Nigeria: Fulani herdsmen kill four Christmas carollers
Suspected Fulani militants attacked Christian worshippers in Nimdem village, Southern Kaduna, Nigeria, reports International Christian Mail, quoting International Christian Concern.
The Christians were singing Christmas carols around 10pm when gunmen struck, killing four and injuring 10. The four who were killed were named Jude Haruna, Turaki Dauda, Kaffi Ali, and Amos Musa.
In a press statement released by the Southern Kaduna People’s Union, the group lamented, saying: “We have once again come under unprovoked and gruesome attack two days before Christmas.”
“This has left us wondering why people who had gathered peacefully for joyful Christmas carols in their village should be gunned down for no reasons.”
Confirming the attack, a local pastor, Gideon Mutum, said it happened “during an interdenominational carol that comes every Christmas with Bible quiz, drama, songs and preaching” and added that those critically injured were receiving treatment in different hospitals.
ICC said these attacks have become all too common for unsuspecting villagers in Nigeria’s Middle Belt.
In 2017, there were more than 100 attacks on Christian villages by Fulani militants that left more than 200 innocent Christians massacred. Southern Kaduna, the state where this attack took place, has been one of the central locations of the violence in Nigeria.
Last year, the Fulani militants launched a similar attack on Goska village on Christmas Eve, killing five women and burning down several houses.
Egypt: Christians brutally beaten with clubs as mob loots church
Human rights organisation International Christian Concern (ICC) has expressed concern after it learned a church in Egypt was recently the target of a mob attack, reports Christian Mail.
ICC said around noon on 22nd December, a Muslim mob gathered in front of St. Tadros building service in the village in the Giza Governorate. The mob broke into the building, destroying items in it and critically injuring three Coptic Christians.
According to one eyewitness, the previous day, “extremists in the village incited the people against the church. Fr Morcos Saad, the priest of St. Tadros, had reported the threats and three policemen from a police station had arrived to guard the building”.
According to ICC, there are about 3,000 Christians in the village, and they do not have a recognized church building. St. Tadros is a de facto church located inside a service building which was donated to the diocese in 2001. The building was renovated to include a nursery, a place for mass, and prayer meetings.
The eyewitness continued: “[On 22nd December] those three police men who were assigned to guard the building disappeared. At about 1:15 p.m., many Muslims… gathered in front of the building services and chanted ‘Allah Akbar Allah Akbar, we would demolish it…’
“They then broke the door of the building and broke into it, completely destroying its contents… they looted the new clothes of the poor people which was meant to be distributed to them before Christmas.
“They threw the Bibles and Christian books outside the building on the street and trampled them.
“They attacked three Copts who live next to the building… with clubs and they were hospitalized in critical condition.”
ICC has learned that one of the Chrisitans attacked was the person who had originally donated the land of the building; the other two were family members.
It added that it took more than an hour for security forces to arrive at the village, and after making initial arrests, they then closed St. Tadros.
“Despite the presence of security forces in the village, we still receive threats from the Muslim villagers. They have threatened us that they are going to burn the service building. We are afraid that they will attack us again as soon as the security forces leave the village,” reported one Christian resident.
Another resident said: “What did we do to those people to attack us and attack the place we pray in? We are very peaceful and have done nothing to them. We feel that our rights are lost and we aren’t protected.”
Claire Evans, ICC’s regional manager added “This event, occurring just weeks before the Coptic Orthodox Christmas, is one of great sadness. The serious injuries sustained by the three Copts, as well as the substantial damage done to St. Tadros, have greatly shaken the village’s Christian residents.
“We pray for their safety and for the speedy healing of those injured, as well as for the protection of St. Tadros from any future attacks.”
Pakistan: Sombre Christmas celebration after ISIS bomb attack
Pakistan deployed commandos inside and around a church in Quetta on Monday as its grieving but defiant congregation marked Christmas days after they were targeted in a deadly Islamic State-claimed attack, reports Newsweek Pakistan.
