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Nigeria: Increased violence against Christians

Lagos, Nigeria – On July 15, Reverend Fathers Donatus Cleophas and Mark Cheitnum were in the empty rectory of Christ the King parish in Yadin Garu, a town in the Southern Kaduna area of northwest Nigeria when five armed men walked in. 

The gunmen confiscated the phones of both priests, who had stayed to celebrate mass after an ordination service in that diocese, and led them into the muddy grounds of a maize farm near the parish.  There, Cheitnum was shot dead, and his body was left in the rain, while his colleague was taken away.

“We did not have any scuffle, nothing,” Cleophas, who has since regained his freedom, told Al Jazeera. “All I can think of is because maybe Father [Mark] was wearing canvas [shoes] and he could not keep up with the pace at which we were moving.”

According to the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), violence against Christians targeted on the basis of their religious identity has spiked, just as political violence against civilians has generally been on the rise too.  Its data shows that attacks on Christians in the country increased by 21 percent in 2021 compared with 2020. On average, monthly attacks have also risen by over 25 percent in the last year.

In June, gunmen killed dozens at a Catholic church in Ondo, spotlighting a possibly religious undertone to the country’s insecurity. The state government blamed the ISIL-linked ISWAP (Islamic State in West Africa Province) for the incident, but the group is yet to claim responsibility.

Experts say attacks against the church are also increasingly targeting Christian leaders, as operations of armed groups nationwide assume dangerous dimensions.  Indeed, between January 2020 and July 2022, there were 99 independent attacks against Nigerian clergy, ranging from abductions to outright murder, according to ACLED’s database which compiled records from local media reports.

“The data is a very vivid reflection of what is going on in our society [with regards to] the economic hardship and the booming kidnapping for ransom industry that we see today,” said Olajumoke Ayandele, a former ACLED researcher and currently a postdoctoral research fellow at New York University’s The Centre for the Study of Africa and the African Diaspora.

More:   Aljazeera

Pray:

For the families of those who have lost loved ones to violence in Nigeria. (Psalm 34:18)

For the safety and security of Christian leaders in Nigeria.  May they remain faithful in the protection of the Lord.  (2 Thessalonians 3:3)

For the economic growth and development of Nigeria, that hardship may be overcome and replaced with growth and prosperity.

Nigeria: Christians targeted for forced marriages

A recent UN report stated as many as three out of four women are forced into marriage among certain Nigerian groups. Take for example Lena, a 14-year-old girl. She became a Christian, but as her father was a Muslim leader in the mosque, she knew it was going to cause problems. Sure enough, she survived physical abuse from her father, forced marriage, and violent sexual assault. By the time she finally escaped, she was a single mother who could not read or write. She persevered with an education and vocational training to be self-supporting. After attending a discipleship school, Lena plans on going back to her hometown, this time as a missionary. Pray for Nigerian women suffering persecution and assault. Pray for healed emotions for the traumatised. Ask God to touch the hearts of abusers perpetuating violence, and thank Him for the courage of women like Lena.

Pray: for an end to the persecution and the violence which is going on in northern Nigeria. (Isaiah 60:18)

More: www.mnnonline.org/news/christians-targeted-for-forced-marriages-in-nigeria/

Nigeria: a dangerous society

In 2017 Fulani militants seized a Christian mother’s land and burned down her house, forcing her and her family to move closer to the city for safety. Loss of their farmland forced the family of seven into deep poverty, living and sleeping in one room. On 8 August Fulani militants attempted to rape her 16-year-old daughter while they were out walking. A missionary visited the family after the attack and the mother said, ‘They told us to stop, then they beat me as I tried to stop them from raping my daughter.’ She showed the deep gash in her arm she received from the militants, and said God used her to protect her daughter from public disgrace and shame, which is how victims of rape are viewed in their society. ‘I have nothing to say but thank God. Please tell Christians to pray for us. Pray that we will return to our village one day. Life is too expensive in the city.’

Pray: for the government, intelligence agencies, and police to end the persecution of Christians and for the safe return of their homes and farms. (1 Peter 3:14)

More: t.e2ma.net/message/m8e2jx/6zdri3u

Sweden: 300 church plants

Since 2000 there have been 300 churches planted across Sweden by other nations. The Nigerian Redeemed Christian Church of God has 40 Swedish church plants. Their vision is to plant worshipping communities within five minutes' distance from each other. Also from Nigeria there are church plants from Deeper Life Bible, Mountain of Fire and Miracles Ministries. There are plants from Ghanaian Church of Pentecost where the worship language is English, Ghanaian Swahili and Swedish. Chile’s International Mission Church gathers 1,500 people for Sunday services in Stockholm. For Sweden, this is a very big church. There are also congregations with Ethiopian, Eritrean, Iranian, or Afghan connections that are generally closer to the established Swedish denominations.

