Slaughter of More than 200 People in Plateau State, Nigeria Shocks Christians

Thomas Wurim, a Christian lecturer at the Plateau State Polytechnic, was among those killed by Muslim Fulani herdsmen at Dorowa Babuje village. (Morning Star News)

Thomas Wurim, a Christian lecturer at the Plateau State Polytechnic, was among those killed by Muslim Fulani herdsmen at Dorowa Babuje village. (Morning Star News)

JOSNigeria (Morning Star News) – Muslim Fulani herdsmen with machetes and firearms slaughtered more than 200 people in 10 predominantly Christian communities near Jos, Nigeria on Saturday, Sunday and last week in what a cattlemen’s spokesman admitted was likely retaliation for stealing cows.

Police in Jos said only 86 people had been killed in the predominantly Christian areas, but area residents and morgue sources informed Morning Star News of many more corpses. Dogo Nvou of Nghar, Gashish District in the Barkin Ladi area, said Fulanis killed more than 70 people in his village alone.

“My uncle, his wife and many relations [were] killed,” he said in a text message. “Over 70 people in my village have been killed. It is only the Lord that can comfort us all.”

The weekend (June 23-24) attacks took place in the predominantly Christian villages of Xland, Gindin Akwati, Ruku, Nghar, Kura Falls, Kakuruk, Rakok, Kok, and Razat, sources said. The villages are in the two districts of Gashish and Ropp in the Barkin Ladi Local Government Area (LGA).

“In Nghar village alone, about 70 corpses of Christians were recovered and the entire village has been burnt down by the Fulani herdsmen,” area resident Thomas Chuwang, 45, told Morning Star News by phone on Monday (June 25), adding that the victims there were members of the Church of Christ in Nations (COCIN).

A Morning Star News visit to the morgues at the Jos University Teaching Hospital and the Plateau State Specialist Hospital, Jos, showed that 216 corpses from the weekend attacks had been taken there, according to sources who requested anonymity.

Plateau Gov. Simon Lalong reportedly said the attacks killed more than 200 people and displaced thousands of others who lost houses and crops.

“The gory pictures of the killing of innocent citizens, women and children continue to torment our hearts, and it sends the serious message that something drastic needs to be done comprehensively, to nip once and for all the ugly menace of attacks that has come to be associated with suspected militia herdsmen,” Lalong said. “These reoccurring attacks have regrettably opened up space for all manners of criminality by criminal elements and conflict merchants, who engage daily in cattle rustling, theft, banditry, gun running and other forms of crimes amongst our citizens.”

In Xland and Gindin Akwati villages, the herdsmen killed about 60 Christians, area resident John Isa told Morning Star News by phone.

In Kakuruk village, the herdsmen burned down the COCIN worship building, including the pastor’s house, said area resident Christiana Audu, 35.

“The church building, pastor’s house and many other houses were destroyed by the herdsmen as they set fire on houses,” Audu said in a text message to Morning Star News. “I saw one corpse as I was escaping. More than 200 of us have escaped to the military base near our village.”

Istifanus Gyang, a member of Nigeria’s National Assembly, on Monday (June 25) issued a statement in Jos decrying the attacks, which took place in the areas he represents in Plateau state, describing it as “…painful holocaust, ethnic cleansing and genocidal killing of my people under the watch of a government that has abdicated its primary constitutional responsibility of safeguarding lives of law-abiding citizens.”

The state government has imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew in parts of the state.

Herdsmen’s Admission

The chairman the north-central chapter of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), Danladi Ciroma, on Monday (June 25) condemned the attacks but said they were most likely “retaliatory.”

“As much as I don’t support the killing of human beings, the truth must be told that those who carried out the attacks must be on revenge mission,” he said. “Fulani herdsmen have lost about 300 cows in the last few weeks – 94 cows were rustled by armed Berom youths in Fan village, another 36 cows were killed by Berom youths. In addition to that, 174 cattle were rustled.”

Area Christians question how villagers untrained to handle cattle could have “rustled” the high number of cows that Ciroma claims, especially with military check-points mounted throughout the state that would make it difficult to move such a quantity of livestock.

In the past eight years, more than 50 Christian villages in the Barkin Ladi and Riyom areas have been sacked and taken over by the herdsmen, Christian community leaders say.

With the cattle breeder spokesman’s admission that Fulani herdsmen likely carried out the attacks, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and human rights advocates demanded the arrest and prosecution of the assailants.

“Lives of domestic animals are more valuable than human lives in my country,” human rights advocate Agbo Madaki reportedly said. “If any group is taking responsibility and government fails to do anything, it would appear that the killers enjoy some measures of protection from the government of the day. It behooves the government as the custodian of security in Nigeria to arrest the perpetrators of this dastardly act, so that those who have been killed can rest in peace.”

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari condemned the killings, but human rights advocate Femi Falana reportedly said the failure of his government to arrest the assailants “will attract an institution of a case against the federal and state governments for condoning crimes against humanity and genocide.”

“If Your Excellency does not take appropriate action to stop the killings in Plateau, we shall not hesitate to report the authorities of the federal government and the Plateau state government to the Special Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court for condoning crimes against humanity and genocide,” he said.

In a press statement, CAN leaders called on the government to immediately arrest and prosecute the killers.

“We noted that the affected communities are yet to come out with the exact figure of the death toll, but we are alarmed that no fewer than 86 lives, as confirmed by the police, have been lost, including defenseless women and children,” they said. “Of what relevance is the intelligence gathering by the Department of State Services (DSS) and other security agencies? If communities can be attacked and hundreds slaughtered without security organizations providing rescue efforts, then, it becomes obvious that the Nigeria’s security system has been compromised.”

