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(by Raymond Ibrahim) The year 2021 “saw the worst persecution of Christians in history”—with an average of 16 Christians butchered for their faith every single day.
This is according to the World Watch List-2022 (WWL), which was recently published by the international humanitarian organization, Open Doors. The report ranks the top 50 countries where Christians are most persecuted for their faith. Annually published and released at the beginning of each year, the WWL uses data from field workers and external experts to quantify and analyze persecution worldwide.
According to the WWL-2022 (covering from Oct. 1, 2020 – Sept. 30, 2021), “over 360 million Christians suffer high levels of persecution and discrimination for their faith—a rise of 20 million from last year. The number represents one in seven Christians worldwide. This year records the highest levels of persecution since the first list was published 29 years ago…”
For this same reporting period, 5,898 Christians were murdered “for their faith,” a number representing a 24% increase from 2021 (when only 4,761 Christians were killed). Additionally, “6,175 believers [were] detained without trial, arrested, sentenced or imprisoned,” and 3,829 Christians were abducted.
Perhaps even more reflective of the hate for Christianity, 5,110 churches and other inanimate Christian buildings (schools, monasteries, etc.), were attacked and profaned.
Crunching these numbers into daily averages, the above statistics mean that every single day around the world, more than 16 Christians were murdered for their faith; 27 were either illegally arrested and imprisoned by non-Christian authorities, or abducted by non-Christian actors; and 14 churches were destroyed or desecrated.
For the first time since these WWL reports were published, Afghanistan, which for years was usually ranked the #2 worst nation (following North Korea) shot up to the #1 spot, meaning “Afghanistan is now the most dangerous place in the world to be a Christian.” Additionally,
Nigeria (Morning Star News) – Their pleas for government help falling on deaf ears, Christian leaders issued calls for prayer this month as Islamic extremist groups continued terrorizing northeast Nigeria.
In the wake of attacks and kidnappings by Islamic extremist group Boko Haram and its offshoot Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), leaders of the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) called for the release of four members long held captive by Islamic extremists in the country’s northeast.
The Rev. Stephen Baba Panya, president of the ECWA, said church leaders are troubled at the lack of effort by the Nigerian government to free church members years after Islamic extremist groups took them captive. He called for prayer for high school student Leah Sharibu, two aid workers, university student Lillian Gyang and the 112 girls who remain captive of the 276 kidnapped from a high school in Chibok, Borno state in 2014.
“Please join faith with me, and let us pray standing on God’s promises in Matthew 18:18-19 that Boko Haram/ISWAP or any other Islamic terror group shall not determine the fate of God’s beloved daughters Leah Sharibu, Alice Loksha Ngaddah, Grace Lucas, and Lillian Gyang who are ECWA members, and also the remaining Chibok girls,” Pastor Panya said in a statement sent to Morning Star News.
Leah Sharibu, 15 years old when she was kidnapped by Boko Haram on Feb. 19, 2018 from the Government Girls’ Science and Technical College, in Dapchi, Yobe state, was one of 110 girls taken captive; the 109 Muslim girls were released while Leah remained captive when she refused to renounce her Christian faith.
Ngaddah, mother of two children and an aid worker with UNICEF, was abducted on March 1, 2018 in Rann, Borno state, when ISWAP militants attacked an Internally Displaced Persons camp where she was working. Her aged mother reportedly died of trauma soon after learning about the kidnapping.
Taku, a health worker with Action Against Hunger, was kidnapped by ISWAP militants on July 18, 2019, along the Damasak-Maiduguri highway in Borno state. She also was ministering to displaced people.
Lillian Daniel Gyang, a student at the University of Maiduguri (UNIMAID) in Borno state, was kidnapped on Jan. 9 by ISWAP while returning to school from the Christmas and New Year’s break from her native Plateau state.
ISWAP in 2016 broke off from Boko Haram, which attacked two predominantly Christian communities in Borno state earlier this month. The Boko Haram insurgents, who seek to impose sharia (Islamic law) throughout Nigeria, attacked Pulka and Gwoza towns soon after Christians had finished Sunday evening services on Nov. 8, residents said.
