KIDNAPPED GIRLS’ PARENTS DIE AS TRAUMA RISES IN NIGERIA
For the missing Nigerian girls kidnapped over 100 days ago, another traumahas emerged. Eleven of the girls’ grieving parents have died, many of them after heart attacks and stress-related illnesses. Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan has again pledged to secure the release of the schoolgirls kidnapped in April by Boko Haram during his long-postponed first meeting with the remaining parents, which has finally taken place. The parents pulled out of a previous meeting amid accusations they were being used for political reasons. On 14 April more than 200 school girls were abducted from their boarding school in Chibok in Borno state by Boko Haram. It sparked a global campaign aimed at securing their release.
Despite the support of countries like the USA, France and the UK, the whereabouts of the girls is still unknown. Some believe they are being held in the Sambisa forest near the Cameroon border, where the insurgents have set up camps. The Nigerian President has been criticized for handling the crisis badly. For weeks he failed to comment on the abduction. His visit to Chibok, where the girls were kidnapped, was first announced by local media before later being cancelled. Dr Pogu Bitrus, one of the most vocal Chibok community leaders, presented the community’s address to the President. He said it was an ’emotional’ moment with many people from the community weeping, including staff from the girls’ school.
President Jonathan tried to reassure the parents and relatives, and appealed for their patience, understanding and cooperation. “Anyone who gives you the impression that we are aloof and that we are not doing what we are supposed to do to get the girls out is not being truthful,” he said. “Our commitment is not just to get the girls out; it is also to rout Boko Haram completely from Nigeria. We are very mindful of the safety of the girls. We want to return them all alive to their parents. If they are killed in any rescue effort, then we have achieved nothing,” President Jonathan said. Some 200 people, including 51 of the girls who managed to escape Boko Haram’s captivity, attended the meeting held in the Presidential palace in Abuja.
The meeting was also attended by the Governor of Borno State, the Governor of Bauchi State and the Senate President, Senator David Mark. President Jonathan promised to do “everything humanly possible” to get the girls out without giving any specific detail. “Our duty now is to take all relevant steps to get the girls out safely.” “This is not the time for talking, this is the time for action. We will get to the time that we will celebrate, and, by God’s grace, that time will come soon.” Dr Pogu gave a cautious welcome to Jonathan’s commitment to rescue the missing girls. ”For now we have no reasons to say he isn’t sincere. All we have to do is wait and see how that sincerity will translate into a real chance to rescue the girls.”
Responding to Jonathan’s promise to assure security in the area, Dr Pogu expressed his anger and dissatisfaction towards the military deployed in the affected areas. ”So far, what we know is the military has not been pro-active on the issue,” said Dr Pogu. “They sit down and wait for Boko Haram to attack, rather than taking the fight to them and routing them out. The military has the capacity to do it. For whatever reason, nothing is happening. Since the April kidnapping Islamist insurgents have intensified their attacks on Chibok and neighbouring communities. Last week Boko Haramtook control of Damboa town, the capital of Borno State. According to local sources assailants set fire to number of properties and the market.
Multiple reports said that Boko Haram fighters were still occupying the town after hoisting their flag above a public building. More than 15,000 people have fled Damboa to escape the Boko Haram onslaught, raising the fear of a humanitarian disaster in the region. All three regional governments – Niger ,Cameroon and Chad have said that they will contribute 700 troops each to a combined regional force to fight the Boko Haram crisis that now spreads across their borders too, causing a spreading crisis of refugees there too. According to Human Rights Watch, more than 2,000 people have been killed in the past six months compared to 3,600 killed during the previous four years of the Boko Haram insurgency.
A 24-hour curfew, imposed on the Kaduna State capital after separate explosions targeting a prominent Sufi Sheikh and a former military leader on 23 July left at least 70 people dead, has been lifted. According to local reports, the first bomb exploded on Isa Kaita Road, when a man hiding behind a parked car threw an explosive device at the convoy of Sheikh Dahiru Bauchi, a known opponent of the terror group Boko Haram, as he returned home after delivering a Ramadan sermon to thousands of people. While Sheikh Bauchi escaped unhurt, at least 25 people died in the explosion, and many more were injured. This was the second attack on Sheikh Bauchi in the recent weeks.
Hours later, a car bomb exploded near the Kawo Bus Stop as General Muhammadu Buhari, the former military head of state and a key member of the opposition party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), was returning from a funeral in Zaria. The bomb reportedly exploded as the car’s driver attempted to ram the general’s bullet proof vehicle. Although General Buhari’s car was damaged and three members of staff were injured, he escaped unhurt. According to official sources, an estimated 14 people died in the second blast; however, eyewitnesses informed Nigerian media that the number was closer to 50, with many injured.
