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Nigerian Christians seek U.S. intervention

International | Several communities still feel the effects of Boko Haram and armed Fulani herdsmen
by Onize Ohikere
Posted 6/18/19, 05:21 pm

Nigerian Christians terrorized by the Islamist group Boko Haram and insurgent, militant herdsmen implored U.S. President Donald Trump last week to intervene in their increasingly forgotten crisis.

Boko Haram’s violence in northeastern Nigeria has killed tens of thousands of people. The insurgency has withered down to sporadic attacks, but hundreds of people remain in captivity, including about 110 girls kidnapped in 2014 from Chibok, and Leah Sharibu, a Christian schoolgirl taken in 2018 and remains in captivity because of her faith.

During a panel discussion at the Washington-based Heritage Foundation last week, Sharibu’s mother, Rebecca Sharibu, called for assistance. “Please help me and bring my daughter back,” she said, breaking into tears. “I need my daughter.” Leah Sharibu, now 16, was kidnapped in February 2018 from her boarding school in the northeastern town of Dapchi along with her schoolmates. The insurgents released the other captives but kept Sharibu when she refused to renounce her faith.

Gloria Puldu, the Sharibu family’s friend and interpreter, explained the family hasn’t received any updates from the government since October, when President Muhammadu Buhari promised in a phone conversation to secure Sharibu’s safe release.

Former U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., who authored the International Religious Freedom Act, said Boko Haram is guilty of genocide and urged Western churches and politicians to intervene in Leah’s case.

“In the Bible, Peter denies Christ three times,” he said. “This is a 14-year-old girl who would not deny Christ.”

Across central Nigeria, armed herdsmen have also continued to target Christian farming communities.

The unrest goes beyond regular clashes between herders and farmers, said Napolean Adamu from the Agatu area of Benue state. He explained the herdsmen now come in large numbers armed with AK-47s, unlike the nomadic herders who only carried long sticks and roamed with their wives and children.

From February to April, herdsmen attacks on the mostly Christian Adara community in northwestern Kaduna state killed at least 400 people and displaced about 13,000 others.

“We have 2-month-old babies, 6-month-old babies, babies in the bellies torn from their mothers wombs and slaughtered like animals,” said Alheri Bawa Magaji, the daughter of a local leader.

Magaji’s father assumed leadership of the Adara community after the former chief was kidnapped and killed in October 2018. Despite the ongoing attacks, authorities detained nine elders of the community, including Magaji’s father, for 103 days and accused them of striking back in reprisal, leaving 66 Fulani herders dead. The local emergency agency later disputed the government’s claim.

In December 2018, the Kaduna state government abolished the leadership and divided the predominantly Christian community under two Islamic emirates. “For a governor to make that kind of law in the first place without the people of the land knowing about it is illegal and unjust,” Magaji said, calling the incessant attacks a genocide.

Herdsmen had earlier kidnapped Mercy Maisamari, whose father was among the detained elders, and her mother for 11 days. They beat up her father when he came to deliver their ransom. She said it’s a near-daily experience in the community.

“Some of them would ask us, ‘Where is your Jesus? Call your Jesus to come and save you,’” Maisamari said at The Heritage Foundation event while holding back tears.

Nina Shea, director of the Center for Religious Freedom at the Hudson Institute, said the United States has so far addressed the Nigerian crisis only through the policies of the Office of International Religious Freedom. The United States has the economic and military capacity to pressure the Nigerian government to protect all of its citizens, she said.

“It’s good this group is here,” Shea said of the Nigerians who shared their experiences. “It’s very important in the process of trying to elevate Nigeria in the U.S. policy.”

Associated Press/Photo by Dar Yasin (file) Associated Press/Photo by Dar Yasin (file) Kashmiri activists protest the rape and murder of an 8-year-old girl.

Court victory in Indian rape case

An Indian court last week convicted six men for the rape and murder of an 8-year-old girl last year in a case that sparked outrage against the ruling hard-line Hindu party.

The girl, who belonged to a nomadic Muslim community, was found murdered in a forest near the town of Kathua in India’s Jammu and Kashmir region in 2018. Her abductors drugged her, locked her inside a Hindu temple for five days, and repeatedly raped her before killing her.

