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MILITANTS FREE KIDNAPPED PRIEST IN NIGERIA

By Stefan J. Bos

By BosNewsLife Africa Service with reporting by Devin Watkins

ABUJA, NIGERIA (BosNewsLife)– Police forces have liberated a priest in southern Nigeria who was abducted by suspected Fulani herders after Mass.

Last week’s liberation of Isaac Agubi was an extraordinary success for security forces who have been unable to end anti-Christian attacks by Muslim fighters, including Fulani, that have killed hundreds of people this year alone.

Priest Agubi was kidnapped while returning home on Sunday, June 16, after celebrating Mass at his Holy Name Catholic Church in Ikpeshi in Nigeria’s southern Edo State, several church sources said.

Local hunters reportedly helped police forces to find the kidnappers’ forest hideout on Tuesday, June 18. One of the kidnappers was believed to have been injured in an exchange of gunfire before his arrest by police.

The other abductors reportedly abandoned priest Agubi as they fled the scene.

FULANI HERDSMEN

Catholic church sources and local media linked the abduction to nomadic Fulani herdsmen, who are mainly Muslim. The Fulani have been part of worsening violence elsewhere in the West African Sahel region.

Separately, in northern Nigeria, at least 150 people were killed over the past week and nine others kidnapped by Fulani and other Muslim hardliners including fighters of the feared Boko Haram terror group, church and media sources said.

Twenty-five people were killed in Sokoto State last Saturday, June 15, in raids carried out by Fulani groups, according to several media reports. Herders in Ondo State were also seen kidnapping a woman and her stepson who were on their way to Mass.

Archbishop Augustine Akubeze, of Benin City, has decried “the unprecedented level of insecurity.”

TERRORIST GROUPS

Nigeria’s Catholic bishops say impunity has allowed terrorist groups to spread chaos and destruction throughout the troubled nation.

BosNewsLife linked the violence to two issues: Militants of Boko Haram want to establish a strict Islamic state without Christianity, while Fulani herders fight with the indigenous Christian farmers over land and water rights.

Analysts say that the clashes are getting worse because of rapid population growth in Africa’s most populous country.

The violence has also taken on an ethnic and religious dimension, with politicians accused of inflaming the violence for political ends.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has condemned the latest unrest. He urged all involved “to come to terms with the fact that mutual violence has no winners.”

Source: BosNewsLife



Hong Kong protests: How Hallelujah to the Lord became an unofficial anthem

Christian groups have played a significant role in the Hong Kong protests

For the past two weeks, a Christian hymn has been cropping up in an unlikely place – the protests that have drawn millions of people on to the streets of Hong Kong.

“Hallelujah to the Lord” has become the unofficial anthem of crowds protesting against a controversial proposed law that would allow people accused of crimes in China to be extradited to the mainland.

For Christians in Hong Kong, the hymn is a sign of faith but also of their concerns that it’s not only political but also religious issues that are at stake, should the bill ever pass. 

Fears and uncertainty

The protests were already under way when the tune first started being sung. 

But on 11 June – a day before the protests turned violent – a group of Christians holding a public prayer meeting through the night started singing Hallelujah to the Lord.

The hymn was picked up by other protesters – soon even non-Christians were singing it.

“People picked up this song as it is short and easy to remember,” Edwin Chow, 19, acting president of the Hong Kong Federation of Catholic Students, told the BBC. “There’s only one line: ‘Sing Hallelujah to the Lord’.” 

A police officer throws a teargas canister during a protest on 12 June

The protesters said they sang it hoping it would have a calming effect on police, and would help diffuse tensions. 

This was especially needed after police had earlier fired tear gas and shooting rubber bullets towards protesters.

The song also acted as a political shield, of sorts.

“According to the law, any religious assemblies in public areas are not considered as illegal, so if people sing hymns together, it could actually work as a protection and guarantee that [they] stay safe,” said Mr Chow. 

“Therefore people started to sing this song to protect themselves.”

Mr Chow said the song had spiritual meaning for Christians. 

“The word Hallelujah also means to praise the Lord, so it could [also] remind Hong Kong citizens [that He] holds the future,” he said. 

But the religious element to the protests have further significance. 

Hong Kong has been part of China since 1997 under the “one country, two systems” principle, which means it has its own judicial independence, legislature and economic system.

