TIME Nigeria

Boko Haram Suspected of Kidnapping Another 20 Women

The extremist group reportedly abducted women from a nomadic settlement near Chibok, Nigeria, last week

Members of the Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram are suspected to have kidnapped 20 women near the Nigerian town where nearly 300 schoolgirls were abducted in April.

The Associated Press reports a vigilante-group member said armed men abducted the women by gunpoint on Thursday, also kidnapping three men who made an effort to thwart the attack. The women reportedly lived in a nomadic settlement near the Nigerian town of Chibok.

The extremist group has remained in international headlines since the April abduction of around 275 girls, many of whom remain missing, inspired a global movement to return them entitled #BringbBackOurGirls.

Last week, Boko Haram militants reportedly also killed hundreds in attacks in northeastern Nigeria.

[AP]

TIME Nigeria

‘Bring Back Our Girls’ Protests Banned in Nigerian Capital

NIGERIA-UNREST-POLITICS-KIDNAPPING-ANNIVERSARY
A woman with a sticker on her head bearing the slogan "Bring back our girls" marches for the release of the more than 200 abducted Chibok school girls in Lagos, Nigeria on May 29, 2014. Pius Utomi Ekpei—AFP/Getty Images

Nigerian officials have banned demonstrations around the more than 250 kidnapped schoolgirls, which gained momentum internationally through the use of the #BringBackOurGirls, saying the protests pose a security threat to citizens

Nigerian officials have banned demonstrations about the more than 250 kidnapped schoolgirls, outcry which gained momentum internationally through the use of the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls.

Abuja Police Commissioner Joseph Mbu said the ongoing protests pose a security threat to citizens in the capital city, CNN reports.

Terror group Boko Haram has claimed responsibility in the abduction of around 276 girls from a Chibok boarding school in April. Though some were able to escape, the search for the remaining girls—and the Nigerian government’s lagging response—has sparked both global outcry.

“Information reaching us is that too soon dangerous elements will join the groups under the guise of protest and detonate explosive(s) aimed at embarrassing the government. Accordingly protests on the Chibok Girls is hereby banned with immediate effect,” the commissioner said, CNN reports.

“As the FCT police boss, I cannot fold my hands and watch this lawlessness,” Mbu reportedly said at a Monday news conference.

[CNN]

TIME Africa

Nigeria Bomb Blast Kills at Least 14

The strike targeted a TV-viewing center for soccer matches, and Boko Haram is the prime suspect. Over 500 civilians have died in attacks since the Islamic militant group kidnapped over 200 schoolgirls on April 14

A bomb blast in northeastern Nigeria on Sunday killed at least 14 and wounded 12.

No one has yet claimed responsibility for the attack, which hit a television-viewing center for soccer matches, but the Islamic militant group Boko Haram is a prime suspect, Reuters reports.

The outfit, fighting for an Islamic state in Nigeria’s north, caused global outrage when it kidnapped more than 200 schoolgirls on April 14. Since then, a string of strikes have killed at least 500 civilians.

Last weekend saw a botched attempt by a suicide bomber to strike an open-air viewing of a soccer match in the central city of Jos, which was ravaged by a twin bomb explosion days before, killing 118.

Neighboring country Cameroon claimed on Sunday to have killed some 40 Boko Haram militants in clashes in the country’s far north.

[Reuters]

TIME faith

Christians: It’s Time to Break Our Silence on Faith-Based Terrorism

Six reasons why faith communities should refuse to be enemies.

“Christians in the Middle East and Africa are being slaughtered, tortured, raped, kidnapped, beheaded, and forced to flee the birthplace of Christianity. One would think this horror might be consuming the pulpits and pews of American churches. Not so. The silence has been nearly deafening,” observed Kristen Powers in a Daily Beast article.

