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Extremists cut off women’s ears in Cameroon attack

By Heather Preston

Members of Boko Haram are reported to have mutilated four women, one of whom was a Christian, during a raid of a rural town on Cameroon.

The Islamic extremists targeted the women of Gagalari, in Yagoua Diocese during the night, kidnapping them from their homes and cutting off their ears, according to Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).

ACN’s source said: “They arrived during the night, entered the houses one by one and kidnapped the women. Only the women.

“They took them to the outskirts and amputated one ear of each of the victims.

“Then they released them threatening them and telling them that they would return, that this is the first [such] intervention, but others will follow. It is terrifying.”

Armed forces then took the victims 160 miles away from the village, to receive medical care.

According to local news reports, Boko Haram fighters drove away members of the Vigilance Committee who tried to stop them.

The source said: “It was no use in this repulsive surprise attack. The women were dragged out of their homes before the eyes of their children.”

Two other villages in the area were reportedly attacked by Boko Haram in the days leading up to the Gagalari raid in which three members of a local Vigilance Committee were killed.

Source: Premier



Reporting Persecution to Police a Vanishing Option for Christians in India

Hindu extremists beat, deprive them of basic services in Bihar state.

Pastor Shelton Viswanathan was attacked in Sheohar District, Bihar state, India. (Morning Star News)

HYDERABADIndia (Morning Star News) – Persecution of Christians in Bihar state, India, has so intensified in the past two years that Pastor Shelton Viswanathan didn’t dare call police after Hindu extremists broke bones in his hand and foot.

“If I force the police to register cases against the assailants, the [Hindu extremist] Bajrang Dal’s top leaders will not spare me,” Pastor Viswanathan told Morning Star News. “The police officials asked me to be wary as the Hindu militant activists roam freely with guns, and through their videos, I can be easily identified by other RSS [Hindu extremist umbrella group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh]-affiliated groups also.”

Violence against Christians in Bihar state, in India’s northeast bordering Nepal and Bangladesh, has increased in the past two years, sources said. Hopes for forming a Christian response center with help from legal aid and relief organizations has yet to be realized, Devesh Lal of the Bihar Pastors Fellowship told Morning Star News.

“The Hindutva [Hindu nationalist] extremists are walking into churches and are disrupting prayer services – on a weekly basis, we hear of threats and attacks on home churches and pastors,” Lal said. “Christian persecution is widely spread across Bihar, and it appears to be a much planned, systematic opposition created to target activities.”

Like Pastor Viswanathan, many of those attacked choose not to call police, as officers are often complicit in Hindu extremist aggression, he said.

“We also see police supporting the perpetrators instead of taking action against them, and the victims do not come forward fearing this bias,” Lal said.

The saffron-clad Hindu extremists who attacked Pastor Viswanathan on June 23 were trailing him on motorcycles on Patna-Sitamarhi Road in Sheohar District when they pushed him off of his scooter, he said. The 46-year-old pastor was distributing gospel tracts in Sheohar District unaware that the members of the Bajrang Dal, youth wing of the Hindu extremist Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council), were stalking him.

“I slowed down my scooter, moved it to the other end of the road and pulled away, but they pushed me with such great force that I fell on the road,” he said. “They were eight men on four motorcycles. One of them clasped me from behind my neck and started beating me.”

Pastor Viswanathan on June 28 received treatment for his injuries at an area health center, where doctors advised bed rest.

“The doctors said that my hand and foot have been fractured,” Pastor Viswanathan told Morning Star News. “I’m trying to limp about, but there is a pain in my injured knee, and I can’t stand straight without support.”

The assailants shot video of him on their phones and warned him not to enter villages in Sheohar District, he said.

“They also placed a Bajrang Dal sticker on my scooter,” he said. “As the passersby gathered to lift me, they ran away on their bikes.”

Originally from the Andaman Islands in the Bay of Bengal, Pastor Viswanathan said he moved to Bihar in 2003 in obedience to a call from God to serve in Sheohar District. He pastors a congregation of 18 people at a house church.

“After the attack, some of my Christian friends went to Sheohar police station to inform them about the attack,” he said. “But the police said their hands are tied and that they cannot take any action.”

Goddess Follower Bullying 

In Beheri Basti village of Jamui District, Christians bullied by devotees of the Hindu goddess Kali are also afraid to report abuse to police, sources said.

The Kali devotees, who have gone door-to-door demanding donations for a Kali puja (worship ritual), are trained by powerful leaders of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), area Christian Anand Kumar Das told Morning Star News.

“No Christian comes forward to lodge a police complaint against them,” he said. “The police have been biased, but if we unite in huge numbers and approach the higher authorities, they can’t ignore us.”

