Displaying items by tag: Africa
The army in Burkina Faso needs to contain spreading violence by al-Qaeda and IS. More than thirty men, women, and children were killed by 100 rebels burning down homes and shooting people trying to escape. Survivors are praying for peace and are very afraid. One week earlier two Spanish journalists and an Irish conservationist were killed, and a soldier went missing when an anti-poaching patrol was ambushed by rebels. Another 18 people were killed in a different village. Last year the government enlisted volunteer militiamen to help the army, but they incurred retaliation by the rebels attacking them and the communities they helped. Armed groups have driven religious and ethnic tensions between farming and herding communities in Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger to boost recruitment among marginalised communities. The UN said worsening violence has led to one of the world’s most acute humanitarian crises.
The EU has joined the United States in sending humanitarian aid to South Sudan. Contributions of more than $145 million will provide food, medical aid, and shelter. World Concern’s Joshua Bundi says the help could not have come at a better time. South Sudan is on the brink of famine thanks to the fallout of several compounded crises. Bundi said. ‘We’ve had the worst flooding in modern history. Over eight million South Sudanese need humanitarian aid to survive another day; half of them are children. Thankfully, hope reigns triumphant in South Sudan.’ The church is meeting the needs of the people and preaching the gospel.
Gunmen abducted 39 students, most of whom are Christians, from a college in Kaduna state on 11 March. An armed gang raided the college in Kaduna at 9.30 pm, shooting indiscriminately and rounding up 219 people. Of these, 180 were rescued by the army soon afterwards. Several videos have been released showing the 39 abducted students being threatened, beaten, and whipped. In another video, a male student (named Emmanuel) being held at gunpoint pleads with the government to intervene. He added, ‘Many of us here have been injured - badly injured. Most of us here have health issues.’ Meanwhile we can praise God that Pastor Yakuru, kidnapped by Boko Haram on Christmas Eve 2020, was released on 3 March, the day the terrorists said they would execute him. His release was negotiated by the department of state services and a national charity.
Eritrea remains one of the worst countries in the world for Christian persecution. Imprisoned Christians are tortured, starved, and forced into hard labour. Conditions are worse for pastors and theological students who are singled out for beatings or have their jail terms extended as a warning to others. Many Christians are held indefinitely, often without trial, not knowing when they will be released. Some are kept in shipping containers, where they are exposed to the searing desert heat by day and cold by night. 69 Christian prisoners were released in September 2020 in Covid-19 control measures. Most had been held for over ten years without trial, some for 16 years. The releases were made on condition that bail securities were lodged, usually in the form of property deeds, with guarantors held liable for the detainees’ future actions. None of the known imprisoned pastors or senior Christian leaders were among those released. Tens of thousands of Christians have fled from Eritrea to Ethiopia, Sudan, Uganda, and Israel.
Nigeria was the country with the most Christians killed for their faith last year. In overall violence, it was second only to Pakistan, and it trailed only China in the number of churches attacked or closed. Nigeria also led the world in the number of kidnapped Christians last year and broke into the top ten countries for the first time, where it is most difficult to be a Christian, jumping to number 9 (from 12 last year). On 2 April you were asked to pray for the release of eight Christians who were abducted on their way to evangelise in Kaduna state. This week we can thank God that our prayers have been answered, and they were freed and taken to hospital for checkup and tests.
Believers can languish in captivity for years in Eritrea. ‘They often aren’t even charged with anything and they don’t go to court’, said Greg Musselman from Voice of the Martyrs. In an unexpected move, Eritrea’s government released dozens of prisoners in late February. Many believers thought, ‘things are changing!’ But Musselman said, ‘The Eritrean government may be trying to curry favour with Ethiopia, their neighbouring country, because the prime minister there is a Christian. As recent arrests show, these changes were too good to be true. Our hopes that the Eritrean government was loosening its grip on evangelicals now seem to be going in the opposite direction. Eritrea is claiming religious freedom, but that’s not happening at all.’
Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said they will continue to work around the clock assisting thousands of people evacuated from the shores of Palma after violent attacks by insurgents. At the seaport of Pemba MSF teams have been assisting refugees who are scared, traumatised, hungry and desperate. Project director Luiz Guimaraes said, ‘We have three mobile clinics around Pemba city. We provide for 400 to 450 consultations per day.’ He said that out of fear people fled, walking long distances on foot without food and shelter. Teams are also assisting with water and sanitation, as people need clean water to drink. ‘In this situation, they drink dirty water, and they have a lot of diseases caused by waterborne pathogens.’ He said that they had also implemented mental health services to help people cope with their traumatic experiences. Pray for God’s peace to comfort the refugees.
Eight Christians have been abducted while on their way to evangelise in Kaduna state. The group of members of the Redeemed Christian Church of God were travelling towards the town of Kafanchan when gunmen intercepted the bus, according to International Christian Concern and the Nigerian Tribune. Eje Kenny Faraday, a witness, posted a picture on Facebook showing the empty bus saying, ‘All passengers in the bus are just kidnapped along Kachia Road, Km 63 from Kaduna.’ The kidnappers have demanded the equivalent of £88,000 for their release. A search for the members has been launched by security agencies including the police and the military.
On 22 March the European Union announced a number of sanctions on Eritrea’s national security office. This positive EU move should hardly be a surprise to the Eritrean government. It has faced sanctions for its human rights and religious freedom violations in the past, earning the nickname of ‘Africa’s North Korea’ for its systematic flaunting of international standards and its insular foreign policy. The recent sanctions target arbitrary arrests, extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances of persons, and torture committed by its agents. Eritrea has a well-documented history of treating its prisoners inhumanely and of targeting religious minorities for particularly harsh treatment. Me’eter Prison, the customary holding place for Eritrean prisoners of conscience, is notorious for its regular use of torture, for example to induce religious recantations. Prisoners are kept in metal shipping containers placed on the open desert floor.
UNICEF is underscoring the need for continual aid for children amid a worsening situation in the Tigray region of Ethiopia. Five months since the conflict began, a picture is emerging of killings and sexual violence against women and children. UNICEF reports schools and health centres looted, vandalised, and occupied by armed groups. In addition, deliberate attacks of violence and looting have left 60% of health care facilities not operational. 57% of boreholes (providing water) in 13 towns are not functional, and a quarter of the region’s schools have sustained damage. Although UNICEF and partners give humanitarian aid to the needy, there are urgent needs for children’s protection. Fighting, media blackout, and government-imposed restrictions leave humanitarian organisations unable to provide adequate aid, and they have had difficulty accurately gauging the need. Basic service outlets must be protected and the safety and security of everyone working in and accessing those services guaranteed.