Thursday, December 29, 2011

Christians Face Harsh Realities of Nigerian Church Bombing

Amid anguish and mourning, church leaders distinguish between defense and retaliation.
By Lekan Otufodunrin and Obed Minchakpu

The damaged St. Theresa’s Catholic Church
Photo courtesy: Abayoma Fayese
Abayomi Fayese
MADALLA, Nigeria, December 29 (Compass Direct News) – Until last Sunday, Christmas Day, St. Theresa’s Catholic Church on the outskirts of Nigeria’s capital city, Abuja, was just one of many branches of Christianity in the country.

An early morning suicide bomb attack by Islamic extremist group Boko Haram that left at least 45 people dead and 73 others injured, however, has turned the ruins in Madalla, Niger state into a national mourning site. Christian leaders and government officials have arrived to confirm the extent of human and material damage, but four days after the attack, church leaders were still trying to determine a final death toll. Three of the 45 confirmed dead were policemen on guard duty at the time of the attack, and most of the rest were parishioners.

While some church members have stayed away from mass at the remnant building, and other area worship centers are empty, others continue to attend St. Theresa’s.

“The shock of the incident has been very traumatic for the people who were at the scene, and it is going to be difficult for them to recover from it – we are all still mourning,” the Rev. Joseph Akor, director of communication of the Minna Diocese, told Compass. “The worshipers have cause to be afraid after an incident like this, but they are strengthened by the blood of the martyrs and have not relented in attending daily Mass.”

The Very Rev. Isaac Achi of St. Theresa’s today said that 73 people were receiving hospital treatment. The Rev. Musa Dada of the Niger state chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) said that of those hurt in the blast, 50 were seriously injured. On the same day as the Madalla attack, Boko Haram also detonated bombs at Mountain of Fire and Miracles Church in Jos, Plateau state, though no one was killed until a policeman who later confronted the assailants was shot. A bomb also exploded at a church in Gadaka, Yobe state, where several people reportedly were wounded.

Akor of the Minna Diocese told Compass that the church was doing everything possible to aid survivors, including those injured and those who lost relatives.

“Many of those who are directly affected can’t still comprehend what happened and why this kind of thing should happen,” he said. “They went to church and didn’t bargain for this kind of thing to happen. It is indeed a trial of our faith but, as in situations like this, we have no choice but to keep praying more.”

A widow who is a member of the church came into the damaged building this morning wailing over the death of her only son. Another woman lost her husband and all their children in the attack. A small girl lost her parents.

The Rev. Isaac Achi decried the loss the church has incurred, telling media this week how the bomb blast cast the body of a 9-year-old child onto the roof of a nearby Anglican church building.

“What happened is very sad,” Achi reportedly said. “Many innocent persons have been killed in this unprovoked attack on our church.”

Recalling how the attack was carried out, church member Joseph Chukwumeka reportedly said the congregation was filing out at the time.

“As members were approaching the frontage of the church, we heard two deadly explosions and most people went blank,” he told news media. “We ran helter-skelter, first of all to save ourselves before we recovered for a rescue operation.”

The 73 injured parishioners were receiving treatment in 12 hospitals in Abuja and in Niger state, church leaders told Compass. The hospitals are the State House Clinic; the National Hospital; Gwagwalada Specialist Hospital; Suleja General Hospital; Major Hospital, Kwamba; Delight Hospital, Suleja; Suzan Hospital, Suleja; Daughters of Charity Hospital, Kubwa; Diamond Crest Hospital, Zuba; Solace Hospital, Suleja; Lucas Hospital, Madalla; and Kubwa General Hospital.

St. Theresa’s Catholic Church has about 2,400 members, and on Sundays there are three worship services with an average attendance of about 800 worshipers.

The Most Rev. Martin Igwe Uzoukwu, bishop of Minna Diocese, said at a press conference at the church site today that the destruction amounted to an attack on area Christians.

“I call this an act of terrorism leveled against my people who went to church to celebrate the Holy Day of Christmas,” Uzoukwu said. “The Boko Haram group has claimed responsibility for this crime against us and the entire people of Niger state.”

The attack on the Madalla church marks the second time in eight months that a parish of the Catholic Church has been attacked, he said, the first having taken place in April, when Muslims set fire to St. Augustine’s Catholic Church at Angwan Kaje, in the city of Minna.

“Reflecting on the ugly and unfortunate but avoidable incident in Madalla, I stare at the fact that we have lost more than 40 people, with many others wounded, maybe maimed forever,” he said.

Uzoukwu urged all Christians to forgive the attackers and to remain steadfast in the Christian faith.

“We are called to forgive, as that is what Jesus taught us,” he said. “We should therefore forgive, even as we continue to pray for those who persecute us.”

Earlier in the week, CAN President Ayo Oritsejafor called for Christians to defend themselves.

“As CAN president I will not encourage revenge, but I will ask all Christians to protect themselves anyway they can,” he said. “Why should anybody come and kill you in your house? Protect yourself, protect your place of worship, protect your properties.”
During a meeting with President Goodluck Jonathan on Wednesday (Dec. 28), Oritsejafor reportedly maintained that the attack on the church was a declaration of war on Christians and the country by Muslims and urged the government to prevent future occurrences lest they force Christians to take defensive action.

