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Catholic Priest Kidnapped in Mali

by Hassan John

Father Pierluigi Maccalli of the Society of African Missions (SMA), an Italian Catholic priest has been kidnapped on monday 17 September, in Bomanga, southern Makalondi district, about 125 km (80 miles) from Niamey the capital of Niger.

Fr. Maccalli, a Priest of the Bomoanga Parish in the Niamey Diocese, has been working for over 10 years in the region and has been campaigning against female genital mutilation, a common practice in the region. And this “may be one of the reasons for the kidnapping, according to local sources,’’ Agenzia Fides said.

A statement on Tuesday, by Archbishop Laurent Lompo of Niamey confirmed that Father Pier Luigi Maccalli was attacked and abducted by “unidentified individuals.” Abdourahamane Zakaria, spokesman of the Nigérien government, and the Italian government have also confirmed the kidnapping.

An SMA source said the Maccalli was “probably taken across the border’’ to Burkina Faso where jihadist groups have set up bases.

The Italian embassy in Niamey, in a statement, has asked the Nigerien government to work at resolving the matter as quickly as possible and to avoid “initiatives that may put at risk Father Maccalli.’’

Walter, Maccalli’s brother who is also a priest and a missionary, said, “We wish with all our heart that everything will work out for the best. In some cases all you can do is pray and wait with hope’’.

Father Maccali

The French, British and American troops have been fighting groups of Al Qaeda terrorists groups in the Sahel region as well as sects affiliated to ISIS. “What is worrying us in particular is a bigger capacity of these terrorist groups to act, especially near the three borders,” a French diplomatic source, told Reuters, referring to Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso.

The Sahel region, particularly Mali, Niger, Bukina Faso and Nigeria have become a haven for terrorists sects; Al Qaeda, ISIS and Boko Haram. This has been a major source of concern for the international community, particularly France, Britain and the US.

A Wall Street Journal (WSJ) report said Niger has now become “one of the world’s most strategic security hubs.” The US and France have drone Base in the region on reconnaissance missions following the developments and activities of the raising terrorist groups and threats in the region “to halt the migrant trail from West Africa toward the Mediterranean and combat the expansion of jihadist activity across the Sahel, the semiarid region south of the Sahara.” WSJ said.

The growing danger is obvious, not just the gathering of terrorist Islamic jihadi groups but also the expanse of land to be covered. “Across Niger’s western border with Mali, jihadist groups including Islamic State and al Qaeda franchises control stretches of territory around the northern city of Gao. Along the southern frontier with Nigeria, a rejuvenated Boko Haram is mounting intensifying attacks against security forces, including around the city of Diffa, where the U.S. has dozens of troops stationed. To the north lies Libya, which has become a hotbed of instability, weapons and radicalization.” The report said.

Hassan John is West Africa editor GCN and Priest of the Anglican Diocese of Jos

Image Credits/Google Images/Fr Maccalli/Jihadi group/

Source: Global Christian News



20+ Nigerian Christians drown in river attempting to escape Fulani attackers

 

The five villages are all situated along the Benue River. (World Watch Monitor)

A pastor was one of at least 27 people who lost their lives following fresh attacks carried out by Fulani militants on five predominantly Christian communities in northeast Nigeria in recent days. Many of them drowned as they attempted to escape via the local river.

Various sources contacted by World Watch Monitor confirmed that the attacks took place between 13 to 16 September, and affected the villages of Gon, Bolki, Ndumusu, Yotti and Yanga, in Numan local government area (LGA), Adamawa state.

This is the same area where 3,000 homes were destroyed in December 2017, after fighter jets sent by the Nigerian Air Force were alleged to have fired rockets at villages where Fulani herdsmen were attacking Christian residents, according to a February report by Amnesty International.

A local pastor, who wanted to remain anonymous for security reasons, said 27 people had been buried following the latest attacks, which targeted communities along the Benue River. He added that, on hearing sounds of guns, many were scared and fled into the bush, or drowned attempting to escape via the river as they could not swim. He said that ten people are still missing, four from Yanga and six from Bolki.

“Nobody knows the whereabouts of these people missing. Since their dead bodies are not found, it is too early to declare them dead. We will give them the benefit of doubt; maybe some of them may return home to their families,” the pastor said.

Rev. Gerison Killa (World Watch Monitor)

More than 45 others were injured. The assailants also looted and burned down many homes, and stole cattle.

