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‘Don’t forget us. Christians here are suffering’



Kwate was widowed by an attack on her village in northern Nigeria and is being helped by microloans provided by Open Doors.(Photo: Open Doors)

As Open Doors warns of the “Talibanisation” of West Africa, Christian Today speaks to the organisation’s senior analyst on freedom of religion and belief in sub-Saharan Africa, Illia Djadi, about the threat to Christians in the region.

CT: Why is there increasing concern around West Africa?

Illia: West Africa has become the new epicentre of international jihadism – especially around Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso.

Islamic extremists are taking advantage of the fragility of these states – the absence of the state and good governance, poverty, their porous borders, a lack of education and so on – and they are using these to divide the countries along ethnic and religious lines.

In Burkina Faso, there is a dramatic humanitarian crisis with around 1.5 million people internally displaced, 3,000 schools closed and around half a million children out of education.

CT: How are Christians being affected?

Illia: Christians are the primary targets of the extremists because the extremists want to establish a caliphate and Islamic republic, and the Christians are targeted because they are not Muslim – although the jihadists are also targeting moderate Muslims.

Northern Burkina Faso has been emptied of its Christian population. Some have been killed, others have been forced to flee. Churches and schools have all been closed down.

CT: Can the international community do anything to help stabilise the region and improve religious freedom?

Illia: The international community needs to pay attention to the complexity and scale of the violence because it is not getting the attention it deserves.

My fear is that with all the attention being on everything that is happening in Afghanistan, West Africa will be forgotten.

The international community needs to help to sustain good governance in these countries and there needs to be a holistic response because the military response has failed. A military response is not enough. There also needs to be social and economic development, more schools and more jobs. Because when there is a lack of economic hope, then the people are easy prey for recruitment by militant groups.

The international community should also support faith-based organisations and churches because they provided a lot of the social care and assistance to people in need but now because of the violence, they are overwhelmed and have become victims as well and so they are unable to provide this assistance. The international community should help them so that they can continue to carry out the good work they were doing for many years in providing support for people in need.

CT: What would you like Christians in the UK to pray for?

Illia: We are grateful for the attention of churches in the UK. Please continue to pray for Christians in West Africa and the Sahel region. Don’t forget us. Christians here are suffering.

And pray for protection and for the Church and Church leadership to stand firm in the midst of the violence, persecution and killing.

Christians in the UK can also take action to support organisations like Open Doors and ask their MPs to put pressure on the UK government to support countries in West Africa. The UK government is a key player and can use the influence it has to support the Church, Christians and faith-based organisations.




Christians urge PM to take radical action on climate change after IPCC report



(Photo: Unsplash/Markus Spiske)

Christian groups are urging the Prime Minister to use the UK’s Presidency of COP26 this year to do more to address climate change and support communities already being impacted.

The call follows the release of the latest research from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change which warned of “a brief and rapidly closing window of opportunity” to avert disaster.

The grim report says that the world is already living with the consequences of climate change, with heatwaves, floods, droughts and wildfires intensifying across the globe.

The panel says that over 40 per cent of the world’s population are now “highly vulnerable” to climate change and that many consequences cannot be reversed.

Responding to the report, Catholic aid agency CAFOD said it was imperative to keep “1.5 alive” as it called on governments to increase their commitments to net zero.

It is calling on rich countries to make good on their promises at COP26 and double the amount of funding for climate adaptation.

Neil Thorns, Director of Advocacy at CAFOD, said that for some communities, it was too late to adapt.

“How many crystal-clear red alerts on the climate crisis do we need before we take the urgent and meaningful action?” he said.

“Keeping warming below 1.5 degrees is the only way to avoid the huge destruction that failing those entails, especially for those living on the breadline across the world.

“We are also sadly seeing communities in East Africa and small island states where that destruction has gone beyond the ability to adapt, and they now urgently need funds to compensate for the destruction caused by a climate crisis they did not create.”

He added that while some success was being seen in initiatives to restore mangroves, tropical forests and other coastal and land ecosystems, support for these projects needs to be “massively scaled up”.

“Money to fight the climate crisis cannot be a bargaining chip to be played fast and loose with, this is about the survival
of all of us and the planet we love,” he said.

“In the lead up to COP27, it is vital that Loss and Damage and Adaptation are top of the agenda – it’s now or never for planet Earth.”

Peter Kihara Kariuki, Bishop of Marsabit in Kenya, said the region was facing “severe” drought, forcing people to trek up to 17km for water and leaving many dependent on aid from the church, government or NGOs for basic necessities.

“We must raise our voices and call for ambitious action from world leaders to bring about climate justice by enacting the strongest measures to keep the global temperature rise at 1.5 degrees or below, commit to binding agreements to cut global carbon emissions, and increase support to communities like mine in Marsabit to adapt to the effects of the climate crisis,” he said.

“Climate change is real for us in Marsabit. As churches, as communities, we must make sure that our voices are heard. We have a saying in Swahili: ‘Kuja pamoja ni mwanzo, kukuwa pamoja ni maendeleo; kufanya kazi pamoja ni mafanikio,’ which translates as ‘coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success’.”

Nushrat Chowdhury, Climate Justice Advisor at Christian Aid, is based in Bangladesh. She said the country was already on “the frontline of climate change” and that those in poverty, women and children were being impacted the most.

“This report is a wake-up call to the world that those on the front lines of this crisis need much greater support if they are going to cope with climate impacts they have not caused,” she said.

She said that more funding was needed to help the vulnerable adapt and to support communities living with permanent damage.

“As COP president throughout 2022 the UK government has a vital role in leading global efforts to tackle climate change,” she said.

“The main thing lacking from the outcome at COP26 was robust financial help for the world’s most vulnerable, despite repeated promises from rich nations that it would be provided.

“It is now vital that the UK Government spearhead efforts to mobilise much greater funding to help the climate vulnerable adapt and to set up a fund to deal with the permanent loss and damage which cannot be adapted to.

“Only then will they have a legacy as COP26 president to be proud of.”



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Several Coptic Monasteries Left to Crumble in Egypt



Con Egypt18

03/01/2022 Egypt (International Christian Concern) – Several Coptic monasteries in Egypt are facing renovation and reopening issues, including Saint Paul’s monastery near Egypt’s Red Sea. The 4th-century monastery suffered serious flood damage earlier this month, resulting in collapsed walls and access roads flooded and closed off. In January another Coptic Orthodox 5th-century monastery also experienced crumbling walls. The monastery of Anba Samuel has been closed since a terrorist attack in May 2017 for security and renovation, but now monks are struggling to find a concession with authorities to open the building again.

Saint Paul’s monastery was closed off from access roads for some time as a result of the flooding and is built around the cave that its namesake lived in. Both Saint Paul’s and the 5th-century monastery reportedly were left crumbling by the Egyptian authorities. Under Egypt’s non-Muslim worship laws, pre-existing churches and monasteries are allowed but require special permission for rebuilding, repairing, or refurbishment.

In the past several years, security and renovation have been the primary focus at Abna Samuel Monastery, where authorities allowed the renovations after terrorist incidents that resulted in the martyrdom of 35 Copts. However, monastery and local officials struggle now to agree on the reopening of the monastery to the public.

For interviews, please contact [email protected].



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