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Global: persecution in 2022

Islamist extremists are gaining ground in sub-Saharan Africa, including Burkina Faso and Mali. Christians are bombed, killed, and kidnapped; schools are burnt. Jihadists have assaulted religious leaders and places of worship, and forced churches to close and meet in secret. The situation is set to grow worse as French troops withdraw from the area. Life for Christians in the Sahel region now resembles Nigeria, where Boko Haram terrorists, IS fighters and Fulani militants are active. For all three, Christian communities are their prime targets. Afghanistan and India are also countries of great concern. Since the Taliban recaptured Afghanistan, Christians have faced greater risks of violence and betrayal by family and neighbours. Major food shortages will increase pressure on them. Indian Hindu militants are attacking Christians, and some states have anti-conversion laws to prevent Christian outreach among the Dalits where many are turning to Christ.

Pray: for God to strengthen and encourage Christians in the many nations where there is a rising tide of intolerance of accompanied by violence and food and climate insecurity. (1 Peter 3:14)

More: releaseinternational.org/persecution-trends-watch-the-release-international-report-in-the-media/

Nigeria: plans for Leah Sharibu's release?

The Nigerian government says efforts are under way to release Leah Sharibu, the Christian teenager who was one of 110 girls abducted in 2018 by the Boko Haram group ISWAP. Her classmates were released, but Leah refused to convert to Islam and was declared a ‘slave for life’ by ISWAP while remaining in captivity. The federal government announced it is using the military to ensure Leah and all captives regain their freedom, and armed groups operating in Nigeria’s northwest are now called terrorists. Reacting to the announcement, Dr Kathaza Gondwe, advocacy director for CSW, said, ‘It is belated news as Nigeria’s president has been promising Leah's parents since 2018 that he would work quickly to ensure her release. But it's a welcomed development. We can only pray the government will honour this commitment.’ CSW believes that categorising ISWAP as terrorists will help in how the armed forces deal with them.

Pray: for success in securing the freedom and safety of Nigerian Christians currently held captive and an end to all religiously-motivated violence in Nigeria. (Psalm 32:7)

More: premierchristian.news/en/news/article/plans-underway-to-secure-leah-sharibu-s-release-says-nigerian-government

Global: this year’s Dis-Honorees Awards

The Persecutor of the Year Awards shone a light on the world's most oppressive countries, entities, and individuals. Due to the nation's various terrorist groups and the lack of government response, Nigeria earned the title as the Top Country Persecutor. As we witnessed the Taliban's rise to power in August which forced Afghanistan's Christians even deeper into hiding, the Taliban received the title of Top Entity Persecutor. Lastly, in North Korea, the ongoing brutal reign of the Kim regime and the deplorable conditions that the nation's citizens face earned Kim Jong-un the title of Top Individual Persecutor. Pray for God to give those facing persecution for their faith in these, and other, nations the peace and joy that Christ brings.

Pray: for God to bring the persecutors of Christians into His kingdom with visions and dreams of Christ. (Joel 2:28)

More: www.persecution.org/initiatives/poy/

Nigeria: one million expired doses of vaccine destroyed

The national primary health care agency (NPHCDA) destroyed 1,066,214 expired doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine that were donated to them in October but had to be used by November. The decision to destroy the vaccinations followed several testing processes showing it was necessary to destroy them to protect Nigerians from being harmed. NPHCDA’s director said they had an option to try and use these vaccines beyond the labelled expiry date, but decided to destroy them at the point they expired. The vaccines came with a short life span, some as short as two weeks. NPHCDA said while Nigeria appreciated the gesture of the donors, it was not in the interest of Nigeria that vaccines with a short lifespan were sent there. Only ten million Nigerians have been vaccinated to date: Nigeria’s target is 110 million people.

Pray: for improved coordination and distribution of AstraZeneca vaccinations donated from abroad to Nigeria. (Ephesians 5:15)

More: saharareporters.com/2021/12/22/nigerian-government-destroys-one-million-expired-doses-covid-19-astrazeneca-vaccine

Nigeria removed from US ‘Countries of Particular Concern’ list

Nigeria regularly sees ongoing massacres of indigenous Christians, and security forces imprison free thinkers for the ‘crime’ of blasphemy. Nevertheless, the USA removed Nigeria from its Countries of Particular Concern (CPC) list. On 2 December Rev John Hayab wrote an article in Nigerian Voice stating, ‘The US’s delisting Nigeria from its CPC list is appalling, as the persecution of Christians is still at its peak. Because Nigeria still has grave problems with religious persecution, this action is like a doctor discharging a patient from hospital even though they are still critically ill. What that signifies is telling the patient to go home and die. The USA was either ill-advised or does not care what happens in Nigeria. It does not comprehend that the current regime wants to impoverish and weaken the Christian community without letting the international community notice it. The Nigerian government employed highly professional lobbyists to convince the US state department to reach its decision.’