The Christian community in northern Nigeria has faced, with growing alarm, a spreading phenomenon: Christian girls under 18 are abducted and forced to convert to Islam by radical religious leaders, sometimes linked to the “Boko haram” group. This has only recently made headlines but the terrorist campaign there against Christians has been going on for years. Churches have been attacked and Christians killed. Last July, more than 40 people, mostly students, were killed in an attack against a college and in another attack, the dormitory of an institute was set on fire while the children were sleeping and those who tried to escape the fire were gunned down.

Yet far too few Christians have spoken out about any of this violence until a Nigeria-based social media campaign — #saveourgirls – recently started making headlines. I admit I have too often been among the silent. Last September, I sat with the world, in front of my television, horrified as Al-Shabaab terrorists slaughtered over 60 Saturday afternoon shoppers in Nairobi’s Westgate Mall, while sparing Muslims through a kind of twisted religious quiz: Who was the prophet’s mother, can you recite a verse from the Qu’ran, can you say the Shahada? Answer correctly, you were set free. If not, you were murdered.

Jews, Hindus, Christians, secular people — to these terrorists, we are “kuffar,” a highly derogatory Arabic term referring to non-Muslims. In the mall that day, the “kuffar” fell victim to a warped “meticulous vetting process” that qualifies some, but not others, as human beings with human rights, including the right to life.

As Christians, we must break our silence, but wise and effective action can be planned and taken only by first asking why – why is the world, and especially the Christian world, so silent?

Let me offer six reasons, and thoughts on actions we can take, speaking as a Christian who cares and is seeking to effectively speak up:

1. Fear of Islamophobia

Many Christians fear that speaking up means adding their voices to the growing wave of Islamophobia in the Christian community. When fellow Christians gin up antagonism towards Muslims and Islam by emphasizing violent acts by extremists, thoughtful and peace-loving Christians – rightly and wisely – don’t want to be part of that. But when we remain silent, we wrongly and unwisely aid and abet extremism in both the Christian and Muslim communities. Quoting Bonhoeffer, “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil.”

Hateful extremists must be exposed — but never used to create guilt by association. American Christians would be rightly appalled if Muslims were to quote crazy Quran-burning pastors from Florida and Kansas to characterize all Christians as hate-mongers. Israeli Jews would be appalled to be defined by the infamous “kick out all Arabs or make them our slaves” quote from extremist Rabbi Meir Kahane. Muslims around the world are equally mortified when horrific statements about killing “first the Saturday people, then the Sunday people” are used to characterize all Muslims.

2. Unintended Consequences

Many of us understand that much anti-Christian violence is retaliation against hawkish American foreign policy which has brought suffering and death to large numbers of innocent Muslim children, women, and men. We know that invasion and occupation, torture, Guantanamo, drone strikes, and more have been identified with “the Christian West” and Christians around the world have suffered as a result.

American Christians must stop supporting foreign policies that purchase American security at the expense of the security of others, including fellow Christians. We must publicly admit to these deadly unintended consequences and instead demand of our leaders a coherent and constructive foreign policy, undergirded by a wiser, faith-inspired vision for the future.

3. Careless Disregard of Palestinian Human Rights

Careless bias against Palestinians has become a kind of pre-requisite in many circles for being considered “pro-Israel.” As a result, many American Christians don’t want to draw attention to the ongoing occupation of Palestine even though it stirs anti-West/anti-Christian fury that endangers Christians across the Middle East. Some may even conclude that this Christian suffering is the price that must be paid to give Israel the support she deserves and needs.

Israel/Palestine solutions will require us to stand strong for Israel’s right to exist in peace and safety, while standing equally strong against the ongoing occupation. We must speak against all actions that dehumanize and oppress Palestinians and endanger Israelis, and seek solutions that are pro-Israeli, pro-Palestinian, pro-peace, and pro-justice.

4. Oil

American Christians – myself included – are part of a global oil-based economy. Like addicts, we depend on repressive regimes for our carbon fix, so we don’t address their repression of religious freedom. We save on gas prices, but at great cost to the moral integrity of our souls.

