• Books by Ray, republished 2016
  • Treehaven, South Africa: International Retreat and Training Centre
  • South African Students Undergoing Training at Treehaven
  • Ray Barnett, founder, Friends In The West
  • Prayers and practical help for those suffering through violence and war.

Sudan: update on detained church leaders

Christians in Sudan have requested further prayers for four church leaders detained by the Sudanese authorities.

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The trial of the four Christians has now begun, and the second court hearing was held on Monday 21st August.

As expected, the four have been charged with several serious offences, including waging war against the state, espionage activities, conspiracy to carry out criminal acts, and undermining the authority of the state through violence.

Some of the charges are punishable with the death penalty.

The trial was originally intended to begin on 14th August, but the four defendants were not brought to court from prison.

An investigator from the prosecutor’s office has given his statement, and the next hearing is expected to take place on Monday 29th August.

The prosecutor may question the investigator about his findings.

Prayer points

Sudanese Christians request prayer:

a. that the four detained church leaders will know the Lord’s strength and comfort during their ordeal
b. for a fair judicial process, and that the four will be acquitted of all charges
c. that church leaders and other Christians will know the Lord’s peace in the face of the increasing pressure against churches
d. that all officials involved will love mercy, act justly, learn about Jesus and choose to follow Him

SOURCE: “MIDDLE EAST CONCERN”



Turkey wedding suicide bomber ‘was child aged 12-14’

A suicide bombing which killed 51 people in the Turkish city of Gaziantep was carried out by a 12 to 14-year-old, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said.

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The streets filled with people just after the blast on Saturday evening

Mr Erdogan said the so-called Islamic State (IS) was behind the attack, which targeted a Kurdish wedding party. Gaziantep, near the Syrian border, is known to have several IS cells.

The bomb wounded 69 people, Mr Erdogan added, 17 of them seriously.

The bomber targeted the wedding guests as they danced in the street.

The BBC’s Seref Isler, who is from Gaziantep, says the city of 1.5 million was already on edge because of events in Syria, where IS has been battling Syrian Kurdish forces.

A suicide bomber believed to have links to IS killed two policemen in Gaziantep in May.

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A police officer secures the scene of an explosion where a suspected suicide bomber targeted a wedding celebration in the Turkish city of Gaziantep, Turkey, 21 AugustImage copyrightREUTERS

Was IS behind this? Analysis by Mark Lowen, BBC News, Istanbul

The choice of target seems designed for maximum effect: those enjoying a moment of a celebration at a wedding party.

If this was an attack by so-called Islamic State, it could be a response to the jihadists’ recent loss of territory in Syria. Kurdish fighters with the US-led coalition drove them out of a stronghold, Manbij. Perhaps this attack on a Kurdish wedding in Gaziantep was an act of revenge.

It comes as Turkey’s prime minister announces that his government will play a more active part in the Syrian conflict. We understand that Turkish-backed rebels are preparing a further offensive into the IS-held province of Jarablus and will be granted safe passage across the Turkish border. This attack could have been a warning shot by IS.

In a written statement published by local media (in Turkish), Mr Erdogan argued there was “no difference” between IS, the Kurdish militants of the PKK, and followers of US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom he blames for the coup attempt last month.

“Our country and our nation have again only one message to those who attack us – you will not succeed!” he said.

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Victims of the blast included a three-month old baby girl

‘Blood everywhere’

The bomb went off in a part of town popular with students and which has a large Kurdish community.

Local MP Mahmut Togrul told the Reuters news agency it had been a Kurdish wedding.

Mr Togrul’s party, the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), said the wedding had been for one of its members.

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Women wait outside a morgue in the Turkish city of Gaziantep, 21 AugustImage copyrightREUTERS

According to a report (in Turkish) by Turkey’s Dogan news agency, the couple had moved to Gaziantep from the Kurdish town of Siirt further east to escape fighting between Kurdish rebels and security forces.

Media reports in Turkey said that the married couple survived the blast but were taken to hospital.

On Sunday morning, smashed garage doors and windows could be seen at the site of the blast, Reuters reports.

“The celebrations were coming to an end and there was a big explosion among people dancing,” said Veli Can, 25.

“There was blood and body parts everywhere.”

The United States condemned the attack, calling it a “barbaric act”.

