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  • Nigeria: Kidnapped priest freed

    Published: Sep. 30, 2016

    A Catholic priest kidnapped on Monday (26 Sep.) by Fulani herdsmen in south-eastern Nigeria was released yesterday (29 Sep).

    Fr. Emmanuel Dim was travelling with two other priests when they were attacked by some heavily armed men on Monday evening.

    “We thank God for the release of Rev. Fr. Emmanuel Dim, Rector [of] Tansi Mayor Seminary, Onitsha, without any ransom paid. We're happy,” said Fr. Francis Chidume, Chancellor of the Awka Diocese, in Anambra State.

    The two other priests were injured during the attack, but managed to escape.

    Fr. Ezeokana, who teaches both at the Major Seminary of Onitsha and at Nnamdi Azikiwe University in Awka, was slightly injured, while Fr. Chukwuemeka, Chaplin at Nnamdi Azikiwe University (Nnewi), was shot in the head and has been admitted to hospital.

    Kidnapping of prominent persons by armed men, in exchange for money, is recurrent in Nigeria.

    Another priest, whose name is yet to be confirmed, was also kidnapped on Monday, along with his brother, while they were travelling on the Abuja–Lokoja Expressway.

    “One begins to wonder if Catholic priests have become an endangered species,” said Fr. Aghaulor, who accused the South East Governors of not doing enough to protect the people they are governing from the violence of the Fulani herdsmen.

    “While innocent people are left unprotected, we have seen [a] barrage of military wares and personnel protecting the pipelines in Niger Delta, as if oil is more important than people's [lives],” he said. “Why should people be killed without provocation in their own traditional lands?”

    Sources: FidesDaily Trust

  • French church attack survivor describes ordeal

    Published: Sep. 29, 2016

    An 87-year-old man forced to video the graphic murder of his priest in a church in northern France two months ago has spoken of his ordeal.

    Guy Coponet was stabbed three times – including once in the throat – and left for dead, after two young Islamists had used him to help capture their murder of Fr. Jacques Hamel, 85, during Mass at the Saint-Étienne Church in the small town of Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray, south of Rouen, on 26 July.

    “The two young killers grabbed me, put a camera in my hands and said, ‘Grandpa, you film!’” Coponet told the French website, Famille Chretienne, who also interviewed his wife, Janine. “They even checked the quality of the images and made sure I was not shaking, too. I had to film the assassination of my friend Father Jacques! I am still traumatised by it, I can’t move on.”

    “They stabbed me three times – in the arm, back and throat,” he added. “The emergency doctor who treated me told me, ‘There was a divine hand on you because none of the stabs hit a vital organ. But they really were not far away. It's like a miracle!’”

    Saint-Étienne Church will reopen on Sunday (2 Oct.) with a special ceremony. Pope Francis has already hailed Fr. Hamel as a “martyr”.

  • Iranians still don’t know why they were arrested

    Published: Sep. 28, 2016

    Five Iranian Christians arrested last month in the Alborz Mountains north-east of Tehran still haven’t been told why they are being detained, nor have they been allowed any visitors – not even lawyers.

    Amin Afshar Naderi, Ramil Bet-Tamraz, Hadi Asgari, Mohammad Dehnavi and Amir Saman Dashti were arrested on 26 Aug. Their families initially didn’t know where they had been taken, though eventually three of them were permitted to phone home, according to Mohabat News. They reportedly said they are being held in Tehran’s Evin Prison.

    Mohabat says their families are concerned the Iranian authorities may try to fabricate charges against them or pressure them to confess to having committed a crime. Some of them have also reportedly been fired from their jobs for being off work for so long.

  • Iraqi MPs reject ‘safe areas’ for Christians

    Published: Sep. 28, 2016

    A majority of Iraq’s Members of Parliament have rejected any proposals to set aside safe areas for Christians and other indigenous minorities in the country’s Nineveh Plains, once the province is liberated from the "Islamic State" (IS).

    "The Parliament has voted to keep Nineveh’s provincial boundaries as they were prior to 2003," the London-based Arabic Al-Hayat newspaper quoted MP Ahmed al-Mashhadani, of the Sunni Iraqi Forces Alliance, as saying.

    "The MPs have been conscious of a grave venture, [and] have successfully aborted a division of the province," he added, stressing what he called a "parliamentary drive to reject projects aimed at dividing the country and causing chaos".

    The Iraqi Parliament’s vote on 26 Sep. received broad support from both Shiite forces and Sunni parliamentarians, reported Agenzia Fides. The motion forestalls efforts to secure "semi-autonomous" zones in the north-eastern region for minorities, who have disproportionately borne the brunt of what the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, in March called "genocide".

    Judging any reassignment of administrative boundaries as "unconstitutional", representatives of Iraq’s majority said any possible redress should be decided by residents of the province after it has been fully freed from IS.

    Earlier this month, minority rights’ advocates, including the group In Defense of Christians, called on Washington DC to establish "safe zones" to facilitate the return of ethnic and religious minorities, including Assyrian Christians and Yazidis, to the Nineveh Plains.

    Nina Shea, director of the Center for Religious Freedom at the Washington D.C.-based Hudson Institute, meanwhile warned that the final drive to dislodge IS from Iraq’s second city of Mosul will create a surge of thousands fleeing the battle into the nearby Plains.

    "Those people are probably going to go into the towns and villages of the Nineveh Plain that are standing there, unprotected and uninhabited, that belong to Christians and Yazidis, and they will become entrenched there," said Shea.

    Since the IS onslaught in and around Mosul in the summer of 2014, Christians have been almost entirely forced out into adjacent Kurdish areas. This left jihadists in control of much of the north-eastern Plains, the Christians’ last foothold in a country that has been racked by renewed Islamic fervour since the US-led invasion in 2003.

  • Sudan’s trial of pastors for ‘spying’ continues

    Published: Sep. 27, 2016

    The trial of four defendants, including two local pastors and a foreign Christian worker, accused of "spying" continued in Khartoum yesterday (26 Sep.), with the prosecutor presenting more "evidence".

    The hearing against Rev. Hassan Taour, Rev. Kuwa Shamal (both ethnic Nuba), Czech aid worker Petr Jasek and Darfuri graduate Abdulmonem Abdumawla saw the prosecution presenting videos to back up charges, which include providing support for rebels in Sudan’s Nuba Mountains (in the South Kordofan region), sources close to the trial told World Watch Monitor.

    The defence lawyers challenged the presented material’s relevance to the case, with the judge apparently agreeing and warning the prosecution to come better prepared, the sources added.

    The hearing was adjourned until 17 Oct.

    According to Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Jasek is charged with the propagation of false news. Along with Taour, Shamal and Abdumawla, he is accused of at least seven crimes – including waging war against the state – some of which carry the death penalty.

    During an earlier hearing on 29 Aug., the prosecutor accused the defendants of highlighting alleged Christian suffering in war-ravaged areas of the country.

    Between Dec. last year and the start of the trial, the four had mostly been held without charge, in violation of Sudan’s own law.

    Following South Sudan’s independence in 2011, President Omar al-Bashir – wanted by the ICC for crimes including "genocide" – has reasserted Sudan as an Islamic state governed by Sharia. Pressure has been ratcheted up against Christians, including in the Nuba Mountains, an area adjacent to the now independent South.

    According to Open Doors’ 2016 World Watch List, Sudan is ranked 8th in a list of 50 countries where Christians come under the most pressure. The country has a rating of "extreme" and for the past two years has remained among the top 10 offenders.

    Taour is suffering from ulcers, and is scheduled to see a doctor on Thursday, 29 Sep.

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