Friday, May 16, 2003

Ethiopia: Religion, 'new breeding ground for conflict.'

Date: Friday 16 May 2003
Subj: Ethiopia: Religion, "new breeding ground for conflict." (IRIN)
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty E-mail Conference
From: Elizabeth Kendal, Conference Moderator


ETHIOPIA: Religion "new breeding ground for conflict" (IRIN)

A three-day conference on federalism, conflict and peace building, hosted by the Ministry of Federal Affairs and the German development agency, GTZ was held in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa from 5-7 May 2003.

A news release by IRIN (see link below) reveals some very disturbing language emanating from that conference, suggesting that religious tension is increasing in Ethiopia.

It is very disturbing, especially in the light of the persecution that is being reported in neighbouring Eritrea, to hear that Ethiopian politicians are being "warned" of the "threat" of the "collapse" of the "religious status quo," suggesting change is not tolerable. The warning is that "non-Ethiopian" religions will "prey" upon a weak Ethiopian Orthodox Church.

Excerpts from the IRIN news release:

"Medhane Tadesse, a senior Ethiopian academic, argued that the religious status quo in the country was being 'dramatically eroded, incubating violent confrontation. The religious equilibrium is collapsing very quickly,'" he said.

Medhane also stated "that the Ethiopian Orthodox Church was 'weak economically and organisationally' and was easy prey for other religions. Medhane argued that both the Islamic and Evangelical Church were increasingly being backed by foreign interests which were 'non-Ethiopian in culture and content'. He also stated that Ethiopia was already witnessing the beginnings of potential clashes between the Orthodox and Pentecostal churches."

- Elizabeth Kendal

LINK

ETHIOPIA: Religion "new breeding ground for conflict"
ADDIS ABABA, 8 May 2003
Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Integrated Regional Information Network (IRIN)
http://www.irinnews.org/report.asp?ReportID=33959

Wednesday, May 14, 2003

Uganda: The Children, the Church and the LRA

Religious Liberty Prayer List - No. 219 - Wed 14 May 2003

--------------------------------------------
UGANDA: THE CHILDREN, THE CHURCH AND THE LRA
--------------------------------------------


The Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) is an armed rebel militia fighting the government of Uganda. The LRA is nothing more than a blasphemous, terrorist cult-militia, being mainly lightly armed foot-soldiers (presently 300), and drugged, conscripted child soldiers (presently 600). Yet for 16 years, the LRA's campaign of terror has been unstoppable in northern Uganda and Southern Sudan. They have kidnapped more than 10,000 children for front-line fighting.

Calling themselves "The Lord's" army, they claim to want a government built on the Biblical Ten Commandments. However, their trademark is unrivalled cruelty, brutality and raw, sadistic evil. The LRA receives support from the defeated and exiled Holy Spirit force established by the Catholic heretic and self-proclaimed prophetess, Alice Lakwena. However, the bulk of LRA funding, training and arms has come from the National Islamic Front in Khartoum, Sudan.

The LRA's leader is Joseph Kony, a spirit medium controlling his fighters through his aura of terror and mysticism. A social worker helping rescued LRA child soldiers says the children tell her that whatever Kony says when he gets possessed comes exactly true. When Kony is possessed the children are supposed to sing and worship. She says, "I believe there is a deadly evil spirit misleading him. I'm not sure if they worship Kony or if they worship the spirit that is in Kony. They say the reason Kony kills so many people is because the spirit in him feeds on fresh human blood." There is little doubt the appalling blasphemy and extreme cruelty and evil of the LRA is demonic.

