mukama said.
“He commanded us to believe in Allah, or else they will kill us,” he told Morning Star News. “Dante replied that we can’t renounce Christianity, saying, ‘If you want to kill us, kill us, know that we are ready.’”
Mukama asked the assailants why they should renounce Christ. Tambika’s late father, Boaz, had been a successful area evangelist, and one of the assailants replied that a Christian named Boaz had converted many Muslims, including his brother, to Christianity.
“Others jumped into our boat and started beating us with sticks,” Mukama said. “I jumped off the boat and swam to shore. I was followed by my other two friends who could swim. Unfortunately, Dante was left in the hands of the assailants because he had no swimming skills.”
Upon reaching shore, the friends called for help, but by the time they and the others returned to the site, the assailants had fled, he said. The Christians and area residents found Tambika’s body the next day in the water near the shoreline. He had been beaten on the head, tied with a rope and strangled, Mukuma said.
Tambika’s father had mentored his son in how to share the gospel, and area Muslims began monitoring Tambika’s movements after he led five teenage Muslims to Christ, sources said. His father had led a community leader and about 30 other Muslims to Christ before he died in 2019.
The conversions led to confrontations with clan members, and several former Muslims who put their faith in Christ left the area due to threats on their lives, sources said.
Christians have reported the killing to police (Reference No. SD REF 04/01/09/21). Tambika’s family has hired an attorney in the case.
The assault was the latest of many instances of persecution of Christians in Uganda that Morning Star News has documented.
Uganda’s constitution and other laws provide for religious freedom, including the right to propagate one’s faith and convert from one faith to another. Muslims make up no more than 12 percent of Uganda’s population, with high concentrations in eastern areas of the country.
Photo: Crowds at Lake Lemwa, Uganda on Sept. 1, 2021 await recovery of the body of Dante Tambika, killed the previous night. (Morning Star News)
Nigeria (Morning Star News) – Muslim Fulani herdsmen in north-central Nigeria hacked a young Catholic man to death with machetes on Wednesday (Oct. 14), one of eight Christians killed this month in Plateau state.
The herdsmen ambushed 25-year-old Justine Patrick and two Christian companions at about 6 p.m. as they were returning from farm work to Chaha village, Jos South County, according to area resident Ruth Pam.
“Patrick’s companions, Daniel Gyang and Sele Dung, escaped being killed by the armed herdsmen,” Pam told Morning Star News in a text message. “Patrick was cut with machetes until he died.”
Chaha is near the town of K-Vom, where a herdsmen attack on Sept. 24 killed five Christians.
On Friday (Oct. 16) in Daffo town, Bokkos County, Fulani herdsmen ambushed Mukan Solomon Dauda, a 54-year-old Christian who is a security guard for Living Faith Church, according to area resident Simon Agam. Dauda escaped with injuries, one of five Christians wounded in herdsmen attacks this month.
“He was on his way to his guard duty at the church when he was attacked, and he’s currently receiving treatment at the Jos University Teaching Hospital,” Agam told Morning Star News.
Fulani herdsmen on Oct. 8 killed a Christian in Kuru-Jenta village. Pam said Davou Musa, choir director of his home church, Church of Christ in Nations (COCIN) in Tya Vom village, and at the nearby COCIN congregation in Rahwol Chom village, was 30.
“Davou Musa was also a member of the Boys Brigade, a Christian youth organization, which ministers in churches,” Pam said.
The previous day in Vwak village, Riyom County, a Christian woman was wounded by gunshot in a herdsmen attack on her home at 10:30 p.m. as she was sleeping.
“Miss Blessing Davou sustained gunshot wounds and she’s currently receiving medical treatment in a hospital in the city of Jos,” area resident Bitrus Chung told Morning Star News.
Six Others Killed
Suspected herdsmen on Oct. 5 attacked predominantly Christian Wereng village in Riyom County, killing six people, according to area resident Dalyop Solomon Mwantiri.
“Heavily armed men believed to be Fulani herdsmen alongside their cohorts at about 10 p.m. invaded the community, killing six people,” Mwantiri said in a press statement.
He identified the slain as “Chungyang Mwadkon Tengong, Pam Bako Pwol, Davou Kwal, Linus Rapheal, Mrs. Vou Pam, Miss Evelyn Peter and a minor.”
Wounded were Kim Francis, 32; Mary Francis, 65; and Lyop David 35, Mwantiri said.