Speaking outside the church building today, Oritsejafor said that while he still does not encourage retaliation, “The consensus is that the Christian community nationwide will be left with no other option than to respond appropriately if there are any further attacks on our members, churches and property.”

Calling on Muslim leaders to condemn the attacks and take greater action to bring peace, Oritsejafor said they had abdicated “their responsibilities” and also that Christians were “fast losing confidence in government’s ability to protect our rights.”
Uzoukwu, bishop of the Minna Diocese, pleaded for Nigerian Muslims to address the challenge posed by Boko Haram to the nation’s security.

“I call on all my peace-loving Muslim friends to condemn publicly this act against us,” he said. “I call on all our religious leaders, traditional rulers and custodians of the land in Niger state to stand up strongly against this Boko Haram group.”

President Jonathan, a Christian, has reportedly tried to forestall sectarian violence by holding urgent meetings with Muslim and Christian leaders.

On Tuesday (Dec. 27), Nigeria’s primary Muslim cleric, the Sultan of Sokoto, denounced the Christmas Day attacks and called for calm.

“I want to assure all Nigerians that there is no conflict between Muslims and Christians, between Islam and Christianity,” said Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar. “It is a conflict between evil people and good people, and the good people are more than the evil-doers.”

Akor of St. Theresa’s told Compass that clergymen are appealing for peace.

“We don’t believe in resorting to violence but will keep appealing to the government to ensure the security of every citizen and to our members to remain law abiding no matter the situation,” he said.


The Killings continue in Nigeria even during Christmas season

Massacres Provoke Worldwide Condemnation

By Danielle Miskell
Special to ASSIST News Service

NIGERIA (ANS) -- Attacks on Nigerian Christians by Islamists are continuing unabated in this West African nation, even during the Christmas season.
CARNAGE: A car burns outside St. Theresa Catholic Church in Madalla, Nigeria, after one of the country’s coordinated Christmas Day bombings (Photo: Reuters)
Targeted Christians residing in the Ungwan Rami village of Kaura Local Government Area suffered 5 fatalities on Monday, December 19th, which happened to be the second violent occurrence in the Kaduna area only 9 days after the first in Kukum Gida.

Motivated by religious extremist agendas, the Muslim assailants have pillaged various Christian communities by way of firearms, machetes, stones, and sneak attacks throughout the night.

Their attacks are that of typical jihadist fundamentalists, and according to Compass Direct News (CDN) -- Christian leaders suspect these Islamic extremists are strategically planning and encouraging ongoing slaughters on villages and other Christian communities.

Islamist and Muslim Fulani herdsman attacks on Christians are still at large, and out of them, the Boko Haram sect is believed to be primarily responsible for the recent numerous attacks.

The ratio of Christians to Muslims in the 160 million populated nation, is evenly split, and they, for the most part, co-exist in peace.

But according to an interview that Reuters had with one of the militants of the Boko Haram sect, they are trying to ignite a sectarian civil war and impose Sharia (Islamic) Law across Africa.
Already having killed dozens and displaced hundreds of Christians in recent months, the assaults did not cease even during the holidays.
Members of Boko Haram

On Christmas day, the same Boko Haram sect admitted to being responsible for three church bombings that killed more than two dozen Christians. Among those churches was St Theresa Catholic Church in Madalla, where officials confirmed 32 dead after a deadly attack where the church was bombed. This last Christmas Sunday has been reflected as “Nigeria’s blackest Christmas ever.”
Waves of attacks continued only hours after the bombing at St. Theresa’s and other reported attacks occurred at Mountain of Fire and Miracles Church in Jos; a church in Gadaka located in the northern state of Yobe; and a suicidal bombing that killed four officials at the State Security Service near the town of Damaturu.

These premeditated and coordinated series of attacks have elicited an outrage across Nigeria that has challenged the government’s competency in the matter. Former military ruler and presidential candidate, Muhammadu Buhari, has voiced his disappointment in the government over their “slow response and indifference to the bombings.” In a statement he made to a Nigerian news publication, Buhari said, “This is clearly a failure of leadership at a time the government needs to assure the people of the capacity to guarantee the safety of lives and property.”

Outraged Nigerians have put pressure at an executive level where President Goodluck Jonathan has been confronted about doing more to intervene in order to prevent growing security threats which risk derailing economic gains in the OPEC.

Coming from Vatican City, Benedict XVI as of Monday, condemned the bomb attacks on Christmas day by Islamist militants. The Pope said that news of the bombings in Nigeria brought him “profound sadness,” according to Reuters, and that he felt the attacks were an “absurd gesture” and prayed that “the hands of the violent be stopped.”

He addressed the Nigerian Christian Community and said he was close to them, and then implored all the sectors within the Nigerian society to work together in rediscovering security and tranquility.

State Governor Jonah Jang has also condemned the killings.

The northern branch of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has declared a warning of potential religious war in Africa. Secretary General for the CAN, Saidu Dogo, has already initiated defenses against any further attacks, “We shall henceforth in the midst of these provocation and wanton destruction of innocent lives and property be compelled to make our own efforts and arrangements to protect the lives of innocent Christians and peace-loving citizens of this country.”

