SANTA ANA, Calif., Jan. 11, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — This week, persecution watchdog Open Doors USA will announce the 2021 World Watch List, its anticipated annual ranking of the top 50 countries where it is most dangerous to be a Christian – and provide a surprising update on significant shifts in the landscape of Christian persecution worldwide. Open Doors USA President and CEO David Curry will address media and viewers at an online press conference at 10 a.m. ET, Wednesday, January 13th.
Research-based and highly-cited, the 2021 World Watch List report will reveal disturbing new trends including an opportunistic expansion of extremist violence from Nigeria into Sub-Saharan Africa, implications of technology’s increasing role in the persecution of religious minorities, and new data indicating one-in-eight Christians now suffer for their religious beliefs worldwide. The report will also reveal how and why after several years in an otherwise static position, China’s ranking on the list jumped significantly.
Open Doors USA President and CEO David Curry will also release the organizations’ research and findings on the specific impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on religious minorities worldwide. According to Open Doors, the confluence of COVID and technology in 2020 had ominous consequences across the globe, opening avenues for the spread of violence, discrimination and oppression against religious minorities, and gave rise to a surveillance state.
Curry will be joined by Dr. Chris Meserole, a fellow in Foreign Policy at the Brookings Institution and director of research and policy of the Brookings Artificial Intelligence and Emerging Technology Initiative. Meserole will share trends, projections and implications on religious freedom and censorship.
“The COVID pandemic has been used as a justification to exact religious terror. The interconnectivity of technology, in the hands of evil actors, has massive human rights implications for everybody with a smartphone,” Curry said.
US Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, Sam Brownback, will also make a statement to viewers.
Open Doors’ findings will be illustrated by multiple firsthand narratives from recent victims of religious persecution, including a Nigerian healthcare worker widowed by Boko Haram, a former pastor in China’s Three-Self Patriotic movement church, a Uighur-American whose family is detained by China, and an Iranian Christian surveilled by secret police. The organization will issue a challenge Americans to pledge to pray for the persecuted by visiting ODUSA.org/PLEDGE.
Press may register for the 2021 World Watch List press conference HERE. For more information and interview scheduling, please email [email protected].
About Open Doors USA
For more than 60 years, Open Doors USA has worked in the world’s most oppressive and restrictive countries for Christians. Open Doors works to equip and encourage Christians living in dangerous circumstances with the threat of persecution and to mobilize the Western church to pray and advocate for the persecuted. Christians are one of the most persecuted religious groups in the world and are oppressed in at least 60 countries. For more information, visit OpenDoorsUSA.org.
Christian charity Release International is forecasting that persecution of Christians in China and India will increase in 2021.
The report says China has managed to avoid the scrutiny of the international community thanks to its strong trading relationships.
Chinese authorities “have bought freedom from censure due to trade with China. Many countries now regard this trade as essential to their own economies,’ International Release partners say.
“The government of President Xi Jinping is increasing its “clean up” of anything that does not advance the communist agenda. They appear to believe that they can achieve this by systematic opposition,” they continued.
Non-registered churches have been raided and closed in 2020 and increasing numbers of registered churches have been made to install CCTV cameras.
Earlier this month, Bob Fu, one of the leading advocates for persecuted Christian in China, faced bomb threats against his family in the US.
According to Mr Fu, the Chinese government has taken advantage of the coronavirus pandemic to strengthen restrictions on underground believers.
“The Chinese government is trying every way to take advantage of the virus by increasing the crackdown against Christian churches,” Mr Fu said. ‘It has accelerated particular campaigns, such as the forced removal of crosses,” he continued.
In India, there is also a growing intolerance towards Christianity. In September 2020, Hindu extremists gathered crowds of up to 3,000 people to attack Christians in three villages.
It is believed that prejudice against Christians increased following the landslide victory of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in May 2019.
According to India’s Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), Christians suffered 225 incidents of religiously motivated violence during the first ten months of 2020 – compared to 218 incidents in the same period in 2019.
Chief Executive of Release International, Paul Robison said: “Our partners tell us that attacks are on the rise under Communism in China, Islam in Iran and Malaysia, and under militant Hinduism in India.
