Church Confirms Release of Pastor Threatened With Execution

By Morning Star News -March 19, 2021


JOSNigeria (Morning Star News) – Church leaders have confirmed reports that Islamic terrorists who threatened to execute a pastor they abducted in northeast Nigeria freed him on Wednesday (March 3).

The president of the Church of Brethren in Nigeria (Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria, or EYN), Joel S. Billi, told church leaders on Thursday (March 4) that he had spoken to Pastor Bulus Yakura (also transliterated as Pastor Bulus Yikura ) after he was freed, according to a notice posted on Friday (March 5) on the website of the Church of the Brethren’s U.S. headquarters by Zakariya Musa, head of EYN Media.

“Speaking to Yakura over the telephone today was heart-touching,” Billi said, adding that Pastor Yakura told him, “I am fine, thank you for your prayers and concern,” according to Musa.

Nigerian newspaper the Premium Times had reported that Pastor Yakura, an EYN pastor abducted from Pemi village near Chibok, Borno state in an Islamic terrorist attack on Christmas Eve, was freed after Christians met ransom demands.

Citing security sources, the newspaper reported that Islamic insurgent group Boko Haram freed Pastor Yakura on Wednesday evening (March 3). A Premium Times correspondent in the Borno state capital, Maiduguri, reported sighting Pastor Yakura at about 6:15 p.m. as he was taken to the office of Nigeria’s intelligence agency, the Department of State Services (DSS).

The Abubakar Shekau-led faction of Boko Haram, which in 2015 formally aligned with the Islamic State and changed its name to Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), released a video on Feb. 25 in which the pastor said he would be executed by March 3 unless government and church officials met the kidnappers’ demands.

After watching the video in which the pastor had announced the deadline for his execution, his wife had fallen ill and his children refused to go to school, Musa reported.

An EYN church member, Kwajaffa Balamusa, also confirmed the release of Pastor Yakura in a text message to Morning Star News on Sunday (March 7), accompanied by a photo of him and the pastor after his release.

“Thank God, for our EYN pastor is alive,” Balamusa said.

The Premium Times reported that on Wednesday (March 3), when asked to speak about his freedom, Pastor Yakura kept repeating, “I thank God, I thank God.”

The Islamic State recognizes the ISWAP faction that broke away from Shekau in 2016 as its cell in the region, according to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), and many Nigerians still refer to the Shekau-led faction of ISWAP by its original name, Boko Haram.

Efforts by the EYN and Pastor Yakura’s family resulted in his release, according to the newspaper.

Premium Times gathered from security sources that family members and the EYN church had been negotiating the release of the abducted pastor since last week,” the newspaper reported on Wednesday (March 3).

Prior to his release, Nigerian newspaper Sahara Reporters had reported that the Christian community in Borno state’s Chibok County had contributed money for ransom in order to secure the pastor’s release.

Pattern of Executions

In a video released on July 22, Islamic extremists thought to be members of ISWAP executed five Nigerian men in Borno state, with one executioner saying it was a warning to “all those being used by infidels to convert Muslims to Christianity.”

On Jan. 20, 2020, Islamic terrorists executed the Rev. Lawan Andimi, district chairman of the EYN in Michika County, Adamawa state, also in northeast Nigeria.

A video released in January 2020 shows ISWAP terrorists executing Christian university student Ropvil Daciya Dalep, a member of the Church of Christ in Nations who was kidnapped on the Damaturu-Maiduguri Highway while returning to studies in Maiduguri, Borno state.

Nigeria was the country with the most Christians killed for their faith last year (November 2019-October 2020), at 3,530, up from 1,350 in 2019, according to Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2021 World Watch List. In overall violence, Nigeria was second only to Pakistan, and it trailed only China in the number of churches attacked or closed, 270, according to the list.

Nigeria led the world in number of kidnapped Christians last year with 990, according to the WWL report. In the 2021 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian, Nigeria broke into the top 10 for the first time, jumping to No. 9 from No. 12 the previous year.

The U.S. State Department on Dec. 7 added Nigeria to its list of Countries of Particular Concern for engaging in or tolerating “systematic, ongoing, egregious violations of religious freedom.” Nigeria joined Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan on the list.

In a more recent category of non-state actors, the State Department also designated ISWAP, Boko Haram, Al-Shabaab, Al-Qaeda, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, the Houthis, ISIS, ISIS-Greater Sahara, Jamaat Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin, and the Taliban as “Entities of Particular Concern.”

On Dec. 10 the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda, issued a statement calling for investigation into crimes against humanity in Nigeria.

A Faulty Focus


Human beings are good at putting two and two together to draw intellectual, logical and systematic conclusions. But when it comes to spiritual conclusions, we excel at missing the mark. Still, we tend to make spiritual conclusions quicker than the speed of light – to our detriment. Because our spiritual conclusions tend to be erroneous, they come appended with Jesus’s words: ‘If you had known what these words mean’ (Matthew 12:7), you are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God’ (22:v29), and ‘Listen and understand’(15:v10).