Buhari met with state officials, security leaders and traditional leaders on Tuesday (June 26) and later said he would not relent in his responsibility to protect the lives of Nigerians.

Prior Killing

Three days before the weekend attack, herdsmen killed a Christian family of four in Kai village, also in Barkin Ladi LGA.

Reports from the area indicate the COCIN church members were attacked in their home on June 20 at about 8 p.m. Police spokesman Mathias Terna Tyopev issued a press statement on Thursday (June 21) identifying the victims as Dauda Mahan, 54; Mangai Agwom, 46; Christian Mangai, 15; and John Mangai, 10.

The Rev. Benjamin Kwashi, Anglican archbishop of Jos Archdiocese, commented on the attacks in a Facebook post.

“When leadership at any level, including religious, turns its back on the sufferings of orphans, the poor and widows, its next and only option is embrace of wickedness, unexplainable greed and shameless display of God forbidden evil,” he wrote. “The poor are dying defenselessly, BUT their blood is crying in the land…Judgment is coming.”

Christians make up 51.3 percent of Nigeria’s population, while Muslims living primarily in the north and middle belt account for 45 percent.

Nigeria ranked 14th on Open Doors’ 2018 World Watch List of countries where Christians suffer the most persecution.

Christian Death Toll from Herdsmen Attacks Mounts in Adamawa State, Nigeria

JOSNigeria (Morning Star News) – Muslim Fulani herdsmen have killed at least 54 Christians this year in the northeastern state of Adamawa, Nigeria, according to area sources.

In a state where predominantly Christian Bachama tribesmen have formed militias in response to violence by Islamic extremist group Boko Haram and heavily-armed Muslim Fulani herdsmen, Christians were slaughtered in the Numan, Demsa, Lamurde and Girei areas, the sources  said.

At least 15 Christians were killed in the Numan area on May 2 when Fulani herdsmen attacked Bang, Nyanga, Bonki and Nzomosu villages, area resident Harold Wilson told Morning Star News by text message.

“About 400 armed Fulani herdsmen carried out the attacks,” he reported.

Arnold Jibla, chairman of the Numan Local Government Area (LGA), confirmed the attack in a phone interview with Morning Star News.

In the Demsa LGA, herdsmen attacked Gwamba village on Feb. 27, killing 20 Christians and wounding 23 others, said resident Omayan Tambaya Dilli.

“The attack occurred about 8 a.m. and lasted three hours,” Dilli said. “The Fulani herdsmen drove into Gwamba in four trucks and many motorbikes to carry out the attack.”

In apparent retaliation for attacks by ethnic Bachama militia on Fulani families, among the 20 Christians killed by the armed Muslim Fulani herdsmen was the Rev. Haruna Enoch, area residents said. The killings reportedly came in retaliation for an unspecified attack on Fulani families by young men from the predominantly Christian Bachama tribe who have formed militias in response to violence by Boko Haram and heavily-armed Muslim Fulani herdsmen.

Dilli said about 3,000 Christians in the community were displaced after the Feb. 27 attacks, and that it was the second time the community was attacked this year.

“In January, the Gwamba community was also attacked by the herdsmen, and one Christian was killed,” he said.

Also in January, Muslim Fulani herdsmen killed three Christians in Kikon in the Numan LGA. On Jan. 21 the herdsmen drove into the community on motorbikes and destroyed whatever they saw, area resident Mary Amos told Morning Star News by text message.

“They invaded our community at about 2 a.m., burning down houses and destroying farmlands,” she said, adding that other Christian communities in roughly the same period, Mbang and Baga villages, were also attacked.

Two weeks earlier in the Lamurde area, the herdsmen on Jan. 7 attacked the Christian communities of Suwa and Burukutu, resident Thomas Ayuba told Morning Star News by phone.

“The attacks by the Fulani herdsmen occurred at about 4 a.m.,” he said. “They destroyed our houses completely, forcing those of us who survived to flee.”

A day earlier in the Girei LGA, herdsmen killed 15 Christian in an attack on Luru village on Jan. 6, said area resident Christopher Ahmadu.

“The herdsmen attacked these farmers while they were working on their farms,” Ahmadu told Morning Star News.

The Rev. Musa Panti Filibus, president of the Lutheran World Fellowship and archbishop of the Lutheran Church of Christ in Nigeria (LCCN), recently said the killings were undermining the church.

“It is most saddening that the senseless killings and attacks on our people continues unabated,” Filibus told delegates to the General Church Council of the LCCN in Numan town on May 29. “We are disturbed by the monstrous acts of our attackers and killers, who raid, ransack, and set ablaze our villages and towns sometimes in broad daylight.”

Filibus urged Christians in northern Nigeria not to give up praying for the herdsmen and for a halt to the carnage, and to advocate for government action.

“I call us to continue to put pressure on our government at all levels to rise to their responsibility of protecting citizens from internal and external aggression,” he said. “We will continue to condemn in strongest terms possible the brutal and gruesome killings of innocent citizens.”

Five Christians Sentenced to Death

While no Muslim Fulani herdsmen has been prosecuted for the thousands of murders of Christian civilians in recent years in Nigeria, Christians were outraged when a Muslim judge in Yola, capital of Adamawa state, this month sentenced five Christians to death for the killing of a herdsman who had joined attacks on Christian communities.

Abdul-Azeez Waziri on June 11 rejected the self-defense argument of Alex Amos, Alheri Phanuel, Holy Boniface, Jerry Gideon and Jari Sabagi, all residents of the Demsa LGA, in the June 1 killing of Adamu Buba. The judge said the five Christians “willfully and intentionally conspired and attacked three herdsmen rearing cattle, killing one of them, Adamu Buba,” in Kadamun village, Demsa LGA.