Praise: God for the vibrant variety of church plants in Sweden. Ask God to bring unity amongst the different styles of worship of so many denominations. (Psalm 118:15)

More: www.europeanea.org/diaspora-churches-in-sweden/

Global: Christians persecuted and displaced

When our brothers and sisters are displaced because of their faith in Christ, we can support them through prayer. As we pray, we open our hearts to their needs and grow deeper in fellowship with them. Pray for the Lord to meet all their needs. (Philippians 4:19) Pray for their healing from physical and emotional trauma. (Psalm 147:3) Pray for them to be able to love and forgive their persecutors. (Matthew 5:44) Pray for persecutors to repent and trust in Christ. (Luke 15:10) Christians in Burma, China, Eritrea, India, Iran, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Vietnam are persecuted by their governments and religious freedom is violated. Afghanistan, Algeria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, the Central African Republic, Cuba, Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Sudan, and Turkey are countries whose governments allow or engage in ‘severe violations of religious freedom.’. Take time to pray for Christians in these nations. 

Pray: for God to enable world leaders to eradicate Boko Haram, Yemen’s Houthi, ISIS, Pakistan’s Khorasan Province, Somalia’s al-Shabaab, and Tahrir al-Sham in Syria (Psalm 23:1-6)

More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Persecution_of_Christians#

Two Christians running to replace Boris

Conservative MP Kemi Badenoch wrote in the Times, ‘I'm putting myself forward in this leadership election because I want to tell the truth.’ The Christian MP for Saffron Walden supports lower taxes to boost growth and productivity, and is accompanied by tight spending discipline. Her role as minister for local government, faith and communities included being the government’s liaison for the country’s faith leaders. She was born in Wimbledon, brought up in Nigeria, and has a range of faith traditions to draw upon. Tom Tugendhat, a Catholic, is MP for Tonbridge and Malling and chairman of the foreign affairs committee. He appealed to Boris Johnson on behalf of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and asked UK churches to negotiate her release from an Iranian prison. As of 14 July, he is one of the five remaining candidates, but Kemi has been eliminated.

Pray: for God’s chosen MP to lead the Conservative party and the nation. (2 Chronicles 1:10a)

More: premierchristian.news/en/news/article/former-faith-minister-catholic-mp-in-running-to-replace-boris-johnson

Nigeria: mass escape from prison

Hundreds of prisoners escaped from the Kuje medium-security prison near Abuja due to an attack attributed to Boko Haram. Equipped with explosives, the attackers freed 600 of the 994 inmates and only about half of the escaped prisoners have been found. A large number of captured Boko Haram fighters were released in the attack. Armed extremist groups have been gaining power in Nigeria, with a lack of effective opposition from security forces and government officials. Boko Haram has maintained an insurgency in Northern Nigeria for thirteen years and displaced over 2.4 million people through violent attacks and threats. They have murdered tens of thousands of Christians and forcibly converted many others. Please pray for the end of their attacks, and for the Lord to soften the hearts of militants.

Pray: for the Lord to heal and strengthen terrorism victims and the persecuted. Pray for the government, security forces and judiciary to be strengthened in Nigeria. ( Psalm 10:17-18)

More: www.persecution.org/2022/07/12/hundreds-inmates-escape-prison-nigeria-armed-attack/

Global: Top three 2022 ‘Persecutor of the Year Awards’

In Afghanistan, after America and its allies withdrew, the Taliban controlled the government, declaring an Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, employing harsh tactics to expose Christians. This has brought persecution in Afghanistan to its highest levels since the Taliban’s first government in 1996. In Nigeria Fulani Militants, the largest nomadic ethnic group, have killed tens of thousands of Christians and left many more homeless since 2000. Having seen increasing violence against Nigeria’s Christian population in the Middle Belt, it is alleged that the Fulani militant aggression is aided by stakeholders within the Nigerian government. Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the country’s Supreme Leader, exerts control over every aspect of Iranian life, both physically and spiritually. As an Islamic republic, Iran poses severe limits on the ability of Christians to practice their religion, enforcing a hardline regime that allows the brutal torture and execution of many Iranian Christians.

