Ireland: Athletic Club Removes Cross for Fear of ISIS


An Irish athletic club has decided to take the cross emblem off their athlete’s sportswear following threats from the Islamic State.

The Crusaders Athletic Club runners planned on running the Dublin City Marathon wearing their usual cross – bearing jerseys. But that all changed after the organization was hacked and sent violent threats from what is believed to be the Islamic State.

The Independent reported that the athletic club will remove the cross from the crest to avoid any possible violence from Muslim terrorists who take offense to the cross’ association with the Christian crusades.

“Threats have to be taken seriously and although any real danger is unlikely, it was decided that as an interim measure and as a compromise to some views in the committee to temporarily suspend the use of the cross logo until the proposal could be put to the members at the AGM,” the club said in an email sent to its athletes.

This club is not the only one who has questioned its Christian symbols and name in recent years.

The Middlesex Crusaders cricket club received lash back from Muslims and Jews about their link to the crusades. So, to avoid offense they changed their name to the Middlesex Panthers.

Many of the runners are outraged at the decision to take the cross off their uniforms. The Crusaders AC spokesman says the change is about safety and unity.

“Our history is one of inclusivity and openness and we celebrate the diversity that comes with being a modern athletic club,” he said.

Source: Christian World News


Despite earlier warnings that minority-faith refugees in Germany were being beaten and threatened with death, nothing has been done in a systemic way to give them better protection, according to a group of German NGOs, led by Open Doors Germany, in the report ‘Lack of protection for religious minorities in Germany’.


Hundreds of Christian refugees have been attacked in German migrant camps

The report summarises the findings of interviews with hundreds of refugees, conducted nationwide between May and September. During this period, 512 attacks on Christian refugees and 10 on Yazidi refugees were documented. They reported incidents of discrimination, death threats, or violent attacks, experienced because of their faith.

One recently arrived refugee was confronted with these words written on the wall in his refugee shelter: “The time has come to cut off the heads of all non-believers!”

He described his horror: “I was shocked! In Iran this may happen, but I never expected such a thing to happen in Germany. This has shattered my trust.”

This is the second survey following that of 231 reported cases highlighted in a report that the group of NGOs published inMay That report said those who reported religiously motivated attacks were ‘only the tip of the iceberg’.


Hundreds of Christian refugees have been attacked in migrant camps in Germany

The NGO group – including Open Doors Germany, Action on Behalf of Christians and the Needy, the Central Council of Oriental Christians in Germany and the European Mission Society – first conducted their survey after religiously motivated abuse and violent attacks from Muslim refugees and security officials had been reported anecdotally at the start of 2016.

Responding to concerns that the first survey reported cases from only Berlin and Brandenburg, this second survey has interviewed additional Christian refugees from all but one German state (as well as the 10 Yazidis).


More than 300 of the refugees came from Iran, 263 from Syria, 63 from Afghanistan, 35 from Iraq, and nine from Eritrea. Twenty-two were from other countries; 47 more did not specify a country of origin.

Combined, the surveys account for 743 affected Christian refugees. Of that number, 617 (83%) reported multiple assaults; 314 (42%) death threats; 416 (56%) violent assaults; and 44 (6%) sexual assaults.

Ninety-one per cent (674) of those who responded to the surveys said assaults were committed by Muslim fellow refugees, 28% (205) accused Muslim guards and 34% (254) blamed “other parties” (many of the attacks were committed by more than one person). If they failed to assist the victims, guards, camp managers and local authorities could be said to have passively contributed to these attacks as well.

The testimonies of the refugees clearly show, the report says, that the assaults are religiously motivated, and the perpetrators are driven by a value system they have internalised in their home countries. The NGOs conclude that such attacks on minority refugees in shelters occur all over Germany.

However, after the first survey was published, German Church commentators noted: “The leaving of Islam and the conversion to Christianity, but also to, for example, the Baha’i faith [is apostasy], still punishable with death in the Islamic world, even though it is often a ‘social’ death rather than a literal one. Since this is true even of many Muslim families living in the West, it would be very unlikely that this problem would not occur in asylum accommodation.”