“I hereby sentence the accused persons on counts one and two to death by hanging, while on counts four and five, I sentence the accused to three years in prison to run concurrently,” Waziri reportedly said, adding that they have the option of appealing within 90 days.

Yola resident Zidon Love said in a text to Morning Star News shortly after the ruling that the five Christians are members of the LCCN.

“These five Christians will die if nothing is urgently done to assist them,” he said.

The president of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), the Rev. Samson Ayokunle, said in a June 12 statement that there is no moral justification for the death penalty for the five Christians.

“CAN is not supporting jungle justice or any criminality,” Ayokunle said. “But hundreds of our members [Christians] in southern Kaduna, Benue, Taraba and Plateau states in the north-central geo-political zones, and a state like Enugu in the south, have been killed. Citizens stood helpless at the massacre of their peaceful fellow Nigerians; the international community watched in anguish how government security agencies could not bring perpetrators of these heinous killings to book.”

Ayokunle said that in spite of gruesome killings of Christians in different parts of Nigeria, it saddens the church that no Muslim herdsmen have been arrested and charged.

“We are shocked at the speed of light deployed by security and judicial officers in sentencing the alleged killers of the herdsman in Adamawa state,” he said, questioning the rationale behind the death sentence while Muslims who killed Christians in major Nigerian cities for evangelizing have been set free.

“Why did the court discharge the alleged killers of Madam Bridget Agbahime on the orders of the Kano state government?” he said. “Why have security officials not arrested those behind the killings of Christians in southern Kaduna? Why did Nigeria Police set free those arrested for the murder of Mrs. Eunice Elisha Olawale in Kubwa, Abuja? In view of this, CAN is calling on President Buhari to intervene in the death sentence passed on these Christian youths in Adamawa.”

Ayokunle said CAN leaders have asked attorneys to urgently study the sentencing in order to file a stay of execution motion.

The Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN) also opposed the verdict of the Yola High Court. Bishop Emmah Isong, PFN spokesman, said in a statement on Tuesday (June 19) that the Pentecostal fellowship’s opposition to the death sentence should not seen as supporting crime in any form.

Isong, who is also president of the Christian Central Chapel International in Calabar, said there should be equity and fairness when issues involving Christians and Muslims are presented before Nigeria’s courts.

Isong said it is unacceptable to the Pentecostal fellowship that no herdsman has been arrested, prosecuted and condemned to death by any court in Nigeria for killing thousands of Christians in Benue, Taraba, Nasarawa, and Kogi states.

“It looks as if it is vengeance for a Yola court to condemn five Christians to death for allegedly killing herdsman when herdsmen are rampaging everywhere killing and maiming innocent Christians and going free,” he said.

The pastor also said the leadership of PFN will have no option but to mount protests if the execution of the five Christians is not overturned.

“It is high time the federal government had to intervene and to ensure that those Christians are not killed to forestall further religious conflict within that axis,” Isong said. “Instead of killing people for herdsmen, the Nigerian federal government should rather find a way to curtail their activities and provide adequate security to all Nigerians.”

The World Council of Bishops, whose World Episcopal Headquarters is based in Texas, sent a letter dated June 13 to Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari calling for a halt of the death sentences.

“Nigeria has suffered untold bloodshed from killings, maiming, traumatizing of innocent citizens around the north-eastern, north-central and Middle Belt states, as a result of the frequent attacks by the Fulani herdsmen times without number,” the bishops stated.

Christians make up 51.3 percent of Nigeria’s population, while Muslims living primarily in the north and middle belt account for 45 percent.

Nigeria ranked 14th on Open Doors’ 2018 World Watch List of countries where Christians suffer the most persecution.

How Muslim Mobs Attack Christian Churches in Egypt with Impunity

(Morning Star News) – Christians coerced into an out-of-court settlement following an Islamist attack on a church building in Egypt recently saw the usual outcome – a closed church – a practice that has long oppressed Christians, according to Middle East observers.

Members of an armed Muslim mob that attacked a church building in Meinin village, Beni Suef Governorate, in April were acquitted on May 22 of mobbing, fighting and possession of unlicensed firearms based on a “conciliation” settlement calling for the church site to close.

Nine Christians were arrested – with five held illegally for a month – and charged with failing to have a church building license in a country where officials are slow to approve licenses if at all, Middle East specialist Raymond Ibrahim noted on his website. The State Security Court handed the nine Christians and 11 Muslims one-year suspended sentences, essentially acquitting them based on the out-of-court settlement.

Coptic villagers told Watani newspaper that authorities had recently visited the site in preparation for legalizing the church building, prompting the attack.

Obtaining or constructing a church building in Egypt was nearly impossible before a 2016 Law for Building Churches, and the Meinin church of the Holy Virgin and Pope Kyrillos had applied for legalization under the law – which stipulates that no church that has submitted its application to officials shall be closed, according to Watani.

Muslim attacks on church buildings create the threat of sectarian conflict that then serves as the pretext for closing them, Ibrahim notes.

“Authorities tell Christian leaders things like, ‘Yes, we understand the situation and your innocence, but the only way to create calm in the village is for X [the offending Christian and extended family, all of whom may have been beaten] to leave the village – just for now, until things calm down,’” Ibrahim wrote in a previous article. “Or, ‘Yes, we understand you need a church, but as you can see, the situation is volatile right now, so, for the time being, maybe you can walk to the church in the next town six miles away – you know, until things die down.”