Ned Price, a spokesman for the US National Security Council, said: “We stand with the people of Turkey as they defend their democracy in the face of all forms or terrorism.”

On Saturday, Turkey’s government said the country would take a more active role in efforts to end the war in Syria.

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Deadliest recent attacks on civilians in Turkey
20 August: Bomb attack on wedding party in Gaziantep kills at least 51 people, IS suspected

29 June: A gun and bomb attack on Ataturk airport in Istanbul kills 45 people, in an attack blamed on IS militants

13 March: 37 people are killed by Kurdish militants in a suicide car bombing in Ankara

17 February: 29 people, many of them civilians, are killed in an attack on a military convoy in Ankara

12 January: 10 people, including at least eight German tourists, die in a suicide bombing in Istanbul, thought to have been carried out by IS

October 2015: More than 100 people die in a double suicide bombing at a Kurdish peace rally in Ankara – the deadliest attack of its kind on Turkish soil

Source: BBC News



Once again, the world has been shocked by the image of a Syrian child.

FITW note:  War always comes at a price! When that price includes injury and death to children, then it’s even harder to take. Anyone with a heart that has any compassion is bound to have been moved by this now famous image of young Omran Daqneesh. This is not something a boy of his age should have to go through. I suppose we at least should be thankful that his young life has been spared and we pray that he will make a full physical recovery, though it doesn’t require a doctorate in psychology to work out that mental scars may remain for a long time to come.

For obvious reasons, Omran’s image attracted our attention. His photo has been featured on the front page of every major international newspaper, discussed on the news, and has gone viral on social media.

But the writer of this BBC article below, Lina Sergie Attar, has also come up with some poignant statements to accompany the image. They’re sad but true and we probably now need to look beyond the photo and take these comments on board. We have highlighted some of them below:

“It seems the end of summer has become a yearly tradition for the world to awaken to Syria’s tragedy through the photos of its suffering children.”

“The international community and the UN wring their hands. And then about a year passes and another image goes viral. Over and over.”

“For children like Omran, all he has known in his life is war.”

“For millions of Syrian children growing up during this gruelling conflict, their realities are bleak and their futures even bleaker.”

“Every day there are so many Omrans whose images you will never see and whose names you will never know”.

“This is not a hashtag moment. This is not a viral moment. This is a moment that must become a movement to end the war.”

 

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by Lina Sergie Attar

The iconic image of a bloodied Syrian boy in an ambulance has sparked international compassion but, asks Lina Sergie Attar, can it now transcend being just a hashtag or viral moment and become a movement to end the war?

“He looks like a statue.” That’s what my 11-year-old daughter said when she saw the video of five-year-old Omran Daqneesh covered in grey dust and fresh blood, sitting on a bright orange chair in an ambulance.

He sits in complete silence, staring ahead with deadened eyes.

The statue moves. He touches his bloody forehead and studies his hand with confusion.

Then little Omran does what every parent has witnessed their child do. After a moment’s hesitation, he wipes his hand on the chair. Except our children have done the same with ketchup, ice cream, chocolate. Not blood.

Yearly tradition

Once again, the world has been shocked by the image of a Syrian child.

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Russia has denied that its warplanes bombed Omran Daqneesh’s home in rebel-held Aleppo

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Hundreds of civilians, many of them children, have been killed in Aleppo in recent weeks

Omran was rescued with his family by the Syrian Civil Defence (also known as the White Helmets) after a reported Russian air strike hit his home in rebel-held eastern Aleppo on Wednesday.

His photo has been featured on the front page of every major international newspaper, discussed on the news, and has gone viral on social media.

It seems the end of summer has become a yearly tradition for the world to awaken to Syria’s tragedy through the photos of its suffering children.

Three years ago, it was the images of gassed children from the Ghouta region outside Damascus, who suffocated to death after a chemical weapons attack on their neighbourhoods – widely blamed on regime forces – as they slept in underground bomb shelters.

They looked like perfect porcelain dolls lined up in a row, waxy and unblemished.

One year ago, it was the photo of Syrian toddler Alan Kurdi who washed up on a Turkish beach after drowning while trying to reach Greece with his family as they fled the war like millions of other refugees.

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Alan Kurdi (L) and his brother Galib both drowned trying to reach Greece. An image of Alan’s body on the beach sparked an international outpouring of compassion

Alan captured the world’s hearts and compassion with his red T-shirt, navy shorts, and sturdy little shoes – a universal toddler outfit – and became the symbol of the plight of refugees.

