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The Plight of Christian IDPs in Eastern Kenya

By Nathan Johnson

Martha is a 6-week-old baby who has lived her entire life inside the AIC Witu internally displaced persons (IDP) camp in Kenya. For the entirety of her young life, she has slept in a tent without a mattress, coat, or mosquito net. She is but one of the many infants who have been born in the past four months to displaced parents fleeing the violence and persecution of al-Shabaab.

Pendo, Martha’s mother, told International Christian Concern (ICC) that Martha’s delivery and early life have been strenuous because of the camp’s deadly health risks to both infants and the older population. “I am very saddened by the fact that we were displaced from our farms due to the terror threat from [al-Shabaab]. This is the worst experience I have ever witnessed in my life,” cried Pendo as she shared her story with ICC.

She sat outside of their tent, holding Martha. The desperation and tragedy of her displacement mars her young face. “We are innocent people who depend on farming and the four months we have stayed in this camp have been a traumatizing period. We do not get enough food. I came here when I was seven months pregnant and now I am holding my baby. I am worried. I don’t know how I will feed her together with my other four children,” continued Pendo.

In July 2017, a church group opened three camps in Witu and Katsaka Kairo when 2,000 families fled from the Christian farming villages of Jima, Pandanguo, Maleli and Poromoko in eastern Kenya. They escaped an attack in which al-Shabaab executed a total of 11 Christian men, seven in Jima and four in Maleli. Now, the survivors live in overcrowded camps that lack food, water, and sanitation which leads to high risks of disease.

Ngina, a Red Cross worker who is in charge of food distribution in the camp told ICC, “Baby Martha is just alive because of the mercies of God. The surroundings are not favorable at all and we have had cases of cholera outbreak, diarrhea and bed bugs, but she is keeping strong. This place is full of mosquitoes due to the stagnant water from the rains. There isn’t enough food and medicine for the people living in the camps. This is a sad state.”

Katana Sirya is among those who were relocated from Maleli village and he told ICC that the pain of losing a son and seeking shelter in a camp has taught him the meaning of suffering as a Christian. “My son had gone to the village to check whether he could get some cereals for us to eat at the camp when al-Shabaab attacked him. We are yet to recover from the aftermath of the incident and the agony of this terror has left my family worn out. We live in a small tent that gets flooded whenever it rains and our small baby gets really cold,” reiterated Katana.

Eunice Haluwa, a refugee in the camp who escaped from Jima village after al-Shabaab killed her husband and burned her house, cried out in frustration and desperation, saying, “If we worship the living God and the Muslims think we are lost, then let the justice of God prevail and one day we shall be vindicated.”

During ICC’s trip to the camps, the government asked the IDPs to return to their villages because security had been enhanced. However, many Christians are reluctant because during the previous attacks the police were unable to respond in time even after an alarm was raised.

The Katsaka Kairo camp is filled with Christians who have lost everything and are trying to find some semblance of a peaceful existence while healing from the atrocities they have experienced. The faith of four families that lost their kin in Maleli village is being tested as they can no longer support themselves through farming, but now rely on others for food, clothing, and medical care.

Despite the difficult circumstances, however, many of the refugees have hope, such as Katana, who is hopeful that this is a passing cloud of trials. He concluded, “We have kept the faith and we are quite certain that soon we shall find secure places to start our lives once again. The Lord shall provide.”

Source: Internetional Christian Concern



Nigeria suicide bombing kills 50 in Adamawa state

At least 50 people have been killed in a suicide bombing in the eastern Nigerian state of Adamawa, police say.

A bomber struck inside a mosque packed with worshippers during morning prayers in the town of Mubi.

Witness Abubakar Sule told AFP news agency that it appeared the bomber was part of the congregation.

No-one has said they were behind the bombing but the Islamist militants Boko Haram typically target crowded places in northern Nigeria.

Some 20,000 people have been killed in Boko Haram’s eight-year insurgency.

The BBC’s Ishaq Khalid reports that Boko Haram militants have recently stepped up suicide bombings in Nigeria’s north-east after the military recaptured territories previously controlled by the group.

At least 45 people were killed in a suicide bomb attack in the same state last December.

In that attack two female suicide bombers detonated their explosives in a busy market.

Source: BBC News



Five Christians Killed, Five Others Missing in Muslim Herdsmen Attacks in Nigeria

Report highlights role of jihad in Benue state violence.

The Rev. Dacholom Datiri of the Church of Christ in Nations COCIN. (Morning Star News)

Five Christians were killed and five others are missing after attacks by Muslim Fulani herdsmen in Nigeria’s Plateau and Benue states in the past two weeks.

