Pastor, Four Others Killed In Burkina Faso Church Attack

Burkina Faso on the map.


Five people including a pastor died in an attack on a church in Burkina Faso, security and local sources said Monday in a country which has seen a surge in killings blamed on jihadists.

Sunday’s assault in the small northern town of Silgadji was the first on a church in the impoverished west African nation.

READ ALSO: Four Dead In Suspected Boko Haram Attack In Cameroon

“Unidentified armed individuals have attacked the Protestant church in Silgadji killing four members of the congregation and the pastor. At least two other people are missing,” a security source told AFP.


13 Killed As Church Roof Collapses In South Africa

Mob Burns Nigerian To Death In South Africa


The roof of a church collapsed during mass near the eastern South African city of Durban, killing 13 people and injuring at least 16, officials said Friday.

The accident happened on Thursday evening in the town of Dlangubo, north of Durban, after heavy rains.

READ ALSO: Malian PM Maiga Resigns After Ogossagou Violence

“The roof of the building collapsed because of heavy rains last night … at this point we have a total of 13 fatalities,” said Lennox Mabaso, spokesman for the provincial traditional affairs department.

“Such a tragedy. 13 fatalities 16 people treated by paramedics,” tweeted Robert McKenzie, spokesman for Kwa-Zulu Natal province’s emergency services.


Pope Francis Condemns Bombing Of Philippine Church

Pope Francis


Pope Francis strongly condemned Sunday’s bombing of a Catholic church that killed at least 18 people on the southern Philippine island of Jolo.

“I reiterate my strongest reprobation for this episode of violence who is once again plunging the Christian community into mourning,” Francis said during an Angelus message as he wound up World Youth Day celebrations in Panama.


Philippines Vows To Crush ‘terrorists’ After Church Bombs Kill 20


The Philippines vowed to destroy those behind twin bombings that killed 20 people during a Sunday church service in the country’s restive south, six days after a referendum on autonomy for the mainly Muslim region returned an overwhelming “yes” vote.

The attack wounded 81 and was one of the deadliest in recent years in a region long plagued by instability. It came amid hope and excitement about the ratification of a devolution plan that aims to bring development, jobs and peace to one of Asia’s poorest and most volatile places.

READ ALSO: One Killed As Protesters Storm Turkish Military Camp In North Iraq

The first explosion went off inside the cathedral on Jolo island, in Sulu province, and was followed by a second blast outside, which was detonated as security forces raced to the scene, officials said.

“The enemies of the state have boldly challenged the capability of the government to secure the safety of the citizenry in that region,” said Salvador Panelo, spokesman of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.

“The armed forces of the Philippines will rise to the challenge and crush these godless criminals.”


There was no immediate claim of responsibility but police suspect the bombings were the work of Abu Sayyaf, a militant group that has pledged allegiance to Islamic State and is notorious for its bombings and brutality.

“They want to show force and sow chaos,” national police chief Oscar Albayalde told DZMM radio, suggesting Abu Sayyaf was the prime suspect.

Jolo is a stronghold of the group, which runs a lucrative piracy and kidnapping operation that successive governments have failed to break up. The group, which operates in the waters and islands of western Mindanao, has beheaded numerous foreign captives when ransom demands were not met.

Pictures distributed by the military of the inside of the Jolo church showed several rows of wooden pews destroyed, with debris strewn across a blackened floor.


Church Attacked In Ghana Over Pastor’s Doom Prophesy

Ghana Flag


Angry young Muslims attacked a charismatic church in Ghana’s capital Accra after its pastor predicted the country’s chief imam would die this year, religious leaders said on Friday.

Wielding clubs and machetes, they attacked a security guard at the entrance to the Glorious Word and Power Ministry church then began hurling stones at its windows and smashing up the musical instruments and furniture inside.

The incident came after its celebrity pastor, Reverend Isaac Owusu-Bempah, prophesied the deaths of Muslim spiritual leader Sheikh Osman Nuhu Sharubutu and Ghana’s Muslim vice president, Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, in a New Year’s Eve sermon.

Sheikh Sharubutu condemned the violence and called for calm.

“Ghana has gained respect in the eyes of the world because of the peaceful co-existence between Christians and Muslims. We’re all brothers and nothing must divide us,” Sheikh Sharubutu told AFP at his residence in Accra.

“We must all restrain ourselves and pray for life. Ghana is all we have. Religion is supposed to unite us and not divide us,” he said, speaking through an interpreter.

The Ghana Pentecostal and Charismatic Council, which is the umbrella body supervising charismatic churches, has raised red flags over the prophecy.