Our continued addiction to dirty energy results in dirty foreign policy. We need to be more responsible for the real costs of our US energy policy, and become advocates of clean, sustainable energy; and clean, sustainable foreign policy.

5. Naiveté About the Links between Religious Identity and Violence

Many of us have avoided facing the unsettling understanding that religious identity can be turned to violent ends in any religion: Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, atheist. To understand religious violence will require us to understand others’ violence, and our own; then demand that our faith leaders set the example of building strong identities that are benevolent, not hostile, toward others.

Along with decrying violence in the name of religion, we can celebrate the heroic acts of kindness and solidarity of more “normative” people of faith like the Egyptian Christians who’ve protected mosques and the Egyptian Muslims who’ve protected churches on many occasions over the last few years.

6. Helplessness

We don’t know what can be done, so we remain silent.

Each of us can be a pre-emptive peacemaker. We can build relationships — have-a-neighbor-over-to-dinner relationships — with people of other faiths. We, and our national and global religious leaders, must not just solve problems but build inspired friendships.

A colleague recently sent me two photographs. The first is of an official sign warning Israelis not to venture into Palestinian territory. The second sign, placed over the official sign, is homemade by Israeli women activists. “Refuse to be enemies,” it says. These Jewish women have an important message for Christians, a message that loudly echoes the words of a Jewish man who himself lived in deeply conflicted, violent times in which extremists were all-too-ready to shed blood in the name of God or nation.

We Christians cannot remain silent about the horrific violence against Christians around the world. But to respond in ways that intensify fear, hatred and mistrust will never move us beyond global religious hostility. We must be vocal advocates for the rights of all religious minorities — from Texas to Tehran, from Nashville to Nigeria. We can refuse to be silent and we can refuse double standards.

We can refuse to be enemies.

Brian McLaren is an initiator with the Cana Initiative (wwwcanainiative.org) and a participant in FaithSource, a resource for journalists seeking diverse voices of faith on important issues, sponsored by Auburn Seminary. He has written over a dozen books, including Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road.

 

TIME Nigeria

Nigerian Defense Chief: We Know Where the Kidnapped Girls Are

Nigeria Kidnapped Girls Alex Badeh
Nigeria defence chief Air Marshal Alex Badeh, center, speaks during a demonstration calling on the government to rescue the kidnapped schoolgirls on May 26, 2014, in the Nigerian capital, Abuja Gbenga Olamikan—AP

Nigeria's defense chief Alex Badeh says the military knows where the girls are but cannot use force to free them

The Nigerian military has located the schoolgirls who were abducted by Islamist extremists but cannot free them by force, the country’s defense chief said Monday.

Air Marshal Alex Badeh told demonstrators that the government intends to rescue the girls but needs to proceed carefully. “We can’t go and kill our girls in the name of trying to get them back,” he said, cautioning against the repercussions of acting too aggressively, too soon.

Badeh would not disclose the exact location where they believe the girls are being held.

In the past month, the country’s military has come under extreme criticism, both internationally and at home, for failing to find the nearly 300 girls who were abducted from a school six weeks ago by terrorist organization Boko Haram, whose leader recently boasted, “I will sell them in the market.”

President Goodluck Jonathan was forced to accept international help in the search this month after several weeks of making no publicized effort to find the children. He even lied to families and the international community by saying most of the girls had been returned.

International outrage grew as the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls spread on Twitter almost a full two weeks after the abduction. This month, Britain, France, Israel and several other countries have donated experts in surveillance and hostage negotiations to the search. American planes have been flying over the regions seeking out the girls.

[AP]

TIME World

Memorial Day, Remembrance Sunday and Armed Forces Day: How 9 Other Countries Remember Their Fallen Troops

Fields Of Remembrance Poppies Ahead of Sunday's Service
Crosses with Remembrance Poppies, worn during Remembrance Day in Britain. Cate Gillon—Getty Images

As America observes Memorial Day, here’s how other countries around the world honor their fallen.