Plateau Gov. Simon Lalong, in a statement issued by his spokesman, called for an end to the bloodshed.
“We will not allow these ugly incidences to return where helpless and innocent people are murdered in cold blood for no reason. These killers must be fished out at whatever cost and brought to justice,” Lalong said. “I urge the people to cooperate with the security agencies by providing useful information that will facilitate the arrest of the attackers.”
Numbering in the millions across Nigeria and the Sahel, predominantly Muslim Fulani comprise hundreds of clans of many different lineages who do not hold extremist views, but some Fulani do adhere to radical Islamist ideology, the United Kingdom’s All-Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom or Belief (APPG) noted in a recent report.
Christian leaders in Nigeria have said they believe herdsmen attacks on Christian communities in Nigeria’s Middle Belt are inspired by their desire to forcefully take over Christians’ lands and impose Islam as desertification has made it difficult for them to sustain their herds.
The APPG report noted that tribal loyalties cannot be overlooked.
“In 2015, Muhammadu Buhari, a Fulani, was elected president of Nigeria,” the group reported. “He has done virtually nothing to address the behavior of his fellow tribesmen in the Middle Belt and in the south of the country.”
On Jan. 30 Christian Solidarity International (CSI) issued a genocide warning for Nigeria, calling on the Permanent Member of the United Nations Security Council to take action. CSI issued the call 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.’”
Nigeria ranked 12th on Open Doors’ 2020 World Watch List of countries where Christians suffer the most persecution but second in the number of Christians killed for their faith, behind Pakistan.
India (Morning Star News) – When Kande Munda heard a knock on his door one night last month, the Christian father of two knew it was likely the same thugs and their colleagues in his area of Jharkhand, India who had harassed him for nearly four years.
They were particularly upset that Munda had reported them to police for a 2018 assault on his mother-in-law. The assailants, followers of tribal Adivasi religion, had opposed her conversion to Christianity by labelling her Christian prayers as “witchcraft” and gang-raping her.
Munda and his family were already in bed after a hard day of work on the night of June 7 when they heard the knock on the door. Munda told his wife not to answer it.
“He was suspicious that they must have come for him,” his wife, Bindi Munda, told Morning Star News.
Three men forced the door open and entered, while four or five remained outside, she said. Darkness obscured their faces.
“One of them pointed a gun at my husband and told the other two men that they should first rape me and then kill my husband,” Munda said.
Their children, ages 1 and 3, were asleep. The armed assailants seized her husband by the neck as he knelt and pleaded with them not to kill him, she said.
“I have done nothing wrong – please don’t kill me,” he cried repeatedly, according to his wife, who picked up their children, holding one in each arm, and fled into the wilderness. She hid there briefly before running into the village screaming for someone to save her husband.
“But by the time I had returned to our shanty with some neighbors, he was not there,” she said. “I went about half a mile on foot to a believer’s home to get their help to search for my husband.”
That night Kande Munda’s youngest brother, returning to Bari village on a motorbike, found his corpse in a pool of blood under a tree by the side of the road to Latardih village. The mutilated body was barely recognizable.
“He suspected that the body was that of his brother,” the wife of the deceased told Morning Star News. “He rushed to our shanty looking for us, and as he could not find us there, he called on my husband’s phone. I picked up the phone, and he told me that there was a corpse lying by the road, and it looked like that of my husband.”
Kande Munda, also known as Philip Munda, was 27.
It was the second killing of a Christian for his faith in India last month. On the night of June 4 in Odisha state, followers of tribal religion abducted 16-year-old Sambaru Madkami for his faith before stabbing and stoning him to death. In Uttar Pradesh state on May 28, villagers tried to kill pastor Dinesh Kumar in an ambush that left him unconscious.
Munda and his family previously practiced their traditional, animistic religion as tribal Adivasis. After he put his faith in Christ in 2017, his wife soon converted, and when her mother came for an extended visit in 2018, she too received Christ, Bindi Munda said.
After Adivasi villagers abducted her mother from their home, took her into the woods and gang-raped her, Kande Munda filed a police complaint, she said.
“The police investigated the matter and arrested some of the accused,” she said. “Since then, opposition against my husband and our Christian faith increased.”
Sanjay Sandil, a member of Siyon Church in the area, said the primary suspect remained at large. After police arrested some suspects, he said, one of Munda’s cousins continually harassed Munda with the help of some militant Maoist colleagues, pressuring him to withdraw the charges.
