Newsflashes from the Persecuted Church

September 17, 2014 by Open Doors in Persecution updates

Church in Iraq Nigeria: Boko Haram Has Christians on the Run (from World Watch Monitor) What the Islamic State (IS) has done in Iraq, Boko Haram is doing in Nigeria, a Nigerian cleric says. ”The news is really bad. When Boko Haram attacked our hometown, we decided to vacate the place. In Michika and surrounding areas, soldiers (from the government) were running away. Some of them were killed or wounded and lot of people were also running for their lives,” Rev. Samuel Dali, President of the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria, told World Watch Monitor as he was on the run, a few yards from the Cameroon border. During the weekend of Sept. 6-7, Boko Haram militants took over Dali’s hometown of Michika in Adamawa State on Nigeria’s eastern border. Recent territorial gains made by Boko Haram in the northeast, he said, signal the end of his home and of churches in that part of the country. In Iraq, the Islamic State swept across the country’s north in June, forcing hundreds of thousands of people, about a quarter of them Christian, to flee from their homes. Hundreds have been killed. The situation in parts of northeast Nigeria overrun by Boko Haram is similar, Dali said. ”We have lost almost everything,” he said. “Most of our churches have been destroyed and our pastors are scattered all over. Our members have fled and some of them have been killed. That’s what we have tried to prevent from happening.” And, as in Iraq, Nigerian Christians are on the run, Dali said. During the weekend attacks, dozens of cars loaded with people and luggage formed a long line. Many, he said, were confused, and didn’t know where to go. Some are thinking of crossing the border into Cameroon, while others planned to reach relatives and friends elsewhere in Nigeria. In recent weeks, thousands have already crossed the border as the insurgents have overrun several major towns, notably Bama, the second largest city of Borno State with about 270,000 inhabitants and just 45 miles away from Maiduguri, the state capital. Despite government assurance that Maiduguri is safe, traditional elders – a forum made up of retired civilian and military officials – have told Nigerian news media that Boko Haram has surrounded the capital, where thousands of people have been taking refuge. They called on the government to send reinforcements and also warned that the people in Maiduguri are facing starvation, given that farming has been disrupted by the continuing violence. Iraq: Cross Takes on More Meaning to Refugees Open Doors contact persons Chris and Sara (not their real names) were in Iraq last month to visit Christian families who have been forced to flee the terror of the ISIS. They have been writing about their experiences. Below are Sara’s reflections on what she has experienced: The cross is a symbol of Christianity. In this country, putting a cross on a church is more than a decoration. It’s a statement. A statement that says we are here and we belong here. But now, after almost 2000 years of Christianity in Mosul and the surrounding area, all visible evidence of it ever existing there has been wiped out. The ISIS has removed all crosses from church buildings and monasteries. Churches are now used as mosques, recruitment centers and even animal barns. While visiting with the refugees we saw many of them wearing a cross — big ones, small ones, crosses with Jesus and very simple ones. Church leaders, young men and mothers all wear a cross. They all have the same message: I am a Christian and I’m not afraid to show it. One of those Christians is Mounira from Bartella. We met her while she received a relief package at one of the distribution centers in the city in the Kurdish area. A few weeks ago, when rumors came that ISIS was approaching her city, she fled with her family. A few days later it was occupied by ISIS. The terrorists killed one of her neighbors, who didn’t want to convert to Islam. ISIS also took all the crosses off the churches. But Mounira’s cross went with her on the flight. It was one of the few things she could take from her house. The way she holds on to the cross is the way she holds on to Jesus. He is her hope and pride. Being a Christian in Iraq can cost you everything; that’s one thing that the past few months have taught us. Still Christians here are not afraid to show their identity. That gives me hope for the future. My thoughts go to my own cross necklace, collecting dust in a forgotten drawer at home. I’m proud to be connected to these Christians here and proud to also be a part of the body of Christ. Maybe it’s time to show it. Iraq: ‘There Is No Future for Us as Christians in Baghdad’ (from World Watch Monitor) The violent Islamic State incursion into Iraq is suspected of attacks in Baghdad on Sept. 10 that killed approximately 30 people and injured several others. Three car bombs exploded minutes apart in Al-Ghadeer, a Shi’ite neighborhood in eastern Baghdad. The bombings occurred as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry visited the capital to offer support to Iraq’s new prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, in fighting Islamic State. Among the victims were a Christian couple who had become engaged Sept. 4. The man, Essam Elsamak, survived while his fianc’e Raghda Adel, mother Maha Sallem Elsamak and 3-year-old nephew Ouday Imad were killed. The bombing occurred in the evening while they were walking in an Al-Ghadeer shopping area. “These last explosions were so close, we were about to die,” said a 40 year-old Christian woman who lives in Al-Ghadeer. “I don’t know if we will make it abroad or die here. We can’t stand living in horror here anymore! World Watch Monitor is withholding the woman’s name for security purposes. “My husband and I were about to enter the market that evening, but seeing it so crowded my husband told me to go home,” she said. “Only 10 minutes after returning home, we heard a huge explosion and another one after it. My 15-year-old daughter started to cry, as she always gets shocked when she hears explosions nearby our house. She is so scared, and so is my 17-year-old son. “There is no future for us as Christians in Baghdad,” she added. “I will prevent my two children from going to school this year as the way to go out is dangerous. We want to leave, and we hear daily about other Christians who are getting visas and traveling abroad.” Compiled by Jerry Dykstra. For media inquiries, contact Christine Cape at 404-545-0085 or Katie Rouse at 678-410-9575.