Nigeria, September 28, 2012: On Thursday, Rep. Peter King (R-NY), chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, and Pastor Laolu Akande, Executive Director of the Christian Association of Nigerian-Americans (CANAN), blasted the terrorist group Boko Haram for the bombing of a Catholic church in northern Nigeria. The terrorist group — an al-Qaeda affiliated Islamist organization — killed a woman and a child and injured 48 other churchgoers.
“We condemn in the strongest possible terms the latest atrocity waged by the Islamist terror group Boko Haram in Nigeria. The bombing at Saint John’s Catholic Church in Bauchi is the latest in ongoing, coordinated attacks by Boko Haram on Catholic and other Christian churches in Nigeria, including the 2011 Christmas Day and 2012 Easter Day bombings,” said Rep. King.
“The Muslim world exploded over a ridiculous YouTube video and the Obama administration couldn’t apologize enough, but Christians being murdered, tortured and having their churches burned to the
ground by Muslims appears to be ignored by Obama and his sycophants,” said counterterrorism expert and former police commander George Wilkinson.
Since January 2011, these terrorist attacks have killed over 1,500 Nigerian Christians, according to the Nigerian government.
“Boko Haram is closely tied to al-Qaeda’s regional affiliates in North and East Africa, and presents a potential threat to our Homeland and citizens. With a renewed sense of urgency, we once again call upon the U.S. Department of State to formally designate Boko Haram as a Foreign Terrorist Organization,” said King.
Twice this year, Rep. King and Rep. Patrick Meehan (R-PA), Chairman of the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence, have requested that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton designate Boko Haram as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO).
Last year, under the leadership of Subcommittee Chairman Meehan, the Committee released a bipartisan report entitled, “Boko Haram – Emerging Threat to the U.S. Homeland” and convened a related hearing.
Pastor Akande and other Nigerian-American Christians established CANAN on Sept. 11, 2012, to address the Boko Haram terrorist killings in Nigeria and other broader issues related to Nigerian-Americans.
Boko Haram is an Islamic sect that believes politics in northern Nigeria has been seized by a group of corrupt and apostate Muslims. It is waging a war against them in order to set up a separate caliphate.
- examiner, usa
A suicide bomber struck a church in Bauchi, Nigeria, on Sunday (23 September), killing himself and at least four people.
The attack on the church in the Bayan Gari area of Bauchi Town happened at around 9am as worshippers were leaving after the first service of the day. The bomber detonated his explosives at the church gate after failing to gain access to the site.
A boy aged around seven was among the fatalities. The death toll could rise, as many of the 48 people who were wounded suffered life-threatening injuries.
The incident followed another attack on Christians in the town the previous Sunday (16 September). Gunmen opened fire at a place where people gather to socialise in the evening; nine were killed.
LAOS: FIVE CHRISTIAN LEADERS FROM SAME DISTRICT ARRESTED
Five Christian leaders were arrested as part of a crackdown on the Church in one Lao district.
On 11 September, three pastors, Bounlert of Alowmai church, Adang of Kengsainoy church and Onkaew of Kapang church, along with two other Christian leaders whose names have not been made public, were detained by police in Phin district, Savannakhet province.
The latter two were released on 13 September, but the other three have been held in harsh conditions, their hands and feet chained. Adang and Onkaew are seriously ill.
While the church pastors were locked up, police officers went to their congregations and questioned their wives and other leaders; they were asked about church finances, their own Christian faith and that of others, as well as details about the pastors’ work.
IRAQ: YOUNG CHRISTIANS HOLD PRAYER VIGIL AFTER CHURCH BOMBING
Over 150 young Christians held a day of prayer and fasting for peace in the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk on Saturday (22 September), following an explosion in front of a church there. Inspired by the International Day of Peace on Friday, they were also joined by older believers.
A bomb hidden in a bag had exploded at the door of the cathedral in Kirkuk on Sunday 16 September at 8.45pm. The building was damaged but nobody was hurt.
- barnabas team
Nigeria, April 08, 2012: At least 50 people were killed when explosives concealed in two cars went off near a church during Easter Sunday services in the northern Nigerian city of Kaduna, eye-witnesses said.
Shehu Sani, the President of Civil Rights Congress based in Kaduna, said two explosions took place at the Assemblies of God’s Church near the centre of the city with a large Christian population and known as a major cultural and economic centre in Nigeria’s north.
“There were two explosions and the casualty figure may go up because some injuries were really critical,” he said on phone.