On Sunday night, 11 May, 50 LRA militiamen broke into the Catholic Lacor Junior Seminary in northern Uganda. They killed one and abducted 44 young seminarians aged 12-18, although three later escaped. In Gulu, Noah's Ark Children's Ministry Uganda (NACMU) has set up a safe haven for children at night. Many children walk up to 8 km from their village to Gulu, just to get a night's safe sleep, before walking home the next day. On 7 May, the LRA raided a village 1 km from Gulu, taking 26 children, as well as a Catholic mission and village 2 km from Gulu, where they took 30 children. The same day, the NACMU had a record influx of 1,203 terrified children seeking protection from the LRA. Set up to cater for 300 children per night, Noah's Ark is straining at the seams.

Uganda is a predominantly Christian country with complete freedom of religion. The Church is strong and growing and has seen revival both before and since the years of extreme persecution under Presidents Amin and Obote. Persecution of the Church takes many forms, but behind each is the one prince of persecution who seeks to prevent, divert, poison or destroy faith in Jesus Christ by any means. (Ephesians 6:12)

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY FOR:

* God to bind all demonic forces at work amongst the LRA.

* God in his great mercy to grant safety, release and healing to the kidnapped children.

* Joseph Kony to face the justice of the Lord and either be delivered from his demonic bondage or, if he is a willing partner with evil, be judged by God so the nation might be delivered of Kony, bringing the LRA to an end for all time.

"We are human, but we don't wage war with human plans and methods. We use God's mighty weapons, not mere worldly weapons, to knock down the Devil's strongholds." 2 Corinthians 10:3,4.

Tuesday, May 13, 2003

Nigeria: Kano's Martyrs

Date: Tuesday 13 May 2003
Subj: Nigeria: Kano's Martyrs
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty E-mail Conference
From: Elizabeth Kendal, Conference Moderator


NIGERIA: KANO'S MARTYRS

The Nigerian elections are over. Olusegun Obasanjo's Popular Democratic Party (PDP) won the federal legislative elections held on 12 April 03, securing both houses of parliament. Olusegun Obasanjo won the Presidential poll on 19 April, polling 24.5 million ballots or sixty-two percent of the vote (with the required nation-wide spread), to pro-Sharia (Islamic Law) hardliner Muhammadu Buhari's 12.7 million or thirty-two percent, concentrated in the far north. Also on 19 April were the governorship elections, while the state legislative elections were held on 3 May.

The relative peacefulness of the election period amazed observers who had anticipated wide-scale election violence. Millions of Christians had prayed for peace - God deserves all the glory.

In Kano, Northern Nigeria, the election has however, caused a dramatic escalation of Islamist zeal, which may be responsible for the deaths of a Baptist pastor, his wife, three children and two relatives - burned to death in their home on 22 April. One other son escaped the flames and survived with serious injuries. (Link 1)

RELIGIOUS TENSIONS IN KANO

On 1 March 2000, Kano became the forth northern Nigerian state to adopt Sharia Law. On 21 June 2000, when Sharia was officially launched in Kano, hundreds of thousands of Kano Muslims celebrated, in possibly the largest crowds ever seen on Kano's streets.

At that time, Kano Governor Rabiu Kwankwaso said that although Sharia had been adopted, its actual implementation would not begin for several months whilst the necessary structures were put in place. However, Governor Kwankwaso never did get around to doing much about the implementation of Sharia, preferring to concentrate his efforts on rural development.

The adoption of Sharia did however raise Islamic sentiment and sensitivities in Kano, Nigeria's most populous northern state. The result has been regular violent attacks upon Christians, and the destruction and closure of churches, such that Kano has become one of the most hostile places for Christians in all of Nigeria.

ELECTIONS 2003

Kano was the only one of Nigeria's thirty-six states where an incumbent Popular Democratic Party (PDP) governor lost his governorship to an All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) challenger.

According to a report by Tajudeen Sulaiman in Kano, entitled "Upset in Kano", published in "The News", Lagos, "Kwankwaso's (PDP) administration had electrified and brought portable water to almost every village in the rural areas, and had instituted a welfare scheme whereby rural women received up to N5, 000 every month to run small scale business." (Called the "Women Empowerment Programme".)

