Monday, November 18, 2013

Will it change anything?

(Story photo courtesy Compass Direct)
Nigeria (MNN) ― After four years of jihad, the U.S. finally declares Boko Haram a terrorist organization.

The decision came last week, and Open Doors USA President/CEO David Curry says it's not clear why this designation took so long.

"What is clear is that across the board, our government seems to be hesitating on calling out Christian persecution, wherever it's happening across the globe," says Curry.

"[The U.S. has] some geopolitical connections with these governments, in many, many cases, but yet we're not encouraging them to crack down, try to protect Christians where persecution is happening."

Boko Haram, whose name means "Western education is sin," has been attacking churches and believers in northern Nigeria since 2009. The U.S. State Department designated three of Boko Haram's top leaders as terrorists in June 2012, but stopped short of applying the label to the entire group.

"We would love to see more responsiveness on this point, and really calling it what it is when it happens, wherever it happens," says Curry.

According to an official statement issued last Wednesday, the terror designations forbid a provision of "material resources" to Boko Haram and splinter group Ansaru.

"Without these kinds of designations, I don't think people take them seriously," Curry explains.

"They sort of sense that maybe they're random; but these aren't random attacks. These are planned attacks; these are targeted attacks in the northern part of Nigeria to eliminate, to squeeze out, Christianity in those regions."

Curry hopes the designation means more than just words on paper.

"We hope that there'll be dollars available, that there'll be anti-terrorist training continuing for some of their police forces and military forces that will help to protect Christians there," Curry states.

But the actions of Nigerian Christians speak volumes.

"Christians are praying there; they're holding together in unity," says Curry. "They are saying, 'We have to find a spiritual solution, because a practical, physical solution seems to be so slow here on the ground'."

Will you join them?

"Pray for those families that have been directly affected by loss of life," Curry suggests.

"There are people, entire congregations, who've lost their church, their pastors have been killed. We want the freedom for people to go to church without fear of being hurt, without fear of the church being bombed.

"These are simple things that we don't even think twice about here in the States, but would be very important things to pray for--not just in Nigeria, but around the world."

VOM Canada will keep caring for the persecuted, no matter what

(Photos courtesy Wikipedia/Al Jazeera/Flickr CC)
Nigeria (MNN) ― A long-awaited decision has been made. The U.S. State Department recently designated Nigeria's radical Islamic militant group Boko Haram and splinter group Ansaru as Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTO).

"I guess it's a little bit disappointing in the fact that it's taken so long.... The Boko Haram have been going since 2009," says Voice of the Martyrs Canada spokesman Greg Musselman.

The designation, however, probably won't affect their work among Christian families attacked by the terrorist group, he adds.

"There's a lot of pressure put on our organization and other organizations, especially in the area of medical and helping the persecuted Christians there. But in terms of our work, no, it won't affect it," states Musselman, "unless the Boko Haram stops--and we don't see that happening anytime soon, unfortunately."

Who are the Boko Haram?

"They want to set up an Islamic state...with strict Sharia law. They've got this in their mind that Christians are of the West," Musselman explains.

"Boko Haram means 'against Western education' or 'Western education is sinful.' They want nothing to do with the West, and they see Christianity--particularly evangelical Christian--as being American or Western."

Boko Haram has killed at least 2,000 people over the past four years, many of them Christians.

"I've seen figures of 3,600 people who've been killed, mainly up in the northern part of Nigeria," says Musselman. "It's not just Christians they're attacking; they're a very violent group."

In 2012, the International Criminal Court issued a report concluding Boko Haram is guilty of committing "Crimes Against Humanity." The ICC's prosecutor clearly found that Boko Haram has "attacked religious clerics, Christians, political leaders, Muslims opposing the group, members of the police and security forces, 'westerners,' journalists, as well as UN personnel."

Voice of the Martyrs USA spokesman Todd Nettleton also noted a frustrating avoidance among U.S. leadership of the Boko Haram's religious motivations.

"[Boko Haram's] motivation for those crimes is obviously radical Islam and pushing a Sharia agenda, and yet our government says that Boko Haram is the result of 'economic imbalance' in Nigeria and 'lack of educational opportunities,'" says Nettleton.

In light of the past four years' death toll, it's easy to get overwhelmed by Boko Haram's widespread and ongoing reign of terror. "People just kind of put their hands up in the air and say, 'There's nothing we can do'" notes Musselman.

"Of course, that's not true. There is much we can do."

It all starts with prayer. "Our prayer really needs to be for the Church in Nigeria, that they will be strong," says Musselman.