Reuters has reported that the United Nations, the European Union, and the United States have joined in the condemnation against the bombings and have labeled them as terrorist attacks. They have united in a campaign and pledged to help Nigerian authorities fight against this conflict with extremists.

Danielle Miskell, 24, is a 2009 graduate of Vanguard University of Southern California. With her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Communication and Journalism, she is currently residing in Los Angeles and works as a free-lance journalist. Aside from currently writing for ANS, her journalistic ventures have recently consisted of interning at KABC7-TV, Los Angeles, volunteering for the production team with the Silver Lake Jubilee Music Festival, and doing online webisode interviews for online music hub, LA Beet. Regarding anything to do with ANS or other writing opportunities, Danielle can be contacted by e-mail at:

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Egypt Charges Three Soldiers with ’Manslaughter’ in the Maspero Massacre

By Michael Ireland
Senior International Correspondent, ASSIST News Service

CAIRO, EGYPT (ANS) -- Egypt’s Supreme Military Court yesterday (Dec. 27), started procedures in the trial of three soldiers on charges of "manslaughter" of 14 Christian Copts during the Maspero Massacre which took place in front of the radio and television Building in Maspero on October 9.

Mary Abdelmassih, writing for the Assyrian International News Agency (AINA) , says that according to the indictment, the list of defendants were limited to three soldiers from the military police, who were charged with manslaughter, which under the penal code carries penalties of imprisonment of not more than seven years.
A Copt who was run-over by an army armored vehicle

AINA reports the military prosecution accused the three soldiers of causing "through their mistakes caused by their neglect and lack of precaution" the death of 14 people from the crowds in front of the Radio and Television Union Building.

In its report, AINA stated: “The indictment went on to say that the drivers of vehicles and armored vehicles of the armed forces ‘drove randomly and did not match the condition of the road, which was full of protesters, leading to their collision with the victims.’"

On October 9, 27 Christians were killed, 14 crushed under the wheels of military armored vehicles and the rest by being fired at with live ammunition. Another 329 Christians were injured. According to witnesses and video footage, the protestors were chased by armored vehicles chased over the pavements (video) and were shot at by snipers placed in the TV building and over bridges overlooking the TV Building.

AINA explained the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), an independent NGO, said that the military justice took into account only those victims who were trampled under the wheels of the military armored vehicles and excluded those victims who were killed by live bullets, including the prominent Coptic political activist Mina Daniel, known from the January 25 Revolution.

AINA stated: “EIPR said the trial did not meet the minimum guarantees of seriousness and justice and is a continuation of the position of the military junta, which refused and still is refusing any recognition of its responsibility for this heinous crime which resulted in killing 28 protesters, mostly Copts.

“It (EIPR) also accused the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces of (SCAF) continuing to seek the protection of members of the military police from criminal accountability by bringing the three soldiers before a military tribunal, even before the investigating judge assigned by the public prosecution has completed his investigation into the same incident.”

Hossam Bahgat, director of EIPR, who was honored this year by Human Rights Watch for upholding the personal freedoms of all Egyptians, said: "Nearly three months after the Maspero massacre, the junta decided to select 14 of the victims of the massacre who were crushed under the wheels of the military armored vehicles, in front of our eyes and on television, and then go on to consider them as ‘victims of negligent military drivers, as if they died in an ordinary accident.’"

Commenting on the indictment, Bahgat said: "How can the killing of 14 citizens be considered a manslaughter misdemeanor? What about Mina Daniel and the rest of the victims of the massacre who were killed by live bullets? And why has the military decided to quickly make this mock trial without waiting for the report of the investigating civilian judge of the massacre? How can we trust in the military justice? We see them making every effort to shield its members and its leaders from accountability."

According to the AINA report, observers say the main purpose of the military trial is to confirm the account of the massacre given by two members of the Military Council at the press conference which was held on October 12, during which they denied that the soldiers guarding the television building were armed, and instead accused the unarmed Coptic demonstrators of attacking the military police forces.

Observers also said that the drivers of the armored vehicles were confused and trampled over the demonstrators. To prove their point, the police randomly arrested 27 Copts from the streets, in addition to the prominent Muslim activist Alaa Abd El-Fattah, and accused them of inciting violence, the murder of one soldier, the theft of guns from the armed forces, and damaging private and public property during the October 9 Maspero Massacre, They were all released last week after being detained for 66 days.

Ahmed Hossam, a lawyer with EIPR believes that no justice will ever be received for the victims of Maspero, or victims of any of the other crime committed by the military against the Egyptians, as long as the provisions of Code of Military Justice stands as a barrier to the ability of the prosecutors to investigate with the military in cases referred to them.
AINA says activists have previously called for the need to amend these provisions to put an end to the impunity enjoyed by military of accountability to civil courts in crimes against civilians.

