Nigeria: 9 churches burnt down and Christian students attacked as violence continues

Nine out of 11 stores where Christian students keep their musical instruments were set ablaze at the Modibbo Adama University of Technology of Yola. (Photo: World Watch Monitor)

 

In Nigeria, a new wave of attacks has seen dozens killed in Christian communities across the country.

The violence has hit the north-eastern state of Adamawa, one of the most affected by Boko Haram, and also the Middle Belt states of Nasarawa and Benue, where Fulani herdsmen have caused havoc in recent years.

In Adamawa state, a Christian student was killed, and others injured, in an attack by Muslim students at the Modibbo Adama University of Technology (MAUTECH) of Yola, the state capital, on 4 February.

A local source, who wanted to remain anonymous, told World Watch Monitor that the incident started around 7pm, as some students were in their classes, revising ahead of their exams scheduled the following day.

Other students were holding their fellowships in various places across the campus, when suddenly, a mob of fellow students, armed with sticks and machetes and chanting “Allahu Akbar” (Allah is the greatest), stormed the classrooms.

Christian students in one of the lecture theatres (Lecture Room LT2) were forced to flee after their room was set ablaze. They ran immediately to a Catholic church (still on the campus), where other students were having their fellowship, to prevent the assailants from attacking and setting it on fire.

Other students who were having their fellowship in another church, the Trinity Chapel (also on the campus), had to come out immediately to help.

Erick McBen Kyari, 25, a second-year Urban and Regional Planning student, was attacked, along with three other students. They were helping to evacuate other injured fellow students when he was hit on the head with machetes and sticks. He later succumbed to his wounds.

His funeral was held yesterday (8 February) at ECWA Bishara 1 Church, in Yola.

Erick McBen Kyari, fatally wounded on 4 February. (Photo: CAN)

The assailants also destroyed nine out of 11 stores where Christian students keep their musical instruments, setting them ablaze.

The Muslim students said they were angered by a message posted by a Christian student on Facebook on 18 December 2017. They said the message was an insult to their prophet, Muhammad.

In a message posted on Facebook, they warned the management that it had 24 hours to respond or they “will do whatever they feel it’s right for them and nobody will stop”.

The Christian student accused of posting the blasphemous message denied any wrongdoing.

Ajine Delo, President of the Youth Fellowship of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) for Adamawa state, told World Watch Monitor that the accusation of blasphemy was only an excuse to attack Christian students.

“At the time of the attack, there was no single Muslim female student at the campus,” he said. “They have all left since Friday, but nobody informed the Christian students.

“The assailants may have been angered by the elections of the Student Union Government (SGU) leadership, held on 29 January 2018. The results had seen the emergence of Christian students on almost all the positions of the Union.”

The university management condemned the violence and announced the closure of the university.

Fulani violence continues

Meanwhile, at least 30 people were killed in two separate attacks by armed men, believed to be Fulani herdsmen, against Christian communities in Song LGA, also in Adamawa state.

On Friday 2 February, the assailants attacked and burnt down Shimba and Shiure villages. Two days later (4 February), they attacked and burnt down Tinde and Dumne villages.

Aftermath of Fulani attack on Shimba village. (Photo: World Watch Monitor)

The second attack took place in broad daylight, as people were about to go to church, a local source told World Watch Monitor.

He said the assailants chased and killed many innocent people. They also burned down lots of properties, including nine churches.

“Despite several calls to the governor and his deputy, and other security apparatus, the government remained silent as the atrocities continued,” the source said. “The Fulani were able to carry out their deadly attack. They stayed for hours in the vicinity, moving at will, unchallenged.”

Nasarawa

In the central state of Nasarawa, some 25 villages have been destroyed since 15 January, as Nigeria’s Daily Post reported. The inhabitants of the affected villages are predominantly Christian farmers from the Tiv ethnic group.

An umbrella group, ‘Concerned Indigenous Tiv People’, has accused the authorities of not doing enough to protect their communities.

In a statement, the group wrote: “Since the outbreak of the crisis on the 15th January, this year, due to the Fulani/herdsmen attack on our villages, leading to the displacement of Tiv in their ancestral homes, the Nasarawa State Governor, Tanko Almakura, has done very little to bring the situation under control.”

Benue

Two people were killed, and many others sustained serious injuries, in a fresh attack attributed to Fulani herdsmen in Waku village, Guma Local Government area, on 6 February. According to local media, several houses were set ablaze in the village.

Benue state has been among the worst affected by Fulani herdsmen attacks in recent months. On 11 January, 73 people were buried during state-organised mass funerals following violence over the New Year in Makurdi, Benue’s capital.
The ongoing violence has prompted the state’s governor, Samuel Ortom, on Tuesday 6 February to call on the people of the state to defend themselves from herdsmen attacks.