People sang songs to boost morale during the protests

But people fear that if this extradition bill passes, it would bring Hong Kong closer under China’s control. They fear it could be misused to target those that China considers dissidents.

China in theory, allows religious freedom, but it has repeatedly taken action against religious leaders it considers to be threatening to its authority or to the stability of the state.

China wants its Christians to worship at churches that are state-backed and closely monitored

Christians are pressured to join state-sanctioned churches led by approved priests, while some risk prosecution for worshipping in secret, underground churches.

Some in Hong Kong fear that the extradition bill could be used by China to attack religious as well as political opponents.

When the BBC asked Mr Chow if Christians in Hong Kong were afraid, he said simply “Of course”.

“There have been cases of people who [bring] Bibles to the mainland [ending up] arrested. We are very worried that once the law passes, Christians here will be affected and our freedom of religion will be suppressed.”

Hong Kong has now suspended the bill, though many are still protesting, saying they will not rest until it has been completely scrapped.

Hallelujah to the Lord was still being sun on Friday, among the thousands of people surrounding the city’s police headquarters.

So it looks like the tune is on the way to joining umbrellas as a symbol of the protesting spirit of Hong Kong.

Source: BBC News



Christian Mother Facing False Accusation in India Is Transferred Far from Home

India ranked 15th on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2017 World Watch List of the countries where Christians experience the most persecution. Catholic Online

Days after Hindu extremists in northern India marched in protest to file a false claim against a Christian mother, her government employer transferred her to a district more than 100 miles away, sources said.

Members of a Hindu-awakening movement in Baddi, Himachal Pradesh state on Wednesday (Feb. 13) staged a protest against conversions to Christianity that began at the headquarters of the Hindu Sanghatan, a coalition of Hindu extremist groups, and continued as they shouted angry slogans against Christians.

Led by their district secretary, Sandeep Sachdeva, they marched to the Baddi police station and filed a complaint against Archana Jaiswal, a state education board employee and former Hindu who put her faith in Christ. The complaint alleges that Jaiswal offered money for Hindus to convert.

In the complaint, boutique owner Sonu Devi claims that Jaiswal offered her 300,000 rupees (US$4,200) to convert to Christianity and pressured her to divorce her husband. Devi called for police to take action against Jaiswal, claiming she posed a threat to Hindu families.

“I never converted anyone – who am I to tell anyone to convert?” Jaiswal told Morning Star News. “I am an ordinary person, I don’t preach or teach any religious teachings. I’m not a religious person. It has been only about two years since I came to Christ. I found peace and I will follow Christ; it is my personal decision.”

A mother of three, Jaiswal received her official transfer order today (Feb. 19) and is making preparations to move, she said. She must begin work in Dharamshala, about 130 miles away, as soon as possible. Jaiswal has already faced persecution at her work, where her politically-connected superiors have come up with various pretexts for withholding her pay since she converted to Christianity.

“I have not received my salary for the past seven months,” she said. “I never complained and never fought with the people in my office or neighbors who had been conspiring against me.”

Her husband is a policeman in a neighboring district and a supporter of the Hindu extremist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), Jaiswal said.

“I am praying for the salvation of my husband and children,” she told Morning Star News today (Feb. 19). “Bhajans and Keerthans [Hindu songs accompanied by clapping, chimes and cymbals] are right in front of my door. They are saying that I should be given a bath in Gangajal [holy water of the River Ganges] to purify me.”

Hindus in Baddi mounted another protest on Sunday (Feb. 17) against a suicide attack on a convoy of the Central Reserve Police Force in Pulwama town, in Jammu and Kashmir state, but they used it to harass Jaiswal by staging it in front other the government residential quarters where she lives, Jaiswal said.

The protest included the performing of pujas and havan, ritual Hindu fire and burning of grain to purify surroundings, she said.

“They were shouting slogans and calling me out to sit in the pujas and havans,” Jaiswal told Morning Star News. “The real intention behind the protest doesn’t seem to be expressing solidarity to the Jawans killed in the terror attack, but to harass me. They were making false accusations that I convert Hindus to Christianity.”

In November, Baddi police booked Jaiswal along with Pastor Rajinder Singh and his wife on non-bailable charges of deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings (Section 295-A of the Indian Penal Code) and promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion (Section 153-A).