Another resident of the city, Miss Blessing Audu said that the explosion has caused panic among Christians celebrating Easter.
She said some parts of the church were damaged even as the vibration caused by the explosives were heard in several parts of the city.
An emergency worker on condition of anonymity explained that the bombs were planted in two cars near the church.
At least 50 people were killed amid fears that the casualties may rise from the blasts.
He said his agency has been able to recover 20 bodies from the site.
Police spokesman Aminu Lawal confirmed the incident but sought more time before making a formal statement.
Ahead of Easter celebrations, the US and the UK had warned of possible bomb attacks, advising its citizens against travelling to certain parts of the country.
No one has yet claimed responsibility for the bombings, but the BBC reported that Boko Haram recently said it would carry out attacks in the area over the Easter holiday.
The radical group has carried out a series of attacks on churches and other locations on Christmas Day, including outside the church in capital Abuja, where 44 people died.
It is waging a bloody war against the government to seek the enforcement of strict Shariah law and the release of all its detained members.
The group has bombed churches and attacked mosques in the 150-million nation that has both Muslim and Christian population, with Muslims predominant in the north while Christians mostly living in the South.
Coordinated multiple bombings and gun attacks in the northern city of Kano by Boko Haram cadres killed 185 people, including an Indian from Gujarat on January 20. A suicide bomb attack by the group at the United Nations headquarters in Abuja in July last year killed 26 persons.
Easter bomb attack near Nigeria church kills at least 20 *Southern Sudanese Christians fear forced repatriation
Nigeria, Apr 08, 2012: A car bomb blast outside a church in northern Nigeria on Easter Sunday killed at least 20 people and put the country on alert over fears of further attacks, rescue officials and residents said.
The explosion, a stark reminder of Christmas Day attacks that left dozens of people dead in Africa’s most populous nation and largest oil producer, hit the city of Kaduna, a major cultural and economic centre in the north.
Motorcycle taxi drivers and passers-by caught much of the blast.
As news of the attack spread, security forces boosted patrols in key areas, including in the capital Abuja, where soldiers were sent to reinforce police posted near churches, an AFP correspondent reported.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility.
At least one car said to be driven by a suicide bomber was involved in the Kaduna attack, but a rescue official speaking on condition of anonymity said two vehicles packed with explosives detonated.
“Now we have 20 dead from the twin explosions,” the rescue official, who was not authorised to speak publicly, told AFP. Officials were still counting the number of wounded, he added.
“Bombs concealed in two cars went off just opposite this church,” he said.
A police officer at the scene said a man believed to be a suicide bomber driving a car was stopped at a checkpoint near the church and turned back, but drove to a nearby area close to a hotel and detonated the bomb.
A spokesman for the national emergency management agency said most of the victims appeared to be motorcyle taxi drivers.
Police said the explosion was a bomb, but did not comment further.
“We have a bomb explosion. We are trying to sort things out,” police spokesman Aminu Lawal told AFP.
Residents reported seeing dead and injured being taken away. An AFP correspondent said he saw 10 bodies, while one resident said he counted at least 10 wounded.
“From my balcony, I could see policemen loading the dead and the injured into waiting vans,” another resident said.
One resident said the explosion was strong enough to shake his house and cause his ceiling to cave in. He ran to the site, which had already been cordoned off, but he said he could see damage to the Assemblies of God Church as well as cars.
Islamist group Boko Haram carried out a series of attacks on churches and other locations on Christmas day, the bloodiest at a church outside Abuja, where 44 people died.
Authorities as well as foreign embassies had warned of the possibility of an attack on Easter Sunday.
Boko Haram’s increasingly bloody insurgency has left more than 1,000 people dead since mid-2009. Police and soldiers have often been the victims of such attacks, though Christians have occasionally been targeted as well.
The group also claimed responsibility for the August suicide bombing of UN headquarters in the capital Abuja which killed 25 people.
Its deadliest attack yet occurred in the northern city of Kano on January 20, when coordinated bombings and shootings left at least 185 people dead.
An attempt to hold indirect talks between Boko Haram and the government last month appears to have collapsed, with a mediator quitting over leaks to the media and a spokesman for the Islamists saying they could not trust the government.
Nigeria’s 160 million population is roughly divided between a mainly Muslim north and predominately Christian south.
Despite a number of high-profile arrests and heavy-handed military raids, Nigerian authorities have appeared unable to stop the attacks.
President Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian from the oil-producing Niger Delta region, said in his Easter message that “as people of faith, we must never succumb to hopelessness and despair.”
There has been intense speculation over whether Boko Haram has links to outside extremist groups such as Al-Qaeda’s north African branch.
Diplomats say such links so far appear limited to training for some Boko Haram members in northern Mali with Al-Qaeda elements, without significant evidence of operational ties.
Analysts say deep poverty and frustration in Nigeria’s north has fed the violence, pushing young people toward extremism.
Southern Sudanese Christians fear forced repatriation
Sudan, April 06, 2012: Christians from South Sudan who have until Easter Sunday (April eight) to try to become citizens of Sudan or be deported fear authorities will use the occasion to rid the country of Christianity, church leaders said.
More than 500,000 citizens of southern ethnic origin who have been living in Sudan for decades – some of them born there – will be considered foreigners after Sunday. Human rights organizations have called on Khartoum to grant them more time to either leave or apply for citizenship.
Christian leaders expressed concern that local media such as the daily Al Intibaha newspaper have been stoking hatred against predominantly Christian southern Sudanese, describing them as “cancer cells in the body of Sudan, the land of the Arab and Islam,” and calling on the government to deport them.
“The local media are becoming very hostile toward us who are still in the north,” one Christian told Compass by phone on condition of anonymity.
Gov. Ahmad Abbass of Sennar state in central Sudan vowed to deport southern Sudanese from his state “without regret,” according to Alsahafa, an Arabic daily. Banners have appeared in Khartoum streets calling on the government and Muslims in general to harass and expel southern Sudanese, some of whom are also Muslims.
“Why are they still here? The government should expel them from the country,” one banner asserts.
South Sudan seceded from Sudan in a referendum last July 9. The government of Sudan has begun issuing national numbers to designate citizens of Sudan, denying the designation to Sudanese of southern origin. Without a national number, southern Sudanese have no citizenship rights to work or education.
Churches in Sudan have already suffered losses in numbers as many members prepare for forced repatriation, Christian leaders said.
“We are monitoring the situation and praying to God to protect us,” said a church leader who spoke on condition of anonymity.
As Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has pledged to base the new Sudan more deeply on sharia (Islamic law), ethnic southerners are faced with a difficult choice, Elizabeth Kendal writes in the Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin.
“The message essentially is this: Submit to sharia or get out,” she writes. “Churches may well be targeted immediately and aggressively, starting 9 April. All across the Sudan, churches have been emptying as ethnic southerners – including those born and raised in the north – flee south. This could eventually become a pretext for closing them.”
At the same time, police have been mistreating some of the more than 113,000 southern Sudanese who are living in open spaces in Khartoum after having fled conflict in South Sudan. Officers have removed their make-shift housing, including temporary latrines, according to Jovana Luka, deputy chairperson of the Relief and Rehabilitation Commission in South Sudan, who recently returned from Khartoum.
Southern Sudanese may not be welcome in South Sudan, either, as increased competition for scarce resources leads to greater tribal conflict, and their fate depends on the mercy of both the Sudan and South Sudan governments, the Rev. Karlo Aika of Khartoum’s St. Peter and Paul Catholic Church told 98.6 FM radio station on Sunday (April 1).
He said he was concerned about security for southern Sudanese whether they stay or return to South Sudan.
“We fear too because we do not know why these things are happening,” he said.
Second church in central Nigerian city bombed in two weeks *Crackdown on church leaders and Christian activists in Cuba
Nigeria, March 15, 2012: A second church in the central Nigerian city of Jos has been hit in a suicide bombing in the space of two weeks; at least ten people were killed in the blast and violent aftermath.
The attack at St Finbarr’s Church happened on Sunday (11 March) at around 10.40am, ten minutes into the second service of the morning. It comes just two weeks after four people were killed in a suicide bombing at the Church of Christ (COCIN) headquarters in Jos, Plateau State, on Sunday 26 February.
The bomb, which was in a car, was detonated just outside the gate of St Finbarr’s after the vehicle was prevented from driving into the church premises. The blast shook the building and caused the ceiling to fall in and the glass to shatter. Three women, one of whom was pregnant, were among those killed. Surrounding buildings were also damaged.
The Anglican Archbishop of Jos, the Rt Rev Benjamin Kwashi, said:
It is worrying that two bombs have gone off within the space of two weeks, and many are fearing a third. Most importantly, a palpable terror is being unleashed on Christians so that Sunday is transformed from a day of worship into a day of fear. We are appealing to the church worldwide to pray without ceasing, and to members of the international community to speak up and take action on our behalf so that we are able to enjoy full religious freedom and worship God freely and without fear.
