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Murdered for believing in Nigeria

International | Christians stand together as violent attacks resurge
by Onize Ohikere
Posted 2/18/20, 03:50 pm

In states across Nigeria, about 5 million Christians turned out on the streets on Feb. 2 to march, pray, sing worship songs, and hold banners saying, “All souls are precious to God” and “We demand justice for this genocide.” The participants responded to a call from the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) to stage the “prayer walk” in response to radical Islamic murders of Christians.

In central Nigeria, Islamic herdsmen are attacking and looting Christian villages. They killed 13 Christians in the village of Kulben on Jan. 8. The next day, insurgents kidnapped Ropvil Daciya Dalep, a 22-year old Christian, on his way back to Borno state after Christmas break. The Islamic State West African Province, an offshoot of the Islamic terror group Boko Haram, released a video on Jan. 22 of Dalep’s execution.

On Feb. 1, church officials confirmed the death of 18-year-old Michael Nnadi, whom armed abductors took from a Catholic seminary in northern Nigeria. Bishop Matthew Kukah called his death a “solemn moment for the body of Christ.” Kukah condemned the government’s nepotism and clannishness while calling on Christians to “become more robust in presenting the values of Christianity, especially our message of love and nonviolence to a violent society.”

An attack on Feb. 11 led to the deaths at least 30 people outside of Auno village in Borno state, the center of Boko Haram’s 2014 Islamist terror insurgency. Security officials had closed the main road into the village, and terrorists attacked as people waited overnight in their cars for the gates to reopen.

Similar attacks have occurred throughout the region. On Friday, gunmen killed at least 21 people in the village of Ogossagou in central Mali. A similar attack in March last year killed more than 150 people in the same village. In a three-hour December assault on an army camp in western Niger, about 70 soldiers died.

Amid the unrest, the United States said in a quarterly report it has downgraded its counterterrorism assistance in the Sahel, the arid region between the Sahara Desert and equatorial Africa. Security experts warn that a possible U.S. military cut in Africa to focus on Russia and China could hurt counterterrorism efforts on the continent.

Associated Press/Photo by Joynal Abedin Associated Press/Photo by Joynal Abedin Rescue workers cover the bodies of Rohingya refugees who drowned in the Bay of Bengal.

Rohingya migrants die at sea

At least 15 Rohingya refugees died last week when an overpacked ship carrying about 130 people capsized in the Bay of Bengal. The vessel had left refugee camps near the resort town of Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh and was heading for Malaysia. Responders saved 73 people, but others remain missing. The Bangladeshi coast guard said the boat had a capacity of 50 people.

The accident rekindled fears that a defunct smuggling ring was resurfacing because of the region’s migration crisis. Smugglers escorted more than 170,000 people to Southeast Asia by boat from 2012 to 2015. Now more than 700,000 Rohingya refugees live in Bangladesh, having fled a military crackdown in Myanmar, also known as Burma, in 2017. At least 600 of them attempted to make the illegal and often deadly sea crossing last year to Malaysia, where about 100,000 Rohingya have already taken refuge. —O.O.

Associated Press/Photo by Alessandra Tarantino Associated Press/Photo by Alessandra Tarantino Matteo Salvini at a news conference in Rome on Thursday

Salvini faces retribution

The Italian Senate last week paved the way for a criminal case against populist leader Matteo Salvini for leaving 131 migrants stranded at sea. The former interior minister refused to allow the Italian coast guard ship Bruno Gregoretti to dock for more than a week in July 2019. Sen. Gregorio de Falco, a former coast guard commander, called Salvini’s order against the ship “an unnecessary cruelty.” He could face up to 15 years in jail if prosecuted.

Salvini has come under investigation five times in less than two years, including cases on defamation and instigating hatred. On Feb. 27, the Senate immunity panel will hold another vote to decide if he should face trial for accusations of kidnapping 164 migrants on board the rescue ship Open Arms.

Salvini told the Senate he was only carrying out his duty to defend the nation’s borders: “I am proud of what I have done, for my children and for the children of this country. Let’s have a judge decide if I’m a criminal or if I was just doing my job.” —O.O.

Chilling charges in the Philippines

The Philippines Justice Department charged two priests and nine others in an alleged plot to overthrow President Rodrigo Duterte, Union of Catholic Asian News reported. The priests, Albert Alejo and Flaviano Villanueva, belong to a missionary group that Duterte considers a communist front.

“The move is obviously meant to scare … these churchmen and eventually silence them,” said Jerome Secillano, chairman of the public affairs office of the Catholic bishops conference. Authorities earlier dropped charges against four Catholic bishops also accused in the plot.

Alejo and Villanueva, who have denied trying to discredit Duterte, posted bond and will face arraignment on March 17, according to Asia News.

“It’s pure harassment and meant to send a chilling message to the others,” Alejo said. —Julia A. Seymour

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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