International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that Boko Haram has released all but one of the Dapchi schoolgirls who were kidnapped on February 19. The only girl who was not released is also the only Christian among the group. Her name is Leah Sharibu and she is only 15 years old.
The girls were released by Boko Haram in a ceremony in the town of Dapchi. The terrorist organization reached an agreement with the Nigerian government that there would be no interference with the return. In the early hours of March 21, Boko Haram drove into the town with nine trucks and unloaded all of the girls, except the five that died during the kidnaping, and Sharibu.
One of girls who was released confirmed to The PUNCH, “One girl, Leah, is still with them [Boko Haram] because she is a Christian. About five are dead but it was not as if they killed them – it was because of the stress.”
Saddened by the continued absence of his daughter, Nata Sharibu, Leah’s father, told RayPower 100.5, a Nigerian radio station, “They gave her the option of converting in order to be released, but she said she will never become a Muslim.” He continued, saying that he is “very sad [that she has not been freed] but [is] also jubilating, too, because [his] daughter did not denounce Christ.”
It has also been nearly four years since the abduction of the 276 schoolgirls from Chibok. Today, there are still more than 100 schoolgirls missing from that incident. The vast majority of the Chibok girls were Christian as well. Since the incident in Dapchi, Borno and Yobe states have closed down all boarding schools in order to protect their children. This, however, is one of the main goals of Boko Haram, whose name means “Western education is forbidden.” Giving in to the group’s goals will only further incite them to continue their attacks and abductions.
ICC’s Regional Manager for Africa, Nathan Johnson, stated, “It is truly joyous that these girls were able to rejoin their families. However, we wish to see Leah returned as well. This cowardly act has shown that the terrorist organization truly despises Christians and their faith. We call on the Nigerian government to act swiftly to secure the release of Leah and the remaining missing girls from Chibok.”
The Daily Mail reports that Elim Church in New South Wales, Australia paid for digital signs which they wanted to display at Erina Fair shopping center. The signs were to read “the greatness of His Power. Jesus is Alive!”
The shopping center manager, however, told Martin Duffy, the pastor of the church, that the word “Jesus” was offensive and would have to be replaced with “Risen Christ.”
But, argued Duffy, “The phrase ‘Jesus is alive’… is the core message of the Christian faith and what Easter’s really all about.”
“It’s a good message. I think there’s a minority group out there that are constantly distorting the message of Jesus Christ. It’s just going on and on,” he continued.
The manager of the shopping center, Lendlease, has since reversed the decision and will allow the word “Jesus” to be printed on the church’s sign.
“It was an error of judgment to ask Elim Church to change its messaging, and we apologise unreservedly,” they said. “Lendlease values diversity and inclusion, and we welcome people of all backgrounds at our shopping centres.”
Chinese authorities demolished the $2.6 million building of a 50,000-member evangelical congregation in the country’s northern Shanxi province.
The order to destroy the Golden Lampstand Church in the city of Linfen apparently came from China’s top officials instead of the less-powerful local authorities, according to the Christian organization China Aid.
It’s the second large church building to be demolished in the province in the past month.
People’s Armed Police forces used excavators and dynamite to destroy the building in Linfen, which had been financed by the congregation.
The church is among the nation’s unregistered congregations, meaning it is not within the government-controlled system and therefore is deemed illegal by the communist regime.
China guarantees “freedom of religion” in its law but not in practice, as authorities use technicalities such land or building violations to destroy churches. The state-run Global Times newspaper cited an unidentified local official claiming the church did not hold the necessary permits.
“The repeated persecution of Golden Lampstand Church demonstrates that the Chinese government has no respect for religious freedom or human rights,” said China Aid’s president and founder, Bob Fu.
An official at the local religious affairs bureau denied the demolition took place, the Voice of America reported.
China Aid noted that on Sept. 13, 2009, when the building was under construction, church members who slept at the site to guard it were awakened by 400 officials who beat them and razed the building. Thirty of the members were in critical condition.
State media at the time said the church leaders were charged with illegally occupying farmland and disturbing traffic order.
The church’s two pastors were arrested in 2009. Yang Xuan spent three-and-a-half years in prison and Yang Rongli was imprisoned for seven years.
Yang Rongli, who has been under government surveillance since her release in 2016, described the demolition Tuesday to a China Aid reporter.
“The police surrounded the Golden Lampstand Church. Patrol wagons guarded the church. Workers smashed the church’s glass,” she said. “At this point, excavators are digging into the church, but we are not allowed to enter or watch. The village head and the police from the local police station warned all the believers against entering the church. Now, we really have no idea what is going to happen.”
