What ISIS has done in Iraq, Boko Haram is doing in Nigeria. Rev Samuel Dali, President of the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria, said recent territorial gains made by Boko Haram in the northeast, signal the end of his home and of the church in Michika and surrounding areas, Africa’s most populous. ‘‘When they attacked our hometown, we decided to leave. Soldiers were running away. Some of them were killed or wounded and lots of people were running for their lives,” Similarly In Iraq, ISIS forced hundreds of thousands of people, about a quarter of them Christian, to flee from their homes. Hundreds have been killed and whole towns emptied of Christians and their places of worship destroyed or occupied.
The situation in northeast Nigeria is similar, Dali said. ‘‘We have lost almost everything. Most of our churches have been destroyed and our pastors are scattered. Our members have fled and some killed. That’s what we have tried to prevent from happening.” he said. During the attacks, dozens of cars loaded with people and luggage formed a long queue. Many were confused, and didn’t know where to go. Some were thinking of crossing the border to Cameroon, while others planned to reach relatives and friends elsewhere in Nigeria. Thousands have already crossed the border as the insurgents have overrun several major towns, notably Bama, with about 270,000 inhabitants, just 45 miles away from Maiduguri, the state capital.
Despite government assurances that Maiduguri is safe, observers have said that Boko Haram has surrounded the capital, where thousands of people are taking refuge. They called on the government to send reinforcements and also warned that the people in Maiduguri are facing starvation, given that subsistence farming has been disrupted by the continuing violence. With the black-and-white jihadists’ flag flying over Michika and Bazza, attention now is turned to nearby Mubi, the commercial centre of Adamawa state, which had a population of about 60,000, but now is largely deserted. The Nigerian government declared a state of emergency in Adamawa and two other northeastern states, Borno and Yobe, in May 2013.
The military has deployed an additional 500 troops to help take back Michika but Dali says it is too late. ‘‘We have seen the army jets flying over the town, but they cannot bomb the insurgents while they’ve hidden in civilian houses?” he said. Boko Haram may be close to achieving its goal of establishing Islamic rule, at least in one part of Nigeria, said Dr. Bitrus Pogu, a prominent leader in Chibok, the village from which more than 200 girls, many of them Christian, were kidnapped from their school in April. Boko Haram’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, has said the insurgency’s war between Muslims and unbelievers will end when Islamic law rules Nigeria “or when all fighters are annihilated and no one is left to continue the fight.” Pogu said Boko Haram’s offensive is meant, in part, to deny President Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian, a second term after Nigeria’s 2015 elections.
‘‘Our mainly Christian areas voted massively for Goodluck Jonathan, a fact that enabled the sitting President to succeed at the polls in 2011,” Pogu said. “Heading towards 2015, Boko Haram wants to decimate and displace our communities so that we would be less of a factor in next year’s elections.” Pogu said Nigeria’s “deeply divided fighting force’’ is helping Boko Haram in that effort, and that it has ‘’many wealthy sponsors on account of the fact that successive governments in Nigeria have always patronized Muslims to our exclusion.”
Widespread suspicions of well-placed Boko Haram patrons broke into national debate in late August when Stephen Davis, an Australian who in April was authorized to negotiate the release of the Chibok girls, provided names of government officials that he said provide money and supplies to the militants. Davis claimed that the former Governor of Borno State, Modu Sheriff, and a former Chief of Armtaff, retired Gen. Azubuike Ihejirika, are among the top sponsors of the Islamist insurgents. “That makes it easier in some ways as they can be arrested,” Davis said, “but of course the onus of proof is high and many are in opposition, so if the president moves against them, he would be accused of trying to rig the elections.”
PERFORM GAY WEDDINGS OR FACE JAIL, CITY TELLS PASTORS
Evelyn and Donald Knapp, both ordained ministers who run Hitching Post Wedding Chapel, were told they were required to perform same-sex wedding ceremonies or face jail time. Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) attorneys have filed a federal lawsuit and a motion for a temporary restraining order to stop officials in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, from forcing them to perform the ceremonies against their will and conscience. The city claims its “non-discrimination” ordinance requires the Knapps to perform same-sex wedding ceremonies now that the courts have overridden Idaho’s voter-approved constitutional amendment that affirmed marriage as the union of a man and a woman.
“The government should not force ordained ministers to act contrary to their faith under threat of jail time and criminal fines,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco. “Many have denied that pastors would ever be forced to perform ceremonies at odds with their faith, but that’s what is happening here. The city is on seriously flawed legal ground, and our lawsuit intends to ensure that this couple’s freedom to adhere to their own faith as pastors is protected just as the First Amendment intended. “The government exists to protect and respect our freedoms, not attack them,” Tedesco added. “The city cannot erase these fundamental freedoms and replace them with government coercion and intolerance.”
