‘Lord God, Please Protect Us:’ Afghan Christians Ask for Prayers Amid Persecution from the Taliban

Milton Quintanilla | Friday, October 1, 2021

Afghanistan Flag, A watchdog group warns that persecution of Christians is 'set to rise' in Afghanistan

After the Taliban surrendered control over Afghanistan last month, many Afghan Christians have gone into hiding in order to avoid persecution and death from the Islamic regime.

Release International, an international organization which monitors and reports on Christians across the world, notes that there are less than 10,000 Christians in the country as many have fled into more remote areas to stay out of sight from the Taliban.

“We’re hearing that Christians are trapped in Afghanistan, we don’t know how many, it was a small church to begin with,” Andrew Boyd of Release International told Premier Christian News. “Quite a few have left while they could. But there are others who are trapped, they can’t get out.”

While the Taliban have control over the airfields and the country’s borders, Boyd says that some Christians have dispersed from Afghanistan into nearby countries such as Pakistan and Iran.

“There is a lot of fear. But we understand that some of the Christians have left the largest cities and have gone into more rural areas,” he said. “Remember, Afghanistan is very mountainous country. So this is an underground church. It always was. They’re used to that. But of course, this is a time of great uncertainty for them. They need our prayers, and they need our support.”

Release International also expressed concern of “false reporting” being portrayed as persecution from the Taliban, such as images of a protest in Colombia and ISIS atrocities in Iran. 

“Understandably, there is a great deal of fear and rumor,” said Release International CEO, Paul Robinson. “This is why we talk to partners who are working directly with the underground church.”

SAT-7 Pars, which broadcasts programs via satellite TV into Afghanistan, told Release International that some Afghan Christians are asking for prayers amid death threats.

“SAT-7 is hearing directly from its audience about what is happening in that country,” Robinson explains.

For instance, one caller sent in a prayer request saying, “”Oh Lord God, please protect us, because we are facing hell.”

“My family and I came to Christ two years ago,” another caller said.  “I and my family have received death threats. I have no other way but to escape from the country. Help us to be heard so we can flee from this hell.”

According to Open Doors USA, Afghanistan is ranked number 2 of its list of countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian, just one spot after North Korea.

The watchdog explains that Afghan Christians face threats of persecution and death, especially after converting from Islam, because it’s considered apostasy.

Boyd told Premier that Afghan Christians continue to be resilient in their faith regardless of opposition.

“Many of them in the church have come from a Muslim background, have learned what it is to live as Christians in the book of Acts, underground and persecuted, they know how to do that,” he told the outlet.

He also noted that Release International has launched an appeal for persecuted Christians who are dying or fleeing for their faith.

“We’re working with partners to provide support and encouragement and help for them. It’s a dangerous business, but there are practical things that we can do to help Christians in Afghanistan.”

Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Natanael Ginting


Milton Quintanilla is a freelance writer. He is also the co-hosts of the For Your Soul podcast, which seeks to equip the church with biblical truth and sound doctrine. Visit his blog Blessed Are The Forgiven.

https://www.christianheadlines.com/contributors/milton-quintanilla/lord-god-please-protect-us-afghan-christians-ask-for-prayers-amid-persecution-from-the-taliban.html

VIDEO Glenn Beck, Samaritan’s Purse helping Christians ‘marked for death’ flee Afghanistan, “The State Department and the White House have been the biggest problem”

Rep. Paul Gosar, DDS@RepGosar · Aug 27 I’m demanding answers and accountability from @SecBlinken for canceling President Trump’s Contingency and Crisis Response Bureau, which was setup to protect Americans during the Afghanistan withdrawal

By Ryan Foley, Christian Post Reporter| Friday, August 27, 2021 UPDATED

Afghanistan

UPDATE AUG. 28 [probably meant the 27th] at 5 P.M. ET: Army Maj. Gen. William Taylor said at the Defense Department press briefing on Afghanistan Friday that there was only one suicide bombing attack in Kabul Thursday and not two, as previously reported.

