Nigeria: Christians flee Boko Haram violence
Christians in the north of Nigeria are fleeing south following the latest attack by radical Islamists on their community.
Having threatened to target Christians if they did not leave the predominantly Muslim north, the radical Boko Haram group launched a January 6 attack on the Deeper Life Christian Ministry Church in Gombe, killing six worshippers as they prayed. Ten others were wounded.
The attack came in spite of a declared state of emergency, which President Goodluck Jonathan had hoped would curb Boko Haram’s activities in four northern states. Now, according to sources who spoke to the Fides news agency, ”the population of the North is in a panic and insecurity”.
Despite a plea from Nigeria’s chief police officer, Hafiz Ringim, for people to ignore the Boko Haram order for Christians to quit, it is understood that Christians in at least one region, Yobe, are preparing to leave.
In a message of solidarity to Nigeria’s Christians, Fr Timothy Lehane Barrett, secretary general of the Pontifical Society for the Propagation of the Faith said: ”Our message to the Nigerian Christians is that they are not alone, that many communities around the world are praying for them and their neighbours. I know that the faithful in Nigeria offer their sufferings to God and pray for persecuted Christians around the world and even for their enemies, that is for those who attack and kill them.”
India: Church infiltration
An ecumenical NGO has alleged that both Hindu and Muslim fundamentalists are actively infiltrating Christian churches in the country towards gleaning information for radical groups.
The Catholic Secular Forum (CSF), which works for the rights of Christians in India said the moves were being undertaken by elements determined to foment anti-Christian sentiment. Of particular interest to agitators, the group added, was numbers of conversions and baptisms as well as details of church members. The CSF warned that such moves were threatening a new wave of anti-Christian violence in India.
Philippines: Murder arrest
Two relatives of a priest murdered four years ago have been arrested by investigating police.
Father Florante Rigonan was shot dead in August 2008 after he left a family member’s home.
Police believe two gunmen involved in the killing were hired by relatives unhappy that Fr Rigonan had been appointed as administrator over certain family properties and so moved to have him killed.
Those arrested on January 5 were the priest’s niece and nephew, while a second niece is reported to have handed herself in later. Both the gunmen and two other relatives of Fr Rigonan are still sought.
Pakistan: Taseer remembered
The slain governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer, has been remembered by Christians a year after his assassination by his own bodyguard.
On January 4, prayer vigils and demonstrations took place in various parts of the country to mark the anniversary and to remind government authorities of the threat to minorities still existing in the form of Islamic extremism. Speaking about the Taseer killing, Archbishop Rufin Anthony of Islamabad-Rawalpindi said: ”It has silenced all those who dared to take the word against fanaticism [and] the followers of darkness are more brazen than ever.”
Amid heightened feelings about Pakistan’s blasphemy law, Salman Taseer was killed for his public support for the imprisoned Christian woman Asia Bibi. In August, gunmen kidnapped his son Shahbaz and his whereabouts remain unknown. During the January 4 anniversary, prayers were offered for the man’s return.
Pakistan: Death threats
The lawyer representing imprisoned Asia Bibi has received death threats. S.K. Chaudry, together with workers with the Masihi Foundation who are backing the woman’s death-sentence appeal to the country’s high court, have been targeted for their perceived defence of a blasphemer against Islam. The imprisoned Christian woman continues to be held in solitary confinement as a result of a bounty being placed on her life by a Muslim cleric.
United States: Hispanic study
The Catholic bishops have launched a study into the low representation of Hispanics in the priesthood.
Dr Mary Gautier, a senior research associate at Georgetown University’s Centre for Applied Research in the Apostolate, will lead the examination of impediments which prevent members of one of the country’s largest faith communities from entering ministry.
Current figures show Hispanics account for 34 per cent of the adult Catholic population in America, but 15pc of ordinations in 2011 and just 10pc of first professions in 2010.
The new survey will target teens and young adults in relation to their attitudes to priesthood and vocations.
The Archdiocese of Philadelphia has confirmed plans to close 48 Catholic schools in an attempt to deal with financial concerns.
Following an in-depth study of the diocese’s school system begun in December 2010, Archbishop Charles Chaput stated that four high schools are set to close, while 44 primary schools will close or be amalgamated. ”Nostalgia for the past is a bad foundation if we want to think clearly and build creatively for the future,” the archbishop said in announcing the closures.
Britain: Euthanasia report
The Church of England and anti-euthanasia groups in the country have condemned recommendations towards legislating for assisted suicide in a new report.
The report, compiled by the Commission on Assisted Dying, last week suggested that the law should be altered in favour of terminally ill patients with under a year to live who wish to end their lives. Such a change would allow them to request a lethal cocktail of drugs from a doctor.
The recommendations were immediately attacked by the Anglican Church’s head of healthcare issues, Bishop James Newcome of Carlisle who accused the commission of excluding ”from its membership anyone with a known objection to assisted suicide”.
He stressed that the report ”failed adequately to take into account the fact that in all jurisdictions where assisted suicide or euthanasia is permitted, there are breaches of safeguards as well as notable failures in monitoring and reporting”.
Elspeth Chowdharay-Best of ALERT described the report as ”extremely dangerous [which] must be rejected”. The English parliament will now consider the report.
Malaysia: Media bias
An umbrella organisation for Christians has called on the government to tackle anti-Christian attacks in state-owned media.
The Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM) issued a statement in which it accused the media of acting with impunity in demonising non-Muslims.
”We have witnessed unprecedented incidences where Christians have been made victims of unwarranted and unfounded accusations, vilification, insults, even police reports,” the CFM alleged.
The group went on to reissue an earlier call for the government to establish a ministry of non-Islamic affairs for the better protection of Malaysian minorities.
Tibet: New burnings
Two more protestors against Chinese rule have set themselves on fire in the town of Ngaba, home to the Buddhist monastery of Kirti. While one of the pair is reported to have died as a result of his injuries, this has not been confirmed. Both victims are believed to be laymen.
The ongoing self-immolations as a form of protest have their roots in the 2008 military intervention to end protests by the monks of Kirti against repressive laws.
Vietnam: Van Thuan cause
Catholics in the country have been urged to bear witness to the late Cardinal Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan as a Vatican delegation on his beatification prepares to visit Vietnam in March.
Issuing the call for faithful, religious and lay, to approach the delegation during its March 23 to April 9 itinerary, Cardinal Jean Baptiste Pham Minh Man of Ho Chi Minh City said: ”I would like to invite you all to fervently pray for our beloved cardinal’s beatification and canonisation process to be completed soon.”
Cardinal Van Thuan was imprisoned for 13 years under Vietnam’s communist regime, and later barred from re-entering his country.