New believers persecuted for faith

Remember to pray for
 those who are persecuted.
South Asia (GFA/MNN) ― Last year, 100 million believers worldwide suffered persecution for their faith, many of them living in South Asia, according to the Open Doors World Watch List. Six of the countries in which Gospel for Asia missionaries work are listed in the top 40 countries where persecution is most intense.

For men, women, and children in these countries, following Christ often means being fired from jobs, disowned by families, beaten, imprisoned, or even sentenced to death. They stand firm in their faith, declaring Jesus to be worth all their suffering.

Gospel for Asia missionary Dipal ministers in an area dominated by devout followers of a traditional Asian religion. There are three temples in just one village he visits.

The strict religiosity did not keep Dipal from sharing the love of Christ with the villagers, though. Many of them were interested in the literature Dipal gave to them, and they invited him to teach them more about Jesus.

After hearing the Word of God, 15 families decided to follow the Lord and publicly proclaim their decision.

One young man, Rebanta, who had been ill for the previous six months passed away shortly after he chose to embrace God’s love.

“Why did you all become Christians?” the more extreme religious villagers asked Rebanta’s family. “You lost your son because you became a Christian.”

The fanatic group would not stop at voicing their disapproval. They interrupted the burial service and would not let the family bury their son because that act would betray their religious traditions.

Finally, Rebanta’s family gave in to the pressure. They cremated Rebanta instead of burying him, according to the practice of their ancestors. The family doesn’t spend time with other believers anymore, and they no longer go to church. Ultimately, they decided against following Jesus.

Some of the fanatics threatened Dipal, too, and warned him against coming to their village. Dipal continues to visit the community, despite the threats. He encourages the believers with prayer.

While some of the other new believers were shaken by the opposition, they remain unmoved. They said they will follow Christ until they die.

As persecution happens all around us, pray that our brothers and sisters in Christ will continue to stand firm in their faith. Pray that families in Christ will not be shaken by the pressure of others.

Christian Shot Dead in Mogadishu

Somalia Muslim neighbor says gunmen sought him for spreading"'wrong religion." 

By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service

NAIROBI, KENYA (ANS) -- Gunmen who said they intended to kill a Christian in Mogadishu, Somalia for spreading his faith shot him to death last month, the victim's neighbor said.

According to a story by Morning Star News, two men armed with pistols shot Abdikhani Hassan seven times as he approached his home after closing his pharmacy in Kharkinley District on Oct. 20, his Muslim neighbor told a Morning Star News source.

Hassan is survived by his wife, who is pregnant, and five children ranging in age from 3 to 12.

Before killing Hassan, one of the assailants told the neighbor, "We have information that Hassan is spreading wrong religion to our people, and we are looking for him," the neighbor said.

"I got so frightened as the two young men left," said the neighbor, whose identity is withheld for security reasons.

Morning Star News said the unidentified attackers did not rob Hassan of anything.

Islamic extremists from the Al Shabaab rebel group have killed several Christians in the past few years, and although the group no longer controls Mogadishu, a few rebels hiding their militant identity remain in the capital, a source said.

"The men w ho murdered Abdikhani are suspected to be Al Shabaab militia, and the government is carrying out an investigation looking for the two killers," he said.

Al Shabaab, the Somali cell of Al Qaeda, has vowed to rid Somalia of its Christians, who meet secretly in the country where apostasy, or leaving Islam, is punishable by death.
The group is suspected of killing Fatuma Isak Elmi, 35, on Sept. 1 inside her home in Beledweyne, Hiran Province in south-central Somalia.

Morning Star News said her husband had received a threatening note that morning believed to be from the Islamic extremist group and was away at the time of the murder.

Al Shabaab's attack on the upscale Westgate Shopping Mall in Nairobi, Kenya on Sept. 21 killed at least 67 people, with dozens still unaccounted for.

On April 13, Al Shabaab militants shot Fartun Omar to death in Buulodbarde, 20 kilometers (12 miles) from Beledweyne.

Omar was the widow of Mursal Isse Siad, killed for his faith on Dec. 8, 2012 in Beledweyne, 20 6 miles (332 kilometers) north of Mogadishu. He had been receiving death threats for leaving Islam.

Morning Star News said Siad and his wife, who converted to Christianity in 2000, had moved to Beledweyne from Doolow eight months before.

The area was under government control and there was no indication that the killers belonged to the Al Shabaab rebels, but the Islamic extremist insurgents were present in Buulodbarde, and Christians believed a few Al Shabaab rebels could have been hiding in Beledweyne.