A 15-page charge sheet explained her murder was part of a ploy to push the nomadic community out of the area. Those convicted included a former government official and two other men who received life sentences. Three former police officers received five-year sentences for destroying evidence.

The case renewed international outcry against India’s acceptance of rape and prompted outrage against the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. Some local officials and a right-wing nationalist group affiliated with the party protested the convictions and demanded a new inquiry into the case. Two state ministers who participated in the protests eventually resigned due to the backlash they received.

The government responded to the outrage by passing a new law that makes the death penalty an option for anyone convicted of raping a child younger than 12, though the sentence is left to the judge’s discretion.

The girl’s mother welcomed the ruling with tears.

“I have always believed in justice, and God gave me strength to fight for it,” she told the BBC. “My daughter’s face still haunts me, and that pain will never leave me. When I see other children of her age playing around me, it breaks my heart.” —O.O.

Associated Press/Photo by Pavel Golovkin Associated Press/Photo by Pavel Golovkin Ivan Golunov at an Investigative Committee building in Moscow on June 11

Russia releases detained journalist

Russian authorities last week dropped drug charges against a prominent investigative journalist after his arrest garnered unexpected backlash.

Authorities arrested Ivan Golunov, 36, claiming he possessed the synthetic stimulant mephedrone. The drug charges carried a maximum 20-year sentence. His defense team said he was beaten in custody and denied a lawyer for more than 12 hours.

Supporters and other journalists gathered outside police headquarters for five days in protest. Three major newspapers published joint editorials with the headlines “We are Ivan Golunov” on the front page. According to the editorial, medical personnel discovered that the reporter had “a concussion, a hematoma and potentially broken ribs.” More than 20,000 people signed a petition to march in Moscow on the day he was eventually released.

Russian Internal Affairs Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev said officials dropped the case over a lack of evidence. Authorities also suspended the officers who arrested Golunov.

Shortly after his release, Golunov said he was surprised by how quickly he was cleared.

“I will keep doing investigations to justify the trust of all those who supported me,” he said. —O.O.

Associated Press/Photo by Ronald Kabuubi Associated Press/Photo by Ronald Kabuubi Workers bury grandmother Agnes Mbambu in the village of Karambi, Uganda, on Thursday.

Ebola outbreak crosses border

At least three people have died from Ebola in Uganda, signaling the first cross-border transmission of the virus since an outbreak began in neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo.

Those who died included a 5-year-old boy, his 3-year-old brother, and their grandmother. The family had traveled to Congo to attend the funeral of an infected relative. Health workers recorded at least three other suspected cases, including the boy’s brother. The Congolese health ministry said the family bypassed health checks when they crossed back into Uganda through an unguarded path.

Ebola cases in Congo have topped 2,000 since August, and more than 1,400 people have died in the world’s second-worst Ebola outbreak. The country is also battling a measles epidemic that has killed at least 1,500 people.

The World Health Organization and the Ugandan health ministry dispatched a rapid response team to identify and care for other people who may be at risk. WHO called the outbreak “an extraordinary event” of deep concern but said it does not yet qualify as a global emergency. —O.O.

Indonesian Catholics visit and aid Muslim refugees

A Catholic community in Jakarta, Indonesia, is trying to “build a bridge of solidarity” by helping the mostly Muslim refugee population, according to UCA News. There are more than 14,000 registered refugees in Indonesia, predominantly Afghans, Somalis, and Burmese.

“Refugees are a marginalized group,” Sant’Egidio community coordinator Eveline Winarko said. “They are so helpless and have no access to various facilities they need.”

Sant’Egidio organizes monthly programs, including visitation and aid. Recently, it organized fast-breaking meals for 60 Muslim refugees during Ramadan.

“They are victims [of conflict],” organizer Tanny Tahir said. “We want to raise their spirits,”

Although refugee treatment improved after President Joko Widodo signed a 2016 decree solidifying policies toward refugees, according to The Jakarta Post, their employment is illegal and many cannot attend school. —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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  • Laura W
    Posted: Fri, 06/21/2019 08:47 pm

    Re Boko Haram: They really, really should stop provoking Jesus while they've still got a chance. He won't wait forever.