Omran is the Syrian icon of 2016.

Unfortunately, every year these images are followed by millions of tweets, likes, and shares; they inspire public outrage and an outpouring of compassionate donations to aid organisations; and then, after a few days or weeks, the image and the crisis are forgotten.

The world moves on. Air raids by the Syrian government and its allies continue to drop bombs of all sorts on civilians; so-called Islamic State (IS) continues to terrorise Syrians living under its control; the death toll rises and the refugee crisis continues to escalate.

The international community and the UN wring their hands. And then about a year passes and another image goes viral. Over and over.

Deafening silence

Chemical weapons attacks, mass displacement, barrel bombs, air strikes, forced starvation, torture: every vile act of war imaginable has directly affected Syrian children since 2011.

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The UN says children and their families in Aleppo are facing a catastrophic situation

For children like Omran, all he has known in his life is war.

For millions of Syrian children growing up during this gruelling conflict, their realities are bleak and their futures even bleaker.

If they stay in their homes, they are sitting targets of bombs and missiles. They may suffer hunger and illness if they live in besieged areas. They may not have access to schools or even access to safe passage to school.

If they leave with their families across Syria’s borders to a neighbouring country, they may face being forced to work as child labourers to support their families.

Moving beyond the neighbouring countries’ boundaries poses even greater risks: of drowning on the way to Europe; being trapped in detention camps; and finally, after reaching safe havens, they still are subjected to discrimination and hate campaigns.

Syrian children are unwelcome wherever they go.

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Large parts of Aleppo have been destroyed since the civil war reached the city in 2012

This week, one image, one boy, one moment, was elevated above the dozens of moments that have happened every single day in Syria for the past five-and-a-half years.

Every day there are so many Omrans whose images you will never see and whose names you will never know.

And unlike lucky Omran, those kids don’t survive.

This is not a hashtag moment. This is not a viral moment. This is a moment that must become a movement to end the war.

He looks like a statue. He stares at the camera, at us, in complete silence. Literally shell-shocked. As if he already knows that silence is the only appropriate response to what has just happened.

A child’s crushing silence to match the world’s deafening silence that Syrians know all too well.

Lina Sergie Attar is a Syrian American writer and architect. She is the co-founder and CEO of the Karam Foundation, which provides humanitarian aid to Syrians. @amalhanano

Source: BBC News



Nepal Christians attacked while trying to help

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The April 2015 earthquake tore houses apart in Champi, a village near Kathmandu. World Watch Monitor

Eight Christians are still awaiting the outcome of their trial, after they became the first people to be charged under Nepal’s new constitution. Their crime? An alleged breach of religious freedom – for distributing pamphlets about Jesus during a trauma seminar in a Christian school, following last year’s devastating earthquake (see video below).
But they are not the only Christians to suffer repercussions following their efforts to provide support. World Watch Monitor visited Champi village, near Kathmandu, to meet a group of Christians attacked in the days that followed, as they tried to distribute corrugated metal sheets to villagers.

As six of them unloaded the sheets from a truck, they were attacked by four of their neighbours, who beat them with steel rods. Other Christian families living nearby tried to stop them, but they were fought off.

“The people who assaulted us live near our house,” said Sunita Kumar, the wife of a local pastor, Suraj. “They pick on us for small reasons, but we stay silent because we are concerned about the safety of our children.”

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Sunita Kumar in hospital after the attack. World Watch Monitor

Suraj added: “While other non-Christians in the village also disliked us, one of our neighbours, Sanjiv Nepali, and his family always used to threaten us, saying that they would beat us if we did not stop preaching. They accused us many times of receiving huge donations from foreigners for converting Hindu people into Christians. Eventually they attacked.”
Sunita and three others were injured during the attack, which went on for around 30 minutes.

“When I fell on the ground, they kicked me on my back several times,” she said. “My back hurt immensely when I was finally taken to the hospital. Since the incident I have been unable to eat properly; I am always fearful about my children and husband. We could be attacked again any time. They openly threaten us and local police are in their favour. I am very afraid.”

The police came after about 45 minutes and Sanjiv Nepali was arrested; he remained in prison for a few days, and was then released on bail.