** Michael Ireland is the Senior International Correspondent for ANS. He is an international British freelance journalist who was formerly a reporter with a London (United Kingdom) newspaper and has been a frequent contributor to UCB UK, a British Christian radio station. While in the UK, Michael traveled to Canada and the United States, Albania,Yugoslavia, Holland, Germany,and Czechoslovakia. He has reported for ANS from Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Israel, Jordan, China,and Russia. Michael's volunteer involvement with ASSIST News Service is a sponsored ministry department -- 'Michael Ireland Media Missionary' (MIMM) -- of A.C.T. International of P.O.Box 1649, Brentwood, TN 37024-1649, at: Artists in Christian Testimony (A.C.T.) International where you can make a donation online under 'Donate' tab, then look for 'Michael Ireland Media Missionary' under 'Donation Category' to support his stated mission of 'Truth Through Christian Journalism.' Michael is a member in good standing of the National Writers Union, Society of Professional Journalists, Religion Newswriters Association, Evangelical Press Association and International Press Association. If you have a news or feature story idea for Michael, please contact him at: ANS Senior International Reporter

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Iran's posturing spells trouble for believers in 2012

File footage Iran briefing (Cover
 photo by Associated Press)

Iran (MNN) ― The upcoming New Year hasn't even begun, and it has already been marked by globally heightened tensions with Iran.

The United States and Iran got into a spate over trade routes, sanctions, oil, and nuclear weapons as 2011 drew to a close. The Islamic Republic then launched 10-day war games in which they tested advanced missiles and torpedoes. In addition, an American federal judge this week declared that Iran, Hezbollah and al Qaeda were liable in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. 

The judgment came as the result of a $100 billion lawsuit brought by family members of victims of the attacks. With District Judge George Daniels' ruling, the 2001 attacks were caused by the support the defendants provided to al Qaeda. The findings also said Iran still supports al Qaeda by providing a safe haven for al Qaeda leadership and lesser members.

Evangelist Sammy Tippit says, "To see the specific [evidence] that they had, and hear the testimonies that they had, was just absolutely shocking as to the role that Iran played in it. It's really heart-breaking especially for the families."

Shocking, but not surprising. What's more, Tippit is sobered by another aspect of this case. "To know that there was an actual government, and not just a group of renegade Islamic fundamentalists that were doing this, but there was an actual government participating in this, this has to be heart-breaking."

Iran has been taking rogue action since efforts for revolution failed. As the government grows increasingly suspicious and hostile, Tippit notes that there is a big difference between the government and the people of Iran. "There is a huge portion of the population that does not want to go this route, and they are turned off with the way that their government is behaving--and they want freedom. I believe that's where, if anything is going to change Iran, that's what's going to change Iran is a people movement from within."

Efforts for change have created a backlash effect, though. Iran has been cracking down on dissidents, protestors, and anyone deemed dangerous to the regime. This includes Christians.

The Iranian Christian News Agency reports raids from different cities of Iran indicate that security authorities are expanding their anti-Christian projects to exercise tighter surveillance of churches. Tippit says, "The government has cracked down on believers. It has become very difficult for them. Many have been thrown in prison. What we have been told is that the television broadcasts have become very important because it's dangerous for them to meet together."

Prior to Christmas, the intelligence minister of the Islamic Republic called the house church movement a threat to Iranian youth. He warned of a new series of broad actions against the spread of house churches. The mayor of Tehran has gone on record with an objection to evangelical Christianity.

"More than likely, it's going to get worse for them," says Tippit, adding, "We just really need to pray for them, lift them up to the Lord because what has happened in the past year has gotten much more difficult for them."

Sammy Tippit Ministries has long had presence in Iran's Church. Their Gospel work caught the attention of the government resulting in a declaration of their ministry as an "Enemy of the State." However, "We developed a Web site and started doing some leadership training with Iranian believers outside of the country. We actually started a television broadcast which went for several years, and we discontinued it last year."

Due to the changes sweeping across the country, Tippit's team is retooling the broadcast to meet the current needs. 

"We're starting it up this year with a whole new emphasis because there's been just incredible numbers of people who've come to Christ. We've been trying to help disciple them. The television broadcast has become very important because there's  revival that has taken place within Iran."

It's a Gospel grassroots movement igniting at a time when Iran is tinder-dry. Tippit urges prayer. "That type of a thing can reach right into the hearts and the homes of the people. We're really excited about the broadcasts that we'll be having. It will be primetime and with a new station that is starting satellite."

North Korea begins new day with old regime

(Associated Press screen grabs)

North Korea (MNN) ― North Korea sent off their "Dear Leader" Kim Jong-Il in  a massive ceremonial farewell Tuesday. At the same time, North Korea moved to strengthen a new personality cult around Kim's son and successor, Kim Jong-Un.

It's usually the unknown that has people on edge, wondering what changes will be coming with a successor. However, there's good and bad news on that front. Todd Nettleton is a spokesman for The Voice of the Martyrs USA. "I spoke the night after the announcement of Kim Jong-Il's death with one of our VOM workers who works on the Korean peninsula, and his message was,  'Don't look for any significant changes, at least in the short-term.'"

It's widely thought that Kim Jong-Il had been ill for some time, so the likelihood that whoever was running the country in his absence will continue to do so under the  name of Kim Jong-Un. "There were people who were making the decisions and keeping things going on his behalf. It is believed that those same people will now be in charge behind the scenes for Kim Jong-Un, maintain his authority, maintain his power."

