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Militant Islamists give Christians three days to leave Northern Nigeria after deadly Christmas violence

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Militant Islamists give Christians three days to leave Northern Nigeria after deadly Christmas violence

Country/Region: Africa, Nigeria, Iran, China, India, Uganda, South and East Asia, Middle East and North Africa

Christians attacked in Uganda, India, Iran and China over Christmas

Mourning-at-graveside-4X3.jpg
Christians in Nigeria have once again come under attack

Militant Islamist group Boko Haram has given Christians three days to leave Northern Nigeria following attacks on churches and other targets over Christmas that left more than 40 people dead.

The ultimatum, issued late on Sunday, intensifies the threat to Christians in the Muslim-majority North, parts of which are under a state of emergency after the Christmas violence.

Boko Haram, which wants to impose sharia law across the country, claimed responsibility for a coordinated series of bomb and gun attacks on churches and the security services in five states on Christmas Day, 25 December 2011.

The majority of the fatalities occurred at a church in Madalla, near the capital, Abuja; around 35 worshippers were killed as explosives were hurled at the congregation as they left the service.

It is the second consecutive year that Boko Haram has staged Christmas attacks; last year, 32 people were killed in a series of bombings in Jos on Christmas Eve.

Barnabas Fund warned just before Christmas that the festive season might see anti-Christian attacks in various parts of the world. Nigeria is just one of several countries where such violence broke out.

Acid attack in Uganda

Ugandan church leader Umar Mulinde had acid thrown in his face outside his church in Kampala on Christmas Eve. The substance caused burns to the right side of his face, neck and arms, and doctors are struggling to restore the sight in his right eye.

Pastor Umar, a convert from Islam and former sheik, had been receiving threats for some time; it is believed that he was targeted because of his conversion to Christianity and strong critique of the Islamic faith. He had also been a key opponent of Muslim plans to introduce Kadhi courts (sharia courts) in Uganda.

Beatings and arson in India

There were a number of attacks against Christians and churches in India over the Christmas period.

On Christmas Day, a group of Christians who had gathered for a meal in one of their homes were attacked by a group of around 20 Hindu extremists. The attackers forced their way into the house in Karnataka State carrying stones and clubs; they beat up the Christians, including the women and children present, seriously wounding some of them.

Elsewhere, the home of one young Christian couple was burnt down while they were at a Christmas celebration at their village church in Kandhamal, Orissa State, on Christmas Eve.

A nativity scene was torched in Mangalore, and a prayer hall damaged in Haleangadi, Karnataka.

Children detained in Iran

The Iranian authorities raided a Christmas service in Ahwaz on 23 December, detaining everyone in the church, including the children. The youngsters were said to be severely distressed by the incident, during which the security agents had their faces covered.

The entire congregation from the long-established, official church was herded onto two buses; the majority were interrogated and threatened, and eventually released once their personal details had been recorded. Four – the senior pastor and his wife, and two other church leaders – were held in custody. The pastor’s wife has since been released, but the whereabouts and condition of the other three remains unknown.

Christmas services disrupted in China

An unofficial Christmas Day service staged in a public square in Langzhong city, China, was broken up by around 20-30 police officers who fired tear gas at worshippers, detaining three of them.

Elsewhere in China, more than 30 members of Shouwang Church, which has been staging outdoor services in Beijing since April, were detained by police for taking part in a public Christmas gathering.

And a meeting of around 50 members from unregistered churches (“house churches”) to plan their Christmas gathering in Dongyang, Zhejiang Province, was raided. Four people were detained, including the pastor, who, along with his son, was beaten.

Dr Patrick Sookhdeo, International Director of Barnabas Fund, said:

Once again, for many Christians around the world, the Christmas season has been a time not of peace and joy but of violence and hostility. Please pray for our brothers and sisters who have been attacked, and especially for the Christians of Northern Nigeria, who were threatened by Boko Haram on Sunday that they must leave by Wednesday. Boko Haram's track record of violence makes it all too likely that they will follow up this threat with a religious cleansing of the North. Please pray urgently for the protection of Christians in Northern Nigeria at this time.

Please Pray:
  • That Christians in Nigeria will be protected from the unceasing and brutal violence of Boko Haram, which they have had to endure for so long. Pray in particular that Boko Haram will not follow up their threat with religious cleansing in the North after their deadline expires on Wednesday.
  • That the Lord will bring healing and comfort to Ugandan pastor Umar Mulinde.
  • That all those injured and distressed by anti-Christian attacks over Christmas will know the Lord Jesus as their “Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6b).
  • That those still being held in detention in Iran and China will soon be released.
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    • Almighty God, we call to You for relief for Christians in the Gwoza area of Borno state in Northern Nigeria, as they face repeated violent attacks by Boko Haram militants. We pray for comfort for the relatives and friends of the hundreds who have been killed, and for the thousands who have been forced from their homes and seen them torched. We ask for Your special protection on Christians as they gather to worship You. We pray for the Nigerian authorities to re-establish control of the area, so that the displaced Christians may be safe from further attacks and free to rebuild their shattered communities. We pray too for their persecutors to come to repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed 8 hours ago

    • “This is a war against Christians and democracy and their constitution. Allah says we should finish them when we get them.” The leader of the Nigerian Islamist militant group Boko Haram was speaking in a video that reasserted their agenda and addressed “the people of the world”, saying, “Either you are with us Mujahedeen or you are with the Christians.” The translation of the video was released as scores of people were killed in suicide bombings in May, including at least 118 in a double attack in Jos, Plateau state on 20 May. Pray that Boko Haram’s murderous campaign to establish an Islamic state in Northern Nigeria will not succeed. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Mon, Sep 2014 00:00

    • Pray for Bible school students in Vietnam who were subjected to a terrifying night-time raid by police and hired thugs. On 9 June, officers swooped from adjacent rooftops into the church compound that houses the school, while vehicle-loads of people were brought to the site to vandalise the building with bricks, stones and sticks. The students were beaten, punched and kicked before being taken away for interrogation; 20 were left in need of medical attention but were prevented from leaving to find it. Thugs continued to attack the compound over the next ten nights. Pray for the students as they recover from this brutal assault and that they will stand firm in their faith in the face of intimidation. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Sun, Aug 2014 00:00

    • In an earlier incident in Saisomboon village, three teenage Christian girls were disqualified from taking their final school examinations because of their faith. The village chief said that in following Christianity, Noi (15), Net (15) and Nut (14) had forfeited their right to education. Five families from the village have now converted to Christianity. A spokesman for Human Rights Watch for Lao Religious Freedom expressed the view that the authorities were trying to find every possible way “to stop the spread of Christian religious freedom in the area”. Pray that the girls will be allowed to complete their education and that opposition to the Christians in the village will cease. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Sat, Aug 2014 00:00

    • Five Christians have been charged with murder in Laos after a sick woman sought prayer at her local church, converted to Christianity and later died. Mrs Chan, from Saisomboon village in Savannakhet province, had been ill for two years when she approached the church. Her health improved for a short time, and she and her eight grown-up children came to faith in Christ. The sons and daughters wanted a Christian burial ceremony, but the authorities forbade this unless they renounced their faith, which they refused to do. When Christians in the area protested, five were arrested and subsequently charged with Mrs Chan’s murder. Pray that the God of justice will have compassion on His people (Isaiah 30:18) and ensure their acquittal from this false accusation. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Fri, Aug 2014 00:00

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