“It is the Council’s considered opinion that prophecies that concern individuals must be given to such individuals personally and privately… in order not to create fear and panic in the entire nation,” said council president Reverend Paul Frimpong-Manso in a statement.

“It must be noted that whatever affects national figures, such as those whose deaths have been predicted has the potential to affect the stability of the entire nation,” he added, saying that all member churches would rally against the prophecy.

“We call upon our over 200 member churches to fast and pray to avert any such disaster.”

More than 70 percent of the population in the West African country identify as Christian, while fewer than 20 percent identify themselves as Muslims, according to the last census in 2010.


Church Will ‘Never Again’ Ignore Abuse Accusations – Pope

File photo of Pope Francis 

The Catholic Church will never again treat abuse allegations without “seriousness and promptness”, Pope Francis told the Church’s governing body on Friday.

“The Church will never seek to hush up or not take seriously any case,” the pope said in his annual address to the Roman Curia at the Vatican.

“Let it be clear that before these abominations the Church will spare no effort to do all that is necessary to bring to justice whosoever has committed such crimes,” the pope said.

“It is undeniable that some in the past, out of irresponsibility, disbelief, lack of training, inexperience, or spiritual and human short-sightedness, treated many cases without the seriousness and promptness that was due.

“That must never happen again. This is the choice and the decision of the whole Church.”


China Charges Church $170,000 After Eviction


Beijing authorities who shut down a Christian church after its pastor criticised new curbs on religion have now ordered it to pay 1.2 million yuan ($170,000) in back rent and removal costs.

The Zion Church had been one of China’s biggest unofficial Protestant churches until it was suddenly shut down earlier this month amid greater pressure on religion in the country.

In a list of expenses seen by AFP, the Beijing municipal authority said Jianweitang — the holding company of Zion Church — owes them some 800,000 yuan in back rent.

Other items include: 148,000 yuan for overstaying; 114,000 yuan in moving fees, which included 66 vehicles, 18 people and an additional fee to move six pianos; 8,000 yuan in packing fees; 90,000 yuan for three months of storage; 3,600 yuan for two days of video recording; and 55,000 yuan in overtime pay for 55 “property workers”.

Zion’s founding pastor Jin Mingri confirmed they had been served the notice but said it was “impossible” for them to pay up.

“Not only did they not negotiate with us before moving our things, but there’s also no reason in asking us to pay this exorbitant moving cost,” Jin told AFP on Wednesday.

“We cannot swallow this!”

Zion, housed on the third floor of a nondescript commercial building in a northern suburb, had up to 1,600 people attending its services each weekend.

But on September 9 some 70 officers stormed into Zion’s premises and ordered everyone out, tearing down signs and the church’s logo.

The local civil affairs bureau said the church was unregistered and its activities were unauthorised.

The building was subsequently kept under heavy security and those without business in the area were barred from entering the compound.

The church’s troubles started in February this year as tighter regulations on religious groups kicked in — the authorities had asked for CCTV cameras to be installed in the church but Jin refused.

Jin was also among some 200 pastors from underground churches who put their names to a petition complaining of “assault and obstruction” by the government — including the tearing down of crosses — since the regulations came into effect.

China’s top leaders have recently called for the “Sinicisation” of religious practice — bringing it in line with “traditional” Chinese values and culture. The call has sparked concern among rights groups.

Christians in the country are split between unofficial “house” or “underground” churches like Zion and state-sanctioned churches where Communist Party songs also feature in the order of service.

The church controversy comes as Beijing and the Vatican signed a historic accord allowing the Pope to have the final say in naming bishops in the country.

China’s 12 million Catholics are divided between a government-run association whose clergy are chosen by the Communist Party and an “underground” church loyal to the Vatican.


China Shuts Down Prominent Christian Church


Beijing officials have shut down one of China’s largest “underground” Protestant churches for operating without a licence, the Communist government’s latest move to ramp up control over religious worship.

Around 70 officials stormed into the Zion Church — housed on the third floor of a nondescript office building in the north of the capital — after its Sunday afternoon service said church pastor Jin Mingri.

“They chased everyone out and sealed off the place, even tearing down our signage on the wall,” Jin told AFP on Monday.

“All our things have been confiscated and we have not been allowed to re-enter the building.”

Local authorities said the church and its affiliates have been banned.

“After an investigation, (we found) the ‘Zion Church in Beijing’ was not registered and carried out activities in the name of social organisations without authorisation,” the Chaoyang district civil affairs bureau said in a statement.

On Monday, at least a dozen marked police vehicles and scores of officers both in uniform and plainclothes guarded the building where the congregation held its services.

