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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

Nigeria: government detains trafficking survivors

According to a Human Rights Watch report, survivors of human trafficking are being locked up in shelters by the Nigerian government. 76 of them are women suffering from depression, anxiety, insomnia, flashbacks, aches and pains. Despite attempts to combat human trafficking and provide support for survivors, care for victims is still severely lacking. Nigerian authorities are illegally detaining traumatised survivors, and inhibiting their recovery from the experiences they went through. They are not allowing survivors to leave at will, in violation of the country’s international legal obligations. The detentions overwhelmingly affect women and girls between the ages of 8 and 17, putting their recovery and well-being at risk. Some were promised well-paid jobs as domestic workers, hairdressers, or hotel staff but were then tricked and trapped in exploitation, and forced to pay back huge ‘debts’ for their travel.

Pray: for medical, counselling, financial support and reintegration into society or reuniting with their families for all the men, women and children. (Psalm 23:4)

More: www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/08/nigeria-government-detaining-trafficking-survivors-report-190827085056733.html

Chad: 30 killed in landslide

Chad’s defence minister has said that a landslide at an illegal gold mine had killed about thirty people in a region near the Libyan border early on 24 September, and more victims might still be buried in the rubble. There has been rapid growth in illegal mining in recent years, often by refugees from Sudan looking for quick money to head to Europe or by rebels fighting the army. Unsafe methods and a lack of oversight mean that accidents are common at such mines across Africa, where impoverished communities seek a share of the vast resources that are usually dug up by international companies, processed and sent overseas. As gold surges, so does illegal mining across Chad, South Africa, Ghana, Zimbabwe and Nigeria - bringing crime, danger and risk to fragile environments.

Pray: for those rescued to be arrested for illegal mining and trespassing, for those still underground to be found and for the families of the dead to be comforted. (Proverbs 21:15)

More: www.vanguardngr.com/2019/09/about-30-killed-in-landslide-at-chad-gold-mine/

Nigeria: kidnapped Christians alive?

More than a month after a video which implied that kidnapped Christian teenager Leah Sharibu had been killed, a presidential spokesman, citing intelligence from security agencies, released a statement stating that the government is negotiating with terrorists for the release of Leah and other captives. He said that lines of communication remain open with Boko Haram kidnappers, now called the Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP), to secure their release. The government understands how difficult these times are for the family and friends of the kidnapped girls, and is pursuing many options to ensure their safe return. However, the administration does not encourage payment of ransom to secure the release of captives. For this reason, he said, the government has not rushed to yield to the demands of the terrorist group. However, many no longer believe that the government is genuinely working to free the captives.

Pray: for the release of Leah and all the others abducted in recent years. (Nehemiah 9:19a)

More: www.assistnews.net/nigeria-says-leah-sharibu-is-alive/

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