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Monthly archives: September, 2017

Former refugee from South Sudan to address Brussels education gathering

By Helen Womack

UNHCR-supported initiative aims to provide 100 scholarships a year to enable refugee and internally displaced students to attend UWC colleges worldwide.

The United World Colleges (UWC) has extended access to education for refugees. © UWC

A former refugee from South Sudan will be the keynote speaker at a presentation in Brussels on Friday of an initiative by United World Colleges (UWC) to extend access to education for refugees.

The UWC Refugee Initiative, supported by UNHCR, aims to provide 100 scholarships a year to enable refugee and internally displaced students to attend one of 17 UWC colleges worldwide teaching the International Baccalaureate.

UNHCR is supporting UWC by providing authoritative guidance on refugee policy, technical advice and helping to promote the scholarship program among refugee communities and relevant stakeholders. With its mandate to protect refugees, UNHCR considers it a priority that refugees are included in national education systems and have access to education at all levels, including secondary education.

Fewer than one percent of refugees attend university.

Lack of access to education is a major issue affecting young refugees. Of the 17.2 million refugees under UNHCR’s mandate, half are children. A recent UNHCR report on refugee education showed that over 3.5 million refugee children aged 5 to 17 were unable to attend school in the last academic year. Obstacles increase as children grow. While 84 percent of adolescents globally attend secondary school, the figure falls to 22 percent for refugees. And fewer than one percent of refugees attend university, compared to 34 percent globally.

The education of these young refugees is crucial to the peaceful and sustainable development of the countries that have welcomed them, and to their homes when they are able to return. Yet compared to other children and adolescents around the world, the gap in opportunity for refugees is growing ever wider.

UWC was founded in 1962 with a mission to make education a force to unite people, nations and cultures for peace and a sustainable future. Today, UWC has 17 schools on four continents. UWC’s students are selected by 159 national committees worldwide on the basis of potential only and independent of socio-economic means. Currently, UWC is able to grant around 30 scholarships under the UWC Refugee Initiative per academic year but wants to increase the available funds to cover at least 100 scholarships. Among others, refugees from Syria, Sudan, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Democratic Republic of Congo, Sierra Leone, Colombia, Yemen or Afghanistan will benefit from the UWC Refugee Initiative.

“We believe in the power of civic leadership. And we believe that education can be the force developing and encouraging young leaders.” said UWC in a statement. “With the UWC Refugee Initiative, we want to make our contribution to strengthening emerging young leaders from refugee communities. We will provide them with scholarships to receive a world-class secondary education together with other students from all walks of life. We will equip them with the attitudes and skills needed to be able to contribute to the peaceful future of their communities and regions.”

The UWC Refugee Initiative, supported by UNHCR, aims to provide 100 scholarships a year to enable refugee and internally displaced students to attend one of 17 UWC colleges worldwide teaching the International Baccalaureate. © UWC

UNHCR said cooperation with UWC was an example of the type of new partnerships needed to advance a comprehensive response and achieve better protection and long-lasting solutions for refugees. This echoes the global call of the New York Declaration for Refugee and Migrants to expand complementary pathways of admission for refugees to third countries and thus widen the options available for those with few prospects of attaining a durable solution, and is paramount for the realization of the Sustainable Development Goal 4, which aims to ensure quality and protective education for refugee children and young people everywhere.
“Education is key to build anyone’s future.”

“Leaving their home country behind to find safety, refugees have lost the possibility to lead a normal life, stability and hope. Education is key to build anyone’s future. More so for refugees whom we would rob of their future, if we fail to provide adequate education services,” said Michel Gabaudan, UNHCR’s Regional Representative for Western Europe based in Brussels.

Like others, refugees and IDPs are people with skills, talents and aspirations. Educated refugees and IDPs can become self-reliant and provide leadership in displacement, and in rebuilding communities recovering from conflict, promoting gender equality, peaceful coexistence, and broader community development, including in areas of return and in host countries.