On June 7 in Jamaame District in southern Somalia, insurgents from the group shot 28-year-old Hassan Hurshe to death after identifying him as a Christian, sources said. Al Shabaab members brought Hurshe to a public place in the town of Jilib and shot him in the head, they said.

On Feb. 18, Morning Star News reported, suspected Islamic extremists shot Ahmed Ali Jimale, a 42-year-old father of four, on the outskirts of the coastal city of Kismayo.

In the coastal city of Barawa on Nov. 16, 2012, Al S habaab militants killed a Christian after accusing him of being a spy and leaving Islam, Christian and Muslim witnesses said. The extremists beheaded Farhan Haji Mose, 25, after monitoring his movements for six months, sources said.

Mose drew suspicion when he returned to Barawa, in the Lower Shebelle Region, in December 2011 after spending time in Kenya, according to underground Christians in Somalia.

Kenya's population is nearly 83 percent Christian, according to Operation World, while Somalia's is close to 100 percent Muslim.

For information about Morning Star News visit

Turkish pastor arrested on human trafficking accusations

Pastor says deliberate plot was hatched to discredit his church

Pastor Orhan Picaklar was arrested on Monday.
Samsun Agape Church
A Turkish Protestant pastor arrested by police in the Black Sea province of Samsun this week is accused of involvement in prostitution and the human trafficking of refugees.
Pastor Orhan Picaklar of the Samsun Agape Church was summoned to local police headquarters for questioning on Monday afternoon (November 11). The pastor was detained until Wednesday evening in a police investigation led by the Morals Bureau of the Public Order Division. The criminal case was reportedly based on a telephoned complaint from an unidentified person.
Picaklar and his congregation have been accused repeatedly of “illegal missionary activities” by local TV channels and newspapers, claiming the church used bribery and prostitution to deceive young people and convert them to Christianity. The church building itself has been vandalised, stoned and its windows broken a number of times. The pastor continues to receive death threats over the telephone and internet, and was once kidnapped by men posing as plainclothes policemen.

Christians face extinction in Middle East, warns UK Minister

Baroness Warsi says the situation for Christians has become a global crisis

Baroness Warsi on a visit to Pakistan in 2010.
DFID / Flickr / Creative Commons
A UK Foreign Office Minister has warned that Christians in some parts of the world face extinction because of violence against them.
Ahead of a speech at Georgetown University in Washington today, Baroness Warsi told the BBC that this “persecution” has become a global crisis.
Baroness Warsi said the situation was bleak for many religious minorities, but particularly for Christians.
For the Baroness, the key is for politicians in countries with a Christian minority to speak out against discrimination. Beyond speaking out, Baroness Warsi urged politicians to keep their word by ensuring that their national constitutions are met and that international human rights laws are followed.
“We have international articles which are the most translated on freedom of religion but they’re not implemented, so it’s not just about having laws, it’s about politicians having the political will to implement these laws.”

All eyes on Sri Lanka as Commonwealth summit begins

Some world leaders boycott summit, citing human rights abuses

Dambulla cave temple. Around 70 per cent of the population are Buddhists.
James Gordon / Flickr / Creative Commons
Sri Lanka’s human rights record has been questioned as a Commonwealth summit takes place in Colombo.
Several Commonwealth leaders have boycotted the event, while British Prime Minister David Cameron has pledged to ask “tough questions” of Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Sixty-four acts of violence against Protestant Christians – many linked to extremist Buddhist group Bodu Bala Sena – were recorded between January and September of this year, including arson, church demolitions, mob attacks and assaults, reports Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW).
The National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanks (NCEASL) now has the figure at 65.

Two Small Children among Four Christians Slain in Plateau State, Nigeria

Ethnic Fulani herdsmen again suspected

By Dan Wooding, who was born in Nigeria
Founder of ASSIST Ministries

JOS, NIGERIA (ANS) -- Gunmen who killed four family members in their home in Plateau state this month, including 2-year-old and 4-year-old boys, were likely Muslim herdsmen, church leaders said.

Fulani herdsmen on a rampage
According to the Nigeria Correspondent for Morning Star News ( in Rantis village, 70 kilometers (43 miles) south of Jos, the suspected ethnic Fulani Muslims launched a guerilla attack on a home at about 7 p.m. on Nov. 4 (not the wee hours of Nov. 5 as Nigerian newspapers reported), pastors said.

