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(Morning Star News) – Christians in Sri Lanka have never seen such a large-scale attack on them as the one that hit three churches and three hotels on Easter Sunday (April 21), killing at least 290 people, they said.
“I don’t have words to express my pain,” a teary-eyed Eranda Weththasinghe told Morning Star News from Negombo, a predominantly Christian area north of Colombo where 104 worshippers died in a suicide bomb blast at St. Sebastian’s Church. “Tomorrow is going to be the mass funeral service, we only want prayers. We lost so many people.”
Weththasinghe said he lost several friends in the explosion that he witnessed, which the Sri Lankan government blamed on a local Islamic extremist group, the National Thowheed Jamaath. Officials said the small, obscure group could not have carried out the coordinated attacks without international accomplices.
“The smell of flesh is all around me,” Weththasinghe said. “We are a peace-loving community in this small city, we had never hurt anyone, but we don’t know from where this amount of hate is coming. This city has become a grave with blood and bodies lying around.”
Weththasinghe, who helped with rescue efforts after the blast, said some of his friends are still missing.
“Since the past three years, we don’t know why, but we see an extremist’s mindset developing among the Muslims,” he told Morning Star News. “I know many good Muslims, but there are also a lot who hate us, and they have never been so before. It is in these three years that we see a difference.”
While Christians in Sri Lanka have suffered at the hands of radical Buddhists and, increasingly, hard-line Hindus, attacks by Muslim extremists have been rare. Muslims account for 9.7 percent of Sri Lanka’s population of about 22 million, which is 70 Buddhist, 12.6 percent Hindu and 7.6 percent Christian, according to the country’s 2012 census.
Shyami Sirivardene, also a resident of Negombo, told Morning Star News that Negombo and parts of Colombo where the blasts took place are predominantly Christian areas.
“Negombo is fondly called the ‘little Rome,’ with shrines and ancient churches,” Sirivardene said. “We can’t say who is behind the attacks, but the locals suspect it to be the plot of Islamic extremists. The attacks have been planned to affect the Christian community; since the churches in these areas date back to 19th century, people flock in huge numbers to attend the Mass on Easter and Christmas.”
Residents in neighboring areas close to the church buildings join the previous Saturday Easter vigil service, and Christians come from distant areas to attend the Easter morning service, she said.
“They have been targeted,” she said. “Colombo to Negombo and surrounding towns and suburbs is hardly a half an hour drive using the highway, and most Christians prefer to travel by bus or drive on their own using another route, which takes about an hour or more depending on traffic. People are very furious and scared. The busy toll road from Colombo to Negombo connecting the airport somewhere in the midst is empty today.”
A government spokesman told media that police found 87 bomb detonators at the main bus station in Colombo, the capital.
Sirivardene added that the luxury restaurants targeted at the three bombed hotels serve special Easter buffets that attract foreigners, including those from the United States and Europe.
Besides St. Sebastian’s in Negombo, also attacked by suicide bombers were St. Anthony’s Shrine (a large Catholic church in the Kochchikade area of Colombo), and Zion Church in Batticaloa, in the eastern part of the country. Suicide bombers also detonated explosives in Colombo at the Shangri-La Hotel, the ground-floor Taprobane restaurant at the Cinnamon Grand Hotel and at the Kingsbury Hotel.
The suicide bomber blasts also reportedly wounded at least 500 people.
Biraj Patnaik, South Asia director for human rights group Amnesty International, told The Washington Post that the scale of the attacks were “shocking and unprecedented.” They were the worst in Colombo since 1996, when rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam detonated explosives at Sri Lanka’s central bank that killed nearly 100 people.
Sri Lankan police attempted to defuse another explosive substance found in a vehicle parked near St. Anthony’s Shrine, which was exploded without causing damage. Suspicious objects such as bags and boxes discovered in Kotahena and Pettah caused two more explosions.
“We have been asked to stay indoors, and tomorrow [April 23] would be the national mourning day,” said Sirivardene of Negombo. “There would be a mass funeral service for all the bodies collected so far.”
Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne said a foreign network was likely involved with the local Islamist group that carried out the attacks. The group’s name, National Thowheed Jamaath, roughly translates as the National Monotheism Organization.
He reportedly called on Police Inspector General Pujith Jayasundara to resign, as security agencies had received a report warning of attacks by the group against churches and hotels 10 days before.