The cousin and Maoists issued an ultimatum about three months ago that Munda should drop the case or “face consequences,” Sandil said.
“Every time he would inform us about the harassment, we supported him as a church and stood by him,” Sandil told Morning Star News. “We always reached Bari village in the next couple of hours and ensured that the Maoist group did not lay hands on him or sister Bindi Munda.”
In May eight men surrounded their home, and Sandil and other Christians arrived to stand with the family, he said. Police also arrived and gave assurances that they would not let any of the accused go free, Sandil said.
The day of the attack (June 7), police had received word that the primary suspect was in Bari village and were searching for him, he said.
“They could not catch him, but in the night at around 8 p.m., the men unleashed the attack by forcefully entering his house,” Sandil said. “It is more likely that the same persons who gheraoed the house in May must have showed up at their shanty that night. Brother Philip Munda was brutally hacked to death with machetes. The marks can be seen clearly on the back of his body.”
On June 8, officers at the Saiko police station registered cases against the eight men under sections for kidnapping or abducting to murder (Section 364) and murder (Section 302) of the Indian Penal Code.
“The persons who abducted and murdered Kande Munda have absconded from the crime scene soon after they committed his murder,” Superintendent of Police Ashutosh Shekhar told Morning Star News. “The investigation and search for the accused are still underway. We have been able to list the names of suspects, and a few other names also had surfaced during the investigation. All the accused persons would be arrested very soon.”
Sandeep Oraon, Jharkhand legal aid coordinator for advocacy group Alliance Defending Freedom India, visited Munda’s family at their new location on June 24. He assured them of legal assistance in the matter and prayed with them.
Sandil recalled Munda as a noble soul – a selfless, skilled construction and field worker who would agree to work for half the normal wage for people who could not afford to pay more.
“He was providing for his family by working very hard,” Sandil said. “Now the small children do not have a father to provide and raise them.”
Bindi Munda has relocated with her children to another village, as the killers could come after her since she witnessed the abduction of her husband, he said.
“After Brother Philip Munda’s funeral service, the church members spent some time with sister Bindi, counselling her and telling her to remain strong in faith,” Sandil said. “She shared that her husband told her that he could be killed and asked her to bring up their children in a godly manner.”
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom on April 28 urged the U.S. State Department to add India as a “Country of Particular Concern” to its list of nations with poor records of protecting religious freedom.
India is ranked 10th on Open Doors’ 2020 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian. The country was 31st in 2013, but its position has worsened since Narendra Modi of the Bharatiya Janata Party came to power in 2014.
Pakistan (Morning Star News) – Police in Lahore, Pakistan tortured to death the Christian father of 14-day-old and 7-year-old sons, relatives said.
Officers on Aug. 28 illegally detained 28-year-old Amir Masih on a false charge of theft and tortured him for four days before he died in a hospital on Sept. 2, his brother Sunny Masih told Morning Star News.
Interrogating officers in the 96-percent Muslim country “urinated on Amir’s face and body and mocked his Christian faith” while trying to torture him into a false confession, Masih said.
After filing an application with police on Aug. 31 alleging forced disappearance of Amir Masih, a member of the Church of Pakistan, relatives were informed that he had been taken into custody by a sub-inspector identified only as Zeeshan in connection with a theft case. Their repeated attempts to meet Sub-Inspector Zeeshan were blocked. They did know of Amir Masih’s whereabouts until an officer phoned Sunny Masih on Sept. 2 to tell him that his brother was not well and that they should come and take him to the hospital, Masih said.
“We rushed to the police station, where we were handed a semi-conscious Amir,” he said. “He was beaten up mercilessly, and his body was full of bruises. While we were taking him to the hospital, Amir told us that Inspector Nasir Baig, Sub-Inspector Zeeshan and four unidentified constables had tortured him continuously for four days.”
Sunny Masih said that while police released without a scratch all other employees who worked with Amir Masih, a gardener, after they were summoned about the alleged theft, his brother was subjected to severe torture because he was a poor Christian whom police believed could be coerced into a false confession.
“He told us that the police officials had urinated on him while cursing him for being a Christian and tried to force him to confess to the crime,” he said. “But my brother was innocent, and he refused to admit to something that he had not done, which further infuriated his interrogators. They increased the intensity of the violence, also subjecting him to electric shocks.”
Doctors at Services Hospital tried to save his life, but he succumbed to his injuries after a couple of hours, Masih said.
