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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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