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  • South African Students Undergoing Training at Treehaven
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Iraqi Christian girls, hiding under bed from IS, text priest: ‘Please come for us’


Archbishop Boutros Moshi (left) and Archbishop Nicodemus Sharaf (second from left) greet one of the students saved from IS. Courtesy Fr. Ammar

“It’s a miracle. A true miracle. We prayed a lot and God answered.”
The words of Iraqi Syriac-Catholic priest Ammar in the wake of last weekend’s remarkable story of seven Christian female students in Kirkuk, who hid under their beds for seven hours while soldiers from the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS) occupied their house. It vividly illustrates how volatile the situation in Iraq is currently.

Last weekend IS launched a surprise attack on the northern Iraqi city, supposedly to divert the Iraqi military from the battle for Mosul. While the battle to expel IS from Iraq has begun, Christians still fear IS attacks, even in cities and villages deemed safe.

Since Kirkuk has been under the protection of Kurdish forces for over two years, Iraqi churches deemed it safe enough to send displaced Christian students there to study at Kirkuk University. Father Ammar told World Watch Monitor contacts how 50 female students and eight nuns lived there in church-rented houses. Last weekend, completely unexpectedly, an IS militia bombed and stormed that part of the city.

“Suddenly their street was filled with IS warriors, shouting ‘Allahu akbar’ [Allah is the greatest]. Most students were able to leave their houses in time, but seven girls couldn’t,” Father Ammar said. “They texted me in the evening; they were terrified: ‘We are in danger. Please come for us’. At least four IS soldiers had entered their house. The girls had gone to their bedroom, and were hiding under their beds, covered in blankets.”

Suddenly their street was filled with IS warriors, shouting ‘Allahu akbar’. Most students were able to leave their houses in time, but seven girls couldn’t. They texted me in the evening; they were terrified: ‘We are in danger. Please come for us’.

–Fr. Ammar
IS is known to rape and enslave non-Muslim women, to kill them brutally or to use them as human shields. All those thoughts must have gone through the heads of the seven while they waited in the dark for hours, trying to lay still and not make any sound.

After the girls notified their church leader in Erbil, he set the wheels in motion to save them. People started praying, and the church reached out to the Iraqi and Kurdish forces, asking them to save the girls. While the rescue was being planned, Fr. Ammar stayed in touch with them through texts.

“All this time they were hiding under their beds, undiscovered by IS. At some moment the IS warriors even entered the bedroom, to pray and to care for one of their soldiers who’d got hurt. Luckily the electricity was cut off, so it was dark. Nevertheless it was a miracle the girls weren’t discovered,” he said.

After three or four hours, Iraqi soldiers liberated the house and the girls were taken to safety. Arriving in Erbil a few hours later, they were greeted with cheers. “In the end none of the students or nuns were injured. Praise God for that,” said Fr. Ammar.

However, shortly after the IS soldiers left the house, one blew himself up.

Now that IS is being hunted and cornered by Iraqi, Kurdish and international forces, Christians and others in Iraq can be vulnerable even in apparently secure areas: they fear IS sleeper cells may pop up elsewhere in Iraq, in an effort to destabilise the country.

Source: World Watch Monitor

UPDATE: Chibok girls happy to ‘be back’ : talk of captivity

When the 21 girls released by Boko Haram on 13 Oct. met Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari they thanked him personally for his part in their release. Addressing a crowd at the presidential villa, one of the girls, Rebecca Mallum, burst into song. She later said: “We are happy to see this wonderful day because we didn’t know we would come back to be members of Nigeria. Let us thank God for his love.”


The released 21 Chibok girls met President Buhari – seen here with Vice President Osinbajo – at his villa in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, 19 Oct. The Office of the President

Speaking to CNN, some of the girls said they plan to return to school – Boko Haram translates in the local Hausa language as “Western education is forbidden”.

On her release one girl revealed more about life in captivity, said a parent who wished to remain anonymous. The parent said that one of the girls had refused to marry a Boko Haram fighter and was told she would be killed. In the end she was given 100 lashes.

The girls have been undergoing intense psychological evaluations at a medical facility in the capital, Abuja.