The NGOs report also surveyed reports of similar incidents from direct contacts across the EU.

A German government office replied to an inquiry by Open Doors Germany: “It is expected of all asylum seekers to live together peacefully, irrespective of their religion… The constitutionally protected freedom of religion, which is a highly valued asset, is every person’s due.”

However, the NGOs warn, refugees who belong to religious minorities often aren’t experiencing this freedom as they lack the opportunity to freely confess their faith in their refugee homes, sometimes suffering violence and threats if they do.


More than one million migrants have arrived in Germany since last year


However, there is one ‘beacon’ project in Germany, which gives a positive example of ‘good practice’, the report says.

In one initial reception facility for refugees, 32 Christians were willing to report the assaults and death threats against them, after regional authorities and facility managers established a safe environment. After yet another incident involving the police, the Christian refugees were moved into separate accommodation. Additionally, security staff and interpreters who themselves held a Christian faith were eventually assigned to them.

The report calls on the German government and other responsible agencies to ensure the effective protection of Christian refugees and other religious minorities.

They set out the following recommendations for Merkel’s government to safeguard the refugees during the entire process of asylum-seeking and integration:

1. Provision of separate accommodation for Christians and other religious minorities who have already been victims of persecution and discrimination. This should include the possibility of decentralised accommodation. Authorities must refrain from categorically blocking decentralised accommodation, especially if such living quarters are available for affected Christians. 2. Adequately increasing the non-Muslim percentage of the security staff. 3. Provision of periodical training for sensitising co-workers and security staff assigned to refugee shelters to the reasons behind religious conflicts and the protection of religious minorities. 4. Assignment of trusted people who themselves hold Christian convictions, to whom Christians can turn when they’ve been affected by persecution.


“This new and extended survey provides a solid base for politicians and church leaders to eventually introduce urgently needed safety measures, in order to comply with human rights, and enact accommodation rules and standard procedures from the EU directives on the reception of asylum seekers, including religious minorities,” the report by the NGOs said.

At the same time, they warned against using the findings as political ammunition in Germany’s heated political climate.

“Anyone who misuses the findings of this new survey for political purposes or his/her own prominence, anyone who tries to interpret the survey as a general denunciation of Muslims, is acting, politically and socially, irresponsibly,” said Markus Rode, CEO of Open Doors Germany. “Our [German] history teaches us to never again ignore the oppression and discrimination of minorities in favour of the perpetrators. Therefore we call on the German Chancellor to personally engage in this matter rather than leave it to the federal states.”

Source: Open Doors

Iraqi Christians look homeward toward Mosul, uncertainly

Some keen to rebuild; others wary of Muslim neighbours who supported IS


Tens of thousands of Christians fled from Mosul and its surrounding towns and villages to Kurdistan when IS seized swathes of territory in summer 2014. Several thousand families have sought refuge in Jordan and Lebanon, while others have left the Middle East to start new lives in Western nations such as Canada, Australia and, in a small number of cases, Britain. Levels of Christian emigration began rising in response to the violence that followed the 2003 US-led invasion and removal of President Saddam Hussein.

Rev. Ammar is a Chaldean priest who fled from the town of Qaraqosh – home to some 60,000 Christians until summer 2014, and now being fought over as the coalition of forces advances on Mosul. He serves displaced Moslawis (people from Mosul) in the Kurdish capital, Erbil, and said: “We hope to be able to return to our houses and towns soon.”


Rev. Thabet, of the village of Karamles, said he wanted to return to the nearby Hill of St. Barbara, a mound on top of ruins of ancient Assyrian temples – named after a pagan ruler’s daughter who converted to Christianity in the fourth century. “If my town is liberated, then one of the greatest joys would be to have a Mass in the open air on top of the Hill of St. Barbara and celebrate the holy Eucharist [there] again.”

Rev. Poulos, from the town of Bashiqa, said: “We are warned that IS possibly put mines in our houses. After villages are liberated it may still take more than three months before we can go back for a first visit. Returning to our houses then would take even longer.” He added that all this week heavy fighting has been reported in his home town. “In Bashiqa it’s a true war situation, with Turks, Peshmerga and Iraqi forces coming in – a lot of explosions and fighting.”