Two men, one dressed in female clothing, approached the gate of St Finbarr’s in a car. A guard at the gate said he needed to check inside the vehicle’s boot, but they refused to open it and detonated the explosives there.
In the aftermath of the blast, there were clashes involving the security forces and youths, which left at least three more people dead.
And late on Sunday, gunmen ambushed Christians in Chugwi village, south of Jos, killing three and injuring another three. The victims included two brothers, aged 25 and 30. The attackers took their victims’ mobile phones and called the deceased’s relatives to claim responsibility for the murders.
Three other people at the nearby hamlet of Dogo Garba were injured by the same gunmen. The shootings are not thought to be linked to the church blast.
Plateau State is in Nigeria’s Middle Belt, between the Muslim-majority North and mainly Christian South. Christians and churches have frequently come under attack in Jos, the state capital.
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan condemned Sunday’s bombing and restated his government’s commitment “to end the spate of mindless attacks and killings”. He claimed that the authorities were “winning the war against the terrorists” but the unrelenting campaign of violence by militant Islamist group Boko Haram and the apparent inability of the security forces to prevent their attacks suggest otherwise.
Boko Haram has not claimed responsibility for this latest church bombing, but it comes just a week after a spokesman for the group declared “war” on Christians in Nigeria and said that they were planning coordinated attacks to “eradicate Christians from certain parts of the country”.
- barnabas team
Crackdown on church leaders and Christian activists in Cuba
Cuba, March 14, 2012: Pastors have been arrested, beaten, fined and threatened, and Christian human rights’ activists physically blocked from attending church, in a crackdown by the Cuban authorities.
One church leader, Reutilio Columbie (41), from Moa, suffered brain damage in a brutal assault. It is thought that he was targeted because he challenged the confiscation by the authorities of a vehicle the church had bought five years ago to transport its members.
His family started receiving threatening phone calls after Reutilio initiated a complaints procedure. Then, when he left his home on 6 February with the intention of filing the papers, he was attacked; Reutilio was found unconscious on the street a few hours later; the documents were missing. He cannot remember anything about the incident and is still struggling with speech and memory.
In another incident, on 25 February, four church leaders were detained in Bayamo, Granma Province, while they were sharing the Gospel with people at the local bus station. State security agents beat one of them, Juan Moreno, so severely that he required hospital treatment. The other three were released after being held for a few hours.
Elsewhere, in Alamar, Havana, a pastor has been repeatedly fined huge sums since December because his church building is not registered. He and his family are now in great financial difficulty and facing the prospect of the church being forcibly closed.
Another church leader in Havana, Francisco Rodriguez, has faced harassment and threats of physical violence from the authorities in recent weeks. It is thought that the church’s outreach to people on the margins of society, including the homeless and juvenile delinquents, has brought him to the attention of the authorities.
The authorities have also been clamping down on Christian human rights’ activists. On 4 March, Caridad Caballero Batista and her husband Esteban Sade Suarez were detained by police while on their way to church. They were mistreated and held in a poorly ventilated mosquito-infested cell for three hours.
The couple, along with their 19-year-old son, have been blocked from attending Christian activities since the beginning of the year. Every Sunday, their home has been surrounded by police and state security agents to stop them from going to church. At other times, they have been followed to Christian meetings and prevented physically, sometimes violently, from attending.
Other Christian human rights’ activists have also been arrested or blocked from attending church services.
Cuba’s Marxist authorities try to limit the churches’ growth and activities as much as possible.
In a film released on the internet last year, the top Cuban official in charge of religious affairs, Caridad Diego Bello said, regarding the government’s crackdown on one Christian group:
We are taking measures and will continue to take measures, the hands of our authorities will not waver.
Despite the authorities’ best efforts, the church in Cuba is growing. Some new Christian groups are meeting in overcrowded houses because they are barred from building new churches.
The authorities subject churches to intimidation and restrictions, while church leaders have been imprisoned in dreadful conditions, sometimes enduring periods of solitary confinement.
- barnabas team
Suicide bomber strikes Nigerian church during service; three killed *Lent: Prayer, Penance and Charity to renew our relationship with God
He drove a Volkswagen Audi car packed with explosives into the compound of the Church of Christ (COCIN) headquarters in Jos at 7.20am on Sunday 26 February. The vehicle sped past a security checkpoint and exploded three metres from the church building.