“I can confirm for you that we do not believe that there was a second explosion at or near the Baron Hotel, that it was one suicide bomber. We are not sure how that report was provided incorrectly. But we do know, it’s not any surprise, that in the confusion of very dynamic events, like this, can cause information sometimes to become misreported,” Taylor said at the Pentagon.

Original report: 

As concerns grow over the Biden regime’s [in]ability to evacuate Americans ahead of the planned military [surrender to the Taliban in] Afghanistan, nonprofit organizations are working to assist U.S. citizens and Afghans seeking to flee the nation that’s been overrun by the Taliban.  

With less than a week until the Aug. 31 deadline for withdrawal of remaining U.S. troops from Afghanistan, the federal government is working to evacuate American citizens and Afghans who risk being tortured and executed by the Taliban, a terrorist organization.

The State Department reported Wednesday that no more than 1,500 American citizens seeking to leave Afghanistan remain there. 

Efforts to bring American citizens and Afghans to safety continue after two explosions in Kabul killed 13 Marines and one Navy Corpsman on Thursday. The Department of Defense attributed the attacks to the terrorist group ISIS-K, a local affiliate of the terrorist group ISIS. 

On “Tucker Carlson Tonight” Thursday, Fox News opinion host Tucker Carlson profiled The Nazarene Fund, a charity founded by conservative radio host Glenn Beck, as one of a small number of groups that have “headed to Afghanistan and the region to help evacuate people who are trapped there because Biden just isn’t doing that very effectively.”

In an interview with Carlson, Beck elaborated on the progress his organization has made in evacuating American citizens and vulnerable Afghans from the country: “We have pulled out 5,100 people, Christians, women, children and put them on planes.”

Beck explained that the Nazarene Fund flies Afghan refugees to three nearby countries that requested to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation and terrorist attacks.

According to Beck, “The State Department has blocked us every step of the way. … The State Department and the White House have been the biggest problem.”

He also accused the State Department of putting about 500 refugees, primarily women and children, in harm’s way: “We had them inside of the airport today and one military official … ordered them to go back on the other side of the gate. I have pictures of them this morning pleading to get back through the gate and then I have pictures of blood and body parts and nothing but death in that same area. We believe that our State Department is directly responsible for what we believe were some of these people. I don’t know how many survived.” 

“An ambassador was called in Macedonia last night and [was] told not to accept any of these people as we were trying to get them off of the tarmac here to keep the airport flowing and getting these Christians out,” he added.

Beck shared on his radio show earlier this week and with Carlson Thursday night that “Copeland Ministries has let me borrow their jet. … We’re going someplace else to open up two countries, and I don’t even want to say who they are because I’m afraid our State Department will call them and threaten them.”

Beck warned of the dangers Christians face in Afghanistan with the Taliban in control, noting that they “are marked not just for death but to be set on fire alive because they’re converted Christians.” He characterized the federal government’s actions regarding Afghan refugees as “out and out evil.” 

As of Tuesday, the Nazarene Fund had raised more than $30 million. In an Instagram post, Beck stressed that “I am personally paying for my and my teams’ expenses with air travel courtesy of @copelandnetwork – all donated money goes to rescue those in Afghanistan and other persecuted Christians.” 

Samaritan’s Purse, a charity led by evangelist Franklin Graham, has also joined the evacuation effort, working in partnership with “organizations on the ground” to help “desperate people fleeing Afghanistan.” In a statement released Monday, the nonprofit organization announced: “We have been able to sponsor flights that have brought hundreds to safety — one of our partners made three trips that brought out 700 people in one day! We have also supported the evacuation of 80 missionary families via land routes.”

In addition, Samaritan’s Purse has deployed a Disaster Assistance Response Team to the region to help evacuees once they flee the country. The organization is seeking “hygiene items” as well as “comfort items and compassionate care” for “traumatized children” and all “those who have fled with just the clothes on their backs.”

Samaritan’s Purse warned that the Taliban are “Islamic extremists” who are “poised to force Afghanistan back into a dark and brutal state where Christians, anyone who [has] associated with Americans, women, and others face severe persecution and death.”