Poulos is in touch with eight Syriac Orthodox monks living in Mar Mattai (St. Matthew), a monastery on a mountainside less than 5 kilometres from Bashiqa. “I’ve called them several times and they hear the sound of bombs. From the monastery they can see that a lot of bombing and fighting is going on. Nobody can go there now, but I hope it will be retaken soon.”

The battle was not immediately affecting the monastery (which also houses three displaced families). “We have no problems, but we are watching for the future what will happen.”

However, other Iraqi Christians who have moved far from home expressed no desire to return – because some of their Muslim neighbours had sympathised with IS. Rev. Aphram Ozan, a Syriac Orthodox priest in London who fled Mosul in 2011 after his family home was attacked by extremists, said: “I don’t think Christians will return to Mosul. In the beginning, the people of Mosul welcomed IS. We were let down by the people; they left us.”

Rev. Khalil Jaar, a Catholic priest in the Jordanian capital, Amman, and a partner of World Vision, said “not one” of the 500 or so Moslawi refugee families for whom he is co-ordinating aid was considering returning to the area. He said if adequate protection were offered, some had said they might return briefly to sell their houses, but would then go to their new homes. “ISIS is finished but the mentality and spirit of ISIS lives on in the heart of so many people in Mosul,” he said.

One Christian former resident of Mosul in his early thirties recalled that increasing levels of extremism had strained his friendships with Muslims, even before 2003. “Growing up, I had friends who were Muslim. We played together and ate together and their parents treated us as though we were their children. But when some of them got to about 16 or 17, something changed. Maybe they had learnt something from the Quran or from the mosque – they changed and became more extreme, which made a gap between us. They became more extreme than their parents.”

Suha Rassam, a Chaldean Catholic from Mosul and author of Christianity in Iraq, said that among her Iraqi Christian friends and relatives, “everybody is excited that Mosul is being liberated.” But she added: “Although there are no more Christians in Mosul, I am still concerned about the Muslim population there, that they may not suffer too much and there is no slaughtering of the Sunni.” However, she expressed concern that the presence of Kurdish and Turkish forces in the Nineveh Plains around Mosul could lead to both powers making territorial claims there. Extremism took hold in Mosul partly as a reaction against Kurdish expansionism, she said. “Even once Mosul is liberated, we can still expect a lot of trouble. It’s not good for the unity of Iraq,” she said.

Christians and others suspect that the aim of the Kurdistan Regional Government is to earn political capital. Some voiced fears that because some Iraqi qualifications are not recognised there and government jobs require Kurdish-speakers, Arab Christians impoverished by their displacement could find themselves subjected to a “Kurdification” process.

One Christian former resident of Mosul whose family fled to Kurdistan said: “For all of history, the Kurds have been killing us, until now. They’re trying to put on a good face; they want to liberate themselves from Iraq and show they are better than Iraq. But there’s no future for Christianity in Kurdistan: my parents don’t speak Kurdish, and because my nephews aren’t Kurdish they aren’t allowed to go to state school there.”

But Poulos said he already knows what he will do if it’s ever possible to go back to Bashiqa: “The first thing I will do is go to the church. If the church is not damaged and I can go in, I will pray. After that we will check how much damage is done to the church and to the houses. What needs to be done, what needs rebuilding?”

Source: World Watch Monitor

40 killed as suspected Fulani herdsmen raid Christian community in Nigeria

Gunmen believed to be Fulani herdsmen have killed more than 40 people in Godogodo village, a Christian settlement in the Jama’a Local Government Area in Nigeria’s northern state of Kaduna. The area, in the south of Kaduna State, has been attacked several times before.


The aftermath of the attack in Godogodo, a Christian settlement in Nigeria’s northern State of Kaduna, Oct. 2016. CSW Nigeria

The gunmen were said to have attacked a military checkpoint in the area before invading the village.