Two members of the Church of Christ in Nations (COCIN) were killed on Sunday (Nov. 12) in Plateau state’s Wereng village, Riyom Local Government Area (LGA), as they were returning to their village at about 9:30 p.m., area resident Gyang Dahoro, a COCIN elder, told Morning Star News.

Christopher Musa Chong, 28, and Bulus Dantoro, 35, were ambushed and shot death, and their corpses cut with machetes, according to Dahoro.
“The two did not return to the village on Sunday evening,” Dahoro said. “A search was organized, and their corpses were found in bushes the following morning with bullet wounds and machete cuts.”

The Rev. Dacholom Datiri, president of the COCIN, said in a text message to Morning Star News that the church keeps losing its members as Muslim herdsmen have continued to ravage the countryside in a series of armed attacks.

“These armed Fulani herdsmen have continued with their attacks, and the church is at the receiving end,” Datiri said. “We have lost our members to these unprovoked attacks. We are on our knees praying for God’s mercy.”

Police in Plateau state reported recovering items belonging to the herdsmen at the scene of the attack. Plateau State Command spokesman Matthias Terna confirmed in a press statement the two Christians were ambushed and killed by the herdsmen.

“The dead bodies were recovered on the scene at about 8:15 in the morning by miners who were on their way to mining camp,” Terna said. “The police recovered two sticks belonging to the gunmen, and a motorcycle belonging to the deceased persons in the scene.”

Lamenting incessant killings of Christians in the state by the herdsmen using guerrilla tactics, a member of Nigeria’s parliament, the National Assembly, demanded the government declare the herdsmen as terrorists. Istifanus Gyang said in a press statement that the time has come for herdsmen to be classified as terrorists.

“The truth is that there is a quest by the herdsmen to forcefully acquire land and territory for occupation,” Gyang said. “Under this unfortunate development, the Nigerian state and government, which have the constitutional responsibility of protecting citizens from aggression, have left the victims at the mercy of the marauding herdsmen. These attacks have to be profiled and classified as acts of insurgency and treated with the same response as Boko Haram has been handled.”

Benue State Killings

In Benue state, three Christians were killed and five others abducted by Muslim Fulani herdsmen, sources said.

One of the Christians, Saater Kwaghdom, was killed in an attack in Gaambe-tiv village, Logo LGA, on Nov. 2 in which the herdsmen took away the five Christians, Joseph Anawa of Makurdi told Morning Star News.

Another Christian, Apesuu Uhula, was killed in Isho village, Guma LGA, on Tuesday (Nov. 13), and the same day herdsmen killed another Christian, Ortse Kwaghdoo, in Azdege village, Logo LGA, according to Anawa.

All three slain Christians were members of the Universal Reformed Christian Church, in Nigeria known as the NKST (Nongo U KristuU I Ser Sha Tar), he said.

Among those kidnapped, also NKST members, were Hingir Akaa Azemgbe, Doosul Nambo, and Ladi Mhbahme, he said.

Moses Yamu, spokesman for the Benue State Command, said in a press statement that some herdsmen who carried out the attacks have been arrested.

Christians make up 51.3 percent of Nigeria’s population, while Muslims living primarily in the north and middle belt account for 45 percent.
Benue state is majority-Christian, and a report released this month describes attacks there as a “Hausa-Fulani Muslim herdsmen invasion of Benue.”

“Nigeria: Benue State Under the Shadow of Herdsmen Terrorism,” commissioned by the World Watch Research unit of Open Doors International and Voice of the Martyrs Canada, says ethnic, socio-economic, environmental and political factors play some part in attacks, but that policy makers have diminished the underlying jihadist motives.

The ideology of the Hausa-Fulani Muslim invasion of Benue is based on the slogan, “Everything belongs to Allah. Every piece of land belongs to Allah and not you; it is not for you infidels but for Allah,” the report notes.

“Thus, with climate change, competition over limited resources and environmental threat to the ways of life of the herdsmen, the use of terror and its religious justification has been intensified, particularly in Benue,” the report states. “Herdsmen use terror tactics to conduct jihad, displacing local communities from their land to make room for their herds, to occupy those lands and to spread Islam.”

Hausa-Fulani Muslim herdsmen are generally misperceived as people who are only in search of a better environment for caring for their sheep, the report states.

“They are mostly considered as people whose life, survival and tradition is embedded in the value attached to the herds, and the capacity they retain to protect their way of life,” it states. “Yet, historically, it is necessary to emphasize the fact that herdsmen in Africa have always played an important role in Islamic jihad. Their actions clearly demonstrate that their use of terror is premeditated; it is ideologically driven and sometimes politically motivated depending on the place, time and socio-political context.”

