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Terrorist sect in Mali declares war on Christians

By Hassan John

The radical Islamic terrorist group in Mali, Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin, JNIM, (the Support of Islam and Muslims) has declared that its war in the country is against Christians.

Abu Dujana al-Qasimi, the Jihadists’ spokesman, in a propaganda video, said it’s battle “between the carriers of the Quran and the worshippers of cross… battle between truth and falsehood” and “between the people of virtue and the followers of vice.”

Qasimi explained that the “mujahideen” are Muslims on the side of truth, while christians, who he called “Crusader enemy,” led by France, is the evil to be destroyed.

The propaganda, which was apparently targeted against the French government, said the French government is trying to prevent the tribal groups from supporting the terrorist jihadi sect. The video claimed that the French forces fighting the terrorists had failed to achieve “military victory on the ground” and therefore it is now “stirring up tribalism and jahiliya (a primitive Islamic ignorance) vengefulness, to preoccupy the Muslim tribes in jahiliya wars.”

The spokesman claimed that the “Mujahideen initiated blessed steps to reconcile between the Muslim tribes,” which has brought “unification of the word of the Mujahideen under one flag and one commander.”

Sophie Petronin, Christian Missionary held hostage in Mal

Qasimi, in the video, warned “tribal dignitaries and their leaders,” not to join the drive to recruit people into the military force set up to help combat the terrorist group, the Mécanisme Opérationnel de Coordination, MOC, saying the recruitment exercise was a deceit to combats the “Mujahideen,” calling the exercise a dirty plan. He said that anyone joining the MOC was clearly demonstrating “loyalty to the infidels.” And said anyone in the army are those that “align themselves with the Christians.”

“So we say to anyone who allows themselves to participate in this malicious project ( of joining the MOC), to show piety to Allah, who created them, and to fear Allah’s punishment and not to sell their faith for a temporary offer in the world, and to favor the everlasting to the temporary life,” Qasimi says joining the force is an act of “infidelity and apostasy from the religion of Islam.”

Qasimi warns that the French “occupying enemy” has put forth a new plan, which encourages the “tribes to deliver their weapons and to register them in an official fashion and to join Mali and to enter under its rule, its orders and policies, and to work militarily in its army.” This is an ultimatum, Qasimi said, and called on muslims in the region not to “stand with the unjust” French army.

Samantha Reho, a spokesperson for the Pentagon’s U.S Africa Command (AFRICOM) told Fox News that “JNIM presents a significant terrorism threat across the Sahel because it unites disparate extremist groups under one umbrella and actively targets regional governments and Western interests. Al-Qaeda activities in Africa contribute to regional instability and threaten our regional partners,” Reho said. “We will continue to support the international effort, to include the G-5 Sahel Task Force and the French, to degrade the capabilities of these violent militants to execute attacks and to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat their networks.”

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

Source: Global Christian News



Christian workers in Somalia worship in secret, fear al-Shabab

Soldiers walk around the wreckage of a car bomb near the Somali presidential palace in Mogadishu, Somalia, on July 14, 2018. It and many similar attacks in the country and region are orchestrated by the al-Shabab terrorist group. (AP Photo/Farah Abdi Warsameh)

In a small single-room house in the Banaadir district of Somalia, dozens of Christians worship in secret out of fear of persecution in a country where no official churches exist.

They sing, dance and testify — though not as exuberantly as in Christian services held in other African nations.

“I thank you, Jesus, for giving me this opportunity to worship you,” said a man wearing a red cap as he stood among the other congregants. “Protect my family and all Christians around the world. We know and believe that, Jesus, you are the lion of Judah who can defeat our enemies.”

Another woman wearing a blue dress and holding her Bible prayed to herself.

“I give thanks to Jesus Christ for saving me from attacks and not being hit in the explosions,” she said.

Hundreds of Christians in Somalia, typically foreigners from nearby countries who work across the East African nation, fear Muslim extremists — both jihadists in al-Shabab, a group linked to al-Qaida, and rogue elements among their otherwise peaceful neighbors — would kill them if they knew they held Christian services.

Around 99.8 percent of Somalis are Muslim, according to the World Bank.