Working as a gardener in PAF Colony, Amir Masih was summoned to North Cantt Police Station in a phone call from Zeeshan regarding a theft case registered by his employer, Rana Mohammad Hanif, Masih said.
“Amir was present at Hanif’s house when he received the inspector’s call,” he said. “The watchman of the house told him that all employees had been summoned by the police to record their statements, and he should do the same. My brother went to the police station of his own will, but when he reached there the cops seized his phone, bundled him into a vehicle and spirited him to some unknown place.”
When he did not return home that evening, Sunny Masih and other relatives went out to search for him, he said.
“When I reached Hanif’s house to inquire about Amir, the watchman told me that he had been summoned by Sub-Inspector Zeeshan to record his statement,” he said. “For the next two days, we continued to search for both Amir and the police officer but failed to find any trace of their whereabouts.”
A post-mortem report on the death states that torture marks were visible on his hands, feet, back and arms. His ribs were also broken.
After news of the killing in custody spread on mainstream and social media and drew public ire, Punjab Inspector General of Police Captain Arif Nawaz Khan ordered registration of a case against Inspector Nasir Baig, Zeeshan and four other police officers and ordered a detailed report on the case.
Police have taken Baig and Zeeshan into custody, but the four other officers accused are still at large as no serious efforts have been made to arrest them, Masih said. Police at the same station where his brother was tortured registered his complaint for murder, illegal detention and torture.
Both Punjab Minister for Minorities and Human Rights Aijaz Alam Augustine and Shunila Ruth, a member of the National Assembly, said that they were making efforts to ensure justice for the grieving family of Amir Masih. Both officials are Christians.
Augustine said that he had visited the family and was in contact with police officials to ensure arrest of the absconding accused.
“This is a grave crime, and the accused police officers will be severely punished,” Augustine said, adding that the government would not show any leniency in cases of torture and custodial killings.
Ruth, who visited the victim’s family along with Punjab Gov. Muhammad Sarwar, said she would raise the matter in the National Assembly.
“The family’s claim that Amir was subjected to torture because of his Christian faith is not unfounded,” she said. “Unfortunately, there are segments in our society who continue to be prejudicial towards members of the marginalized communities.”
The two Christian officials said they believe they’ll be able to bring the perpetrators to justice, but attorney Saiful Malook, who gained fame for securing freedom for high-profile Christian blasphemy convict Aasiya Noreen (commonly known as Asia Bibi), said he feared the case would be swept under the carpet after the media hype dies because “police are known to protect their own.”
“Amir Masih’s murder in police custody is not only a serious crime but also a severe violation of the constitution,” he said. “Therefore, it should be taken up very seriously, and the police alone should not be trusted in this regard.”
Malook said that the First Information Report of the case also should have included the names of the deputy superintendent of police of the zone and the station house officer, as they were the supervisory officers and it was their responsibility to ensure that no citizen was subjected to illegal detention and torture.
“I’m sure the police misguided the complainant into naming only the six accused in order to save their seniors,” he said. “I am ready to provide pro-bono legal assistance to Amir Masih’s family, because I believe that they deserve justice on merit.”
Pakistan ranked fifth on Christian support organization Open Doors 2019 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.
Nigeria (Morning Star News) – As a Baptist church member tried to fight off an armed Muslim Fulani herdsman in a village in north-central Nigeria, he told his 7-year-old nephew and other relatives to run.
The boy remained, crying and calling for help.
Jerome, whose real name is withheld for security reasons, recalled how gunshots woke him and his family around midnight on May 3 in Gwanje village, 18 kilometers (11 miles) from Akwanga in Nasarawa state. His account of a relatively limited attack gives a glimpse of how hundreds of Christian families have been terrorized by herdsmen.
A neighbor rushed over to tell Jerome’s father that he had received a call that the herdsmen were attacking from the south and coming toward their home north of the village.
Jerome’s father, 39, told his younger brother, 21-year-old Istifanus Arewa, to take the family into hiding in a forest 200 meters away. As Jerome fled with his uncle, mother and grandmother, the herdsmen began to shoot at them, the boy said.
“My uncle pulled me down and asked my mother and grandmother to also lie down on the ground in order to avoid the bullets that were being shot at us,” Jerome told Morning Star News. “As we lay there on the ground, one of the herdsmen came to where we were and pointed his gun at my uncle. When the Fulani man was about to shoot my uncle, my uncle jumped up and grabbed him, and they began to wrestle each other.”
Arewa shouted for them to run, the boy said.