The country has been known for its disregard for human and religious rights. North Korea's policies and practices that persecute believers have kept it atop the Open Doors World Watch List for over four years. It is estimated that between 50,000 to 70,000 Christians suffer in prison camps because of their faith. People rarely get out of alive.

Despite that, the reclusive nation claims they have freedom of religion. Nettleton explains, "If you acknowledge Kim Jong-Il as a divine being, if you pray to Kim Il Sung--the founder of North Korea, and expect him to provide blessings and provisions in your life, then there is religious freedom for you."

In practice, there is no freedom to build churches or to worship in homes. An estimated 400,000 Christians practice their faith in underground networks. Possession of a Bible or Christian material is illegal and punishable by death.
Two years ago, authorities stepped up their surveillance of Christians, and house searches are said to be more rigorous than in the past.   

Why the overkill response to Christians? Nettleton says believers are viewed as "a danger to society." "Locking people in concentration camps--not just the people who are assumed to be guilty of this crime but their parents and their children as well"-- is not an unusual response. "Three generations to try to rid the country of this Christian philosophy that undermines not only the religion of Juche and the religion of the Kim's as divine beings, but it undermines the legitimacy of the government itself."  

VOM has been working with persecuted believers in North Korea for decades, including launching thousands of Scripture balloons across into the notoriously closed country. They've also found another way to get the hope of Christ across the borders: "sending Gospel broadcasts across the border into North Korea. A part of that Gospel broadcast is slowly reading the Scripture so that people can write it down as the person is reading."  

Pray for the protection of believers living under harsh conditions and those who have defected to China. Ask God to use their courageous testimonies to draw non-believers into fellowship with Him. "Pray for the rest of North Korea to see the falsehood of the Juche religion and the falsehood of the Kim family as divine beings. We can pray that God will provide truth to them."

Report warns unrest could spread in Congo

(In Focus screen grab from Congo protest)

Congo-Kinshasa (MNN) ―The electoral commission in the Democratic Republic of Congo has called for backup.
In the chaos following the presidential and parliamentary vote, they're waiting for help from the United States and Britain before resuming the  ballot count in the parliamentary elections.  

Accusations of ballot-rigging have plagued the presidential election, and with roughly 19 000 candidates vying for one of the 500 seats in the National Assembly, the commission is taking no chances. The results of the parliamentary polls are due to be announced on January 13.

A cloud of doubt remains over the announced results from the presidential election. Both the European Union and the U.S. State Department have also expressed severe reservations about the vote's legitimacy, although the country's Supreme Court validated the results.

With that green light, Joseph Kabila was sworn in for another term in office as president of DR Congo eight days ago. In his first week in office, he's faced a public relations nightmare. A Human Rights Watch report lays blame for the deaths of at least 24 people on Congolese security forces. 

Even as he reportedly promised to safeguard national unity, tanks were to prevent protests. Meanwhile, Opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi maintains he won the poll and had himself sworn in December 23. As a result, there were concerns that post-election violence could spread.

Although the region is one of the biggest and oldest fields for Grace Ministries International, Sam Vinton says so far, they've not been disrupted. "I think that in the Eastern Congo area, where we work from the main cities, I've heard of no real conflict. We've had no communications of any adverse effect on our ministries."

As for the warning of spreading violence, Vinton says it's unlikely to spread to the area where they're working. "A lot of the people in the area where most of our churches are located were probably pro-president (Kabila). But I think in the area of central Congo, where the main opposition is located, I can see that area being in torment and a lot of trouble."

The upheaval has had very little negative impact on their latest evangelistic outreach. In fact,  "It's just amazing how the response continues. We've run out of the 'Book of Hope,' and yet we're showing the DVD of the 'GodMan' and also working in the actual schools. The last report is that close to 4000 students have trusted Christ as their Savior."

4,000 more students coming to Christ, needing discipleship, and a local church body. The GMI team is scrambling to keep up with the demand, because they've run out of everything, and they're trying to get the local churches ready for the onslaught of new believers.

God's hand is all over this project which started with a goal of hoping to see 1000 accept Christ. A year down the road, God has answered beyond their wildest imaginations. "The responsiveness of the students is a remarkable thing when we look back a number of years when it wasn't there. We're pushing forward. We have a team of nine men who are doing this work, and we're just trying to get more funding so that we can keep them going."

It's clear that despite the bullhorns of the rallies and the political jockeying going on, that the voice being heard loudest is the Still Small One.   

Muslim Extremists in Uganda Throw Acid on Bishop

Muslim extremists threw acid on Bishop Umar
 Mulinde outside his church near Kampala.
{Photo: Compass Direct)

Burns threaten eyesight of church leader who opposed Islamic courts.
Islamic extremists threw acid on a church leader on Christmas Eve shortly after a seven-day revival at his church, leaving him with severe burns that have blinded one eye and threaten sight in the other.

Bishop Umar Mulinde, 37, a sheikh (Islamic teacher) before his conversion to Christianity, was attacked on Saturday night (Dec. 24) outside his Gospel Life Church International building in Namasuba, about 10 kilometers (six miles) outside of Kampala. From his hospital bed in Kampala, he told Compass that he was on his way back to the site for a party with the entire congregation and hundreds of new converts to Christianity when a man who claimed to be a Christian approached him.