Two women and an 18-month-old child were killed, and around 50 people were injured in the blast. One of the women had recently fled the anti-Christian violence in Yobe state.
The church and surrounding buildings were damaged, and the windows of around 30 cars parked in the compound were shattered.
The attack took place about 15 minutes into the first of the three services of the day. Around 3,000 worshippers attend services at the Church of Christ headquarters.
One church member, who was planning to attend the second service, said: “It makes me feel tense… we don’t know to which extent this will go until it is controlled.”
Militant Islamist group Boko Haram, which has been behind numerous attacks on Christians in Nigeria, has claimed responsibility for the blast.
Prior to the incident, a list of potential Boko Haram targets in Jos, which included the COCIN headquarters, had reportedly been found.
Elderly Christian’s Throat Slit
Elsewhere in Nigeria, an elderly Christian woman was murdered, with a threatening note – believed to be directed at her son, a pastor – left on her chest.
Shetu Haruna Malgwi (79) was attacked in the north-eastern city of Maiduguri on Wednesday 22 February. The assailants slit her throat, then wrote a note in Arabic with red pen that said, “We will get you soon,” and placed it on her chest. A Bible had been left under the church choir member’s feet.
Boko Haram has been blamed for Mrs Malgwi’s murder.
Church Bomb Blast
On the previous Sunday, 19 February, five people were wounded when a bomb planted near an abandoned car exploded outside a church in Suleja, near the capital Abuja, during a service.
Security guards at the church had noticed something suspicious by the car before the service began and had prompted the pastor to get everyone inside.
Boko Haram is suspected of being behind the bombing. The group, which wants to establish an Islamic state in Northern Nigeria, issued on New Year’s Day a three day ultimatum for Christians to leave the North.
Since that deadline expired, numerous churches have been targeted and many Christians have been shot dead.
Boko Haram has also struck at the security forces and at mosques deemed “insufficiently Islamic”. The group is believed to have killed over 300 people so far this year.
- barnabas team
Lent: Prayer, Penance and Charity to renew our relationship with God
Vatican City, February 26, 2012: In his reflections before praying the Angelus this morning with faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square, Benedict XVI commented on the Gospel reading from this Sunday’s liturgy, St. Mark’s narrative of the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness.
“The Lord chose to undergo the attack of the tempter so as to defend us with His help and instruct us with His example”, said the Holy Father quoting a text written by St. Leo the Great. This episode teaches us that man is never free from temptation, but we can become stronger than any enemy “by following the Lord every day with patience and humility, learning to build our lives not without Him or as if He did not exist, but in Him and with Him, because He is the source of true life. The temptation to remove God, to regulate ourselves and the world counting only on our own abilities, has always been present in the history of man”, the Pope said.
In Christ, God addresses man “in an unexpected way, with a closeness that is unique, tangible and full of love. God became incarnate and entered man’s world in order to take sin upon Himself, to overcome evil and to bring man back into God’s world. But His announcement was accompanied by a request to respond to such a great gift. Indeed, Jesus said “repent, and believe in the good news’. This is an invitation to have faith in God and to convert every day of our lives to His will, orienting our every action and our every thought towards what is good. The period of Lent is a good time to renew and strengthen our relationship with God through daily prayer, acts of penance and works of fraternal charity”.
Following the Angelus the Pope greeted pilgrims in a number of different languages, asking them to pray for him as he and the Roman Curia retire for their Lenten spiritual exercises, which begin this evening.
Holy See and UK Government, United in the struggle for religious freedom * Islamist violence drives nearly 95% of Christians from Nigerian
Vatican City, February 15, 2012: Given below is the text of an English-language joint communique of the Holy See and the government of the United Kingdom concerning an official ministerial visit marking the thirtieth anniversary of the establishment of full diplomatic relations between the two States. The delegation, led by Baroness Sayeeda Hussain Warsi, met with Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B. and was received by Pope Benedict XVI.
The communique states that the “Holy See and Her Majesty’s Government agreed on the urgent need for action to strengthen the universal commitment to religious freedom as a fundamental human right, and to its practical application with a view to promoting respect for all religions in all countries. The Holy See and the British government look forward to working together to combat intolerance and discrimination based on religion, wherever it is manifest.
