Kirkuk (AsiaNews) - "For us Christians of Iraq, martyrdom is the charism of our Church, in its 2000 year history. As a minority, we are constantly faced with difficulties and sacrifices, but we are aware that bearing witness to Christ can mean martyrdom. In the Arabic language they have the same root: Shahid wa shahiid!. "
These the words of the Chaldean archbishop of Kirkuk, Msgr. Louis Sako, AsiaNews, summarizing what the past year for Iraqi Christians.Yesterday in Baghdad, six bomb explosions in front of Christian homes left two dead and 12 wounded. The bombs exploded in the Ghadir quarter, where there is a significant Christian presence in Yarmuk, Khadra, Dora, and Saidiya Karrada, near the church of Our Lady of Salvation, where last October 31 terrorists killed more than 50 Christians.
"These acts - points out one faithful - have created a climate of panic and disappointment among us The government is not doing anything. Attacking Christians has become a normal phenomenon in Iraq. We are a convenient target.Christians continue to flee to Kurdistan, and every day brings new families. 700 families have arrived in Erbil; 116 families in Soulaymaniyia. What future awaits them this winter?Where are our religious authorities, while they kill us for our faith?We Christians have not celebrated Christmas, we will not even celebrate the New Year. "
Archbishop Sako, who has welcomed many refugee families to his diocese, underlines their faith. "Here in Iraq we understand that faith is not an ideological or theological speculation, but a mystical reality.Faith is a personal encounter with someone who knows us, loves us and to whom we give ourselves totally. For faith, one must always be willing to go beyond, even to sacrifice. Martyrdom is an expression of loyalty to that love. On 31 October, Fr Wassim, the young priest from the Syriac Catholic cathedral turned to the terrorists and cried: Kill me and free the faithful. He knew what he was saying, this was his commitment of love for Christ and for his flock. "
"Christians around the world - continues Bishop. Sako - can renew their faith and their commitment to being in contact with Iraq's persecuted Christians. At the same time, the friendship, solidarity and support of our brothers and sisters of the West gives us the courage to resist and remain in our land and in our churches, continuing our presence and Christian witness. Knowing that you stand by us, urges us to cultivate a common life, in peace and harmony with our Muslim brothers. "
ALL AFRICA REPORT: MEMBERS of an Islamic sect, Boko Haram, in utter contempt for the authorities defiantly continued their killing spree, yesterday, in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital killing seven persons. They attacked a police vehicle, the latest in a string of attacks by the group and wounded eight people.
A military spokesman said the vehicle was "burnt to ashes" in an attack by the Boko Haram group at a bus station in the Dala area of Maiduguri, one of two cities where churches were bombed on Christmas Eve that claimed six lives.Only last Tuesday, members of the sect fired shots into a teaching hospital in Maiduguri killing a police officer and two others.
Boko Haram, which wants strict Islamic law imposed throughout Nigeria, claimed responsibility for the Christmas Eve bombings of churches in Maiduguri and Jos, and has been blamed for other attacks over the past week.
Plans to attack churches on New Year Eve uncovered
Meanwhile, Commander of the Special Task Force maintaining security in Plateau State, Brigadier General Hassan Umoru, said they have uncovered plans by some people to launch mass attack on churches on New Year Eve.
He, however, said the Task Force was battle ready to contain the situation adding that his men had been ordered to get down anyone trying to burn down or attack any place of worship.
Speaking with journalists, yesterday, he urged parents to warn their wards not to participate in any criminal act.
Vanguard learnt, however, that many churches had called off their "cross over" services as a result of the threat
Jonathan vows to fight terrorism
On his part, President Good luck Jonathan has assured that the nation would get over the problem of terrorism.
Speaking against the backdrop of recent blasts in Abuja, Jos and Yenagoa, the President who addressed South South delegates of the Peoples Democratic Party in Port Harcourt said a special body would be set up to address the problem.
Lagos CP holds talk with religious leaders
As part of proactive measures to ensure sustainable and uninterrupted peace in Lagos State, the Commissioner of Police, Mr. Marvel Akpoyibo, yesterday held an integrative meeting with religious leaders of both the Christian and Muslim groups.
The meeting which took place at the command's headquarters, Ikeja had in attendance over 80 religious leaders.
While thanking the religious leaders for their collaborative effort in crime fighting and peace keeping in Lagos, Akpoyibo reminded them of the need to continue to discharge their individual and collective civic duties positively to ensure that th prevailing peace in the state is not undermined by criminal elements under any guise whatsoever.
