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India: US religious rights report

The US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) wants India, Nigeria, Russia, Syria and Vietnam to be put on a religious freedom blacklist and join the ranks of ‘countries of particular concern’. That would make them subject to sanctions if they do not improve their records. Countries already on this list include China, Iran, and North Korea. The commission noted that India’s nationalist government ‘allowed violence against minorities and their houses of worship to continue with impunity and tolerated hate speech and incitement to violence.’ Minority Christians have been among those targeted. It remained unclear whether the state department would follow the USCIRF's advice because India is an increasingly close US ally. The USCIRF's annual report is watched worldwide as an independent

Pray: for decisions around religious freedom to be free of politics or trade concerns. (Amos 5:15a)

More: www.worthynews.com/49824-india-condemns-u-s-religious-rights-report

Persecution and other dangers amid coronavirus

During the coronavirus lockdown, Nigerian Fulani militants have murdered a five-year-old child they snatched from a pregnant mother, another nine Christians including two children, and a second pregnant woman In Egypt, seven Islamist terrorists, suspected of plotting to attack Christians under cover of the nightly coronavirus curfew, were shot dead. In West Africa, Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau declared coronavirus a ‘product of evil’ while he mocked health measures and stepped up attacks. In East Africa the arrival of a second invasion of ravenous young locusts, spawned in Ethiopia, is feared to be twenty times more severe than the plague that devastated crops in January. Iran is facing major challenges. Its slow response to the pandemic, lack of transparency, and absence of an exit strategy, together with the US sanctions and the fall of oil prices, have compromised its healthcare system, its economic situation, and the daily lives of its people.

Pray: for God to bring powerful protection and Holy Spirit comfort to those living with persecution, sickness, fear, pestilence, and hunger. (Psalm 142:3a)

More: http://mailchi.mp/barnabasfund/five-year-old-murdered-snatched-from-pregnant-mother-as-fulani-militant-attacks-more-dangerous-than-coronavirus-in-nigeria-lockdown

Nigeria: displaced Christians refused aid

Among two million people who fled Islamic extremist violence in northern Nigeria are hundreds being denied help because they are Christians. Displaced Muslims receive government-built homes, land, and financial support for resettlement, but 347 Christians are denied help because of their faith. ‘We cannot watch them die because they are unwilling to turn to Islam for support. We want to start something, no matter how small’, said a Christian leader of a small organisation (name withheld for security reasons). He wants to free land on the organisation’s properties to build homes for Christian converts denied entry into camps for the displaced. Many are left to die on their own, as no food or shelter is made available to them. The leader said, ‘We had tried within our little resources to help these ones, but the rejected people without external help to survive are too many.’ The organisation is now seeking support and funding.

Pray: for all organisations helping those impacted by discrimination and violence. (Psalm 121:1,2)

More: www.christianaid.org/missions-insider/2020-displaced-christians-in-nigeria-denied-aid/

Nigeria: Catholics march against violence

On 1 March, despite heavy rain, many Catholics took a stand against a surge of Islamist extremist violence. The faithful marched the streets of Abuja against the rising wave of insecurity and killings in every part of Nigeria. They carried placards demanding a better and safer society. Some have reported that the numbers of protesters were in their thousands. The president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference slammed the government for not doing enough to bring those behind these crimes to book. He said, ‘May we once again remind all the arms of government in Nigeria and all whose responsibility it is to protect Nigerians that without security there can be no peace.’

Pray: for God to strengthen the government and give it the ability to end religiously-motivated violence. (Isaiah 35:3)

More: saharareporters.com/2020/03/01/breaking-catholic-bishops-parishioners-protest-killing-nigerians-abuja

Africa: coronavirus prevention action

On 15 February WHO prioritised support for thirteen African countries whose fragile health systems are already overwhelmed. It is critical to detect coronavirus early to prevent spreading within communities without the treatment capacity. Since 3 February African countries have been receiving technical guidance and advice on how to limit human-to-human transmission, so that they isolate and provide appropriate treatment to affected people. An Africa task force has been working with the WHO, screening points of entry, controlling in health-care facilities, advising on infection prevention and clinical management of people, laboratory diagnosis and community engagement. On 5 March five African countries had coronavirus - Nigeria, Egypt, South Africa, Senegal, and Algeria. See

Pray: for the preparation and training to be applied to contain the virus in vulnerable communities. (Job 4:4)

More: www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(20)30355-X/fulltext

Nigeria: Boko Haram kills CAN chairman

On 2 January, Rev Lawan Andimi was abducted by Boko Haram. He pleaded with the government and the leadership of CAN (Christian Association of Nigeria) to come to his rescue, adding that his captors were taking good care of him and ‘hoped he would return home safely if it was the will of God’. The insurgents demanded two million euros for his release, but then went ahead and beheaded him. Bishop Mamza, of CAN, said that another pastor had been abducted and killed almost at the same time. Stating that Boko Haram had not been defeated or suppressed, he urged the government to tell Nigerians the truth. President Buhari expressed sadness and sympathy, but another CAN spokesman described the unabated kidnappings and killings as ‘shameful’ to the government. Pray for God’s comfort to embrace those living in sorrow and fear.