Yet, although Governor Kwankwaso (PDP) had achieved much in terms of development, he had, according to his ANPP challenger Alhaji Ibrahim Shekarau (who is second only to Buhari himself as an ANPP ideologue and flag-bearer) been "dishonest in the implementation of Sharia."

Alhaji Ibrahim Shekarau campaigned for the governorship of Kano on a hardline, full-implementation of Sharia platform. During his campaign rallies in Kano city, chants of "Allahu Akbar" would rent the air. He had no money to fund his campaign, and he relied almost totally on the support of Islamic clerics and proponents of Sharia, particularly the Hisba Committee (Vanguards of Sharia Implementation in Kano) who campaigned for him.

Reporter Tajudeen Sulaiman goes on to say, "Buhari and his campaigners exploited the religious sentiments of ordinary Northern Muslims. Those campaigning for PDP and Obasanjo were labelled as non-believers who did not deserve the vote of 'good Muslims.' ANPP campaigners in Kano went about with megaphones calling on Muslims to see the gubernatorial elections as a jihad." (Link 2)

RESULTS AND RESPONSE

Kano voted overwhelmingly for the ANPP in Federal elections, for Buhari for President, for an ANPP pro-Sharia state governor (Alhaji Ibrahim Shekarau) and for an ANPP dominated state parliament.

As the results of the federal parliamentary elections trickled out and it became ever clearer that the PDP would not only retain federal power but hold control both houses of federal parliament, tension rose amongst Buhari / ANPP supporters.

Buhari fuelled the flames with denouncements and a rejection of the results, declaring, "This would be the first election in which, through elaborate collusion, those who lost elections were declared winners and those who won lost," and highly inflammatory remarks about the "massive and state organized rape on democracy," and threats of "mass action." By the time the presidential polls were being held on 19 April, tensions were at boiling point in the ANPP / Buhari stronghold of Kano.

When the presidential and governorship results were announced on the evening of 21 April, Kano's Muslims came out onto the streets to celebrate Shekarau's win as Kano's new pro-Sharia governor. (Link3)

By 4:15am, the home of pastor Chikezie (Sunday) Madumere was alight. The Madumere home was located in an area of Kano city known as "no man's land." Obed Minchak, reporting for Compass Direct, described Pastor Madumere as "a zealous Christian preacher. known for his powerful preaching, which has led many Muslims in Kano to convert to the Christian faith."

The Compass Direct 7 May news release said, "Observers believe the conversions may have angered Muslim militants in the city and they decided to eliminate him.

"Police authorities say the fire may have been caused by an electrical fault. Christian leaders, however, have ruled out that theory, insisting that the pastor and his family were victims of
religious intolerance."

--------------------

With Buhari continuing his inflammatory rhetoric, rejecting the results and demanding re-elections threatening, "Otherwise there will be no government by 30 May," we should expect Kano to become increasingly unsettled and hostile.

Renowned Muslim cleric, Alhaji Surajudeen Asukuna, described Buhari's outbursts as "provocative, un-Islamic and capable of setting the country on fire...capable of truncating the nation's nascent democracy."

The "middle belt" of central Nigeria voted overwhelmingly for Obasanjo, because Buhari was seen as a lackey of a religious group; as a tribalist and a religious leader. Most Nigerians, Christians and Muslims alike, did not want that for Nigeria. But as discontent and anger escalates in "Buhariland" (the northern Sharia states) - Kano will certainly be the state to watch and pray over.

The Supreme Council for Shariah in Nigeria (SCSN) has called for the establishment of a new Shariah implementation Committee in Kano State to expedite the full implementation of Sharia. (Link 4)

- Elizabeth Kendal

LINKS

1) Pastor, Six Others Die in Fire Outbreak
Daily Trust (Abuja) 23 April 2003
http://allafrica.com/stories/200304230568.html

2) "Upset in Kano" By Tajudeen Sulaiman in Kano
The News (Lagos) 5 May 2003
http://allafrica.com/stories/200305050343.html

3) "Nigeria's powerful new governors"
By Joseph Winter
BBC News Online, Abuja, 22 April 2003
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/2967881.stm

4) "SCSN Calls for New Shariah C'ttee"
By Jamilah Nuhu Musa
Daily Trust (Abuja) 30 April 2003
http://allafrica.com/stories/200304300688.html

Thursday, May 8, 2003

Eritrea: persecution escalates amid government denials.