“Yet despite persecution and pandemic, we see clear evidence of the boldness, courage and trust in God of Christians under pressure around the world,” he concluded.
Over 42 million abortions occurred in 2020, far surpassing the totals of people who perished as a result of the world’s leading causes of death.
According to data compiled by the Worldometer, a reference website that monitors statistics on health, the global population, the use of resources and deaths in real-time, over 40 million abortions are performed worldwide annually.
The website tabulates statistics on abortion made available from the World Health Organization. The last available snapshot of the Worldometer as it appeared on New Year’s Eve, captured by the internet archive tool The Wayback Machine, reveals that more than 42.6 million abortions were performed worldwide in 2020.
By comparison, communicable diseases killed more than 13 million people worldwide in 2020. About 8.2 million people worldwide lost their lives to cancer while nearly 5.1 million people and 2.5 million people succumbed to death as a result of smoking and alcohol, respectively.
Other leading causes of death in 2020 included road traffic accident fatalities, of which there were nearly 1.4 million. Additionally, suicides are responsible for nearly 1.1 million deaths across the globe.
The total number of deaths worldwide in 2020, excluding abortions, was nearly 59 million.
But if abortions were counted as a cause of death rather than just another health statistic, the global death toll in 2020 would increase to more than 100 million.
The number of pregnancies terminated worldwide in 2020 is greater than the total number of people that succumbed to all other leading causes of death listed.
The year 2020 is not the first where the total number of abortions has surpassed the totals of people who died from the leading causes of death.
As previously reported, Worldometer reported that there were about 42.4 million abortions that occurred in 2019.
While abortion is the leading cause of death worldwide, it has also been the leading cause of death in the United States in recent years.
According to the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute, 862,320 abortions were performed in the U.S. in 2017. That same year, heart disease which is frequently cited as the leading cause of death in the U.S., took the lives of 647,457 Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
In 2017, the total number of deaths in the United States, excluding abortions, was 2,813,503.
Already in 2021, Worldometer shows that there have been over 435,000 abortions since the beginning of the new year worldwide as of Monday evening.
As abortion remained the leading cause of death worldwide in 2020, countries across the world elected to take drastically different public policy approaches regarding the polarizing issue.
Last week, Argentina’s legislature passed a bill allowing elective abortions to take place during the first 14 weeks of pregnancy. Previously, the South American country only allowed abortions if a woman was raped or if her life was in jeopardy as a result of the pregnancy.
In October 2020, Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal, the country’s equivalent of a supreme court, ruled that a law permitting abortions based on fetal defects violated the country’s constitution. The ruling had the effect of making abortions legal in Poland only in cases of rape or incest or if the mother’s life or health were at risk.
A survey conducted last year by Ipsos found that support for abortion has dropped in most countries worldwide since Ipsos first began tracking the world’s attitudes about abortion in 2014. Worldwide, the support for abortion dropped from 72% in 2014 to 70% in 2020.
The strongest decline in support for abortion was recorded in Germany, where support decreased by 9%. Other countries where support for abortion dropped in that time period included Sweden, France, the United Kingdom and Spain. While Belgium, Australia, Canada and Argentina saw support for abortion increase from 2014 to 2020, no country saw as pronounced an increase as South Korea, where support rose by 20%.
Christian leader Dr Albert Mohler has raised the alarm over an attempt by America’s “most influential LGBTQ organization” to shape US Government policy.
Dr Mohler described the demands being made by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) in its briefing ‘Blueprint for Positive Change 2020’ as “alarming” and ‘a threat to religious liberty’.
The president of one of the country’s largest evangelical Bible colleges expressed particular concern about HRC plans to force Christian institutions to comply with “LGBTQ orthodoxy” or face losing government accreditation.
In an article published on his website, Dr Mohler warned that the HRC briefing unambiguously calls on President-elect Biden to adopt “a legislative agenda” in keeping with “the LGBTQ movement”.
The respected theologian criticised the report for seeking to eliminate “gender or sex as a meaningful category” and “remake humanity” in its demand for non-binary passports.
