ONE CHIBOK GIRL RESCUED RAISES NIGERIA’S HOPE FOR THE 218 STILL MISSING
The first missing schoolgirl kidnapped by Boko Haram militants two years ago has been rescued. Amina Ali Nkeki was found in the Sambisa Forest, close to the border with Cameroon. Her return has now raised the hope that more of the 218 missing girls may yet be rescued. (Late media reports say that a second Chibok girl has now been rescued). Hosea Abana Tsambido, the chairman of the Chibok community in the capital, Abuja, said that Amina was found during a routine daily patrol by the Civilian Joint Task Force (JTF), a vigilante group set up to help fight Boko Haram. “She was saying . all the Chibok girls are still in the Sambisa, except six that have already died,” said Tsambido. An uncle said that Amina has been reunited with her mother. She was 17 when abducted and is now 19 and was found with a baby
Vigilante leader Aboku Gaji said: “The moment the girl was discovered she was brought to my house. I recognised her, and insisted we should take her to her parents. “When we arrived at the house I asked the mother to come and identify someone. The moment she saw her, she shouted her name: ‘Amina!’ She gave her the biggest hug ever. “The mother called other relations to come out and see what was happening. The girl started comforting the mother, saying: ‘Mum, take it easy. Relax. I never thought I would ever see you again but God has made it possible.’ Amina, along with 276 other schoolgirls, was kidnapped by Boko Haram from her dormitory in Chibok, on 14 April, 2014. Their disappearance eventually generated headlines around the world and fuelled a social-media storm, with the hashtag #bringbackourgirls.
Joining the campaign were public figures such as American First Lady Michelle Obama and Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani schoolgirl who survived a 2012 assassination attempt by the Taliban. A month ago, the radical Islamist group released a video (timed to coincide with the second anniversary of the kidnap), showing some of the kidnapped girls. The 54 minutes of footage, apparently filmed on Christmas Day 2015 and broadcast on CNN – amongst other outlets – shows 15 of the girls pleading with the Nigerian government to co-operate with the militants for their release. The girls said they were being treated well but wanted to be with their families. Some of the parents who attended a screening of the video identified some of the girls.
Two mothers said they recognised their daughters in the video, while a third mother, identified five of the missing girls, Reuters reported. One mother said her daughter looked well, much better than she had feared, giving some hope to the families. It was the first potential evidence that the girls may be alive since May 2014, when the leader of the radical Islamic group released a video claiming the girls had all converted to Islam. Some 170 among the 218 missing girls are members of the Church of the Brethren. Before last month’s video footage, their parents had not heard any concrete news. Enoch Mark, whose daughter and step-daughter are missing, said: “If I could talk to them, I would say, ‘Call upon the name of the Lord . and be patient’. As long as they’re living, there will be a time when they may be free.”
There have been many rumours of forced marriage with Boko Haram fighters, drugged girls becoming suicide bombers, but none have offered any hope of returning the girls to their parents. Other women rescued from Boko Haram camps claim to have seen the girls. According to their reports, some Chibok girls became Muslim fighters and others were segregated and treated well – for potential use in any bargaining. Parents have found it hard that the Nigerian government has communicated little of the continued search, or of ongoing negotiations with Boko Haram to secure the girls’ release. The parents have been under a lot of strain: at least 18 of them have died of stress-related illness; three others have themselves been killed by militants; many others have persistent health problems brought on by stress.
The kidnap of the 275 school girls at one time is the largest single group of young women kidnapped in northern Nigeria, but there have been numerous others. A report detailing such treatment of minority Christians since 1999 is part of the evidence being presented to the International Criminal Court in The Hague to examine whether Boko Haram’s abduction of Christian children may constitute genocide. The vast majority of girls in the school were Christian. “Our Bodies, their Battleground” has been quoted extensively in Human Rights Watch’s submission to Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda. The Chibok girls are only a tiny percentage of thousands of children and women abducted by the insurgents. Boko Haram’s name means “Western,” non-Islamic education is a sin.
* giving thanks for the now 2 Chibok girls who have been rescued and praying that others will also be found and returned to their families in coming days.
* for Boko Haram’s evil leader, Abubakar Shekau to be discovered, captured, and brought to justice.
* for God’s divine protection of the remaining missing girls and women. Pray they will be protected emotionally, physically, spiritually, psychologically and physiologically, and that they would stand firm for Jesus Christ, even unto death.
PRIEST SAYS NO WORDS CAN DESCRIBE THE SUFFERING OF THE SYRIAN PEOPLE
Amid the worst violence since the Syrian conflict began more than five years ago, a local Syrian Catholic archbishop has joined in raising attention to what Christians in the city of Aleppo are facing. “More than half the city’s population left over the last four or five years,” Melkite Catholic archbishop of Aleppo Jean-Clement Jeanbart said on a recent visit to Canada, urging the West to put more effort into finding a solution to the conflict – instead of taking in refugees. “Canada has to help them stay where they are, to find peace. To get the war over with these rebels and terrorists and drive both sides to talk. To find a political solution” added Jeanbart, who has served in Syria’s previously largest city since 1995. “You cannot imagine the dangers that we face every day” he said.