Joy and tears as a family reunite with one of the released Chibok schoolgirls, Abuja, Nigeria, Oct. 2016. Segun Adeyemi

Nigeria’s Information Minister, Lai Mohammed, has spoken about the release of 21 girls and a boy born in captivity to one of their number: “This is only the first step in what we believe will be total liberation and release of all the remaining girls.”

“Already we are on phase two and we are already in discussions,” he said on Sunday (16 Oct.). “But of course you know these are very delicate negotiations, there are some promises we made also about the confidentiality of the entire exercise and we intend to keep them.”

According to the government’s Senior Special Assistant for Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, a splinter group of Boko Haram is willing to negotiate the release of 83 more girls. CNN reported that the other 114 girls are dead, or, reportedly, don’t want to leave their kidnappers because they are now married or have been radicalised.

This release is only the second time any of the 219 long-term captives (over 50 girls escaped shortly after being taken) have found freedom. Amina Ali Nkeki, 19, was the first of the 219 to be found alive when she was discovered by vigilantes in the Sambisa Forest. Nkeki revealed that she knew of six of the remaining 218 who had died. If negotiations to release 83 more are successful, that leaves at least 100 girls either still among Boko Haram or unaccounted for.

There are conflicting reports about the terms of the girls’ release, which was brokered by the Swiss Government and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

The government has denied any prisoner exchange, but, according to Associated Press, two military officers have said four detained Boko Haram commanders were freed; AP reports that a Nigerian who negotiated previous failed attempts also said a large ransom was paid by the Swiss government on behalf of Nigerian authorities.

The released girls finally met with their families on Sunday in Abuja after some parents had travelled for days for the emotional reunion.

One of the girls, Gloria Dame, said they had survived for 40 days without food and narrowly escaped death at least once.

Muta Abana, who has been reunited with his daughter, Blessing, said he thought the girls’ abduction had been politicised, complaining that “people’s children aren’t money, people’s children are not clothes you wear to campaign, people’s children are their pride”.

The girls are currently receiving medical attention and trauma counselling in a hospital.


Vice President: ‘The whole country has been waiting that one day we will see you again’. Nigeria VP Office

Details have now emerged about the conditions of release of the 21 Chibok girls. They were freed before dawn on 13 Oct. in the north-eastern town of Banki, near the border with Cameroon. They were then transported to the capital, Abuja, where they met the Vice President.
“The whole country has been waiting that one day we will see you again and we are very happy to see you back,” said Yemi Osinbajo.

“The president in particular has asked me to tell you how excited he is. When you were away, he kept saying that if it were his daughter he wouldn’t even know what to do.

“So we are all very excited that you are here. We are all happy that God has preserved your lives and brought you back.”

Presidential aide Garba Shehu said the girls’ release was the “outcome of negotiations between the administration and the Boko Haram brokered by the International Red Cross and the Swiss government”.

There was speculation that the girls were handed over in exchange for the release of Boko Haram fighters. AFP quoted a local source in saying that four Boko Haram prisoners had been “swapped” for the girls, but the information minister, Lai Mohammed, denied this.

“Please note that this is not a swap. It is a release, the product of painstaking negotiations and trust on both sides,” he said.

“We have nothing to add,” said a Swiss government official, when asked if it had been a prisoner swap.

The talks with the radical Islamic group will continue, according to the Nigerian government.

Pictures released by local media and a presidency official showed one of the girls holding a baby when they met Vice President Osinbajo. Many of the girls looked frail. Most of the girls were reportedly forcibly converted to Islam and forced into “marriage” by their captors.

The government also released the names of the 21 girls:

1. Mary Usman Bulama
2. Jummai John
3. Blessing Abana
4. Luggwa Sanda
5. Comfort Habila
6. Maryam Basheer
7. Comfort Amos
8. Glory Mainta
9. Saratu Emmanuel
10. Deborah Ja’afaru
11. Rahab Ibrahim
12. Helin Musa
13. Mayamu Lawan
14. Rebecca Ibrahim
15. Asabe Goni
16. Deborah Andrawus
17. Agnes Gapani
18. Saratu Markus
19. Glory Dama
20. Pindah Nuhu
21. Rebecca Mallam.

Previous article (13 Oct.):

Boko Haram has released 21 of the girls kidnapped in Chibok in April 2014 to the Nigerian Army in Maidugiri, capital of Borno state (where the Islamist group has been strongest), according to the Nigerian President’s spokesman. This has not yet been independently confirmed.