In a statement, President Goodluck Jonathan denounced the targeting of prominent political and religious leaders by terrorists and enemies of the nation as “an odious attempt to inflame passions and exacerbate disquiet, fear, insecurity and sectional divisions in the country”. The Kaduna State Governor, Alhaji Mukhtar Ramalan Yero described the timing of the bombings as “a clear indication that those behind the act have no iota of fear of God, as they have none for the sanctity of human life.” The bombings werealso condemned by the US government and by Nigeria’s main Islamic body Jama’atu Nasril Islam, which described them as “acts of terror”.
Although the group has yet to claim responsibility for the attacks, the bombings are being attributed Boko Haram. Sheikh Bauchi has been openly critical of Boko Haram, and in a video the sect’s leader Abubakar Shekau called General Buhari “an infidel” for taking part in democratic processes, adding that he and other named Muslim politicians were “in trouble”. Mervyn Thomas, Chief Executive of Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), said, “By targeting such significant religious and political leaders during the month of Ramadan, Boko Haram hoped to exacerbate national divisions and encourage an outbreak of sectarian violence.
Meriam Ibrahim and her family have arrived safely in Italy after criminal charges against her and her husband were dismissed and they were permitted to leave the Sudan. On 24 June, Mrs Ibrahim and her husband Daniel Wani were detained as they attempted to leave Sudan, and were later charged with forgery and provision of false information, due to alleged irregularities with her travel documents. These charges have now been dismissed, clearing the way for the family to leave the country. They left Sudan on an Italian government plane, accompanied by the Italian Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs. Meriam and her children travelled on passports issued by Sudanese authorities. They eventually travel to the US.
Mrs Ibrahim was born in western Sudan to a Sudanese Muslim father and an Ethiopian Orthodox mother. Her father left the family when she was six years old and she was subsequently brought up as a Christian by her mother. The case against Mrs Ibrahim began after her alleged family members made Sudanese authorities aware of her marriage to Daniel Wani, a Christian with joint Sudanese and American citizenship. Mrs Ibrahim testified before the court on 4 Marchthat she is a life-long Christian, producing her marriage certificate, where she is classified as Christian, as evidence. Three potential witnesses from western Sudan who went to court to testify for Mrs Ibrahim were prevented from giving evidence.
Mrs Ibrahim’s alleged family attempted to challenge the Appeal Court’s decision to release her; however this too has been dismissed. Her lawyers continue to face threats from extremists for working on her case. One lawyer said “Now we are a target”, adding that days earlier extremists had protested and reiterated they would kill Mrs Ibrahim and anyone who helped her. According to the lawyer, one of the people involved in this protest has been arrested. However, the legal anomaly that allowed the prosecution and harassment of Mrs Ibrahim and her family continues still exists and it is important that we continue to pray that the Sudanese authorities uphold the right to freedom of religion or belief for all of its citizens.
CHRISTIAN PERSECUTION IN PAKISTAN DRAMATICALLY ESCALATES
Christians make up a small sliver of the population in Pakistan, four percent of its nearly 180 million people. They are targets in the rapidly increasing violence. Critics argue that Pakistan’s blasphemy laws are frequently misused to settle personal scores. Such was the case with Asia Bibi who was sentenced to death over drinking from a Muslim’s cup in 2010. Imprisoned and in solitary confinement for the last four years, Bibi’s health continues to fail. It has been reported that 695 people were charged with blasphemy between 1986 and the year 2006. Two government officials were murdered for supporting a repeal of these laws.
The September 2013 suicide bombing of the historic All Saints Church in Peshawar shocked the world. At Least 85 were killed and over 140 were wounded. It’s not safe for Christians in this country,” said Mano Rumalshah, the bishop emeritus of Peshawar. “Everyone is ignoring the growing danger to Christians in Muslim-majority countries.” This increased persecution has caused panic. Over 16,000 Christians have fled, seeking asylum in Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Hong Kong, and Thailand. In an attempt to end this mass exodus, authorities illegally removed more than 1000 Pakistani Christians from their flights in Islamabad, Karachi, and Lahore. Sri Lanka has detained them as refugees.
The nation of Pakistan has moved to number 8 on the 2014 Open Doors World Watch List of the worst persecutors of Christians in the world.
Please pray for:
* unjust blasphemy laws to be repealed in Pakistan
* the Christian minority to continue to show love and kindness to their Muslim neighbours even when persecuted.
* God to soften the hearts of extremists and convict them of their sins against humanity and to provide protection over our Brothers and Sisters in Christ there.
