Boko Haram death-threat ultimatum to pastor
Barnabas Fund, 1 March 2021
Islamist terror group Boko Haram has given the Nigerian government until 3 March to save the life of Pastor Bulus Yakuru, abducted in Borno State on Christmas Eve.
The militants snatched the pastor during a raid on the predominantly Christian village of Pemi, about 20 km from Chibok, in which eleven people were killed on 24 December. The gunmen went on to murder five Christians abducted in the region as a so-called “Christmas present”.
In a video recently released by Boko Haram, Pastor Bulus pleaded with President Buhari, the Borno State Governor, and the Christian Association of Nigeria to intervene to secure his release.
While one of the terrorists stands behind him with a knife, the pastor was filmed saying that his captors gave him an ultimatum on 24 February, threatening to kill him a week from that date.
“If you want me alive, I beg you in your capacity as president, the governor and our local government chairman to save me from this suffering … Please pray for me … Please release me from this pain,” said Pastor Bulus.
A staff member from one of the NetACT partner colleges in Ethiopia has reported that the civil war/unrest in the Tigray region has left the region highly unstable. Hunger and rape are being used as weapons in the ongoing conflict.
28 articles have been submitted for the second issue of the NetACT journal. Based on the quality of the journal submissions, NetACT is trying to organise an online writers’ workshop later in the year.
On Tuesday Dawn had a meeting with Ashley, Heston and his wife Magdalena to discuss the discipleship groups connected with the church Heston pastors which draws its members from a Wellington area plagued by gangs. Dawn and Ashley will be attending the Zebulun church youth group on Friday night and then having a group for adults on Saturday afternoon.
Dawn got into prison today! At very short notice but it was good to see the men in Medium A. When asked for prayer requests, the consensus was for the ability to follow Jesus, be self-controlled and choose to love despite provocation (we had been looking at 1 Peter).
André, Gaby, Cipri and Alix have found work in a local factory in Cluj. Silveu has brought questionable friends back to the Centre and needs to improve his attitude.
Istvan has moved out with friends, probably a permanent goodbye. Alix has suicidal moments and has spent €2000, which he can ill afford, on a hair transplant which he doesn’t really need.
Covid infections are rising again in Romania. There have been no tenders yet for developing the Blythswood’s depot.
Balazs hopes the Hungarian Presbyterian church will join the Hungarian government to help with the school Blythswood sponsor in Kenya.
Adi has unfortunately lost an appeal against the local government’s removal of tax exempt status for Talita Kum and his proposal for EU funds for the running costs for TKs 1-4 has again been turned down. Bureaucratic nit-picking is a major hurdle for projects like these in Romania.
Myanmar – shoot, “punish and breakdown” civilians
Barnabas Fund, 16 February 2021
Amid widespread mass protests in Myanmar, a chilling Myanmar Army document was discovered instructing soldiers to “punish and breakdown” ethnic-minority Christians and other civilians deemed to be against the military regime, or even appearing critical of it in social media posts.
The official document lists a sequence of actions that military personnel should take including firing a 12mm weapon at individuals or using a 38mm weapon on groups of civilians. Regional reports show military patrols have escalated from carrying side-arms to automatic rifles.
Christian leaders in the region requested prayer for the people of Myanmar and for a “change of heart” of army and coup leaders. “Please pray for the Karen people in hiding in the jungle,” they asked.
Thousands of Christian villagers fled military bombardment in Karen State to take refuge in remote jungle on 1 February, the same day as the Myanmar leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, was ousted in a military coup.
Fraser had a very positive meeting on Monday aimed at making world scholarship available in Africa and African scholarship available to the world. A hard-drive loaded with resources to be put on the NetACT portal has gone missing in Stellenbosch University library office.
Pray for the leaders of Hope Prison Ministry as they plan for the coming year. We hope that “spiritual workers” will be allowed back into the prisons by next week.
Dawn and Ashley have visited another minister to discuss the idea of small groups.
South African visas which have expired have been extended until the end of March, so please continue to pray that Dawn’s visa application will be properly granted soon.
The Nehemiah Bible Institute in Wellington concentrates on training ‘informal’ church leaders, some with only a Primary School education, and needs imaginative ways to use the Portal for this training.
Young boys and adolescents are being reinforced by pit-bull owners in the idea that violence and intimidation are what makes a man. Pray that someone will promote a healthy alternative, a model of manhood that honours God and teaches true respect, not “respect” through fear.
Inreach groups in Nigeria are closed due to terrorist threats but threats against staff in Jos continue. Pray also for the 120 people from a Muslim background who were converted through Inreach and moved to a discipleship centre last year where they now need to remain for security reasons.
It seems unlikely that we’ll be back to the UK this summer, so if anyone could arrange a video chat, a Zoom meeting or record an interview with us, please get in touch.
