Nigeria is a deeply complex society divided along many tribal, linguistic, ethnic, geographical and class lines. A combination of political, economic and environmental factors contribute to increased tensions.
In the Middle Belt, poor government regulation of land, increased urbanisation, expansion of commercially cultivated areas, corporate mining activities and climate change have all increased the pressure on land. Ethnic and religious tensions are also a major contributing factor to the escalating conflict.
The three primary groups associated with violence are Boko Haram, a Salafi Jihadist movement whose name means ‘Western education is forbidden’, Islamic State in West Africa (ISWAP), an off-shoot of Boko Haram, and armed members of the Fulani ethnic group, known as Fulani militia – in speaking of the Fulani, we must be careful to emphasise the distinction between the Fulani in general, who are a diverse group of millions of people with hundreds of clans; and the sub-group of radicalised individuals of Fulani ethnicity who carry out attacks, mainly in the Middle Belt.
Tens of thousands of Nigerians have been killed by these groups. Almost three million are internally displaced.
UK Government response
The British Government’s response has predominantly focused on the Boko Haram insurgency in the north-east. Recent media interest has focused on the north-west, where bandit militants operate. Yet very little attention is paid to the Middle Belt, despite this being one of the worst-affected areas of Islamist violence.
At HART, we receive daily reports of killings, rape, abductions, enslavement, land-grabs and mass forced displacement in the Middle Belt.
Rev Canon Hassan John confirmed recently: “We still haven’t heard of anything at all that has come from the British Government. No humanitarian assistance or support. It is left to local churches and charities like HART to provide aid.”
Conflict in Nigeria has displaced thousands of children, and terrorist groups in northern and central states continue to target schools.
They kill students and teachers and carry out mass abductions for ransom. According to UN estimates, more than one million children in the country are deterred from attending school due to violence.
It is within this context that our small charity, Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust (HART), launched ‘Roads to Hope’, a locally-led project to provide safer education in Nigeria. The concept of the project is simple: when it is unsafe for children to travel to school, we bring the school to the children.
Our education van visits displaced students, fully equipped with books, pens, a whiteboard, an LED monitor and a solar-powered generator. We recruit local schoolteachers who live alongside the children in displacement camps, having fled violence in their own villages. Whilst the teachers are willing to work for free, the project provides them with a salary.
Putting a smile on people’s faces
“It’s been an exciting project,” said Rev Canon Hassan John, who oversees Roads to Hope in Nigeria.
“We’ve been able to put a smile on people’s faces. We’ve organised coaching among our community leaders and teachers. Parents are so grateful.
“Many children in the region have witnessed terrible conflict and violence. Children are forced to flee, scattered across camps and host villages. They are missing school because of insecurity. That’s why we are so proud of Roads to Hope. Our van travels to students who can’t get to school.”
In October last year, HART’s van travelled to eight villages in central Nigeria, supporting more than 6,700 children with school materials and providing lessons in English, maths and personal hygiene. This year, we hope to raise funds for more vehicles, visiting more villages, including a Mobile Health Unit to provide treatment to those who are injured in attacks.
Amidst the suffering and violence in the Middle Belt, ‘Roads to Hope’ provides a vital service and response. It is a symbol of hope, led by our inspirational local partners, in a region that receives too little attention in the international arena.
To learn more and to donate visit https://www.hart-uk.org/donate/
Christians urge PM to take radical action on climate change after IPCC report
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.”
Several Coptic Monasteries Left to Crumble in Egypt
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].