Although many listen, they do not understand because spiritual things are ‘spiritually discerned’ (1 Corinthians 2:14). When Jesus was saying profound things about the Kingdom of God and Satan’s kingdom, many drew conclusions from a humanistic perspective. They used their intellect and logic which brought about intellectual and logical conclusions, and so missed the point. This happened, ‘as Jesus was saying these things, a woman in the crowd called out, ‘Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you.’ (Luke 11:27).

The woman shifted her focus from Jesus to His ‘mother’. It was a faulty focus. Unfortunately, this focus has been carried on decades later because some take their petitions through Jesus’s ‘mother’ crying out, ‘Hail Mary!’. Revisiting the genealogical records of Jesus, only two mothers are mentioned; ‘Salmon the father of Obed, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed whose mother was Ruth’ (Matthew 1:5). When it comes to Jesus no mother is mentioned, it is written, ‘Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ’ (v16).

Mary was just a vessel whom God used to fulfil the prophesy of long ago; ‘Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel’ (Isaiah 7:14). Unfortunately, many take sign, symbols, and instruments which God uses, to be sacred – shifting their focus from the Holiness of God. Mary herself exclaims, ‘the Mighty One has done great things to me– holy is his name’ (Luke 1:49).

Mary’s focus was on the spiritual for she knew the Scriptures. She knew that the Child she was about to bring forth would bring Salvation to all mankind, including herself no wonder she says, ‘the Mighty One has done great things to me’. Mary only saw herself as a servant and declares that the Lord, ‘has been mindful of the humble state of his servant’ (v48). And so if the woman in the crowd had a spiritual focus, she would have known that Jesus had no mother or father because there is no beginning or end to Him. He is the ‘Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End’ (Revelation 21:6).

When the woman in the crowd shifted the focus from Jesus to His ‘mother’ and called her blessed, Jesus replied, ‘Blessed rather are those who hear the Word of God and obey it’ (Luke 11:28). This response matches another instance when someone told Jesus that His ‘mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you’ (Matthew 12:47), Jesus changed their earthly focus by asking, ‘Who is my mother and who are my brothers?’ (v48). He then proceeds to give a spiritual perspective, ‘For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother’ (v50).

When one holds a faulty focus and exalts other people and things other than God, they follow in the footsteps of Satan whom Jesus rebukes, ‘Get behind me Satan! You are a stumbling-block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men’ (16:v23). When prosperity and success was the portion of the King of Tyre, his focus shifted to himself. God says to him, ‘In the pride of your heart you say, ‘I am a god; I sit on the throne of a god in the heart of the seas’ (Ezekiel 28:2). Seeing his faulty focus, God quickly reminds him, ‘But you are a man and not a godthough you think you are as wise as a god’ (v2).

Not only does God remind those with a faulty focus in words, but He does so in deed to display His might, and so to the King of Tyre, He says, ’Because you think you are wise, as wise as god, I am going to bring foreigners against you, the most ruthless of nations; they will draw their swords against your beauty and wisdom and pierce your shining splendor . . . Will you then say, ‘I am god’ in the presence of those who kill you? You will be but a man, not a god in the hands of those who slay you’ (v6-7,9).

Like the King of Tyre, Nebuchadnezzar was ‘contented and prosperous’ (Daniel 4:4) because he had ‘become great and strong; your greatness has grown until it reaches the sky, and your dominion extends to distant parts of the earth’ (v22). Nebuchadnezzar then held a faulty focus and praised himself saying, ‘Is not this great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?’ (v30). Before he could even finish speaking, and ‘the words were still on his lips’ (v31), God was about to shift his focus and tells him, ‘You will be driven away from people, and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like cattle.

Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes’ (v33). After seven years, Nebuchadnezzar then shifted his focus and says ‘I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes towards heaven and my sanity was restored’ (v34). Without a faulty focus, he says, ‘Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble’ (v37).

When we hold a faulty focus, we are to know that the devil is at work. When he approached Eve in the garden, he urged her to eat the forbidden fruit saying, ‘For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil’ (Genesis 3:5). Having no new tricks under his sleeve to deceive men, the devil still promises men ‘enlightenment’ for he ‘masquerades as an angel of light’ (2 Corinthians 11:14). He himself was an angel of God stationed in ‘Eden, the garden of God’ (Ezekiel 28:14) and it is said of him, ‘You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created till wickedness was found you’ (v15). God says that his ‘heart became proud on account of your beauty and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendour’ (v17).

To date, Satan uses his corrupted wisdom to make as many people as himself. He deceives men by convincing them that they are gods. He convinces them to eat the forbidden fruit by engaging in acts to make them reach a state of consciousness, a state of awakening- until they become gods. He labels his deceptions with terms such as ‘New Age’ or ‘Spirituality’, and those who don’t know the Scriptures and the power of God fall victim to the devil’s schemes. They are blinded by the god of this word who deals in lies and misquotes Scripture, bringing them out of context.

It is only through Jesus Christ that we can radiate the image of God, be made like God. Those who use the devil’s devices and think they are god by their own merit or attainments, a day is coming when God will shift their faulty focus and tells them like to Sennacherib, the King of Assyria, ‘But I know where you stay and when you come and go and how you rage against me. Because you rage against me and because your insolence has reached my ears, I will put my hook in your nose and my bit in your mouth, and I will make you return by the way you came’ (Isaiah 37:28-29).

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things’ ~ Colossians 3:1-2