The organization added that the leader of the underground church ministering to Christians in Afghanistan provided a “first-hand ground report” on the situation in the country, detailing how “The Taliban has a hit list of known Christians they are targeting to pursue and kill.” 

During a press briefing with Thursday night hours after the terrorist attacks in Kabul, President Joe Biden confirmed that the U.S. has indeed given the Taliban a list of Afghan allies, and U.S. citizens and green card holders they want to be evacuated, a move that some defense experts fear will lead to the torture and execution of many Afghans.  

As The Christian Post previously reported, Victor Marx, the CEO of the nonprofit organization All Things Possible, is working to bring an Afghan family of eight to the U.S.

Marx told CP that the family of converts to Christianity also belongs to “an ethnic tribe that is loathed by the Taliban.” He was first alerted to the family’s plight when the sister of the family’s matriarch, an Afghanistan native whose American husband once worked with him, left him a frantic voicemail asserting that they were in danger.

Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at: ryan.foley@christianpost.com

https://www.christianpost.com/news/glenn-beck-samaritans-purse-helping-christians-flee-afghanistan.html


The above list does not include uniforms or the sophisticated Spy Plane


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https://www.christianpost.com/news/americans-stranded-in-afghanistan-we-are-scared-for-our-lives.html

https://www.breitbart.com/politics/2021/08/26/trump-afghanistan-failure-single-most-embarrassing-moment-history-country/

VIDEO Taliban going door-to-door searching for Christians, inspecting phones for Bible apps

By Ryan Foley, Christian Post Reporter| Friday, August 20, 2021

Afghanistan, Christians,
Afghan refugee Faridah visits a course preparing her to convert into Christian confession by baptism in Berlin, on October 23, 2016. | CLEMENS BILAN/AFP via Getty Images

As the Taliban continue to gain control of Afghanistan following the pullout of U.S. troops, leaders of the underground Christian church are warning of the implications for religious minority groups in the country.

In a statement released Tuesday, the leader of the underground church ministering to Christians in Afghanistan and the founder of the nonprofit organization Global Catalytic Ministries, who goes by the alias Pastor X, provided a “first-hand ground report” on the situation in the country. The statement was shared by Frontier Alliance International, an organization committed to laying the foundations for the Gospel where there are none. 

“The Taliban has a hit list of known Christians they are targeting to pursue and kill. The U.S. Embassy is defunct and there is no longer a safe place for believers to take refuge,” the statement reads. 

“All borders to neighboring countries are closed and all flights to and from have been halted, with the exception of private planes. People are fleeing into the mountains looking for asylum. They are fully reliant on God, who is the only One who can and will protect them.”

The statement noted that “the Taliban are going door-to-door taking women and children.”

“The people must mark their house with an ‘X’ if they have a girl over 12 years old, so that the Taliban can take them. If they find a young girl and the house was not marked, they will execute the entire family,” the statement added. “If a married woman 25 years old or older has been found, the Taliban promptly kill her husband, do whatever they want to her, and then sell her as a sex slave.”

Additionally, Pastor X stated that “Husbands and fathers have given their wives and daughters guns and told them that when the Taliban come, they can choose to kill them or kill themselves — it is their choice.” 

In a statement released Tuesday and shared with The Christian Post, Rex Rogers, the president of the nonprofit Christian media ministry SAT-7, elaborated on the dangers faced by Christians.

“We’re hearing from reliable sources that the Taliban demand people’s phones, and if they find a downloaded Bible on your device, they will kill you immediately,” Rogers said. 

“It’s incredibly dangerous right now for Afghans to have anything Christian on their phones. The Taliban have spies and informants everywhere.”

With the Taliban’s takeover, SAT-7 reports that many Afghans have begun censoring themselves to avoid “retribution.” In the first six months of 2021, SAT-7 PARS reported an increase in audience engagement from viewers in Afghanistan. SAT-7 PARS broadcasts two Dari programs targeting Afghan viewers titled “Window of Light” and “Secret of Life.”