Should the Christians refuse and demand their rights as citizens against the assailants, authorities smile and say “Okay,” he states.

“Then they go through the village making arrests – except that most of those whom they arrest are Christian youths,” he writes. “Then they tell the Christian leaders, ‘Well, we’ve made the arrests. But just as you say so-and-so [Muslim] was involved, there are even more witnesses [Muslims] who insist your own [Christian] youths were the ones who began the violence. So, we can either arrest and prosecute them, or you can rethink our offer about having a reconciliation meeting.”

The dejected Christians see no alternative but to comply, or else their young men will go to prison and be tortured, Ibrahim notes.

Islamist assailants are further emboldened to attack the next church about to be legalized, he adds.

In the Beni Suef attack, five Coptic Christians illegally held without charge for a month were released on May 21. One of them, Farag Sehata, lost his job due to the detention, his brother told Watani. Sehata was unable to provide proof to his employers that he was in police custody because, not wanting to admit holding him illegally, officers refused to give it to him.

The Meinin village church had used its now-shuttered building for about 10 years, according to Watani. It is one of 3,370 churches that Samuel Tadros, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom, said have applied for licenses. Earlier this year the government announced the legalization of 53 church buildings under the new law, all constructed before the 2016 church building law went into effect.

Delta Church Attack

Another church that applied for legalization under the new law was attacked by Muslims who feared it was about to be legalized, according to Watani.

Muslims at a mosque in Al-Shuqaf, near Housh Eissa in the west Delta governorate of Beheira, on May 26 reportedly used mosque microphones to call on villagers to attack the church.

“The mob also pelted the Coptic villagers’ houses with stones, damaged the priest’s car, and set on fire a motorbike that was parked in front of the church,” Watani reported. “Seven Copts suffered slight injuries. The Coptic villagers claim that the nine Copts who were arrested had been caught randomly in what has now become common practice by the police in order to pressure the Copts into ‘conciliation,’ so that no legal action would be taken against the Muslim culprits in exchange for setting free the Coptic detainees and ensuring a swift end to hostilities.”

With the intervention of local political and security officials, the Coptic Christians and Muslims forged an agreement allowing the church building to remain in use if charges were dropped against the assailants, according to Watani.

The church is among those that have applied for legalization under the 2016 law, which eases building and restoration restrictions for the first time in centuries.

Egypt was ranked 17th on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2018 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian.

YouTube admits mistake and reinstates pro-life channel

YouTube has apologised to a pro-life organisation for suspending its channel over content.

The suspension was placed on Heartbeat International’s Abortion Pill Reversal channel last month, after it had posted four videos showing how a baby can still be saved if the mother has taken an abortion pill.

But after an appeal, the censorship has been ended.

Successful appeal

Jor-El Godsey, President of Heartbeat International, said: “We commend YouTube for acknowledging their mistake and promptly resolving it.”

“No woman should ever be censored for sharing her testimony simply because she chose life – even at the last minute. Nor should vital life-saving information be censored from the public”, she added.

The successful appeal was launched with the support of pro-life group Susan B. Anthony List.

Censorship

Mallory Quigley, Vice President of Communications for SBA List, said censorship of pro-life views is becoming increasingly common.

“Big social media companies have a track record of arbitrarily banning content from pro-life groups who then have to jump through hoops to have it reinstated, while organisations like Planned Parenthood are allowed to promote abortion on demand.”

“Social media is a great equalizer for pro-lifers standing up to the well-funded abortion lobby and its massive PR machine.

“We will continue to assert our rights and fight the censorship of pro-life views”, she added.

Bomb making

One of the videos that the Abortion Pill Reversal channel had posted featured a doctor explaining the process from a medical perspective, while three others showed mothers recounting their experiences of having ‘reversed’ their abortion.

YouTube had explained that it “doesn’t allow content that encourages or promotes violent or dangerous acts that have an inherent risk of serious physical harm or death”.

Other videos such as “instructional bomb making, choking games, hard drug use, or other acts where serious injury may result” fall into this category.

 

Christians Arrested at Wedding Site on ‘Forcible Conversion’ Charge in India, Relatives Say

Location of Simdega District in Jharkhand state, eastern India. (Wikipedia)

HYDERABADIndia (Morning Star News) – Two weeks ago a Christian couple in eastern India was about to get married, not knowing the bride’s father had filed a false complaint of forcible conversion against them, relatives said.

As they were preparing for the wedding on May 28, police in Jharkhand state arrived at the site of the ceremony and arrested the bride and groom, along with pastor Sudarshan Manjhi, who was to officiate, and a Christian woman invited to attend, they said.

In his complaint, the bride’s father, Somaru Manjhi, alleged that Christians beat him and threatened to kill him if he did not convert to Christianity, allegations which his 18-year-old daughter, Tripti, said were false.

Bolba police in Simdega District registered a First Information Report on May 30, charging the Christians with forcible conversion under Jharkhand state’s new anti-conversion act.

“My father was drugged with alcohol that day, and the Sarna tribals, including the village president, abetted him to submit the false complaint in the police station pending the wedding so there won’t be a Christian wedding in the village,” Tripti told Morning Star News.

“He [Somaru Manjhi] is now repentant for what he has done, but it is too late.”

Everybody in her family of six (four children) put their faith in Christ except her father, she said. Her sister, Sumanti Kumari, the bride, was baptized in 2012 and could never think of marrying a non-Christian in the Sarna tradition, Tripti said.

Though her father wanted Sumanti Kumari to marry a tribal Sarna, she refused, and the rest of the family supported her, Tripti said. Her marriage to 28-year-old Rupesh Manjhi was decided after discussions with elders in the family and church in the presence of Pastor Manjhi, she said.

