Displaying items by tag: Africa
There is ‘a serious threat to the survival of the Christian faith in Chad,’ says Rev Clément Hlama. Islam dominates Chadian society, and discrimination against Christians is normal. Poor and uneducated Christians are vulnerable to exploitation and are the most severely affected by 2020’s multiple disasters. Flooding affected 400,000 people. Christians in rural areas lost homes and harvests. Covid-19 lockdown damaged small businesses and prevented farmers travelling to their fields. Food prices shot up, causing malnutrition to escalate. Measles and meningitis outbreaks earlier this year are in decline, but the viral disease chikungunya and a type of vaccine-derived polio is continuing to spread. Cholera is endemic in parts of the south. This would be bad enough for any country, but Chad’s frail health resources cannot begin to cope. Islamic charities are active amongst the Christians, Islamising them through offers of aid.
On 5-6 October pilgrims from across Senegal flocked to the holy city of Touba, where they slept, ate and prayed together for the Magal religious festival, lasting about a week. Despite coronavirus, roads to Touba were congested. Buses packed with pilgrims inched along and tollbooth attendants greeted people with ungloved hands held out for change. It was one of the biggest events to be held anywhere in the world since the start of the pandemic. Up to five million came after the leader of the Mourides, the Muslim sect that organises the event, issued a call for pilgrims to come despite the pandemic. The Magal’s emphasis is on community and hospitality. Pilgrims don’t book hotel rooms. Touba’s residents open up their homes and travellers bed down, many in each room. Lunch and dinner, in the Senegalese tradition, are usually eaten off a communal plate.
Imagine what life is like when it is unsafe to live in your own home, or you can’t guarantee you and your children will have food each day? That’s the awful reality for many Christian women in northern and central Nigeria - on top of the grief and trauma brought about by violent conflict and killings. Tirham, a volunteer at an Open Doors trauma centre in Nigeria, says, ‘Sometimes there are days without any help from anyone for them to be fed.’ She was speaking about the impact of Covid-19 on daily life for many Christian women living in the shadow of violence. We are asked to pray that every Christian family affected by violence in Nigeria will be provided with food, shelter and safety, and that violent militant attacks will cease. Pray for continued strength, protection, and encouragement for Open Doors partners like Tirham, who come alongside those affected by persecution.
The Eritrean government has released 69 Christian prisoners, many of whom have been in long-term detention without trial for their faith. Following the release of more than twenty male and female prisoners on 4 September, the authorities are continuing to make conditional releases from the notorious Mai Serwa prison which is known to put detainees in underground cells and metal shipping containers. The releases, linked to Covid-19 policies, are made on condition that bail securities are lodged, usually in the form of property deeds, with guarantors held liable for the detainees’ future actions. Christian leader Dr Berhane Asmelash hopes for further significant releases from the 300+ Christians, including children, who remain incarcerated.
Kenya’s locust problem hasn’t gone away. In fact, Kenyans could see a third generation of the insects destroy vegetation across the country. This is the worst locust outbreak for the region in 70 years. Locusts have already caused a great deal of destruction in Kenya and surrounding countries this year. Favourable weather conditions could contribute to a return of the swarm. The last one found a route through the Rift Valley, the breadbasket of Kenya. They devastated everything that was green as they moved; they also left eggs to hatch later.
Sudan’s government has reached a peace agreement with a coalition of rebel groups from Darfur and other regions in the country. The agreement, which should end a civil war that has raged since 2003 and has killed 300,000 people in Darfur alone, covers land ownership, power-sharing between all parties involved, and the return of people who have fled their homes in the civil war. Rebel forces will be dismantled, but fighters will have the opportunity to join the Sudanese military. There is hope for the future. Todd Nettleton of Voice of the Martyrs says, ‘This agreement should, at least in theory, pave the way for peaceful coexistence within Sudan. Hopefully, a nation that is not focused on fighting against others within its borders can focus instead on development and on moving forward to what we hope will be a civilian rule.’
An Ethiopian Christian leader called for an international inquiry into over 500 Christians killed since the end of June - including pregnant women, children and whole families. The coordinated slaughter was by the Muslim Oromo ethnic group who are members of Qeerroo (meaning bachelors), a male youth movement. In door-to-door attacks, they arrived in cars and, armed with guns, machetes, swords and spears, sought out and slaughtered Christians. Children were forced to witness their parents being brutally murdered with machetes. Some militants held lists of Christians and were helped by local authorities, often run by Muslims, to find individuals, particularly those actively involved in supporting the Church. Oromo ethnic Christians were also targeted. One was beheaded for refusing to deny his faith by tearing off the thread around his neck (worn as a sign of his baptism).
Maria, an Egyptian widow, was in tears when telling a local ministry leader that she had lost her job as a housecleaner due to coronavirus lockdown. She supports seven family members, including a daughter with two infants who is separated from her drug-addicted husband and a married son with two children who has lost his job and home due to coronavirus. She sold her kitchen appliances to meet their basic needs. Many widowed women in Egypt have lost their jobs to the pandemic and have no other sources of income, as the government has also suspended disbursement of pensions due to the crowds gathering at offices. Most widows are without a fixed monthly income or a fixed pension. Some have coronavirus, and some have lost a family member to it. Christian Aid has created WhatsApp groups for women and children and supports them spiritually by making prayer times and sharing sermons and songs.
South Africa’s pandemic infections seem to have reached a ceiling. However, with the fifth highest total in the world, no one is celebrating. The government had months to prepare, but there is a critical shortage of beds, staff and equipment. There are allegations of corruption by public officials ordering coronavirus-related supplies. As chaos and uncertainty swirled around official responses to the virus, a group of Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs and Christians living and working in Lenasia decided to construct their own response as thousands of locals fell ill. Aboobaker Sayed started a community healthcare system in the middle of the raging pandemic with a community-run ambulance service; he secured advanced medical equipment and oxygen concentrators, and has turned ordinary bedrooms into critical care beds. He said, ‘We make plans, but God has another plan and He is the best of planners, so we leave it to Him’.
Bible translator and literacy teacher Pastor Christopher Tanjoh was killed on 7 August following an attack in his village. Last year two other Bible translators in Cameroon died in similar incidents. He bled to death after being shot in the leg, leaving behind a wife and seven children. Wycliffe’s executive director said, ‘This tragic news reminds us how much the gospel message is urgently needed in Cameroon. Until people are transformed by Jesus, there will be no lasting peace. We continue to work with local partners to translate the Bible so that every Cameroonian can read the Bible in the language that speaks to them best.’