Rahab Solomon, a survivor from Bolki village, said the attackers stormed their community at about 3pm and began shooting indiscriminately.

“My husband and I went to Numan to my pick up our children around 2pm. At about 3pm, while we were on our way back home, we heard that our village was under attack and that three persons were killed,” she recalled.

“We couldn’t go back home because we were told that our house was burnt. So we came to stay in this camp.

“The next day [14 September] we called my husband’s brother and he told us that the Fulani chased our people and killed so many of them. Those who tried to run through the river were shot and many who tried to escape through the river, but could not swim, died as well; those who could swim were able to survive. We heard that over 25 bodies were recovered from the river. The exact number of people who died in the attack is yet to be known as the place is still under attack.

“We were told that the Fulani militants burnt down all our houses, and some women and children who hid in the farms were abducted by the Fulani. We no longer have a place to call home. Right now we are helpless.”

“We were told that the Fulani militants burnt down all our houses,” one survivor said. (World Watch Monitor)

Jidauna Igiya, the head of Gon village, who survived the attack, recalled the moment his village was attacked:

“On Sunday [16 September], we were home with our families; we did not know that the Fulani were coming to attack us. Although we heard rumours earlier that there was a planned attack by the Fulani on Pasham and Lau villages, so we did not think they will attack us since we did not receive such messages, but at about 4pm, we heard gunshot sounds. Everybody in the village sought cover and began to run for safety, as the Fulani were shooting and burning houses.

“The Fulani burnt all our houses. No house is standing right now and we cannot go back to our villages. The Fulani also moved from our village to Ndumusu, from Ndumusu to Yanga, from Yanga to Bolki, and continued their attack, killing more people and burning more houses. They took away our cattle and looted our foodstuff and property and burnt the remaining things they could not take away. Twenty-six people were killed in our village, Gon, while two others were wounded.

“During the attack, we tried to call security forces but none came to our rescue. We managed to put our families, children, women and old people through the bush and that is how we were able to be saved. Right now we are all scattered. Some of us are still in the bush, taking shelter around Gon north, while some of our families are in Numan and others in other villages.

“Most people who tried to escape through the river during the attack lost their lives as the Fulani chased them because they could not swim. It is not easy for us right now to find food to eat. We have to go to nearby villages to get food for our survival.”

Responding to the attack, the state chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Bishop Stephen Mamza, lamented that innocent Christians were being “killed by these so-called herdsmen on a daily basis, without security forces responding appropriately to stop them from hurting Christians”.

He said the “incessant attacks on Christians has led to hunger and starvation, adding that if these Christians are not aided many will die of starvation”.

Mamza said some them who fled to Numan are taking refuge in a local primary school, while others are staying with relatives.

Long-running conflict

One eyewitness said attacks on the Christian communities have been going on for years (World Watch Monitor)

Solomon Faider, an eyewitness who fled from Ndumusu and took refuge in a relative’s house in Numan, said the herdsmen attacks on Christian farmers in southern Adamawa state have “gone on for three or four years now, without the government or anybody else finding a solution”.

“There seems to be collusion between the military and the killer herdsmen group,” he said.

“Where the suspected killer herdsmen are reported to be attacking from is called Abbare. This place is just a 30 minutes’ drive from Numan, and the military have been informed of the impending attack four hours before it happened.”

The member representing Numan at the Adamawa state House of Assembly, Sodom Tayedi, also lamented the failure of the security forces to prevent the attacks.

“There are soldiers camped in Abbare, yet these attackers will always mobilise from that Abbare”, she told World Watch Monitor. “There is never a time they’ll attack and I don’t call security forces as member representing the constituency.

“I just called the Brigade Commander again and he assured me that troops are on their way to the area.

“We had intelligence report of the attack and reported to the paramount ruler [local chief], who always passes the same information to the security forces, but they [the Fulani] will always come and destroy our community,” she lamented.

Tayedi also said that even if the soldiers were able to mobilise, they may not be able to reach the affected villages due to flooding problems at this time.

At the time of writing, the police spokesman in the state, Habibu Musa, was yet to comment on the attack.

 

Source: World Watch Monitor

 



Palestine: Update on court cases regarding nuns of St Mary’s, Bethlehem

On 10 September, two nuns in St Mary’s Coptic Church and Convent in Bethlehem faced three separate court cases.

The court cases relate to attacks on 30 April 2017, when one member of a family illegally occupying convent property assaulted Sister Maria. Another member of the family then attacked a vehicle driven by another nun, Sister Esther, as she was taking witnesses to the police station to make a statement.