“My mother and grandmother ran away while I stood there crying and calling for help,” Jerome said. “But as this was going on, another Fulani man shot me, and the bullet hit me on the upper side of my right shoulder. I fell down and crawled under a thick shrub.”
He watched as his uncle and the other Fulani wrestled. The herdsmen who shot Jerome then turned and shot at his uncle, who was holding tightly to the other Fulani.
“The shooting brought the two of them down, and after sensing that he killed both my uncle and the other Fulani, the Fulani man left,” Jerome said. “I ran back to the village and saw an open door to a room in another house, were I entered and hid. I was in there until my parents and other people found me in that room the following morning.”
Arewa died trying to save his relatives, said Jerome’s father, whose identity is withheld for security reasons.
“My younger brother, in order to protect the little boy, my wife and mother, braved it to wrestle with the armed Fulani man,” he said.
He confirmed that the shot that killed his brother instantly also killed the other Fulani.
“This singular act by my brother, who fought with his bare hands against the Fulani man, forced the herdsmen to retreat,” he said. “If this bravery and heroic act by my younger brother had not happened, the herdsmen would no doubt have killed us all and burned down our homes.”
Arewa was a member of the Men’s Missionary Union of the Bishara Baptist Church in Gwanje, he said.
At about 5 a.m. the next day (May 4), family members returned to the village from the forest and found the corpses of Arewa and the Fulani, said Jerome’s father, a lay leader in the Baptist church.
“My little son, who throughout the night of the attack was missing, was found by us in a room where he ran into and hid himself,” he said. “He took us to the spot they were shot at, and we found the corpses.”
Also wounded that night was Moses Ayuba, a 29-year-old member of the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) in Gwanje. He received treatment for serious injuries at the Federal Medical Center, Keffi, in Nasarawa, relatives said.
In the southern end of Gwanje village, Ayuba was shot in his hand and waist, his father, Ayuba Para, 65, told Morning Star News.
Para said that his son went out after hearing the sound of gunshots, thinking they came from police who usually patrol the area.
“Unfortunately, on this night, the policemen were not around, and so my son ran into the herdsmen who were invading the village, and they shot him,” Para told Morning Star News. “And when I heard him crying, I ran out to the spot only for the herdsmen to shoot at me. I narrowly escaped being killed as I ran into the bush behind my house.”
After shooting Ayuba, the herdsmen left, he said.
The herdsmen attack on Gwanje village was the second in two weeks on Christian communities in Akwanga County.
For his part, Jerome’s father said he was saddened that the Nigerian government has taken no serious measures to end such attacks.
“I’m not happy about these unnecessary attacks on innocent Christians in Nigeria,” he said. “There’s the need for the government to act to end these killings. I plead also, that other fellow Christians pray for an end to these killings. We are in need of God’s peace in our country.”
Christians make up 51.3 percent of Nigeria’s population, while Muslims living primarily in the north and middle belt account for 45 percent.
Nigeria ranked 12th on Open Doors’ 2019 World Watch List of countries where Christians suffer the most persecution.
(Morning Star News) – Ladi Yakubu does not know how her family will eat after Muslim Fulani herdsmen destroyed crops on their farm in Kaduna state, Nigeria on Nov. 26 and shot and killed her husband.
“My husband is no more alive, and so the burden to feed our children is on me,” she said. “How do I feed them without having a job? And I cannot go to the farm because of the murderous activities of these herdsmen.”
The 49-year-old Yakubu, a member of the Dogo Awo village congregation of the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) in north-central Nigeria, said she knew the gunmen were Fulani herdsmen because they have lived near the village for several years. Herdsmen also destroyed crops on their farm in late 2016 and late 2017, she said.
Her husband, ECWA elder Yakubu Musa, was 50.
Her 20-year-old son, Believe Yakubu, received a bullet wound in his leg in the attack. Her other children are ages 15, 18, 23, 26 and 28, but without access to their farm outside the village, the adult children have little income-earning power.
The attack was different from night-time raids that have terrorized Christians in north-central and other states in Nigeria. Church members were helping the family to harvest rice the morning of Nov. 26, she said, when they stopped for lunch at about noon.
“As we were eating, a Fulani man came over to where we were sitting under a tree,” Yakubu told Morning Star News. “We offered him food, but he declined to eat with us. When my husband asked the Fulani man whether he needed help in anyway, the man said he was only out to find areas he could take his cattle to for grazing.”
