Second church in central Nigerian city bombed in two weeks *Crackdown on church leaders and Christian activists in Cuba

March 20, 2012 by  
Filed under Cuba, newsletter-asia, Nigeria, Persecution, World

Regina David DungNigeria, March 15, 2012: A second church in the central Nigerian city of Jos has been hit in a suicide bombing in the space of two weeks; at least ten people were killed in the blast and violent aftermath.

The attack at St Finbarr’s Church happened on Sunday (11 March) at around 10.40am, ten minutes into the second service of the morning. It comes just two weeks after four people were killed in a suicide bombing at the Church of Christ (COCIN) headquarters in Jos, Plateau State, on Sunday 26 February.

The bomb, which was in a car, was detonated just outside the gate of St Finbarr’s after the vehicle was prevented from driving into the church premises. The blast shook the building and caused the ceiling to fall in and the glass to shatter. Three women, one of whom was pregnant, were among those killed. Surrounding buildings were also damaged.

The Anglican Archbishop of Jos, the Rt Rev Benjamin Kwashi, said:

It is worrying that two bombs have gone off within the space of two weeks, and many are fearing a third. Most importantly, a palpable terror is being unleashed on Christians so that Sunday is transformed from a day of worship into a day of fear. We are appealing to the church worldwide to pray without ceasing, and to members of the international community to speak up and take action on our behalf so that we are able to enjoy full religious freedom and worship God freely and without fear.

Two men, one dressed in female clothing, approached the gate of St Finbarr’s in a car. A guard at the gate said he needed to check inside the vehicle’s boot, but they refused to open it and detonated the explosives there.

In the aftermath of the blast, there were clashes involving the security forces and youths, which left at least three more people dead.

And late on Sunday, gunmen ambushed Christians in Chugwi village, south of Jos, killing three and injuring another three. The victims included two brothers, aged 25 and 30. The attackers took their victims’ mobile phones and called the deceased’s relatives to claim responsibility for the murders.

Three other people at the nearby hamlet of Dogo Garba were injured by the same gunmen. The shootings are not thought to be linked to the church blast.

Plateau State is in Nigeria’s Middle Belt, between the Muslim-majority North and mainly Christian South. Christians and churches have frequently come under attack in Jos, the state capital.

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan condemned Sunday’s bombing and restated his government’s commitment “to end the spate of mindless attacks and killings”. He claimed that the authorities were “winning the war against the terrorists” but the unrelenting campaign of violence by militant Islamist group Boko Haram and the apparent inability of the security forces to prevent their attacks suggest otherwise.

Boko Haram has not claimed responsibility for this latest church bombing, but it comes just a week after a spokesman for the group declared “war” on Christians in Nigeria and said that they were planning coordinated attacks to “eradicate Christians from certain parts of the country”.

– barnabas team

Crackdown on church leaders and Christian activists in Cuba


San Lazaro ChurchCuba, March 14, 2012: Pastors have been arrested, beaten, fined and threatened, and Christian human rights’ activists physically blocked from attending church, in a crackdown by the Cuban authorities.

One church leader, Reutilio Columbie (41), from Moa, suffered brain damage in a brutal assault. It is thought that he was targeted because he challenged the confiscation by the authorities of a vehicle the church had bought five years ago to transport its members.

His family started receiving threatening phone calls after Reutilio initiated a complaints procedure. Then, when he left his home on 6 February with the intention of filing the papers, he was attacked; Reutilio was found unconscious on the street a few hours later; the documents were missing. He cannot remember anything about the incident and is still struggling with speech and memory. 

In another incident, on 25 February, four church leaders were detained in Bayamo, Granma Province, while they were sharing the Gospel with people at the local bus station. State security agents beat one of them, Juan Moreno, so severely that he required hospital treatment. The other three were released after being held for a few hours.

Elsewhere, in Alamar, Havana, a pastor has been repeatedly fined huge sums since December because his church building is not registered. He and his family are now in great financial difficulty and facing the prospect of the church being forcibly closed.

Another church leader in Havana, Francisco Rodriguez, has faced harassment and threats of physical violence from the authorities in recent weeks. It is thought that the church’s outreach to people on the margins of society, including the homeless and juvenile delinquents, has brought him to the attention of the authorities.

Activists targeted
The authorities have also been clamping down on Christian human rights’ activists. On 4 March, Caridad Caballero Batista and her husband Esteban Sade Suarez were detained by police while on their way to church. They were mistreated and held in a poorly ventilated mosquito-infested cell for three hours.

The couple, along with their 19-year-old son, have been blocked from attending Christian activities since the beginning of the year. Every Sunday, their home has been surrounded by police and state security agents to stop them from going to church. At other times, they have been followed to Christian meetings and prevented physically, sometimes violently, from attending.

Other Christian human rights’ activists have also been arrested or blocked from attending church services.

Cuba’s Marxist authorities try to limit the churches’ growth and activities as much as possible.

In a film released on the internet last year, the top Cuban official in charge of religious affairs, Caridad Diego Bello said, regarding the government’s crackdown on one Christian group:

We are taking measures and will continue to take measures, the hands of our authorities will not waver.

Despite the authorities’ best efforts, the church in Cuba is growing. Some new Christian groups are meeting in overcrowded houses because they are barred from building new churches.

The authorities subject churches to intimidation and restrictions, while church leaders have been imprisoned in dreadful conditions, sometimes enduring periods of solitary confinement.

– barnabas team

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