“The attacks on Pulka and Gwoza towns started at about 9 p.m. and lasted till around 11p.m.,” area resident Vanessa Muda told Morning Star News by text message. “The Boko Haram terrorists invaded our towns shooting indiscriminately on our people.”
Another area resident, Polycarp John, said the Boko Haram militants were heavily armed.
“They were repelled when personnel of the Nigerian army who were stationed here fought them and forced them to retreat from Gwoza and Pulka towns,” he told Morning Star News by text message. “Our towns have been under constant attacks from Boko Haram since 2014, and at a time, Gwoza town was made the headquarters of the Boko Haram caliphate until the Nigeria army retook the town from them in 2018.”
The attacks came on the heels of an appeal by leaders of the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria (EYN), for prayer for Christians in southern Borno state facing terror from both Boko Haram and ISWAP militants.
“It is harvest time, which is challenging in normal years, but in these past years includes the threat of Boko Haram destroying the crop or attacking people as they harvest,” the leaders wrote in a Nov. 6 email. “Pray for many vulnerable villages in southern Borno state and other areas far from military bases.”
Six Nigerians Convicted
Lela Gilbert, senior fellow for international religious freedom for the Family Research Council, stated in a recent report that in spite of frequent appeals from Nigerian church leaders across the denominational spectrum and international human rights advocates, violence is escalating.
“Many informed observers describe Nigeria’s political leadership as both incompetent and corrupt,” Gilbert noted. “But that’s only part of the problem. Not only are they almost entirely Muslim in their religious affiliation (while the country’s population is roughly half Christian), as previously noted, several governmental leaders – beginning with President Muhammadu Buhari – belong to the Fulani tribe, as do numerous military and police officials. This is seen as one of the major roadblocks to reform, particularly with regard to the Fulani jihadi massacres.”
In the United Arab Emirates, authorities were able to convict six Nigerians resident in the UAE for financing Boko Haram activities in Nigeria, according to press reports.
Surajo Abubakar Muhammad and Saleh Yusuf Adamu were sentenced to life imprisonment, while Ibrahim Ali Alhassan, Abdurahman Ado Musa, Bashir Ali Yusuf and Muhammad Ibrahim Isa each received 10-year prison sentences, according to Nigerian newspaper the Daily Trust.
An Abu Dhabi Federal Court of Appeal convicted the six Islamists of providing Boko Haram with $782,000.
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.
Nigeria (Morning Star News) – Nearly six years after Boko Haram kidnapped 276 girls from a high school in northeastern Nigeria, the Chibok area in Borno state is under threat of “annihilation” from the rebel group and the Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP), area leaders said.
While 112 of the kidnapped girls remain in captivity, Boko Haram abducted another 22 people in the predominantly Christian Chibok area in December, according to a statement from the Kibaku Area Development Association.
“The Kibaku Area Development Association (KADA) wishes to cry out and put it on the record that we are being targeted for attacks and annihilation, whether at home or wherever we are,” Dauda Iliya, head of the association, said in the statement issued from Abuja on Feb. 3. “Our people and homelands are in danger. Our homes, farms, barns, and places of worship are destroyed. We are unable to exercise our religious freedoms as we prefer. Our very existence is under grave threat.”
Iliya said 11 parents of the girls kidnapped in 2014 have been killed in subsequent attacks, and eight other parents have died from post-traumatic disorders such as heart conditions related to the abduction of their daughters.
“Of 20 Chibok girls’ parents – our kinsmen and women – who are now deceased, 11 were killed during the Boko Haram attacks, eight died of heart conditions as a result of trauma, with those alive subsisting with various degrees of heart conditions and trauma along with their resultant effects,” he said.
Among the 22 people kidnapped in December, five were abducted in the nearby Kwarangilum community in a Boko Haram attack on Christmas Eve, with the rebels burning down houses and carting away live cattle, sheep, goats and chickens, he said.
“Five days later on the 29th of December in Mandaragrau, 17 Chibok indigenes were kidnapped,” Iliya said. “We also do not notice much effort by the government to permanently end the scourge of Boko Haram terrorism, and restore peace in our homelands in particular, and the northeast in general; nor the return of our 112 daughters held in captivity for close to six years.”