A police memo reportedly issued in Sinhalese 10 days before the attack, entitled, “INFORMATION OF AN ALLEGED PLAN ATTACK” and stamped on April 11, said foreign intelligence officials suspected imminent attacks by the National Thowheeth Jamaath against non-Muslims. It instructed all police to be extra vigilant and cautious in monitoring locations under their jurisdiction. It is signed by Deputy Inspector General Priyalal Dissanayake.
Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wikremesinghe told media he did not know about the letter, saying, “Neither I nor any ministers were kept informed.”
President Maithripala Sirisena controls Sri Lanka’s security agencies, but since he tried to oust Wickremesinghe in an Oct. 26 coup, the prime minister has not been invited to security council meetings, a parliamentarian told The Washington Post.
Police have reportedly arrested 21 people in connection with the bombings. Three police officers were reportedly killed in a raid on a house where suspects were hiding.
In his Easter address, Pope Francis called the bombings “horrendous.” In his Easter Monday sermon today, he appealed for help for the people of Sri Lanka.
“I hope that everyone condemns these terrorist acts, inhuman acts, never justifiable,” he said.
Yousef A. al-Othaimeen, head of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, which represents 57 predominantly Muslim nations, “strongly condemned” the “cowardly attacks [on] innocent worshipers and civilians.”
Bishops Dhiloraj Canagasabey and Keerthisiri Fernando of Colombo, along with the Kurunagala Church of Ceylon, issued a joint statement condemning Sunday’s attacks.
“We call on the government to institute quick action to investigate thoroughly these incidents and to bring the perpetrators to justice, to ensure the safety of places of religious worship and to prevent any individuals or group taking the law into their hands or provoking acts of intimidation or violence against any community or group,” their statement said. “We ask for the continued support of all security and emergency services in ensuring public peace and in providing care for the affected; the motives of those twisted and warped minds who planned and executed such appalling acts could very well be to destabilize the country and to cause damage to the unity and harmony of our nation.”
Sri Lanka ranked 46th on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2019 World Watch Listing of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian, from its previous rank of 44th.
Photo 1: Sri Lankan Christians mourn (Angel TV Youtube)
Photo 2: Security memo issued 10 days before April 21 attacks warning of possible suicide bombing by Islamic extremist group National Thowheed Jamaath. (Twitter, Sri Lankan Ministry of Telecommunication)
(Voice of the Persecuted) During a press conference, the Sri Lankan Health Minister, Rajitha Senaratne confirmed that the suicide bombers in the Easter attacks were carried out by Sri Lankan citizens associated with a local Jihadi terror group, National Thowheed Jamath (NTJ), with the help of an international network. The death toll has risen to 290, with over 500 injured.
There are reports of more bombs found near the airport and bus station. Please continue to pray.
(Voice of the Persecuted) It is with a heavy heart to report on Resurrection Sunday that a massacre has taken place targeting Christians who were attending worship services at St. Anthony’s Church in Colombo, St. Sebastian’s Church in Negombo and Zion Church, in Batticaloa in Sri Lanka. At the time of this report, the latest update from police claim that at least 207 were killed and at least 450-500 injured in 8 explosions by suicide bombers at the churches, Shangri-La, Cinnamon Grand and Kingsbury hotels. Viewer Warning: below video content graphic
The majority of casualties are Christians and the death toll and numbers injured are expected to rise. Earlier, the government said they suspected the suicide bombings were carried out by one group. Finance Minister, Mangala Samaraweera said,
The bombings are not the doings of a fanatical individual. It’s obviously a highly coordinated attempt to create murder, mayhem and anarchy in the country.
The Defence Minister, Ruwan Wijewardene, said seven people have been arrested in connection with the attacks. Three police officers were killed in an explosion during a raid pertaining to the attacks.
The government has temporarily blocked social media sites to prevent false news that’s spreading on social media sites. Officials claim the ban will be lifted when their investigations are concluded.
Please remember the injured and families of victims in your prayers, today. Continue to pray for persecuted believers worldwide.
UPDATE: 9:19 p.m. EST
Sri Lankan Defence Minister described the bombings as a terrorist attack by religious extremists, although there was no immediate claim of responsibility. — Thirteen people have been arrested.
