The Chairman’s Report for February 28, 2020
In this issue of the newsletter
New: New Islamic terror attacks in Nigeria – Trump issues travel ban
New: Islamic terror attacks west of our orphanage in Plateau State
New: Stop Nigerian oil exports until Muslim President protects Christians!
Update: Work on Capitol Hill does make a difference / New needs in diaper program
Trump’s Nigeria travel ban / The plight of Nigerian Christians
As Islamic terror increases, a travel ban: President Trump has added six (6) new nations to the list of those with whom the United States bans most travel and immigration.
While five of those nations are almost 100% Muslim, one of them – Nigeria – is nearly 50% Christian. The travel bans the President has imposed are not by religion, but by location. The reason of course is the drastic increase in Islamic terror attacks and the difficulty in determining who can safely be allowed to travel to the United States.
The increase in the number of attacks against Christians in the last year resulted in the State Department adding Nigeria to a “Special Watch List” on December 18, 2019. The list is of governments that have engaged in or tolerated “severe violations of religious freedom.”
For the most part the State Department cited the persecution of Shia Muslims, which I found odd considering the number of direct attacks on Christians.
The travel ban proclaimed by President Trump, and the addition of Nigeria to the “Special Watch List” of nations that violate religious freedom are both steps forward to confront the Sunni Muslim president of Nigeria who allows the attacks on Christians and actively suppresses the Shia Muslim minority. Still, much harsher action is needed by the American government.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari blamed the opposition parties in Nigeria for the designation by the State Department. He claims “misinformation” was supplied to the American government, and that there is no religious repression in Nigeria.
Just prior to the 2019 presidential election, Buhari illegally fired the Christian Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Then Buhari replaced him with a Sunni Muslim who had been a “Sharia Judge” from a northern Muslim State. Former Chief Justice Samuel Onnoghen, a Christian, was removed one day before he was to swear in the new election panel. If the election results had been disputed, the Supreme Court would have had the final review.
Bluntly, President Buhari stacked the deck in the Court to make sure any “irregularities” in the election were not dealt with.
In his response to Nigeria being placed on the “Special Watch List” President Buhari sited “The deliberate effort to give religious coloration to the farmers-herders clashes” in the Middle Belt. “Clashes?” How is an entire Christian congregation being hacked to death with machetes inside their church during a service a “clash?”
Burhari and his government consistently try to portray the slaughter of Christian farmers and the theft of their lands as something other than a religious war. It is about something else, it is about stealing Christian lands, killing the men and enslaving the Christian girls who are taken as “wives.”
I have been to the IDP camps in Benue State like the one at right. Those camps hold tens of thousands of Christians who have been driven from their lands in Benue State which is 98% Christian. So why are there no Muslim IDP camps in Nigeria, if this is a “clash” or “conflict?” Why are all of the dead Christian?
“IDP” is the official United Nations term for Internally Displaced Persons … in other words, people who are refugees in their own nations. All of the IDP’s in Nigeria are Christians.
The orphanage supported by the Religious Freedom Coalition is located in Plateau State. That is one of the states in the so called “Middle Belt” between the Muslim north that is totally under Sharia law, and the southern states which are controlled by Christians and are secular.
In January 2020 at least 32 Christians were killed, and during two nights of attacks last week, a church building and pastor’s home were burned down in Plateau State by Sunni Muslim tribesmen. The Church of Christ in Nations (COCIN) building and the pastor’s home were both destroyed in the predominantly Christian village of Marish on January 27th. Also, three communities in Bokkos County underwent a series of armed assaults. There was no reaction from President Buhari.
A few weeks earlier, four students from Aid to the Church in Need, a Catholic charity, were kidnapped and murdered. There are numerous murders of three of four Christians at a time that I have found in local Nigerian newspapers just this year that were not reported in the United States. Most times unless the death toll is over 50 or 100, the stories never reach American news outlets. Also, tragically, there are a lot of young Christian girls kidnapped for forced marriages.
A harsher response from President Trump is needed. He has taken decisive action that has changed the relationship with Nigeria, but more needs to be done. Putting Nigeria on a list is not punishing the leadership enough to stop the violence. The Nigerian leaders must be hit in the purse to stop the violence and the best way to do that is to sanction Nigerian oil output.
Nigeria is not a big player in the oil market, but the money that comes in from state oil sales funds a lot of the corruption. President Trump has cut off almost all exports of Iranian oil, showing that the United States does have the ability to do just that. Now it is time to bring the same sanctions against Nigerian oil exports.
Nigerian oil exports need to be brought to a halt until President Buhari understands that he must change course and stop the persecution of Christians. But does he really have the ability to do that?