Americans remember the men and women of its armed forces who have died in service every year on Memorial Day, always the last Monday in May. Heralding the beginning of summer in the U.S., Memorial Day is an official national holiday that has its roots in the memorials for fallen soldiers in after the American Civil War, still the country’s deadliest conflict.

In other countries around the world, Memorial Day-style observances are rooted in an even deadlier fight — The First World War. World War I, which began a hundred years ago and became one of the deadliest conflicts in history, spawned national memorials throughout the British Commonwealth and elsewhere (in the U.S., the end of the war is commemorated with Veterans Day, formerly Armistice Day). In still other countries, a memorial holiday remembers the war dead of more recent conflicts.

Here’s how countries around the world honor their fallen:

Britain

The United Kingdom observes Remembrance Sunday with ceremonies across the country on the Sunday nearest to November 11, the day Germany signed the armistice ending World War I hostilities. Today, the day memorializes fallen British soldiers in all conflicts since the Great War. On November 11 at 11 a.m.—the time of the signing of the armistice—the UK holds a two-minute silence. “Remembrance poppies” are worn and displayed as per a tradition inspired by the Canadian poet John McCrae’s “In Flanders Fields:”

In Flanders’ fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place: and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

South Korea

South Koreans observe Memorial Day on June 6, the same month that the Korean War began, to honor servicemen and civilians who have died for their country. The nation holds a one-minute silence at 10 a.m.

France

Armistice Day in France is solemnly observed on Nov. 11 with ceremonies, special church services and poppy adornments. In recent years, the holiday has come to recognize all of the country’s war dead in addition to the 1.4 million people killed in the First World War.

New Zealand and Australia

Anzac Day on April 25 commemorates New Zealand and Australia’s servicemen and women who have died. The day, which stands for “Australian and New Zealand Army Corps,” falls on the anniversary of the landing at Gallipoli, the first major military action by both forces in the First World War in a campaign that would fuel the building of a national consciousness in both countries.

Turkey

Turkey observes Martyrs’ Day on March 18, the anniversary of a major victory against the Allied Powers during the Gallipoli Campaign. The day is used today to commemorate Turks who have died for the country.

Nigeria

Nigeria formerly observed Armed Forces Remembrance Day on Nov. 11 as a member of the commonwealth. But it has since moved the date to Jan. 15, 1970 to commemorate the end of the country’s civil war.

Italy

Italy observes National Unity and Armed Forces Day on November 4, the date Austria-Hungary surrendered to the Italians in 1918. The day is accompanied by ceremonies commemorating members of the armed forces killed in action.

Canada

Remembrance Day in Canada, a national holiday on Nov. 11, commemorates Canada’s servicemen and women. At 11 a.m., the country holds a two minute silence in memory of those who perished.

TIME Nigeria

Boko Haram Survivor Tells Story on Capitol Hill

Deborah Peter, 15, recounted how the Nigerian Islamist group had butchered her father and brother as Congress mulls how to counter the group that has abducted over 200 schoolgirls

Deborah Peter, a 15 year-old Nigerian, has a horrible story.

On the evening of Dec. 22, 2011, she saw her father, a Christian pastor, shot three times in the chest by three members of the Islamist radical group Boko Haram. While her father lay on the floor of his home, the men debated whether or not they should kill her brother Caleb. As her father breathed his last, they killed Caleb too. The men made the young girl lie between the corpses and she stayed there until the next morning, when a local pastor paid for her to get out of the region. That pastor was killed in 2013 — again, by Boko Haram.

Peter recounted her story before the media on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, as Congress debates how to counter the radical Islamist group behind last month’s kidnapping of over 200 schoolgirls in Chibok, Peter’s home town. She held up a paper sign reading “#BringBackMySisters” for video cameras and photographers. She then attended a House panel committee to discuss the growing threat of Boko Haram, along with Department of Defense and Secretary of State officials summoned as witnesses.