“People were against me as I rented my house to Pastor Singh, and he conducted prayers there,” she said. “I reside in a government-provided house, so I had let the pastor use my own house for the Lord’s work. Now, because of their [Hindu extremist] opposition, they vacated the place, and we no longer gather for worship as a congregation.”

Pastor Singh told Morning Star News that Jaiswal and a few other Christians accompanied him to the police station that day last November.

“They were only present to give me moral support at the police station, but police lodged the case against her also,” Pastor Singh said.

‘Painful Death’

Christians have been humiliated and attacked in other parts off the state. In Kangra District of Himachal Pradesh, sword-bearing Hindus from Dehra village Jan. 29 barged into a house where Christians were studying the Bible and promised a curse of painful death.

“A mob of about 200 villagers came with swords and threatened us, telling us to stop the prayers,” Sanjay Kumar told Morning Star News. “We told them that our Lord is doing great works in our lives, and that we are only praying peacefully.”

The Christians refused to disperse as the hard-line Hindus reviled them with obscenities, saying, “You people have left our Hindu gods and goddesses and followed this Christ. Your Christ is nothing. You will die a painful death, this is our curse for you,” according to Kumar.

In order to meet without disruption, the church now gathers about 19 miles from Dehra, but the hard-line Hindus block their path and belittle them in vulgar language, he said.

Hindu villagers on Feb. 3 stormed into a home worship service in Dehra and tried to force Christians gathered there to bow to Hindu idols and consume their Prasad, a Hindu food offering, Kumar said.

“My mother was panicked and phone-called me that day,” he said. “My parents are not literate, they can’t read the Bible. They asked me, ‘We have not done any wrong, yet why are we facing this opposition? Why are the villagers treating us disrespectfully?'”

Kumar’s father is in his 80s and had a good reputation in the village, he added.

“Now that he follows Christ, he is being put to humiliation and shame at this age,” Kumar said. ‘I try to strengthen my parents by reading the Word and encourage them to continue in faith.”

There are only 20 Christians in the village, but they have remained strong in faith and do not cease to worship on Sundays, he said.

“We can’t gather as a church under one roof, but in secret, a few people here, and a few people there,” Kumar told Morning Star News.

Attack and Accuse

In Rajasthan state, about 40 members of the Hindu extremist Bajrang Dal in Kotra, Udaipur District on Jan. 26 surrounded a house-church service and started throwing stones in an incident that ended with police saying they would file a report against Christians, sources said.

“Bajrang Dal activists came with lathis [sticks bound with iron] and started charging us,” Pastor Gulzari Lal told Morning Star News. “They asked, ‘Who is Gulzari Lal here?’ I told them it’s me and asked what the matter is. They told me that they have got some work with me, and that I must go with them. But the believers refused and asked them to talk right there, and that ‘we can’t send our pastor away.'”

The Hindu extremists damaged parked vehicles and vandalized water taps, shouting obscenities at them when the Christians pleaded with them to stop, Pastor Lal said.

“Soon they started pelting stones, and we all had to hide in a room to save ourselves from the blows,” he said.

The Hindu extremists went away and told police that they had received a report of Christian prayers going on in Kotra, and that when they tried to stop them, the Christians attacked them and vandalized their vehicles, Pastor Lal said.

“We informed the police of everything that happened, and we asked them what crime have we done that there should be a case against us?” he said. “But they only took our complaint and told us a case will be filed against us.”

Area Christians have been facing opposition since 2001, he said.

“By God’s grace, today, we are 300 believers from Adivasi [indigenous tribes] families,” he said. “We have been banished by our community, but we held on to the Lord and we remain in Him, come what may.”

Alliance Defending Freedom-India, which undertakes legal advocacy for Christians, reported 29 incidents of violence against Christians in January in 13 states, up from 20 cases in January 2018.

“It is worrying to see these horrendous acts of mobocracy still continuing even after a slew of directions to the government from the Supreme Court,” ADF-India Director Tehmina Arora told Morning Star News. “It is high time special laws are enacted to instill a sense of fear for law amongst those who involve themselves in mob violence.”

The hostile tone of the National Democratic Alliance government, led by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, against non-Hindus, has emboldened Hindu extremists in several parts of the country to attack Christians since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took power in May 2014, religious rights advocates say.