The assailants were unaware of the presence of a policeman inside the car, who made himself known and stopped the attack, but later in court he failed to give a true account of events. Sister Esther suffered trauma during the attack and has been asked to provide the court with a psychologist’s report.

Sister Maria initiated a legal case against her female assailant and Sister Esther initiated a legal case against two male attackers. In addition, the female assailant of Sister Maria brought a complaint against her, claiming that the nun had in fact assaulted her in the convent property.

On 13 September a hearing was scheduled in the case that the female assailant had opened against Sister Maria, claiming that the nun had attacked her. To Sister Maria’s chagrin, the plaintiff failed to even attend the hearing, which was postponed until 12 November.

The hearing regarding the case Sister Maria initiated against her assailant took place on 19 September. The judge failed to turn up to the hearing and a new date will be scheduled
The family illegally occupying parts of the convent and responsible for the attacks has influential connections with the Palestinian Authorities and it is believed that the justice process is being hindered as a consequence. There have been innumerable delays and postponements of hearings in all three cases.The next hearing is scheduled for 17 October (Sister Esther v. male assailants).

Prayer Points:

Christians in the West Bank are frustrated with the lack of progress and request prayer that:

The hearings will take place without further delay and that fair and impartial judgements will be given
The judges and court officials will not be prejudiced against the Egyptian nuns
The family illegally occupying the church property will leave and find accommodation elsewhere

Source: Middle East Concern



Hundreds of Chinese Christians Stop Government Officials from Breaking Into Church

China is renewing and doubling efforts to nationalize Christianity. CBN

After government agents attempted to break into a church in China’s Henan Province, hundreds of church members successfully intervened, praying and stopping them from entering the building.

Persecution watchdog China Aid reports that on September 9, approximately 100 agents from the religious affairs and public security bureaus attempted to break into Dali Church, located in Zhengzhou, Henan.
But more than 400 church members intervened, however, praying and stopping them from entering. Eventually, the officers left after handing the church a document from the local religious affairs bureau, ordering it to close.

The notice alleged that on September 5, Wang Yanfeng, one of the church’s members, and other Christians organized religious events on the fifth floor of a building, where the church is located. Because the building is not a legal religious activities site and alleged that the day’s speaker had not been approved by the religious department, the church violated Articles 33 and 36 of the Regulations on Religious Affairs, according to the notice. As a result, they must immediately cease holding so-called “illegal” religious events.

China Aid notes that the Article 33 of the Regulations on Religious Affairs expressly forbids the construction of sites for religious activities without the consent of the government, and Article 36 specifies that clergy must be affiliated with a state-sanctioned religious group and report their activities to the local religious affairs departments.

“These stipulations allow the government to more closely monitor religion and grossly violate Article 36 of the Chinese Constitution, which guarantees Chinese citizens religious freedom,” says the outlet.
Earlier this year, China’s president Xi Jinping introduced a 5 year plan to “sinicize” all the nation’s religions by infusing them with “Chinese characteristics” such as loyalty to the Communist Party.

As a result, the government has shut down hundreds of private Christian “house churches,” arrested church leaders, and and seized Bibles.

In September, the Beijing Chaoyang District Civil Affairs Bureau informed Zion Church — a prominent house church in Beijing — that it was “legally banned” for organizing events without registering as an official Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM) church.

Bob Fu, president of China Aid, said authorities are enforcing rules requiring registration as a TSPM church in order to exercise increased control over ideologies. He called the church closure part of a larger crack-down on Christianity across China.

“The massive clampdown against thousands of churches in Henan [Province] and the forced closure and total shutdown of the largest house church in Beijing, Zion Church, represents a significant escalation on President Xi [Jinping]’s crack-down down against religious freedom in China,” Fu said in a statement. “Now that the Chinese Communist Party has started to burn Bibles and coerce millions of believers in the Christian faith and other religious minorities to even sign a written pledge to renounce their basic religious beliefs, the international community should be alarmed and outraged at this blatant violation of freedom of religion and belief and demand the Chinese regime stop and remedy this dangerous course.”

Source: The Gospel Herald



Millions Secretly ‘Turn to Christ’ in Indonesia

By Stefan J. Bos, Special Correspondent ASSIST News Service reporting from Jakarta, Indonesia

Many Christians are attending the Pentecostal Church in Indonesia (GBI).