“He has connections with the local political leaders, so he easily [arranged] bail,” said Suraj. “He is fearless and he even [threatened] the police officers. He has also threatened us many times to take back the case. His strong hatred against Christians comes from his being a member of the local Hindu extremist party.”

The government promised the Kumars compensation to cover their medical costs, but they have so far received only a quarter of the amount they had to pay.

Champi is mostly inhabited by Dalits, members of the “untouchable” caste. Most of the Christians in the area have menial jobs, which are poorly paid. In the last few years, an increase in conversions to Christianity has been accompanied by a rise in opposition against Christians.

 

Other pressures

World Watch Monitor also met a number of pastors and missionaries from churches across Nepal, whose names are being withheld to preserve their safety. Here are a few of the challenges they said they are facing:

Social

(Lamjung, east of Pokhara)

“Many times in rural areas people might not attack the Christians, but they do socially boycott them; accepting Christianity is commonly known to be shameful for the family. A few months ago, Emmanuel Church in Dhadhing District [west of Kathmandu], was burnt by some jealous local villagers for the same reason.”

Family

(Narayanthan, west of Pokhara)

“In many cases, if [a Christian woman’s] husband hasn’t accepted Christ, the believing wives and children are not allowed [by their husbands] to go to church; we have such women in our church who secretly attend. In a few of the cases in the past, such women have been able to [convert] their husbands, but only after a long period of waiting.”

Conversions

(Kathmandu)

“Students from rural areas often come to cities like Kathmandu to pursue higher studies; many times when these students are reached by evangelists, they accept Christ. However, when their families come to know of their conversion, they are denied financial help until they reject Christianity. Recently, we have come across two such students who had to leave their faith because of opposition from their family members.”

Logistical

(Kathmandu)

“The offerings and funds are deposited in personal accounts of the pastor or the leader of the church, as the churches are not recognised as a religious institution. A few big churches with many members might be registered as a trust, but again they have no identity as a religious institution. That makes them vulnerable if the politics in the country in the coming days is influenced by some Hindu extremist parties or other anti-Christian parties. Even after the earthquake, when thousands of churches were destroyed, their number was not counted, nor the destruction compensated for by the government, as in case of the temples.”

Burials

(Sindhupalchowk, north-east of Kathmandu)

“Since churches have no graveyards, we had to carry the dead bodies a great distance and bury them on the riverbeds. Many we buried on our church premises. We also faced threats and intense opposition from the non-Christian family members of two [ladies] from our church. These sisters were among those who were killed in the earthquake that occurred during the church service on 25 April 2015.” Their family members blamed the church leaders for their deaths and assaulted them, said the pastor.

Source: World Watch Monitor



Nigeria: Fulani herdsmen kill 10 in Christian-majority area

Ten people were killed in a Christian-majority area of Kaduna state, Nigeria, on Tuesday, the latest in a string of attacks by Fulani herdsmen.

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World Watch Monitor Debris litters a neighbourhood in Nigeria after a previous attack by Muslim Fulani herdsmen.

The attack took place early in the morning of August 16, according to World Watch Monitor.

The Fulani community is a group of nomadic cattle herders made up of mostly Muslims. They are involved in an ongoing dispute with mainly Christian farmers in Nigeria’s central states, and hundreds have been killed in the conflict. Thousands more have been displaced.

In March, President Muhammadu Buhari ordered an investigation after an attack in Benue state left between 100 and 300 dead.

At least 500 people were reported to have been killed in a subsequent attack in northern Nigeria in April.

Angele Dikongue-Atangana, the representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, said that in 20 years of working in humanitarian relief, she had “never seen such a level of destruction”.

In 2014 the herders murdered more people than the Somali terror group al-Shabaab, rendering them the fourth most deadly terrorist outfit in the world, according to the Institute for Economics and Peace’s Global Terrorism Index.

“This is another jihad like the one waged by Boko Haram in the north-east of the country,” Rev Augustine Akpen Leva, chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria in Benue State, earlier told World Watch Monitor.

“The attackers carry sophisticated weapons, sometimes they even used chemical weapons on our communities. They just come, often overnight when people are sleeping. They attack defenseless people and go away. They clearly have an agenda: to wipe out the Christian presence and take over the land.”

Source: Christian Post



Nigerian Christians return to rebuild lives in communities liberated from Boko Haram

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Children at one of the few schools operating in Adamawa state, January 2016 WWM

Nigerian Christians displaced by Boko Haram are beginning to return home.
They are being encouraged by the government, which has won back territory from the insurgents but which is also struggling to provide enough aid.