Snipers were positioned on top of the church, as survivors spoke of their lost loved ones and called for the congregation to be armed at a quiet, somber service.
One injured survivor burst into tears while approaching the altar to receive Communion, with other members of the congregation weeping as they watched. “It is normally a joyful day, but it is painful… for all of us that attended the service while remembering the day of attack, as well as our near and dear,” said one young worshipper, Aftab.
The suicide bomb attack last Sunday killed nine people and wounded 30 during a service at the Methodist church in Quetta, capital of Balochistan province.
Officials have said police intercepted and shot dead one attacker outside the church before he could detonate his bomb. But the second managed to reach the church’s main door, where he blew himself up.
The church had been more crowded than usual that day as it was close to Christmas.
On Monday, the congregation was smaller, down to about 250 instead of its usual 350 or so, despite the heavy deployment of police and paramilitary troops.
“Fear was haunting us during the service,” said Rukhsana Nazir, a mother who added that six of her relatives were wounded in the attack.
However, other survivors, including Nazir’s 13-year-old daughter Sheeza, said they felt no fear as they had put their faith in God.
The service was also attended by some local Muslim leaders and politicians as a show of solidarity.
The church itself was first established in 1890, officials there told AFP. Its Reverend Simon Bashir said he has been calling for greater security there for nearly a decade. Some worshippers said they should be allowed to carry weapons to services, fearing future attacks.
One of the injured, 40-year-old Kashif Shamshad, said they would raise the issue “as we are under threat.”
The head of the Karachi-Balochistan Diocese, Bishop Sadiq Daniel, who visited Quetta for the service, agreed. He said the idea has already been proposed to the police, who have asked the community to send them volunteers for weapons training.
Christians make up less than two percent of Pakistan’s 207 million people and have long faced discrimination in the conservative Muslim country—sidelined into low-paying jobs and sometimes the target of trumped-up blasphemy charges. Along with other religious minorities, the community has also been targeted by Islamist militants over the years.
In 2013, 82 people were killed when suicide bombers attacked a church in Peshawar. And last year, Lahore suffered one of Pakistan’s deadliest attacks—a suicide bombing in a park that killed more than 70 people, including many children, on Easter.
India: Hindu Extremists block, disrupt large-scale prayer service
Hindu extremists in Chhattisgarh state this month kept hundreds of Christians from a prayer service and attacked those who managed to attend, and in neighboring Madhya Pradesh a frivolous accusation led to the arrest of Christmas carol singers, sources said, reports The Gospel Herald.
At a prayer service where 2,000 people were expected in Tarra Kopra village, Raipur District, Chhattisgarh state on December 6 only 300 Christians made it past Hindu extremist check-points, said pastor Lachhan Ram Sahu of Blessing Prayer Hall (Ashirwad Prarthana Bhavan).
On a day where a Hindu event known as a Ram Kathan was also scheduled in the area, Hindu nationalists positioned men at village entry points and asked them where they were headed, Pastor Sahu told Morning Star News.
“If they said they were going to the church service, they were shooed away, and if they tried to reason with them, they were threatened and manhandled,” Pastor Sahu said. “Those who came to attend the Ram Kathan were allowed to enter the village and proceed straight to the Ram Kathan venue.”
Christian women who objected at the check-points were disgracefully manhandled, he said.
“The people who were not allowed entry into the village later reported to me that the women were caught by their throats, and their clothes were pulled in order to threaten them,” he said.
When the worship service began at 10 a.m., a mob of 700 hard-line Hindus attacked, led by members of the Hindu extremist Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) and its youth wing, Bajrang Dal, said Pastor Sahu, 34, who has been ministering in the area for five years. They struck vehicles parked outside the prayer hall with sticks and set two of them on fire, he said.
Two cars, one van, one auto-rickshaw and 100 motorbikes were destroyed, he said.
Setting up a sound system at the entrance of the prayer hall and shouting insults and threats, they surrounded the building and yelled slogans accusing Pastor Sahu of carrying out forceful conversion, he said.