It’s been two and a half years since 275 schoolgirls were kidnapped from their dormitories in Chibok, in the north-eastern state of Borno. Their disappearance eventually generated headlines around the world and fuelled a social-media storm, with the hashtag #bringbackourgirls.

Today is the first time any of the schoolgirls have been found since May, when two girls were discovered in the space of two days.

A Christian girl, Amina Ali Nkeki was found on 17 May in the Sambisa Forest, close to the border with Cameroon. Two days later, Nigeria’s army said it had rescued a second girl, Serah Luka, believed to be the daughter of a pastor, though she was later found to not have been among the Chibok girls.

Nkeki had escaped with the Boko Haram fighter to whom she had been forcibly married, and with their child. She appealed for support for the young man, whom she implied might have been himself forced into becoming a fighter, saying he had not treated her too badly, and that she “missed him”.

I would have celebrated even if one person was freed. I am very, very happy to hear that 21 of them are free. My heart is also rejoicing that one day soon … the majority of them, if not all of them, are going to be freed.

–Rev. Joel Billi, EYN

A month after she escaped, some members of “BringBackOurGirls” (BBOG) – an advocacy group campaigning for the safe rescue of the girls – expressed concerns over Nkeki’s whereabouts, saying she had been kept under close control by the government, and that she appears to be now treated as if she’s become a Muslim (which she would have done against her will).

President Muhammadu Buhari had promised the government “will do everything possible” to ensure she receives the care to make a full recovery and to be reintegrated fully into society. But some of the group were concerned she had not been allowed to return to her Christian family, which they assumed would be a strong element in her recovery from trauma.

Rev. Joel Billi, president of the Ekeklesiya Yan’uwa Nigeria (EYN) Church, told World Watch Monitor that 201 of the kidnapped girls belong to his church.

“I would have celebrated even if one person was freed. I am very, very happy to hear that 21 of them are free,” he said. “My heart is also rejoicing that one day soon … the majority of them, if not all of them, are going to be freed.

“When I heard about this news, I said that the church has to come out and talk to the federal government. The church should be in forefront of all things because Anima, who was rescued few months ago, as I am talking, we don’t know where she is. This is to say we have mixed feelings about the whole thing.”


Meantime, in September, the Nigerian government had for the first time disclosed the details of its failure to secure the release of the girls during negotiations which began in July 2015, shortly after Buhari took office.

Three times the negotiations were derailed – once at the last minute, even after the president had agreed to free imprisoned Boko Haram fighters. Another time, talks failed because key members of Boko Haram’s negotiating team were killed.

Buhari, who has been criticised by parents and activists, again appealed for the parents’ trust.

In August, Boko Haram had released a video which appeared to show some of the Chibok girls looking physically weak and traumatised. It showed a masked man demanding the release of militants in exchange, and one girl, who called herself Maida Yakubu, asking her parents to appeal to the government.

Anima, who was rescued few months ago, as I am talking, we don’t know where she is. This is to say we have mixed feelings about the whole thing.

–Rev. Joel Billi, EYN

In April, the Boko Haram group had released a separate video, apparently filmed on Christmas Day 2015 and broadcast on CNN – amongst other outlets – showing 15 of the girls pleading with the Nigerian government to co-operate with the militants for their release. The girls said they were being treated well but wanted to be with their families.

Some parents who attended a screening of that video in Maiduguri identified some of the girls. Two mothers, Rifkatu Ayuba and Mary Ishaya, said they recognised their daughters in the video, while a third mother, Yana Galang, identified five of the missing girls, Reuters reported. One mother said her daughter looked well, much better than she had feared, giving some hope to the families.

The parents have been under a lot of strain: at least 18 of them have died of stress-related illness; three others have themselves been killed by militants; many others have persistent health problems brought on by stress.

Forced to convert and ‘marry’

Most of the girls were reportedly forcibly converted to Islam. It is feared that many have been sexually abused and forced into “marriage” by their captors.

A report by Nigeria’s Political Violence Research Network, “Our Bodies, their Battleground”, detailed this kind of treatment of minority Christians in northern Nigeria going back to 1999. It reveals how tremendously effective and efficient it is to focus attacks on women and girls – because the knock-on effects are devastating to the community. Entire families and Christian communities are thus “dishonoured”, regularly leading husbands to reject wives who are victims of rape, and embarrassment and shame for their children.