He also challenged the HRC view that the State Department should act to protect the “newly invented sexual liberties” of the LGBT lobby.
However, Dr Mohler said the most “sinister” policy proposal in the report was for Christian educational establishments to “meet the demands of the LGBTQ orthodoxy” or be denied government accreditation and funding.
Dr Mohler said: “the Human Rights Campaign is effectively calling for religious colleges and schools to be coerced into the sexual revolution or stripped of accreditation”.
He noted that requiring institutions to “get in line” with LGBT ideology would mean them having to abandon biblical authority and standards.
“This is an undisguised attempt to shut down any semblance of a Christian college or university that would possess the audacity to operate from a Christian worldview”, said Mohler.
“This comes with chilling specificity and clarity. We dare not miss what is at stake.”
Religious identity protected
In a separate development, a U.S. department has ruled that faith-based organisations who require staff to abide by a biblical code of conduct will not be discriminated against when applying for government contracts.
Commenting on the new law, U.S. Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia said: “Religious organizations should not have to fear that acceptance of a federal contract or subcontract will require them to abandon their religious character or identity”.
The Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs said the new rule recognised the “essential services” provided by religious organisations, including “feeding the hungry, supporting refugees, and educating our nation’s students.”
Washington D.C., Jan 8, 2021 / 02:11 pm MT (CNA).- The Trump administration finalized a rule this week allowing faith-based adoption agencies to receive federal funding regardless of their views on same-sex marriage.
In a final rule issued Jan. 7, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) revised a 2016 rule by the Obama administration that had conditioned federal grants on adoption agencies’ willingness to match children with same-sex couples.
The U.S. bishops’ conference had opposed the 2016 rule, saying that it “threatened to shut out faith-based social service providers, namely adoption and foster care agencies that respect a child’s right to a mother and a father.”
On Thursday, the legal group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) praised the new rule for upholding the religious freedom of faith-based adoption and foster care agencies.
“There are hundreds of thousands of children in the foster care system, many of whom are eligible for adoption. Faith-based adoption and foster care providers play an integral role in serving these vulnerable kids,” said ADF Senior Counsel Zack Pruitt.
The new final rule, Pruitt said, “offers hope for children, more options for birth mothers, support for families, and increased flexibility for states seeking to alleviate real human need.”
Meanwhile, the old rule “discriminated against faith-based providers simply because of their beliefs about marriage,” he said. “That is not keeping kids first.”
In November 2019, the administration announced the proposed rule change, and said it would stop enforcing certain regulatory provisions that it determined were incorrectly interpreted by the Obama administration.
The HHS final rule issued on Thursday found that the old rule violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act “in some circumstances.”
Religious agencies around the country are having to contend with state and local ordinances demanding that they match children and work with same-sex couples.
The case of Catholic Social Services (CSS) of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, for instance, is currently before the Supreme Court; the city stopped contracting with CSS in 2018 unless it agreed to work with same-sex couples, regardless of the group’s beliefs on marriage.
ADF represents two faith-based adoption and foster care providers—Catholic Charities West Michigan and New Hope Family Services—in their court cases against state mandates.
When radical Islamists murder Christians in Nigeria, the government lists their deaths as having other causes, according to new report released by Nigeria’sInternational Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law.
The newly-released report indicates that deaths which the Nigerian government describes as random banditry or inter-tribal violence, actually result from radical Islamists attacking Christians, said Intersociety leader and founder Emeka Umeagbalasi.
Since 2009, 34,400 Christians have been murdered by radical Islamists, with 2,200 slain in the last year, the report says. Radical Muslims have also killed an estimated 20,000 moderate Muslims.
” … the most dangerous dimension to radical Islamism in Nigeria is its secret rise and spread and clandestine control of state power through Fulani Jihadism. In other words, the Nigerian Government’s major local and foreign policy direction, in clandestine practice, is ‘Fulani Jihadism’ — a policy pursued with utter alacrity and through different colors and disguises including pro-jihadist or radical Islamic policies and conducts. To cover up these, the present Nigerian government has also created an international machinery of falsehood and propaganda with well-funded or oiled international lobbying campaigns targeted at misinforming and misleading key and strategic international legislative, diplomatic and democratic institutions or bodies especially the EU, U.S., U.K. and Australia and their Parliaments; the Commonwealth and the U.N. and other internationally respected state and non-state actors,” the report states, in part.