A mob of well-built Kali followers burst into the house of Das’s neighbor during the daylight hours of June 9, beat the married couple there, robbed them and fled, he said. The couple has since ceased any public display of their faith, Das added.

The mob of Kali followers, known as Kali Dal, also demanded 5,000 rupees (US$73) from Das’s family, he said. His family has long suffered at their hands. As a child growing up in a Christian family, Das saw the Kali Dal compel shops to stop selling goods to them. Living as outcasts in their village, his father opened a general store in Jamui town to make ends meet, he said.

“We work very hard in town, as our agriculture fields have been snatched away from us,” the 26-year-old Das said. “They warned us not to conduct Christian prayers in the village, and that our water supply would stop if we are found assembling as a church in Beheri Basti.”

The persecution has been relentless.

“There is no peace here,” he said. “By God’s grace and supply of means, we solve a problem, and no sooner another problem comes up. I don’t even remember the last time I sat in an auto-rickshaw in my village, as we have been banned from using autos and public transport for commute.”

Sandeep Tigga Oraon, coordinator of Alliance Defending Freedom-India’s Jharkhand Legal Aid Center, visited Jamui on June 27 and July 17. Christians in Bihar are facing severe discrimination because of their faith, he said.

“They have been stopped from receiving government supplies also,” Oraon told Morning Star News. “In Jamui, police framed Christian Dinesh Das and his wife in a false case after beating them up and forcefully ‘reconverting’ them to Hinduism. After learning about the attack on Das and his wife, a few families gave in and donated cash to the Kali Dal activists.”

Another area Christian, Antu Das, told Oraon that hard-line Hindu villagers ridiculed him and called him a Muslim, insinuating a threat of bodily injury in a country with a history of Hindu/Muslim violence.

“I helped him draft a complaint to hand to the police,” Oraon said. “They are scared that they could be under attack at any time. I have been persuading them to take a legal course of action, but their fears and concerns also should be taken into consideration.”

In general, there are three main ways of excluding religious minorities in India: social hostility, laws curbing religious freedom and caste discrimination, according to Andreas Thonhauser, director of external relations at ADF International. In a report published in 2018, the U.S. based Pew research center gave India the highest score for “social hostility” towards religious minorities, including Christians, Thonhauser wrote in a recent issue of the Catholic Herald.

“This intolerance appears to be growing,” he wrote. “In the first quarter of 2019, there were more than 80 reported cases of mob violence against Christians. This means one violent attack almost every day, targeting priests, pastors, families, and whole church communities.”

In Bihar state’s Bharatpur area of Jamui District, Kali devotees stormed into a house church the first week of June and demanded 1,500 rupees [US$22] from Christian resident Sangeeta Devi, Devi said.

“I told them that I cannot offer any money, and they started threatening that they will not allow us to use the toilets,” Devi told Morning Star News.

She and her husband went into debt to build the home used for the house church, she said. Working as a cleaner in a hospital in Pune, Maharashtra state, her husband earns 12,000 rupees (US$175) a month, from which they pay 8,000 rupees for the bank loan, she said. They have three children.

“Even if they kill me, it is fine, but I cannot offer a single rupee for their puja,” Devi said. “Even if our family has to starve, it is fine, we will die serving the Lord.”

Forced Hindu Worship

In Bihar state’s Maheshpur village in Bhagalpur District, Christians have faced shunning, forced Hindu worship and cutting of water and electric services.

“The village council summons one family at a time to a public meeting where they force us to drink the water and food offered to the goddess,” Krishna Kumar Suman told Morning Star News. “If we resist, they would beat us up. They don’t care if it’s a woman or minor or child.”

Christians have been ostracized there since April 2018.

“The villagers have been warned from socializing with us, and if they ever speak to us, the village council would impose a penalty,” Suman said. “It is very difficult to survive there. They stopped the supply of water and electricity to our agriculture fields and have made life terrible for us. My elderly parents, who were highly respected once, endure humiliation daily for not giving up our faith.”

Four Kali devotees have blocked the paths to Christian houses by putting up walls and fences.

“Youth members of the families have moved to different cities for work,” Suman said. “Now they are troubling our elderly parents and women by digging holes in front of our homes. These holes would cause water clogging in rain, making it difficult for senior citizens to walk on a path full of puddles.”

Christians make up just 0.12 per cent of Bihar’s 99.9 million total population, according to the 2011 census.

India is ranked 10th on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2019 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian. The country was 31st in 2013, but its position has been worse each year since Narendra Modi of the BJP came to power in 2014.