The Hitching Post Wedding Chapel is across the street from the Kootenai County Clerk’s office, which issues marriage licenses. The Knapps, both in their 60s and who themselves have been married for 47 years, began operating the wedding chapel in 1989 as a ministry. They perform religious wedding ceremonies, which include references to God, the invocation of God’s blessing on the union, brief remarks drawn from the Bible designed to encourage the couple and help them to have a successful marriage, and more. They also provide each couple they marry with a CD that includes two sermons about marriage, and they recommend numerous Christian books on the subject. The Knapps charge a small fee for their services.
Coeur d’Alene officials told the Knapps they would be in violation of the city’s public accommodations statute if they declined to perform a same-sex ceremony at their chapel. The Knapps respectfully declined such a ceremony and now face up to 180 days in jail and up to $1,000 in fines for each day they decline to perform that ceremony. “The city somehow expects ordained pastors to flip a switch and turn off all faithfulness to their God and their vows,” explained ADF Legal Counsel Jonathan Scruggs. “The U.S. Constitution as well as federal and state laws clearly stand against that. The city cannot mandate conformity to its interpretation of a city ordinance in disregard of the guaranteed freedoms Americans treasure in our society.”
85 YEAR OLD FRENCH DOCTOR FINED FOR URGING WOMAN NOT TO ABORT
85-year-old French pro-lifer Xavier Dor has been fined 5,000 euro ($6,350) by the Appeals Court of Paris for having exerted “moral and psychological pressure” to dissuade a woman from having an abortion. In 2012, the frail, almost blind, medical doctor, paediatrician, and researcher had given tiny knitted baby shoes to a woman who was approaching a Planned Parenthood centre in central Paris. The court also imposed a suspended fine of 5,000 euro, payable in case of a repeated offense, and awarded 750 euro damages to each of the three pro-abortion associations that had introduced the judiciary proceedings against Dor.
Dor is a veteran pro-lifer who has led many protests and prayerful demonstrations near abortion facilities. He said he was “surprised” by the light sentence, given the present context in which abortion has become a fully-fledged right in France, and is 100 percent refunded by the state-run Social Security. The offence of intent to “hinder abortion” is a relatively recent invention. In this case, Dor twice entered the Planned Parenthood centre. At this centre, information can be obtained about contraception and abortion—including advice for women who are beyond legal term of abortion—but no abortions are performed there.
On the first occasion in 2012, he entered the offices with another person and was able to speak with the person in charge, explaining why he was against abortion. Next day he returned alone: this time, a staff meeting was under way and he was brusquely expelled from the premises. It was while he was going down the staircase of the building where Planned Parenthood has its offices that he met a woman going up. He stopped her and offered her knitted baby shoes, which she accepted. The woman told Planned Parenthood of the encounter and together with two other associations, sued Dor because of the “extreme violence” of his words. As a Catholic and mother of three, she said, she had been “deeply shaken.”
During the appeals hearing, the public prosecutor supported her claim for damages and demanded that the first judges’ harsh sentence be confirmed: “He should realize the moral harm he’s been doing. It’s about time for him to stop. The Planned Parenthood association asked for heavy damages, because, they said, sending Dor to prison would not help nor induce him to stop his fight against abortion. The offense of hindering an abortion carries maximum penalties of 2 years imprisonment and a 30,000-euro fine, as well as possible civil damages for the plaintiffs. Planned Parenthood claimed a fine would hurt Dor more than a prison sentence as he has already spent several months in prison on similar charges.
FERGUSON CHURCHES OFFER BEACON OF HOPE AMID ERUPTING VIOLENCE
Violent protests erupted in Ferguson, Missouri after a grand jury found no cause to indict a white police officer in the shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager. A dozen buildings were set ablaze, cars were torched, businesses were looted, and gunshots fired. Agitators forced police to fire tear gas to disperse the crowd in front of the police station, where emotions ran high. Shortly after the announcement, President Barack Obama urged residents to remain calm. “We need to accept that this decision was the grand jury’s to make,” the president said. “I join Michael’s parents in asking anyone who protests this decision to do so peacefully.”
The grand jury reached its decision after 3 months of evidence and conflicting witness testimony as to what led to the shooting. “They are the only people that have heard and examined every witness and every piece of evidence,” prosecuting attorney Bob McCulloch said. The prosecutor’s office described an altercation between the two men, with Brown’s blood or DNA found on the inside of Officer Darren Wilson’s car door, pant leg, and his gun. But many observers question the prosecutor’s judgment to publicly announce the grand jury’s decision in the dark of night, taking an already tense situation and making it potentially even more volatile. Authorities say the goal now is to protect lives, property, and free speech.