The pastor’s wife, Biyari Devi, told Morning Star News that the wedding was decided according to the bride and groom’s wishes.

“They both come from Sarna families but have accepted Christ, and it is obvious that they would want a holy matrimony,” Devi said. “Somaru Manjhi is my uncle also in relation. He has always been against Christ and the church since the house church was established in 2008. But he never became violent or aggressive with us until the question was about his daughter’s marriage.”

Rupesh Manjhi, the groom, was ostracized by his family after he came to Christ, Devi told Morning Star News.

Tripti said her family has been pleading with her father to drop the charges.

“We have been pleading with my father to testify in the court that he was instigated by the Sarnas, and that the allegations are false,” she said. “My younger brother and I keep asking him, ‘How can you go against your own daughter? She is in jail because of you. Why are you doing this?’”

Her father responded that he had filed the complaint on the command of the village president and elders, and that he would ask them for help to free only his daughter, Tripti said. Completely in their control, he had only signed the complaint they wrote, she said.

“They have used him to falsely frame the pastor and the couple,” Tripti told Morning Star News.

An attorney representing the Christians told Morning Star News that a family dispute has turned into a nonbailable offense by the “draconian” anti-conversion act.

“The fact that an irrelevant law has been pulled in needlessly in a family dispute that could have simply arisen from difference of opinions between the members is unfortunate and must be condemned,” the attorney said on the condition of anonymity. “It is very unfortunate police registered the FIR without enquiring or verifying into the matter under a law that contains harsh provisions.”

A bail petition was rejected by the chief judicial magistrate. The attorney said a decision on another bail petition before the district sessions judge is awaited.

“They are just a young couple who wanted to be married, and two other people, the pastor and a female believer who were present at the venue, also have been arrested,” the attorney said.

Section 4 of the Jharkhand’s anti-conversion law, ironically titled a “Freedom of Religion Act,” punishes a person guilty of forcible conversion of a minor, woman or a person belonging to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes by imprisonment of four years and fine up to 100,000 rupees (US$1,480).

In 2017, six Christians from a Simdega village were falsely charged with hurting religious beliefsafter the villagers attacked them for praying for a sick woman.

11 Christians Arrested

In neighboring West Singhbum District, 11 Christians in Mohanpur have been charged with forcible conversion, including a politician who ran in state Legislative Assembly elections in 2014.

Indrajeet Samad, 53, leader of Adivasi Ho Samaj Mahasabha Prakhand Samiti, a movement launched by indigenous tribes, submitted a complaint to Mohanpur police against the Christians, sources said.

Samad alleged that the Christians who visit his village often entice tribal people with money in order to convert them to Christianity. The May 12 complaint, translated from Hindi, accuses Christians Ajay Champiya, as well as Suman Champiya and his family, of being influenced by Christianity and conducting prayers at their residence with the 11 Christians.

He also claimed that the Christians threatened his group, alleging that they warned that if Samad’s party resisted their conversion efforts, they would have Maoists kill him and his colleagues.

“These are false allegations,” one of the accused told Morning Star News. “Eleven are booked in one case, and there is no connection between us. I belong to CNI [Church of North India], others are Pentecostal or Baptist.”

In 2016, villagers ostracized Suman Champiya’s family after they were baptized, and they have been under pressure since then, said a source who requested anonymity.

On April 9, Ajay Champiya and his wife, Suman Champiya, filed a complaint with Mohanpur police that villagers had ostracized them for more than two years, and that Samad and his colleagues had made it difficult for Christians to live in the village.

“They told us that they work for [Hindu extremist group] RSS, and that all the Christians should be put to death,” the Christians said in the complaint. “Inderjeet Samad passed an order that the Christians water supply must be disconnected, and that they should not be allowed to excrete in fields.”

Mohanpur police refused to register a First Information Report (FIR) based on the two-page complaint, filing an FIR only after tribal leader Samad filed a complaint. Only Samad’s complaint made its way into the FIR. Police charged the Christians with criminal intimidation and Section 4 of the anti-conversion act.

“We moved a petition before the district’s sessions judge with the help of a Christian attorney and are waiting for anticipatory bail,” another accused Christian told Morning Star News.

An attorney representing the Christians said the complaint randomly accuses them of saying certain people have come to know Christ.

“The accusations do not seem specific to any particular person, and the Christian family in question were converted 10 years ago,” the attorney told Morning Star News. “Eleven individuals who have no connection with each other are booked under the draconian act merely because they identify themselves as Christians.”

Samad is a front-runner as the Hindu extremist Bharatiya Janata Party’s candidate for the Legislative Assembly from Mohanpur in elections to be held in 2020, said another source.

Religious freedom advocacy group Alliance Defending Freedom-India has recorded 76 incidents of violence against Christians in India in the first four months of 2018, a rate of 20 per month, as recorded on its United Christian Forum helpline (1-800-208-4545).

ADF-India’s records show 15 Christians have been booked under Section 4 of Jharkhand’s anti-conversion act since it became a law in February 2018.

According to the 2011 Jharkhand Religion Census, only 4.3 percent of the state’s population practices Christianity.

The hostile tone of the National Democratic Alliance government, led by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, against non-Hindus, has emboldened Hindu extremists in several parts of the country to attack Christians since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took power in May 2014, religious rights advocates say.

India ranked 11th on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2018 World Watch List of countries where Christians experience the most persecution.

Two Christians Ambushed, Killed in Central Nigeria

Peace Joseph, 6, slain in attack in Miango, Nigeria on March 8. (Morning Star News)

JOSNigeria (Morning Star News) – Muslim Fulani herdsmen on Sunday (June 10) killed two Christians and seriously wounded another in central Nigeria as they made their way home from a church service, local sources said.