The report also asserts that the government is complicit in the violence by failing to stop attacks or prosecute assailants.

Nigeria ranks 12th on Open Doors’ 2017 World Watch List of countries where Christians suffer the most persecution.

Source: Morning Star News: JOS, Nigeria.



Nigeria: Fulani Christians call for peace as violence continues in Plateau

Rev. Buba Aliyu (right), to Chief Ronku Aka (left): “We have come to condole with the entire Irigwe chiefdom, the Plateau people and Nigeria as a country.” (World Watch Monitor)

Fulani Christians in Nigeria have spoken out against the persistent attacks and killings attributed to Fulani herdsmen in the central state of Plateau, calling on them to embrace peace and shun all acts of violence.

Rev. Buba Aliyu, chairman of the Fulbe Christian Association of Nigeria, led a contingent of Fulani Christian leaders on a visit to the palace in Irigwe, where 60 people have been killed in recent attacks, including 27 people who had sought refuge in a school where the army had a base.

“In this period of mourning, we have come to condole with the entire Irigwe chiefdom, the Plateau people and Nigeria as a country, and we pray that God will grant you the fortitude to bear this loss,” Rev. Aliyu said.

“We as [the] Fulbe Christian Association of Nigeria do not support such dastardly acts; we call on all Fulani and other tribes to please live in peace and harmony and shun any act that could breed violence.”

Another member of the contingent, retired General Ishaku Dikko, said a panel should be set up to unravel the root cause of the crisis and prevent further attacks.

He added that Nigerians needed to be “patient” with the country’s security forces. “They are dealing with Nigerians. This is not war situation, it is an issue of internal security, and principally their effort is to contain it, and not to allow it [to] degenerate,” he said.

“I can even say that the Special Task Force troops are even overstretched, because they cover up to Southern Kaduna.”

Irigwe’s chief, Ronku Aka, said the community had forgiven the herdsmen. “My people, during an open field prayer on 28 October, where about 4,000 persons of the chiefdom were in attendance, were asked by the preacher that day to forgive the Fulani or whoever attacked and killed our people,” he said.

“We all have resolved to forgive the perpetrators unconditionally. As I speak, there are still Fulani doing their business in Irigwe land; some are driving their buses and taxis as usual and very soon I believe everything will become normal.”

The chief thanked the Christian Fulanis for their visit, and assured them they are still welcome to hold their annual prayer meeting in Irigwe.

Persistent Fulani violence ‘indicates ethnic cleansing’ of Nigerian Christians, according to a new report. (World Watch Monitor)

 

Attacks continue

After a period of relative calm, violence has resumed in Plateau, which has witnessed the deadliest sectarian violence in Nigeria’s recent history.

Two days after the palace visit, in the early hours of Monday 13 November, two people were ambushed and killed by suspected Fulani herdsmen in Wereng village in Riyom Local Government Area.

Last Tuesday (7 November) nine Christians were shot dead by suspected Fulani herdsmen as they returned from a weekly village market. Four more were injured during the incident in the same Riyom Local Government Area.

Throughout September and October, repeated attacks against Christian communities left more than 75 dead, according to an NGO on the ground, Stefanos Foundation.

Throughout the course of the violence, 12 villages have been attacked. In addition to the casualties, 489 homes have been burned and 13,726 people displaced, it said.

The victims identified the perpetrators as Fulani militants.

The ongoing violence in Nigeria’s Middle Belt has prompted a reaction from the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), the main umbrella organisation of the major Churches in Nigeria.

On Friday (10 November), CAN expressed concern to President Muhammadu Buhari in its first meeting with him since his election two years ago.

A new report detailing the sustained attack on Christian communities by Fulani herdsmen in Nigeria’s central state of Benue concluded that the number and ferocity of incidents is evidence of ethnic cleansing.

Further, the report said signs of ethnic cleansing on Christian communities “are likely to become increasingly evident” in light of a Fulani leader’s threat that the herdsmen will need to “defend their rights” after a ban on grazing was implemented earlier this month.

The report, ‘Nigeria: Benue state under the shadow of herdsmen terrorism’, commissioned by Christian charities Open Doors International and Voice of the Martyrs Canada, catalogued crimes committed against Christians by Hausa-Fulani herdsmen between January 2014 and August 2017.

