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Nigeria: (Voice of the Persecuted) While Christians were celebrating Christmas and the birth of Jesus Christ, suspected Boko Haram insurgents attacked Kimba village and started shooting and set homes and shops ablaze. Witnesses claim the village was burnt to the ground. 15 were killed in the attack and 7 people abducted. Located in Borno state, Kimba is a herding and farming community, 150 kilometres south of Maiduguri, the state capital. Hundreds in the community fled to the nearby town of Biu and now staying in a packed refugee camp to escape the notorious jihadists.
Boko Haram was listed as the most deadly terror group in 2014. Their mission, to enforce a strict adherence to Sharia (Islamic law) in North Nigeria and beyond, wiping out anyone who stands in their way. The militants endorse and aligned themselves with the brutal ISIS group terrorizing Iraq and Syria, but some question the collaboration. For years, Christian leaders have warned of the jihadis mission to eliminate Christianity from the north, as Christians were being singled out in attacks. Rev. Fr. Gideon Obasogie who is the Social Communications Director of the Catholic Diocese of Maiduguri had shared, “It is quite clear that terrorism has no friend, but it is abundantly clear that the Christians are worst hit.”
The Boko Haram is being blamed for an attack on Sunday in the Borno State capital city, Maiduguri. Further suicide bombings rocked the restive area on Monday.
Vanguard News reported, Sunday’s attack was part of a wider assault on Maiduguri, the capital of northeastern Borno state, a few short days before Nigerian President Buhari’s self-imposed deadline to eradicate the militants expires on December 31.
Mohammed Kanar, head of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) in the region, told AFP that 21 people had died and 91 were injured when jihadists stormed Jiddari Polo, on the outskirts of Maiduguri, at around 6:30 pm (1730 GMT), shooting guns and unleashing waves of young suicide bombers.
Further attacks rocked the city on Monday, leaving at least one person dead.
“There have been more than a dozen suicide blasts in Maiduguri between last night and this morning,” Babakura Kolo, a civilian vigilante assisting the military in fighting Boko Haram, said to AFP.
“The suicide attacks were carried out by young suicide bombers who managed to make their way into the city during the gun battle between soldiers and Boko Haram gunmen last night.”
Among the victims was the family of a local chief in Dawari village near Jiddari Polo who were killed by a rocket-propelled grenade understood to have been fired by Boko Haram fighters. 21 people had died and 91 were injured
Boko Haram Islamists have made several attempts to retake Maiduguri —- the birthplace of the jihadist movement -— since they were pushed out three years ago.
On Monday, two female suicide bombers blew themselves up at a market near a busy bus station in the town of Madagali, in Adamawa State. 30 were killed and many injured. According to Brigadier General Victor Ezugu, the injured were evacuated to the 143 Rangers Battalion military facility in Madagali and the General Hospital in Mubi. Critical cases were moved to Yola for immediate attention.
20 also died in a bombing outside a mosque, Monday morning.
Though the group has lost areas they once controlled to the Nigerian Military, it’s apparent they still have the capacity to strike communities at will. Continuing their war for an independent Islamic state, they have resorted to using suicide bombers—many of them young girls. The latest attacks appear to be a slap to the face, challenging President Buhari who vowed to stop the group by the end of the year. Buhari declared last week that Boko Haram had been “technically” defeated, capable of no more than suicide bombings on soft targets.
Nigeria’s biggest threat has now spread their terror campaign into neighboring countries. A Multi-national task force was set up to stop the Boko Haram and end their terror campaign. Nigerians had high hopes the nightmare would soon be over and believed the multi-national joint task force (MNJTF) would be able to end the insurgency. But 6 months later, the 8,700 strong force seems to be collapsing, or has failed. Some wonder if the nations are simply incapable of working together, or if they even have an offensive plan.
Yan St-Pierre, terrorism analyst at Berlin-based Modern Security Consulting Group to AFP said, “Boko Haram is still extremely dangerous, and it’s gaining resources, notoriety, credibility and successfully expanding its reach. To be defeated, Boko Haram must no longer be in a position to kill and inspire people, and right now it can still easily do both.”