World Watch Monitor received a first-hand account from church worker Isaac*, describing day-to-day living now that the population is back in a mostly Christian part of Adamawa, one of the states most affected by the Islamist insurgents.

He found people full of hope as they began to pick up their lives back in their desolated towns.

“The car chewed up the many kilometres of our journey. Large regional highways turned into narrow winding roads. In the pouring rain, the car found it hard to grip on the uneven surfaces.

“The government has won back territory from Boko Haram and encouraged people to return home. I was going to visit some of the families in Christian-dominated Adamawa.

“An estimated two million people were displaced by Boko Haram in northern Nigeria and the government wants people to return home because it’s unable to provide for so many.

“Many Christians did not need asking twice. In the Internally Displaced People (IDP) camps, some faced pressure to convert to Islam just to get food. Outside the camps, people found staying with friends, family or other hosts was no easier – they were dependent on the goodwill of businessmen or other Christians. Often food ran out and the living arrangements were not suitable in the long-term.

“Sporadic attacks by Boko Haram continued, but the Christians I met returned home despite the dangers. Worse still, Boko Haram had all but destroyed their villages.

“The first thing I noticed after arriving was the great emotional strain on the returnees. A lucky few were able to reunite with family members, but many widows and orphans experienced afresh what life without their lost loved ones really means.

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Widows receiving aid, Adamawa, June 2016 WWM

“To have fled violence and returned to ghost-towns was hard on them. Boko Haram destroyed whole communities – homes, schools, health centres and churches were not spared. They systematically destroyed water pumps and polluted wells by dumping corpses in them.
“Farms that were deserted have led to a shortage of food, and malnutrition – especially among children – is common. Aid agencies have struggled to keep up with demands. UNICEF says tens of thousands will die if not helped soon.

Widows and orphans can suffer most. Doregne lives with her children in Mubi, the business capital of Adamawa state. She was widowed some years ago and, living under the threat of attack from Boko Haram soldiers, found it hard to provide for her family. “One day things got desperate,” she said. “I told the children I did not know what to do anymore and said perhaps it would be better if I left them in the care of someone else who could better provide for them.”

Fortunately, food aid arrived in time to keep Doregne and family together.

“Church buildings suffered,” continued Isaac. “One pastor told me there wasn’t a single Bible left – all were burned. ‘This is one of the most painful things for us to deal with,’ he said.

SB* once followed Islam. He became a Christian and is now a pastor helping care for other Christians who have suffered loss of family, income and property. He was displaced by the fighting and lost a close family member.

Pressure to return to Islam

He felt pressures to return to Islam but always had good relations with his Muslim family and neighbours. But over time, he said, he noticed a change in their attitude. By the time Boko Haram arrived in the area, many had bought into its radical ideology and were looking to benefit from the political landscape the insurgency created.

Christians face threats from other groups, like the Fulani herdsmen in Nigeria’s Middle Belt. This nomadic group, who are largely Muslim, were most recently suspected of killing Joseph Kurah in June. Kurah was a regional chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria.

“Local Christians don’t expect much help from the government,” said Isaac, “because, in some cases, aid is given to Muslims as a priority. This has already led to confrontation between youths in places like Michika (a key trading town seized by Boko Haram in 2014) and Gulak.

“But desperation was matched by determination. These Christians refuse to let the challenges stop them from taking back their homes.

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Children helping rebuild walls to a compound, Adamawa Jan 2016 WWM

“They are rebuilding houses with materials like corn stalks, wood, grass and mud. It’s a far cry from the more permanent structures Boko Haram destroyed, but it’s a roof over their heads that offers protection against the elements.
“Everyone helped out, even young children. I will never forget watching young children help their father put up a mud fence around their new huts.

“Church activities resumed despite there being little left of the buildings. Some were rebuilt, but many others couldn’t afford the costs, so gathered under trees or met in the ruins of their former church building.

“One church was little more than a skeleton, with no roof or walls. The congregation placed anything resembling a seat on the ground so they could hold a service without having to sit in the dirt.

“Markets are back in operation despite fear of occasional attack. That’s an important step towards reviving the economy.”

*Names changed for security reasons.

Source: World Watch Monitor