“The Holy See and Her Majesty’s Government reaffirmed the need to promote integral and sustainable global development, based on the centrality of the human person and grounded in the principle of the inherent human dignity and worth of each person. Much progress has been made over the last decade in improving health and well-being for many people. However, there are still significant gaps and challenges in the long and complex path towards ensuring integral human development for everybody. Too many people are still hungry, too many people do not have access to education and to decent work, too many women die in childbirth. In view of these challenges we recognise a shared obligation to achieve a fair international financial and trade framework. And we will strive for a better future for all humanity, taking into particular account care for the poorest people in the world.
“Looking ahead to the UN Conference on Sustainable Development at Rio de Janeiro in June this year and to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change implementation process, we share the conviction that in order to take forward a human-centred and sustainable global development, there is a need to continue to strengthen the integration of its interdependent and mutually reinforcing pillars: the economic, the social and the environmental, as well as the connection between combating poverty and tackling climate change.
“The Holy See and Her Majesty’s Government share a commitment to work at the United Nations and other fora to strengthen the international focus on conflict prevention, disarmament, arms control and non proliferation, aimed at protecting human life and building a world more respectful of human dignity. As part of this effort, we look forward to positive outcomes in July to the final negotiations to agree upon a robust Arms Trade Treaty with a wide scope, and to the 2nd Review Conference of the UN Programme on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons.
“With regard to the changes which have occurred in North Africa and the Middle East, the Holy See and Her Majesty’s Government stressed the importance of undertaking real reforms in the political, economic and social realms, in order better to ensure the unity and development of each nation, in responding positively to the legitimate aspirations of many people for peace and stability. In this context, reference was made to the role which Christians can play and to the importance of inter-religious dialogue. The Holy See and Her Majesty’s Government expressed the hope for a resumption of negotiations in good faith between Israelis and Palestinians so as to bring about a lasting peace. They renewed their appeal for an immediate end to violence in Syria and stressed the need for co-operation to overcome the present crisis and work towards a harmonious and united coexistence.
“As the London Conference on Somalia approaches, the Holy See and the British Government encourage the international community to support a coherent strategy on Somalia in order to end the crisis there, placing as a priority the protection and welfare of the people of the Horn of Africa.
“Her Majesty’s Government welcomed His Holiness Pope Benedict’s support for the ongoing process of reconciliation in Northern Ireland, the establishment of stable, inclusive political institutions, and efforts to build a peaceful, stable and prosperous future for all parts of the community. Her Majesty’s Government and the Holy See agreed that the use of violence for political ends is deplorable, and must be set aside in favour of constructive dialogue for the well-being of the whole community.
“As the United Kingdom prepares to host the London Olympic and Paralympic Games, and to celebrate Her Majesty the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, both sides look forward to a year characterised by the spirit of the Olympic Charter and the Olympic Truce: at the service of the harmonious development of man, with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity.
“There was in addition a good exchange of views on a wide range of social, economic, political and cultural issues, including on developing the UK’s collaboration with the Vatican Museums. Both sides recognised in particular the role of faith and education in the development of a culture of social responsibility and the underpinning of a healthy society. In this context, appreciation was expressed for the significant contribution which the Catholic Church, and Christians in general, have made and continue to make to the good of British society. The Holy See emphasised the need to ensure that institutions connected with the Catholic Church can act in accordance with their own principles and convictions and stressed the necessity of safeguarding the family based on marriage, religious freedom and freedom of conscience. Both sides look forward to further strengthening their relationship by working together through their respective networks and global partnerships, including the Commonwealth of Nations, to promote the common good”.
Islamist violence drives nearly 95% of Christians from Nigerian
Nigeria, February 15, 2012: One Northern Nigerian state has been almost entirely cleared of Christians; they have been forced to flee the relentless campaign of violence against them by militant Islamist group Boko Haram.
The Rev. Garba Idi, chairman of the Yobe State chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), said that nearly 95 per cent of the Christians have left Yobe.
He said: The situation in Yobe is terrible. Churches were burnt and attacked while many Christians lost their lives in the course of this mayhem…
We have to leave because the sect is hunting us; that is why we had to flee… Many Christians have left Yobe to save their lives from these attacks.
More than 20 churches have been torched in Yobe since November; homes and vehicles belonging to Christians have also been damaged. Many lives have been lost in the violence; 15 Christians have been killed so far this year.
Following a series of attacks over Christmas, Boko Haram issued an ultimatum on New Year’s Day giving Christians three days to leave the North. They followed up the threat with further killings, which are having the intended effect of driving many Christians out of the North.