“I heard him say in a loud voice, ‘Pastor, pastor,’ and as I made a turn and looked at him, he poured the liquid onto my face as others poured more liquid on my back and then fled away shouting, ‘Allahu akbar[God is greater],’” Mulinde said, still visibly traumatized two days after the assault.

A neighbor and church members rushed him to a hospital in the Mengo area of Kampala, and he was then transferred to International Hospital Kampala.

“I have to continue fighting this pain – it is too much,” Mulinde said. “My entire body is in pain. Most of the night I miss sleep.”

His face, neck and arms bore deep black scars from the acid, and his lips were swollen.

“The burn caused by the acid is so severe that there is an urgent need for specialized treatment,” said area Christian Musa Baluku Symutsangira. “I suggest that he be flown outside the country as soon as possible; otherwise Mulinde might lose both of his eyes, coupled with the spread of the burns. The burns seemed to spread and go very deep. He might need some plastic surgery.”

A doctor told Compass that acid burns cover about 30 percent of his face and has cost him sight in one eye.

“We are doing all we can to save his other remaining eye and to contain the acid from spreading to other parts of the body,” the doctor said.

Mulinde’s shirt, tie and suit were in tatters after the attack.

Mulinde said his father, Id Wasswa, was a local prayer leader or imam.

“I was born into a Muslim family, and although I decided to become a Christian, I have been financially assisting many Muslims, as well as my relatives who are Muslims,” he said. “I have been conducting a peaceful evangelism campaign.”

Mulinde said Muslim extremists opposed to his conversion from Islam and his outspoken opposition ofsharia (Islamic law) courts in Uganda, known in East Africa as Kadhi courts, attacked him. On Oct. 15, area Muslim leaders declared a fatwa against him demanding his death.

“I have been receiving several threats for a long time, and this last one is the worst of all,” Mulinde said. “I have bore the marks of Jesus.”

Mulinde is known for debates locally and internationally in which he often challenges Muslims regarding their religion. His extensive knowledge and quotation of the Quran in his preaching has won him enemies and friends. Often criticizing Islam, he has relied on police protection during revival campaigns throughout Uganda.

“Mulinde poses a big threat to those who cannot take the challenge as he engages the Muslims in debate,” said Dr. Joseph Serwadda, an area church leader.

A church guard who was away on the day of the attack said he felt responsible.

“I feel bad,” he said. “I feel I have failed in my duty as a guard.”

Mulinde is married and has six children ages 14, 12, 8, 6 and twins who are 3.

Police have reportedly arrested one suspect, whom they have declined to name. A divisional commander at Katwa police station identified only as Kateebe would say only that an investigation was underway.

The hospital charges 350,000 Uganda shillings (US$140 dollars) per day, a steep amount in Uganda.

“We appeal for our brothers and sisters wherever they are to assist the life of Bishop Umar Mulinde,” said Symutsangira.

Several Attacks
Mulinde, who lives and pastors in Namasuba outside of Kampala, in April led religious leaders in petitioning the Ugandan Parliament to refrain from amending the constitution to introduce Kadhi courts.

He collected 360,000 signatures from former Muslims who have converted to Christianity, he said, and managed to temporarily stop parliament from proposing the constitutional change. When Compass met with Mulinde in November, however, he said there was new momentum to revive the Kadhi courts issue.

In May he was attacked by suspected Muslim extremists after a series of campaigns against Kadhi courts in Namasuba. After presenting his case against the Kadhi courts, he narrowly escaped a kidnap attempt when his vehicle was blocked at eight kilometers (five miles) outside of Kampala at Ndege, two kilometers from his home in Namasuba. Muslim extremists jumped out of the vehicle and shot at the fleeing Mulinde but missed him. He reported the case at the Katwa police station.

Mulinde has faced several injuries and attacks from Muslims since his conversion to Christianity in 1993, including having stones thrown at him after debates in 1998 and 2002.

After Kenya maintained Kadhi courts in its new constitution last year, the attorney general of Uganda wanted to insert Kadhi courts – which presumably would deal only with marriage and family issues for Muslims – into the Ugandan constitution. But Mulinde argued that there would be two judicial systems governing one country.

“If Muslims who convert to Christianity are facing persecution from the Muslims now, then what will be their fate when the Kadhi courts are entrenched in the constitution?” he said.

When Mulinde converted from Islam to Christianity, his family drove him away with clubs and machetes. Since then, he has suffered numerous life-threatening attacks. In 1995 at Mbiji, he was attacked with clubs but managed to escape. In 1998 he was attacked at Kangulomila near Jinja town. In 2000 in Masaka, Muslims bribed the area district commissioner to declare Mulinde’s meetings illegal; Muslims stormed into one of the meetings and dragged him out, beating him till he lost consciousness. Police saved him.

In 2001 in Busia, while addressing another meeting, a Muslim extremist narrowly missed killing him with a sword. In 1994, he survived a gun attack at Natete, near Kampala, when a bullet narrowly missed him. He said that as he fell into muddy waters, his Muslim attackers, thinking they had killed him, said, “Allah akbar.”

