CAMEROON’S CHURCHES STRUGGLE TO COPE WITH BOKO HARAM SPILL OVER
Northern Cameroon is more than ever in the sights of Boko Haram, as detailsof atrocities committed by the radical Islamic sect from neighbouringNigeria continue to emerge. The militant sect, which now controls several major Nigerian towns, has set up a caliphate with strict sharia law. Aneyewitness told the BBC that he has seen the dead bodies of civilians littered on the streets of Bama, a key town in Nigeria’s north-east -recently seized by Boko Haram. Christians in the area are being persecuted, it is reported. Christian men have been caught and beheaded while women have been forced to convert and been married to some of the militants. Their offensive has forced thousands of civilians to flee into Cameroon.
Making a mockery of the border (which the Cameroon authorities say they’ve closed to prevent the spread of Ebola) militants have intensified their attacks in Cameroon’s villages and towns. As in Nigeria, Christian populations are particularly targeted. This is particularly true of the village of Cherif Moussary, where a church was ransacked and the residenceof the pastor burned down. Many Christian families were stripped of theirproperties local sources have said. A similar act of desecration wasreported at Mouldougoua village. At Assighassia (occupied for days bymilitants before being ousted by the army) two church elders – ZerubbabelTchamaya and Samuel Lada – were beheaded.
In Djibrilli village, a pastor was kidnapped and threatened by militantsbefore being released the following day. Everywhere the story is the same, alocal leader said. “The assailants attack in the night, when the army is nolonger patrolling the villages. They enter the houses of Christians andstrip them of their properties. Several churches were ransacked and items such as musical instruments were destroyed or taken away. “The situation is alarming”, laments the leader, who has sheltered a number of the internally displaced. “It is difficult to give precise figures of Christians who have fled”. In July, at least 25 people were killed in Cameroon, among them a church leader, as militants carried out two spectacular attacks in the region.
The wife of the Deputy Prime Minister was kidnapped, raising the fear that northern Cameroon, has become a new battle field for them. She was rescued two days later, after a fierce battle between her kidnappers and the army. Since then, the Cameroon government has announced the reinforcement of the army in the region. Also several meetings have been held – aimed at pooling resources with neighbours – after the abduction in April of about 300 Chibok school girls by Islamists. Nigeria and its regional allies have called for greater international support to shut down Boko Haram’s weapons and funding supply, as concern has mounted at the group’s rapid recent land grab in North-Eastern Nigeria.
The churches have been trying to contain the influx of Nigerian refugees and internally displaced people (IDPs). The Protestant Churches in the Far North region have set up a crisis committee, Rev. Samuel Heteck, a regional leader, said ”Our churches have consistently provided the refugees and IDPs with food, shelter and medicines. But now, our churches are overwhelmed, as their number has increased threefold”. Cross-border raids and atrocities have continued, causing ever more people to flee. ”Every week we welcome new waves of refugees. More than 9,600 displaced people were recorded in two weeks. Some are welcomed within church compounds and others in the UN Minawao refugee camp”, notes Rev. Heteck.
The Church in Cameroon cannot cope with the spiritual, physical and financial demands that can give a better life to the thousands of displaced people, points out Rev. Heteck. ”After more than a year of social action,we now face a depletion of our resources. Moreover, the deterioration of security has forced missionaries and expatriates, employed mainly in social work, to leave the area. Their departure has significantly reduced the response capacity of the churches, as local staffs were not prepared to face such a crisis. Activities aimed at raising funds or generating momentum for prayer are held by local churches. A day of fundraising and voluntary donations was recently held in all Protestant churches in Cameroon.
A day of prayer for peace has also been held by the Catholic Church. “The insecurity raging on our borders, has created a psychosis in our population. In these situations, you must put yourself in the hands of the Almighty”, said the Archbishop of Douala and President of the Episcopal Conference, Samuel Kleda. Conflict prevention activities are also held jointly between Christian and Muslim leaders in Northern Cameroon, fearful that their region may become another area of sectarian violence. About 40 Christian and Muslim leaders met in April to promote a culture of peace and tolerance between different religious communities.
The current influx of refugees has put further pressure on scarce natural resources. Additionally, the destruction of farms and livestock by Boko Haram has raised the prospect of widespread famine in the region. The World Food Programme (WFP) has been providing humanitarian assistance to Nigerian refugees in Cameroon. “We found alarming levels of malnutrition, particularly among children. This is a priority for the WFP and its humanitarian partners” said Jacques Roy, WFP Representative in Cameroon. The arrival of the rainy season complicates further access to the areas: deadly flooding has been reported, and also an outbreak of cholera has claimed an undetermined number of lives.