Ibrahim Weyi, 45, and Larry More, 53, were said to be hacked to death when herdsmen ambushed them at 7:40 p.m. as the Christians were going home on a motorcycle from an evening worship service in Plateau state’s Kwall village, in the Bassa area, Patience Moses told Morning Star News.

A third Christian, 23-year-old Samuel Weyi, was wounded in the attack, the local resident said. All three belong to the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) in Kwall, another resident, Lawerence Zango, told Morning  Star News. Weyi is receiving treatment at an Intensive Care Unit of a hospital in Jos, he said.

“Fulani herdsmen have continued to kill innocent Christians in our villages, yet the Nigerian government has not taken proactive measures to end the onslaught,” Zango said.

A spokesman for the Plateau State Command, Mathias Tyopev, confirmed the attack and told Morning Star News that an investigation is underway.

Herdsmen attacks on Christian communities in the Bassa area intensified late last year and have continued in spite of the presence of military personnel, sources said. Since February, 11 Christians have lost their lives in the area at the hands of Muslim Fulani herdsmen, including the two killed on Sunday, said the Rev. Sunday Zibeh, pastor of the ECWA church in Nzharuvo, Miango.

“In these cases, the victims were either ambushed and killed by the herdsmen or attacked in their homes at night,” Pastor Zibeh told Morning Star News. “The sad reality is that the Nigerian government headed by President Muhammadu Buhari, himself a Muslim and a Fulani man, has not acted in any way to end these attacks.”

He gave the names of those killed as Adam Sunday, 38; Jatau Akus, 39; Chohu Awarhai and Marcus Mali, 22, all of Jebbu-Miango village. They were ambushed and killed by the herdsmen on April 18.

“The four victims were construction workers working on site when they were attacked,” he said.

In March two other Christians, 17-year-old Lumumbah Chayi and Joseph Alli, 23, were killed in Jebbu-Miango and Rotsu villages, he said.

“Joseph was attacked and beheaded at about 9:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 15 in Rotsu village, while Chayi, a high school student, was murdered on Monday, March 12, at about 7 p.m. by the Fulani herdsmen in Kwall village,” he said.

In February three other Christians were killed and two injured in an ambush by herdsmen near Zanwra village, Pastor Zibeh said. John Esije was 32; Monday Nzwe was 38; and Saku Giyeri was 41. The wounded survivors are Sunday Bala, 33, and, Gudu Gara, 25, he said, adding that all the victims were members of ECWA church.

Zango, a church youth leader in Miango, which is part of the Bassa Local Government Area, told Morning Star News that since the beginning of 2017, 99 Christians in the Miango area have been killed in attacks on at least 26 villages, with another 44 Christians injured and 863 houses razed.

Among them were three children of an ECWA church member in Nzharuvo village, Miango. Joseph Gah Nze said Muslim Fulani herdsmen broke into his house on at 10 p.m. on March 8 and killed his three children – 12-year-old twins Christopher and Emmanuel, and 6-year Peace Joseph – and 18-year-old nephew Henry Audu.

In addition, Zango said more than 23,000 Christians have been displaced from their Miango area homes, thousands of dollars of farm produce have been destroyed and 15 motorbikes and a bus have been burned. At least 24 irrigation water pumps have been destroyed, he added.

The Irigwe Development Association, an umbrella community organization for Irigwe ethnic peoples, who are predominantly Christian, in April decried the incessant killings. Sunday Abdu, president of the association, said at a press conference in Jos on April 24 that between Jan. 25 and March 12, more than 70 Christians were killed by armed Muslim Fulani herdsmen.

“The Irigwe nation feels compelled to once more raise the alarm over the continuous loss of lives from attacks on innocent villages,” Abdu said. “You are aware that we buried 25 people on the day we had set out to bury four out of the five that were killed on the night of the president’s visit to the state, this is in addition to the ones we have buried from series of attacks since January, not to mention the number of homes we have lost from such attacks and the destruction of farmlands which has ensured a looming hunger.”

Christians make up 51.3 percent of Nigeria’s population, while Muslims living primarily in the north and middle belt account for 45 percent.

Nigeria ranked 14th on Open Doors’ 2018 World Watch List of countries where Christians suffer the most persecution.

Burkina Faso: Kidnappers Release Pastor and His family after Four Days

Burkina Faso: Kidnappers Release Pastor and His family after Four Days

The Christian pastor who was abducted on Sunday with his family in Burkina Faso’s north-eastern province of Soum has been released.

Local sources told national broadcaster Omega Radio that Pastor Pierre Boena, his son David and his daughter-in-law, Ami Sawadogo were released yesterday (7 June).

The report does not specifically mention the two granddaughters, Fasne-wendé Ouédraogo and Pélagie Sawadogo, who were also abducted during the raid on Sunday, but does state that the pastor was released “with all the other members of his family in Malian territory”.

The reason for their release is not known, nor is it known whether a ransom was paid.

Pierre Boena, a pastor with an Assembly of God church, was kidnapped on Sunday evening in his village of Bilhore, near the border with Mali.

At the time of the attack he was at home with four family members and a church member, Pauline Sawadogo, who was visiting with her two daughters, Sanata and Zoenabou, local sources told World Watch Monitor.

These sources suggested that Pauline and her daughters may have been kidnapped along with Pastor Boena’s family on Sunday. Speaking on Thursday they said the whereabouts of Pauline and her daughters remain unknown.

