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Counting the cost

International | Insurgent violence continues unabated in Nigeria
by Onize Ohikere
Posted 5/29/20, 06:05 pm

ABUJA, Nigeria—Suspected Fulani herdsmen attacked more than 10 settlements in the mostly Christian Adara community in central Nigeria over four days last week. At least 20 people died in the dayslong carnage that left several others injured or missing.

In another spate of terrorism in the country May 11 through 13, armed insurgents killed at least 25 people in five villages. The violence followed a familiar pattern: The attackers gunned down people, set homes on fire, and destroyed food supplies. The victims included a 40-year-old man, his wife, and their three children, including a 4-year-old.

Community leaders, aid workers, and security analysts continue calling for intervention into the persistent violence that plagues central and northern Nigeria. The Southern Kaduna People’s Union said the recent unrest has displaced at least 15,000 people in the state. Since January, Kaduna has recorded 63 terror attacks, 107 deaths, and about 111 burned properties, said Awema Maisamari, national president of the Adara Development Association.

The Adara community has long suffered targeted offensives and asked the United States to intervene last year. The community said attacks between February and April 2019 resulted in the deaths of at least 400 people and the displacement of about 13,000 others.

“Our brutalized, dehumanized, terrified, and traumatized community members are reeling in pain, ever wondering why this contrived anarchy is still being condoned by the powers that be,” Maisamari said in a statement.

The unrest extends south into central Plateau State, where militants targeted Anglican Canon Bayo James Famonure earlier this month in his home. Famonure, his wife, and their two sons survived. But farther south, in Benue state, insurgents killed 12 Christians in similar assaults.

Changing environmental conditions and lax law enforcement have pushed nomadic herders to search for grazing pastures in Nigeria. But their incursions against farmers resemble Boko Haram’s attacks against Christians in the north. The Islamic State–aligned militant group presents a growing threat to Christians in Nigeria’s Middle Belt.

Boko Haram insurgents and Fulani herdsmen have killed 620 Christians since January, according to a report released earlier this month by the Nigeria-based International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law.

“The atrocities against Christians have gone unchecked and risen to alarming apogee with the country’s security forces and concerned political actors looking the other way or colluding with the Jihadists,” the report states.

The Kaduna state police force said it arrested some suspects, and state Gov. Nasir El-Rufai met with local leaders and state sector chiefs to discuss solutions to the crisis.

But Mark Lipdo, founder of the Stefanos Foundation, which serves persecuted Christians, said the response still falls short: “If authorities are acting to protect the people, they will act exactly at the time insurgents are there to attack the people.”

Facebook/Bryan K Nerren Facebook/Bryan K Nerren Bryan Nerren

Finally free

Family and friends wearing green “Out of India: Bring Bryan Home” shirts greeted Bryan Nerren with hugs and cheers at Nashville International Airport on May 19. The Shelbyville, Tenn., pastor returned to the United States last week after Indian authorities detained him for more than seven months. Friends celebrated his homecoming with a drive-by parade in decorated cars.

In October 2019, Indian authorities accused Nerren of failing to declare money he brought into the country for missionary work in India and Nepal. They imprisoned him for six days, then released him but confiscated his passport. Although the charges supposedly related to customs documents, Nerren told WKRN-TV in Nashville, “It was always religious in nature.”

Nerren expected to return to the United States in January, but Indian officials refused to appear in court to address his case. Immigration officers in the country brokered a deal for his release in February coinciding with President Donald Trump’s visit to India, but they later rescinded it, according to the Daily News Journal of Murfreesboro, Tenn. Nerren’s wife, Rhonda, called the back-and-forth a “roller coaster.”

The International House of Prayer pastor said he will continue to support missions in India but does not intend to return. —Julia A. Seymour

Associated Press/Photo by Manu Fernandez (file) Associated Press/Photo by Manu Fernandez (file) Spaniards observing a minute of silence in Madrid on Wednesday

Mourning coronavirus victims

Government buildings in Spain lowered all national flags on Wednesday, and naval vessels dropped theirs to half-mast in honor of the more than 27,000 people that have died from COVID-19 in the country. Many mourners donned black masks, and the royal family stood outside the Zarzuela Palace to observe a minute of silence.

The national observance will continue until June 5, the longest Spain has held a time of mourning since it became a democracy in 1978. King Felipe VI will lead a memorial ceremony once the country’s lockdown ends, government spokeswoman María Jesús Montero said.

After imposing a nationwide lockdown on March 14, the nation has started to ease stay-at-home orders and restrictions on public gatherings in recent weeks. Montero said 80 percent of the nation’s COVID-19 deaths were people aged 70 or older. “They might not accompany us physically, but they will remain forever in our memory,” she said. —O.O.

Associated Press/Photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko (file) Associated Press/Photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko (file) Paul Whelan in Moscow

Russia seeks spy sentencing

Russian prosecutors on Monday asked a Moscow court to sentence former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan to 18 years in a maximum-security prison for spying.

Russia’s Federal Security Service detained Whelan in 2018 during a visit to the country to attend a friend’s wedding. Russian authorities said they found classified files on a flash drive in his possession. Whelan, who was in charge of security for a Michigan-based auto parts supplier, insisted the Russians set him up. He received a bad-conduct discharge from the Marines in 2008.

U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan called the closed-door trial that began in March a “mockery of justice.” The court is set to announce its decision on June 15. —O.O.

Associated Press/Photo by Brian Inganga (file) Associated Press/Photo by Brian Inganga (file) The Rev. Paul Machira leads songs at an apartment complex in Nairobi, Kenya.

Preaching to the children

The coronavirus restrictions in place in Kenya since March prompted Anglican Rev. Paul Machira to bring music and Bible lessons to children cooped up at home.

The priest and his supporting band have staged at least 16 “Balcony to Balcony” services in Nairobi. Children and their parents stand out on their balconies as they listen and dance to songs like “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands.”

Machira said many families on the outskirts of the capital city have no access to online church services: “Jesus sometimes would go to the temple but His main ministry was out in the fields, out in the streets.” —O.O.

Onize Ohikere

Onize is WORLD's Africa reporter. She is a World Journalism Institute graduate and earned a journalism degree from Minnesota State University-Moorhead. Onize resides in Abuja, Nigeria. Follow her on Twitter @onize_ohiks.

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