Buhari is a Sunni Muslim Fulani Herdsman. Overwhelmingly, the attacks against Christians in the “Middle Belt” are being done by Sunni Muslim Fulani Herdsmen. Yes, Buhari can stop his herdsmen brethren from attacking Christians and stealing their land!
If he won’t, then I urge President Trump to take action – to sanction Nigerian oil now.
Taking this request to the President: I have spoken with Ambassador Brownback about the continuing situation in Nigeria, and he has made an official visit there. The word is getting back to President Trump that action must be taken, but I believe we must show him that the American people will be behind him in an election year.
Over the next few weeks my office will design and post an online petition to President Trump asking for actions to sanction President Buhari and his oil.
Work in Washington continues
International Religious Freedom Roundtable: The Religious Freedom Coalition is a part of the IRF, short for International Religious Freedom Roundtable. It is the IRF which arranges the meetings held with Sam Brownback, who is Ambassador-at-large for International Religious Freedom. Since the confirmation of Ambassador Brownback, religious freedom has become a central issue for the Trump Administration.
President Trump has ordered Secretary of State Pompeo to regard religious freedom as a strategic issue for the United States — and he has. There is a good side, a bad side and an ugly side to making religious freedom a “strategic issue.” Religious freedom for Muslims in China has been over-emphasized.
Christians and other religious minorities are persecuted by the Xi government just as badly as the Muslims. Yet, it is the Sunni Muslims of China who receive American support. Many of these same Chinese Sunni Muslims volunteered to fight for the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.
On the other hand, the IRF with the support of Senator Brownback has brought a lot of issues to the attention of President Trump, Congress and the American public.
Ambassador Brownback and the influence of the many groups making up the IRF resulted in Nigeria being added to the “Special Watch List” of those nations repressing religious freedom. At the very least President Buhari got a wake-up call that was followed by a tap on the shoulder from President Trump.
As president of the Religious Freedom Coalition I make sure that we sponsor special events held by the IRF such as the meeting held on February 4th, the same day asthe National Prayer Breakfast. More than 300 attended the special meeting from all over the word. As a group leader and sponsor, I sat at the head table.
Next to me sat the Vice-President elect of the Republic of China (Taiwan). The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was furious that he was in Washington, as they view Taiwan as a renegade state of mainland China. Dr. Lai is a Catholic. While Christians in China are jailed, some in Taiwan such as Dr. Lai hold major offices.
The results of the February 4th meeting we sponsored, as well as the overall efforts of the IRFR were made very clear the next day when Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced on February 5th the launching of the International Religious Freedom Alliance (IRF Alliance).
Pompeo said it was, “… an Alliance of like-minded partners who treasure, and fight for, international religious freedom for every human being.” Initially the coalition will include 27 nations including the United States, the United Kingdom and others.
The planning for the alliance of nations for religious freedom began after July 18, 2019, at the second Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom in Washington DC. The Religious Freedom Coalition was a major player in the July 19th meeting.
Diapers for Refugees
More adult diapers needed: As the Diapers for Refugees program matures, there are going to be moves and changes as the needs move and change.
Because of the bombing of a pharmaceutical factory in Syria, many Christian families who have special needs adults and children are fleeing to the Nineveh Plain in northern Iraq. Many special needs children who are too old for regular diapers need help obtaining the more expensive adult versions. There is a big difference in cost to our ministry.
Because of the volume of baby diapers — we are buying millions a year — we get a great price. On average we pay just five cents each. The adult diapers can cost us as much as 30 cents each, which is six times the cost of the baby diapers.
I am taking a serious look at the Diapers for Refugees program and examining what changes we can make to reach more Christian special needs adults.
Our Jordanian ministry partner has requested a very large increase in adult diapers as well. They also have the issue of large numbers of both Iraqi and Syrian Christian refugee families with special needs adults.
Lebanon has requested help as well, but for now the numbers there are just too large for us to become involved. I know the Lord will direct me when the time is right.
The situation in the “West Bank” is getting worse for Christians. After President Trump’s Middle East Peace Plan was announced, violent clashes occurred and Israel has now sent combat troops into the West Bank. After Israel announced it would move ahead with annexing most of the West Bank, the violence got even worse.
Christians are caught in the middle and the economy in their towns is worsening. I am working on plans to further assist beleaguered Christians in the West Bank, particularly the children. I am asking your prayers for the children and for all of the Christians of the West Bank and the Middle East who face increased persecution.
William J. Murray, President
Thank you for the good work you and your staff are doing. I wish I could donate, but I am on a VERY LIMIITED income. Even buying stamps is difficult for me. I would like to comment on your recent letter asking us to rank your ministry programs. I pray God will continue to guide you in your decisions and provide funds for these programs. All of them are equally important, so I don’t know which ones are most important. God bless you in your decisions. Prayerfully, Frances Holdorf