Because of the threats against him – in October Muslim extremists sent him text messages threatening to assassinate him – Mulinde had relocated to another area in Uganda.

He has vowed to continue fighting for the rights of the former Muslims haunted by radical Islamists.


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Deadly Nigeria Bomb Attacks Condemned by World Leaders

By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service

Damage after the explosion at St Theresa
 Catholic church at Madalla 
(Photo via SkyNEWS website).

LONDON (ANS) -- There has been widespread condemnation in the international community of a series of Christmas Day bomb attacks in Nigeria that killed almost 40 people.

The White House said the attacks were “senseless violence,” and the British foreign secretary called them “cowardly.”

According to a story by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), militant Islamist group Boko Haram said it carried out the attacks.

A blast outside a church near the capital Abuja claimed 35 lives, while a police officer died in the city of Jos and four people were killed in Damaturu.

The BBC reported Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan said the attacks were “an unwarranted affront on our collective safety and freedom.”

He added, “Nigerians must stand as one to condemn them.”

The BBC reported the White House said initial investigation showed the attacks were “terrorist acts,” and pledged to help Nigeria bring those responsible to justice.

Spokesman Jay Carney said, “We condemn this senseless violence and tragic loss of life on Christmas Day. We offer our sincere condolences to the Nigerian people, and especially those who lost family and loved ones.”

The BBC said French President Nicolas Sarkozy expressed “solidarity in (Nigeria's)fight against terrorism.”

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said, “Even on Christmas Day, the world is not spared from cowardice and the fear of terrorism.”

According to the BBC UK Foreign Secretary William Hague said, “These are cowardly attacks on families gathered in peace and prayer to celebrate a day which symbolizes harmony and goodwill towards others. I offer my condolences to the bereaved and injured.”

Israel said it would send medical aid to Nigeria, and that it “condemned in the strongest terms these attacks carried out on Christmas Day.”

The BBC reported the Vatican said attacking a church was “blind hatred” seeking to “arouse and feed even more hatred and confusion.”

President Jonathan, who is a Christian, said “I want to reassure all Nigerians that the government will not relent in its determination to bring to justice all the perpetrators.”

Angry Crowds

The BBC said the first attack, outside St Theresa's Church in Madalla, near Abuja, killed 35 and wounded more than 50.

The church and surrounding homes were badly damaged.

The BBC said Father Christopher Barde told AFP news agency the blast occurred as the Christmas morning service was ending.

“It was really terrible,” he said. “Some (wounded) people ran towards me (saying), ‘Father anoint me.’”

The BBC said crowds grew angry over the attack and the slow response of the emergency services.

According to the BBC Reuters reported that thousands of youth erected roadblocks on the road from the capital to the largely Muslim north, and were tackled by security forces firing tear gas.

In Jos, a blast close to the Mountain of Fire and Miracles Church was followed by gunfire that left one officer dead, government spokesman Pam Ayuba told the Associated Press.

The BBC said two explosive devices found in a nearby building were disarmed as military were deployed to the site.

In Damaturu, in the north-east, there were two explosions. One was a suicide car bomb attack on a convoy of the State Security Service. BBC correspondents reported that four people were killed there, including the suicide bomber.

There was also an explosion in the nearby town of Gadaka.

Damaturu and Gadaka are both in Yobe state, which has been the epicenter of violence between security forces and Boko Haram militants. The BBC said more than 60 people have died in fighting there this week.

The BBC said a spokesman for Boko Haram, Abul-Qaqa, told local media it carried out the bomb attacks.

Boko Haram, which means “Western education is forbidden,” wants the imposition of Sharia law.

The BBC said the group carried out an Aug. 2011 suicide attack on the UN headquarters in Abuja, in which more than 20 people were killed.

It was also responsible for a string of bomb blasts in Jos on Christmas Eve 2010.

Jeremy Reynalds is Senior Correspondent for the ASSIST News Service, a freelance writer and also the founder and CEO of Joy Junction, New Mexico's largest emergency homeless shelter, He has a master's degree in communication from the University of New Mexico, and a Ph.D. in intercultural education from Biola University in Los Angeles. His newest book is "Homeless in the City."

Additional details on "Homeless in the City" are available at Reynalds lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico. For more information contact: Jeremy Reynalds at

** You may republish this story with proper attribution.

Kid's curriculum loses the fluff

(Photo courtesy of Kids of Courage)

USA (MNN) ― This isn’t your typical, everyday Sunday school lesson. No fluff or watering-down can be found in this latest Vacation Bible School curriculum.

The Voice of the Martyrs just came out with their Kids of Courage curriculum, a challenging series that presents the reality of persecution, forgiveness, and what being strong in your faith really means.

A VOM worker who helped prepare the curriculum says, “A lot of kids can learn about persecution without going into graphic detail. They can learn that we can trust God when we are having problems, and we can even praise Him.”
The curriculum comes with over 50 stories from countries like China, Egypt, India, Nigeria and North Korea where Christians are persecuted daily for their faith.