Source: Morning Star news



Persecution group urges Nigeria to investigate reports of 16-y-o Leah Sharibu’s death

By Leah MarieAnn Klett, Christian Post Reporter

A photo of Christian schoolgirl Leah Sharibu’s family in Nigeria in this September 2018 video. | (Screenshot: YouTube/International Christian Concern)

A persecution watchdog group is calling on the Nigerian government to launch an investigation into reports that 16-year-old Leah Sharibu, the Nigerian schoolgirl kidnapped by terrorists last year, has been killed.

Last week, reports surfaced that the Boko Haram splinter group ISWAP — a group that has ties to Islamic State terrorists — released a disturbing three-minute video of six Christian aid workers begging for their lives after being kidnapped by the group in a raid earlier this month. ISWAP is the Islamic extremist group that also kidnapped Sharibu along with more than 100 other schoolgirls in the town of Dapchi on Feb. 19, 2018.  

In the video, Grace Taku, an aid worker with Action Against Hunger, pleads for her life and references Sharibu and the kidnapped Christian aid worker and mother, Alice Ngaddah.

“I am begging on behalf of all of us,” Taku says in a transcript of the video circulating online. “I don’t want such to happen to us and it also happened again with Leah and Alice, because Nigeria could not do anything about them, they were not released, they were also killed.”

About five of the schoolgirls kidnapped along with Sharibu died and all others were released weeks later. The jihadis reportedly did not release Sharibu with her classmates because of her refusal to renounce her faith in Christ.

In a statement released on July 26, persecution watchdog group Open Doors USA, which has worked closely with Sharibu’s family since her abduction, cautioned against buying into reports of her death. 

“We, along with other observers, find the claim highly incredulous,” an Open Doors spokesperson said. “Grace is clearly traumatized and under immense pressure as she tries to relay a lot of information.” 

Still, the group is urging Nigeria’s government to immediately launch an investigation into the report, adding that if it proves true, her death illustrates that Nigerian President Buhari and his government have “abandoned international standards of human rights by failing to provide even the most rudimentary protections to religious minorities, and to make honest efforts to hold violators to justice,” Open Doors President David Curry said.

Curry added that despite years of promises from Nigeria’s government, Boko Haram and Fulani militants continue to kill and massacre Christians without pushback. 

“Without the resources to protect, and the will of duly elected civil government to fight the terrorist agendas of these groups, northern Nigeria and other surrounding areas may be lost to these Islamic extremist groups.”

Nonetheless, the report is a wake-up call for government leaders to take immediate action, Curry added. 

“Let us all take this story as reason to double down on our efforts to intervene and decisively move to protect Leah and others like her who have fallen into the clutches of Boko Haram,” Curry said.

Open Doors also called for worldwide prayer for Sharibu’s family, adding: “Pray that if the report proves to be untrue that God will protect Leah. This report will undoubtedly bring more attention to her story and may, in fact, put her at further risk.”

Boko Haram, whose name is loosely translated as “Western education is a sin,” has killed tens of thousands of people and displaced millions over its 10-year insurgency. The extremists are known for mass abductions of schoolgirls and perpetrating violence against them in captivity. 

In April 2014, the group kidnapped about 276 schoolgirls from the mostly Christian town of Chibok, Nigeria. While over 100 of the Chibok schoolgirls have been released, about 112 others are still missing. 

Nigeria ranks as the 12th worst nation in the world when it comes to Christian persecution, according to the Open Doors 2019 World Watch List.

Source: The Christian Post



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Elderly Nigerian imam given award for saving 262 Christians from Muslim extremists

An elderly imam who saved the lives of hundreds of Christians fleeing a murderous attack by Muslim Fulani militants in Nigeria, received an award recognising his courage on 17 July.

Abubakar Abdullahi was given the US International Religious Freedom Award for selflessly risking his own life on 23 June 2018 to “save members of another religious community” when the militants attacked at least ten villages in the Barkin Ladi Local Government Area in Plateau State, killing scores of Christians and burning homes in a two-day rampage.

Abubakar Abdullahi risked his own life to save fleeing Christian neighbours, remembering how Christians had allowed Muslims to build the mosque in Nghar 40 years earlier​

The 83-year-old imam sheltered 262 fleeing Christians, hiding women and children in his home and the men in the mosque in Nghar village. Abdullahi then confronted the gunmen and refused them access, insisting everyone inside was Muslim.

He said later that he wanted to help because, 40 years previously, Christians in the area had allowed Muslims to build the mosque. He said it was the first time he had experienced such “an ugly incident” in all the years that Muslims had lived in a neighbouring village to the Christian farmers.

Source: Barnabas Fund