Displaying items by tag: Africa
On Wednesday Somalia's presidential elections took place, with over twenty candidates to choose from. In a surprise result, former prime minister Hassan Sheikh Mohamud decisively defeated the incumbent president. It is the first time since the 1991 overthrow of President Said Barre that a new leader has been chosen inside the country; the UN sees this as a sign of improving security. The election, in Mogadishu airport (considered the safest place in the city), went ahead under close security against the militant group al-Shabaab, which had recently carried out several attacks in the capital. Mr Mohamud is a professor and activist who has worked for several peace and development organisations including Unicef. It remains to be seen if his election will make any difference for the small, secret community of Somali Christians. They face extreme persecution from their communities and tribes. If their faith is discovered, followers of Christ could be murdered on the spot. Al-Shabaab has stated publicly that it 'wants Somalia free of all Christians'. According to Open Doors, the country is tdhe second-most dangerous in the world for Christians. See:
The Archbishop of Cape Town, Thabo Makgoba, has said the problem of water supply and sanitation illustrates why South Africa ‘is one of the most unequal countries in the world.’ He also described drought as one of the biggest risks facing South Africa’s businesses, causing food shortages, price increases and the loss of jobs for casual workers. He was speaking at the launch in London of an international church initiative to raise awareness and activism about challenges such as flooding, drought, rising tides, or access to fresh water and sanitation. The archbishop said a water crisis back home, with only three months’ supply left because of diminished rainfall, had concentrated his mind on how precious water is and on how devastating the effects of scarcity can be. He added, ‘Many of the threats to water are coming from companies who pollute rivers with industrial pollution. The shareholders of mining companies make a profit, but the local communities are left with water degradation. As a Church we stand firmly against fracking, since for short-term profit there is a danger of water systems being polluted for decades. Large corporate farms are also responsible, as artificial fertilisers and pesticides pollute the rivers,’ he said.
Malegapuru Makgopa, South Africa’s health ombudsman, has said that 94 mentally-ill patients died of starvation, dehydration and diarrhoea at care centres last year. The deaths followed a ‘reckless’ attempt by the government to save money by transferring patients from a specialised institution to centres with ‘invalid licences’. Mr Makgopa released his findings in a report entitled ‘94 Silent Deaths and Counting’. Visibly angry, he described the deaths as unlawful and called on law enforcement agencies to take up the cases. His investigation was prompted by complaints from families who were desperately searching for their relatives. A total of 1,900 patients were transferred by the Gauteng health department to various unregulated care organisations. The findings have led to the resignation of the province’s health minister.
(Updating last week’s Prayer Alert article) On Sunday Judge Osama Ahmed Abdulla found Czech national Petr Jašek guilty of espionage. He was sentenced to life imprisonment plus a further three and a half years and a fine of 100,000 Sudanese pounds (approx. £12,000). Rev’d Abduraheem and Mr Abdumawla were sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment for espionage and a further two years for inciting hatred between sects and for propagation of false news. Lawyers representing the men intend to appeal the verdict and sentences. Joel Edwards of Christian Solidarity Worldwide said, ‘We are profoundly dismayed by this verdict. The serious charges against these men were wholly unwarranted and the excessive sentences unjustified, given the paucity of evidence against them. These men are not spies; they were simply driven by compassion to source finance for the treatment of a man with severe injuries. We call for the annulment of the verdict and the immediate release of these three men.’
Stop Child Witch Accusations (SCWA) is a coalition of Christian individuals and agencies responding to the reality of children experiencing serious harm or the threat of harm due to accusations of witchcraft or belief in malevolent spiritual influence. We are motivated to action through a shared concern to end the abuse and stigmatisation suffered by thousands of children who are accused of witchcraft. Our approach is to facilitate dialogue between local people and within local forums, supporting communities to come to their own understandings of this problem and how best to address it and to contribute to the development of effective, practical responses and advocacy resources, adaptable for use in different localities and contexts.
Over the last two years we have been working closely with church leaders based in DR Congo, and a group of African theologians concerned with this issue. The attached report describes our approach, activities and future direction. It is intended to demonstrate an effective and adaptable model for working with church leaders to address the issue of child witchcraft accusations.