Voice of the Persecuted (VOP) is caring for internal refugees from Christian villages hardest hit by the Boko Haram. Many children reside at the camp, including those orphaned and woman made widows in the insurgency. Their needs are immense. Please consider supporting this mission to care for those suffering great physical and emotional trauma. VOP is on the ground in Nigeria, GO with us on the mission through your gifts.
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The News (International) in Pakistan reports after a Christian accused of committing blasphemy the mob comprising thousands of people attacked Joseph Colony on Noor Road in the Badami Bagh area. The infuriated protesters forced some 170 Christian families to flee the area. It was reported that the mob not only attacked the houses but also looted them.
Disturbing scenes of burning houses, streets strewn with debris and blackened furniture were seen as the mob attacked. An affected woman said people in large numbers came to her home, ransacked it, threw household items out of her house, doused them with gasoline and set fire to them. “They torched the houses of many such people who had nothing to do with the incident,” she added.
An eyewitness said the attackers went on the rampage, setting on fire many houses, damaging vehicles and hurling stones at the police. The police did not take any action against the people who were damaging property and setting fire to it, he added.
The police resorted to aerial firing for over an hour in the morning. Later, the protesters started gathering near Joseph Colony, where hundreds of poor Christian families live in small, dingy houses, and blocked the roads demanding immediate action against the accused. The police initially tried to persuade them to clear the way for traffic, but the protesters turned violent and started hurling stones at them. Several policemen were injured in the heavy pelting. The police lobbed tear-gas shells and resorted to a baton-charge to disperse the mob. The protesters then retreated but only to regroup, targeting the houses of Christians. Some of the residents had already fled the area anticipating a backlash.
The fire-fighters had to make hectic efforts for many hours to put out the fire. Many rescuers also received injuries while performing their duty. The backdrop of the blasphemy case is very dubious as both the accused Sawan Masih and the complainant Shahid Imran had been friends, that hung out together. They had their businesses in the same market and according to other shopkeepers, they were engaged in some kind of a dispute for some time. A local requesting anonymity said, both used to drink liquor together regularly and on the night of the incident both went out drinking.
Another aspect of the issue is that the union elections of the iron workshops were just round the corner and Sawan and Shahid belong to opposing groups. Some locals also alleged that the violent storming and burning of the Christian homes was done by the union groups aspiring to gain support of the people by proving themselves as the greater flag-bearers of Islam.
Sawan Masih in his statement, said similar things including the fact that the complainant Shahid Imran threatened him during an argument saying that he could destroy his life by accusing him of blasphemy, while both were drunk.
Taking notice of the incident, President Asif Ali Zardari has called for a report. Presidential spokesperson Farhatullah Babar said that the president, while expressing grave concern over the incident of vandalism, directed authorities to ensure the safety and security of lives and property of the citizens.
The president said that safeguarding the rights of all citizens — Muslims and non-Muslims alike — was one of the main responsibilities of the government and it would continue undertaking every effort for the protection of their rights as enshrined in the Constitution of Pakistan. He said that such acts of vandalism against minorities tarnish the image of the country.
The president directed the authorities that no one should be allowed to take the law into his own hands and that law and order must be ensured, the spokesperson added.
Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf also took notice of the incident. He directed an expeditious inquiry into the incident and was taking measures to stop the recurrence of such incidents in future.
“The Christians are equal citizens of the land and must be given complete protection. Islam teaches tolerance and assures protection to life and property of non-Muslims,” the PM added.
Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, while addressing a news conference, announced that each affected family would be given Rs200,000 in cash and the burnt houses would be reconstructed by the government. The CM ordered the compensation process to start immediately. He also suspended the DSP and SHO of Badami Bagh and made the SSP Operations Suhail Sukhera and SP City Multan Khan OSDs.