The herdman left, but soon they heard gunshots near the farm, she said. The frightened church members returned to the village, while Yakubu, her husband and their son and nephew stayed to gather the harvest into one place and try to move tools and equipment, she said.
“While we were doing this, the Fulani man returned with one other Fulani,” Yakubu said. “Both of them were armed with guns. They shot at us, killing my husband and shooting my son on the leg, while me and my husband’s nephew narrowly escaped being shot. My husband was shot twice in the stomach.”
The armed herdsmen left the area, she said, but the next morning they returned and destroyed crops, water-pumping machines for irrigation, herbicide sprayers and even the food warmers the family had taken to the farm, she said.
“My husband’s corpse was recovered by our church members, and he was buried here in our house,” she said, pointing to the grave. “That is the grave you see by the door to this room where we are seated.”
Police Inaction Emboldens Herdsmen
After a Nov. 25, 2016 raid, when Fulani herdsmen destroyed rice, beans, pepper and other crops, her husband reported the attack to police and the leader of the local Fulani community, but they took no action, Yakubu said.
“No action was taken against them, but then my husband, who loves peace, said we should forgive the Fulani herdsmen and continue to work on the farm and trust God for provisions,” she said.
The police inaction emboldened Fulani herdsmen to return again during the harvest season of 2017 and destroy crops, she said. Again her husband reported the attack to police and the local Fulani leader, with no result.
“We were all devastated by the actions of these herdsmen as we were never compensated even once for the destruction on our farms,” Yakubu said. “Yet they still returned to kill my husband on the same farm they had destroyed our crops.”
Every morning during family devotionals, she said, her husband would instruct them never to repay evil with evil.
“‘Leave judgment of every evil act against you to God,’ he would always tell us,” she said, sobbing. “And in obedience to his instructions, we have forgiven those who murdered my husband. We will never avenge his death, as God says, ‘Vengeance is mine.’”
The Fulani herdsmen killed Yakubu Musa though he had never done anything to them, she said.
“All our crops have been destroyed, and it is not even safe for us to venture out there to even glean on these farms,” she said. “And because of this, I find it difficult to provide food to our six children.”
On Wednesday (Jan. 2), the herdsmen attacked other Christians who went to their fields near Dogo Awo, she said. Dogo Awo village is located south of the town of Jagindi Tasha, Jama’a Local Government Area.
“My only appeal is that those who have the heart to want to help us with prayers and want to help us with something to feed on should please kindly do so,” she said.
A graduate of the College of Education, Gidan Waya, in Kaduna state, with a Nigerian Certificate of Education, Yakubu had taught at a public primary school before she and other Christian teachers were laid off in what has been seen as systematic discrimination by a state government controlled by a Muslim governor.
The Rev. Ali Ndaks, pastor of the ECWA Church in Dogo Awo village, said the killing of his church elder has devastated the congregation.
“Before this incident, our church, even though a small congregation, had 50 members,” Pastor Ndaks said. “But with the incessant attacks on our community, we now have only seven members left. Almost all Christians in this village have fled out of fear of the attacks by the herdsmen.”
The pastor said that herdsmen had also destroyed his farm, as well as those of other villagers.
Musa also served as church secretary, financial secretary, and service leader, Pastor Ndaks said.
“He was a man of peace, always ensuring that issues in the church were resolved amicably,” he added.
Christians make up 51.3 percent of Nigeria’s population, while Muslims living primarily in the north and middle belt account for 45 percent.
Nigeria ranked 14th on Open Doors’ 2018 World Watch List of countries where Christians suffer the most persecution.Photo: Fulani herdsman
Church elder Yakubu Musa, killed in Muslim Fulani herdsmen attack on Nov. 26, 2018. (Morning Star News)
Photo 1. Fulani herdsman
Photo 2. Church elder Yakubu Musa, killed in Muslim Fulani herdsmen attack on Nov. 26, 2018. (Morning Star News) Photo: Fulani herdsman
Pakistan (Morning Star News) – Poor Christians in Pakistan commonly see police target them for extortion on false charges, and last week such a case ended in the death of a 24-year-old Christian, relatives said.
On the assumption that Christians with few legal resources can be targeted with impunity in the 96-percent Muslim country, policemen on May 29 killed Waqas Masih when his uncle refused their demand for money after they threatened to file false charges, the relatives said. Police are now pressuring the family to drop the murder case, they said.