Sanders: Let me get to this issue that has bothered me and bothered many other people. And that is in the piece that I referred to that you wrote for the publication called Resurgent. You wrote, “Muslims do not simply have a deficient theology. They do not know God because they have rejected Jesus Christ, His Son, and they stand condemned.” Do you believe that that statement is Islamophobic?
Vought: Absolutely not, senator. I’m a Christian, and I believe in a Christian set of principles based on my faith. That post, as I stated in the questionnaire to this committee, was to defend my alma mater, Wheaton College, a Christian school that has a statement of faith that includes the centrality of Jesus Christ for salvation, and …
Sanders: I apologize. Forgive me, we just don’t have a lot of time. Do you believe people in the Muslim religion stand condemned? Is that your view?
Vought: Again, Senator, I’m a Christian, and I wrote that piece in accordance with the statement of faith at Wheaton College:
Sanders: I understand that. I don’t know how many Muslims there are in America. Maybe a couple million. Are you suggesting that all those people stand condemned? What about Jews? Do they stand condemned too?
Vought: Senator, I’m a Christian …
Sanders (shouting): I understand you are a Christian, but this country are made of people who are not just — I understand that Christianity is the majority religion, but there are other people of different religions in this country and around the world. In your judgment, do you think that people who are not Christians are going to be condemned?
Vought: Thank you for probing on that question. As a Christian, I believe that all individuals are made in the image of God and are worthy of dignity and respect regardless of their religious beliefs. I believe that as a Christian that’s how I should treat all individuals …
Sanders: You think your statement that you put into that publication, they do not know God because they rejected Jesus Christ, His Son, and they stand condemned, do you think that’s respectful of other religions?
Vought: Senator, I wrote a post based on being a Christian and attending a Christian school that has a statement of faith that speaks clearly in regard to the centrality of Jesus Christ in salvation.
The Family Research Council described Sanders’ attitude as “religious bigotry.”
The group also launched a petition signed by more than 55,000 Americans calling on Sanders to apologize for his unconstitutional religious test.
FRC President Tony Perkins said: “It was a shocking moment to watch a United States senator declare that holding to a central tenet of Christianity that Jesus is the only way of salvation is enough to render a well-qualified nominee unfit for public service. Vought’s biblical view of salvation is no different than what Billy Graham preached for more than six decades.”
He said, “Thankfully, 49 senators and Vice President Pence in his tie breaking vote sent a message that public servants can express their biblical views on salvation without fear of being held to an unconstitutional religious test. ”
Perkins said the thought that Sanders “is a senator who almost won the Democratic Party’s nomination for president – a man who thinks there’s no room in the public square for people who believe the Bible – is a chilling one.”
“I congratulate Russell Vought and thank President Trump and Vice President Pence for standing up for the freedom of every American to believe and live out those beliefs in the public square,” Perkins concluded.
Sanders’ diatribe triggered responses, including one from Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., who said, “There was some dispute in a … hearing about Russell Vought and his faith … about is he too much of a Christian to be able to serve. I just want to make a public statement that that’s appalling to me … Article XI of the Constitution says there no religious test for any officer of the United States and that shouldn’t even have been a discussion in that committee hearing.”
French noted at the time that Sanders’ “tirade was certainly outrageous.”
“This is what happens when our national polarization breeds both ignorance and intolerance, and when intolerance trumps even the rule of law,” he said. “(One wonders: Would he grill an Islamic nominee in a similar fashion?)”
French said Sanders “personifies the arrogant contempt for Evangelicals that so often marks the secular American elite.”
“They don’t understand Protestant Christian theology. They read the worst stories of Christian behavior and presume that those stories fairly represent Evangelical beliefs. So they try to drive Evangelicals from the public square, and in so doing they become the intolerant scolds they imagine their foes to be. They hate Christianity, and use political power to try to suppress its influence. They presume that their Christian opponents would do the same. Thus, they spark the exact kind of religious conflict that the founders sought to avoid.”
He finished with a warning about Sanders and his ilk.
“Sanders’ actions also show the fragility of one of our core constitutional protections. There is no right or ability to sue Sanders into compliance. He can vote however he chooses, and there is no cause of action to compel him to cleanse his mind of unconstitutional motivations when he casts those ballots. Thus, one of our nation’s most important traditions depends on senators simply doing the right thing. But when our politics gets this polarized, it’s easy to justify ignoring the Constitution or rationalizing away its requirements for the sake of an alleged greater good. That’s what Sanders did here, and given the ignorance and intolerance that dominates our national debate, we can expect him — or others who think like him — to do it again.”