Pray: for God to strengthen Christians who are being beaten, imprisoned, tortured and murdered simply because of what they believe in. (Isaiah 40:31)

More: https://www.persecution.org/2022/06/29/icc-cites-afghanistan-fulani-militants-ayatollah-ali-khamenei-worst-persecutors/

Church greed, prosperity gospel, lawlessness

A high court has ordered a church founded by Pastor Tobi Adegboyega to be closed ‘in the public interest.’ His Salvation Proclaimer Ministries Limited (SPML) is charged with £1.9 million fraud. Adegboyega, popular for his opulent lifestyle, is charged with financial mismanagement and lack of transparency. The Charity Commission is also examining SPML’s financial, governance and safeguarding; members have allegedly been financially exploited by senior church personnel promoting ‘prosperity gospel’ and establishing what many called ‘cult membership’ by young Black people from poor communities. Meanwhile, the Everlasting Arms Ministries sold their London property for £8 million, while being allowed to continue occupying the building. At the same time the pastor’s salary increased from £44,536.20 to £72,000 pa, and his deputy’s from £45,000 to £54,000. Other employees’ salaries also rose. A Charity Commissions investigation found £180,000 spent on business-class flights and £457,655 on luxury hotels.

Pray: for the charities watchdog to continue to recognise and remove corruption, theft, and fraud by churches and charities. (2 Corinthians 11:13-15)

More: www.gov.uk/government/publications/charity-inquiry-the-everlasting-arms-ministries

Nigeria: kidnapping and ransom demands

The Nigerian government is about to pass a bill that will punish those who pay ransoms with up to fifteen years in prison. It would also give a death sentence to those who commit abductions. Armed groups have kidnapped hundreds of people for ransom across Nigeria over the last two years. Most recently, a ransom of $240,000 was paid by the Nigerian Methodist Church after eight gunmen abducted its head, His Eminence Samuel Kanu, and two other pastors while they were on their way to the airport in Nigeria’s southeastern state of Abia. The clergymen’s driver and one other church member managed to escape. The 69-year-old recounted how the abductors showed them the rotted bodies of previous victims, threatening to do the same with him. Archbishop Chibuzo Opoko, who heads the Methodist church in Abia State, said paying the ransom was necessary.

Pray: for more security agencies, for better and more successful police intervention, and for the new laws to deter criminals from kidnapping. (John 17:15)

More: gatewaynews.co.za/nigerias-methodist-leader-says-huge-ransom-paid-of-his-release/

Two Chibok girls achieve degrees

Two of the 276 Chibok schoolgirls who were abducted by Boko Haram extremists in 2014 have completed their master’s degrees in the USA. Lydia Pogu completed a masters in Human Services Administration, and Joy Bishara a masters in Social Work. ‘Boko Haram told us that school is a taboo for women and warned us that if we went back to school, they would come for us,’ said Lydia. ‘I thought all my dreams had changed, but God had a different plan for me.’

Praise: God for the successful education of Lydia and Joy. Pray for God to spread His protection over Nigerian Christians, especially those who live in Muslim-majority states. (Psalm 5:11)

More: www.barnabasfund.org/resources/pfu/2022/pfu-a4-jun22.pdf

Nigeria: Pentecost Sunday murders

Gunmen burst into St Francis Catholic Church in Ondo state. They opened fire and set off explosives, killing dozens of worshippers, including many children, who were celebrating Mass on Pentecost Sunday. Legislator Adelegbe Timileyin told local media that at least fifty people were dead. While much of Nigeria has struggled with security issues, Ondo is widely known as one of the country’s most peaceful states. Its state governor said, ‘This vile and satanic attack is a calculated assault on the peace-loving people of Owo Kingdom. I appeal to our people to maintain calm and let the security agencies take charge. The perpetrators will never escape. We are after them. And I can assure you we will get them.’ While radical Fulani militants have terrorised the Middle Belt region over the past two decades, authorities are still investigating the source of Sunday’s attack.

Pray: for peace and tranquillity to return to the region as God’s presence fills the atmosphere, bringing comfort to the bereaved and fearful and healing to those wounded in body and spirit. (Matthew 5:4)

More: www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/6/5/worshippers-killed-during-church-service-in-nigeria

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