He said all involved in the incident including those who provoked the people and instigated them to attack the houses wouldn’t be spared.
He also requested the Lahore High Court Chief Justice to form a judicial commission to investigate the incident. He said cases would be registered against the attackers under Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) and the culprits would be awarded exemplary punishment. He said the person accused of blasphemy had been arrested on Friday night and an FIR had also been registered but despite that, the barbarism demonstrated on Saturday had no justification. He said the court would decide the case of blasphemy accused on merit, after a fair trial. He also made an appeal to the Ulema (Muslim legal scholars) to come forward and play their role for creating awareness about the minorities’ rights and importance of tolerance in the Islamic society.
Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah said an investigation had been carried out into the allegations and a case registered against the accused. Badami Bagh police registered a case against Sawan Masih under Section 295C on the complaint of Shahid Imran. Meanwhile, police rounded up dozens of people on charges of arson and rioting.
MNA Pervaiz Malik visited the locality and told the area people mischievous elements were involved in the incident. He said the Punjab police demonstrated exceptional performance and about 18 policemen and one officer were also injured. Pervaiz Malik asked the people to remain peaceful.
Meanwhile, a judicial magistrate on Saturday sent to jail Sawan Masih on 14-day judicial remand. Police produced the accused before the court and sought his physical remand. However, the court sent him on judicial remand, directing the police to produce the accused again on March 23 along with investigation report.
The arson attack on the Christian colony was widely condemned. The World Minorities Alliance Convener, J Salik expressed his deep grief over the burning of the Christian homes in Joseph Colony.
Jamaat-e-Islami Secretary General Liaquat Baloch said attacking innocent Christians was totally unjustified, un-Islamic and needed investigation. Jamaatud Dawah Ameer Hafiz Saeed and Tehrik-e-Hurmat-e-Rasool convener Maulana Ameer Hamza termed the setting ablaze of Christian houses tragic and un-Islamic.
Jamiat-e-Ahle Hadith chief Prof Sajid Mir also condemned the incident and said blasphemy of the Holy Prophet (PBHU) was the worst crime and its punishment was death but only the state had the power to sentence the blasphemer.
Pakistan Awami Tehreek chief Dr Tahirul Qadri, in his statement, said the incident was a conspiracy against Pakistan. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) expressed deep grief and anger at the unchecked attack on over 100 homes belonging to the Christian community in Badami Bagh, Lahore area.
National Secretary of National Commission for Justice and Peace, Peter Jacob said there was no denying the fact that fuel for such hate actions was omnipresent in the Pakistani society and whenever there is a spark it all goes up in flames.
Father Emmanuel Yousaf Mani also condemned the incident. Concerned Citizens of Pakistan Chairperson, Justice Nasira Javed Iqbal said it is inhuman to destroy lives and property of hundreds of families over an alleged fault of a single individual.
Chief of the Masiha Millat Party and General Secretary of the Human Liberation Commission of Pakistan Aslam Sahotra staged a large protest and sit-in outside the Lahore Press Club.
Mian Manzoor Ahmed Wattoo, Sarfaraz Latif Khosa, Akram Masih Gill, Engineer Shehzad Elahi, Aurangzeb Burki, Syed Asif Hashmi Awami Workers Party leaders Sheikh Mansoor, Muttahida Qaumi Movement chief Altaf Hussain, Dr Paul Bhatti and others also condemned the incident.
Pakistan’s blasphemy laws were first instituted to keep peace between religions. But they have been criticized by human rights advocates who say the laws enable legal discrimination against religious minorities. Through time, the laws have been misused to settle personal differences between Muslims and Christians.
“The attack is yet another shameful incident against a vulnerable community and further confirmation of the slide toward extremism in society on the one hand and, on the other hand, the apathy and inaction that has become the norm among the police,” the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said in a statement.
The group accused police of arresting Christians in the incident “while those who went on a rampage and can easily be identified from television footage have gone scot-free.”