News outlet Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported it had seen documents showing that Sri Lanka’s police chief Pujuth Jayasundara issued an intelligence alert to top officers 10 days ago, warning that suicide bombers planned to hit “prominent churches”.
“A foreign intelligence agency has reported that the NTJ [National Thowheeth Jama’ath, a radical Muslim group in Sri Lanka] is planning to carry out suicide attacks targeting prominent churches as well as the Indian high commission in Colombo,” the alert said, according to AFP.Mr Wickremesinghe said there was not an adequate response and there needed to be an inquiry into how the information was used.
Read full abc.net.au report here
UPDATE: 4-22-2019 Sri Lanka officals: Islamic militants targeted Churches and Hotels
Nigeria (Morning Star News) – Muslim Fulani herdsmen killed 17 Christians who had gathered after a baby dedication at a church in central Nigeria, including the mother of the child, sources said.
Safaratu John Kabiru Ali, the mother of the baby, was slain in the attack on Sunday (April 14) in Konshu-Numa village, in Nasarawa state’s Akwanga County, which also took the lives of people ranging in age from 10 to 80. The baby’s father, John Kabiru Ali, was shot and is in critical condition, sources said. He is receiving treatment at the Intensive Care Unit of the Federal Medical Centre, Keffi, in Nasarawa state.
The attack took place at about 7 p.m. as Christians in the predominantly Christian community gathered to eat after the child was dedicated that morning at the Ruhaniya Baptist Church in the village.
The massacred Christians were buried on Wednesday (April 17) after a funeral service at the Baptist church.
A resident of Akwanga town who lost relatives in the shooting, Jacob Tantse, told Morning Star News that 17 Christians were killed, including 10 members of the Ruhaniya Baptist Church, five members of Evangelical Reformed Church of Christ (ERCC), one member of the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA), and a musician playing for guests.
Tantse identified those killed as Ali Nkene, 80; Gode Kako, 13; Afiniki Kako, 10; Matthew Emmanuel, 28; Tafiya Baya, 17; Sarakuna Haruna, 21; Amos Julius, 60; Mary Amos, 40; Sunday Adebayo John, 21; Talatu Mada, 40; Saratu Kabiru John, 21; Justina Barrau, 60; Simon Anfani, 37; Kadon Sule, 20; Ayuba Bulus, 11; Haruna Bawa, 22; and the musician, Samame Andaha, 28.
He also said eight Christians, including the host of the event, John Kabiru Ali, were wounded in the attack.
“They include members of the various congregations of the Baptist, Catholic, and ERCC churches,” Tantse said.
He identified those wounded as John Kabiru Ali, 32; Maikasuwa Engila, 30; Biyaya Engila, 60; Ayuba Maikano, 80; Juliana Clement, 47; Gode Tijani, 30; Nicholas Danzaria, 26; and Alkali Raba, 43.
The wounded are from ERCC churches in Ngah Bar-Numa and Angwan Pa-Numa villages; the Roman Catholic Church in Nghah-Numa; the ECWA church in Gyan-Numa; the Ruhaniya Baptist Church in Konshu-Numa; and the Nasara Baptist Church in Numa, he said.
Samuel Meshi, chairman of the Akwanga Local Government Council, told Morning Star News that area Christians had done nothing to provoke the attack by the Muslim Fulani herdsmen.
“They just started shooting sporadically on a community that was just having a feast of dedication of a child after a church service earlier in the day on Sunday, 14 April, at a Baptist church in the area,” Meshi said. “The killings occurred in the evening of that day. Unfortunately, these persons were killed in cold blood for just no reason.”
Pastor Samson Gamu Yare, community leader of the Mada ethnic group in Nasarawa state, reportedly described the killings as “barbaric.” He called on the federal government to urgently take measures towards curtailing the menace of herdsmen attacks on his people.
VOP Note: Please pray for this community and for the safety and discernment of our field workers in the area.
Nigeria ranked 12th on Open Doors’ 2019 World Watch List of countries where Christians suffer the most persecution.
Christians make up 51.3 percent of Nigeria’s population, while Muslims living primarily in the north and middle belt account for 45 percent.
(Morning Star News) – Sheikh Hassan Podo, a 28-year-old imam in Kerekerene village in eastern Uganda, missed mosque prayers for three consecutive weeks and was seen entering a church building around noon on March 16.