In an update Thursday, SAT-7 reported that an anonymous SAT-7 PARS viewer told the organization that Christians “are in real danger.”

“Sadly, in the past two to three days, my family and I have received death threats,” the viewer was quoted as saying. “In this emergency situation, I have no other way but to escape from the country.”

Another viewer who came to Christ about a year ago told SAT-7 that the situation is “dreadful.” 

My daughter’s life and my life are both in danger,” the viewer was quoted as saying. “My daughter is 8 years old. She has no one else except me. It was so difficult to find a phone to contact you.”

Joel Richardson, preacher and host of “The Underground” podcast, explained Monday that “In the rural villages, what the Taliban is doing … especially if they know that the families are Christians, i.e., infidels, they’re taking the women who are … teens and younger and giving them away as prizes” to Taliban fighters. According to Richardson, it’s not just Afghan Christians who find themselves in danger due to the Taliban’s resurgence. 

The Taliban has also set its sights on Afghans who have demonstrated any allegiance to the U.S. over the past two decades. “Tens of thousands of Afghanis who worked with the American military as translators, who were part of the government, many of them are being targeted, executed,” he said. 

As the Taliban gains ground in Afghanistan, leaders of Christian nonprofit agencies and pastors have called on Americans and the international community as a whole to pray for Christians in Afghanistan. Officials with faith-based refugee resettlement agencies have urged the U.S. government to admit tens of thousands of Afghan Christians and “American-affiliated Afghans” as refugees.

Although leaders of Christian organizations agree that Christians, other religious minorities and women will face much stronger persecution with the Taliban in control, they disagree about the degree of progress made in Afghanistan before the pullout of U.S. troops.  

Pastor X lamented that “20 years of work and the strengthening of a nation being destroyed in a single day” while World Evangelical Alliance Secretary General Bishop Thomas Schirrmacher stressed that “we should not pretend as if everything was well in Afghanistan before the Taliban taking control of the country.” Schirrmacher asserted that because “the constitution of 2004 stated that Afghanistan is an Islamic republic with Islam as its state religion,” religious minorities never fully received equal rights in the country.

With the Taliban on the march in Afghanistan, Global Catalytic Ministries has launched a “war chest” for Christians in Afghanistan that seeks to provide them with “emergency funds and supplies to help them get to safety” as well as food, water, shelter and other basic needs. The organization hopes to raise $500,000 for 1,500 families between now and Sept. 11, which marks the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks that led the U.S. to become militarily involved in Afghanistan to combat al Qaeda. 

Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at: ryan.foley@christianpost.com

https://www.christianpost.com/news/taliban-hunting-for-christians-inspecting-phones-for-bible-apps.html


URGENT: Pray for Afghan Christians – Thousands are Facing Persecution and Even Death for Their Faith

New report sheds more light on US equipment now in hands of Taliban




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MSNBC Calls Christians the American Taliban Because They’re Pro-Life on Abortion

|  Bill Donohue  |   Aug 18, 2021 

Twice in one week, senior pundits at MSNBC have compared Christians to the Taliban.

On August 14, MSNBC host Joy Reid, speaking of the Taliban, tweeted that “our own far religious right” is “dreaming of a theocracy that would impose a particular brand of Christianity” on American society.

On August 18, the lead story on MSNBC’s website, written by Dan Obeidallah, picks up on the comparison by criticizing Republicans who cling to “a narrow reading of their religious beliefs,” noting that they want to make their “religious beliefs into the law of the land.”

In both cases, the MSNBC pundits claimed that Christians are, just like the Taliban, against women’s rights. (They couldn’t have been thinking about Andrew Cuomo because the “former altar boy” is a Democrat.)

Reid accused Christians of wanting to “drive women from the workforce and solely into childbirth, and control all politics.” What a plainly stupid remark. Perhaps she can explain why a record number of Republican women—35 of them—were recently elected to the Congress. They are all Christians.