It also takes care of group leaders by providing crafts and skits for them to use. There’s enough material for leaders to choose which stories and activities are age-appropriate for the group they are teaching.

“Leaders and teachers have said they have wanted to teach children about persecution but they didn’t know how to do it in an age-appropriate way,” says VOM staff member. “They like it when the kids are able to study the same thing as the adults. We have stories that are current about kids their age that are happening right now. Everything in the curriculum is country related or persecution related.”

Some churches have already taken the curriculum and adapted it into a youth program or teaching series. The Kids of Courage curriculum is only $45 and can be purchased

Youth Pastor William Thompson states, “As a youth minister, I tend to stay away from lessons that are watered down. In today’s world, I think people need reality rather than fantasy. We enjoyed the curriculum so much, we are going to use it during our Wednesday night youth program so that even more kids learn about the persecuted church and how to be a kid of courage!”

Nigeria fears more Church attacks likely

(Cover photo by Associated
 Press /Sunday Aghaeze)

Nigeria (MNN) ― The Islamist group Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for a number of sophisticated attacks. The group has strong links to al-Qaeda and has been growing quickly in the nine years since its inception. 

Jerry Dykstra, spokesman forOpen Doors USA, says, "We've known that the situation in Nigeria has deteriorated this past year." Recent attacks prove they're intent on making good their threats to push for a caliphate (a government established in Islam) in Nigeria.

This year, bomb attacks ripped through three churches in central Nigeria on Christmas Day, killing over two dozen people. Investigators say the blast at one house of worship near the capital city, Abuja, struck as the service was ending and worshippers were filing out. 

On Christmas Eve last year, a series of bomb blasts around Jos killed 32 people and wounded more than 70 others.  
What's disconcerting about the attacks is that they're showing the militants have gone from sporadic bursts to planning designed to create the most fear and chaos among Christians.   Dykstra explains, "As a result of them being more organized, we've seen more frequent attacks, (that has been underreported, I believe)  and more coordinated, more sophisticated and even going into the South."

Nigerian leaders have been openly criticized by opponents for their slow response to the growing security threats. 

Dykstra notes that the picture emerging bears a chilling resemblance to Iraq's remnant church. "According to people living in the country, the response of the government has been too slow. It looks like what happened in Iraq, where the churches were attacked, and the government did not protect any of those churches. Christians in Iraq fled."

Boko Haram's attacks risk reopening old wounds between the mostly-Muslim north and largely-Christian south. Church leaders in the most vulnerable areas are afraid they're being left to fend for themselves, a conclusion that Dykstra thinks will take the form of more violence against believers in 2012.

The terror they've created and their connection with al-Qaeda seems to have emboldened the Boko Haram. "What they want is really Sharia law all across Nigeria, and they want some of their members released from jail. I think it does not bode well for next year because there could be a civil war in Nigeria, and that could have tremendous repercussions."

Civil war would mean a significant disruption for church planters and others doing Gospel work. Pray for their partners.

 "Nigeria is such a key country for Christians throughout all of Africa. They send out hundreds of thousands of missionaries," Dykstra notes, adding that regardless of what happens in the days ahead, "Open Doors is involved with supporting Christians in crisis situations like this, giving holistic community development, also distributing Bibles and training up leaders."

Chinese Christian attorney receives sentence

Gao Zhisheng receives a
 prison sentence in China.

China (MNN) ― Gao Zhisheng, the Christian human rights lawyer in China, has been given a three-year prison sentence for "violating the terms of his probation," despite having been missing since April 2010.

According to Christian Solidarity Worldwide's Web site, news of the sentence was reported in Chinese State Media on Friday 16 December. The sentence relates to his 2006 probationary sentence (three years' imprisonment and five years' probation) for "subversion of state power" that is due to expire next week. Gao has not yet appeared in public. There are concerns that he has been severely tortured while missing, as has happened in prior detention. Gao's brother in China and his wife in the U.S. have not been informed formally about Gao's return to prison. There has been no news of his whereabouts, condition, or health since April 2010, and Chinese authorities have repeatedly avoided questions from the international community about his case.

The prominent self-taught lawyer--twice-nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize--first went missing on 4 February 2009. 

Following a brief reappearance in March 2010, Gao went missing again on 20 April as he traveled home to Beijing after visiting relatives in Xinjiang province. He reported being subject to severe torture in detention, and there are grave concerns for his health and well-being. Gao's wife and two children fled from China and are now living in the U.S.

Gao, who was once named one of China's Top Ten Lawyers by the Ministry of Justice, attracted attention from authorities for defending cases of religious persecution, including house church leaders and Falun Gong practitioners. In 2007 he wrote an open letter to U.S. Congress highlighting the use of torture by Chinese authorities.

Mervyn Thomas, Chief Executive of Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), said, "CSW calls upon the Chinese government to release Gao Zhisheng immediately. It is inconceivable that a man who has gone missing at the hands of the authorities could have violated the terms of his probation, and we ask the international community to express their support for Gao in the strongest terms. His disappearance represents a grave denial of rights to a Chinese citizen who has dared to speak up about injustice."

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) is a Christian organization working for religious freedom through advocacy and human rights, in the pursuit of justice.