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Category: Friends In The West

Canadian killed by Jihadist in Burkina Faso

By Hassan John

A Canadian national, Kirk Woodman, who was abducted by suspected Jihadi group linked to Al Qaeda at a mining site in Tiabongou, about 12 miles from Mansila in Yagha province in Burkina Faso, has been found dead.

Chrystia Freeland, Foreign Affairs Minister, who was in touch with the family said, “his family has the sympathy of our whole country and our government is working with, will continue to work on the ground in Burkina Faso and with the authorities in Burkina Faso, to be sure that the people responsible for this terrible killing face justice.”

Chief executive, Progress Minerals, Adam Spencer, Woodman’s company, said It is heartbroken by the news of the death. “Kirk was an incredibly accomplished and highly respected geologist with a career spanning over 30 years, with 20 years spent in West Africa. More importantly, Kirk was a kind person, a dedicated father and husband and considered a friend by all who knew him.”

Al Qaeda in the Maghreb

This kidnap and killing of Woodman follows the disappearance of a 34-year-old Quebec tourist, Sherbrooke native Edith Blais and her Italian friend Luca Tacchetto on 15 December 2018, when communication with them suddenly stopped as they drove in a car close to the Burkina Faso border.

The Sahel region’s growing Al Qaeda Islamists has been a source of concern for the British, French and American governments. Kidnapping of foreigners, many of whom are Christian missionaries, and demand for ransom has been a source of income for the Islamic Jihadi groups in the region.

Several militia and Islamic terrorist groups have made the Sahel region; Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso, their operational base with links to Nigeria’s Boko Haram’s Islamic Jihadists. The French and American governments have stationed drone bases in the region to combat the terrorist groups.

Malian government authorities have reported the killing of at least 10 people, on Tuesday 15 January in a village 45km from Menaka, by a Jihadi terrorist group. The statement said “At least 10 (people), fighters for the Movement for the Salvation of Azawad (MSA) and civilians were killed on Tuesday… by armed men,” the government official told AFP.

A statement by the MSA however said “the assailants summarily executed around 20 people, including the elderly.”

 

Hassan John is West Africa Editor, GCN and Priest of the Anglican Diocese of Jos.

Image Credits: Google Images/Kirk Woodman/Al Qaeda in the Maghreb

Source: Global Christian News



Persecution growing in spread and intensity: Open Doors

Open Doors

By ANNE LIM

2019 World Watch List reveals 245 million Christians experience high levels of persecution

 

Persecution of Christians worldwide has increased over the past year, with one in nine believers experiencing “high” levels of persecution compared with one in 12 a year ago, according to the 2019 World Watch List released by Open Doors today.

In what Open Doors Australia described as an “hallmark of the success of Christianity,” persecution is growing in both intensity and the number of countries and Christians affected. On the 2019 World Watch List, 73 of the 150 countries surveyed show extreme, very high or high levels of persecution.

“The world will get worse before it gets better … ” – Tim Reid, Open Doors

“The first thing I would say is that persecution is the hallmark of successful Christianity,” Tim Reid, Church Engagement Manager for Open Doors Australia, told Eternity. “I think when the gospel is being shared, persecution increases. I don’t necessarily mean that Christianity is rapidly growing in numbers, but it does mean Christianity is growing in courage.

“The whole philosophy of Open Doors is not necessarily the end of persecution – it’s not even a top priority – it’s to give people the strength to stand under the face of it and try to grow as they can.”

Open Doors estimates that 245 million Christians experience high levels of persecution in the top 50 countries on the World Watch List for 2019. North Korea remained ranked at No 1 in the 2019 list, a position it has held since 2002, with about 50,000 to 70,000 Christians believed to be in labour camps. Russia entered the list at No 41 due to increasing violence from Islamic extremists.

Life for Christians became even more precarious in Nigeria, where 3731 believers were killed – double the number in the 2018 list – by extremist groups of Fulani herdsmen and Boko Haram. This accounted for about 90 per cent of the 4136 recorded deaths of Christians as a direct result of persecution in the 2019 list.

According to Reid, increased persecution of Christians in India went almost unnoticed by the rest of the world.

“In India, violence against Christians has been increasing since the Modi government stepped into power, elected with promises to restore Hindu dominance in the nation. Churches have been attacked and Christians assaulted,” he says.

“I spoke in May last year at a Senate inquiry [into religious freedom] about four horror days in India in which three pastors were hospitalised, one losing his fingers in an axe attack.”

Reid told Eternity that these attacks on Christians had flown under the radar of police, so the perpetrators had not received due punishment.