The slain young man’s mother, a widow who belongs to a Pentecostal church, told Morning Star News that three policemen forced their way into the home of her brother, rickshaw driver Saleem Masih, in in Punjab Province’s Haider Colony, Gujrat District. Saleem Masih had recruited Waqas Masih and other relatives to help him with a construction project at his residence.
“Around 6 p.m., I was informed that three policemen had beaten my son to death,” Khalida Bibi, a sweeper at a hospital, told Morning Star News. “The police are now mounting pressure on us to ‘reconcile’ with their accused colleagues. They were initially reluctant to even arrest the accused, but eventually they had to take them into custody when we threatened to launch protests.”
Saleem Masih’s son, Emmanuel Saleem, told Morning Star News that he and other relatives were sitting in the courtyard of their home when three officers identified only as Shoaib, Shehbaz and Saqib forced their way in around 5:15 p.m.
“We asked them what they wanted, to which they said that they had information that we are drug peddlers and that they had raided the house to recover the narcotics,” he said, adding that the allegation was frivolous as the three policemen were notorious for blackmailing poor people in the area.
“We are poor Christians, but we earn our livelihood with honesty and integrity,” Emmanuel Saleem said. “We knew that the policemen were there for extorting money, but since we had done nothing wrong, my father chose to confront them rather than succumb to their blackmail.”
A heated argument ensued between his father and the police, and they began threatening to file false charges against him and other family members, he said.
“This must have panicked Waqas, who ran outside the house,” Emmanuel Saleem said. “The three cops ran after him, as did my other cousins, Qaiser and Dawood. The cops got hold of Waqas soon after and started hitting him mercilessly with punches, kicks and gun butts. Qaiser and Dawood tried to save Waqas from the police torture, but they were pushed back and warned not to intervene in the beating.”
His two cousins had returned to the house to tell his father what had happened when the policemen arrived and told them to check on Waqas Masih, saying he was “feigning illness,” Emmanuel Saleem said.
“We immediately rushed toward Waqas and saw him lying on the street, motionless,” he said, adding that he had already died by the time they arrived.
Waqas Masih worked as an assistant gardener at a government-run, rural health center. Asked why he had run from the house, Emmanuel Saleem said police often target poor Christians for extortion and file fake charges against them when they don’t have anything to pay. He said this was not the first time local police had illegally entered a home and beat Christians.
“Waqas was a very honest and hard-working young man who had no criminal history,” he said. “I guess he got frightened after the policemen threatened to implicate the cousins in fake cases.”
He confirmed that officials were pressuring the family to “pardon” the accused and give statements in their favor.
“We have even been offered money, besides threats to withdraw the FIR [First Information Report], but we have decided to hold our ground,” he said.
Gujrat District Police Officer (DPO) Jehanzeb Nazeer, however, denied that the accused officers were pressuring the family.
“I immediately ordered the registration of the FIR, and the three accused officials were taken into custody within 72 hours of the incident,” he said, but he added that the officers have not been formally charged with murder as the initial post-mortem report did not reveal the cause of death.
“The initial post-mortem report does not state any injury marks on the deceased’s body or the cause of death, therefore we are now waiting for a full report from the Punjab Forensic Science Agency [PFSA] before reaching a final conclusion about the incident,” he said.
Initial investigation showed the three officers raided the house on a tip that drug peddlers were present, he said.
“Waqas fled when the officials sought to frisk him, resulting in a chase,” he said. “The boy reportedly fell on the road, and one constable claims that he only kicked him twice in anger. The boy died on the spot, and the officials fled the scene.”
When asked if the deceased had any criminal record, the police chief said that they had not found any case registered against him.
Nazeer denied that the three accused officers extorted money from citizens.
“Since the matter involves a minority community, I took immediate action so that no one tries to exploit the situation for their ulterior motives,” he said. “Action will be taken in accordance with the law if the PFSA report points to police high-handedness.”
The three officders were taken into custody so that they could not influence the investigation or fabricate evidence against the victim, he added.
Pakistan is ranked fifth on Open Doors’ 2018 Word Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian.
Police in Upper Egypt have arrested a man who, according to eyewitnesses, gunned down a Christian on Tuesday (Jan. 13) for what family members believe was their refusal to drop charges against the suspect’s relatives in other religiously motivated killings in 2013.
Hasan Baghdadi was arrested on Wednesday (Jan. 14) in connection with the slaying of 38-year-old Shaheed Nesemis Saroufeem – a cousin of a Christian who was killed along with three other Copts in July 2013.