Somalia is located in eastern Africa. Map courtesy of Creative Commons

 

“We meet secretly in one of our houses and pray,” said Pastor John, who asked that his real name not be used out of fear for his security. “It’s always a normal service but there’s no shouting and singing loudly. The people around here are not friendly, especially when they discover you are a serious Christian.”

John, who is a Kenyan pastor and a building contractor, has been working in Mogadishu for the last five years. Among his congregants are a few Somali converts who also live in fear in their own country for choosing Christianity.

“It’s very dangerous for anyone to identify you as a Christian in this country. You will, in fact, be counting your days on Earth,” said John, adding that he stayed in the country to spread the gospel and earn a paycheck. “So we are always silent as long as we meet and share the word of God in private. But we have always trusted Jesus for protection as the Bible says.”

In recent years, the situation for Christians in the Horn of Africa has worsened, as illustrated by killings shared on social media. In the region under the control of al-Shabab, the militants hunt for Christians.

The militant group holds to the strict Islamic doctrine of Wahhabism and promotes an extreme version of Sharia law. But local clan elders support them, acting as intelligence gatherers who report suspected non-Muslims.

Al-Shabab has also launched attacks on churches and schools in neighboring Kenya, leaving hundreds of Christians dead. In October, two Christian schoolteachers were killed in an attack by suspected al-Shabab militants in northern Kenya near the Somali border.

Youth light candles at Uhuru Park’s Freedom Corner in Nairobi, Kenya, to remember students killed by al-Shabab at Garissa University College. Religion News Service photo by Fredrick Nzwili

Kenyans still vividly remember the attack on Garissa University in April 2015, when al-Shabab fighters singled out and killed Christian students.

The U.S. State Department has labeled al-Shabab one of several “entities of particular concern,” based on a recommendation from the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. That label is used for groups that commit “systematic, ongoing, egregious violations” of religious freedom, according to USCIRF.

Christians in Somalia have lamented their lack of freedom to worship.

In August 2017, the only remaining Catholic church in Somalia was closed a few days after it opened temporarily. A public outcry resulted from the opening, with many calling for the church to be shuttered. Politicians listened.

“We have decided to respect the wishes of the people and their religious leaders and keep the church closed as it has been for the past 30 years,” Sheikh Khalil, the minister for religious affairs in Somaliland, an autonomous region in the country, told journalists at the time. “We will never allow any new church to be built in Somaliland.”

Catholic Bishop Giorgio Bertin, who oversees Djibouti and also acts as the pope’s representative to Somalia, said it would be hard to open a church in the country.

“It’s very hard to operate a church in Somalia because of the risks Christians face there,” said Bertin, who noted at least 100 Catholics live in Somalia. “They are forced to pray and worship secretly because it’s risky being identified as a Christian in Somalia.”

John, the pastor, wondered why Muslims often were allowed to worship freely in foreign countries but their leaders often barred or stood by as others barred foreigners from worshipping in their countries.

“That’s very bad and they should think about it,” he said.

Source: Religion News Service



Christian Family, Church Devastated by Killing of Church Elder in Nigeria

Police declined to take action against Muslim Fulani herdsmen.

Church elder Yakubu Musa, killed in Muslim Fulani herdsmen attack on Nov. 26, 2018. (Morning Star News) Church elder Yakubu Musa, killed in Muslim Fulani herdsmen attack on Nov. 26, 2018. (Morning Star News)

DOGO AWO (Morning Star News) – Ladi Yakubu does not know how her family will eat after Muslim Fulani herdsmen destroyed crops on their farm in Kaduna state, Nigeria on Nov. 26 and shot and killed her husband.

“My husband is no more alive, and so the burden to feed our children is on me,” she said. “How do I feed them without having a job? And I cannot go to the farm because of the murderous activities of these herdsmen.”

The 49-year-old Yakubu, a member of the Dogo Awo village congregation of the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) in north-central Nigeria, said she knew the gunmen were Fulani herdsmen because they have lived near the village for several years. Herdsmen also destroyed crops on their farm in late 2016 and late 2017, she said.

Her husband, ECWA elder Yakubu Musa, was 50.

Her 20-year-old son, Believe Yakubu, received a bullet wound in his leg in the attack. Her other children are ages 15, 18, 23, 26 and 28, but without access to their farm outside the village, the adult children have little income-earning power.

