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Catching Our Eye

‘God allowed my missionary father to be killed’

A woman whose father was one of five American Christian missionaries killed by Amazonian tribesmen in 1956 is the subject of today’s Witness programme on the BBC.

Valerie Shepard and her widowed mother Elisabeth Elliott spent two-and-a-half years living with the tribesmen shortly after her father, Jim, and four of his fellow missionaries were killed.

She says that as a little girl she doesn’t remember being afraid of them, though they had a reputation as a violent tribe that knew nothing of the outside world – the reason her father and his colleagues went to tell them about Christianity. Jim Elliot wrote before he left for Ecuador: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose”, a saying which has inspired Christians to devote their lives to risky missionary work ever since.

At the end of the programme, Valerie concludes: “Of course it was a tragedy and of course I’ve often wished that I had known my dad – still do – but I really believe that God allowed this to happen so that more and more people could actually see what real commitment to Christ means. And I really don’t believe their lives were wasted.”

Elisabeth Elliott wrote two books about her experiences: Through Gates of Splendor and The Shadow of the Almighty.

The radio programme will re-air in the UK tomorrow (23 Jan) on BBC Radio 4 at 12.04 GMT.

Polygamy creates terrorists, says Nigerian Emir

One of Nigeria’s most prominent Muslim leaders has suggested that polygamy among the poor should be banned, saying that having masses of uneducated, poor children leads to terrorism.

Muhammad Sanusi, the Emir of the northern state of Kano, who has four wives, said that polygamy itself is not wrong, but that it is dangerous if the husband cannot provide for his wives and children.

“Those of us in the north have all seen the economic consequences of men who are not capable of maintaining one wife, marrying four,” he said, as reported by the BBC.

“They end up producing 20 children, not educating them, leaving them on the streets, and they end up as thugs and terrorists.”

In 2012, the Royal Society scientific journal said polygamous societies are more prone to war, rape and theft.

World Watch Monitor has reported on cases where Muslim men have added kidnapped Christian women to their households – in one case, this was done by a member of staff of the Emir of Katsina, another northern state. 

Meanwhile, in November, the Christian Association of Nigeria asked President Buhari to warn northern Nigeria’s traditional rulers against child marriage, which they said was responsible for a “cloud of crisis”. They cited the abduction and forcible conversion to Islam of Christian schoolgirls in northern Nigeria as symptomatic of the trend.

The treatment of Christian women and girls in northern Nigeria since 1999 was the subject of a 2013 report, ‘Our Bodies, Their Battleground’. The authors explored what they called “the facilitating characteristics of the country in which the [Boko Haram] insurgency has come to operate so effectively”. The report showed that the abduction of Christian girls was common practice long before the advent of Boko Haram, and also the kidnapping of about 300 mainly Christian schoolgirls from Chibok in April 2014.

‘IS’ kills Coptic father and son in Sinai

Two more Coptic Christians have been killed in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.

Egyptian security officials said suspected militants were responsible, as AP reports.

This comes days after the Islamic State threatened to wipe out Christians from Egypt and following the murder of two other Copts in Sinai.

Saad Hana, 65, was reportedly shot dead, while his son, Medhat, 45, was burned alive. Their bodies were then dumped on a roadside.

This took place in the city of El-Arish, where last week a Coptic teacher was shot dead on his way to school, four days after a Coptic vet was murdered. The BBC reports a total of six deaths in the region in the past two weeks.

All the murders have been linked to a regional offshoot of the Islamic State, formerly known as Ansar Beit al-Maqdis.

Residents of North Sinai’s cities are increasingly frequently subjected to kidnappings and killings by jihadists affiliated to the group, which pledged allegiance to Islamic State in 2014. Two Coptic priests were among those murdered in El-Arish in recent years.

The killings in Sinai follow a spate of killings of Copts elsewhere in Egypt in January, when five Copts were killed in less than two weeks.

Each had their throat cut, while money and other valuables were left behind – even though police had said robbery was the motive behind at least one of the murders.

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