The area has been under constant attack by Boko Haram, which seeks to impose sharia (Islamic law) throughout Nigeria, for 10 years, he said.
Boko Haram terrorists on Feb. 18 attacked two predominantly Christian communities in Chibok County, Kwarangilum and Forfor villages, residents said.
“The terrorists [simultaneously] attacked the communities around 6 p.m., shooting indiscriminately and burning down houses,” Maina Kapi told Morning Star News by text message. “Please, your prayer is needed because today Boko Haram entered Kwarangilum area of Chibok.”
Habakkuk Aboki, another area resident, said Islamic extremists also attacked another part of Chibok County in January.
“In January 2020, two Christians were killed in Payasatan-Bilaburdar village, also here in Chibok,” he said by text message.
Confirmation of the killings and names of the victims could not be obtained from the area, which is subject to frequent communications blackouts.
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.
Nigeria (Morning Star News) – Muslims attacked a market in Kaduna state, in north-central Nigeria, on Thursday (Oct. 18), killing dozens of Christians and burning a church building, sources said.
Area residents said a Muslim at the market in Kasuwan Magani, 36 kilometers (22 miles) south of the city of Kaduna, began yelling “Thief!” in the late afternoon in a move calculated to cause pandemonium ahead of an attack on Christians and their homes and businesses.
“A Muslim raised a false alarm about a thief in the market, which caused stampede, and then other Muslims started chanting ‘Allahu Akbar [the jihadist slogan, God is Greater],’ attacking Christians, burning houses and shops belonging to Christians in the town,” area resident Kefas Mallam told Morning Star News.
The Rev. James Moore of the town’s Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA), told Morning Star News that the assailants burned down one church building belonging to the Cherubim and Seraphim movement.
“There was an alert of a thief in the market,” he said. “When people heard ‘Thief! Thief!’ they were confused and started running. Unknown to the people, it was a strategy by the Muslim youth to attack the people. They went into killings, looting and burning.”
Moore, who is the area district secretary of the ECWA, said it was difficult to give a definitive casualty figure as the town was in complete lockdown following imposition of a 24-hour curfew the night of the attack. Kaduna Gov. Nasir El-Rufai visited the site in the Kajuru Local Government Area on Friday (Oct. 19) and said 55 people had been killed.
“According to what the police have briefed me so far, 55 corpses have been recovered; some burned beyond recognition,” he said.
Local press reported the violence began as an attack by young men attacking the market that escalated into a clash between “two youth groups of different religion.”
Gov. El-Rufai told reporters that the state government had imposed a curfew in the area and security agencies were restoring calm.
“It cannot continue, we are going to deal decisively with anyone involved in this,” he said. “This country belongs to all of us; this state belongs to all of us. No one is going to chase anyone away. So, you must learn to live with everyone in peace and justice.”
He added that the violence was “totally unacceptable,” and that anyone connected with or even observing the violence would be detained.
“I have charged the security agencies and the authorities here, local and traditional, to ensure that everyone connected with this, whether as a participant, instigator, or even watching while it is going on, is apprehended and prosecuted,” he said.
Area Muslims also attacked Christians on Feb. 26. Luke Waziri, a Christian community leader in Kasuwan Magani, told Morning Star News by phone that during the February attack, 12 Christians were killed.
“And 67 other Christians arrested after that incident are currently facing trial in a court in the city of Kaduna,” he added, lamenting that they were detained without cause by police under the direct control of a Muslim inspector general of police and a Muslim police commissioner.
“The sad thing is that the police are aware that Muslims in Kasuwan Magani have accumulated weapons with the intent to continually attack us, but they are unable to arrest these Muslims,” Waziri said.
Waziri, who is the national secretary of the Adara Development Association (ADA), a predominantly Christian ethnic group in Kaduna state, expressed sadness that while Christians had yet to overcome the trauma of the February attack, Muslims launched an assault on them again on Thursday (Oct. 18).