Millions of Indonesians are becoming Christians, often secretly, but authorities refuse to recognize this trend in the world’s largest Muslim nation, several evangelical leaders have told BosNewsLife, a news partner of ASSIST News Service (ANS). At least three to four million Indonesians “turned to Christ” over the past year, according to Christian officials with very close knowledge about the situation.

All spoke on condition of anonymity as the issue of conversion remains highly sensitive in Indonesia, where dozens of people have been jailed or even killed on accusations of “blasphemy” against Islam. “Even if you see someone dressed as a Muslim, he or she may have become a Christian,” a seasoned evangelist said.

In Jakarta, the capital, at least 40-50 percent of residents may be ‘Christian,’ according to church group estimates. It remains unclear how many of them are ‘born-again,’ a move that involves accepting Jesus Christ as “personal Lord and Savior.” Being “born again” is seen by many pastors here as the essence of Christianity.

Muslims account for roughly 87 percent of Indonesia’s 260 million people, said the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), but the agency cited government estimates from 2010. Also, it has now emerged that the number of Christians including Protestants (7 percent) and Catholics (2.9 percent) have been steadily growing. “We expect half of Indonesians to be ‘Christian,’ at least in name, within five to 10 years”, a senior church leader and evangelist told BosNewsLife. That could mean some 130 million Indonesians identifying themselves as ‘Christian’ by 2028.

“There is a revival in Indonesia,” added the evangelist who has traveled through the most remote areas of Indonesia. Some “accepted Jesus Christ” as Lord because they saw or experienced miraculous healings during evangelistic outreaches, BosNewsLife learned in interviews.

FORMER MUSLIMS

Christians, including former Muslims, also cite disappointment about Islam’s strict regulations and perceived lack of freedom as reasons to convert. However, opposition to Christianity encouraged by a growing number of Islamic militants and hardliners in Indonesia contributed to religious tensions, even within government institutions.

Last year, the Christian governor of Jakarta was sentenced to two years in jail for blasphemy in a case that critics claimed undermined Indonesia’s reputation for practicing a moderate form of Islam. Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama has appealed the guilty verdict and sentence, after the five-judge panel, said he was “convincingly proven guilty of blasphemy.”

The governor argued that people were being deceived if they believed the Koran forbids Muslims from voting for non-Muslims. He also came under fire for often citing the Bible and his Christian faith in speeches, Christians said.

“The case with the governor shows that being a Christian can undermine your career in Indonesia today,” a dedicated Christian woman and church worker told BosNewsLife. “That is perhaps why many Christians may even remain Muslim on paper,” she added referring to religious preferences on identity cards and other documents.

The 43-year-old woman, whom BosNewsLife choose to call ‘Victoria’ for safety reasons, said being a Christian may involve family frictions. “I could have married a rich Muslim man who offered me houses and cars. However, that would mean converting to Islam. I declined as Jesus Christ is number One in my life.”

PRESIDENT CRITICIZED

Churches have been bombed or torched in several areas of Indonesia.

Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, who won the elections of July 2014 on a platform of renewal, has been criticized for not doing enough to tackle religious intolerance following church bombings and other ant-Christian attacks that have killed at least dozens of people in recent years. Also, with many Christians running major businesses, the Muslim president is under pressure to mend fences in what is one of Asia’s fastest-growing economies.

Requests for an interview with the Indonesian leader remained unanswered so far, but Vice President Jusuf Kalla said Indonesia’s religious freedom is “better than in other countries” and a model “for other countries to learn [religious] tolerance.”

However, the influential advocacy group Human Rights Watch (HRW) disagrees. “Kalla’s comments reflect the government’s willful disregard of both the corrosive influence of discriminatory laws that pose a clear threat to the country’s religious minorities, as well as official actions to reinforce those laws,” said Phelim Kine, the deputy director at HRW’s Asia Division.

He said the government made it clear that Indonesia’s “dangerously ambiguous blasphemy law, which overwhelmingly targets religious minorities, is here to stay.”

Despite these difficulties, Christians told BosNewsLife they remain hopeful about the future in this highly diverse nation. Tens of thousands Pentecostal and other evangelical congregations have already been established across the country, while more traditional churches are also active. Additionally, church workers want many to receive a Bible in one of the hundreds of local languages in modern-day Indonesia, where sophisticated kingdoms existed before the arrival of the Dutch, who colonized the archipelago but gave in to a bloody independence struggle in 1949.

“Christ works in ways we don’t always understand,” a church worker stressed.

Source: Assist News