Among the speakers at the Brussels meeting will be Joseph Nakuwa, an alumnus of UWC, who co-founded the South Sudan Young Leaders’ Forum. Through this forum, the South Sudan diaspora are able to deliberate the problems afflicting their homeland and discuss ways to turn the country from conflict to peace and development. Other refugees attending the event included one Syrian refugee who is currently studying at the UWC college in Germany and two others refugees from South Sudan and Ethiopia currently studying at the UWC college in Italy.

For more information, please contact: Maria Bances del Rey bances@unhcr.org and Philine Nau philine.nau@uwcio.uwc.org


Nigeria: calm returns to Jos after eruption of violence that threatened the nation

Jos is seen almost as a miniature Nigeria, comprising almost all ethnic groups, but actually dominated by three predominantly Christian tribes, with the headquarters of many Nigerian Churches in Jos. (World Watch Monitor)

A sense of normality has returned to the city of Jos, in Nigeria’s central Plateau State, after an eruption of inter-religious violence claimed at least three lives on 14 September.

One of them was Jerry Binkur, a final-year student at the University of Jos, who was a member of COCIN Church.

Several others were injured in attacks by a mob. One of them died from his wounds in the hospital, but his name is yet to be confirmed.

Professor Timothy O. Oyetunde, Dean of the School of Postgraduate Studies, was another of those attacked, at about 6.30pm.

According to his statement, the Christian professor was about to leave the university, when suddenly some Muslim youths armed with machetes, daggers, and other weapons surrounded his car. They first shattered the windscreen using large stones. Someone in the passenger seat, not yet identified, was stabbed in the chest, while Professor Ema Ema, sitting directly behind Professor Oyetunde, was stabbed in the head. Professor Oyetunde escaped with minor injuries, narrowly avoiding a machete which instead shattered the window glass. His car was later set ablaze.

One of them was Jerry Binkur, a final-year student at the University of Jos, who was a member of COCIN Church.
Jerry Binkur, a final-year student at the University of Jos, was among those killed. (Photo: Tarosa National Body, Instagram)
Hundreds, if not thousands, of people have been killed in ethnic and religious clashes in Plateau in recent years.

Jerry Binkur, a final-year student at the University of Jos, was among those killed. (Photo: Tarosa National Body, Instagram)

This week a dusk-to-dawn curfew, imposed by the governor last Thursday (14 September), has been relaxed to 10pm to 6am. Still, heavily armed soldiers and police remain on patrol at flashpoints such as Terminus Roundabout (in the city centre), ‎Kataka Market (which acts as a boundary between Muslim and Christian communities), Chobe Junction (a settlement dominated by Christians from the ethnic Igbo people) and Bauchi Road (dominated by Hausa Muslims).

On Sunday (17 September) security was beefed up in churches for fear of attacks. At Living Faith Church, on Recard Road, heavily armed soldiers, police and members of the Nigeria Civil Defence were deployed to prevent violence.

At Faithway Bible Church in the neighbouring city of Bukuru, the congregation prayed for total restoration of peace in Plateau State and across Nigeria. Pastor Theophilus Akaniro‎, who led the prayers, also prayed for Nigeria’s upcoming Independence Day on 1 October.

But in general there was low turnout in local churches last Sunday, perhaps for fear of attacks.

This week, across the city, shops have re-opened, life has resumed, and traffic has returned to the busy Ahmadu Bello Way. ‎Shop owners have expressed relief that normality has been restored.

What triggered the violence?

Thursday’s violence in Jos was triggered by the activism of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), a predominantly Igbo group in southeast Nigeria, responsible for killing members of the Muslim Hausa community in the south in pursuit of its agenda.

The ‘Biafran War’ (1967-70) was fought to stop the south-east of Nigeria breaking away, soon after Nigeria’s independence from the British. Now it seems that this cause has re-ignited in the past few years.

IPOB militants and their leader, Nnamdi Kanu, think the Igbos have been marginalised by the government of President Muhammadu Buhari. They have repeatedly requested to break away from Nigeria, which the federal government has vehemently resisted.

