Tuesday, February 13, 2018

RLPB 422. Nigeria: Government deploys troops to Middle Belt

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 442 | Wed 14 Feb 2018

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NIGERIA: GOVERNMENT DEPLOYS TROOPS TO MIDDLE BELT
by Elizabeth Kendal

Church elder James Nengwe (60),
killed in Zanwra, Plateau State,
on 24 January 2018, by
Muslim Fulani herdsmen.
(Morning Star News)
On 30 January Amnesty International (AI) reported that, 'In 2017, clashes between nomadic herdsmen and local farmers resulted in at least 549 deaths and thousands displaced' across fourteen states, and that 168 were killed in the Middle Belt states of Adamawa, Benue, Taraba, Ondo and Kaduna in January 2018 alone.

Furthermore, Morning Star News reports that between 22 and 25 January eight Christians were killed in Plateau State in four ambushes, while 50 houses belonging to Christians were destroyed in two separate attacks 'carried out by Muslim Fulani herdsmen aided by terrorists from Islamic extremist groups'. Director of AI Nigeria, Osai Ojigho, laments: 'Hundreds of people lost their lives last year, and the government is still not doing enough to protect communities from these violent clashes. Worse, the killers are getting away with murder.'

Mass funeral and burial, Makurdi,
Benue State, 11 January 2018.
Images and video: Reuters
As AI notes, the violence has escalated since several states moved to rein in the Fulani herdsmen by enacting anti-grazing laws. Benue State enacted its Anti-Open Grazing Law on 1 November [see RLPB 431 Fulani used as proxies for Islamic jihad (8 Nov 2017)]. On 11 January thousands attended a state funeral and mass burial in Makurdi, the state capital, for 73 mostly Christian victims of the latest clash which the State Emergency Agency estimates has displaced a further 40,000 local residents. Benue State Governor Sam Ortom told CNN: 'They [the Fulani herdsmen] had threatened to wipe out the whole state if we did not repeal the law and allow their cattle to graze wherever they like.' Despite the huge toll, Benue State information commissioner, Lawrence Onoja, defended the Anti-Open Grazing Law, telling the BBC, 'Our economy in Benue State depends on agriculture. Take that away and we have a serious problem.'

Writing for QUARTZ Africa, Mark Amaza observes that, in the absence of government action, two trends are emerging: (1) ethnic groups are forming their own militias and launching both reprisal and pre-emptive attacks; (2) states are creating or backing extra-legal paramilitaries to fight the various militias. With Nigeria awash with illicit weapons and increasingly saturated with hate-speech, the propensity for spiralling violence is very real. The Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) South West region, Archbishop Magnus Atilade, describes the current situation as 'the perfect recipe for another civil war'.

Despite this being a law and order issue and police matter, the Nigerian government announced on 7 February that it will deploy troops to Middle Belt. Exercise Ayem Akpatuma (Operation Cat Race) will commence on 15 February and last until 31 March. Whilst many welcome the move, which Jane's Intelligence maintains will 'reduce civil war risks', many are doubtless nervous. In a press conference in Abuja on Tuesday 16 January, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) questioned the neutrality of the Buhari government and its Security Forces noting that on 17 January 2017 'the Nigerian Air Force, "accidentally", in broad daylight, bombed a Christian Internally Displaced Persons camp and killed over 200 Christian refugees in Rann, Kala-Balge Local Government Area in Borno State'. In another case, on 4 December 2017, the Nigerian Air Force sent an Alpha Jet and an EC 135 attack Helicopter to Numan, Adamawa State, allegedly to fire 'warning shots' at Islamist militia attacking Christians there. An investigation by AI revealed that, while 51 Christians died of gunshot and machete wounds, a further 35 died as a direct result of the airstrikes which destroyed some 3000 homes across five villages.

getty image from the 11 January
mass burial in Makurdi, Benue.
More images: Benue News
Most shockingly, on 25 January 2018, Nigeria's Minister of Defence, Col. Mansur Mohammed Dan-Ali (rtd), justified the recent killings in Benue State by blaming the victims and attributing the violence to the unwillingness of the affected, mostly Christian, farming communities to accommodate their 'fellow Nigerians'. 'Communities and other people must learn how to accept foreigners within their enclave, finish!' he said. Officials in Benue, including members of Dan-Ali's own party, are calling for him to be sacked. Until Christians can trust their government and their military, they have every reason to feel nervous about a massive deployment of troops into their region.


PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL

* grace his Church with wisdom to navigate these times, and that Jesus Christ the Good Shepherd will guide all pastors and all Christian leaders as they seek to lead God's people and their nation through dangerous and difficult days. (Psalm 23)

* comfort, encourage and protect his precious, faithful Church, for the Church is Nigeria's hope. We pray in particular for all pastors, evangelists and peacemakers, along with all churches and Bible colleges, for they are especially exposed and vulnerable; may the Lord be their shield even as conflict rages around them. (Psalm 46)

* intervene in Nigeria, to raise up godly political and civic leaders at every level; may they be committed to justice and righteousness and equipped with wisdom and strength to lead the nation into healing. (1 Timothy 2:1-4)


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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NIGERIA DEPLOYS TROOPS TO MIDDLE BELT

Religious and political leaders are warning that Nigeria risks spiralling into civil war. The unrest stems from the central government's unwillingness to prevent nomadic Fulani cattle herders (northern Muslims) from grazing their herds on crops cultivated by indigenous Middle Belt farmers (mostly Christians). According to Amnesty International, 549, mostly Christians, were killed and thousands displaced across fourteen states during 2017 and 168 were killed in four Middle Belt states in January 2018. Despite this being a law and order issue and police matter, the government has opted to deploy troops to the Middle Belt from 15 Feb to 31 March. With the neutrality of the Nigerian military in question, and the Minister of Defence openly blaming the violence on the victims, Christians have grounds to be nervous. Please pray.

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Elizabeth Kendal is an international religious liberty analyst and advocate. She serves as Director of Advocacy at Canberra-based Christian Faith and Freedom (CFF), and is an Adjunct Research Fellow at the Arthur Jeffery Centre for the Study of Islam at Melbourne School of Theology.

She has authored two books: Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today (Deror Books, Melbourne, Australia, Dec 2012) which offers a Biblical response to persecution and existential threat; and After Saturday Comes Sunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East (Wipf and Stock, Eugene, OR, USA, June 2016).

See www.ElizabethKendal.com

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

RLPB 441. Uganda: high cost of faith in Muslim-dominated Eastern Region

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 441 | Wed 07 Feb 2018

Please forward this prayer bulletin widely, and encourage others to sign up to the Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin blog. "The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective." (James 5:16 NIV)


UGANDA: HIGH COST FAITH IN MUSLIM-DOMINATED EASTERN REGION
by Elizabeth Kendal

[click on map to enlarge]
Eastern Region = Green
Districts: Kibuku (91)
Budaka (7)
Mayuge (53)
source
Kibuku District: Munabi Abudallah (37) asked his local sheikh why Islamic prayers were conducted in Arabic, a language he did not understand. The sheikh explained that it is because Allah communicated to Muhammad in Arabic; he also advised Munabi not to question it. Confused and disillusioned, Munabi asked local Christians how their God communicated with them. They explained that the God of the Bible communicates with people in their own language. On 20 January, after several private sessions with a local pastor, Munabi came to see that 'God is love' (1 John 4:8,16) and decided to put his faith in Jesus. At that moment he received 'a unique peace that I had not experienced before'. Unable to contain his joy, Munabi shared his experience with Aisha his wife. In the presence of their seven children aged 3 to 17, Aisha shouted at Munabi, calling him 'kafir' (unclean/infidel). Horrified and furious she drove him from their home. The next day, Munabi visited the pastor, who duly prayed with him. He then returned home to find his father and other local Muslims gathered there, their anger evident. Furious, his father disowned, cursed and struck him. Shocked, Munabi fled back to the pastor. Within 24 hours of coming to faith in Christ, Munabi had lost his wife and seven children, his parents and his home, his community and his security. Understandably, he is absolutely traumatised. 'The Muslims are searching to kill me,' he said. 'I need prayers.'

Budaka District: Nafamba Bongo Madina and her husband put their faith in Jesus some two years ago. Though her husband subsequently died, Nafamba remained firm in her faith and continued to raise their five children, aged 5 to 14, in the Lord. On Christmas morning (25 December 2017) one of Nafamba's Muslim neighbours brought her a gift hamper. Nafamba prepared the Christmas meal for her family and guests, using the cooking oil from the hamper. Before plating up the food, she tasted it. Within a minute Nafamba was vomiting and screaming. Her family raced her to the hospital where doctors treated her for poisoning. Later her relatives took the gifted cooking oil for analysis, which confirmed the oil had been laced with poison. Horrified by the attack, the village chairman, John Guloba, a Christian, convened a village meeting for 28 December. He questioned the culprit, Taaka Hajira, who freely confessed to attempting to kill the Madina family, which she held in contempt for leaving Islam. Despite her confession, village elders refused to make any legal decision. They also decided not to call the police, so as to avoid stoking the wrath of fundamentalist Muslims. Consequently, persecution of the family -- particularly of the children -- has only escalated.

