02 27 Newsflashes from the Persecuted Church
Nigeria: Massacre at School Could Reach 100
Please pray for the situation in Yobe state, where another an extremist group that is located primarily in Northern Nigeria attack has left an estimated 100 Nigerian students dead.
Sources told Open Doors that as many as 100 students of the Federal Government College in Gujba village near Damaturu in Yobe state may have died on Monday night when suspected Boko Haram members attacked the school and dormitory.
After arriving around midnight in six vans, the attackers separated the male and female students before shooting some students, slitting the throats of others or locking others into buildings before burning them down.
A student, who narrowly escaped, told an Open Doors worker over the phone: “I heard the cries of some people outside the school even before they invaded the school. I suspected that they caught some people on their way to the school, and sensed danger, so I jumped over the fence of the school and crawled into a ditch and stayed there praying and listening.
“From where I was hiding, I could hear other students crying at the top of their voices. I saw fire on the roofs of the hostels and other buildings in the school. I was also counting myself among the dead because some attackers came from behind, and I heard them passing very close to where I was hiding. But God saved my life. After they killed the students and burned the structures, they fled.”
Although it was reported on Monday that the death toll had risen to 57, local sources told Open Doors that more than 100 children were killed. Bala Ajiya, an official at the Specialist Hospital Damaturu, told Reuters by phone: “Fresh bodies have been brought in. More bodies were discovered in the bush after the students who had escaped with bullet wounds died from their injuries.”
Local church leaders told Open Doors that there are an unknown number of Christians among the deceased.
The school has been closed and surviving students have been sent home.
Pray for all families affected; for peace and healing. Parents from different parts of the region streamed to the area to see if their children survived. Witnesses told Open Doors that people could be seen in the town crying uncontrollably at the sight of the destruction.
Wisdom and courage for the government to take the necessary action against Boko Haram. The attacks on schools are on the increase in Yobe, Adamawa and Borno states by the members of Boko Haram. In spite of the presence of the security in some parts of the states, these attacks continue unabated.
Pray for the brave but shaken church in Yobe. Open Doors had only recently visited Damaturu and witnessed widespread destruction from the continuing Boko Haram insurgency. This instability is adversely affecting the church. Seeing the huge number of casualties among Christians in the persistent attacks, many have opted to leave. This exodus is eroding the church.
Central African Republic: Desperate Conditions in Boda as Hostilities Continue
Open Doors Research and Communications Manager for West and Central Africa is in Central African Republic (CAR) to encourage Christians and to assess their circumstances and immediate needs. He is sharing his impressions from inside the country. Below is his latest report:
Today we traveled (Wednesday) to Boda, a city of about 25,000 people 125 miles southwest of Bangui. A substantial number of third generation Muslim migrants from Chad have settled in Bodo to benefit from the diamond industry.
The Muslim and non-Muslim population of Boda have always been friends. But when Seleka emerged, Boda’s Muslims befriended them and benefitted from the warlords’ protection. Their common ground was the Islamic faith and their Chadian background. A large number of Seleka mercenaries came from Chad.
This partnership came much to the detriment of the local non-Muslim population who suffered enormous brutalities at the hand of Seleka. Some were even forced to dig for diamonds for Seleka in outright slavery.
When the Seleka left at the beginning of February to flee disarmament by French troops on their way from Bangui, the Boda Muslims felt exposed to anti-Balaka. They decided to attack the non-Muslims of Boda in an apparent effort to display strength and intimidate them.
The attack started on Jan. 29 at 4 pm. The Muslims fought fiercely. The non-Muslim population had no way to protect themselves, and fled into the bush. Their homes and belongings were left to the mercy of the Muslims. The Muslims did not touch the churches, but they looted the homes and set many on fire. Entire suburbs became desolate.
The anti-Balaka told the non-Muslim population to leave the town before starting their revenge on Muslims. For seven days the fighting continued. Many lives were lost before Sangaris forces arrived on Feb. 5and encamped between the Muslim and main non-Muslim quarter of town.
The largely displaced non-Muslim population sought refuge around the Catholic Cathedral on the western outskirts of town, without shelter, food or medicine and seething over the loss of their homes and belongings.
Most Muslim homes remained standing. But its occupants are now “imprisoned” in their quarter surrounded by a sea of anti-Balaka hostility. Their hideout cannot last much longer because their food and water supplies are dwindling and anti-Balaka have threatened every villager that dares sell them food. But despite their precarious circumstances, the Boda Muslims won’t leave because they don’t want to forfeit access to the diamond business.
When we arrived at the eastern outskirts of Boda town, we had to pass through the Muslim quarter to get to the displaced people at the cathedral. But when we approached the gate to the Muslim quarter, a Sangaris tank moved in our direction with its gun pointed at us. The gunner told us to approach and demanded our business. He told us to wait. There had been some shooting. After checking that it was safe he escorted us to the other side of town.
As we left the Muslim zone and drove through the non-Muslim quarters, we were stunned at the sight of the many burnt houses; it was like a war zone.
At the cathedral another shock awaited us. Over 6,000 people had gathered without shelter, food or medicine. Many live on the bare soil without any cover or in self-made tents. At night it is even more crowded as non-Muslim flock here to sleep side by side. One can hardly walk between them. The little food they have will soon be gone. People are dying from malaria and parasite infections from drinking unclean water. Soon the rainy season will start (March and April) and the lack of proper shelter will worsen. There is an urgent need for help.
After spending time with the pastors among the refugees, encouraging them in the faith and listening to the stories of their suffering, it was time to leave. We left with the overwhelmingly sad realization that there are more than 2 million people who live in similar hardship around CAR. Until security has been restored, the hardship is sure to linger. It will take a huge effort by international organizations to help alleviate the suffering of the people.
For the church these circumstances offer a unique opportunity to shine the light of Christ as they help to rebuild communities that have been destroyed. Open Doors is committed to standing with the church as they seek and use these opportunities to make a difference. We left Boda praying for wisdom as we determine the best way to equip and strengthen the church.