Last week, the federal government deployed the Nigerian Army (Operation Python Dance) to counter IPOB protests, which had turned violent.

This deployment snowballed into violent confrontation between IPOB militants and the Army, leading to the death of many IPOB members.

This further led to IPOB members attacking the Hausa/Fulani Muslims living in the south-east of Nigeria (Port Harcourt and Umuahia States, in particular) because the IPOB consider Hausa Muslims to be President Buhari’s kinsmen.

Some Hausa Muslims were killed in this violence. This has then led to reprisal attacks across northern states, and in Plateau. (One youth movement, Arewa Youth, in northern Nigeria had in June reiterated its wish for Igbos to be expelled from northern states, giving a three-month deadline, 1 October.)

Why Plateau State matters

Nigeria, the most populous African country, is divided along ethnic and religious lines. The central state of Plateau is located on the fault line between the mainly Muslim north and the Christian and animist south. Some analysts think the Jos attack has the potential to upset the relative calm that has recently prevailed in Plateau, with potential consequences reaching far beyond.

Jos is seen almost as a miniature Nigeria, comprising almost all ethnic groups, but actually dominated by three predominantly Christian tribes (with the headquarters of many Nigerian Churches in Jos); a disruption to the peace in Jos could in turn affect the entire nation, and especially the Christian community in Nigeria.

Before the latest Jos violence, northern youths had previously issued other notices, demanding that all Igbos be kicked out of the northern states. They said that since the Igbos want their own country, they would force them to leave the north.

Some even suspect that that the reprisal attack in Jos against the Igbos was actually orchestrated from the far north because Nigerians would normally expect such attacks to take place in the predominantly Muslim northern cities like Kano, Kaduna, Katsina and Zamfara, but not in Jos.

It also shows that the recent peace in Plateau is still a very fragile one, and one that could collapse with a little provocation. The massacre of about 20 Christians by Fulani herdsmen, on 7 September, is an illustration.

Widespread condemnation

The violence was unanimously condemned by Christian and Muslim leaders.

“The peace of the State is the peace of the Church and society,” wrote Rev Soja Bewarang, chairman of the Plateau chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), in a statement. “Let us all wise up and work collectively to frustrate the designs of criminals in our midst. Information on social media must be verified with security agencies and nobody should take the law into their hands; enough of this madness.”

CAN also called on Igbos in Plateau to remain calm, assuring them that nobody had the right to ask them to leave the state – as some Muslim youths had suggested.

Meanwhile, the Plateau State chapter of Jama’atu Nasril Islam (JNI) appealed to members of the Muslim community and the general public to shun acts capable of disrupting the hard-earned peace in the state.

“JNI finds it necessary and of utmost importance to remind us that we in Plateau State had just in the last few years emerged from a decade-long ethno-religious conflict, which left us with unbearable socio-economic and political consequences,” read a statement signed by Sani Mudi, Director of Publicity of the JNI in Plateau.

It continued: “The sad saga of disruption of peace and lawlessness in some parts of the country is not worth our response, except in the exhibition of [a] mature and civil way, trusting that appropriate authorities are capable of responding as the situation warrants. We should therefore cherish our peaceful co-existence and do all within our power to sustain it, regardless of the provocation, as peace is priceless.”

The governor of Plateau, Simon Lalong, last Thursday met with community and religious leaders, and reaffirmed his determination to ensure security for all.

“I want to tell all citizens that their security and welfare as the primary concern of government is assured by the Rescue Administration. I am therefore enjoining all citizens to go about their business with the assurance that their safety is guaranteed,” he said.

Source: World Watch Monitor

Religious freedom campaigner Stewart Windsor dies

Friends In The West is sorry to learn of the passing of well-known activist for Christians under pressure worldwide, Rev Stuart Windsor. We extend sincere condolences to family and friends and pray that they will experience God’s comfort and peace at this time. Reproduced below is a tribute from Christian Solidarity Worldwide.