Christians make up 51.3 percent of Nigeria’s population, while Muslims living primarily in the north and middle belt account for 45 percent.
Please pray for our brothers and sisters in Nigeria.
(Morning Star News) – Christians on their way to a recent Christian camp in eastern India shared the purpose of their trip with fellow bus passengers, not realizing one of them was a Hindu extremist.
He began to argue about conversion with the Christians, mostly women and children, including a native missionary from a ministry based in India. Soon the hard-line Hindu began cursing and accusing the Christians of “always converting innocent and poor villagers.”
When they arrived at the bus station in Bettiah, Bihar state, on Feb. 26, after the 60-kilometer (38-mile) trip from Bagaha, 60 to 70 angry Hindu extremists were waiting for them. The hard-line Hindu had made phone calls to Hindu nationalist groups.
The mob separated out the native missionary for the Gospel Echoing Missionary Society (GEMS), D. Joseph, as well as another Christian, Baldev Singh, and assaulted them, said the Rev. Mariosh Joseph, coordinator of GEMS in Bihar.
He said D. Joseph sustained several internal injuries and was hospitalized in a state of deep shock, and that Singh also was hospitalized with multiple injuries, including internal damage to his ear that caused some loss of hearing.
“It was evident from the mob that it was a pre-planned attack,” Pastor Mariosh Joseph told Morning Star News. “There was a media person present to record and publish the entire episode in the media, along with the Hindu extremist mob.”
The Hindu mob interrogated the Christians, asking them the purpose of their visit, said the GEMS zonal superintendent, identified only as Pastor Palanivelu.
“They told the Christians that they were visiting to lure the innocent and poor villagers with money and benefits and fool them into becoming Christians,” Pastor Palanivelu said.
Native missionary D. Joseph told the mob about the camp and denied their allegations, and the Hindu nationalists began to use foul language as they threatened the Christians, Pastor Palanivelu said.
“Even being in a public place, no one came to their rescue, and passersby were mere spectators as the mob beat both the Christians mercilessly, while the other Christian teammates cried for help,” he told Morning Star News.
Traffic officers heard the commotion and tried to rescue the Christians, but they were overpowered by the mob, he said. Additional police were called to get the situation under control.
“Some of the women got so frightened that they fled the site and returned home from the bus station itself without attending the camp,” he said, adding that at least 11 women from the bus went on to the camp.
Pastor Mariosh Joseph said the mob was trained in the ways of Hindu nationalist violence.
“The right-wing groups are specially instructed to hit in a way that they do not bleed anyone externally, but cause gruesome injuries internally,” he told Morning Star News.
Pastor Mariosh Joseph said police initially told him that they were investigating a complaint of forcible/fraudulent conversion, and that the superintendent of police later told him they were treating it as a case of human trafficking.
“The police in most of the cases are biased and try to see how they can frame the victims, rather than doing the other way around,” he said.
Police recorded the statements of D. Joseph and Singh but refused to file a First Information Report, though a Medico-Legal Case was filed against unknown persons, he said.
The camp took place as planned on Feb. 26-28, Pastor Mariosh Joseph said.
“Though such an incident of violence against the Christian believers happened, the meeting continued, and the people were blessed and inspired by the Word of God,” he said.
GEMS reported 12 incidents of persecution against its native missionaries last year, and since January three such cases have already been reported. GEMS works in five states in India, primarily Bihar.
“Of late there have been a lot of incidents that have been happening against Christian believers,” Pastor Mariosh Joseph said. “Even if there is a disagreement, violence is not a way.”
The hostile tone of the National Democratic Alliance government, led by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, against non-Hindus, has emboldened Hindu extremists in several parts of the country to attack Christians since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took power in May 2014, religious rights advocates say.
India ranked 11th on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2018 World Watch List of countries where Christians experience the most persecution, up from 15th the previous year, and ahead of Saudi Arabia, Nigeria and Egypt.
