06 05 Newsflashes from the Persecuted Church
Nigeria: Cleric Negotiating Chibok Girls’ Release Remains Hopeful
Despite disappointment that word of his involvement in the negotiations for the release of the Chibok girls was leaked to media last week, the Australian cleric appointed as the Nigerian President’s envoy in the negotiations with an extremist group that is located primarily in Northern Nigeria remains hopeful that they will succeed in getting the girls released. Dr Stephen Davis, an Anglican cleric, told media the fact that his name was leaked is not helping the negotiations, but that he remains confident that they will succeed.
News of his involvement broke late last week, just as a new video surfaced showing some of the over 200 girls Boko Haram has taken captive from a school in Chibok, Borno state, in mid-April. British Newspaper, Daily Mail, and others reported that the video which has not been released to the public was taken on May 19 by Nigerian journalist Ahmad Salkida to prove that the girls are still alive.
The video is said to show hijab-wearing girls one by one walking up to a spot in front of a white sheet set up between the trees to speak before the camera. Four stated in Hausa that they were taken by force and they were hungry. A girl estimated to be about 18 apparently said tearfully, “My family will be so worried.” Another said in a soft voice, “I never expected to suffer like this in my life.”
The Daily Mail reports that the girls look healthy, but that it is understood that several pupils are ill. One appears to have a broken wrist. “In the video, eight girls, dressed in their home-made school uniforms of pale blue gingham, plead for release as they stand courageously in front of the camera. They are clearly scared, upset and trying to be brave,” the news report read.
President Goodluck Jonathan, who has come under increasing pressure for his handling of the crisis, is said to have seen the video.
Media reported on Monday that Dr. Davis, an Australian, has quietly been working behind the scenes as the president’s envoy in the negotiation with Boko Haram for more than a month. He is working in conjunction with Aisha Wakil, a Muslim convert with known connections to Boko Haram who is trusted by senior commanders. Dr. Davis has undertaken numerous trips to volatile locations in northern Nigeria for face-to-face meetings with Boko Haram commanders.
“The vast majority of the Chibok girls are not being held in Nigeria. They are in camps across the Nigerian border in Cameroon, Chad and Niger. I say the ‘vast majority’ as I know a small group was confirmed to me to be in Nigeria last week when we sought to have them released,” he told British Chanel 4 on Monday.
He remains confident that negotiations will succeed. “Every indication is positive. But as we get close to a handover, I am sure that there will be interference from some parties who do not want to see an end to the conflict in the north. That will be the most difficult time.”
Davis told Channel 4 his team had “come within a whisker” of brokering a release three times within the past month, only to have each handover ruined at the last moment. He, and others Channel 4 had spoken to allege that powerful figures with “vested interests” have sought to sabotage a deal.
Meanwhile, it is reported that Boko Haram has killed dozens of people in fresh attacks in Borno State this week. According to the BBC, attackers ordered Christians in Attagara village near the Cameroon border into a church compound before opening fire on them. Witnesses said they thought the attackers were Nigerian military. Several other villages suffered similar attacks.
Open Doors continues to monitor the situation in Chibok and in northern Nigeria. Open Doors has received hundreds of prayer messages from supporters around the world for the parents of the abducted girls. More deliveries will be made soon. To send a blog or prayer note to the families, go to http://blog.opendoorsusa.org/send-prayers-encouragement-families-300-girls-kidnapped-nigeria/ or to http://lp.opendoorsusa.org/emails/may-14-news/.
In a report released by the Open Doors research team on Tuesday, Nigeria is the No. 1 country on the World Watch Top 10 Violence List and also has had more martyrs (2,073) than any other nation between Nov. 1, 2012 and March 31, 2014.
Syria: Aleppo Christians Need Our Prayers after Heavy Mortar Attacks
Please continue to pray for our Syrian brothers and sisters. Open Doors received prayer requests from two of our partners in Aleppo, which was heavily bombed this week. They give insight in what living in the largest city in Syria is like this week.
One wrote: “Please keep our teams in prayer. We just got the message that the situation in the Midan neighborhood, where many Armenian Christians live, of Aleppo is currently very dangerous. More than 150 gas missiles and mortars dropped. Many people were killed. All of the missiles are random. No militant targets.”
Another Christian experienced again God’s protection: “We are again in a very tough situation. The day before, another rocket hit us. It was 27 yards away. Another miracle from the Lord. We are fine, although there are lots of damage and casualties.
“One of Christian residential areas is in a very tragic situation. During the last three days more than 300 rockets hit the area. It’s a disaster. We plead for God’s mercy.
“More than 10 families from our church are living there and they lost everything, and now they are displaced. We have to help them urgently, if there is a possibility.
“Since for more than five days there is no water, we are trying our best to find solutions to help families too. It seems that the water issue is crucial.
“Unfortunately, the situation is getting tougher and we are searching God’s will. Despite all this, we are trying to be ‘the Lord’s light’ in our area and community. Thanks again for your concerns, help and especially for your prayers. Please thank all those who are praying for us.”
Syria ranks No. 2 on the Open Doors World Watch Top 10 Violence List.
Colombia: Gospel Being Preached Despite Violence in Buenaventura
Buenaventura is the main port on the Pacific coast of Colombia, and in recent years illegal armed groups, guerrillas and criminal gangs have engaged in drug trafficking, extortion and forced recruitment. It is likely that this city will become one of the most violent in Colombia.
In Buenaventura, armed groups have divided themselves by territory and have established invisible borders to stake out their domains and prevent members of other groups from entering them. Those that violate these territories are killed and dismembered in houses that the groups have designed specifically for their crimes.
Buenaventura pastors are being displaced from their neighborhoods due to strong pressure from the illegal armed groups.
The president of the Association of Shepherds, a group of pastors dedicated to praying for the situation in Buenaventura, was given a death threat in 2006 and ordered to leave the city because he refused to pay a fine from one of the illegal armed groups. In April he told Open Doors that a few months ago he had been forced to leave his house due to constant visits from militiamen of the armed groups. They had been pressuring him to pay extra taxes in order to keep his home.
In 2014, already this conflict has resulted in 80 people being killed and eight who have gone missing. This situation is very difficult for believers. Because the police are working in alliance with the criminal groups, it is impossible to report the crimes.
Some of the pastors who spoke with Open Doors in Buenaventura made it clear that, although these groups are not preventing Christians from preaching the gospel or from gathering together, the pressure of paying extra taxes has led them to unite in prayer, and most of them see this persecution as an opportunity to share the Word of God.
Although there are just a few cases in which Christians have been directly affected by violence, Open Doors has learned that many families of believers have had to leave the city because one of its members had been kidnapped, their minors had been recruited or they have received death threats.
Please pray for the protection of the pastors, leaders and believers of Buenaventura who are facing a great deal of violence generated by armed groups.
Colombia ranks No. 7 on the World Watch Top 10 Violence List.