Rev Stuart Windsor (pictured above, right),

A campaigner who spent decades speaking out on behalf of believers around the world living under pressure for their faith has died.

Rev Stuart Windsor (pictured above, right), a Special Ambassador for the organisation Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), passed away at his home on Sunday morning.

CSW’s Chief Executive, Mervyn Thomas said: “I have worked with Stuart for nearly a quarter of a century. I have known no-one with a more caring and compassionate heart for the suffering than Stuart.”

Rev Windsor recently underwent angioplasty – heart surgery – after suffering a serious heart attack in July this year.

He often put his own safety at risk to visit communities in countries where freedom of religion or belief is being undermined.

Speaking of his former colleague, Mr Thomas said: “He literally worked 24/7 for the cause of religious freedom, and no issue was ever too big or too small for him to take up.”

During his life, Rev Windsor – who was in his 70s when he died – spoke at the United States Congress, the United Nations and European and UK parliaments.

He served for 19 years as National Director at Christian Solidarity Worldwide before entering retirement and becoming Special Ambassador.

Mr Thomas added: “Both the human rights and the Christian communities have today lost a giant of a man whose loss will be felt for a very long time to come.

“It has been an immense honour and a privilege to labour together with him for so long.”

Muslim Fulani Herdsmen Massacre 20 Christians in Plateau State, Nigeria

Apparent reprisal attack included Islamist militants, villagers say.

Sati Ishaya, 9, one of 20 Christians slain in Ancha, Plateau state. (Morning Star News courtesy of family)

Muslim Fulani herdsmen in central Nigeria’s Plateau state massacred 20 Christians, including children, as they slept in the hours after midnight on Friday (Sept. 8) in an apparent reprisal attack that mystified villagers, sources said.

Police reportedly said the attack was an act of vengeance after the discovery last week of a slain and beheaded Fulani boy who was a resident of Ancha village, Miango District in the Bassa Local Government Area. But a village Christian told Morning Star News that the area’s terrified residents were at a loss to explain why they were targeted, as the murder of the Fulani took place at another village.

“The village where they claim one of them was killed over a year ago is not part of our village, and we have never had any misunderstanding with them in the past,” said John Bulus, church secretary of Salama Baptist Church-Ancha, which lost 19 members in the massacre.

Bulus told Morning Star News that Ancha villagers have never had any problems with the Fulani, who have a settlement a few kilometers away. He was able to recognize some but not all of the assailants, and area villagers believe Islamic extremist militants accompanied the herdsmen.

“On Saturday, September 2, while we were working on our fields and farms, we saw the Fulanis moving their cattle and families out of their camp, a settlement that is just some few kilometers away from here,” Bulus said. “So we rushed to them to inquire why the sudden departure from camp. They responded by telling us that one of them was some time ago killed in another village 5 kilometers from our village, hence, their decision to move away.”

Bulus said the area Christians returned and continued working.
“We never knew that these same Fulanis would return to attack us, as there is nothing that warrants an attack on us,” he said.

Bulus said nine of the 20 Christians killed were children, ranging in age from 3 months to 17 years old. Along with the 19 Baptists killed, one was a member of a Methodist church, he said.

Awoken by the sound of gunshots shortly after midnight on Friday (Sept. 8), Bulus quickly went outside to see who was shooting. He said he saw three persons standing with guns in their hands, and that he stood quietly watching them until they shot at him, nearly hitting him before he ran back into his house.
“One of them ran after me into the house, and he stood by the door to my room without entering the room or shooting, and after a few minutes he went out to join his colleagues outside,” he said. “And just as I was thinking about what to do, I heard sporadic gun shots all over the village. They were shooting everywhere in the village and this lasted for about 25 minutes.”

The assailants were talking to each other in the Fulani language, he said, adding that from the light of a bright moon, he was able to see that some of the attackers were area Fulanis.
“I can confidently tell you that some of the persons among those who attacked us are local Fulani herdsmen who lived close to our village,” he said.
About five minutes after the shooting stopped, he saw the assailants had gathered at a spot just outside the pathway that leads into the village and then they left. Bulus and others went from house to house to determine any casualties.