Advising the religious leaders on measures that should be taken to ensure improved security in and around places of worship, Akpoyibo said that with effect from today until the festive period was over, there would be increased vigilance at churches, mosques and all religious gatherings
Borno Police Commissioner, Mohammed Abubakar, who confirmed the attacks, said: "Yes, we confirmed the serial and coordinated attacks and killings on the two churches. It is very unfortunate at this time of the Christmas season for the outlawed sect members to launch fresh attacks and killings on innocent citizens of this state without any cause."
He said the armed sect members could have been arrested, if the Divisional Police Officers, DPOs, had heeded his warnings on the planned attacks of the rampaging outlawed sect members that resurfaced two weeks after the Zinnari community attacks.
Similarly, reacting to the attacks and killings, Governor Ali Modu Sheriff, said in an interview in Maiduguri: "It is very unfortunate and sad for the Christian community to be attacked and killed without any genuine cause whatever. Prior to these attacks and killings, I alerted the police and other security agencies in the state to take no chances of any reprisals from the outlawed sect members," stating that yesterday's attacks and killings could have been prevented if the police had heeded his security advice.
Inrelated development, Plateau State Deputy Governor, Dame Pauline Tallen, fired back over allegations linking her with the Christmas Eve bombings in the state capital accusing the state government of playing politics with a serious matter involving the loss of lives and property.
She accused the "leadership of the state"of being more concerned about their ambition "than the lives of the ordinary Plateau man affected by the bomb blasts."
A group known as Movement for the Survival of Plateau People had in an advertorial published on Monday accused the deputy governor of master minding the blast since it came days after her declaration for the governorship race.
She said the claim of responsibility by an Islamic group for the bombings in Jos and Maduguri had vindicated her.
Tallen said: "A leadership that is always giving excuses in crises situation that it has no control of the security machinery leaves a lot of question marks. A state leadership with all the apparatus at its disposal is supposed to adequately protect her people.
"While others are busy apportioning blame, others are busy developing a blueprint that will ensure lasting socio_political and economic development for our state. That is why we need a change of leadership in our state. Plateau indigenes and may other Nigerians resident in the state have a high state in Plateau and with the prevailing failure of leadership in state, we definitely need a change of leadership".
The deputy governor promised to make a difference if she becomes governor by working with all stakeholders to pursue reconciliation, reconstruction and transformation.
She advised the news media to be wary of the things they publish as news or advertisement considering their influence in society.
Continuing, the President said by March next year there would be significant improvement in the power situation in the country, promising that Nigerians from that time would no longer depend largely on generators.
The President who got applause from the delegates as he spoke vowed never to let the region down as President, noting that his presidency would greatly affect the area either in negative or positive sense.He said he would partner with governors of the south south states to address challenges of underdevelopment in the area. "Those of us in the South South we have a common problem, from Ikpoba River down to Cross_river. We will work with your governors to change the developmental history of the region. We will no longer be weeping dogs".
"I will do my best as President because what I will do will rob on you positively or negatively. If I perform poorly we will be written off. I promise you I will not disappoint you."
He said his administration would continue to give education a major attention because without a sound educational system the peoples dream would be a mirage.
"One thing we believe is in the education, without sound education our hope and dreams will be a mirage ", he said.
CNN REPORT: The oldest African-American church in DeKalb County no longer has a church.
Flat Rock Community Church originated 150 years ago. Now, one of its fifth-generation members says, "we're in limbo."
In November, the church broke away from the United Methodist denomination over a dispute over their property. In December, dealing with a dwindling membership, the church could no longer afford its $6500 mortgage.
As a result, the building on Evans Mill Road went into foreclosure.
"That led to another decline in membership," said senior pastor Binita Miles. "People are so hurt that they're giving up."
But congregation members and leaders are most discouraged because they are facing issues that have to do with politics and finance, not religious prayer.
Generation after generation have built this community since slavery," said archive president Johnny Waits, "and for us to lose it now, it's kinda hard."
For now, the congregation continues to find a way. They have been praying at the Flat Rock archive building for the past month. Starting in January, they move to nearby Flat Rock Elementary School.
Says Miles, "God wants us to continue to glorify him, no matter what we're going through."
|John 1: 1 - 18|
|1||In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.|
|2||He was in the beginning with God;|
|3||all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.|
|4||In him was life, and the life was the light of men.|
|5||The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.|
|6||There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.|
|7||He came for testimony, to bear witness to the light, that all might believe through him.|
|8||He was not the light, but came to bear witness to the light.|
|9||The true light that enlightens every man was coming into the world.|
|10||He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world knew him not.|
|11||He came to his own home, and his own people received him not.|
|12||But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God;|
|13||who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.|
|14||And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father.|
|15||(John bore witness to him, and cried, "This was he of whom I said, `He who comes after me ranks before me, for he was before me.'")|
|16||And from his fulness have we all received, grace upon grace.|
|17||For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.|
|18||No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known.|