“What the government here is doing is mapping out strategies. [It’s] a kind of script that’s given to media, local media and what have you,” Umeagbalasi said.
According to Umeagbalasi, Nigeria’s government tells media that Fulani tribe herdsmen travel south fleeing desertification and kill during conflicts with local farmers. The truth is that Fulani tribesmen travel south because they are radical Islamists looking for Christians to kill. They don’t attack Muslim villages, and traditional cattle-grazing methods don’t support enough cows to justify fatal conflicts with farmers.
The Nigerian government hides these attacks because it supports radical Islamists, Umeagbalasi asserted. President Muhammadu Buhari is a Muslim. He is also a member of the Miyatti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, which supports radical Islamic tribesmen, he added.
“Buhari sets aside the Constitution. He makes appointments without recourse to the Constitution,” Umeagbalasi continued. “In the Constitution, it is forbidden for the government to have a state religion. The Constitution made it clear that the composition of the armed forces of Nigeria should reflect regional or religious balancing, but the president is not listening to that.”
Instead, Buhari stacks the government with Muslims in positions of high authority, the Intersociety report said. Since Buhari’s 2015 election, Muslims have occupied 32 of the most important 39 positions in politics, security, lawmaking and the judiciary, even though Nigeria has even numbers of Muslims and Christians.
In June, five of Nigeria’s major Islamic groups made an alliance with each other to rise up against Christians. The killings of Christians in Nigeria aren’t random acts of violence, but a calculated attempt to conquer Nigeria for Islam, Umeagbalasi claims.
“The country is being taken over by the caliphate,” he said. “When they are done in the north, they will now come to the south.”
In response to the rise in attacks, Nigeria’s government has done little or nothing, the report says. They consistently under-report casualties of Christians. Sometimes, the government buries murdered Christians using Muslim funeral rites in an attempt to convince the world that Christians aren’t under attack.
“The Government of Nigeria clandestinely will direct the Army Commander or Commissioner of Police in charge of the incident area to organize a press conference denying the killing or linking it falsely to another cause such as ‘attack by bandits’ or ‘rival communal violence’ or ‘killing associated with kingship/chieftaincy/intra communal violence’ or ‘reprisal violence’ or ‘cult-related killing,’ or ‘killing arising from armed robbery and kidnapping,’ or ‘road accidents,’” the report reads.
Rather than sending the military or police to defeat heavily armed terrorists, the Nigerian government orders its forces to stand down and retreat if fired on, said Umeagbalasi. In some cases, the Nigerian Army allegedly participate in the killing of Christians.
Some Christians in the Army told him that commanders who tell their soldiers to fight terrorists get transferred to assignments where they can’t make the country safer.
“The leaders of Christian victim communities in Southern Kaduna told Umeagbalasi and Intersociety that their vigilantes mobilized to join soldiers in trailing the Fulani Jihadists after they have attacked Christians in their areas and escaped, had come back telling them that those soldiers told them not to shoot the Fulani Jihadists when sighted and under attack because there is existing instruction or order from above not to shoot or arrest them (Jihadist Fulani Herdsmen) and that any senior army or military officer that flouts or goes against the order or security code stands the risk of being set up and premature retirement or being transferred to heavily insurgency affected areas,” the report noted.
Aid to the Church in Need (ACN)’s #RedWednesday event yesterday (25th November) featured testimonies from those living day by day with persecution, including kidnapped teenager Maira Shahbaz and Nigeria’s Archbishop Kaigama, who had one of his priests kidnapped earlier this week.
Maira Shahbaz, a 14-year-old Christian girl from Pakistan, described how she had been abducted, forcibly converted and made to marry against her will, as well as being “blackmailed, tortured and badly abused”.
Having escaped from her captor, she is now living in hiding.
She said: “The lives of me and my family are at risk in Pakistan. We are constantly receiving death threats. We are extremely scared and concerned about our security.”
Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Abuja, Nigeria, whose priest Father Dajo Matthew was kidnapped barely two days before, drew attention to the abductions suffered by the Christian community.
He highlighted the cases of Leah Sharibu – who is still being held by militant group Boko Haram – and kidnapped seminarian Michael Nnadi, who was killed by his abductors.
The archbishop also mentioned other threats, starkly warning that: “The Christian-dominated Middle Belt and some parts of northern Nigeria will have no future if groups like Boko Haram and allied terrorist groups continue to harass them.”
Also speaking at the event, which was chaired by Neville Kyrke-Smith, national director of ACN (UK), and Rehman Chishti, the former Prime Minister’s special envoy for freedom of religion or belief, were Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali and former MP Rob Flello.
ACN Head of Press and Information John Pontifex also gave an overview of the charity’s new Set Your Captives Free report, focusing on the unjust detention of Christians.
The Judge commissioned by the Stormont Executive to review hate crime in Northern Ireland has recommended major restrictions on free speech.
In a report stretching to 997 pages, Judge Desmond Marrinan recommends scrapping the existing protection for those who disagree with same-sex marriage.
He also recommends not including the defences for freedom of expression present in the Public Order Act 1986 for religion and sexual orientation. This is despite 97 per cent of individuals who responded to the consultation supporting such a move.
Currently, free speech on the issue of same-sex marriage is explicitly protected in Northern Ireland law under the Public Order (Northern Ireland) Order 1987.
It says: “Any discussion or criticism of marriage which concerns the sex of the parties to marriage is not to be taken of itself to be – (A) threatening, abusive or insulting or (B) intended to stir up hatred or arouse fear.”
Judge Marrinan recommends that this defence is repealed.
But when asked: “Should the defences of freedom of expression present in the Public Order Act 1986 for religion and sexual orientation be specifically added as defences to Part III of the Public Order (Northern Ireland) Order 1987?”, 97 per cent of individual respondents and 48 per cent of organisations agreed.
The report adds: “Respondents’ comments indicated that they strongly endorsed retention of the express defence of freedom of expression for same-sex marriage”.
Judge Marrinan also recommended adding transgender to the legal definition of hate crime within a new protected characteristic of “sex/gender” but without providing an additional free speech clause.
In response, The Christian Institute’s Deputy Director for Public Affairs Simon Calvert, said the report “should worry anyone who cares about freedom of speech”.
“No matter who you are or what you believe in, if these draconian proposals become law you could find yourself on the wrong end of them.
“The report declares the belief that you can change your sexual orientation to be ‘insulting and abusive towards homosexuality’. But people do change. Some who used to be heterosexual are now homosexual and vice versa.”
Mr Calvert concluded: “The Marrinan report’s ideology strikes at the heart of the Christian faith because it is a faith that requires us to change how we live, including our sexual behaviour”.
“The Apostle Paul wrote that the church in Corinth included believers who used to practise homosexuality. Does Lord Marrinan want to make it hate crime to read from 1 Corinthians?”
In a detailed legal opinion released in July, free speech and human rights specialist Ivan Hare QC argued that the absence of key freedom of expression provisions like those in England and Wales would leave free speech in Northern Ireland “more vulnerable” to infringement.
The following month Thomas Ross QC also warned the plans could result in people being taken to court for disagreeing with same-sex marriage.
More than a quarter of students ‘self-censor’ because they fear their views will clash with the ‘woke’ values promoted by their university, according to a shocking new survey.
In the latest evidence of the free speech crisis engulfing campuses across the country, 27 per cent of students said they have actively ‘hidden’ their opinions when they are at odds with those of their peers and tutors.
More than half of those who ‘self-censored’ did so because of their political views. A further 40 per cent withheld their opinions on ethical or religious matters for fear of being judged.
In a chilling indication that those with ‘unfashionable’ views fear speaking out will have long-term consequences, almost 40 per cent of those polled said they believed their career would be adversely affected if they expressed their true opinions at university.