“I decided to tell the world my story when the Chibok girls were taken because everyone needs to know how horrible Boko Haram is,” said Peter in her statement. “They kill innocent people who never hurt them. I want the world to understand what happened to me. I hope the kidnapped Chibok girls will take courage from my story, and know more of what God says, and know what it means to stand strong in the face of bad people.”

After giving her opening statement, Peter was asked to describe how she felt about Boko Haram after all she had been through. “It’s a hard question; I think they’re bad,” she said, before adding “I can’t judge them.”

Later, TIME asked her why. “The Bible said do not judge,” she replied.

TIME Nigeria

Search For Victims Continues After Nigeria Bomb Toll Tops 118

No one has yet claimed responsibility, but the twin explosions bear the hallmarks of militant Islamist group Boko Haram. President Goodluck Jonathan meanwhile faces increased pressure as terror attacks escalate

Rescuers are still digging for victims of the two car bombs that killed at least 118 in the central Nigerian city of Jos on Tuesday.

No group has yet claimed responsibility for the gruesome attack, but President Goodluck Jonathan indicated he blamed the militant Islamists Boko Haram, which has killed more than 1,000 people this year, and which kidnapped more than 250 schoolgirls last month.

Tuesday’s blasts ripped through a crowded business district about half an hour apart, suggesting that they were coordinated to cause as much carnage as possible. Witnesses describe a chaotic scene suffused with the sickening smell of human flesh, with dozens of bodies strewn about, many of them emergency workers who had just arrived in response of the first explosion.

Jos sits on a fault line between Muslims and Christians, nomads and farmers, and has previously erupted in violence, most notably when several churches were bombed on Christmas Day in 2011.

Some Nigerians are blaming the government for not doing enough to prevent the latest attacks from happening.

Mark Lipdo of the Christian charity Stefanos Foundation told the Associated Press that several people had reported their suspicions about the white van that contained the first bomb, since it was parked for hours in the market place. However, authorities apparently took no action. Lipdo also says they ignored a warning issued by a man arrested with explosives strapped to his body on Saturday.

President Jonathan, who is facing increased pressure over the recent escalation of terrorist attacks, called the perpetrators “cruel and evil” and said that “this administration will not be cowed by the atrocities of enemies of human progress and civilization.”

The Jos bombings, and a separate car bomb in northern Kano that killed 24 people on Monday, took place after regional and Western leaders pledged a “total war” on the Boko Haram at a weekend summit in Paris. The latest attacks also coincide with parliament’s approval of an extension of emergency laws in three of the country’s restive north-eastern states for another six months.

TIME Nigeria

Double Car Blasts Kill More than 100 in Central Nigeria

Nigeria Explosions
Smoke rises after a bomb blast at a bus terminal in Jos, Nigeria, Tuesday, May 20, 2014. Stefanos Foundation—AP

Two massive explosions tore through a crowded marketplace and bus station in the central Nigerian city of Jos, killing at least 118 people and raising fears of mounting chaos in the region

Updated 5:30 p.m. ET

Two car bombs exploded near a crowded market and a bus terminal in the central Nigerian city of Jos on Tuesday, killing at least 118 people according to officials, the Associated Press reports.

No group has claimed responsibility, the BBC reports, though suspicions quickly turned on the militant Islamist group Boko Haram, which has previously targeted the city in an extended campaign of bombings, shootings and abductions, including the April kidnapping of more than 250 schoolgirls.

The bomb blasts could be heard from miles away, AP reports, and images uploaded to Twitter showed plumes of black smoke rising above the city. Witnesses told the BBC that they saw bodies outside of the city hospital that were charred beyond recognition.

Jos, a city of half a million people some 300 miles northeast of the nation’s capital, sits on a sectarian fault line that has previously erupted into violent land disputes between Muslims and Christians, nomads and farmers.

The attack coincides with a parliamentary vote on Tuesday to extend a declared state of emergency in three north-eastern states, Adamawa, Borno and Yobe, the BBC reports. The states comprise strongholds of Boko Haram, in which the government has attempted to find the abducted schoolgirls.

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