He had kept his faith in Christ a secret for three weeks. The young Muslim who saw Podo enter the church building in Katira Sub-County, Budaka District, went straight to Podo’s parents and brothers to report him.
When Podo arrived at the house that evening, his family interrogated him about where he had spent the better part of the day.
“Without my completing answering them, my brothers immediately began surrounding me, with sticks,” Podo told Morning Star News. “It was difficult to escape. They began shouting, beating and insulting me as an ‘infidel’ and enemy of the Islamic religion.”
His wife and two children managed to escape to the home of a nearby Christian neighbor, he said.
With sticks and other blunt objects, Podo’s relatives injured his left arm from the shoulder to his fingers, said one of the area residents who found him unconscious. He also sustained a head injury.
“There was a loud cry emanating from Podo’s homestead, raising a big concern from the neighbors who arrived at the scene of attack and helped Podo to escape,” the source said. “He bled as he fled for his life. Later he was found in a pool of blood a kilometer away from the homestead, unconscious.”
They rushed him to a clinic in Katira, and he was discharged after two days and taken to a pastor whose name is withheld for security reasons. His wife and two children later joined him at an undisclosed location.
The pastor said Podo’s father, Mwanamwoiza Juma, has since mobilized a group of Muslims from different mosques “to hunt for the life of his son, declaring a fatwa and disowning him, and giving his land to the brothers for bringing blasphemy into the family. Sheikh Twale and Galami Abdulmutwalibi have been carrying out a series of prayers to curse Podo’s family. But we know the blood of Jesus will protect the family.”
The pastor has been giving Podo discipleship lessons to strengthen the family’s faith in the midst of the ordeal, he said.
Podo put his faith in Christ on Feb. 24 after hearing the message of His saving death and resurrection from another pastor. His wife became a Christian one week later, he said.
Before his conversion, Podo was part of a Muslim extremist group that had attacked the Church of Uganda’s Katira congregation.
“Please family of Christ, our humble request is that we covet prayers for Podo and his young family for God’s healing, medication, protection, provision and to get to a safe haven for the young family,” the pastor said.
The attacks were the latest of many cases of persecution of Christians in eastern 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, but with high concentrations in eastern areas of the country.
(Morning Star News) – Muslim Fulani herdsmen attacked two predominantly Christian villages in north-central Nigeria after beating, raping and killing a 19-year-old Christian woman in the pre-dawn hours on Saturday (March 23), her father said.
Danlami Mante told Morning Star News that armed Muslim Fulani herdsmen ambushed Joy Danlami and her two younger siblings as they were returning to Mante village, Nasarawa state, at about 2 a.m. after the Christians attended a community feast in Katanza village, Akwanga County. His younger daughter, 16-year-old Patience Danlami, and 14-year-old son, Aboy Danlami, escaped with gunshot and machete wounds, he said.
“The armed herdsmen chased them with dangerous weapons,” Mante told Morning Star News. “Joy’s nose and face was battered, and then she was sexually assaulted by the herdsmen before being killed. She was shot.”
After the ambush, the herdsmen proceeded to the family’s native Mante village, where they burned down 17 houses, he said. They then rampaged through Nidan village, burning another 11 homes. They also burned two Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) buildings and two belonging to the Evangelical Reformed Church of Christ (ERCC) in the two villages, Mante said. His family belongs to the local ERCC congregation.
Hundreds of Christians displaced in the attacks have taken refuge in Akwanga town.
Pastor Samson Gamu Yare, leader of the Mada ethnic group in Nasarawa state, confirmed the attacks to Morning Star News by phone and appealed to security agencies to send personnel to the area. A resident of Akwanga town, Yare urged the federal government make urgent efforts to stem the tide of herdsmen attacks.
“We are faced with the burden of caring for those who fled the two villages in order to escape from the herdsmen carnage,” Yare told Morning Star News.
Samuel Meshi, chairman of the Akwanga Local Government Council, said by phone that officials are making efforts to assist the displaced villagers.
“We have informed the Nasarawa state government about the incident, and hopefully relief materials would be made available to those displaced in the attacks,” Meshi said.
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.
(Premiere) By Cara Bentley
The Home Office has agreed to reconsider an asylum application after rejecting the Iranian by using Bible verses out of context to argue that Christianity is not a peaceful religion.