Pray: for Church security to be improved, ans for northern regions to be free of terrorism. (Psalm 17:8)

More: www.ipcprayer.org/ipc-connections/item/12631-nigeria-boko-haram-kills-can-chairman.html

Nigeria: the 'leopard unit'

Insecurity in some parts of the country has led people to form their own vigilante units. A reporter writes, ‘Last week, I helped pay a ransom to free the kidnapped wife and two daughters of a friend; they had been held for eight days after being snatched from their home in the northern city of Kaduna. What I did is no longer unusual, and is one of the many stories resulting from insecurity in this vast country. The government is accused of ineffectiveness, and the governors of six states in the south-west of the country have come up with their own plan to set up a security outfit called amotekun (leopard). It will involve employing new security personnel, with the power to arrest and share intelligence and security infrastructure across the states. The plan has riled the national authorities, and led some to accuse the six states of plotting to secede from Nigeria.

Pray: for amotekun to bring positive peaceful changes across diverse communities. (Psalm 128:2)

More: www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-51266490

Nigeria: Boko Haram’s own goal?

Could the faith statement of an executed Christian leader encourage Christians facing persecution in Nigeria? Boko Haram beheaded Rev Lawan Andimi, chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN). But could a faith message that militants recorded with him be an own goal for terrorists? CAN has urged Nigeria’s government and the international community to act decisively to help Christians under attack in Nigeria, calling for three days of prayer and fasting for effective action. The Church views the unabated kidnappings and killings as shameful for a government boasting that it has conquered insurgency. ‘Each time the government claims the defeat of the insurgency, more killings of our people are committed. We are almost losing hope in our government’s ability to protect Nigerians – especially Christians, who have become an endangered species under its watch.’

Pray: for the international community (including the US and UK) to come to the aid of the Nigerian Church so that they might not be eliminated one by one. (Psalm 20:2)

More: releaseinternational.org/boko-haram-execution-an-own-goal/

Night rider: 21 years sleeping on a London bus

After his asylum application was rejected 21 years ago, Sunny began sleeping on London buses. His travel card holder quotes Jesus, ‘Peace I bequeath to you, my own peace I give you.’ He talks about his younger self, years ago, kneeling in prayer in a Nigerian prison, waiting to be executed. His offence - struggling for democracy. A guard lifts him to his feet and rushes him down corridors, out into blinding sunlight, where a car is waiting. Family and friends had bought his freedom and his flight to London. He took a course in documentary-making years ago, reporting on the lives of London's homeless, never imagining he would soon be in their shoes. Now a church minister buys him a monthly pass for bus fares and he volunteers at churches. He reads in the reference library, and is fed by generous restaurant managers at the end of the day.

Pray: for the Government to do more to help the hidden nomads on our city streets facing persecution or death if they return to their country of origin. (Exodus 23:6)

More: www.bbc.co.uk/news/stories-50459821

Vulnerable churches at Christmas

Here are a few of the many incidents of Christmas attacks on Christians in 2018. Two days before Egypt’s Christian celebrations, a specialist in mine clearance died defusing a bomb hidden next to a church in Cairo. On 24 December a Methodist church in Bury offering night shelter to homeless refugees was attacked by arsonists who also stole their laptop and projector equipment. In Indonesia over 90,000 police and soldiers helped guard 50,000 churches across the country, including those previously attacked by terrorists. In India on 23 December a mob attacked forty people worshipping at a church in Kowad, injuring ten people. Militants increase their attacks on Nigerian churches at this time, and in Pakistan a planned attack was foiled in Karachi. See

Pray: for God to protect His people across the nations who are vulnerable to terrorism during the Christmas period. (Psalm 5:11)

More: releaseinternational.org/christian-persecution-set-to-rise-in-2019/

North Cameroon: rampages by militants

Adults were murdered, children were kidnapped, and people robbed in Boko Haram attacks on mainly-Christian villages in the far north of Cameroon. The army has difficulty combatting militants in an area dotted with small, isolated villages linked by poor roads where militants strike and then escape via main roads back to Nigeria. On 1 December gunmen attacked mourners at a funeral in Kotserehé, killing four and wounding three. The following night, they murdered three and wounded another when they swarmed into Zangola, stealing food and clothing; they similarly looted Yagoua. In Mbreche, militants kidnapped 21 young people aged between 12 and 21; next they attacked Tahert, stealing a motorbike and wounding a girl. Those abducted will be forced to become Boko Haram ‘soldiers’ and fight for the extremists. In November a Christian boy was hacked to death for resisting militants’ attempt to abduct him as a ‘soldier’.

Pray: for God to comfort all who have been attacked and bereaved, and that the authorities can find the children and block the militants’ actions. (Psalm 86:17)

More: barnabasfund.org/en/news/seven-killed-and-21-young-people-kidnapped-in-far-north-cameroon-as-boko-haram-rampage

Global: polio in 2019

World Polio Day was on 24 October. Global polio numbers have fallen over decades, but new outbreaks continue to raise questions about eradication efforts in countries where humanitarian access is a problem. The recent surge in polio is fuelled by dozens of cases of wild poliovirus in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and by unexpected new outbreaks of vaccine-derived strains, rare mutations that affect under-immunised populations, in at least 14 other countries. Some of these had not seen polio for years, including Ghana and the Philippines, which both announced outbreaks in September. In some cases, vaccine-derived polio strains have leapt across borders - from Nigeria to its neighbours and from Somalia to Ethiopia. A WHO committee has said, ‘The risk of new outbreaks in other countries is considered extremely high, even probable’. There are grave concerns that it will not be possible to control outbreaks in Africa and Asia.

Pray: for vaccines to eradicate new strains, and for medicine to reach destinations safely. (Proverbs 3:8)

More: www.thenewhumanitarian.org/maps-and-graphics/2019/10/24/polio-outbreaks-how-virus-spread-decades-eradication-efforts

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