“I think the people should have the right to defend themselves and not make themselves easy prey to be killed in their homes,” said Orton. “So any lawful means, you can adapt to defend yourself, just go ahead in Benue state. We are not going to wait for the Inspector General of Police to do it.”

On Wednesday (7 February) the Nigerian Army said it would send troops into the restive Middle Belt region. According to an Army spokesman, Major General David Ahmadu, the deployment will start from 15 February, and will crack down on “herdsmen/farmers clashes and attacks on innocent members of our communities, particularly in Benue, Taraba and Nasarawa state, by armed militias”.

Source: World Watch Monitor

More than 300 child soldiers released by armed groups in South Sudan – UN mission

A 15-year-old boy, former child soldier on his way to school in a South Sudan town. (file)

Some 300 child soldiers, including 87 girls, were formally released by armed groups in South Sudan, the United Nations mission in the country reported on Wednesday, calling on all stakeholders to support the young people on the journey back to their communities and help them build a future for themselves.

“Children should not be carrying guns and killing each other. They should be playing, learning, having fun with friends, protected and cherished by the adults around them,” said David Shearer, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for South Sudan, welcoming the release.

Undertaken in Yambio (south-western South Sudan), it is the first such release in over a year and marks the first phase of the overall programme which will see more than 700 children return back to their communities.

“They will have endured suffering, including sexual abuse. It is vital that they receive the support they need to re-join their communities and that they are welcomed home by family and friends without any sense of stigma,” added Mr. Shearer

At a formal ceremony, the children were disarmed and were provided with civilian clothes as well as medical screenings. In the days to come, agencies, such as the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and local partners will provide them with counselling and psychosocial support as part of the reintegration programme.

According to UNICEF, the children with relatives in area will be reunited with their families, while others will be placed in interim care centres until their families can be traced. They will also be provided with three months’ worth of food assistance and with vocational training and age-specific education services in schools and accelerated learning centres to help reach their full potential.

“Not all children are forcibly recruited. Many joined armed groups because they feel they had no other option,” said Mahimbo Mdoe, the head of UNICEF programmes in South Sudan.

“Our priority for this group – and for children across South Sudan – is to provide the support they need so they are able to see a more promising future.”

Together with UNICEF, the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and other UN agencies have been working to bring the release to light.

Given the volatile security situation, the UN Mission deployed peacekeeping troops to escort religious leaders into remote bush areas to make contact and negotiate with the armed groups. It also sent engineers to repair a road between Yambio and a vocational training centre nearby to make sure that the young people can travel safely for training programmes.

Noting in particular, the work of the religious leaders, Mr. Shearer added: “I would like to pay particular credit to religious leaders who travelled into conflict zones and risked their own lives to bring these children to safety.”

However, in spite of this release, some 19,000 children continue to be used by armed forces and groups more than four years after conflict erupted in December 2013. Release efforts have also been also complicated by fighting as the one witnessed in the region in July 2016 that stalled the momentum.

Source: UN

Don’t pray for Kim Jong-Un’s demise say Christians in North Korea

The North Korean missile crisis must be turned into a rallying cry for prayer for persecuted Christians in that country, says Release International, which supports Christians under pressure around the world.

North Korea is staging a massive show of military might ahead of the Winter Olympics. It’s brought forward its annual display of thousands of troops, tanks and missiles to February 8 – the day before the Olympics across the border in South Korea.

The muscle-flexing has been described as grandstanding in a crisis that could threaten nuclear war – but Release International says the crisis should be turned into a rallying cry for prayer for the persecuted.

‘North Korea is probably the harshest persecutor of Christians on the face of the earth,’ says Release CEO Paul Robinson.

‘People have been asking whether the crisis is making things worse for Christians in North Korea. But it is hard to imagine how things could get any worse. North Korea doesn’t just persecute Christians – it executes them. This crisis should give us the impetus to pray for the persecuted in that country.’

According to reliable estimates, there are 100,000 Christians In North Korea. 30,000 have been rounded up into concentration camps, on charges of sedition ­– conspiracy against the state. No Christian activity is tolerated other than for propaganda purposes. Today, state surveillance of Christians in North Korea has never been tighter.

‘Our partners working daily with North Korean Christians see the current crisis as a sharp reminder to pray for them. The world may feel on a knife-edge with nuclear missiles pointing in every direction, but the threat of extermination is the daily reality for North Korean Christians,’ says Paul Robinson.

Release Partner Dr Eric Foley, who works with North Korean refugees, says we must do more than pray for tensions to ease and a return to the status quo:
‘When those missiles are pointed at us, should we simply pray that things are returned to the way they were before? No! The status quo means Christians experience torture and imprisonment for the sake of their faith.

