Nigeria: ‘darkness has thrived, but it has never won’ - a spiritual reflection on the events

by Tobore Ovuorie

The Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) on Dec. 26, 2019 released a video of its fighters beheading 10 blindfolded Christian hostages and shooting an eleventh on Christmas Day. The victims’ names have not been released, but an earlier ISWAP video revealed that they’d been taken from the African states of Borno and Yobe. The terror perpetrated by ISWAP and Boko Haram has deeply scared Nigerians, particularly the country’s Christians, who suffered a further shock at the news of the Dec. 26 of the beheading of a bridal party in Gwoza, in the state of Borno.

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Aid to the Church in Need spoke about the killings with Father Panachy Longinus Ogbede, the catholic pastor of the Church of the Visitation in Lagos, Nigeria. Father Panachy said:

“We must never accept violence. It is not a part of our culture. Traditional Nigerians are known to have discussions; our forefathers taught us that an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth leaves everyone blind and toothless. There will always be better and more productive ways to express our grievances.

India: a religious sister, victim of sexual assault, has rebounded to ‘bring her people hope’

by Anto Akkara.

In August 2008, the Odisha state’s Kandhamal district witnessed the worst eruption of Christian persecution in modern Indian history. It was sparked by the murder of a local Hindu leader. Hindu radicals labeled the killing “an international Christian conspiracy,” blaming the Pope, Europe, and the United States. They called for revenge on Christians, which led to the deaths of 100 people and the destruction of 300 churches and 6,000 homes. Seven Christians, falsely accused of the murder of the Swami, spent 9 years in jail. In early December, the remaining five Christians were finally released on bail.

ACN 20181120 79848 Easy ResizeChrist the King Feast in Jharkhand, India, diocese of Simdega, November 2017. Credit Mario Bard. Copyright: Aid to the Church in Need.

“2019 was a year of martyrs” The president of ACN makes an initial assessment.

For Thomas Heine-Geldern, president of the pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), “2019 was a year of martyrs, one of the bloodiest for Christians in history. It culminated in the attacks on three churches in Sri Lanka that cost more than 250 people their lives. We are also very concerned about the situation in China and India.”

On a positive note, “politicians and opinion leaders in Western Europe are talking about religious freedom much more frequently now.” As a particularly encouraging example, Heine-Geldern mentioned the video message recorded by the British heir apparent, Prince Charles, for Aid to the Church in Need at Christmas. In this video, Prince Charles refers to the growing suffering and persecution of Christians all over the world and calls for solidarity.

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Thomas Heine-Geldern (Executive President of ACN International) next to a protrait of Fr. Werenfried (founder of ACN) Copyright: free with credit to Photographer: Wlodzimierz Redzioch.

Iraqi prelate weighs threat to Christian community of US-Iran confrontation

The Archbishop of Erbil, Kurdistan, Iraq—where a US military base was hit by an Iranian missile Jan. 7, 2020—expressed a measure of relief at President Trump’s statement the following day that “Iran appears to be standing down.” However, Chaldean Archbishop Bashar Warda expressed concern that Iraq is at risk of becoming the setting for further clashes between the two nations. “We do not want to live in fear and anxiety,” he told Aid to the Church in Need (ACN). “Peace and harmony” in Iraq, he said, are key for “the survival of Christianity in the country.”

On Jan. 7, Iran also fired as many as 15 ballistic missiles at an Iraqi air base that houses US troops. The attacks came in retaliation for the Jan. 3 US drone strike near the Baghdad airport that killed Iran’s top military leader, Qasem Soleimani, head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ elite Quds Force.

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Archbishop Bashar Matti Warda, Chaldean Catholic Archbishop of Erbil, Kurdistan Iraq. Copyright: Aid to the Church in Need.

Islamic State says it beheaded 10 Christian hostages in Nigeria: ‘where is the moral revulsion?’

by Joop Koopman.

A VIDEO released by ISIS West African Province (ISWAP) the day after Christmas showed the apparent beheading on Christmas Day of 10 Christians held hostage by the group. An 11th man, identified as a Muslim, was shot. “Where is the moral revulsion at this tragedy?” asked Bishop Matthew Kukah of Sokoto, Nigeria, speaking to the pontifical charity Aid to the Church in Need.

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Bishop Matthew Kukah of Sokoto, Nigeria
Photographer Credit: James Nicholls/ ACN
Copyright: Aid to the Church in Need

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