“I am confident that together we will demonstrate the true strength and character of this region, and seize this opportunity to build a more just and prosperous future for all,” Missouri Governor Jay Nixon said. “While the 12 men and women on the St. Louis County grand jury have concluded their work,” he continued, “the rest of us have much more work to do in order to use the lessons we have learned these past four months to create safer, stronger and more united communities.” Meanwhile, area churches have been preparing for the day, lining up food, counsellors and shelter in hopes of being a beacon of light in a dark chapter from which the city and region want to turn the page.
CHRISTIANITY NOW SPREADING IN ALBANIA WHERE IT WAS ONCE ILLEGAL
An unlikely mission field has emerged in the former atheist nation of Albania. From 1967 to 1990, all religious observations throughout the nation were prohibited, and all churches and mosques were closed. But today, The Tide global radio ministry is expanding its programs into Albania to reach people with the message of salvation through Jesus Christ. “Having just returned from Albania, we were inspired by Christians in that nation to help them spread the life-changing news of Jesus Christ throughout their once-atheist country,” said The Tide Director Don Shenk. “One former atheist, now a first-generation Christian, told us, ‘No matter how many times I said no to the Lord, when I finally turned to Jesus, He said yes to me.’
This one story reflects God’s saving grace and the way He has used The Tide over the past 68 years. Stories like this motivate us to press on to reach as many people as we can with the hope that is Jesus.” Celebrating its 68th year of ministry, The Tide shares the good news of Jesus Christ across two continents through producing radio programs in 19 heart languages—meaning programs produced on site, using indigenous speakers who tell people about Jesus in the language they were born to speak. One of Europe’s poorest nations, Albania has a population of just over 3 million, with more than 55% being Muslim, 10% Roman Catholic, approximately 7% Orthodox, 2.5% atheist, and more than 20% unspecified.
Earlier this summer, Pope Francis visited Albania, reflecting the openness of that nation to the message of Jesus. “It’s all too easy to look at a nation like Albania and feel that Christians are few in comparison to the overall population,” Shenk said. “But instead, we should see an incredible mission field of souls, ripe for harvest, waiting only for someone to tell them about Jesus. As Romans 10 tells us, how can they believe without hearing, and how can they hear without someone telling them? We are encouraged by this open door God has provided to share the Gospel with the people of Albania.”
NIGERIAN GIRLS STILL MISSING ALMOST EIGHT MONTHS AFTER ABDUCTION
Almost eight months ago armed members of the terrorist group Boko Haram kidnapped 276 girls from their school in Abuja, Nigeria. Since then, 57 of the girls have managed to escape, but despite an international social media campaign, 219 are still missing. Some families are losing hope and say the Nigerian government is not doing enough to help secure the girls’ rescue. “We don’t feel Nigeria can help get our daughters back,” one woman said. The country’s president, Goodluck Jonathan, says the radical group is waging war on his country but the security of his nation is not negotiable. He has turned down a demand from the terror group that he release prisoners in exchange for the girls.
Protesters recently marched outside the residence of President Jonathan urging the government to take action and free the girls. The Nigerian government is pleading with residents for trust as it unveils a new plan of action. The White House has issued a “fact sheet” on its efforts to help the Nigerian government “in its fight against Boko Haram,” which includes imposing sanctions against the group. Singer Alicia Keys lent her star power to the cause when she joined demonstrators at the Nigerian consulate in New York to raise awareness about the missing girls. Keys and the other protesters chanted “bring back our girls” with the hope that the world doesn’t abandon the girls.
UNPRECEDENTED SPIRITUAL OPENNESS EXPLODING IN THE MIDDLE EAST
The nightly news may present a bleak outlook for the Middle East. Yet behind the horror of war, God is touching hearts in powerful ways. “There is something happening right now that is unprecedented,” says Brother Thomas, who is a Middle East coordinator for All Nations. “The spiritual openness is incredible.” “We are seeing people in refugee camps who have questions, who want to know more about Jesus.” Brother Thomas said “I have friends who have been here 17-20 years and its mind boggling for them. Previously they shared with someone for seven or eight years before they came to know Jesus. Now it happens in two or three months and they bring others with them.”
While this move of God seems to have originated in the refugee camps, it is not contained there. “It’s happening everywhere” Thomas notes. “There is something happening in the spiritual atmosphere because these refugees are so open and so hungry. “Those in neighbouring countries are responding in the same way. Something is being stirred up.” Brother Thomas is struck by the contrast between what is portrayed on television and the reality of God’s work behind the scenes. “When I watch the news, it seems like things are getting worse,” he observes. “But when I talk to my friends in the area I see the Kingdom is coming. Whole families are coming to Christ, communities are changing, I can see the Kingdom expanding.”