Obeidallah cites three issues to prove that Christians are Taliban-like creatures: their opposition to abortion; their opposition to the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act; and their opposition to the Paycheck Fairness Act.

Regarding abortion, Christians are committed to protecting the life of unborn babies. The Taliban are known to kill pregnant women such as Masooma, who was dragged out of her house in 2019, taken to a Taliban court, shot dead, and had her corpse, and that of her baby, thrown into an open field. Her crime? She criticized the Taliban for committing atrocities.

Christian Republicans opposed the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act because it redefined “domestic violence” to mean wholly non-violent acts such as “verbal” and “emotional” abuse. If that is the standard, then we will have to restock all the prisons recently emptied by Democrats.

Women earn less than men, in general, because they are more likely not to work in dangerous jobs, are more likely to work part-time, are more likely to turn down overtime, and are more likely to turn down promotions, all of which reflect women’s choices and have nothing to do with discrimination. Hence, new laws are window-dressing ploys.

Now how about the way the Taliban treat women? Here’s a quick sample.

  • Women are imprisoned in their home
  • Girls are beaten for wearing white shoes
  • Girls are not allowed to be educated after the age of eight
  • Girls are only allowed to read the Qur’an
  • Women are not allowed to speak loudly in public
  • Pictures of women are banned from all media outlets
  • Women are not allowed to appear on the balconies of their apartments

Last month, it was reported that the Taliban were ordering imams and mullahs in the Middle East to provide them with a list of girls above 15, and widows under 45, to be married to Taliban fighters. They are then treated as sex slaves.

Now there are reports that this is already happening in Afghanistan as the Taliban are going “door-to-door” looking for girls as young as 12 to become “sex slaves.”

Those who compare conservative Christians to the Taliban evince an extreme anti-Christian bigotry while denigrating the condition of women who are forced to live under Taliban rule. The comparison is obscene. So is MSNBC for giving these bigots a platform.


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Christians in Afghanistan Feel ‘Thrown to the Wolves’ as Taliban Regains Control

By Stephanie Martin -August 16, 2021

Zarmina Kakar a women’s rights activist cry during an interview with The Associated Press in Kabul, Afghanistan, Friday, Aug. 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Mariam Zuhaib)

After Afghanistan fell under Taliban control Sunday, images revealed chaos, fear and desperation in the capital city of Kabul. Now Christians in Afghanistan urgently request prayers as they face threats of escalating violence and oppression.

What Christians in Afghanistan Face

Almost 20 years after 9/11, U.S. troops were finally on their way out of Afghanistan. Former President Trump initiated the withdrawal, with Joe Biden then setting August 31 as the target date. But with the Taliban on the offensive lately, Biden sent 6,000 U.S. troops back to assist with evacuations. On Sunday, President Ashraf Ghani fled Afghanistan, and the Taliban released video of victory celebrations in the presidential palace.

In scenes reminiscent of the 1975 fall of Saigon, the U.S. Embassy in Kabul was shuttered, and U.S. citizens were evacuated. Before American troops took control of Kabul’s international airport Monday, panicked Afghans clung to a plane, with several falling to their deaths. After two decades of war, the Taliban are in power again.

“This is what betrayal looks like,” tweeted Shadi Hamid, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institute. Along with video of the airport chaos, he wrote that Afghans “won’t forget that this is what we did. And we shouldn’t either.”

Biden Roundly Criticized for Foreign-Policy Disaster

Politicians and reporters on both sides of the aisle say the Taliban’s swift takeover is a debacle for the Biden administration. In June, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken had said a Taliban takeover wouldn’t “be something that happens from a Friday to a Monday.” And on July 8, Biden said a takeover was “highly unlikely,” adding there would be “no circumstance [where] you see people being lifted off the roof of an embassy.”

U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, (R-TX), the ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, calls the crisis “an unmitigated disaster of epic proportions.” He adds, “This is going to be a stain on this president and his presidency. And I think he’s going to have blood on his hands.”