The fact that Christian women and children suffer at the hands of Boko Haram is a carefully calculated part of the movement’s multi-pronged front-line offensive, designed to intimidate the population into accepting political-religious change, points out the report.

The use of rape was also justified by Boko Haram militants on the basis of “sex as jizya”, a reference to a tax that early Islamic rulers demanded from their non-Muslim subjects for their own protection.

For hundreds of women and girls kidnapped by Boko Haram militants, their ordeal did not end when they escaped, nor when Nigerian soldiers rescued them and reunited them with their families.

Instead of being admired for their bravery, many have become outcasts in their communities, stigmatised due to their perceived association with Boko Haram, reports humanitarian news agency IRIN.

Moreover, others – pregnant after rape by their captors – have been “shamed and are now accused of spawning or seeking to spawn future Boko Haram fighters,” says IRIN.

This all backs up Angelina Jolie’s message of “rape as a ‘policy’ aimed at terrorising and destroying communities”. It’s a message she first spoke about at the UK Parliament in June 2014 and repeated at the House of Lords in September 2015.

“[Islamist groups such as] Islamic State are dictating [it] as policy … beyond what we have seen before,” said Jolie, a UN Special Envoy. The Hollywood actress said the groups know “it is a very effective weapon and they are using it as a centre point of their terror and their way of destroying communities and families, and attacking and dehumanising”.

Jolie shared stories of girls she had met in war zones, who had been repeatedly raped and sold for as little as $40. In 2014, she co-hosted a global summit in London, attended by representatives from more than 100 countries, aimed at raising awareness and tackling the issue of sexual violence in conflict, especially rape as a weapon of war.

World Watch Monitor

Ireland: Athletic Club Removes Cross for Fear of ISIS


An Irish athletic club has decided to take the cross emblem off their athlete’s sportswear following threats from the Islamic State.

The Crusaders Athletic Club runners planned on running the Dublin City Marathon wearing their usual cross – bearing jerseys. But that all changed after the organization was hacked and sent violent threats from what is believed to be the Islamic State.

The Independent reported that the athletic club will remove the cross from the crest to avoid any possible violence from Muslim terrorists who take offense to the cross’ association with the Christian crusades.

“Threats have to be taken seriously and although any real danger is unlikely, it was decided that as an interim measure and as a compromise to some views in the committee to temporarily suspend the use of the cross logo until the proposal could be put to the members at the AGM,” the club said in an email sent to its athletes.

This club is not the only one who has questioned its Christian symbols and name in recent years.

The Middlesex Crusaders cricket club received lash back from Muslims and Jews about their link to the crusades. So, to avoid offense they changed their name to the Middlesex Panthers.

Many of the runners are outraged at the decision to take the cross off their uniforms. The Crusaders AC spokesman says the change is about safety and unity.

“Our history is one of inclusivity and openness and we celebrate the diversity that comes with being a modern athletic club,” he said.

Source: Christian World News


Despite earlier warnings that minority-faith refugees in Germany were being beaten and threatened with death, nothing has been done in a systemic way to give them better protection, according to a group of German NGOs, led by Open Doors Germany, in the report ‘Lack of protection for religious minorities in Germany’.


Hundreds of Christian refugees have been attacked in German migrant camps

The report summarises the findings of interviews with hundreds of refugees, conducted nationwide between May and September. During this period, 512 attacks on Christian refugees and 10 on Yazidi refugees were documented. They reported incidents of discrimination, death threats, or violent attacks, experienced because of their faith.

One recently arrived refugee was confronted with these words written on the wall in his refugee shelter: “The time has come to cut off the heads of all non-believers!”

He described his horror: “I was shocked! In Iran this may happen, but I never expected such a thing to happen in Germany. This has shattered my trust.”

This is the second survey following that of 231 reported cases highlighted in a report that the group of NGOs published inMay That report said those who reported religiously motivated attacks were ‘only the tip of the iceberg’.


Hundreds of Christian refugees have been attacked in migrant camps in Germany

The NGO group – including Open Doors Germany, Action on Behalf of Christians and the Needy, the Central Council of Oriental Christians in Germany and the European Mission Society – first conducted their survey after religiously motivated abuse and violent attacks from Muslim refugees and security officials had been reported anecdotally at the start of 2016.