Many Christians in India have to pray in secret. Churches are being set on fire, believers attacked and property vandalised. This rising tide of violence shows no sign of stopping. Some blame the hugely influential Hindu nationalist RSS organisation, which is close to the ruling party, the BJP. The RSS paramilitaries advocate a purely Hindu India. Watch the video of this excellent report here
Morning Star News) – Adamu, 28, bears a scar on the back of his neck where two members of the Islamic extremist group Boko Harm tried to slaughter him.
A member of the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria (EYN) in Gwoza, Borno state in northeastern Nigeria, Adamu told Morning Star News that in April 2013 he was working on his bean farm in Musari village, in the Mungono area, when a member of the insurgent Boko Haram approached him.
“He told me to convert to Islam and join them in waging a jihad to establish an Islamic state in Nigeria,” said Adamu, whose surname is withheld for security reasons. “I told him that I will not renounce my Christian faith in order to embrace Islam. He left me there on my farm without saying anything again.”
Two days later, five other members of Boko Haram showed up. The insurgency is fighting to impose strict sharia (Islamic law) throughout Nigeria.
“They said their member told them that I refused to renounce being a Christian and wanted to know whether it is true that I refused to become a Muslim,” Adamu said, adding that he told them it was true. “They then told me that since I refused to recant, they would kill me.”
When he refused their order to lie down, they seized him and tied his hands and legs behind his back, he said.
“They pinned me down and told me they will make death painful and slow, as they are not prepared to waste their bullets on me,” he said. “They also said they would not give me the honor of slaughtering me by cutting my neck from the front, because that is the way they slaughter their rams.
“They forced me down on my stomach and then proceeded to slaughter me by cutting my neck from the back. I was bleeding and went blank as the knife cut through my neck. It was pains I cannot explain to you. After cutting my neck, they left me bleeding.”
Adamu lay there for days, he said, adding that his survival was miraculous; only later would he learn that the Boko Haram members had threatened to kill anyone in the village who helped him.
“It was only after I was taken to the hospital that I was told that the Boko Haram members who attacked me on the farm had gone to the village shortly after leaving me bleeding to death and had warned other Muslims that if any of them dares to rescue me, he would be killed,” he said. “They sternly warned other Muslims in Musari, ‘We have butchered an infidel there on his farm. Be warned that if any of you Muslims dares to assist him, he is also an infidel and we shall make sure that he too is killed.”
Though the villagers were afraid to rescue him, eventually a member of his church snuck onto the farm and found him alive, he said.
“He went back to the village and mobilized some of our church members who came to the farm and took me away,” Adamu said.
They took him to a Christian hospital in Cameroon.
“I was taken to Adventist Hospital, Koza, in Cameroon, and treated for three months before I was referred to this hospital here in Jos,” Adamu said. “The cut on my neck, doctors say, has affected some nerves and veins in my body, thereby making it difficult for me to move my limbs. Right now, I am still learning how to move my hands and legs.”
Adamu said that before the attack on his farm, Boko Harm destroyed his EYN church building in Musari, and all Christians there fled.
“As I talk to you, there are no more Christians in Musari village,” he said. “They attacked Christians and destroyed the church building where we worship. Our pastor and other Christians, about 120 of them, were forced to flee.”
Boko Haram and others killed 1,631 Christians in Nigeria for their faith in the first six months of 2014 – a figure that is 91 percent of the total Christians killed in the country in all of last year, according to advocacy group Jubilee Campaign. Last year 1,783 Nigerian Christians were killed for their faith, according to Jubilee Campaign. The increase in Christian deaths this year accompanies an increase in the total number of people killed during the period, mainly by Boko Haram – 4,099, which is 975 more than the total deaths from attacks by religious extremists for all of last year, 3,124, according to Jubilee.
While Boko Haram (translated as “Western education is a sin”) is the moniker residents of Maiduguri, Borno state gave the insurgents, the group calls itself the Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal–Jihad, translated as “The Congregation of the People of Tradition for Proselytism and Jihad.” The United States designated it as a Foreign Terrorist Organization in November 2013.
Christians make up 51.3 percent of Nigeria’s population of 158.2 million, while Muslims account for 45 percent and live mainly in the north.