“That kind of Hindu extremism we have also noticed in Nepal and religious nationalism as a topic is starting to spread to other countries too,” he says, giving Myanmar as an example.

Reid said there were a few factors behind the increase in persecution.

“We’re seeing religious nationalism increase, so the kind of intensity that we’ve seen from Islamic extremists over the years we are now starting to see in other contexts,” he said.

“But persecution is biblical and the world will get worse before it gets better and there is a move in many nations towards an anti-Christian sentiment.” He said Open Doors was not just committed to social justice but to helping the gospel advance and that necessarily brought with it persecution.

Open Doors Australia is calling for the government to create a permanent position to advise on religious freedom.

“Roles such as that we’ve seen overseas have been really crucial in bringing to the fore at a government level what persecution is already happening,” Reid said.

“So in the Asia-Pacific region, we see that as persecution increases in places like India or China, where we have a great deal of trade, that there are Christians being discriminated against and Australia has a role to play in this area.

“Australia’s human rights record in the department of freedom of religious belief has been quite exemplary, but other people who we trade with it’s not necessarily been the case. So it’s part of Australia’s moral obligation to lift these people in circumstances where they’re not experiencing the same freedom.”

“The unforeseen benefit of that is that many churches are now asking us to speak.” – Mike Gore

Mike Gore, CEO of Open Doors Australia, said the unforeseen benefit of Christians feeling less secure of their place in Australian society was an increased engagement by churches with the persecuted church.

He said there had been a 20 per cent increase in the number of donors to Open Doors Australia, to 11,500. The target was 18,000 by the end of 2020.

“What we’re seeing is a change in a section of the church towards religious freedom in this nation. There’s a big element that’s saying we need the message of Open Doors in our churches now because we’re feeling uncomfortable. Things aren’t feeling as safe anymore. What do we do? We haven’t felt this before and we’re worried about things like same-sex marriage, religious diversity, and all of these fears that the West equates with persecution,” he said.

“The unforeseen benefit of that is that many churches are now asking us to speak.”

“I think an understanding of the increased focus of the media in the last five years on persecution, married with the uncomfortable feeling of changing societal values in Australia, has created a perfect of storm of tensions resolving in churches wanting to know more about the cost of faith.

Reid adds: “What’s really exciting here is that as people engage with persecution, what they will find is the true hope-filled story that where there seems to be persecution the church in many circumstances is still joy-filled and seeking God with all their heart.”

“When people engage with that example, their faith will come alive here in Australia as well.”

Source: Eternity News


Letter of thanks to Egyptian Muslim cleric for saving Christian lives

On behalf of International Christian Concern

One Muslim man saved hundreds of Christian lives…

Join us in thanking him and others involved.

On January 5, an Egyptian Muslim cleric named Sheikh Sayed Askar witnessed a terrorist planting bombs on the roof of the Virgin Mary and Father Seifin Church in Nasr City, near Cairo, Egypt.

The terrorist planned to detonate the bombs during the church’s orthodox Christmas Eve service on January 6. Hundreds of Christians flock to this Christmas Eve service every year to celebrate their Savior.

After Sheikh Askar alerted the police, the government responded to the Imam’s observation and immediately dispatched a specialized bomb squad to defuse the bombs. The squad located three bombs on the roof of the church.

Tragically, while the officers were attempting to defuse the bombs, one detonated. An officer, Major Mustafa Abid, lost his life. Three other nearby individuals, including General Nasar Mansour, were seriously injured.

A Unique Opportunity

As an advocate for the persecuted and a public witness to their suffering, we continually call out governments and individuals that practice, abide, or abet the persecution of Christians around the world.

Too rarely, though, do we have the opportunity to acknowledge and thank those who are the exception to the status quo – those who personally risk their reputations, livelihood, or even their lives to protect endangered Christians. Askar’s actions foiled this terrorist plot, yet ultimately endangered his own life in Egypt – a country still teeming with radical Islamist violence today.

The actions of Major Abid, General Mansour, the other members of the Nasr City bomb squad, as well as Imam Askar, give us such an opportunity. If they had not moved quickly, the roof of the church would surely have collapsed from the force of the explosion, resulting in a massive number of deaths of Christians at the church and Muslims attending the mosque next door.

How You Can Help

Please join us in thanking these brave men with your signature to honor their sacrifice.
We will deliver the letter and the list of signatures to the individuals and families of those involved, including the family of the officer who lost his life.

Sign the Letter

Source: International Christian Concern : Persecution.org



Open Doors USA Reveals World’s Worst Persecutors of Christians

The persecution of Christians around the world is just as bad as ever and shows no signs of slowing down. It is estimated one in 12 Christians worldwide (more than 215 million) faces high levels of religious persecution.