Responding to concerns that the first survey reported cases from only Berlin and Brandenburg, this second survey has interviewed additional Christian refugees from all but one German state (as well as the 10 Yazidis).


More than 300 of the refugees came from Iran, 263 from Syria, 63 from Afghanistan, 35 from Iraq, and nine from Eritrea. Twenty-two were from other countries; 47 more did not specify a country of origin.

Combined, the surveys account for 743 affected Christian refugees. Of that number, 617 (83%) reported multiple assaults; 314 (42%) death threats; 416 (56%) violent assaults; and 44 (6%) sexual assaults.

Ninety-one per cent (674) of those who responded to the surveys said assaults were committed by Muslim fellow refugees, 28% (205) accused Muslim guards and 34% (254) blamed “other parties” (many of the attacks were committed by more than one person). If they failed to assist the victims, guards, camp managers and local authorities could be said to have passively contributed to these attacks as well.

The testimonies of the refugees clearly show, the report says, that the assaults are religiously motivated, and the perpetrators are driven by a value system they have internalised in their home countries. The NGOs conclude that such attacks on minority refugees in shelters occur all over Germany.

However, after the first survey was published, German Church commentators noted: “The leaving of Islam and the conversion to Christianity, but also to, for example, the Baha’i faith [is apostasy], still punishable with death in the Islamic world, even though it is often a ‘social’ death rather than a literal one. Since this is true even of many Muslim families living in the West, it would be very unlikely that this problem would not occur in asylum accommodation.”

The NGOs report also surveyed reports of similar incidents from direct contacts across the EU.

A German government office replied to an inquiry by Open Doors Germany: “It is expected of all asylum seekers to live together peacefully, irrespective of their religion… The constitutionally protected freedom of religion, which is a highly valued asset, is every person’s due.”

However, the NGOs warn, refugees who belong to religious minorities often aren’t experiencing this freedom as they lack the opportunity to freely confess their faith in their refugee homes, sometimes suffering violence and threats if they do.


More than one million migrants have arrived in Germany since last year


However, there is one ‘beacon’ project in Germany, which gives a positive example of ‘good practice’, the report says.

In one initial reception facility for refugees, 32 Christians were willing to report the assaults and death threats against them, after regional authorities and facility managers established a safe environment. After yet another incident involving the police, the Christian refugees were moved into separate accommodation. Additionally, security staff and interpreters who themselves held a Christian faith were eventually assigned to them.

The report calls on the German government and other responsible agencies to ensure the effective protection of Christian refugees and other religious minorities.

They set out the following recommendations for Merkel’s government to safeguard the refugees during the entire process of asylum-seeking and integration:

1. Provision of separate accommodation for Christians and other religious minorities who have already been victims of persecution and discrimination. This should include the possibility of decentralised accommodation. Authorities must refrain from categorically blocking decentralised accommodation, especially if such living quarters are available for affected Christians. 2. Adequately increasing the non-Muslim percentage of the security staff. 3. Provision of periodical training for sensitising co-workers and security staff assigned to refugee shelters to the reasons behind religious conflicts and the protection of religious minorities. 4. Assignment of trusted people who themselves hold Christian convictions, to whom Christians can turn when they’ve been affected by persecution.


“This new and extended survey provides a solid base for politicians and church leaders to eventually introduce urgently needed safety measures, in order to comply with human rights, and enact accommodation rules and standard procedures from the EU directives on the reception of asylum seekers, including religious minorities,” the report by the NGOs said.

At the same time, they warned against using the findings as political ammunition in Germany’s heated political climate.

“Anyone who misuses the findings of this new survey for political purposes or his/her own prominence, anyone who tries to interpret the survey as a general denunciation of Muslims, is acting, politically and socially, irresponsibly,” said Markus Rode, CEO of Open Doors Germany. “Our [German] history teaches us to never again ignore the oppression and discrimination of minorities in favour of the perpetrators. Therefore we call on the German Chancellor to personally engage in this matter rather than leave it to the federal states.”

