Catching Our Eye

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  • Blasphemy rumour leads to arson, 8 dead

    Published: Aug. 24, 2016

    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

    Published: Aug. 23, 2016

    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’

    Published: Aug. 19, 2016

    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, 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.

  • Frontier town sees first communion despite IS

    Published: Aug. 18, 2016

    A Christian town some 50km north of the Islamic State’s Iraq stronghold of Mosul has celebrated its first communion Mass, completing the initiation of a hundred boys and girls in the faith.

    In what was described as a "historic moment", Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako presided over the ceremony in Alqosh attended by "all the priests of the city, the nuns and more than 700 people," Asia News reported.

    Alqosh is a historic town in the Nineveh Plains, north Iraq. It constitutes one of the main centres of the Assyrian-Chaldean Christian tradition.

    Since the Islamic jihadists’ onslaught spearheaded by the ‘Islamic State’ two years ago, Alqosh received tens of Christian refugees.

    Despite recent successes in reclaiming lands from IS, many Christians have expressed doubts about returning to the Plains, their last foothold in the country.

    Still, Patriarch Sako urged the children to stay and preserve the Christian heritage of their lands.

    Iraq, together with neighbouring Syria where IS is equally active, rank as second and fifth respectively according to Open Doors' 2016 World Watch List, a list of 50 countries where Christians come under the most pressure.

  • Fulani attack kills 10 in Christian area

    Published: Aug. 18, 2016

    Ten people have been killed after another attack by ethnic Fulani herdsmen in the early hours of 16 Aug. in the Christian-dominated Jema area of Nigeria’s Kaduna state.

    Earlier this month, 11 people were killed after an attack on three villages in the same area.

    Attacks by the herdsmen have claimed hundreds of lives. In the state of Benue alone, a study by Premium Times claims at least 1,269 lives have been lost in such attacks.

    “This is another jihad like the one waged by Boko Haram in the north-east of the country,” according to Rev. Augustine Akpen Leva. “The attackers carry sophisticated weapons, sometimes they even used chemical weapons on our communities. They just come, often overnight when people are sleeping. They attack defenseless people and go away. They clearly have an agenda: to wipe out the Christian presence and take over the land.”

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