Boko Haram violence has increased in number and force since 2009 after it developed ties with Al Qaeda in the Islamic Mahgreb (AQIM). A 29-year-old Christian in Kauri, Borno state who felt the force of Boko Harm weaponry in December 2012 said he would invite his assailants to dine with him.
A married father of three children ages 7, 5 and 1, Ayuba (surname withheld) told Morning Star News he has forgiven the gunmen who shot him three times.
“Despite my ordeal at the hands of these Boko Haram gunmen, I want to assure you that I hold no grudges against them,” he said. “If I see any of them today, I will still welcome them to my house and feed them. Jesus Christ, our Lord, taught us to love those who hate us.”
Ayuba and his wife were working on their farm in the village of Mainari, on the fringes of the Sambisa Forest in Borno state, on Dec. 20, 2012, when he returned to his house to rest. He was surprised to find two motorcycles parked beside his house, he said.
“I parked my motorcycle outside the house too, and then went inside, and just then I heard movement outside the house,” he said.
He went out to find two armed Boko Haram members; they asked him his name. When he told them, they asked if it was true that he was a Christian. A member of the Church of Christ in Nations (COCIN), he responded that he was.
“From their utterances I knew that they must have gotten detailed information about me from our Muslim neighbors in Mainari village,” he said. “Having confirmed I was the person they were looking for, they told that my end had come. ‘You have refused to become a Muslim in spite of all pressure from our Muslim brothers here,’ one of them told me. ‘You have refused to renounce your faith in Jesus. So, we have no option than to kill you.’”
He then recalled that Muslims in Kauri twice had tried to convert him.
“I braced up and asked the gunmen why they want to kill me simply because I am a Christian, and the second among the two gunmen told me that, ‘You are an infidel, and we do not want to have infidels living among us here.’”
They demanded money and the keys to his motorbike. After forcefully taking the keys to his vehicle and removing 35,000 naira (US$212) from his pocket, they told him to lie down because they were going to shoot him, he said.
“Instead of obeying their instructions, I started praying,” he said. “They became angry because I was praying out loud and calling on the name of Jesus. They shoved me in an effort to force me down to the ground. Eventually they succeeded in forcing me to the ground, and then one of them ordered his colleague to shoot me.”
He heard a gunshot, and a bullet pierced his left hand, which he had used to cover his chest, he said. A second shot aimed at his stomach, which he was covering with his right hand. The bullet pierced his right hand.
“To the surprise of the gunmen, they found I was still alive and praying,” he said. “The gunman who gave the orders that I should be shot was angry that his colleague did not kill me in spite of two point-blank gunshots.”
The one who had given the orders angrily cocked his gun and shot at his forehead, he said.
“One experience I will not forget throughout my life is that the bullet from the third shot hit me on my forehead and bounced to hit me on my right shoulder, instead of penetrating through my skull,” he said. “To me, this is a miracle, as I cannot explain how three shots were fired at me at point-blank range, yet I was still alive.”
The two Boko Haram gunmen took him for dead as they rode away, he said.
“After about an hour, my wife returned to find me on the spot where I was shot,” he said. “I still could talk, but the state she saw me in was shocking to her, so she began to cry.”
He asked her to search for help, which did not arrive until five hours later. He had been shot at about 3 p.m., and a neighbor his wife found came to help him at 8 p.m., he said. He was taken first to Kauri, then to General Hospital in Konduga. Doctors treating him there advised that he be taken away lest the Boko Haram gunmen trace him and kill him at the hospital.
His wife and other relatives moved him to Adventist Hospital at Kozat, Cameroon, where he remained for three months before going to an undisclosed town.
Boko Haram has destroyed his COCIN church building in Kauri, he said, and all Christians there have fled.
“Some of our church members died in the attack by Boko Haram gunmen, while others were forced to flee to Cameroon, where they are now refugees,” he said. “I have been praying that these Boko Haram gunmen will eventually get to know Jesus, repent of their crimes against the church, and become the followers of Jesus.”
VOP Note: Remember Nigeria and the faithful in your prayers. Together with your generous support, we can reach the goal to alleviate their suffering. In darkness and desperation, let us serve in love, with open arms and giving hands to provide light and hope.
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