Mayuge District: In October 2015 Mulangira Ibrahim -- a missionary of Islam and sheikh on Dagusi Island (which is on Lake Victoria in Mayuge District) -- had a vision in which he saw himself holding a Bible. Confused, he decided to visit the local Evangel World Vision Church and have a chat with its pastor. To allay fears, he took along a child from the Islamic school, intending that the child would enter the church, find the pastor and ask him to meet the sheikh at the door. However, upon arriving at the church door, Sheikh Ibrahim fell to the ground, temporarily blinded. Terrified, the child ran off screaming that the Christians had killed the sheikh. When the pastor arrived at the door, he found Sheikh Ibrahim praising 'Issa' (Jesus) as Lord. Muslims, who also had rushed to the scene, beat Ibrahim until Christians could rescue him. The Muslims then proceeded to Sheikh Ibrahim's home. They took away his wife, Nalunkuma, and his three children aged 4 to 8, and left a note warning him not to return. Within hours of confessing that Jesus is Lord, he had lost everything.

Former sheikh, now brother in Christ,
Mulangira Ibrahim (27).
source: Morning Star News
On 16 November 2017 Muslims tricked and ambushed Mulangira Ibrahim and beat him into unconsciousness. Christians found Mulangira in a pool of blood and called police. Pastor Charles Musana of the Evangel World Vision Church rushed Mulangira to a nearby medical dispensary where he received treatment for multiple injuries. On 7 December a Muslim broke into the house the church was renting for Mulangira close to the dispensary, and attempted to kill him, this time suffocating him into unconsciousness. Muslims have vowed to kill him. While the church has moved him to a secret location where he is under the care of believers, his injuries require ongoing medical treatment. 'At the moment the medical bill is high,' said his pastor. 'We need prayers for a quick recovery.'

Uganda is roughly 85 percent Christian, with a Christian president and a secular constitution that guarantees religious freedom. Yet persecution with impunity is fast becoming the order of the day in the Muslim-dominated Eastern Province. For a full analysis of why persecution is so severe and unrelenting in Uganda's Eastern Region, see Uganda Analysis: escalating persecution of Christians in Eastern Region linked to Islamisation, decentralisation and impunity. Religious Liberty Monitoring, 8 May 2017.

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The three cases summarised in this RLPB are available in detail on the website of Morning Star News -- search Uganda. 
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PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY FOR

* Munabi Abudallah, that God will comfort, encourage, sustain and protect him; may the Lord supply his every need. May the Holy Spirit open the heart of his wife, Aisha, to receive the Gospel. May Munabi's family and friends be convicted of sin and drawn to repentance and reconciliation. May God watch over the church and keep it safe.

* Nafamba Madina and her children, that God will comfort, encourage, sustain and protect them. May the Lord supply their every need. May Taaka Hajira (the Muslim culprit) be convicted of sin and drawn to repentance. May many local Muslims be drawn to the God of amazing grace; the God who is love.

* Mulangira Ibrahim, that God will comfort, encourage, sustain and protect him. May the Lord supply his every need, in particular his need for physical healing. May the Holy Spirit open the heart of his wife, Nalunkuma, to receive the Gospel. May God watch over Pastor Charles Musana and the Evangel World Vision Church and keep them safe.

* God to intervene in Uganda's central government, to remind members of Parliament of their responsibility to ensure that the constitutional right to religious freedom applies to all citizens and stretches across the whole state, including Muslim-dominated Eastern Region.


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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HIGH COST FAITH IN UGANDA'S MUSLIM-DOMINATED EASTERN REGION

Uganda's population is 85 percent Christian, with a Christian president and a secular constitution that guarantees religious freedom. However, persecution with impunity is becoming prevalent in the Muslim-dominated Eastern Region. Munabi Abudallah put his faith in Christ on 20 January and within 24 hours had lost everything. On Christmas Day a Muslim neighbour attempted to poison the Madina family, which she held in contempt for leaving Islam for Christianity. In October 2015 Shiekh Mulangira Ibrahim had a dramatic conversion experience and within hours had lost everything; Muslims are still trying to kill him today. Islamists are exploiting Uganda's decentralisation and following Sharia principles locally. The persecution is enabled by systemic corruption. Without radical reform, the situation can only get worse. Please pray for Uganda, her politicians and her Church.

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Elizabeth Kendal is an international religious liberty analyst and advocate. She serves as Director of Advocacy at Canberra-based Christian Faith and Freedom (CFF), and is an Adjunct Research Fellow at the Arthur Jeffery Centre for the Study of Islam at Melbourne School of Theology.


She has authored two books: Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today (Deror Books, Melbourne, Australia, Dec 2012) which offers a Biblical response to persecution and existential threat; and After Saturday Comes Sunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East (Wipf and Stock, Eugene, OR, USA, June 2016).

See www.ElizabethKendal.com