One survivor, Peter Atangi, told World Watch Monitor his four children were all killed.

“The herdsmen came around 9pm on Saturday [15 Oct.]. They invaded our homes after they attacked a military checkpoint. They were armed with sophisticated guns, machetes, knives and sticks. As soon as they came, they started shooting indiscriminately and we started running in different directions.

“They shot and killed my four children. As we ran for our dear lives, they also set our homes on fire. Many of us have been rendered homeless. We don’t know where to start….”

About 30 houses, including one used as a church, were said to have been burnt down by the rampaging herdsmen, while property worth millions of Nigerian naira (thousands of US dollars) were destroyed.

A community leader, Joseph Adamu, said about 50 people, mostly women and children, sustained injuries from gunshots and machete cuts and were rushed to hospitals in the nearby cities of Jos, in Plateau State, and Akwanga in Nasarawa State.

The incident led to the declaration of a 24-hour curfew in Jama’a, following increased tension and apprehension among people in the area.

The Chairman of the Jama’a Local Government Council, Dr. Humble Katuka, said people should remain indoors until the situation is brought under control.
Reacting to the frequent attacks on villages in Christian-dominated areas, the Secretary of the Northern Christian Association of Nigeria – responsible for the 19 northern states and the Federal Capital Territory – blamed the state government for failing to stop the killing.

“We are disheartened that despite the re-occurrence of the attack, the government has not come out with a security plan to stop it,” Rev. Danladi Yarima told World Watch Monitor in a telephone interview.

“We expected that the government should have mobilised more security personnel to the area. Every day, Christians are being attacked and killed and their homes and property destroyed. The killings have continued unabated and we are very worried. We urge the government and well-meaning Nigerians to stop the killings,” he added.
As a result of the ongoing violence, churches in the area have been closed, as many people have fled the communities.


Attacks targeting the predominantly Christian communities in Jama’a area of Nigeria’s Kaduna state are recurrent.
On 16 Aug., ten people were killed by Fulani herdsmen, just a month after another deadly attack which claimed, 11 lives in three villages in the same area.

A total of more than 300, mainly Christians, have been killed in repeated attacks by Fulani herdsmen in the past five months, while over 5,000 people have been displaced, said Yarima.

Also, the Southern Kaduna People’s Union (SOKAPU), an umbrella body for ethnic minorities, condemned the killings and called on the Federal government to establish a permanent military presence in the area to prevent them.

In a statement signed by its President, Solomon Musa, the organisation said security agencies must find out the perpetrators and bring them to justice.

He added that seven communities in the area have been sacked by the herdsmen and their farms taken over for cattle grazing.

Violence perpetrated by Fulani herdsmen has also led thousands to flee from the largely Christian areas of Kaduna, Benue and Taraba states in Nigeria’s farming belt.
Such attacks have features long familiar to Nigerians: ethnic Fulani cattle herders, largely Muslim, moving in on farmers, largely Christian. The long-running land conflict is frequently framed in economic terms, but it also has distinctive religious contours.

In the state of Benue alone, a study by Premium Times claims at least 1,269 lives have been lost since 2013 in such attacks.

“This is another jihad like the one waged by Boko Haram in the north-east of the country,” according to Rev. Augustine Akpen Leva. “The attackers carry sophisticated weapons, sometimes they even used chemical weapons on our communities. They just come, often overnight when people are sleeping. They attack defenseless people and go away. They clearly have an agenda: to wipe out the Christian presence and take over the land.”

Source: World Watch Monitor

Kidnap in Niger of US missionary a ‘terrible tragedy’


Jeff Woodke is known in Abalak for his devotion to Niger and its nomadic populations. Facebook

The kidnap of a pioneering American missionary in Niger is a “terrible tragedy” for the communities he served for 24 years, according to the local mayor. It has also raised security concerns among the country’s missionary community.

Jeff Woodke, 55, who worked for Jeunesse en Mission Entraide et Developpement (JEMED), a branch of the US-based Youth With a Mission (YWAM), was abducted by unknown assailants late on Friday evening (14 Oct.) from the town of Abalak in northern Niger.