Across the globe, children are accused of being witches. As a result, they are subjected to unimaginable abuse and torture: some are even killed. In some African nations, this phenomenon has become a societal norm. Communities in the grip of poverty, violence and conflict are prone to the belief that social ills are caused by dark forces which inhabit humans. In the search for someone to blame for their problems, people tend to scapegoat the most vulnerable in society: children are easy prey. Suspicion and fear spread like wildfire.
Small organisations in affected communities, such as those in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), are struggling to meet the complex needs of the large numbers of children subjected to these accusations. Few governments or agencies have engaged with the issue with any great commitment or effectiveness.
At the very heart of the issue are strong cultural and faith–based beliefs. Some church leaders are complicit in the ‘deliverance’ rites which subject accused children to often brutal and sustained torture. Many other church leaders are working tirelessly to stop the abuse. Yet, all too often, efforts to tackle this abuse have been hugely critical of the church, rather than engaging with it.
Stop Child Witch Accusations (SCWA) believes that the issue must be approached from a faith perspective, as well as from a human rights one. The church, often the first port of call for families who believe their child is a witch, must be engaged. There is an urgent need for a concerted, preventative approach, which identifies and addresses root causes. SCWA is a coalition of predominantly Christian, UK–based organisations involved in supporting frontline efforts to tackle this abuse in Africa. SCWA and its partners are addressing the issue in three African nations profoundly affected by this phenomenon.
Church leaders in affected communities need to be engaged and influenced to help bring about change in any harmful belief or practice they may adhere to. They need to be given an essential grounding in sound theology, children’s rights as enshrined in law, and in child development. A recent survey of 1,000 pastors in Kinshasa, DRC, found that 70 per cent of respondents knew at least one child aged five or under who had been abused as a result of witchcraft accusations. An equal number acknowledged that sermons in their churches preach that child witches do harm by their supernatural powers. These church leaders also need to be equipped with practical strategies and resources so they can become key influencers of values and attitudes, both in their congregations and communities.
SCWA’s work with African churches is underpinned by systematic research into the root causes of witchcraft accusations. It believes this is essential if responses are to be relevant, targeted and effective. The complexity of the phenomenon means that its drivers vary from country to country, even from town to town. SCWA has now developed a unique, dual–pronged approach — engaging and training pastors with specific reference to root causes identified through local research.
Please pray for the work of the SCWA and the eradication of witchcraft accusations against children as well as specifically for the following:
- Concerted and collaborative efforts by local and international communities to tackle this issue in practical ways, drawing on the learning shared in this report. Round table forums such as those piloted by SCWA need to be replicated in forums at the UN and at governmental level.
- Advocacy organisations (working at a local level) to engage positively with the church on the issue of child witch accusations.
- Funders to invest in research into roots, realities and responses. Plus more funding to develop trainers and training resources, tailored to local contexts and translated into local languages. Training needs to target more sectors of society, including police, teachers, parents and community leaders.
- Recognition and support for the many small organisations in affected communities, struggling to meet the needs of children accused of witchcraft.
- Increased advocacy at a national and regional level to promote robust judicial and legal systems in affected countries, to crack down on this abuse and end impunity for abusers.
- More strategic efforts by church authorities to ensure that all churches everywhere have child protection policies in place.
- Theological colleges to include teaching on the issue of child witch accusations and related topics in their curricula.
The issue of child witch accusations is huge and complex: the challenges it poses can appear insurmountable. But SCWA believes that, with concerted and collaborative action, change in harmful beliefs and practices will follow and the flood of accusations will recede. Its own experience has proved this is possible. It warmly invites others to join in its efforts to end this abuse that wrecks the lives of countless children.
For the rest of this report or more information, please contact:
The Bethany Children's Trust
22 Eden Street
Kingston Upon Thames
On January 29, the court sentenced Petr Jasek to life in prison for espionage, to six months in prison for spreading rumours that undermine the authority of the state, to a fine of 100,000 Sudanese Pounds (approx. USD 16,000) for undertaking NGO work without a permit, and to one year in prison each (to be served consecutively) for inciting strife between communities, for entry in and photography of military areas and equipment, and illegal entry into Sudan.