‘The focus of the world should not simply be on restoring a situation that is stable for us but unacceptable for Christians. We should pray that it becomes possible for the first time in their lives for Christians in North Korea to practise their faith without recrimination.
‘These missiles should remind us how little attention we pay to North Korean Christians. We need to repent and say, “Lord, forgive us for not being more attentive to our brothers and sisters in the most persecuting country on earth.”

‘As we are in danger, let us remember those who have lived in constant danger for more than 70 years. The international community may be on a knife’s edge right now, but to be a Christian in North Korea is to live on that knife’s edge.’

In praying for North Korea, it can be tempting to pray that Kim Jung-Un is removed from power, but if Kim falls others will take his place, and that is not the way North Korean Christians are praying, says Dr Foley, of Voice of the Martyrs, Korea:
‘I have never encountered a North Korean Christian who has prayed for the regime to be overthrown – not once in 15 years. Underground Christians are praying that Kim Jong-Un will come to know Christ.

‘Perhaps North Korean Christians know better than the rest of us, that it is not a change of government that will bring peace, but the entry of the Prince of Peace into our hearts. We should follow their lead and pray not for regime change, but for a change of the heart of the regime.’

Through its international network of missions Release International serves persecuted Christians in more than 30 countries around the world, by: supporting pastors and Christian prisoners, and their families; supplying Christian literature and Bibles; and working for justice.

Source: Release International

Nigeria: Fears for captive Chibok girls as Boko Haram forced to flee

Chibok schoolgirls: some of the remaining 112 are thought to have been taken to Boko Haram’s new base in Konduga (World Watch Monitor

Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau and his fighters have fled their base in the Sambisa Forest for Konduga, an area closer to Borno state capital Maiduguri, reports Nigeria’s Daily Trust.

The insurgents have taken with them an “unspecified number” of captives, believed to include the remaining Chibok schoolgirls. Following the January rescue of Salomi Pogu there are thought to be 112 girls still missing of the 276 abducted in 2014.

Nigerian forces raided Boko Haram’s camp in the forest shortly after the insurgents had fled. Military operations in the area had intensified over the last few weeks.

Operational lead, Major General Rogers Nicholas, said his soldiers are now “in the heart of the Boko Haram enclave that is ‘Camp Zairo’” and that troops had taken “complete control” of the Sambisa Forest, the vast, former game reserve in north-eastern Nigeria, which became a Boko Haram stronghold.

It could prove difficult for the army to dislodge Boko Haram from their new base, according to a local villager. He said the area, which is fed by “plenty of streams and rivers”, would give the insurgents “a military advantage”.

Meanwhile, the Nigerian military’s success in displacing Boko Haram has diverted the world’s attention away from the crisis in the Lake Chad Basin, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. The agency said there are more than 7.2 million people affected by food insecurity in the region.

Source: World Watch Monitor

The African Children’s Choir Returns to New York City at the ChangeMakers Gala – Vogue article

Ray Barnett, Malin Akerman, and members of the African Children’s Choir Photo: Patrick McMullan

The African Children’s Choir returned to New York City Thursday night for a special performance at the ninth annual ChangeMakers Gala. The gala is the ACC’s signature fundraiser, complete with dinner, music, and a live auction.

City Winery played host to the cozy evening led by Malin Akerman, wearing Brazilian designer PatBo, with her fiancé Jack Donnelly. Akerman had met Ray Barnett, the African Children’s Choir founder, when she was on location filming for The Bang Bang Club and saw the choir on their home base.

“They’re talented, they’re beautiful, and they have this excitement and this joie de vivre that shines off of them,” she says of that first performance. “I was blown away.”

 

The actress has been friends with the ACC since that initial meeting a decade ago and attended her first ChangeMakers Gala last year. As this year’s host, Akerman said the power of social media was incredible in gathering donations and spreading the word to friends and fans alike.

“It’s also about inviting friends here to experience it,” she said. “Once you experience the kids . . . when you are immersed in something, you are so much more inclined to give.”

Padma Lakshmi in Chloé and an African Children’s Choir member

Akerman said the incredible sponsors (Tito’s Handmade Vodka, Sony, and S’well Bottle) made the evening possible. “They are helping us out so much, and the proceeds are really going to where we want them to.”

In between the lively and heartwarming performances, guests also learned about Empower International Academy, a new secondary school currently being built in Uganda. The school will provide education to 400 students, with the goal of sponsoring 200 children who come from economically disadvantaged circumstances.

Attendees included Zosia Mamet and Evan Jonigkeit as well as Padma Lakshmi, Dylan Lauren, and Helena Christensen. Lakshmi, wearing Chloé, brought her daughter, Krishna, to the festivities.

Source: Vogue Magazine

Founder of the African Children's Choir, Music For Life and Friends In The West.