In response, Open Doors USA unveiled their 2019 Open Doors World Watch List, a ranking of the top 50 countries where it is most dangerous and difficult to be a Christian.

The announcement was held Wednesday at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, DC.

Open Doors Lists the Top 10 Persecutors as:

1. North Korea
2. Afghanistan
3. Somalia
4. Libya
5. Pakistan
6. Sudan
7. Eritrea
8. Yemen
9. Iran
10. India

In addition to its annual ranking of countries, Open Doors USA President and CEO David Curry provided an update on the state of persecuted Christians worldwide.

As radical Islam spreads, religious nationalism rises and intense persecution in Central Asia continues, a few countries new to the list may come as a surprise, according to a press release from Open Doors.

Open Doors shared commentary around gender-based persecution, which has continued to rise, resulting in the double persecution of women, along with updates on current issues like Asia Bibi, Kim Jong Un, and the religious crackdown and arrests in China.

Persecuted Christians from India, Nigeria and South Asia also spoke at the event.

For more than 60 years, Open Doors USA has worked in the world’s most oppressive and restrictive countries for Christians. The organization works to equip and encourage Christians living in dangerous circumstances with the threat of persecution and equips the Western church to advocate for the persecuted. Christians are one of the most persecuted religious groups in the world and are oppressed in at least 60 countries. For more information, visit OpenDoorsUSA.org.

Source: CBN



Egyptian Authorities Close Four Churches

President al-Sisi Opens Cathedral in the Desert, but Closes Churches in Populous Upper Egypt

International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that four churches in different Upper Egypt villages have been targeted by hardline Islamic extremists. In each of these villages, the extremists formed a mob and attacked the churches, which were seeking official recognition. In each of these incidents, the police denied the rights of Christians to publicly worship and closed the churches, according to the demands of the mob.

On January 7, which is Orthodox Christmas, extremists gathered to demonstrate against the Mar Girgis Church in the village of Manshiyet Zafarana. According to a statement issued by the Archbishopric of al-Minya and Abu Qirqas, “More than 1,000 militants demonstrated against the church, chanting offensive and inflammatory statements in the presence of security forces. [They] asked them to calm down and promised them that they would do whatever they wanted to remove the people (Christians) from the place and close it.”

A mob also formed against a church in the village of Abo Karkas on January 11. The situation echoed earlier incidents in the village of Kafr el-Mansoura on December 27 and the village of Kom Al-Raheb on December 9.

In total, Egyptian authorities have closed four churches within the last four and a half weeks. No formal procedures against the attackers of these churches have begun. Instead, in the village of Manshiyet, the police arrested the church’s priests and transported them to the station in a car used for carrying animals and garbage.

In 2017, bombs in two Coptic churches in Egypt killed dozens of people who were celebrating Palm Sunday. This first blast hit St George’s Coptic church in the northern city of Tanta.

This wave of incidents, coupled with the police response, has greatly alarmed Egypt’s Christian community. Andro, a Christian lawyer, told ICC, “The police behaved by an offensive way. They behaved with the priests as [they would with]… killers. How dare the police cuff the priests! It is a shame on the Copts there.”

Father Sami, a local priest, also shared with ICC, “What happened frightened us. I am a priest and it is possible for the police to cuff me if the extremist neighboring Muslims protest or gathered in front of my church. Things are getting worse, but let us pray to make God keep us in peace.”

“The police behaved as usual,” lamented one local Christian. “The difference is that the situation was shot by a cell phone. The good thing is that the unfairness of the police is recorded now. Maybe we can get our rights.”

The wave of church closures comes just one week after President Fatah al-Sisi presented a new cathedral as a “gift” to Christians. While the new cathedral was welcomed by many, President al-Sisi was also criticized for building a new church in a location where Christians do not live, while other churches languish and close because of heavy restrictions enforced by his government.

“We could build the biggest cathedral in the desert!” Mina, a Christian photographer, told ICC. “Now let us close the churches which are in poor places, where the poor and weak people can pray. The hate has become more direct and clear towards Christians.”

Claire Evans, ICC’s Regional Manager for the Middle East, said, “It is no coincidence that Egypt’s Christians have been so heavily targeted by extremists within the past four weeks. They are often singled out during the celebration of Christian holidays, such as Christmas. These incidents also demonstrate how the police often contribute to the problem by adhering to the mob’s demands, even allowing the mob to rage on with no consequences for their violent actions. President al-Sisi has taken the symbolic step of opening a new cathedral during this time. He must now take action to protect the rights of Christians to worship in other churches.”

Source: International Christian Concern (ICC) www.persecution.org.