Meanwhile there has still been no news regarding catechist Basnéré Mathieu Sawadogo, and his wife Alizeta, who were abducted two weeks earlier. Mathieu serves as a catechist at their parish, Notre Dame des Apôtres (Our Lady of the Apostles) in Arbinda, 100km from Djibo.

Kidnappers have previously targeted Djibo. Eighteen months ago an Australian couple were taken hostage from the city by al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). Ken and Jocelyn Elliott had run a 120-bed clinic for 40 years until their abduction in January 2016. Jocelyn was released a month later, but her husband remains in captivity.

No group has yet claimed responsibility for the recent kidnappings but World Watch Monitor understands that the perpetrators are believed to be members of the Fulani ethnic group.

Some relatives have been able to speak over the phone with the hostages, who told their family that they were in good health and were being treated well by their abductors.

The kidnappings could be the result of acts of violence against Fulani communities by security forces which, it was said, had angered them.

The Fulani and the Tuareg are the two main nomadic ethnic groups in northern Burkina Faso, and in neighbouring Mali and Niger.

Access to grazing land and water have caused tensions between the two communities. Militant members of the two communities are also fighting alongside numerous Islamist groups active in the Sahel region.

Police in Pakistan Kill Young Christian Man in Raid, Relatives Say

Body of Waqas Masih. (Morning Star News)

LAHOREPakistan (Morning Star News) – Poor Christians in Pakistan commonly see police target them for extortion on false charges, and last week such a case ended in the death of a 24-year-old Christian, relatives said.

On the assumption that Christians with few legal resources can be targeted with impunity in the 96-percent Muslim country, policemen on May 29 killed Waqas Masih when his uncle refused their demand for money after they threatened to file false charges, the relatives said. Police are now pressuring the family to drop the murder case, they said.

The slain young man’s mother, a widow who belongs to a Pentecostal church, told Morning Star News that three policemen forced their way into the home of her brother, rickshaw driver Saleem Masih, in in Punjab Province’s Haider Colony, Gujrat District. Saleem Masih had recruited Waqas Masih and other relatives to help him with a construction project at his residence.

“Around 6 p.m., I was informed that three policemen had beaten my son to death,” Khalida Bibi, a sweeper at a hospital, told Morning Star News. “The police are now mounting pressure on us to ‘reconcile’ with their accused colleagues. They were initially reluctant to even arrest the accused, but eventually they had to take them into custody when we threatened to launch protests.”

Saleem Masih’s son, Emmanuel Saleem, told Morning Star News that he and other relatives were sitting in the courtyard of their home when three officers identified only as Shoaib, Shehbaz and Saqib forced their way in around 5:15 p.m.

“We asked them what they wanted, to which they said that they had information that we are drug peddlers and that they had raided the house to recover the narcotics,” he said, adding that the allegation was frivolous as the three policemen were notorious for blackmailing poor people in the area.

“We are poor Christians, but we earn our livelihood with honesty and integrity,” Emmanuel Saleem said. “We knew that the policemen were there for extorting money, but since we had done nothing wrong, my father chose to confront them rather than succumb to their blackmail.”

A heated argument ensued between his father and the police, and they began threatening to file false charges against him and other family members, he said.

“This must have panicked Waqas, who ran outside the house,” Emmanuel Saleem said. “The three cops ran after him, as did my other cousins, Qaiser and Dawood. The cops got hold of Waqas soon after and started hitting him mercilessly with punches, kicks and gun butts. Qaiser and Dawood tried to save Waqas from the police torture, but they were pushed back and warned not to intervene in the beating.”

His two cousins had returned to the house to tell his father what had happened when the policemen arrived and told them to check on Waqas Masih, saying he was “feigning illness,” Emmanuel Saleem said.

“We immediately rushed toward Waqas and saw him lying on the street, motionless,” he said, adding that he had already died by the time they arrived.

Waqas Masih worked as an assistant gardener at a government-run, rural health center. Asked why he had run from the house, Emmanuel Saleem said police often target poor Christians for extortion and file fake charges against them when they don’t have anything to pay. He said this was not the first time local police had illegally entered a home and beat Christians.

“Waqas was a very honest and hard-working young man who had no criminal history,” he said. “I guess he got frightened after the policemen threatened to implicate the cousins in fake cases.”

He confirmed that officials were pressuring the family to “pardon” the accused and give statements in their favor.

“We have even been offered money, besides threats to withdraw the FIR [First Information Report], but we have decided to hold our ground,” he said.

Police Denial

Gujrat District Police Officer (DPO) Jehanzeb Nazeer, however, denied that the accused officers were pressuring the family.

“I immediately ordered the registration of the FIR, and the three accused officials were taken into custody within 72 hours of the incident,” he said, but he added that the officers have not been formally charged with murder as the initial post-mortem report did not reveal the cause of death.

“The initial post-mortem report does not state any injury marks on the deceased’s body or the cause of death, therefore we are now waiting for a full report from the Punjab Forensic Science Agency [PFSA] before reaching a final conclusion about the incident,” he said.

Initial investigation showed the three officers raided the house on a tip that drug peddlers were present, he said.

“Waqas fled when the officials sought to frisk him, resulting in a chase,” he said. “The boy reportedly fell on the road, and one constable claims that he only kicked him twice in anger. The boy died on the spot, and the officials fled the scene.”

When asked if the deceased had any criminal record, the police chief said that they had not found any case registered against him.

Nazeer denied that the three accused officers extorted money from citizens.

“Since the matter involves a minority community, I took immediate action so that no one tries to exploit the situation for their ulterior motives,” he said. “Action will be taken in accordance with the law if the PFSA report points to police high-handedness.”