Some are going to safer parts of the country while others are crossing the border into Cameroon.
The Church of England’s General Synod last week called on the Government to “do all it can” to support the protection of religious minorities in Nigeria. The Bishop of Durham, the Rt Rev Justin Welby, said that the violence in the country had become “pervasive”, and that the Church in Northern Nigeria was “systematically, deliberately and progressively being eliminated”.
The authorities have been criticised for their inadequate response to the violence by Boko Haram, which is fighting to establish an Islamic state in the North. A report to the General Synod warned that the church in the north east of the country in particular had received “little protection, if any”.
On 10 February, a man suspected of masterminding the bombing of a church in Madalla near the capital, Abuja, on Christmas Day that left around 35 people dead was recaptured. Kabiru Sokoto was initially arrested last month but escaped the following day while being escorted by the police. It was an embarrassing episode for the police that led some to criticise their incompetence, while others suggested that there may even have been collusion between security officials and Boko Haram.
- barnabas team
Nigerian, February 09, 2012: Fotokol – Nigerians have fled in droves to neighboring Cameroon to escape violence claimed by the Islamist Boko Haram group and revenge attacks by Christians.
“Everybody is insecure in Nigeria. The fear is all-pervading,” said a Nigerian Christian priest, speaking on condition of anonymity, in Fotokol, a Cameroonian border town where dozens have taken shelter in the last few weeks.
It is located about 100km from the Nigerian city of Maiduguri, the bastion of the shadowy Boko Haram sect which has been blamed for a slew of terror attacks that have sowed panic in Africa’s most populous nation.
Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation and largest oil producer, is roughly divided between a mainly Muslim north and predominantly Christian south.
Boko Haram has claimed to be fighting for an Islamic state in Nigeria’s north, but its demands have varied.
“Many Nigerians like me have fled their villages in the south. We feel secure in Cameroon,” the priest said in Fotokol.
“That is why I am sheltered here,” he added.
He has rented a house which is about 10 minutes by motorcycle to the nearest town in Nigeria, Gamboru Ngala, where he heads the local Catholic Church.
Scores of bomb attacks
It is difficult to gauge the exact number of Nigerians who have fled to Cameroon as they cross the border illegally, but there are easily dozens sheltered here since the attacks and tit-for-tat ripostes by Christians.
Mahamat Tujani, a Muslim trader from Maiduguri, fled to Kousseri near Fotokol.
“I abandoned my business and my family to seek refuge at the home of my cousin,” a Cameroonian, he said. “I escaped out of fear.”
He hoped to return home soon, he said, “but if the killings continue, I will bring over my family members here”.
Boko Haram has been blamed for scores of bomb attacks in Nigeria’s Muslim-dominated north. It claimed responsibility for January 20 coordinated bombings and shootings in Nigeria’s second-largest city of Kano that left at least 185 people dead – Boko Haram’s deadliest attack yet.
The August suicide bombing of UN headquarters in the capital Abuja which killed at least 25 people was also attributed to the group.
“When you scent danger, you must escape,” the priest said.
“Even in the Gospel, the Lord says the moment you sense danger, you must escape. If you don’t it’s suicide,” he said.
“Return to God”
The priest said two Christians from the mainly Christian Igbo ethnic group were killed in Mobi in Adamawa state about three weeks ago.
“When the other Igbos went to reclaim their bodies the Boko Haram struck and killed 29 others,” he said.
Sectarian violence has been rising since elections in July last year. He urged both Christians and Muslims to “return to God”.
The priest said Muslims were also targeted by Boko Haram. Between January 28 and 30, three people – including a Muslim – were killed in Gamboru Ngala, Nigerian and Cameroonian police and medical sources said.
The priest was following an Africa Cup of Nations match on television at a bar, along with six other compatriots. In another room, eight other Nigerians sat, drinking.
Apostle John Eche, the youth leader of the Niger State chapter of CAN, has asked Nigerians to rise up against Boko Haram, according to the Nigerian Tribune. Eche asked all well-meaning Nigerians, regardless of religious or political background, to join together in efforts to end the violence from the group.
Eche wants Muslims to take the lead in firing back at Boko Haram and all other forms of terrorism in Nigeria. He said that they will be backed at anytime by their Christian brothers.
He blames the attacks of Boko Haram on some religious leaders who are alleged to be providing cover for members of the group. He said that if most of the Islamic faithful had disclaimed the sect, from the start, Boko Haram wouldn’t continue to exist.
