Jihadi attacks in the DRC
Barnabas Fund, 15 September 2020
At least 58 people were killed and 17 kidnapped when Muslim militants attacked two villages in the mainly-Christian north-east of the Democratic Republic of Congo in early September.
Twenty-three people were murdered on 8 September and another 35 were killed two days later. Large numbers of the population have since fled.
Members of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), an Islamist militant group active in the region for more than two decades, are thought to have carried out the atrocity. The terrorist group had entered the region to escape military action against them in neighbouring North Kivu province.
More than 700 people have been killed in Ituri province since 2017, according to the UN. The north-east region has seen a surge of violence since October 2019, when the army launched a large-scale offensive against the ADF.
Jihadi militants take 100s hostage in Nigeria
Barnabas Fund, 27 August 2020
22 trucks loaded with heavily armed jihadists thundered into a mainly-Christian town in north-eastern Nigeria, with the militants taking hundreds hostage on August 18th.
The Islamic State West Africa Province terrorist group, an off-shoot of Boko Haram, captured local people as they fled and launched an attack on a nearby military station protecting the town.
The 1,200 residents had only recently returned to their home town near the border with Lake Chad, after spending 2 years in refugee camps 120 miles to the south in the state capital.
The residents had returned full of hope to restart their lives and cultivate their farmlands “only to end up in the hands of the insurgents”.
Local government authorities had declared the town safe and ordered the residents to return under a military escort.
In the past two years, some two million internally displaced people (IDPs) have been repatriated to towns in the north-east. But many IDPs are wary that jihadists still have a foothold and it remains unsafe for them to return.
Pakistani Christian arrested for “blasphemy”
Barnabas Fund, 14 August 2020
An angry Muslim mob forced its way into a Pakistan police station on 5 August after a Christian man was arrested for alleged “blasphemy” in Punjab province.
Sohail Masih was accused by a local Muslim leader of insulting Islam in a Facebook post.
A crowd gathered outside the police station became enraged when they heard that a case had not been registered against Sohail, and some forced their way inside.
Sohail was later charged with “defiling the name” of Muhammad, which carries the death penalty.
Even when accused Christians have been cleared of blasphemy of “blasphemy” allegations, it may never be safe for them to return home because of the threat from the local Muslim community.
To date no one has been executed under the “blasphemy” law, but a number of Christians and others have received death sentences.
Fulani Muslim rescues Nigerian Christians
Barnabas Fund, 28 July 2020
A Fulani Muslim man rescued two Nigerian Christian missionaries when he found Pastor Zakka Ibrahim and Samuel Mabas exhausted and hungry and gave them shelter. The men were kidnapped by Islamists on 17 May and abandoned by their kidnappers without food.
Their rescuer looked after them for two days before taking them to church leaders. The men have since returned home.
The majority of Fulani nomadic cattle herders are Muslim, although some have converted to become Christians, and many live peacefully alongside their Christian neighbours.
Other Fulani have become radicalised and carry out savage raids on Christian communities in Nigeria’s Middle Belt, attacks that have sharply increased during the coronavirus lockdown.
“Where is democracy” for Chinese churches?
Barnabas Fund, 30 June 2020
“Where is democracy?” a Christian in China asked after two communist party-approved candidates were foisted on their church committee.
Four deacons presented a written complaint against two candidates put forward by the local United Front Work Department when it confirmed its candidates on their church committee, effectively handing control of church activities to the government.
The new Template for Religious Activity Venues demands that all such venues establish a “democratic management committee” with “clergy members, representatives of religious citizens, and other relevant members”.
A clergy member from a church in Shandong province lamented, “If we don’t follow the Template, our church will be shut down.”
In Henan, a communist-party-supporting preacher was appointed director by government officials in December 2019 because he fulfilled the criteria of “proactive cooperation with the government”.
The continuing crackdown in China has seen hundreds of “house churches” and official churches shut down, with violent police raids, thousands of arrests and detentions, imprisonment of pastors and forced installation of surveillance cameras inside some churches.
Turkey’s president to protect minority religions
Barnabas Fund, 9 June 2020
Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan will do “everything possible” to protect “members of other minority faiths”, following a recent attack on a church in Istanbul. Police are currently holding a man in detention on suspicion of carrying out the church attack.