“They shouted from the mike, name-calling me a butcher, low-caste and much more, using all kinds of vulgar language,” he said. “They said that they will carry their flag in one hand and a sword in the other and kill all those who dared to enter the prayer hall.”
The Hindu extremists broke open the door of a room at the prayer hall entrance and ransacked it, breaking chairs, windows and a refrigerator, and stole a DVD player, 26,000 rupees (US$460) and other equipment, he said.
“While breaking the chairs, they threw the chairs on some worshippers who tried to stop them, causing them minor injuries,” Pastor Sahu said. “But before they could reach the main hall and attack the worshippers sitting inside, the police arrived.”
The mob demolished tents surrounding the prayer hall and its boundary wall. Three Christian males were kidnapped, with one of them managing to escape shortly afterward, and two others returned by 8 p.m., he said, adding that the kidnappers absconded and have not been arrested.
Anticipating opposition, Pastor Sahu had submitted a written application on Nov. 11, requesting police protection for the event, which was scheduled to last until 5 p.m. He obtained permission for the event, he said.
The service continued in spite of the chaos outside the prayer hall. About 12 policemen arrived two hours after the service began, and when they were unable to disperse the violent Hindu mob, a police force of about 200 arrived, he said. A First Information Report (FIR) was filed against 13 Hindu extremists on Dec. 7.
Arun Pannalal, president of the Chattisgarh Christian Forum, told Morning Star News that persecution in the area is highly organized.
“There are no second- or third-generation Christians found in the area,” he said. “As soon as a new church is established, they are intensely persecuted, and the church gradually dies down.”
Pastor Sahu said he had heard from villagers that Hindu extremists had held a meeting five days before the prayer service and planned to disrupt it.
“They discussed that I was the one carrying out most conversions in Chhattisgarh,” he said. “But I was determined to obey the leading [of God], despite strong opposition, and I praise God that my meeting was a success. The policemen did not interrupt the on-going prayer, and I was allowed to carry it out as scheduled.”
Local newspapers published false reports the next day portraying the attack as a clash between two groups, even though “not one of the Christians retaliated to the attack,” Pastor Sahu said, adding that three media reporters interviewed him but did not publish anything he said.
The prayer hall is built over a 10,000-square-foot area and has a seating capacity of 300 members inside the hall, but outside it and within the boundary walls there is seating space to accommodate another 1,700 people, he said.
Since the event police have provided 25 to 30 policemen to guard the prayer hall night and day, said Pastor Sahu, who lives on the premises with his wife and two children along with other relatives.
Christmas Carolers Arrested
In neighboring Madhya Pradesh state, 30 Catholic seminarians singing Christmas carols, along with two priests, were arrested on Dec. 14 in a village near Satna after a Hindu extremist accuse them of offering money for him to convert.
Eight priests who went to the police station to inquire about the seminarians of St. Ephrem’s Theological College in Satna were beaten by Hindu extremists, and then the priests were also detained, Catholic officials said.
“The complicity of the police who arrested the seminarians and stood by helplessly as the priests and seminarians were assaulted is disgusting and appalling,” Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, secretary general the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, said in a statement.
All of those detained were reportedly released by the next day.
“Shamefully, the situation outside the police station was allowed to be so hostile that even those who wanted to approach the detained persons could get no access to them,” Mascarenhas said. “The charge of conversion on which the priests and seminarians are detained is frivolous and laughable.”
A parked car of the inquiring priests was set on fire by Hindu extremists, he said.
“All right-thinking Indians will hang their heads in shame at these terrorists who have taken on the garb of ‘religious police,'” Mascarenhas said.
Since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took power in May 2014, the hostile tone of his National Democratic Alliance government, led by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), against non-Hindus has emboldened Hindu extremists in several parts of the country to attack Christians, religious rights advocates say.
India ranked 15th on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2017 World Watch List of the countries where Christians experience the most persecution.