The Middle East is in turmoil. Civil war in Syria, a battle against IS (Islamic State) in Iraq and elsewhere, refugees flooding Lebanon and Jordan, and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) fleeing to safer areas in Syria orIraq. While these facts may look like a negative thing, nevertheless God is at work. Muslims continue to find Jesus in all of these countries. During church services in Syria or Lebanon, one easily sees the change. For example, on a recent Sunday morning buses stopped in front of a churchbuilding in Lebanon. Groups of Syrian refugees jumped out of the bus and flooded the building. The sight was incredible – veiled women singing praises to God and the voices of children ringing out and filling the church with joy.
This particular church has been undergoing a big transformation over the past few years – so much so that the pastor has had to consider starting a second Sunday service to house both refugees and his own church members. In Lebanon, where many Lebanese Christians held deep distrust of Syrians because of past relationships between the countries, they now embrace them. The love of Christ makes them love the more than 1.1 million Syrian refugees who are now everywhere in the small country with a population of just 4.5million of its own. “Could we ever dream of Sunni Muslims coming to our churches?” a Lebanese pastor asks. “Of course not, but we prayed for a long time for this to happen – and now is the time.”
When our contacts talk with Christians in Lebanon, they paint an image of a very special moment in history for this region. They speak of miracles, healing or release because the church is praying. They share stories about God giving people dreams and visions. They tell about the people asking why the church is helping them when they have enough reason to hate them. It’s not only in Lebanon – in Syria itself, pastors and priests report many Muslim Background Believers (MBBs) in their church buildings. As a young Christian woman from Syria recently said, “Thank God that we have gone through this crisis. We, as a church, became stronger because of it.”
“We had to step out of our comfort zone,” admits Gloria, a young Syrian woman who is from eastern Syria. “Before the current situation developed the church focused on the people in the church and the church was hidden within the four walls. Now we are going out and touching lives of non-Christians. God pushed the church to a new stage, reaching the people that are outside the church, that didn’t happen before the war – we only shared the gospel with those who came to the church,” adds Adil, another Syrian Christian from the south of the country. “To be honest, we’re quite overwhelmed; there is so much to do now.”
* giving thanks for the heart of the Lebanese church and pray also for provision of workers and resources to adequately minister to the many new believers and existing congregations.
* giving thanks for the Syrians who have decided to stay in their country to try to help the millions of IDPs.
* giving thanks for the many new believers experiencing Christ in unexpected ways. Pray they will grow in their faith despite the situation they face as refugees.
IRELAND: 900 DOCTORS SIGN DECLARATION STATING ABORTION UNNECESSARY TO SAVE MOTHER’S LIFE
Almost 900 medical professionals have now signed the Dublin Declaration on Maternal Health, launched in 2012 to declare that abortion is not needed to save women’s lives. Unveiled at the International Symposium on Maternal Healthcare in Dublin, Ireland, the Declaration states: “As experienced practitioners and researchers in obstetrics and gynecology, we affirm that direct abortion – the purposeful destruction of the unborn child – is not medically necessary to save the life of a woman. “We uphold that there is a fundamental difference between abortion, and necessary medical treatments that are carried out to save the life of the mother, even if such treatment results in the loss of life of her unborn child.
“We confirm that the prohibition of abortion does not affect, in any way, the availability of optimal care to pregnant women.” Signatory Dr. Eoghande Faoite said there is a fundamental difference between life saving treatment a woman may need during pregnancy, and abortion, which is the direct and intentional taking of the life of the unborn child. “The Dublin Declaration clarifies this quite succinctly,” he said. He pointed out that through the Dublin Declaration, obstetricians, gynaecologists, neonatologists, paediatricians and other doctors from across the specialties of medicine and surgery testify that a country does not need legalized abortion in order to preserve maternal health and reduce maternal mortality.
“Let us not underestimate the power of such a statement,” de Faoite stressed. “This is hugely important to all of us who work to protect women and children from abortion and who seek to make this cruel injustice made illegal, and unthinkable, right across the world.” “The first step towards turning today’s society against abortion,” de Faoite continued, “is to show them that legal abortion is not needed in maternal healthcare, that is not needed to save women’s lives and that banning abortion does not bring about a rise in maternal mortality. This is the sentiment the Dublin Declaration achieves and that fact that it was born in Ireland is also significant.”