André, Gaby and Cipri still have no work but Daniel continues with online school and has a part-time electrician’s job. The new resident Silveu has already found work with a construction company.
Soreen is now trying to move out with friends, not a good idea. Marian has a job fixing tyres to earn enough to refurbish his new flat. Alix will likely have to leave the Centre at the end of March because of his attitude.
Covid infections are falling in Romania. Blythswood is now awaiting offers for the development of their depot.
Balazs has had an excellent meeting with the Hungarian government representative – they are very open to sponsoring 24 months of volunteering and also for building an extra room for the school in Kenya.
TK1 is now back to providing afternoon care as the Romanian schools are open again for grades 1-4. TK2 is still open the mornings as well in their normal afterschool mode.
Adi’s appeal has passed another milestone in acquiring EU funds for running costs for TKs 1-4. There is still a considerable shortfall, however, for getting TK3 and TK4 up and running.
Hindu ceremony on church grounds
Barnabas Fund, 19 January 2021
A significant Hindu religious ceremony to a Hindu deity was held on the grounds of a Christian church in Goa, India.
About 25 people performed the Hindu pooja on 30 December directly in front of the Church’s historic façade, which is also a protected regional monument.
At the time of the incident almost 2,000 Christians were worshipping in the church.
At the time of writing, a First Information Report had not yet been made by the police, which is the necessary first step to police responding to a complaint. The South Goa Police Superintendent said this was due to ongoing investigations.
Section 153A of the Indian Penal Code forbids “promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony” and Section 295A, protects all citizens against “deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs”.
An Indian Christian leader described the incident as “very insidious”. “There have been several incidents like this in the past. There are also attempts to conduct Hindu worship near or even in these Christian worship places. It is primarily an attempt to reduce and even deny sacred places to Christians and Muslims.”
Pray for the prison officers, who have seen many of their colleagues fatally affected by covid19, to be strengthened in a difficult and dangerous environment. Many of the gang initiations involve stabbing an officer. The prisons are still closed to visitors so even the relief of seeing people from the outside is not available to the inmates which, combined with fear of covid19, can lead to rising tension.
Dawn recently started volunteering weekly at the SPCA community outreach clinic in a black area and occasionally at the main Wellington base, helping to care for God’s creation, reach out to dog owners and lighten the burden of the full-time staff. Pray that she will be a blessing and not bring too many of the abandoned animals home with her.
Fraser was part of a Zoom meeting last week with representatives from theological colleges across Africa. Education authorities in some countries insist that online courses during Covid-19 are not the same as the in-person equivalent and need to be re-validated, creating an extra administrative burden and impossible in some cases. Please pray that the authorities will think sensibly beyond bureaucracy and that solutions will be found.
The banning of faith based gatherings outright has been lifted, but our church has not yet decided how to restart. Pray that Dawn and Ashley will follow the road the Lord has prepared in starting small local church groups.
The ambulance will no longer come for Cipri’s nose bleeds. André and Gaby still have no work. Daniel continues with online school. Silveu has joined the Centre.
Soreen seems to be still in Italy. Istvan had left to live with relatives but is now back, having been beaten up and put out by his uncle. Marian will stay on for 2 months to earn enough to refurbish his new flat. Alix no longer works in the Covid situation and causes conflict in the Centre.
Covid is generally under control in Romania but with fewer residents working and contributing to their keep, the Centre’s food bill is rising. The re-development of Blythswood’s depot is now out for tender.
There is reasonable hope that the Hungarian government – the only European government that officially aids the persecuted church – will give a grant towards The Centre’s project to help adding rooms to a school in Kenya.
TK1 and TK2 are, unlike the Romanian schools, open again. Because the schools are still closed, TK1 and TK2 are now operating fully, but now in the mornings as well in their normal afterschool mode.
Adi’s appeal has been granted and they are waiting for a re-assessment of their situation for EU funds for running costs for TKs 1-4. There is still a considerable shortfall, however, for getting TK3 and TK4 up and running.
Christian prayer meetings under police scrutiny
Barnabas Fund, 8 January 2021
Indian police in Uttar Pradesh State have been instructed to keep a watch on prayer meetings after 5 Christians were accused of trying to “unlawfully” convert people to Christianity.
The order was issued by a regional police superintendent after five Christians were brought to authorities by members of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), a hard-line Hindu group.
The new anti-conversion law prohibits “conversion of religion through: force, misrepresentation, undue influence, and allurement, or fraud, or marriage”.
The instructions given to police stations were to be aware of prayer meetings in their area and to “act strictly when they are completely sure that conversion is taking place in the garb of prayer”.
Local church leader Harold D’Cuhna said that normal charitable activities of the church are being misconstrued as “allurement to conversion”.
The regional police superintendent also referred to two other cases of “unlawful” conversion in which the accused were Muslims. The implication was that Muslim prayer meetings could be watched by the police as well.