Catching Our Eye
Blasphemy rumour leads to arson, 8 dead
A mob, outraged by reports that Islam's holy prophet had been insulted, burned down a house in northwest Nigeria 22 Aug., killing eight people inside.
Police confirmed the incident, the news organization This Day reported. It began when a student of Abdu Gusau Polytechnic school in Nigeria's Zamfara state was alleged to have insulted the prophet while talking with a Muslim fellow student. A group of angered students beat the man, whose name has not been released. Nigerian news organization Premium Times cited a resident of Talata Marafa town, where the school is located, as saying the victim was a convert to Christianity.
Other students took the victim to hospital, but he was retrieved and returned to town by the friend of his sister, Premium Times reported. The mob, spotting the car that had been used to transport the victim, burned it and a nearby house, where eight people were inside. Newsweek reported that it's not clear whether the student accused of blasphemy was in the house.
Police declared a curfew. Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari condemned the attack.
Insults to Islam are not illegal in officially secular Nigeria, which is mainly Muslim in the North, and Christian in the South. But allegations of blasphemy have prompted deadly violence in Nigeria this year. On 30 May, 24-year-old Methodus Chimaije Emmanuel was killed by a mob in Niger state, after he allegedly posted a blasphemous statement on social media. Three days later, Bridget Patience Agbahime, 74, was killed by a mob for an alleged insult to Islam -- charges that witnesses said were baseless.
Maiduguri trauma centre for Boko Haram victims
An Anglican church in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State in northern Nigeria, is building a clinic and trauma centre for the victims of Boko Haram attacks.
The Bishop of the Maiduguri Diocese, the Most Rev. Emmanuel Mani, said the trauma centre will be open to people of all faiths.
“What [the government] told us is not to restrict the hospital to the church only, but to make it open to other faith [sic], aside [from] the IDPs [internally displaced people], so that all communities will benefit from the gesture,” he said, as reported by Premium Times.
“This is a diocesan hospital for all of us. We are going to use our doctors, nurses, and all health workers – both retired and serving – to render services for the community, and we hope [these] services would be free of charge.”
As World Watch Monitor reported in September 2015, Maiduguri has borne the brunt of Boko Haram’s attacks, but an improvement to the city’s security last summer allowed visitors in for the first time in about two years.
Nigeria’s military then said it had recaptured villages and rescued 90 people in a process that involved the “continuous elimination” of the group from Nigerian territory.
However, after two months without an attack, a 20 Sept. bomb blast left at least 54 dead and 90 injured, and an audio message purportedly from Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau called the Nigerian army “liars” for saying troops had regained territory.
Aleppo church helped ‘almost 2000 Muslim refugees’
A church in the beleaguered Syrian city of Aleppo has opened its doors to Muslims as well as Christians fleeing the war.
Nearly 2,000 Muslims have benefited from the help offered by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, including by the Church of Elias the Prophet, reported Ruptly.tv, an affiliate of Russia Today (RT).
Engaged in community service for decades, the recent war in Syria (2011-present) has focused the Archdiocese’s efforts through a refugees' aid centre entirely operated by volunteers.
"We have been brought up by the church to help others irrespective of their ethnic or religious affiliation, or where their situation might have placed them," a volunteer said.
Fighting between government and rebel forces has escalated in recent weeks in Aleppo, leaving hundreds dead.
Aleppo enjoyed a mosaic of Christian communities, including Greek Orthodox, Syrian Catholic, Armenians, Evangelicals and Maronites, with its Christian population historically bolstered by survivors of earlier genocides, including the massacres of Armenians in the early 1900s.
During the latest war, many Christians have been displaced, significantly reducing the pre-war figure of 10% of the overall population.
Meanwhile, Syrian government planes have attacked parts of the north-eastern Syrian city of Hassake, which are held by the Kurdish militia - for the first time since the civil war started. Hassake is where the Archbishoprics of the Assyrian Church of the East and the Syriac Catholic Church were headquartered. The Kurds have focused on fighting Islamic State control, while the government has fought rebels elsewhere; these clashes intensify the battle for control of the north-east of Syria, as well as Aleppo in the north-west. After IS advances in Spring 2015, many Assyrian Christians fled to Hassake.
Syria ranks fifth in Open Doors' 2016 World Watch List, a list of 50 countries where Christians come under the most pressure.