In the latest evidence of the free speech crisis engulfing campuses across the country, 27 per cent of students said they have actively ‘hidden’ their opinions when they are at odds with those of their peers and tutors
Free speech campaigners last night likened some campuses to ‘Maoist re-education camps’ dominated by ‘woke orthodoxy’ where only the most liberal and Left-wing views are tolerated.
Matthew Goodwin, Professor of Politics at the University of Kent, said: ‘We need to keep our world-leading universities as free as possible and we need students and the people teaching them to feel that they can debate, discuss and exchange ideas and perspectives from different angles.
‘If we lose that, we’re going to lose what it is that makes our universities great in the first place. Freedom of speech is a fundamental aspect of our national identity.’
The survey – conducted by Survation on behalf of ADF International, a faith-based legal advocacy organisation – found that more than a third (36 per cent) of students hold views that are legal to express but that would be considered ‘unacceptable’ by their student union.
Ryan Christopher, Director of ADF International UK, said: ‘Of all places, university is where students should be free to debate and explore ideas – especially those with which they disagree.
‘Institutional policies and practices can suggest that even mainstream views are beyond the pale.
‘Today’s censorship on campus can easily become cancel culture in the public square.’
The poll, which received responses from 1,028 current university students and recent graduates across the country, discovered that 44 per cent believed lecturers would treat them differently if they publicly expressed views important to them.
Two-fifths of those questioned said so-called ‘no platforming’ – where events are cancelled due to the views held by speakers – had become more frequent at their university.
Earlier this year, the former home secretary Amber Rudd was ‘no-platformed’ only 30 minutes before she was due to give a speech at Oxford University about how to encourage women into politics.
The UN Women Oxford UK society withdrew its invitation after Left-wing students complained about her role in the Windrush immigration scandal. In response, Oxford barred the society.
Toby Young, who created The Free Speech Union in February, said his organisation is inundated with students ‘begging for help’.
‘They thought they’d applied to a university, but they’ve ended up in a Maoist re-education camp,’ he added.
‘If they say anything that challenges the prevailing woke orthodoxy – if they dispute the idea that trans-women are women, for instance – a complaint is made to the authorities and they find themselves being put through dubious, quasi-legal procedures that resemble struggle sessions during the Chinese Cultural Revolution.
‘If they don’t throw themselves at the feet of their inquisitors and denounce their white privilege, they’re liable to be kicked out and reported to the police for ‘hate speech’.’
During last year’s general election, the Tory manifesto pledged to ‘strengthen academic freedom and free speech in universities’.
In July, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson that said struggling universities would only qualify for emergency loans if they could ‘demonstrate their commitment to academic freedom and free speech’.
J. K. Rowling, Margaret Atwood, Martin Amis and Sir Salman Rushdie were among 150 leading writers, academics and thinkers who signed an open letter this summer condemning ‘cancel culture’ for stifling freedom of expression in higher education, journalism, philanthropy and the arts.
Violence escalating despite pleas to government, Family Research Council reports.
November 19, 2020
Leah Sharibu in captivity in photo released by captors in August 2019.
JOS, Nigeria (Morning Star News) – Their pleas for government help falling on deaf ears, Christian leaders issued calls for prayer this month as Islamic extremist groups continued terrorizing northeast Nigeria.
In the wake of attacks and kidnappings by Islamic extremist group Boko Haram and its offshoot Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), leaders of the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) called for the release of four members long held captive by Islamic extremists in the country’s northeast.
The Rev. Stephen Baba Panya, president of the ECWA, said church leaders are troubled at the lack of effort by the Nigerian government to free church members years after Islamic extremist groups took them captive. He called for prayer for high school student Leah Sharibu, two aid workers, university student Lillian Gyang and the 112 girls who remain captive of the 276 kidnapped from a high school in Chibok, Borno state in 2014.
“Please join faith with me, and let us pray standing on God’s promises in Matthew 18:18-19 that Boko Haram/ISWAP or any other Islamic terror group shall not determine the fate of God’s beloved daughters Leah Sharibu, Alice Loksha Ngaddah, Grace Lucas, and Lillian Gyang who are ECWA members, and also the remaining Chibok girls,” Pastor Panya said in a statement sent to Morning Star News.