The attack was different from night-time raids that have terrorized Christians in north-central and other states in Nigeria. Church members were helping the family to harvest rice the morning of Nov. 26, she said, when they stopped for lunch at about noon.

“As we were eating, a Fulani man came over to where we were sitting under a tree,” Yakubu told Morning Star News. “We offered him food, but he declined to eat with us. When my husband asked the Fulani man whether he needed help in anyway, the man said he was only out to find areas he could take his cattle to for grazing.”

The herdman left, but soon they heard gunshots near the farm, she said. The frightened church members returned to the village, while Yakubu, her husband and their son and nephew stayed to gather the harvest into one place and try to move tools and equipment, she said.

“While we were doing this, the Fulani man returned with one other Fulani,” Yakubu said. “Both of them were armed with guns. They shot at us, killing my husband and shooting my son on the leg, while me and my husband’s nephew narrowly escaped being shot. My husband was shot twice in the stomach.”

The armed herdsmen left the area, she said, but the next morning they returned and destroyed crops, water-pumping machines for irrigation, herbicide sprayers and even the food warmers the family had taken to the farm, she said.

“My husband’s corpse was recovered by our church members, and he was buried here in our house,” she said, pointing to the grave.
“That is the grave you see by the door to this room where we are seated.”

Police Inaction Emboldens Herdsmen

After a Nov. 25, 2016 raid, when Fulani herdsmen destroyed rice, beans, pepper and other crops, her husband reported the attack to police and the leader of the local Fulani community, but they took no action, Yakubu said.

“No action was taken against them, but then my husband, who loves peace, said we should forgive the Fulani herdsmen and continue to work on the farm and trust God for provisions,” she said.

The police inaction emboldened Fulani herdsmen to return again during the harvest season of 2017 and destroy crops, she said. Again her husband reported the attack to police and the local Fulani leader, with no result.

“We were all devastated by the actions of these herdsmen as we were never compensated even once for the destruction on our farms,” Yakubu said. “Yet they still returned to kill my husband on the same farm they had destroyed our crops.”

Every morning during family devotionals, she said, her husband would instruct them never to repay evil with evil.

“‘Leave judgment of every evil act against you to God,’ he would always tell us,” she said, sobbing. “And in obedience to his instructions, we have forgiven those who murdered my husband. We will never avenge his death, as God says, ‘Vengeance is mine.’”
The Fulani herdsmen killed Yakubu Musa though he had never done anything to them, she said.

“All our crops have been destroyed, and it is not even safe for us to venture out there to even glean on these farms,” she said. “And because of this, I find it difficult to provide food to our six children.”

On Wednesday (Jan. 2), the herdsmen attacked other Christians who went to their fields near Dogo Awo, she said. Dogo Awo village is located south of the town of Jagindi Tasha, Jama’a Local Government Area.

“My only appeal is that those who have the heart to want to help us with prayers and want to help us with something to feed on should please kindly do so,” she said.

Church Affected

A graduate of the College of Education, Gidan Waya, in Kaduna state, with a Nigerian Certificate of Education, Yakubu had taught at a public primary school before she and other Christian teachers were laid off in what has been seen as systematic discrimination by a state government controlled by a Muslim governor.

The Rev. Ali Ndaks, pastor of the ECWA Church in Dogo Awo village, said the killing of his church elder has devastated the congregation.

“Before this incident, our church, even though a small congregation, had 50 members,” Pastor Ndaks said. “But with the incessant attacks on our community, we now have only seven members left. Almost all Christians in this village have fled out of fear of the attacks by the herdsmen.”

The pastor said that herdsmen had also destroyed his farm, as well as those of other villagers.

Musa also served as church secretary, financial secretary, and service leader, Pastor Ndaks said.

“He was a man of peace, always ensuring that issues in the church were resolved amicably,” he added.

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 14th on Open Doors’ 2018 World Watch List of countries where Christians suffer the most persecution.

Source: Morning Star News



‘All-Out War Against Religious Minorities’: Faith Leaders Expose China’s Brutal Persecution of Christians

By Mark Martin,Heather Sells

China is tightening its grip on the country’s Christians through repeated efforts to persecute and silence the Church.

Chinese believers are being rounded up, imprisoned and some even tortured for their faith. In addition, government officials are removing crosses from churches, burning Bibles and demolishing church buildings.