MISS PENNSYLVANIA U.S.A. INSPIRING TESTIMONY – CONCEIVED THROUGH RAPE
While Miss Pennsylvania, Valerie Gatto, did not win the Miss USA Pageant, but her testimony is already a victory of life. Valerie, 24 was conceived when a man dragged her mother behind a building in Pittsburgh and raped her, then miraculously, she got away. “He was going to murder her,” Valerie said,”but there was just this bright flash of light and he got scared and didn’twant any onlookers to see her and what he was doing to her.” After the attack left Valerie’s mother pregnant, she planned to give her child up for adoption, but that changed on the night her baby was born. The following are excerpts from Valerie’s “Biography” on her website:
Valerie’s mum told her family about her adoption plans; but Valerie’s great-grandmother said: God doesn’t give you more than you can handle. Her mother listened and decided to raise Valerie with the help of God and her family. When Valerie was six, she started asking about her father and her mother explained to her that he was not part of her life and would never be. When she was about ten, she started asking more questions about her father and her mum explained that she was attacked at knife point and raped which resulted in Valerie being conceived. Family is a large and important part of Valerie’s life. Her family came together, made sacrifices, worked hard and stayed positive during difficult times.
Valerie grew-up living with her mum, grandparents and for a while her aunt. Every Sunday she went to Church with her family. Church has always been a very important part of her life. Valerie would go to Church events whenever she could. Her Church also provided services for the community, one of which was the Church’s food pantry that her mother was in charge of. Valerie would go with her mum to deliver food baskets to those in need. Valerie uses her experience to help educate women about protecting themselves from sexual assault. “I believe God put me here for a reason: to inspire and encourage people, to give them hope and to tell them you can’t let your circumstances define your life,” she says.
OVER 550 CHRISTIAN GIRLS KIDNAPPED IN EGYPT SINCE 2011
The world reacted in horror and revulsion at the kidnapping of 276 Nigerian schoolgirls in April. But twice as many Coptic Christian schoolgirls in Egypt have vanished slowly, one-by-one, in kidnappings that remain unsolved. Since January, 2011 through March, 2014, over 550 Christian girls were kidnapped by Muslim men and forced to convert and marry their abductors, often after suffering violence at the hands of their kidnappers, according to the Association of Victims of Abduction and Forced Disappearance (AVAFD). Often before these forced marriages, the traditional cross the Coptic minority tattoos on their wrists was erased with acid.
The abductions have been going on for many years but after the fall of Hosni Mubarak, a dramatic surge began. “Before the revolution five or six girls would disappear each month. Now the average is 15,” notes Ebram Louis, the founder of AVAFD. When girls are abducted 40% are raped and subsequently forced to marry their captors after their conversion to Islam, according to AVAFD. The organization says some of the victims are coerced by young Muslims, who first gain their trust, then force them to convert and marry. Many who have studied this phenomenon believe there are organized Islamic cells behind the kidnappings dedicated exclusively to the abduction of Coptic Christian girls and young women.
Proposals to allow three-parent babies will be pushed forward by the Government, despite more than 60 per cent of people opposing the plans in a consultation. Health Minister Jane Ellison announced the move as the responses to a twelve-week Government consultation were released. Figures showed that of 1,857 responses, 1,152 opposed the idea of three-parent babies, while 700 “expressed general support”. The remainder did not come down on either side. The proposals include a technique that replaces the nucleus in a healthy donor egg with the nucleus DNA from the prospective mother. This would mean the child would have genetic material from two mothers and one father.
Concerns have been raised about the safety and effectiveness of theprocedure. The Government said it recognised there is a “broad spectrum of widely different views” but commented it has “taken the view that our policy remains the correct one”. Jane Ellison’s statement said regulations making the procedures legal will be put before Parliament, but no date was given. Dr David King, director of Human Genetics Alert, criticised the Government’s actions saying: “People will see this as the moment when the crucial ethical line was crossed. A precautionary approach would demand much more evidence and the government should wait for that rather than rushing legislation through.”
SURVEY PROVIDES INTERESTING RESULTS ON AMERICAN GAYS
Less than 3 percent of the U.S. population identify themselves as gay, lesbian or bisexual, the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention reported in the first large-scale government survey measuring Americans’ sexual orientation. The National Health Interview Survey, which is the government’s premier tool for annually assessing Americans’ health and behaviours, found that 1.6 percent of adults self-identify as gay or lesbian, and 0.7 percent consider themselves bisexual. The percentage of those who identify as other than heterosexual — gay, lesbian, or transgendered — is significantly smaller than investigators expected.