India ranked 10th in Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2019 World Watch List of countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian, up from 11th the previous year.

Source: The Gospel Herald



Three Children among 13 Christians Killed in Attacks in Two States in Nigeria

Kaduna State

JOS, Nigeria (Morning Star News) – Muslim Fulani herdsmen on Monday (June 17) killed four Christians in north-central Nigeria’s Kaduna state, including three children, on the same day nine other Christians were slain in neighboring Plateau state, area sources said.

Christian residents in Kaduna state’s Kauru County told Morning Star News that between 3 a.m and 4 a.m. well over 200 armed Muslim Fulani herdsmen invaded predominantly Christian Ungwan Rimi Kamuru village, killing 8-year-old Monday Yahaya, 9-year-old Zhime Danladi and Samson David, 15.

“They were all buried today after a brief prayer at the grave site,” area resident Thomas John told Morning Star News in a text message.
A Kaduna police spokesman reportedly confirmed the killings but identified the 9-year-old as Ashimile Danladi and cited Samson David’s age as 17.

Also in Kauru County, that evening herdsmen attacked predominantly Christian Kikoba village, killing Audu Gara, kidnapping a Christian woman, Asabe Deme, and burning houses, according to area resident Matthew Nasamu, 51.

“The Fulani herdsmen attacked Kikoba, a Christian village in Kauru LGA of Kaduna state, in the evening, around 5 p.m.,” Nasamu said in a text message to Morning Star News. “All houses were burned and razed down, farms were destroyed, and all the villagers are now displaced.”

In all, 93 houses belonging to Christians were burned, and farm crops were destroyed, he said.

Plateau State Attack

About 35 kilometers (21 miles) east in Riyom County, Plateau state, Muslim Fulani herdsmen at about 1 p.m. killed nine Christians and burned two church buildings in attacks on two villages, area sources said.

An attack on Kangbro village killed 25-year-old Gado Peter, Stephen Ziah, 60, and Adam Sabo, 65, said Miango resident Lawrence Zango in text messages to Morning Star News. A fourth Christian, Samson Audu Rivi, was receiving treatment for gunshots wounds at Enos Hospital, Miango, west of Jos.

Two church buildings were burned alongside 185 houses in Kangbro village, said area resident Patience Moses, 23, in text messages to Morning Star News.

“Two churches were burnt by the Fulani herdsmen in Kangbro, and the churches are ECWA [Evangelical Church Winning All] Church, Kangbro, and Catholic Church, Kangbro,” Moses said. “185 houses were burnt and destroyed, while the entire Christian villagers who survived the attacks are now displaced.”

Less than two miles away, Muslim Fulani herdsmen shot six Christians to death in the attack on the second village, Nakai Danwal, according to area resident Lawrence Zango, who said at least 54 houses were set on fire.

Previous attacks

Zango said that area Christians area have been under attack from herdsmen before.

In April and May, he said, herdsmen killed nine Christians in attacks on predominantly Christian communities of Kigam, Ri-Do, Rotsu, Hura and Jebbu Miango.

“Fulani terrorists killed nine industrious Nigerian citizens and injured two within a month,” Zango said. “The killings are continuation of their usual genocide attacks on innocent farmers on the plateau, destroying their only means of livelihood.”
Salah Akpa, a Christian and head of Kigam village, was killed on his farm on April 9, he said. The following day, a Christian identified only as Emma from Ri-Do village was killed. Herdsmen killed two other people, Janah Dare and Dadi Ibrahim, in an ambush on April 14 in Hura village, he said.

On April 27, the same Fulani herdsmen killed Sunday Di and a Christian identified only as Baram as they made their way home in Dong village, Zango said. The next day in Rotsu village, the same herdsmen ambushed Christians Emmanuel Ishaya and Jummai Ijah, who along with a 7-month-old baby identified only as Tabitha were wounded but survived, he said.

On May 1 herdsmen killed Monday Audu Rivo as he made his way to his farm, and the same day another unidentified resident going hone to Jebbu Miango was shot and was receiving treatment at Enos Hospital, Miango.

“The activities of the Fulani terrorists are similar and the same with that of Boko Haram in the Northest,” Zango said. “The federal government should direct security agencies to investigate and arrest the leaders of the Fulanis within close environs before it escalates to destroy Nigeria.”