“Churches have been forced to shut down. China has banned the online sale of the Bible as it works to rewrite the scriptures to include pro-government messaging,” said Jay Sekulow, chief counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice.

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Sekulow says it’s part of an all-out campaign to eradicate the faith of Chinese who choose to follow Jesus Christ.

Meanwhile, the ACLJ has launched a petition drive to fight for the freedom of one Christian pastor, John Cao, who Sekulow reports is behind bars in a “crowded Chinese prison cell” and has been “in a Chinese prison for nearly two years.”

“After decades of peacefully serving the impoverished, providing much-needed supplies and building schools in China and Myanmar, Pastor John – a US permanent resident – was arrested and convicted of absurd charges,” Sekulow said.

The ACLJ is working on an international level to pressure China to stop the focused persecution of Christians, which includes setting Cao free.

Other Christian leaders are also speaking out against religious persecution in China. Dr. Bob Fu, the founder and president of China Aid, issued the following statement to CBN News:

“In 2018, President Xi’s regime declared an all-out war against religious minorities, children’s religious education and the rule of law,” he wrote. “With at least a million Uygurs in concentration camps, thousands of churches shut down, hundreds of thousands of arbitrary detention of Christian believers and long-time enforced disappearances of human rights lawyers such as Wang Quanzhang and Gao Zhisheng – Christian churches and human rights lawyers had entered the most chilling winter since the end of Chairman Mao’s Cultural Revolution.”

The Trump administration is calling on leaders of its largest base, evangelicals, to help in its battle with China – especially when it comes to religious persecution.

 

Source: CBN News



Kidnapped African priest recounts harrowing days of captivity

 

The two captive priests survived on half a loaf of bread and little water for four days.

Father Cajetan Apeh had been ordained a priest only four short months before he and another priest from his parish were taken hostage by armed herdsmen at Anam in Anambra State, Nigeria. The pair were held for four days, during which time they were reportedly given only a half a loaf of bread and little water to sustain them both.

On Wednesday, shortly after celebrating a New Year Mass at St. Joseph’s Church, Fr. Apeh recounted the tale of his captivity to his congregation. He explained that on Christmas Eve, he drove one of his fellow parish priests who was sick to the hospital. On their way back they stopped at the store to buy supplies for the visit of Cardinal Francis Arinze from Rome.

Vanguard reports, the pair were on their way back when they became accosted by armed local herdsmen:

“A Fulani herdsman armed with AK 47 rifle, jumped out from the bush and pointed his gun at us, threatening to shoot if we didn’t stop. It was really an ambush.

“Initially, we thought it was just robbery, but after searching and taking all our possessions, including some loaves of bread; they led us into the bush where two of us were given half a loaf of the wheat bread they took from us for four days before our release to our superior, who drove from Enugu to Anam on the instruction of the herdsmen.”
Fr. Apeh said he was not allowed to speak with his fellow priest during their captivity, which took place in the wilderness and exposed the priests to the elements and attacks from mosquitoes.

While the herdsmen were warm in their coats, Fr. Apeh was dressed in a pair of trousers and a T-shirt. He said his captors made a fire for the two of them on Christmas, but the following day the sick priest’s condition began to worsen:

“On December 26, the condition of my parish priest deteriorated, because, although we were given some drugs in the hospital, he was not allowed to take his medications. His blood pressure became very high and he was very weak.

“They were communicating with our superiors, telling them that they wanted big, big money as ransom but when after all these days of our kidnap, nobody offered them any money they became disappointed.
The herdsmen then demanded the priest’s bank account information, but neither one had their own bank account, as everything belongs to the church. The captors asked if they were married and when the priests responded in the negative, they told Fr. Apeh, “that if I was married, my wife or members of my family would have been calling them and running around for ransom.”

The pair were finally released when their superior traveled to Anam from Enugu, unaccompanied by any policeman or security agent, to negotiate their release. Fr. Apeh told his congregation, “Due to your prayers and those of others throughout the world, we were released to our superior…”

Fr. Apah said the only food they were given was the initial half a loaf of bread they were given. The two men survived on this bread, along with one satchel of water shared between them both. During their captivity they were only allowed to stand to relieve themselves, otherwise they were forced to sit or lay the entire time.

Source: Aleteia