Killed were Joel Pam, 50; his wife, Jemimah Pam, 40; and two of their children, 2-year-old Jephtah and 4-year-old Joseph, said the Rev. Dacholom Datiri of the Church of Christ in Nations (COCIN).
The Rev. Dacholom Datiri of the Church of Christ in Nations (COCIN). (Morning Star News)
"These attacks are on the increase as they are being carried out against our church members almost on a daily basis, and the security personnel seem helpless in checking them," Datiri told Morning Star News.

The victims belonged to Datiri's church. The couple's two surviving children, 10-year-old Susannah and 15-year-old Alfa, were wounded in the attack. Both of them are receiving treatment at Jos University Teaching Hospital, he said.

Capt. Salisu Mustapha of the Nigerian Army, and a spokesman for the Special Task Force created to help prevent such attacks, confirmed the raid.

"Yes, we received a distress call from that community and we sent out security personnel there to contain the situation," Mustapha said.

The story went on to say that assault on Rantis village took place after a similar attack occurred in Gyel village, near Jos, on Nov. 2, when Muslim Fulani gunmen carried out a night-long attack on Christians, though no lives were lost, sources said.

Davou Pam, pastor of the local COCIN congregation in the area, told Morning Star News that the assailants were Muslim Fulani herdsmen.

The Rev. Davou Pam, COCIN pastor in Gura Dabwam. (Morning Star News)
"They [Christian villagers] sent distress calls to me that night pleading that we inform security agencies about their plight," said Pastor Pam of the COCIN congregation in Gura Dabwam, two kilometers from Gyel. "We thank God that some vigilantes were able to rush there to assist the members of the community, and so no life was lost in the attack."

Morning Star News stated that Christians believe Islamic extremist groups have increasingly incited Fulani Muslims to attack them in Plateau state as well as in Kaduna, Bauchi, Nasarawa and Benue states. They fear that Fulani herdsmen, with backing from Islamic extremist groups, want to take over the predominantly Christian areas in order to acquire land for grazing, stockpile arms and expand Islamic territory.

Christians make up 51.3 percent of Nigeria's population of 158.2 million, while Muslims account for 45 percent. Those practicing indigenous religions may be as high as 10 percent of the total population, according to Operation World, so the percentages of Christians and Muslims may be less.

Other communities that have come under similar attacks by Fulani herdsmen this year include Bakin Kogi Foron, Kuru, Kassa, Maseh, Kuzen, Mile Bakwai, Kirim Attakar and Kakuruk, pastors said.

During one week in April, 17 Christians were killed in attacks by Muslim Fulanis on the Christian communities of Dakum, Tanjol, Gilgare, Gero, Gyel, Rim, Jol and Tashek in the Barkin Ladi and Riyom Local Government Areas of the state.
The Rev. Barnabas Kebang of
COCIN church in Bokkos.
 (Morning Star News)

The Rev. Barnabas Kebang of COCIN told Morning Star News that nine Christians were killed in Ratas village on March 29, and another 20 Christians were killed in the Bokkos Local Government Area, where he ministers as chairperson of the local COCIN congregations.

"These attacks by these Fulani herdsmen have become very common in our villages," Kebang said.

"They attack members of our churches at will, and no arrests have been made of any of the attackers."

Also in March, four Christian members of one family who worship with the COCIN congregation in Heipang, an airport village south of Jos, were killed in an attack by Muslim Fulani herdsmen, Pastor Pam said. Those killed in the March 17 attack included Dung Bot, 80; Rwang Davou, 71; Pam Rwang Davou, 47; and Martins Pam Rwang Davou, 6, he said.

In February, the church leaders said, Fulani herdsmen killed three members of a church in Kassa village near Barkin Ladi town. Kassa is about five kilometers (three miles) from Heipang.

Datiri appealed for more concerted efforts to put end to attacks.

Last month in the Bakin Kogi Foron of Plateau state, in an effort to to downplay the religious motives of an attack by Fulani Muslim herdsmen that killed 10 Christians in three villages, government officials tried to attribute it to "cattle rustling." A Morning Star News visit to the home where eight members of one family were killed on Oct. 10 revealed the presence of no cows.

The Fulani Muslims also attacked the villages of Zatsitsa-Kudeson and Chehwyanang, also in the Bakin Kogi Foron area of Barkin Ladi Local Government Area in central Nigeria, killing two other Christians, sources said.

Nigerian newspaper reports erroneously identifying the names of villages and victims and describing the raid as an incident of "cattle rustling" in which residents supposedly engaged the assailants in gun-battle, were speculative and not based on facts obtained first-hand, local Christians told Morning Star News.