Pray: for the USA to recognise that its action is violating religious freedom and provide protection. (Psalm 34:7)
More: www.decisionmagazine.com/nigerian-pastor-disappointed-at-us-removal-of-nigeria-from-its-countries-of-particular-concern-list/

Global: violence against hospitals, patients, healthcare workers

A disturbing but common feature of modern warfare is incidents of violence against hospitals, patients and healthcare workers. A recent report cites 806 incidents of violence against or obstruction of healthcare in 43 countries and territories in ongoing wars and violent conflicts in 2020, ranging from the bombing of hospitals in Yemen to the abduction of doctors in Nigeria. At least 185 health workers were killed and 117 kidnapped. Attacks continue with impunity, as several states fail to act on global commitments and frameworks intended to safeguard medical professionals saving lives. The nature of conflict now includes more non-state armed groups, but they all attack healthcare. Pray for health workers alone, with very little support, suffering trauma from violence.

Pray: for more warring nations to provide safe zones and protection avenues to protect health carers and safe access to and from healthcare providers. (Psalm 5:11)

More: www.thenewhumanitarian.org

Nigeria: lawlessness and ‘fake news’

Luka Binniyat, a Christian journalist, faces three years’ imprisonment after reporting on attacks against Christian communities and critical assessments of the government’s response. He was arrested on 4 November and charged with electronically transmitting information ‘known to be false’. Many believe his arrest is aimed at silencing dissenting voices and intimidating Luka and Kaduna communities. Luka has persistently challenged the government on issues of security and killings in southern Kaduna. This charge follows his report on police failing to make any arrests after gunmen killed 35 people in two separate attacks on churches. He said, ‘In Nigeria, police decry massacres as “wicked” but make no arrests’. Pray for Luka’s release and for an end to criminalisation of journalism. Meanwhile bandits invaded Emmanuel Baptist Church, service killing two, seriously injuring three, and kidnapping 66. Rev Joseph Hayab said, ‘The abducted worshippers are in danger and require urgent government intervention.’ The insecurity in Kaduna state has grown beyond imagination and is threatening Nigeria’s peace.

Pray: for God’s peace for the Church and may the international community recognise the fragile situation and act so that violent lawlessness is eradicated. (Isaiah 61:8)

More: punchng.com/bandits-kill-two-out-of-66-abducted-kaduna-baptist-church-worshippers-can/

Nigeria: ‘all we have left is God and hope’

Fulani herdsmen attacked a worship service at an evangelical church in Kachia county, killing one and wounding many others. Then they destroyed dozens of homes in two villages, wounding more Christians and killing thirty. ‘Our hearts are filled with pain, fears, bitterness and disappointments,’ said a survivor. ‘The trauma, the macabre series of murders, the daily kidnappings, attacks on farmers and destruction of crops, the burning of houses, churches and humans alive, the mass burials. All we’ve got left is God and hope.’ A few days earlier an agitated mob hacked Rev Yohanna Shuaibu to death and burned down his home, church and school over the killing of a woman by a man they believed had converted to Christianity. Pastor Shuaibu had built a school for indigenous Christian children denied an education because of their faith. May God comfort all the bereaved, heal the physically and emotionally injured, and provide for all the homeless.

Pray: for an end to the violence against Christians in northern Nigeria, and for them to trust and hope in God and continue witnessing for Christ. (3 John 2)

Nigeria: secular Sharia?

The idea that Nigeria is well-intentioned but under-resourced to contain religious violence is incomplete. The government may be under-resourced, but is not blameless in the matter of sectarian violence. Government forces have fought to quell the violence in some instances, but in others they exacerbated the problem if not created it in the first place according to a report by International Christian Concern. The report considers ways which Nigerian states contribute to discrimination and violence against Christians: in particular, twelve northern states which adopted Sharia criminal law, leading to problems for Christians in the region and impacting their ability to participate as equal members of society. Using Sharia to adjudicate on criminal matters has done significant real-world harm, and the departure from secularism has harmed Christians in northern Nigeria.The report recommends the US government to establish an official stance against non-secularism in northern Nigeria, rework aid delivery to Christians, and appoint a special envoy to address each region’s issues.