ISLAMABAD: National Assembly Standing Committee (NASC) for human rights has summoned Punjab IG over the Joseph Town tragedy, Geo News reported Sunday.
NASC for human rights chairman Riaz Fatiana, strongly condemning the torching of houses of the Christian community, has summoned Punjab IG on March 14 in Islamabad.
Construction of ruined Joseph Town houses to start today
Punjab Law Minister, Rana Sanaullah also trying to reach the affected area faced strong protests from the enraged victims of Joseph Town. Joseph Town victims said that the police, who was supposed to protect them, were in fact very much involved in getting their houses set at fire and displace them. Later talking to media, Rana Sanaullah said that the Christian community would be given better houses than they lived in after construction.
(March 9, 2013) LAHORE, Pakistan —After hearing accusations that a Christian man committed blasphemy against Islam’s prophet, over 3,000 Muslim protesters turned violent and destroyed a Christian neighborhood on Saturday by torching homes. Reports claim over 100 homes have been burned or vandalized.
A large crowd from a nearby mosque went to the Christian’s home on Friday night, after a young Muslim man accused a Christian of committing blasphemy by making offensive comments about the prophet. Police took the Christian man into custody to try to calm down the crowd. Fearing for their safety, hundreds of Christian families fled the area overnight.
Reports say the mob returned on Saturday and began setting the homes of Christians ablaze. Though no one in the Christian community was hurt, several policemen were injured when hit by stones as they tried to keep the crowd from rushing the area.
(AP) reports Akram Gill, a local bishop in the Lahore Christian community said the incident had more to do with personal enmity between two men than blasphemy. He said the men got into a brawl after drinking late one night, and in the morning the Muslim man made up the blasphemy story as payback.
When they came to the neighborhood to investigate, the Christian community handed the accused man over to police. He is identified by police as Sawan Masih. Afterwards the Christians all locked up their houses and went to relatives in other areas.
On Saturday morning, the mob was armed with hammers and steel rods and broke into houses, ransacked two churches and burned Bibles and crosses. Refrigerators, washing and sewing machines, cooking pots, beds and other household goods were ripped from homes, smashed and torched in the streets.
“Poor people were living here. They have lost all of their belongings. “Where can they go now?” said Akram Gill
A couple from the neighborhood went to their Muslim neighbors’ house on Friday night after people came looking for the Christian man accused of blasphemy. Ishaq Masih said the Muslim neighbors sheltered the couple for the night and then gave them money to leave the area in the morning.
Accusations of blasphemy in Pakistan have prompted huge crowds to take the law into their own hands. Once an accusation is made it’s extremely difficult to get it reversed, partly because law enforcement officials do not want to be seen as being soft on blasphemers.
Speaking out against the blasphemy laws can put people in danger. Two prominent politicians (Shahbaz Bhatti and Salman Taseer) were assassinated in 2011 for urging reform of the law. The killer of one of the politicians was hailed as a hero, and lawyers at his legal appearances showered him with rose petals.
Last year there was a rare reversal of a blasphemy case. A teenage Christian girl, Rimsha Masih with suspected mental disabilities was accused of burning pages of the Quran. She was later released after a huge domestic and international outcry about her treatment. In a rare example of the accuser facing legal consequences, a local cleric was arrested and accused of planting the pages in her bag to incriminate her. He had hoped to rid the community of Christians. He has since been freed on bail. Though exonerated of all charges, unfortunately Rimsha and her family now live in hiding for fear of further attacks from death threats.
While Muslims are frequently accused of blasphemy, members of Pakistan’s small Christian community are especially vulnerable to the accusations, said the head of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Zora Yusuf. Only in Christian cases will violent mobs punish the entire community for the ‘perceived’ crime of one Christian. She also said that often these blasphemy cases are personal grudges or disputes masquerading as religious fervor. “Most of the time there are other motives involved,” she said, such as scaring off Christian residents to grab their property.
Please remember Pakistani Christians and keep them in your prayers. Please also pray for those doing the persecuting!
updated March 10,2013