The government needs to send more security personnel to rural areas where Fulani herdsmen are forcefully capturing grazing area, he said, adding that it also needs to send relief aid to victims of attacks and compensate traumatized farmers.

Christians make up 51.3 percent of Nigeria’s population, while Muslims living primarily in the north and middle belt account for 45 percent.

Nigeria ranked 12th on Open Doors’ 2019 World Watch List of countries where Christians suffer the most persecution.

Source: Morning Star News



China forces churches to sing Communist anthems, bans Christian hymns

By Leah MarieAnn Klett, Christian Post Reporter

A local resident rides a bicycle past a church in Xiaoshan, a commercial suburb of Hangzhou, the capital of China’s east Zhejiang province

China’s Communist government is forcing churches to replace traditional hymns with songs praising the regime.

Religious liberty magazine Bitter Winter reports that earlier this year, multiple Three-Self churches in Qingdao city in the eastern province of Shandong received an order from the Religious Affairs Bureau prohibiting churchgoers from singing songs from the Worship Songs or Spiritual Song Collection. Instead, Christians were ordered to sing the Newly Compiled Hymns published by China’s Two National Christian Councils.

The director of a government-approved Three-Self church told Bitter Winter that the hymns in Worship Songs is mainly Bible chapters, while Spiritual Song Collection contains testimonies of experiences written by Christians.

But the Newly Compiled Hymns only feature themes about loving China, respecting the aged and parents, and celebrating birthdays and funerals.

“The hymns published by the government only promote political, secularized content. All believers are unwilling to sing them,” the director said, citing the chorus of one of the hymns as an example: “China is beautiful; China is great; the sons and daughters of China love China. … Bless China, O Lord.”

“Such hymns aren’t praising the Lord at all. They are entirely praising the country, and are no different from secular songs. Isn’t the government engaging in dishonesty and deceit?” the director said.

The censoring of Christian hymns has also been seen in other provinces and cities. In January, officials confiscated Canaan Hymns from some Three-Self churches in Chengde, Tangshan, and other cities in the northern province of Hebei.

Party members also prohibited the circulation and singing of Canaan Hymns and allowed only Christian hymns with Chinese characteristics.

Also in January, Christians in the central Henan Province complained that the government is forcefully turning churches into theaters, game rooms, and other types of entertainment venues.

Photos and clips circulated on the internet showed how pulpits across the country once meant to preach the Gospel have since been covered with Communist Party propaganda or turned into activity or entertainment centers.

“Traditional culture and drama shows have entered churches. Doesn’t that keep believers away from the Bible?” one Christian told Bitter Winter. “Churches have turned into theaters. The churches exist in name but no longer in reality.”

China’s growth in its Christian population — estimates suggest that the country is on track to have the largest Christian population in the world by 2030 — has been met with an ever-increasing rise in government-centered persecution. Watchdog group Open Doors USA ranked China No. 27 on its World Watch List of countries where Christians face the most severe persecution for their faith.

Open Doors warned in its report that “the increased power of the government and the rule of President Xi Jinping continue to make open worship difficult in some parts of the country.”

Bob Fu, founder of ChinaAid, revealed back in September at a congressional hearing in Washington, D.C. that the Communist government plans to rewrite the Bible as part of the initiative to “Sincize” Christianity, or make it more compatible with the state ideology.

Part of the plan will see an effort to re-translate the Old Testament of the Bible, providing new commentary also to the New Testament, in order to reflect socialist ideals. Buddhist scripture and Confucian teachings will be used toward that purpose.

“There are outlines that the new Bible should not look westernized and [should look] Chinese and reflect Chinese ethics of Confucianism and socialism,” Fu told The Christian Post after the hearing.

“The Old Testament will be messed up. The New Testament will have new commentaries to interpret it.”

Additionally, the five-year plan advocates for “incorporating the Chinese elements into church worship services, hymns and songs, clergy attire, and the architectural style of church buildings,” Fu said.

“This includes ‘editing and publishing worship songs with Chinese characteristics and promoting the Sinicization of worship music,’ using uniquely Chinese art forms, such as Chinese painting, calligraphy, inscription, and paper-cutting to express the Christian faith,'” he said. “[It’s also] encouraging churches to blend in style with Chinese architecture to local architectural style.”

Source: The Christian Post