Critics of the government say the rhetoric of the president has fuelled recent intimidation and violence against ethnic and religious minorities, including the fatal stabbing of a 20-year-old Kurd in Ankara.
Opposition MP, Tuma Celik, who is a Christian, said, “I don’t have evidence they (recent events) are an organised effort, but I believe they are the result of polarising rhetoric used by the most senior members of the government.”
Hostility towards Christians has worsened in recent years, as secularism has given way to Islamisation with the rise of Erdogan’s AKP.
“Important step” towards religious freedom
Barnabas Fund, 2nd June 2020
Sudan’s Transitional Military Council and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North have jointly agreed to found an independent national commission and a Ministry for Peace and Human Rights.
On 21 May, the government stated, “We agreed to establish a commission for religious freedom to address all issues relating to religious freedom in order to affirm the principle of peaceful coexistence in the country.”
The Liberation Movement’s representative, Yasir Arman, highlighted the importance of the step for protecting Christians in the volatile “Two Areas” states of Blue Nile and South Kordofan, which include the Nuba Mountains, and have remained in dispute since South Sudan gained independence in 2011.
Another positive step towards greater religious freedom was made in March, when the Transitional Military Council announced a bill proposing to repeal the death penalty for apostasy from Islam and make it a criminal offence to accuse someone of apostasy.
Saving Forgotten Lives
Barnabas Fund, 13th May 2020
Thanks to the generous giving of our supporters, Barnabas Fund has sent £766,706 of life-saving aid to Christians in 24 countries, in desperate situations due to the lockdown.
Many low-paid daily-wage earners have lost their meagre incomes and are locked down without food. We have sent food aid for more than 250,000 Christians.
Many live in conditions where it is impossible to keep a safe distance to avoid infection. We have provided hygiene products for more than 14,000 Christians.
Pastors supported by the Sunday offerings of their congregations are suddenly destitute when people can no longer gather for worship. We have sent support to more than 6,400 church leaders.
On top of this, locust swarms are multiplying in East Africa and Pakistan and anti-Christian violence continues in many contexts.
57 murdered and church damaged in Mozambique
Barnabas Fund, 15 April
Islamist fundamentalists murdered at least 57 people, with a further five deaths unconfirmed, and smashed their way into a church in an upsurge in violence at the beginning of April in Mozambique’s northernmost province of Cabo Delgado, which is Muslim-majority.
On 10 April, militants launched a murderous attack where one person was shot, another burned alive, and three drowned as they tried to escape. About 60 people were taken hostage but released later the same day.
On 9 April, five died in an attack on the Quirimbas archipelago. The terrorists caused severe damage to the local church and destroyed homes of church missionaries.
On 7 April, at least 52 people were massacred in the same area when they refused to join the terrorist group. “The criminals tried to recruit young people to join their ranks, but there was resistance,” said a police spokesman. “This provoked the anger of the criminals, who indiscriminately killed, cruelly and diabolically, 52 young people.”
The Bishop of Pemba said that Muslims “have, from the beginning, distanced themselves from these attacks and said that those involved are not religious, and are misusing the name of religion to do this,”
Militant Islamist organisation Ahlu Sunnah Wa-Jama have effectively gained control of an area of Cabo Delgado.
Emergency network to help Christians globally
Barnabas Fund, 14 April 2020
Barnabas Fund, joined by over 85 partner organisations, has launched the Barnabas Coronavirus Emergency Network (BCEN) to meet the needs of persecuted Christians on the margins of society, discriminated against in daily life, and often discriminated against when aid is distributed. This network gives us direct access to our brothers and sisters at the grassroots and helps us monitor the effects of Covid 19 on persecuted Christians and learn how to support them better.
BCEN is obtaining reliable up-to-date information to share with supporters to inform their prayers and is guiding our response in terms of practical support for coronavirus-affected Christians, ensuring that funds given are used as effectively as possible.
BCEN has already sent £425,305.73 GBP ($528.338.66 USD) to support vulnerable communities in Pakistan, China, Laos, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Armenia and Sri Lanka. We are inundated with requests for support and are committed to continue helping.
But we are only scratching the surface. There is much to do and we need your support in the weeks ahead.
Visit us at www.barnabasfund.org/en/BCEN for news and prayer requests, regularly updated and join us in praying for the persecuted Church during this difficult time.