Furthermore, he pleaded with Muslim leaders and clerics to not just speak against the group, but act in condemnation of the group. He said that many Muslim leaders were “sitting on the fence and refused to condemn the criminal group” at their onset.
Archbishop Michael Kehinde Stephen of the Methodist Church of Nigeria agreed that Christian and Muslim leaders need to act together to address the violence of Boko Haram. In an interview, Stephen said that it is no longer a local problem.
“The government and people need … demonstration that what is happening in Nigeria is no longer a local problem,” Stephen said to The Anglican Communion News. “It is a cause of deep concern internationally, and the great faith traditions can be part of the solution.”
Eche made the comments at an interactive meeting of CAN, which met to express shock and displeasure at the Christmas Day bomb attacks by Boko Haram. The meeting was led by CAN Chairman, Reverend Musa S. Dada and it was held at the Evangelical Church of West Africa Church.
Other speakers blamed the Nigerian government for not policing the nation’s borders, allowing foreigners with alien religious beliefs to cause harm to Nigerians. Other speakers representing different Christian denominations also blamed the government for failing to protect the lives and property of their citizens.
“We have appealed that there be no retaliation and we continue to preach peace…” said Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of the volatile city of Jos where hundreds of Christians have been killed since last year.
Fighters of the Islamist group Boko Haram, or “Western education is a sin” on Sunday, January 1, issued a three-day ultimatum for Christians to leave the African country’s northern state and called on Muslims in the south to move north.
However, Kaigama said, he is still “hoping that all of us in Nigeria, Muslims and Christians, will be able to work and live happily” and added “We continue to appeal to reason, for dialogue.”
Boko Haram warned it would fight government troops in parts of the country where President Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian, declared a state of emergency following a series of bombs killed at least some 50 Christian worshipers on December 25, Christmas Day.
The group has pledged to establish Sharia, or Islamic, law in the country, although its 155 million population is roughly equally divided between Christians, who live mainly in the south, and Muslims in the north.
Christians in the north have made clear it is very difficult to leave their homes behind as they no where to go and are in many cases already facing the daily burden of life in the impoverished nation.
Archbishop Ignatius, who is also the Vice President of the Nigerian Bishop’s Conference, said he appealed to Nigerians not to allow their country to be overtaken by terror.
“Churches have been destroyed and lives were lost and there is no sign that this might end, until the government intervenes decisively. We continue to ask Christians to be vigilant and aware of the issue of safety when they go to church and even in their own homes,” he said in an interview with Vatican Radio, monitored by Worthy News.
Yet, This is our position: no violence, no retaliation. We want to live in peace,” he stressed.
Patience Running Out
There were signs, however, that patience was running out among religious Christians, whonews reports linked to a bomb that detonated in an Islamic school last week.
A spokesman of Open Doors, an advocacy and aid group supporting “persecuted Christians”, said colleagues urged local believers not respond with violence to ongoing attacks. “Really, if we want to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ, retaliation is not the way to do that. In fact, that would just make it harder for them to
see us as Christians,” said spokesman Jerry Dykstra.
He acknowledged that some believers, who reportedly watched their families killed, “are beyond thinking that way” though.
Dykstra quoted an unidentified young man as telling an Open Doors worker, “It’s no longer a time for forgiveness; they have pushed us to the wall. So no pastor can stop me from killing and destroying the lives and property of the Muslims.”
Begging for Answers
In published remarks, Dykstra said that Christians are “begging” for answers. He said his workers had received questions that included “Should we fold our arms and watch our killers kill us and take our land because we want to share Christ?”
Other Nigerian Christians reportedly asked: “Should we begin to show love the people who are killing us on a daily basis? Haven’t all of our efforts to live at peace with them failed?”
However, “I think the questions are questions that we would ask too in that situation,” Dykstra explained.
He said his group has urged believers worldwide to pray for Nigeria. “Pray that our brothers and sisters in Christ would respond exactly as Jesus would want them to. Pray that bitter hearts would be made at peace, and that forgiveness would reign. Pray also for those who need trauma counseling after watching family members killed. Above all, pray that this would build God’s kingdom rather than hinder it.”
Bishop Ignatius said it remains unclear “who the Boko Haram really are” and, for instance, where they get their weapons from. “What is certain is that there are some forces behind them, either in Nigeria or abroad, who want to profit from instability in our country.” Yet, he pledged, “We will not give in to terrorism, we will not allow these fundamentalists to ruin our country.”