AFP journalists were barred from entering the building. The officers said the third floor was sealed off.

 Underground church 

China‘s officially atheist government is wary of any organised movements outside its own control, including religious ones, and analysts say oversight of such groups has tightened under President Xi Jinping.

The country’s Christians are split between those who attend unofficial “house” or “underground” churches and those who go to government-sanctioned places of worship.

“Under Xi, the government has shifted its approach from allowing churches like Zion to operate as long as they don’t get political to now seeking to actively control them or shut them down,” said Brent Fulton, founder of the ChinaSource website and author of “China‘s Urban Christians”.

Fulton said Jin was probably targeted after he rejected a request by authorities in April to install CCTVs in the sanctuary.

He was among some 200 pastors from underground churches who put their name to a petition complaining of “assault and obstruction” by the government — including the tearing down of crosses — since new religious regulations came into effect in February.

Zion was one of the largest “house” churches in Beijing, with up to 1,500 people attending its five weekly services.

“I believe the government will continue to go after high profile unregistered churches… particularly those whose pastors signed the open letter, in order to send a strong signal to other churches,” Fulton said, adding that many churches might stop large services and instead have smaller group meetings in homes.

The state-linked China Christian Council estimates the country has around 20 million Christians  — excluding Catholics — in official churches supervised by the authorities.

But the true number of worshippers could be higher, at least 40 million to 60 million, according to some estimates.

China‘s roughly 12 million Catholics are divided between a government-run association, whose clergy are chosen by the atheist Communist Party, and an unofficial underground church loyal to the Vatican.

 ‘Sinicization’ of religion 

China‘s top leaders have recently called for the “Sinicization” of religious practice — bringing it in line with “traditional” Chinese values and culture — sparking concern among rights groups.

The measures increased state supervision of religion in a bid to “block extremism”, and in areas with significant Muslim populations, authorities have removed Islamic symbols, such as crescents, from public spaces.

In the far western region of Xinjiang, Uighurs and other Turkic Muslim minorities are harshly punished for violating regulations banning beards and burqas, and even for the possession of unauthorised Korans.

Up to a million minorities are believed to be held in extrajudicial re-education camps in Xinjiang, rights groups say.

“These efforts… have effectively outlawed Islam in the region,” said Maya Wang, senior China researcher for Human Rights Watch.

She added that Christians in Zhejiang and Henan have been suppressed, while Hui Muslims in northern Ningxia region have also been put under increased scrutiny.

Asked what he would do going forward, Jin said they would return to the church’s location this weekend.

“Longbaochen is our home… even if we can’t enter we will go there,” he said.

“They can stop us from holding services, but they cannot stop us from praying.”


If We Obey God, Our Nation Will Change – Osinbajo

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo while addressing the congregation during a special Sunday Service at the Commonwealth of Zion Assembly in Abuja on Sunday, May 20.


Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has emphasised the importance of obedience to God’s word and instruction noting that they are essential for successful nation-building.

According to him, the church has its role to play in nation building. Creativity, innovation and hard work, according to him are also vital instruments which the church needs to focus on to move the nation forward.

He made this remark during a special Sunday Service at the Commonwealth of Zion Assembly in Abuja.

“It is the church that transforms everywhere. That creativity that God commanded us to do everywhere is what will change our nation. Our creativity, innovation and hard work, and this is a command. So if we obey God, our nation will change.

“There are many countries all over the world with huge resources and many other countries that have no resources. It is creativity that makes the difference,” he said.

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Professor Osinbajo also asked the church to continue to emphasise the virtues of hard work and diligence particularly at a time when young Nigerians need guidance on understanding the meaning of true success.

“Sometimes when we hear what is being preached in churches it’s almost as if life is to be lived by miracles and that people don’t really need to put in any work.

“The reality is that true success is line by line, precept by precept, building block upon building block, hard work innovation, character, that’s the measure of true success and somebody has to teach that because that is what the church has always been known for.”

Film Shows ‘Fearless’ Pope Taking On Church

German director Wim Wenders arrives on May 13, 2018 for the screening of his film “Pope Francis – A Man of His Word” at the 71st edition of the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, southern France.


There is a killer moment in the new film “Pope Francis — A Man of His Word” when you realise what he is up against.

The Argentine is dressing down the Cardinals and bejewelled princes of the Curia who run the Catholic Church, lacerating them for their greed, back-stabbing and lust for power.

The scandal-hit, Italian-dominated body is full of people leading immoral double lives who “possess a heart of stone and a stiff neck”, he tells them in German director Wim Wenders’ remarkable insight into the leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics.