Source: Open Doors

Iraqi Christians look homeward toward Mosul, uncertainly

Some keen to rebuild; others wary of Muslim neighbours who supported IS


Tens of thousands of Christians fled from Mosul and its surrounding towns and villages to Kurdistan when IS seized swathes of territory in summer 2014. Several thousand families have sought refuge in Jordan and Lebanon, while others have left the Middle East to start new lives in Western nations such as Canada, Australia and, in a small number of cases, Britain. Levels of Christian emigration began rising in response to the violence that followed the 2003 US-led invasion and removal of President Saddam Hussein.

Rev. Ammar is a Chaldean priest who fled from the town of Qaraqosh – home to some 60,000 Christians until summer 2014, and now being fought over as the coalition of forces advances on Mosul. He serves displaced Moslawis (people from Mosul) in the Kurdish capital, Erbil, and said: “We hope to be able to return to our houses and towns soon.”


Rev. Thabet, of the village of Karamles, said he wanted to return to the nearby Hill of St. Barbara, a mound on top of ruins of ancient Assyrian temples – named after a pagan ruler’s daughter who converted to Christianity in the fourth century. “If my town is liberated, then one of the greatest joys would be to have a Mass in the open air on top of the Hill of St. Barbara and celebrate the holy Eucharist [there] again.”

Rev. Poulos, from the town of Bashiqa, said: “We are warned that IS possibly put mines in our houses. After villages are liberated it may still take more than three months before we can go back for a first visit. Returning to our houses then would take even longer.” He added that all this week heavy fighting has been reported in his home town. “In Bashiqa it’s a true war situation, with Turks, Peshmerga and Iraqi forces coming in – a lot of explosions and fighting.”

Poulos is in touch with eight Syriac Orthodox monks living in Mar Mattai (St. Matthew), a monastery on a mountainside less than 5 kilometres from Bashiqa. “I’ve called them several times and they hear the sound of bombs. From the monastery they can see that a lot of bombing and fighting is going on. Nobody can go there now, but I hope it will be retaken soon.”

The battle was not immediately affecting the monastery (which also houses three displaced families). “We have no problems, but we are watching for the future what will happen.”

However, other Iraqi Christians who have moved far from home expressed no desire to return – because some of their Muslim neighbours had sympathised with IS. Rev. Aphram Ozan, a Syriac Orthodox priest in London who fled Mosul in 2011 after his family home was attacked by extremists, said: “I don’t think Christians will return to Mosul. In the beginning, the people of Mosul welcomed IS. We were let down by the people; they left us.”

Rev. Khalil Jaar, a Catholic priest in the Jordanian capital, Amman, and a partner of World Vision, said “not one” of the 500 or so Moslawi refugee families for whom he is co-ordinating aid was considering returning to the area. He said if adequate protection were offered, some had said they might return briefly to sell their houses, but would then go to their new homes. “ISIS is finished but the mentality and spirit of ISIS lives on in the heart of so many people in Mosul,” he said.

One Christian former resident of Mosul in his early thirties recalled that increasing levels of extremism had strained his friendships with Muslims, even before 2003. “Growing up, I had friends who were Muslim. We played together and ate together and their parents treated us as though we were their children. But when some of them got to about 16 or 17, something changed. Maybe they had learnt something from the Quran or from the mosque – they changed and became more extreme, which made a gap between us. They became more extreme than their parents.”

Suha Rassam, a Chaldean Catholic from Mosul and author of Christianity in Iraq, said that among her Iraqi Christian friends and relatives, “everybody is excited that Mosul is being liberated.” But she added: “Although there are no more Christians in Mosul, I am still concerned about the Muslim population there, that they may not suffer too much and there is no slaughtering of the Sunni.” However, she expressed concern that the presence of Kurdish and Turkish forces in the Nineveh Plains around Mosul could lead to both powers making territorial claims there. Extremism took hold in Mosul partly as a reaction against Kurdish expansionism, she said. “Even once Mosul is liberated, we can still expect a lot of trouble. It’s not good for the unity of Iraq,” she said.

Christians and others suspect that the aim of the Kurdistan Regional Government is to earn political capital. Some voiced fears that because some Iraqi qualifications are not recognised there and government jobs require Kurdish-speakers, Arab Christians impoverished by their displacement could find themselves subjected to a “Kurdification” process.