The three officders were taken into custody so that they could not influence the investigation or fabricate evidence against the victim, he added.

Pakistan is ranked fifth on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2018 Word Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian.

CITY’S BAN ON CHRISTIAN CHURCH ‘UNCONSTITUTIONAL’

Cross

The action was filed this week by the Alliance Defending Freedom over the action by the city of Monroe, North Carolina, to not allow a church to have worship services at its newly rented and renovated building.

That’s even though another church had been in that space previously.

What happened was that the city adopted a new, and “unconstitutional” zoning code that bars the group called “At the Cross Fellowship Baptist Church.”

If the church were a library, it would be allowed there. Or a museum. Or another nonprofit group.

“The government can’t discriminate against churches simply because they are religious,” said ADF Senior Counsel Erik Stanley, director of the ADF Center for Christian Ministries. “At the Cross Fellowship Baptist Church is being told they are unwelcome – in the same part of the community where city officials would allow a library, art gallery, or museum. Zoning laws like Monroe’s are unconstitutional and violate federal law.”

The background is that the church’s leaders visited the site, at 1617 W. Roosevelt Blvd., with a goal of finding a location they could use.

“The property owner informed them that another church had occupied space in the same building in the recent past. In January 2018, the church entered into an agreement to rent the 1,500-square-foot property and proceeded to renovate it,” ADF reported.

But when it asked for a certificate of occupancy, the city said the rules had been changed and no church would be allowed in that location.

The regulations allow for “education, training, or resources of a public, nonprofit, or charitable nature,” the ADF said.

But it identifies churches as not allowed.

The action by the ADF attorneys that now has been filed is At the Cross Fellowship Baptist Church v. City of Monroe in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina.

“The city has treated the church on less than equal terms with similarly situationed nonreligious assemblies and institutions, substantially burdened the church’s free exercise of religion, and infringed on the church’s rights to free speech, peaceable assembly, and equal protection,” the complaint states.

WND’s attempt to obtain a comment from the city because it was closed.

“The city’s unequal treatment and discrimination against the church, through ordinance O-2017-13 and its officers, agents, servants, employees, or persons ating at their behest or direction, has caused the church to suffer damages,” the complaint explains.

The lawsuit asserts the city is violation the church’s equal terms rights, nondiscrimination requirements, the Free Exercise Clause, free speech, and other constitutional provisions.

It asks that the city be told to treat the church fairly and equally.


Four Iranian Christians Set to Begin Ten-year Prison Sentences

Four Iranian Christians Set to Begin Ten-year Prison Sentences

The four Iranian Christians who saw their ten-year prison sentences upheld by an appeal court earlier this month are expecting to have to report to prison any day now.

Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, and fellow Church of Iran members Yasser Mossayebzadeh, Saheb Fadaie and Mohammad Reza Omidi could receive a call within the next 24 hours to report at the prison gate in their home city of Rasht, Mansour Borji from the London-based advocacy organisation Article 18 told World Watch Monitor.

The four Christians were convicted of “promoting Zionist Christianity” and running house churches and appealed their sentences before the Revolutionary Court on 14 December last year but were unsuccessful.

Nadarkhani and Omidi, in addition to their jail terms, were also sentenced to two years’ internal exile, which they are to serve in the south of Iran, on the opposite side of the country from their homes near the Caspian Sea.

 

Four other Christians who also received lengthy sentences are still waiting the outcome of their own appeals, which were heard in the Revolutionary Court by the same judge, Judge Hassan Babaee, who, according to Article 18, “doesn’t have a good track record in dealing with Christians arrested for their Christian activities”.

Borji said this is partly because judges can’t be independent, as sentences are dictated by intelligence officials.

“Iranian Christians are concerned about the unjust verdicts issued against Pastor Victor Bet-Tamraz, and three other Christians who were sentenced alongside him, Amin Afshar Naderi, Kaviyan Fallah Mohammadi and Hadi Asgari“, Borji said

“We are following the appeal process closely and ask all Christians worldwide, and the key members of the international community to join us in calling for these convictions to be overturned. The Iranian government has to be reminded of its obligations under international law and its own constitution, to end its harassment of peaceful Christian community”, he added.

Pastor Bet-Tamraz was sentenced to ten years in jail in July last year for “acting against national security by organising and conducting house-churches”. The three converts were also given ten years, though Amin Afshar-Naderi was given an additional five years for “insulting the sacred” (blasphemy).

Shamiram Isavi Khabizeh, the wife of Victor Bet-Tamraz, was given a five-year sentence of her own in January, while their son, Ramil, is also facing charges.

Miles Windsor from Middle East Concern recently said prison terms are getting longer for Iranian Christians.

“Whilst Christians have consistently been put in prison for their faith in Iran in considerable numbers, the length of the sentence has seemed to have increased in the recent year or so,” he said.

‘ONGOING VIOLATIONS OF RELIGIOUS FREEDOM’

Although Iran’s constitution acknowledges Christians (excluding converts from Islam) as one of the recognised religious minorities allowed to operate in the country “within the limits of the law’, in practice the government continues to harass and imprison Christians and other religious minorities, noted the US State Department’s 2017 International Religious freedom report, which was released last month.

It is illegal for Muslim citizens of the Islamic republic to change or renounce their religious beliefs.

The country has been on the State Department’s list of Countries of Particular Concern (CPC) since 1999, “for having engaged in, or tolerated, systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom.

In 2017, over a dozen Christians – most of them converts to Christianity – were given prison sentences of between 10 and 15 years for “acting against national security”.

Iran is 10th on the 2018 Open Doors World Watch List of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to live as a Christian.