Pray: for the USA to address the root causes of Nigeria’s insecurity and Christian oppression. (Psalm 9:9)
More: www.persecution.org/2021/09/16/secular-sharia-report/

Nigeria: trauma-healing workshops

Nigerian Christians have experienced horrendous violence against their communities in recent years. Many have been killed, thousands have fled homes and land, and many live with the trauma of seeing loved ones killed or brutalised. Their needs are now being met by trauma-healing workshops that help them express their pain, face up to it, and to bring it to Christ so that feelings aren’t buried deep within. The workshop seeks to bring victims to a point where, by the grace of God, they are able to forgive those who hurt them. They then have a foundation on which to rebuild their lives. Each workshop helps forty people over a five-day period. They equip church leaders with biblical principles to respond to suffering – their own and the suffering of others. There is also a separate youth version of the workshop, for young people traumatised by violence.

Pray: for God to provide more transport, accommodation, and workshop materials so that this initiative can reach even more disturbed and fearful Christians. (2 Timothy 3:17)
More: releaseinternational.org/families-of-christian-martyrs/

Nigeria: Nigerians sell homes to free kidnapped children

After armed men snatched seven of Abubakar Adam's 11 children in northwestern Nigeria, he sold his car and a parcel of land and cleaned out his savings to raise a ransom to free them. He sent his 3 million naira ($7,300) into the bush, together with payments from other families in his town of Tegina.

The kidnappers took the money, seized one of the men delivering it and sent back a new demand for more cash and six motorbikes.

"We are in agony," the 40-year-old tyre repairman told Reuters, still waiting for any sign of what happened to his children three months after the mass abduction. "Honestly I don't have anything left."

Kidnappers have taken more than 1,000 students since December amid a rash of abductions across the impoverished northwest. Around 300 of the children have still not been returned, according to a Reuters tally of reports. President Muhammadu Buhari has told states not to pay anything to kidnappers, saying it will only encourage more abductions. Security agencies say they are targeting the bandits with military action and other methods.  Meanwhile, hundreds of parents are facing the same quandary: do everything they can to raise the ransoms themselves, or risk never seeing their children again.

"We are begging the government to help," said Aminu Salisu, whose eight-year-old son was taken in the same daylight raid on Tegina's Salihu Tanko Islamic school in May, alongside more than 130 students.   Kidnappers collected more than $18 million in ransom from June 2011 to March 2020 in Nigeria, according to an estimate by Lagos-based analysts SBM Intelligence.

That flood of cash brought a flood of new kidnappers, said Bulama Bukarti, an analyst in the Extremism Policy Unit of the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change. He estimated there were currently around 30,000 bandits operating in the northwest.  "It's the most thriving, the most lucrative industry in Nigeria," he told Reuters. Kidnapping has become a tempting career choice for young men at a time of economic slump, double-digit inflation and 33% unemployment.

The Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), an NGO, tracked a 28% increase in violence nationwide in Nigeria in the first six months of 2021, compared with the previous six months.  Reported fatalities from violence nationwide rose 61% to 5,197, it said.

It all explains, Bukarti of the Extremism Policy Unit said, why Adam and other parents are willing to sell everything they have to pay ransoms themselves.  "They cannot afford (it) by any means. But it's a life-and-death matter. And they know security agencies cannot free their loved ones."

Sources/More: Reuters

Pray: for protection and resilience for the young people taken away from their families.  Pray for their physical and mental wellbeing (Matthew 18:10)

Pray: for wisdom for families seeking to free their children from captivity.

Pray: for the Nigerian government and the military to succeed in bringing these extremists to justice.

Nigeria: Naomi’s story

Naomi, a Nigerian Christian widow, never expected to suffer persecution, but when her town was overrun by Islamists, she was ready. Her Bible had taught her, ‘Persecution is God’s Word being fulfilled.’ While Naomi was working her farmland outside the city she heard distant gunfire. She immediately ran toward the sound, concerned for her children at home. After passing scenes of horrific violence on her way she gathered her children and fled to nearby mountains, where they stayed before moving to a Cameroon refugee camp. Poor conditions there forced them to return to Nigeria. When mission workers learned of her situation, they helped the family move into their own home and arranged for the children to attend a good school. Naomi said, ‘Attacks made my faith stronger.’

Praise: God for Naomi’s strong faith. (Psalm 27:14)
More: www.persecution.com/2021-07-naomi/

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