“We found out that 20 persons were killed, and six others were grievously injured,” he said. “We found that those killed were from three households. We have in all, 50 households in this village.”

Children killed, he said, were Sati Ishaya, 9; Aveh Ishaya, 5; Azumi Monday, 3 months old; Lami Monday, 3; Emmanuel Sunday, 6; Ishaya Sunday, 8; Friday John, 17; Ayo John, 10; Deba John, 7.

Also slain were Bulus Rohun, 50; Laraba Bulus, 45; Musa Ishaya, 21; Gado Odo, 75; Sei Musa, 19; Kande Ahmadu, 48; Ishaya Ahmadu, 40; Bala Ishaya,18. Tina Monday, 20; Lami Ishaya, 40; and Ahmadu Rohun, 80.

Bulus gave the names of the six Christians injured during the attack as Talatu Gado, 60; Mai’angwa Monday, 16; Talatu John, 46; Monday Ahmadu, 24; Vou Monday, 4; and Tina Ahmadu, 28.

Plateau Commissioner of Police Peter Ogunyanwo told reporters that the slain Fulani boy that triggered the attack was from Ancha village, was reported missing Aug. 3 and that his body was found three days before the Sept. 8 massacre. Some Nigerian press reported the boy’s body was found in Dantanko village.

“We are investigating the matter, but from our findings so far, the attack was carried out by Fulani herdsmen to avenge the killing of a young boy,” Ogunyanwo said.
He appeared to under-report the number of children killed, saying there were only seven, and that only five persons had been injured.

The official said five suspects had been arrested over the missing Fulani boy, but that no one had been detained in the Ancha massacre.

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


Source: Morning Star News

Healing the Land

Friends In The West was happy to support the Healing the Land prayer event this afternoon at Nutts Corner, County Antrim, Northern Ireland.

Healing the Land prayer event with Angus Buchan (S. Africa) and Robin Mark (Belfast).  Sat. 9th September 2017.

The following is the prayer which we prayed together this afternoon:
Heavenly Father, we thank You for our Christian heritage from Patrick and the Celtic church until now. We thank You for our history as a land of saints and scholars, spreading the Gospel to the world.
However, today we acknowledge that for many years the world has known our land as a place of hatred and bloodshed. Throughout our history the name of Your Son, Jesus Christ, has been used to justify many things that have brought dishonour to You. Our bitter disputes and hard hearts have driven Your Kingdom from us and we have served the idols of national identity and tribal fears. We confess that we have taken Your Holy name in vain.
We gather together today to own our sins and the sins of our fathers which have stained our land. We are truly sorry and we earnestly repent. Please have mercy on us and forgive us for what we have done against You, what we have done to this land and what we have done to one another. Together we come to the foot of the cross declaring that only Jesus can take away our sins and heal our land.
We recognise that along with the heritage that we have received from You there are weeds and snares of compromise and untruth. We confess fear, mistrust, hatred, violence, negativity, judgementalism, entitlement and complacency. We ask you to release us from all unhealthy bondages of culture, wrong covenants and the unhelpful mindsets of our history, and bring us into the righteousness, peace and joy of the kingdom of God.
Father, Lord of heaven and of every tribe, tongue and nation on Earth. We as Your church affirm that ‘All authority in heaven and on earth’ belongs to Jesus and He has commissioned us to ‘Go make disciples of all nations’.
Today we speak into existence a new mindset in the heavenly realms over our land, that will allow our politicians and all our people to move forward into a peaceful and harmonious future together where there is room for all.
We declare, we will have King Jesus to rule over us, as our only Saviour and Lord, we will serve His Kingdom above all other earthly Kingdoms and we will choose to walk in His footsteps, loving and serving one another – to the glory of God the Father, in the name of Jesus the Son, and in the power of the Holy Spirit.