The Iranian who is trying to claim asylum in the UK on the grounds of Christian conversion received a letter this week saying his argument that he converted to Christianity after discovering it was a peaceful religion must be false due to various passages from the Bible with violent imagery, which the letter quotes.
The letter contains quotes from Matthew, Revelation and Exodus to argue that the claimant had made an error in assuming Christianity was : “about peace, forgiveness and kindness”. Read more
Voice of the Persecuted (VOP) by our Nigeria Correspondent—Boko Haram terrorists attacked a village in Adamawa State which forced residents to flee to the mountains.
Kwada Tizhe, an eye witness of the Boko Haram attack in the Michika Local Government Area of Adamawa State, shared with VOPs correspondent during an interview. I was lying down, resting with my family at home in the evening hours on Monday (March 18, 2019). Around 6:40 in the evening, I heard the echo of gun shots which I initially thought was the military testing their rifles. Within a short time, the shots sounded closer and consistent. We began to hear the heavy weapons and could see the red fire flare of bullets sailing through the air. Then followed sounds of rocket launchers and explosive devices. When I realized Boko Haram was attacking and saw everyone scattering, I joined the men, women and children that were running for cover.
The Boko Haram rode in on many motorcycles and an open-bodied truck. They were shooting and throwing bombs and kept approaching closer while we were running to the hills. It was fortunate the attack happened at night when it was hard to see from a distance which direction we were running to. If it had been earlier, the casualties could have been higher.
The militants separated themselves into groups. Some went straight to the Union Bank, bombed the entrance and took lots of money. Others proceeded to the market square, broke into shops and carted away many food stuffs such as rice, macaroni, indamine and other provision items. They virtually emptied all the shops and loaded all the food items into their truck.
The other group kept shooting and throwing bombs in every direction. Unfortunately, 4 people were shot and all of them died in route to the hospital. Apart from the 4 that were killed, an elderly person was shocked with the sounds of the explosives and died due to a history of high blood pressure.
“The attack continued for hours, then they left the town through another route. While they were moving, the truck was damaged. They abandoned it after removing the money and looted items. Security forces came from Yolo, Madagali and Mubi to surround the town.” Contrary to reports, the villagers claim they showed up after the attack.
Our correspondent asked, What are the possible reasons for the attack?
Response: I think they have been specifically targeting Michika because it’s the largest Christian community with strong political/economical influence. We have heard several times from them that they would wipe us away. All these persecutions started because of the following reasons.
In the 2015 Presidential elections, we voted for President Good Luck Jonathan against the present sitting President (Muhammadu Buhari). Since then, the Muslim communities around us were not happy and they decided to plot to a point that lead to the separation of our market square.
The Muslims fixed ‘market day’ on Sunday’s which affected church service worship. When we drew their attention to it and asked them to consider our faith, they refused to pay attention because it was deliberate. We then organized all the Christians in the churches and changed the market day from Sunday to Saturday and patronized our brethren shops. The Muslims were so angry that they made multiple advances to armed groups to attack us.
Another reason is the coronation of a Christian brother as King of Michika which was recently done by the traditional ruler. They were shocked for a Christian to emerge as King in northern Nigeria. They consider it as taboo for an infidel to obtain this kind of title. They vowed that they would wipe away the community and even attack the king.
The forth reason might not be far from political interest. We always vote for the candidate that supports Christians. This 2019 election, we voted against the sitting President and the governor before the INEC declared it inconclusive. A new election was scheduled this Saturday, March 23, 2019. They know we will vote against the sitting governor. In their thinking, if we leave the town in fear of a Boko Haram attack, then it would give them room to rig the elections.
I think above all, as do others, that the Boko Haram has run short of money and food items. That’s why they attacked us. In any case, we are all back to our homes now, and we are going nowhere.
Voice of the Persecuted is committed to being a VOICE for persecuted Nigerian Christians and bring them comfort, relief and encouragement. We are committed to our mission called PROJECT 133 in Nigeria. They will not be forgotten!
We want you to know that even in great hardship, they thank God and feel extremely blessed that He has kept His hand on them. They have been so encouraged and thankful for each one of you who have joined this mission through your prayers and support.
Together with your generous help, we can reach the goal to alleviate horrific suffering. In darkness and desperation, let us serve in love, with open arms and giving hands to provide light and hope.
HELP SAVE THE PERSECUTED
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