Witnesses say Baghdadi and his brother, Mohamed Baghdadi, were following Saroufeem, a bus driver in Luxor Province who was on a motor scooter at the time of the attack, back from a trip to a flour mill when they ambushed him with a machinegun fire from their motorcycle. The Baghdadi brothers are related to at least one of those accused in the 2013 killing.
Saroufeem was shot to death a day after a hearing in the trial of Baghdadi’s relatives for the 2013 murders. Returning home to Al Dabaya after grinding flour to make bread for his family, Saroufeem was hit nine times and fell to the ground. He died instantly, witnesses said.
“These people shot him and then people started screaming, ‘Shaheed is dead,’” said an eyewitness, a Christian who didn’t want his name released.
Police are still seeking the second brother, whom local Copts said is an Islamist who regularly incites violence against Christians in the area.
The court hearing on Monday (Jan. 12) concerned the 2013 killing of Saroufeem’s cousin, Emil Naseem Saroufeem, 42, and three other Copts – Rasem Tawadrous Aqladios, 56, Mouhareb Noushy Habib, 38, and Romany Noushy, 33.
A family member said Saroufeem had been receiving death threats since the court case against the men charged in the 2013 killings began in October 2014. The families of those charged put extreme pressure on the families of the victims to drop the charges or enter into a “reconciliation” meeting, relatives said, but they refused.
Reconciliation meetings usually result in little or no punishment for Muslims accused of crimes against Christians in Egypt. Though common, reconciliation meetings are forbidden under Egyptian criminal law, especially after a case has gone to court. Once a reconciliation process starts, however, it is almost certain that criminal charges against the accused will be dropped.
As the months passed, the threats increased in intensity and number, but Saroufeem did not take them seriously, relatives said. Despite the killing, the Saroufeem family is refusing to back down.
“What we really want is the government to enforce the law, or we will never feel safe,” said one male family member who asked not to be identified. “These people are asking us to drop the charges against them about the whole situation.”
The relative said the family doesn’t care about compensation for the damages.
“God will provide and take care of that,” he said. “But the thing we cannot drop or let go is these people not being charged for the murder. If we drop the charges against the killers, they will think they can kill any of us that they want and then say, ‘Oh, I’m sorry,’ and get away with it.”
Safwat Samaan, director of the human rights group Nation Without Borders, criticized the length of time that it has taken to bring the case to trial. He said that the delay shows that the lives of Christians are worth nothing to the government.
“The court and the police have all the evidence against the killers and the attackers involved in the incident, and they are dragging their feet,” Samaan said. “Instead of doing their job and arresting the killers, they are leaving them out for a long time and allowing them to do more attacks instead of enforcing the law.”
He noted that on June 24, 2014 Kerolos Shouky Attallah, a 29-year-old Coptic Christian, was quickly convicted of defaming Islam for “liking” a Facebook page.
“The police seem to do their job very well when somebody likes a Facebook page,” Samaan said. “In a few days they are arrested, taken to court and given a six-year sentence, while a murder case [against Muslims] with solid testimony and hard evidence takes forever to go through court.”
On July 5, 2013, for reasons that remain unknown, a group of Islamists blamed Emil Naseem Saroufeem for the death of Hassan Sayyed Segdy, a Muslim whose body had been found earlier that day. Saroufeem was known to be a supporter of the Tamard or “Rebel” movement that began gathering in cities across Egypt on June 30, 2013 to demonstrate against President Mohamed Morsi of the Freedom and Justice Party, a political party created by the Muslim Brotherhood.
At the time, Islamists blamed the Christian minority for the drastic drop in popularity Morsi was suffering, which eventually led to his ouster.
A mob formed and began beating Saroufeem, who escaped briefly when two relatives, Habib and Noushy, hid him, according to Samaan. The rabble caught up with the three Christians in Aqladios’s apartment, and Saroufeem and Aqladios were bludgeoned to death. The group then allegedly beat and repeatedly stabbed Habib and Noushy and left them for dead. All the men were Christians.
The mob grew in strength and soon after turned on other Copts in the village, beating them as well. They looted and burned down many of the Christian homes and businesses in the village. Three other Copts were seriously wounded. In all, roughly 40 homes were destroyed, and the Copts fled what was left of Al Dabaya.
For weeks, many families refused to return to their homes. Eventually authorities rounded up roughly 16 men and charged them with various crimes related to the killings and the destruction of the village.