Date: Thursday 8 May 2003
Subj: Eritrea: persecution escalates amid government denials.
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty E-mail Conference
From: Elizabeth Kendal, Conference Moderator


A 9 April 03 report from Compass Direct broke the news of shocking persecution of Protestants in Eritrea over recent months. News of human rights abuses in Eritrea is extremely difficult to get as Eritrea is the only African nation without any independent media. The government closed all private media and detained journalists and critics in September 2001. Foreign journalists cannot operate freely in Eritrea either.

President Isayas Afewerki makes no effort to deny that Eritrea is, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, Africa's "foremost jailer of journalists", and he is unfazed by international criticism. In spite of all evidence to the contrary, the government insists however that Eritreans are "free to express their opinions."

Eritrea's acting Information Minister Ali Abdu Ahmed told IRIN that "no person is placed under arrest because of their political view". He said Eritrea's 18 detained journalists were "mercenaries" and their detention had nothing to do with the press law. "This is an issue of national security," he said. "It has nothing to do with politics." (http://www.irinnews.org/print.asp?ReportID=33864)

A similar strategy now appears to be being employed with regards to religion. In spite of the intense crackdown and severe persecution that Compass Direct has documented, the Eritrean government has issued a statement denying that persecution exists. "No groups or persons are persecuted in Eritrea for their beliefs or religion," the statement said. "People are free to worship according to their wish, or to refrain from worshipping or practising religion."
(http://www.irinnews.org/report.asp?ReportID=33809)

Also reminiscent of the way the government justifies the detention of journalists, is the government's apparent new strategy in detaining Protestants. This strategy could lead to the detention of Protestants being justified as an issue of national security that has nothing to do with religion.

The Compass Direct report below, details how 56 believers, 20 members of the Full Gospel Church and 36 from the Kale Hiwot Church, were taken by the military on 29 April 03, for conscription into military service. However, not even their families have been able to confirm their whereabouts.

- Elizabeth Kendal


**********************************
FLASH NEWS from COMPASS DIRECT
Global News from the Frontlines
**********************************

ERITREA ARRESTS, CONSCRIPTS MORE PROTESTANT CHRISTIANS
Asmara Government Denies Any Religious Persecution
Special to Compass Direct

Summary:

LOS ANGELES, May 5 (Compass) -- More arrests along with forced
conscriptions targeting Eritrea's independent Protestant Christians
have been reported during the past two weeks, despite a blanket
denial by Asmara officials on May 1 that any religious persecution
exists in the East Africa nation. In an incident in the capital city
over Orthodox Easter weekend, two members of the
government-recognized Evangelical Lutheran Church were arrested and
held in detention for three days. Taking a more severe tactic last
week, military police invaded work places and private homes to
arrest 56 members of independent Pentecostal churches in the
northern-most province of Sahel. The military swoop, which occurred
during normal working hours on April 29, was justified as
"conscription for military service." But according to fellow church
members of the forced conscripts, most of the 16 women and 40 men
picked up had already completed their mandatory military service.
Many of those conscripted were teachers, nurses and professionals.
They have not been seen since.

--------------------------------

Full Story:

LOS ANGELES, May 5 (Compass) -- More arrests along with forced
conscriptions targeting Eritrea's independent Protestant Christians
have been reported during the past two weeks, despite a blanket
denial by Asmara officials on May 1 that any religious persecution
exists in the East Africa nation.