Bilou Mohamed, the mayor of Abalak, told World Watch Monitor the community had “suffered a terrible tragedy” and locals “wept with sorrow, lamenting the loss of a friend” the day after his abduction. He added: “This man has lived among us for years, even in when it has been difficult to accompany vulnerable populations… Everyone knows his goodness.”

According to Niger’s interior minister, Mohamed Bazoum, a group of armed men – believed to be from a radical Islamic group called Mujao – burst into Woodke’s home at around 9pm. After killing two security guards, including a member of the National Guard who was stationed there, the kidnappers took him by force and drove towards eastern Mali, where Mujao has a stronghold.

After Woodke’s abduction, the US embassy in Niamey issued a statement advising U.S. citizens “to take appropriate security precautions and to avoid predictable travel patterns within Niger”.

Jacques Kagninde, who heads the Esprit Bible College in the Niger capital Niamey and has known Woodke for many years, said he was shocked by the kidnapping. “This is the first time a Christian missionary has been targeted,” he said.

Rev. Kagninde said Woodke was “no stranger” to the Tuareg community. “He has lived in the region since 1992 and is perfectly integrated there. He feels at home in Abalak and mixes happily with the local population. He always wears a [Tuareg] turban,” he said.

He added that Woodke speaks the region’s two main languages: Tamasheq, spoken by the Tuareg, and Fula, the language of the Fulani people.

Woodke is known in Abalak for his devotion to Niger and its nomadic populations. He runs several development projects among the Tuareg, focusing on farming, health, literacy, primary school education and improving access to drinking water, amongst other things.

He has spoken internationally on the impact of climate change on nomadic peoples and is a pioneer of “sustainable nomadism” – enabling nomads to maintain their traditional lifestyles in the face of increasingly frequent drought. He is the only American in his team.

Rev. Kagninde added: “Jeff has given everything for the Tuaregs, which raises the question: how did people of malign intent kidnap a man well-known in the community without arousing the suspicion among the local population, especially given that his house is next to that of the mayor of Abalak? The kidnappers must have been outsiders.”


Jeff Woodke runs several development projects among the Tuaregs focusing on farming, health, access to drinking water, etc. Jemed

A ‘devastating’ blow

Martin Brown, a British former missionary to Niger, said Woodke’s kidnapping was a shock to the missionary community in Niger and especially to those who know his family. Brown, who worked in Niger for 20 years, said his daughter had attended the same school as Woodke’s two sons.

“Jeff was very isolated up in Abalak. He was known by everyone around there, and even though he had a bodyguard, he was still an easy target,” said Brown.

Niger has experienced three terrorist attacks in the space of two weeks. One week before Woodke’s abduction, 22 soldiers were killed when armed men entered the country from Mali and attacked a refugee camp at Tazalit. On Monday (17 Oct.), gunmen – also believed to have crossed into Niger from Mali – attempted to lay siege to a high-security prison near Niamey, which is holding Malian jihadists and members of Boko Haram.

Abalak lies 400 miles (635km) north-east of Niamey, in the so-called “red zone” that Western embassies advise expatriates to avoid because of kidnapping threats against their citizens, often for ransom. A porous border separates Abalak from northern Mali, where a number of radical Islamic groups, including the Al-Qaeda-linked Ansar Dine, operate freely.

Brown said the kidnapping raised a fundamental question regarding Western missionary activity.

“After the shock of the first few days, the kidnapping could create a climate of fear and raise questions around placing missionaries in remote areas. In the short term, missionary organisations will be minded to not place their personnel in areas considered dangerous, but to centre their activities around large cities, and towards the centre and the south of the country.

“In the long term, it’s vital that the strategy is redefined, especially in the north, where Al-Qaeda is rampant, and in the south, which is affected by Boko Haram,” he said. “It will be about working out how missions can continue in these areas, without simply withdrawing.

“Any reflection has got to be about a skills transfer – how to form and equip Nigerien Christians for mission.”


Source: World Watch Monitor

Founder of the African Children's Choir, Music For Life and Friends In The West.