Speaking of a recent attack on a Christian area he said “It was awful: a bomb the rebels deliberately launched on a Christian neighbourhood has blown everything apart, destroying countless houses. Many people were not able to attend the funerals of their loved ones due to being severely injured themselves” said Jeanbart. Yet the archbishop believes it hurts more for the West to keep taking in refugees. When asked about Canada welcoming 25,000 Syrian refugees in the past few months, he said: “We’re not happy when we see the Canadian government moving refugees and facilitating their integration.” he said. He’d rather Syrians, especially Christians, stay in their ancient lands. “The West pities the Syrians and the Christians. But do they really know about their problems? I don’t think so.”
Last week dozens of people were killed in fighting between government forces and rebels. The UN humanitarian chief said that hundreds of civilians have been killed or injured in attacks over the past ten days in what he called ‘the carnage of Aleppo”. April 26th was “a bloody day in Aleppo” said a Christian man in the city. “Many shells fell on the city. 17 were killed with many more injured.” Casualties have risen on all sides. Still neighbourhoods where Christians are known to live have been frequently targeted over the past few years. The situation has taken a more dramatic turn in the past few days. A maternity hospital in a government-controlled area was hit by rebel fire, killing at least three people. This came days after another hospital was hit in rebel-held east of Aleppo in a deadly government airstrike.
Describing the significance of the hospital being hit, a resident said: “It is a place where new babies come to this world and new life begins. “Today it is full of death and destruction” adding that the city’s renowned maternity hospital was also considered one of the best for fertility treatment in the Middle East. “Some of the busiest streets in Suleymaniye are empty after what has happened. All the shops are closed. Jeanbart’s words echo those of his counterpart from the Chaldean church in Aleppo, Bishop Antoine Audo, who reported recently that in only five years of conflict and persecution, the Christian population in Syria has been reduced by two-thirds, from 1.5 million to only 500,000 today.
Bishop Audo said that the situation in Aleppo is worse than in the rest of Syria, with only 25% of the Christian population remaining since the beginning of Syria’s civil war in 2011. Audo also noted that Aleppo’s three cathedrals have been almost completely destroyed. “You cannot imagine the dangers that we face every day,” he said. Elsewhere, the Islamic State has taken over large parts, putting tens of thousands of people to flight in both Syria and Iraq. An Aleppo Franciscan priest said, “Never, since the beginning of this terrible war, were things as bad as they are now. I have no words to describe all the suffering I see on a daily basis.” Seeing bombs fall on churches, mosques, schools and hospitals, Fr Ibrahim Alsabagh said “So many people have been killed or severely injured.”
Alsabagh added, Easter had been very sad. “It was more like Good Friday than Easter Sunday. People were either burying their dead or they stayed at home out of fear.” “Would you like to know how Mary felt when she was holding her son’s dead body? Then ask a mother from Aleppo” said one of them “She has experienced the feeling of carrying her son’s dead body. Would you like to know how Jesus felt when he was carrying his cross and awaiting the time of his death? You can ask our children. They are carrying their crosses and are awaiting their death”. “Yet we are refusing to see death any more, we are declaring the resurrection of Christ on our beloved country!” implores the same woman. The Syrian churches have joined forces to pray for their nation and have appealed to the international Church to join them.
Sadiq Khan, the son of a Pakistani bus driver, has become London’s first Muslim mayor making him the first Muslim to head a major Western capital. The Muslim population of England and Wales is growing faster than the overall population, with a higher proportion of children and a lower ratio of elderly people, according to official data. Across England and Wales, with a combined population of nearly 59 million people, there are now an estimated 3.2 million Muslims with 1,6 million born overseas and they now make up 5.4% of the population of England and Wales. In 1991 there were just 950,000 – or 1.9% of the total population. Historically, London always had a high concentration of Muslims. This rose sharply in the 1960s with large immigration from the commonwealth particularly from South Asia.
The current estimated population of London is 8.7 million of which 1.1 million are Muslims. That is 12.4% of the population of London. 37.4% of the Muslim population of England and Wales live in London. 3 million or 36.7% of the city’s population are born in foreign countries. The Muslim population of London increased by 67% during the past decade. Outside of London, Blackburn, in Lancashire, has the highest Muslim population making up 29.1% of the city. And in both Slough and Luton over a quarter of the population is now Muslim with Birmingham and Leicester coming in at over a fifth. Other interesting statistics gleaned from official data is that:
. One in three Muslims in England and Wales is under 15, compared with fewer than one in five overall.
. There are also fewer elderly Muslims, with 4% aged over 65, compared with 16% of the general population.
. In 2011, 2.71 million Muslims lived in England and Wales, compared with 1.55 million in 2001. Today there are an estimated 3.2 million Muslims
. Half the Muslims in England and Wales were born there and almost three-quarters (73%) identify themselves as British. Two-thirds of Muslims are ethnically Asian and 8% are white.
. Muslims make up 20% or more of the electorate in 26 constituencies and live in all local authority areas in England and Wales.
. Eight per cent of all school-age children (five to 15) are from Muslim households.