One Christian former resident of Mosul whose family fled to Kurdistan said: “For all of history, the Kurds have been killing us, until now. They’re trying to put on a good face; they want to liberate themselves from Iraq and show they are better than Iraq. But there’s no future for Christianity in Kurdistan: my parents don’t speak Kurdish, and because my nephews aren’t Kurdish they aren’t allowed to go to state school there.”

But Poulos said he already knows what he will do if it’s ever possible to go back to Bashiqa: “The first thing I will do is go to the church. If the church is not damaged and I can go in, I will pray. After that we will check how much damage is done to the church and to the houses. What needs to be done, what needs rebuilding?”

Source: World Watch Monitor

40 killed as suspected Fulani herdsmen raid Christian community in Nigeria

Gunmen believed to be Fulani herdsmen have killed more than 40 people in Godogodo village, a Christian settlement in the Jama’a Local Government Area in Nigeria’s northern state of Kaduna. The area, in the south of Kaduna State, has been attacked several times before.


The aftermath of the attack in Godogodo, a Christian settlement in Nigeria’s northern State of Kaduna, Oct. 2016. CSW Nigeria

The gunmen were said to have attacked a military checkpoint in the area before invading the village.

One survivor, Peter Atangi, told World Watch Monitor his four children were all killed.

“The herdsmen came around 9pm on Saturday [15 Oct.]. They invaded our homes after they attacked a military checkpoint. They were armed with sophisticated guns, machetes, knives and sticks. As soon as they came, they started shooting indiscriminately and we started running in different directions.

“They shot and killed my four children. As we ran for our dear lives, they also set our homes on fire. Many of us have been rendered homeless. We don’t know where to start….”

About 30 houses, including one used as a church, were said to have been burnt down by the rampaging herdsmen, while property worth millions of Nigerian naira (thousands of US dollars) were destroyed.

A community leader, Joseph Adamu, said about 50 people, mostly women and children, sustained injuries from gunshots and machete cuts and were rushed to hospitals in the nearby cities of Jos, in Plateau State, and Akwanga in Nasarawa State.

The incident led to the declaration of a 24-hour curfew in Jama’a, following increased tension and apprehension among people in the area.

The Chairman of the Jama’a Local Government Council, Dr. Humble Katuka, said people should remain indoors until the situation is brought under control.
Reacting to the frequent attacks on villages in Christian-dominated areas, the Secretary of the Northern Christian Association of Nigeria – responsible for the 19 northern states and the Federal Capital Territory – blamed the state government for failing to stop the killing.

“We are disheartened that despite the re-occurrence of the attack, the government has not come out with a security plan to stop it,” Rev. Danladi Yarima told World Watch Monitor in a telephone interview.

“We expected that the government should have mobilised more security personnel to the area. Every day, Christians are being attacked and killed and their homes and property destroyed. The killings have continued unabated and we are very worried. We urge the government and well-meaning Nigerians to stop the killings,” he added.
As a result of the ongoing violence, churches in the area have been closed, as many people have fled the communities.


Attacks targeting the predominantly Christian communities in Jama’a area of Nigeria’s Kaduna state are recurrent.
On 16 Aug., ten people were killed by Fulani herdsmen, just a month after another deadly attack which claimed, 11 lives in three villages in the same area.

A total of more than 300, mainly Christians, have been killed in repeated attacks by Fulani herdsmen in the past five months, while over 5,000 people have been displaced, said Yarima.

Also, the Southern Kaduna People’s Union (SOKAPU), an umbrella body for ethnic minorities, condemned the killings and called on the Federal government to establish a permanent military presence in the area to prevent them.

In a statement signed by its President, Solomon Musa, the organisation said security agencies must find out the perpetrators and bring them to justice.

He added that seven communities in the area have been sacked by the herdsmen and their farms taken over for cattle grazing.

Violence perpetrated by Fulani herdsmen has also led thousands to flee from the largely Christian areas of Kaduna, Benue and Taraba states in Nigeria’s farming belt.
Such attacks have features long familiar to Nigerians: ethnic Fulani cattle herders, largely Muslim, moving in on farmers, largely Christian. The long-running land conflict is frequently framed in economic terms, but it also has distinctive religious contours.

In the state of Benue alone, a study by Premium Times claims at least 1,269 lives have been lost since 2013 in such attacks.

“This is another jihad like the one waged by Boko Haram in the north-east of the country,” according to Rev. Augustine Akpen Leva. “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: World Watch Monitor