Source: World Watch Monitor



Decade after Church Burnings in Nigeria, Officials Forbid Rebuilding

Ruins of ECWA church in Tudun Wada, Kano state, Nigeria. (Morning Star News)

KANO, Nigeria (Morning Star News) – A decade after Muslims attacked and displaced Christians in a town in northern Nigeria, Kano state officials have forbidden church buildings to be rebuilt there, sources said.

Eight church buildings destroyed in late September 2007 in predominantly Muslim Tudun Wada Dankadai, Kano state, are still in ruins, a Morning Star News correspondent observed earlier this month.

The buildings of St. Mary’s Catholic, Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA), Baptist, Assemblies of God, Charismatic Renewal, Mountain of Fire and Miracle and Deeper Christian Life Bible churches, along with that of another church, have not been rebuilt because local Muslims have refused to allow it, Joseph Opeyemi Ibinkule, a 42-year-old a Christian resident of Tudun Wada Dankadai, told Morning Star News.

“Christians who have braved it and returned after the attacks in 2007 have no worship buildings up to today,” Ibinkule said. “The reason is that the government of Kano state has banned us from rebuilding our churches.”

No pastor lives in the town, he said, and only a few come to lead services to a smattering of church members in the hostile environment.
“These are the ECWA pastor and the Catholic priest,” he said. “Both of live in the city of Kano and only come to conduct services under trees for their members.”

Kano state officials declined to comment to Morning Star News.

Ibinkunle said the 2007 assault, in which at least nine Christians were killed, was ignited by Muslim students accusing high school Christians of blasphemy.

“The Muslim students attacked Christian students, and soon they were joined by Muslims in this town,” he said. “All eight churches were destroyed, Christians were displaced, and many Christians were also killed. I personally saw three corpses of members of the St. Mary’s Catholic Church who were killed by the Muslim attackers.”

The attack was premeditated, and then it led to further spontaneous violence, he said. Church buildings were burned, and houses and shops of Christians were looted and charred, he added.

Advocacy group Christian Solidarity Worldwide reported in 2007 that the violence began after Muslim students stormed into a room shared by two Christian students at the Government Secondary School in Tudun Wada and began to assault them.

“When the Christian students asked what they had done wrong, their assailants initially told them to ‘mind their own business,’” CSW reported. “However, once the school principal arrived at the scene, the Christians were accused of drawing a picture of Muhammad on a mosque wall and of planning an assault on Muslim students.”

Local authorities appeared to limit access to the area to obscure inquiry into the extent of the casualties, according to CSW. Tudun Wada’s chief of police sealed the area off, and local authorities transported Christians out of the area and removed all corpses. Those trying to help victims were denied access, CSW reported.

Three Mountain of Fire pastors in Kano City were temporarily detained when they attempted to evacuate members of their denomination, according to CSW.

“As a result of this enforced isolation of the area, the exact number of fatalities is difficult to determine,” CSW reported. “However, sources suspect that the toll is far higher than originally stated. One policeman was overheard complaining of being ‘fed up of packing corpses.’”
The son of an Apostolic Church pastor, Ibinkunle said he has been worshipping under a tree with the members of the ECWA congregation since the 2007 attack.

Court Efforts

ECWA leaders in Tudun Wada have taken the Kano state government to court for prohibiting them from reconstructing the church buildings.
“The Kano state government stopped us from rebuilding the destroyed ECWA church in Tudun Wada, so we have taken the matter to court, and we hope we shall get justice at the end of the case,” the Rev. Murtala Marti Dangora, vice chairman of the Kano State Chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), told Morning Star News.

The Rev. Ayuba Hassan, chairman of Tudun Wada chapter of CAN, said the ECWA is the only church trying to reestablish itself in Tudun Wada.
“We currently worship under a tree and have continued to insist that we be allowed to rebuild our place of worship,” Hassan said. “The government is not ready to allow us do so, as they claim that the Muslims in the town do not want to have any church there. We are waiting for the outcome of the case in court.”

Officers at the police station at Tudun Wada confirmed that there is no church building standing in the town.
Asked where the ECWA church was located, an officer told Morning Star News, “Do you see that tree over there? That’s where the ECWA church is.”
Near the tree where the ECWA building once stood was part of its wall with an inscription by the Kano State Land and Survey agency warning against redevelopment of the land.

Morning Star News returned to the police station and remarked to the officer that only the ruins of the church building remained near the tree.
“Don’t you know that there is no church in Tudun Wada Dankandai?” he said.

Asked about the church pastor, he said, “Sorry, the pastor does not stay in this town; he comes from Kano on Sundays. I also worship with them under a tree you see there. That’s where we worship.”

Source: Morning Star News