. Just 5.5% of Muslims have jobs defined as a “higher professional occupation”, compared with 7.6% of the overall population.
. Economic activity among Muslims is lower than the overall population as a whole. In 2011, 19.8% of Muslims were in full-time employment, compared with 34.9% of the overall population.
NORTH CAROLINA FIGHTS BACK AGAINST FEDERAL GOVERNMENTS ATTEMPTS TO FORCE TRANS BATHROOMS
It’s a showdown of state government vs. federal government, and the outcome will likely set a precedent in the U.S., as North Carolina is ‘sticking to their guns’ in not backing down on the state’s “bathroom law” that honours only biological genders. The Federal Justice Department had set a deadline for North Carolina to “either scrap the law or face legal action and risk losing federal funds.” But Governor Pat McCrory refused to give in, filing suit against the federal government instead. “The Department’s position is a baseless and blatant overreach,” McCrory said. “This is an attempt to unilaterally rewrite long-established federal civil rights laws in a manner that is wholly inconsistent with the intent of Congress and disregards decades of statutory interpretation by the Courts.”
Instead of allowing transgender people to use whatever bathroom they “identify” with, the North Carolina state law requires all people to use those bathrooms that correspond to the sex on their birth certificate. However, the law only applies to bathrooms in government offices, universities and road-side rest stops. Meanwhile in Texas the Target chain of stores have issued a policy which will allow transgender people to use the stores bathroom they feel most comfortable with. In response Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has asked the company to provide its safety policies to protect women and children from “those who would use the cover of Target’s restroom policy for nefarious purposes.”
“Target, of course, is free to choose such a policy for its Texas stores,” Paxton wrote in a letter to Target CEO Brian Cornell. He noted the possibility of the Texas Legislature addressing the issue in the future, but said, “regardless of whether Texas legislates on this topic, it is possible that allowing men in women’s restrooms could lead to criminal and otherwise unwanted activity. As chief lawyer and law enforcement officer for the State of Texas, I ask that you provide the full text of Target’s safety policies regarding the protection of women and children from those who would use the cover of Target’s restroom policy for nefarious purposes,” Paxton continued. More than 1.1 million people have pledged to boycott Target over its new policy allowing men to access women’s bathrooms.
CHRISTIANS KILLED IN THE CONGO AS THOUSANDS FLEE ISLAMIST VIOLENCE
Islamist militants are believed to have killed between 20 and 40 villagers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), according to news reports. Attackers carried machetes and axes into a village in North Kivu province, in eastern DRC, late in the evening of May 3. “Between 20:00 and 22:00, the enemy managed to get past army positions and killed peaceful residents in their homes, slashing their throats,” local administrator Bernard Amisi Kalonda told Agence France-Presse. “The 16 bodies are in front of me, killed by machete or axe.” One local source said as many as 34 may have died; another source quoted 38, including, he said, two elders and their wives of the CECA 20 (Communaute Evangelique au Centre de l’Afrique) Church. A local Christian missionary said that thousands of people have fled the area.
“Hundreds of houses have been abandoned and thousands of people displaced,” the missionary said. “I saw people carrying their mattresses and things in cars, on motorcycles, on foot. Hundreds of homes along the road are abandoned. Where there was thriving community, there is now a ghost town.” General Jean Baillaud, the military chief of the UN’s 20,000-soldier force in the DR Congo, confirmed the deaths. Local administrator Kalonda said it is unknown if the attack was carried out by Muslim Defence International (MDI). The 20-year-old alliance of Ugandan militants was first linked with former Ugandan dictator Idi Amin. It has long been active in the eastern regions of neighbouring DRC, and is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of civilians since 2014, according to the UN.
The MDI has repeatedly attacked the majority-Christian population in DRC for years. Kidnapping and murder are common. It is alleged to have support from the Islamic government of Sudan, an assertion made by the Uganda government and backed by Western diplomatic sources. The group is accused of waging a proxy war for Sudan against Uganda as retribution for Uganda’s support of secessionists who broke away to form the nation of South Sudan in 2011. The MDI is known to have attracted foreign recruits and to have forced Christians to convert to Islam. The local population in the related area is 95.8% Christian and the impact on them has been immense. A pastor in the area said the people are terrified but while some contemplated fleeing again, others have stayed in the hope that things will normalise soon.
A pastor and his seven month pregnant wife were attacked in April by Hindu extremists. Pastor Sameli and wife, Meena, were lured out of their home when two men, impersonating members of another church, came to them. After reaching the house the men pulled out a sword and put it to Sameli’s throat demanding he say, “Jai Siya Ram” meaning victory to the god Ram. After he refused, the extremists poured petrol on both the couple and their church.
While Sameli and Meena escaped, the church and everything inside was burned. Sameli felt fearful during this ordeal, so he prayed to God. When his attackers asked him, “Where is your Jesus?” He replied, “He is with us.”
When told to trample a bible, he refused. Sameli and Meena may feel fear, but stand strong in God’s promise. Praise God!
. for the witness of Sameli and Meena to these men despite the threat to themselves.
* for boldness and wisdom as Sameli and Meena return to ministry.
* the Hindu extremists who attacked them, and others, would come to know Jesus.