In an incident in the capital city over Orthodox Easter weekend, two
members of the government-recognized Evangelical Lutheran Church
were arrested and held in detention for three days.

Following a tradition long observed on the eve of Easter by Eritrea'
s Lutheran Christians, a group of young church members took a guitar
onto the streets of central Asmara on Saturday night, April 26, to
sing hymns about Christ's resurrection.

But as they passed a local bar about 11:30 p.m., they were
confronted by an irate security officer who came out of the bar. The
policeman reportedly told the singers that such activities were not
allowed for members of "closed" churches. When he learned they were
in fact members of the legal Lutheran Church, the officer accused
the group of "misusing" the freedoms granted to their church.

Most of the group fled, but two young men who stood their ground
were arrested by the policeman and taken to the city's No. 2 Police
Station. The two Lutherans were not charged with any crime, and no
reason was given for their detention. Both 26 years old, the men
were held until the afternoon of April 29, when they were released
with a "serious warning" to not repeat this Easter tradition again.

Taking a more severe tactic last week, military police invaded work
places and private homes to arrest 56 members of independent
Pentecostal churches in the northern-most province of Sahel. The
military swoop, which occurred during normal working hours on April
29, was justified as "conscription for military service."

But according to fellow church members of the forced conscripts,
most of the 16 women and 40 men picked up had already completed
their mandatory military service. Many of those conscripted were
teachers, nurses and professionals. They have not been seen since.

The conscriptions targeted 20 members of the Full Gospel Church and
36 from the Kale Hiwot Church living in Nakfa and Afabet, small
towns made famous by historic battles during the Eritrean war of
resistance.

Although security police told relatives that the conscripts had been
taken to the Sawa Military Training Center, family members have so
far been unable to confirm their whereabouts.

"The fact that all of them are known as Protestant believers is very
alarming," a local source said. "We are very concerned about their
safety."

Another 74 Eritrean soldiers have been incarcerated in the Assab
military prison for more than a year, subjected to severe beatings,
threats and abuse for refusing to deny their Pentecostal beliefs and
return to the Orthodox Church. Thirteen of them are women, and 16
are married men with families. All have been refused any contact
with relatives or friends. Last month there were unconfirmed reports
that another three Protestant soldiers had been arrested and sent to
the Assab prison.

Eritrea's 12 independent Pentecostal and charismatic churches
representing about 20,000 believers have been targeted in a harsh
government crackdown over the past three months. A total of 254 of
their members have been jailed, beaten and threatened since the
security police attacks began in early February.

The Asmara government has refused since last May to grant official
status to any group apart from the four "recognized" religions:
Orthodox Christian, Muslim, Catholic and Evangelical Lutheran. All
other congregations were ordered to stop meeting for worship and
close their buildings.

But in a statement issued May 1 to outline what it called the "basic
facts" of religious freedom in Eritrea, the Asmara government
declared, "No groups or persons are persecuted in Eritrea for their
beliefs or religion."

Insisting that "all religions are equal, and no religion is more
equal than others," the statement added, "People are free to worship
according to their wish, or to refrain from worshipping or
practicing religion."

According to separate sources, 160 members of the Jehovah's
Witnesses, a religious sect which declines to be labeled Christian,
were arrested in Asmara on April 16. Some 120 of the detainees,
including pregnant women and children, were kept under arrest for
two days and then released. Most of the remaining 40 have since been
released, except for "a handful of elders" still believed to be
under arrest.

Jehovah's Witnesses have been subjected to especially harsh
treatment in Eritrea because of their conscientious objector stance
toward military service.

According to the U.S. State Department's latest report on human
rights in Eritrea, "Arbitrary arrests and detentions continued to be
problems," with unknown numbers of people jailed without charges and
some being held incommunicado.

END

***********
Photographs of official religious buildings in Eritrea are
available electronically. Contact Compass Direct for pricing and
transmittal.
************
Copyright 2003 Compass Direct

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