Christian leaders, too, are pointing fingers at the president. The Rev. Albert Mohler, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary president, writes, “Four American presidents, two from each party, a disaster that is now bipartisan, but a disaster that falls particularly on President Biden, because it is he who announced back earlier in the summer that Americans would proceed with a precipitous withdrawal from Afghanistan.”

In Monday’s “Briefing,” Mohler also notes that America has “a larger moral responsibility” because thousands of Afghan citizens have been assisting U.S. forces. “Their lives are endangered by the Taliban, and if they are not rescued by the United States, we will have every reason to bear responsibility for the fact that they will be slaughtered by America’s enemies just as America leaves,” he writes.

Outreach editor-in-chief Ed Stetzer tweeted Monday: “I’m certainly biased, as I did not support @joebiden for president, I also acknowledge that the string of Afghanistan failures goes back two decades across multiple administrations But this moment belongs to Joe Biden, The world sees it. And ‘America is back’ rings hollow.”

Biden, who was criticized for staying at Camp David throughout the weekend, returned to the White House Monday and addressed the nation. Though he admits that events unfolded quicker than expected, Biden says, “I stand squarely behind my decision” to proceed with the troop-withdrawal agreement he “inherited.” The United States, the president says, must “lead with diplomacy” and advocate for human rights. Biden emphasizes that he’s not willing to risk more American lives when Afghan leaders flee and its military shows no zeal.

Christians in Afghanistan Feel ‘Thrown to the Wolves’

According to Open Doors, which ranks Afghanistan second on its “World Watch List” of nations that persecute Christians, the country “is already a brutal place for the Church.” In the nation of 38 million, the number of Christians isn’t known, partly because “it is impossible to live openly as a Christian” there.

Now Christians in Afghanistan face even more peril. In a video tweeted by Newsmax host Benny Johnson, a pastor who built Christian churches in Afghanistan tearfully warns that the Taliban will “exterminate” followers of Jesus. “Pray for the believers there,” the pastor says. “ Biden has thrown them to the wolves… Pray that they be strong.”

Mindy Belz, senior editor of World magazine, tweeted, “A person who works with house church networks in Afghanistan reports its leaders received letters last night from the #Taliban warning them that they know where they are and what they are doing. The leaders say they aren’t going anywhere. So it begins.”

Regarding those letters, worship leader Sean Feucht tweeted: “The rise of persecution is HERE. The church must PRAY ‘Peter was kept in prison: but prayer was made WITHOUT CEASING of the church unto God for him.’ Acts 12:5.”

Open Doors lists five prayer needs for the situation in Afghanistan:

  • Pray for an end to violence and death.
  • Pray for hungry people, that God will “provide them both physical and spiritual food to nourish their bodies and souls.”
  • Pray for the sick, especially for those affected by COVID-19.
  • Pray for people who are fleeing or displaced from their homes.
  • Pray for protection and peace for Christians in Afghanistan, that the Holy Spirit will “strengthen these secret believers in their inner being.”

Human Rights Concerns for Women and Girls

Ahead of an emergency United Nations session on Monday, U.N. Secretary General António Guterres said he is “particularly concerned by accounts of mounting human rights violations against the women and girls of Afghanistan who fear a return to the darkest days.”

Although Taliban officials have promised that women will have more rights—and more access to education—this time around, residents are leery. Women are in hiding, and images of females are disappearing from public. According to reports, the Taliban is already going door to door, seeking retribution on Afghans who assisted U.S. forces.

Rev. Johnnie Moore, who serves on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, tweeted Sunday: “One group will suffer more than any other by the disaster we are witnessing in Afghanistan: women & girls God help them & please ‘experts’ save us all the platitudes [about] human rights after pleading to appease Iran & now this. There are no human rights to be had w/o security.”

Ed Stetzer also urged prayer for Afghans, tweeting: “When radical Islamists take over, so many suffer. Pray: -for persecuted Christians. -for women and girls who will lose their rights. -for other religious minorities who will be targeted. Such a heartbreaking moment.”



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Church Confirms Release of Pastor Threatened With Execution

By Morning Star News -March 19, 2021

terrorists

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.