“Pay a visit to the cemeteries” and look at those “who thought they were immortal, immune and indispensable,” Francis urges them in the feature, which premiered late Sunday at the Cannes film festival.

“You see the sharp faces of some of these cardinals who are rich and ambitious,” said Wenders, who interviewed the reforming pontiff over several months for the portrait.

“But you can also see other archbishops thinking, ‘Yes, this is why we elected you.’ As Francis said, you cannot combat the diseases of the world without examining yourself first.”

The picture that emerges of Francis from Wenders’ unprecedented access is of a man determined to radically transform the vast wealthy institution into “a poor church for poor people”.

And Wenders, the maker of such classics as “Wings of Desire”, “Paris, Texas” and “The Buena Vista Social Club”, believes this pontiff has the steeliness to do it.

Enemies digging in 

Many in the Curia “think he is going too fast and too far,” according to Wenders, and have been digging in with traditionalists to resist him.

“But I think the opposite,” said the filmmaker. “I think Francis is stepping on the brakes in order to take them all along.

“Yet also he is fearless. He knows what has to be done and he wants to push it as far as he can knowing that he is not young anymore.”

For Wenders, a lapsed Catholic who rediscovered his faith in a “friendly God” after the death of his doctor father, the 81-year-old is a revolutionary.

“When you look him in the eye you see this is a very loving man who really likes people. He is as honest as a man can be and you see the courage in his eyes.

“His message — that we are equal and we have to treat each other as equals — is why people say he is a communist. We cannot leave people behind in the dust. It is a tough message and he doesn’t hesitate with it.”

Francis is a radical just like the medieval saint from whom he took his name, Wenders argued, “who like him wanted to go back to early Christianity… when the church was an organisation of poor people.”

 Call from the Vatican 

“St Francis of Assisi was also the first ecologist,” said Wenders, who was “amazed” by the depth of the pope’s understanding of climate change and his warning that the global “mania for growth” is threatening mankind.

“That growth is coming at the expense of the poor majority… who are suffering first and worst from climate change,” said Wenders.

The director said the Vatican contacted him out of the blue asking whether he would be interested in talking to the pope.

“I was given carte blanche,” he told AFP, and access to the Vatican’s video archives. “There was no interference whatsoever,” he insisted, despite the film being co-produced by Vatican television.

Wenders said he was also touched by the pope’s deep tolerance of other religions and lifestyles.

“He says don’t try to convert anybody, just try to convince them to be of goodwill and to accept each other. His firm belief is there is no difference between people. That is revolutionary — communists don’t have that message.”

But despite trying to lead by example by living modestly, the pope knows his power is limited. “All he has are his words,” Wenders said.

“Each time he left us after the shoot, he would look into our eyes and ask each of us, ‘Please pray for me.’

“There are a lot of people praying for him, praying that he can do it,” Wenders said.


Lightning Strikes, Kills 16 In Rwanda Church

Lightning Strikes, Kills 16 In Rwanda Church
Photo: Wikimedia Commons


At least 16 people were killed and dozens more injured after lightning struck a Seventh-Day Adventist church in Rwanda, a local official said Sunday.

Fourteen victims were killed on the spot as lightning hit the church in the Nyaruguru district in the Southern Province on Saturday, local mayor Habitegeko Francois told AFP over the phone.

Two others died later from their injuries, he said.

He added that 140 people involved in the incident had been rushed to hospital and district health centres, but that many had already been discharged.

“Doctors say that only three of them are in critical condition but they are getting better,” he said.

According to the mayor, a similar accident took place on Friday when lightning struck a group of 18 students, killing one of them.


Crowd Ransacks Church In Egypt

Egypt Coptic Pope

Hundreds of Egyptians ransacked a church south of Cairo and called for it to be demolished, the region’s diocese said.

The attack on the church in Atfeh, 100 kilometres (60 miles) from the capital, took place on Friday after weekly Muslim prayers, the diocese said on its Facebook page.

Several churches, especially ones that have yet to be licenced by the government, have come under attack by local Muslims in the conservative south of the country.

The diocese said the Prince Tawadros church had been used for almost 15 years and had applied for a licence under a law passed last year meant to ease permits for new churches.

Hundreds of people massed in front of the building, chanting “hostile” slogans and calling for the church to be demolished, it said.

“They stormed the place and destroyed what was inside it, after assaulting the Christians there,” the diocese said.

Egypt’s Coptic Christians comprise up to 10 percent of the country’s 93 million people and are the Middle East’s largest religious minority.

They have come under sectarian attacks and been targeted by jihadists who have killed more than 100 people in church bombings and shootings since last December.