Rev. Hassan Abduraheem Kodi Taour and Mr. Abdulmonem Abdumawla were each sentenced to ten years for abetting Jasek in the crime of espionage, and one year each for inciting strife between communities and spreading rumours that undermine the authority of the state (even though the legal maximum penalty for this last crime is six months in prison). All of these sentences are to be served consecutively.
The lawyers have indicated they will appeal the sentences within 15 days.
Separately, in a court case against the threatened demolition of four Christian churches, a court ruled that the authorities must supply the lawyer for the churches with an official order for the demolition of the churches. To the lawyer's dismay, the official decision does not just involve the four churches he was representing, but also applies to another 21 places of worship (most of them churches) that are scheduled for demolition.
Christians in Sudan request prayer:
- that the three convicted Christians will know the Lord's strength and comfort during their ordeal
- for wisdom for the lawyers defending them
- for a fair appeal process, and that the three men will be acquitted soon
- for an end to the increasing pressure against churches and other religious minorities in Sudan, and that Christians will know the peace of the Lord
- that all officials involved will love mercy, act justly, learn about Jesus and choose to follow Him
Middle East Concern
URL for this prayer request: http://meconcern.org/2017/01/29/sudan-update-on-imprisoned-christians-8/
Rev’d Kuwa Shamal, Rev’d Hassan Abduraheem, Mr Petr Jašek, and Mr Abdulmonem Abdumawla were arrested in December 2015 and held in prison on charges of national security crimes. They were charged with helping fund medical treatment for a student injured in a demonstration. The trial, which started in August 2016, has been subject to several delays and postponements. Rev’d Shamal was acquitted on 2 January 2017, and released due to lack of evidence. Christian Solidarity Worldwide said: ‘We continue to press for the immediate release of these three men and are deeply concerned at the unnecessary delays. They have committed no crimes and have been held unjustly for over a year, simply for an act of kindness.’
A worker for Christ wanted to write about recent news, but didn’t. Firstly it was too depressing, and secondly there was a fear of information getting into the wrong hands with the possibility of personal danger. The desperation is to get people praying. Asked for their greatest fears, most replied, ‘being hacked to death and wasting away through starvation.’ Burundi has the highest rate of malnutrition in the world. The worker and colleagues need prayers for protection and wisdom in complex situations. He write: ‘“Why are you still here?” Because God calls us to weep with those who weep, to be a voice for the voiceless and to “not love our lives so much as to shrink from death”. (Rev 12:11) “How do you see things going?” Not well in human terms but, through the eyes of faith, I still believe that God is on His throne and that the Church is the hope of the world as He has stationed His best troops in Burundi. “What about your family?” We have agreed to live by faith, and want to model this to our children as we stand alongside the precious suffering Burundi community. Will you stand with us in prayer, if you have the emotional energy? I am here, amongst other things, to fly the flag for Burundi. Can you see it waving? It’s small, soiled, stinking, fear-ridden, torn, blood-and-tear-stained, but look more closely….that is not the whole story.’ See also
A Nigerian air force jet has mistakenly bombed a camp for displaced people near Rann in the north-east of the country where the military is engaged in what it calls its final push against Boko Haram. Up to 100 people were killed and dozens more injured. The dead include six Red Cross employees. The Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) aid agency said it is treating 120 injured people and is seeking help with medical evacuations. ‘This large-scale attack on vulnerable people who have already fled from extreme violence is shocking and unacceptable’, said the MSF director of operations. A Red Cross spokesman stated that the agency's dead employees had been ‘part of a team that had brought in desperately-needed food for over 25,000 displaced persons’. A spokesman for the Nigerian military said that some ‘remnants’ of Boko Haram had been detected outside Rann, and the military had acted to eliminate them. He said that after the mistake was realised, they were ‘all in pain’.
A final deadline has been declared in Gambia, a country in flux with two presidents and West African troops poised to take action. Outgoing president Yahya Jammeh has refused to step down since losing the December election to rival Adama Barrow, who has been sworn in as president in the Gambian embassy in Senegal. Troops from several West African countries, backed by the UN, have entered Gambia in support of Barrow, but have given Jammeh a few more hours to step aside before taking further action. Unless last-ditch negotiations are successful this morning, military intervention is regarded as inevitable. Jammeh has held power in Gambia since a military coup in 1994. See