The doctor noted that Ireland and Chile have been two of the safest places for pregnant mothers and their unborn children, with lower maternal mortality rates than even the United States. “Ireland’s ban on abortion” he explained. “Provided proof that pro-life laws do not jeopardize women’s health, but rather encourage medical professionals to do everything they must do to save a woman’s life in pregnancy and do everything they can to also preserve the life of the baby.” “The Dublin Declaration” Dr. de Faoite concluded, “is a hugely important tool for the global pro-life community and for the growing movement of doctors who recognize that every pregnancy has two patients that need to be cared for – mother and child.”
SURVEY SHOWS VAST NUMBERS OF CHRISTIAN MEN ADDICTED TO PORN AND HAVING AFFAIRS
A national survey in America of Christian men reveals alarming numbers that are using porn and engaging in sexual infidelity. The 2014 survey was commissioned by Proven Men Ministries and conducted by Barna Group among adult men who identified themselves as Christians. The statistics for Christian men between the ages of 18-30 are striking: Some 77% view pornography at least monthly; 36% view pornography daily, and 32% admit their addiction to porn (another 12% think they may be). The survey’s results for middle-aged Christian men (ages 31-49) are no less disturbing: Some 64% view pornography at least monthly; and 18% admit being addicted to pornography (another 8% think they may be).
Some 55% of married Christian men viewed porn at least monthly and 35% had a sexual affair while married, according to the Barna survey. Joel Hesch, the founder of Proven Men Ministries says “Pornography is one of the biggest unaddressed problems in the church and people are starving for the church to step forward with solutions,”,” Hesch adds. Those who identify themselves as born-again Christians revealed similar struggles with pornography and affairs, with 54% admitting they look at pornography at least once a month and 31% having had a sexual affair while married. Hesch broke free from his own 20-year sexual addiction to pornography and masturbation, which extended 7 years into his marriage, 17 years ago.
He created a biblically based system known as the Proven Path for Sexual Integrity, which involves a 12-week course of study, a leadership guide and a book on sexual integrity. “We believe Jesus is the answer,” he says. “We have a goal of helping one million Christian men experience freedom and victory from pornography and sexual addiction.” Hesch believes that the main cause of sexual addiction is pride and selfishness. He wants men to grow in personal integrity in all areas. “The mark of a proven man is not the absence of sin,” he says, “but how you respond to setbacks.” To find outmore about how you can be a part of the solution, visit their website at www.ProvenMen.org.
Separatists have seized an evangelical church in eastern Ukraine amid reports of increasingly frequent attacks on Christians in the region. In the latest attack, armed separatists broke into a newly constructed church in Donetsk, driving out the Christians inside and forbidding them from holding any further services there. They threatened to kill anyone who disobeyed this order. The Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine are under the control of pro-Russian separatists. The Council of Evangelical Protestant Churches of Ukraine is reporting intense persecution of Christians. It cited ‘abductions, beatings, torture and threats of execution.’ Contacts inside Ukraine say ‘the threat of war on a large scale’ is growing daily.
* for protection for Christians in eastern Ukraine, amid mounting insecurity and persecution.
* that they will hold fast to their faith and know that God is their ‘fortified tower.’
* particularly for pastors and church leaders in this region. Ask God to give them wisdom to know how to protect their congregations and help strengthen their faith.
GERMAN CHANCELLOR VOWS TO FIGHT ANTI-SEMITISM IN GERMANY
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has vowed she will do everything she can to fight rising anti-Semitism in Germany. Merkel expressed alarm that Jewish institutions in Germany still needed police protection. The report noted that Jewish schools, shops, buildings and synagogues are regularly guarded by armed police. Merkel said “I will do everything I can to ensure that anti-Semitism doesn’t have a chance in our country.” Due to the role Germany played in WWII, many Germans are extremely sensitive about anti-Semitism.”We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us,” said Merkel. “There is not a single Jewish institution in Germany that doesn’t have to have police protection.That’s something that very much concerns me.”
WASHINGTON NATIONAL CATHEDRAL HOSTS FRIDAY MUSLIM PRAYER SERVICE
Washington National Cathedral, known for presidential funerals and other major services, recently hosted a Muslim prayer service for the first time. The Episcopal cathedral has long held high-profile interfaith events but organisers said that they were seeking to make a statement by having Muslim leaders come and hold their midday service in such a visible Christian house of worship. The service developed out of a relationship between the cathedral’s director of liturgy, the Rev. Gina Campbell, and the Muslim South African ambassador to the United States, Ebrahim Rasool. “This is a dramatic moment in the world and in Muslim-Christian relations,” Rasool said in a prepared statement.