Leah Sharibu, 15 years old when she was kidnapped by Boko Haram on Feb. 19, 2018 from the Government Girls’ Science and Technical College, in Dapchi, Yobe state, was one of 110 girls taken captive; the 109 Muslim girls were released while Leah remained captive when she refused to renounce her Christian faith.
Ngaddah, mother of two children and an aid worker with UNICEF, was abducted on March 1, 2018 in Rann, Borno state, when ISWAP militants attacked an Internally Displaced Persons camp where she was working. Her aged mother reportedly died of trauma soon after learning about the kidnapping.
Taku, a health worker with Action Against Hunger, was kidnapped by ISWAP militants on July 18, 2019, along the Damasak-Maiduguri highway in Borno state. She also was ministering to displaced people.
Lillian Daniel Gyang, a student at the University of Maiduguri (UNIMAID) in Borno state, was kidnapped on Jan. 9 by ISWAP while returning to school from the Christmas and New Year’s break from her native Plateau state.
ISWAP in 2016 broke off from Boko Haram, which attacked two predominantly Christian communities in Borno state earlier this month. The Boko Haram insurgents, who seek to impose sharia (Islamic law) throughout Nigeria, attacked Pulka and Gwoza towns soon after Christians had finished Sunday evening services on Nov. 8, residents said.
“The attacks on Pulka and Gwoza towns started at about 9 p.m. and lasted till around 11p.m.,” area resident Vanessa Muda told Morning Star News by text message. “The Boko Haram terrorists invaded our towns shooting indiscriminately on our people.”
Another area resident, Polycarp John, said the Boko Haram militants were heavily armed.
“They were repelled when personnel of the Nigerian army who were stationed here fought them and forced them to retreat from Gwoza and Pulka towns,” he told Morning Star News by text message. “Our towns have been under constant attacks from Boko Haram since 2014, and at a time, Gwoza town was made the headquarters of the Boko Haram caliphate until the Nigeria army retook the town from them in 2018.”
The attacks came on the heels of an appeal by leaders of the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria (EYN), for prayer for Christians in southern Borno state facing terror from both Boko Haram and ISWAP militants.
“It is harvest time, which is challenging in normal years, but in these past years includes the threat of Boko Haram destroying the crop or attacking people as they harvest,” the leaders wrote in a Nov. 6 email. “Pray for many vulnerable villages in southern Borno state and other areas far from military bases.”
Six Nigerians Convicted
Lela Gilbert, senior fellow for international religious freedom for the Family Research Council, stated in a recent report that in spite of frequent appeals from Nigerian church leaders across the denominational spectrum and international human rights advocates, violence is escalating.
“Many informed observers describe Nigeria’s political leadership as both incompetent and corrupt,” Gilbert noted. “But that’s only part of the problem. Not only are they almost entirely Muslim in their religious affiliation (while the country’s population is roughly half Christian), as previously noted, several governmental leaders – beginning with President Muhammadu Buhari – belong to the Fulani tribe, as do numerous military and police officials. This is seen as one of the major roadblocks to reform, particularly with regard to the Fulani jihadi massacres.”
In the United Arab Emirates, authorities were able to convict six Nigerians resident in the UAE for financing Boko Haram activities in Nigeria, according to press reports.
Surajo Abubakar Muhammad and Saleh Yusuf Adamu were sentenced to life imprisonment, while Ibrahim Ali Alhassan, Abdurahman Ado Musa, Bashir Ali Yusuf and Muhammad Ibrahim Isa each received 10-year prison sentences, according to Nigerian newspaper the Daily Trust.
An Abu Dhabi Federal Court of Appeal convicted the six Islamists of providing Boko Haram with $782,000.
On Jan. 30 Christian Solidarity International (CSI) issued a genocide warning for Nigeria, calling on the Permanent Member of the United Nations Security Council to take action. CSI issued the call in response to “a rising tide of violence directed against Nigerian Christians and others classified as ‘infidels’ by Islamist militants in the country’s north and middle belt regions.’”
Nigeria ranked 12th on Open Doors’ 2020 World Watch List of countries where Christians suffer the most persecution but second in the number of Christians killed for their faith, behind Pakistan.