Displaying items by tag: violence
The information minister has declared that attacks on several locations in the capital, Freetown, were in fact a failed coup attempt led mainly by bodyguards of the previous president, Ernest Koroma. On 26 November they attacked a military barracks and a prison, freeing over 200 prisoners, but by the next day calm had been restored by the security forces, with most of the attackers killed or captured. President Bio remains unharmed. Sierra Leone, which is still recovering from a 1991-2002 civil war in which more than 50,000 were killed, has been tense since Bio was re-elected in June. The result was rejected by the main opposition candidate and questioned by international partners including the USA and the EU.
In October we prayed for the presidential election in Ecuador. Now millionaire Daniel Noboa has been sworn in as president, marking a significant shift in the country's political landscape. A businessman with no prior political experience, he surprisingly won the snap election which former president Guillermo Lasso called to avoid possible impeachment. He will serve only 18 months, the remainder of Lasso’s term. Once considered one of the safest countries in the region, Ecuador has seen violence explode in recent years; there was an unprecedented increase in bloodshed, and drug violence has led to some 3,600 murders so far this year. Noboa has said he will target the violence by tackling unemployment, but also implement a state of emergency, suspend some citizen rights such as freedom of movement, and deploy the military to the streets. There is a considerable sense of uncertainty and anticipation surrounding his presidency.
On 6 November more than twenty people, including women and children, were killed in an attack by English-speaking separatists in western Cameroon. Since the end of 2016, this area (populated mainly by the English-speaking minority) has seen a deadly conflict between pro-independence armed groups and the security forces. Each side has been accused of crimes against civilians by international NGOs and the UN. The government said that the ‘terrorists’ attacked using firearms and traditional weapons, and burnt down around ten houses. A resident thought the attack was probably made on that day because it was the anniversary of Paul Biya's accession to power as president; he added that a meeting of the RDPC (the all-powerful presidential party) had been scheduled to take place nearby. Cameroon, which has a population of nearly 30 million, has been ruled with an iron fist for 41 years by Biya.
Independent news outlet Vyorstka has reported a huge uptick in the number of Russian soldiers facing trial for murders committed outside the conflict zone in Ukraine. At least 147 soldiers went on trial for murder between January and September, compared to the 15 murder cases heard against soldiers in military courts in all of 2022. Court verdicts from this year indicate that most soldiers facing trial committed murders under the influence of alcohol. In one case an intoxicated soldier killed a woman with a Kalashnikov assault rifle after learning that she did not support Moscow's invasion of Ukraine. He was sentenced to nine years in prison in March. It is unclear whether the figures cited by Vyorstka include members of the Wagner mercenary outfit, which recruited prison inmates to fight in Ukraine in exchange for pardons. Among the weapons used in the murders were knives, axes, pistols, and Kalashnikovs.
After twelve days of closure, the border crossing from the Gaza Strip into Israel was reopened at dawn on 28 September, causing thousands of Gazans to sleep overnight as they awaited the chance to resume the work for which they are authorised. It was the news which Amjad Hassan, a builder who is the sole breadwinner for 13 relatives had been praying for. ‘We work on a daily wage; if we don't work, we don't feed our families’, he explained. The border closure followed renewed demonstrations as young Palestinians have confronted Israeli soldiers, with the approval or even encouragement of Hamas, which controls the enclave. Protesters have burnt tyres, thrown stones and explosive devices, and released incendiary balloons and kites into southern Israel, There is a perception that Hamas is trying to distract attention from its own economic woes and also to gain leverage in indirect talks with Israel, being led by Egypt, Qatar, and the UN.
Burkina Faso is shaken by political conflict and military coups. ‘Attacks against Christians are common. Many don’t know if they will survive another day. They see loved ones beheaded, raped or reduced to sexual slavery’, said Father Rouamba. He said that Christians are affected on a daily basis by the appalling actions of Al-Qaeda and IS. Terrorists began targeting Christians in Kompienga Province, east Burkina Faso, around Pentecost this year. ‘If people refuse to convert to Islam, they are forced to leave, but as the roads are blocked, they are left to wander around in the forest with no possessions, and many die due to lack of food. These are real tragedies that are not reported in the media.’ Father Rouamba wants to set up support units, offering spiritual and psychological support. Christians who had, to some extent, abandoned religious practice before the crisis are returning to their faith at a time when terrorists are trying to extinguish Christianity.
Attacks on two churches in Nepal over the weekend were just the latest in a string of recent violence against Christians. The churches are in the province of Lumbini, which borders India. Photos and videos reviewed by International Christian Concern (ICC) showed broken windows and other signs of violence around the properties, including damage to fences and a broken motorbike. Another photo shared on social media showed two men, identified as pastors, being assaulted on the street. Locals smeared the pastors’ faces with a sticky black substance in a cultural sign of hatred and disrespect. The Lumbini attacks are the sixth and seventh such attacks against churches in Nepal in two weeks. ‘It’s spreading like wildfire’, a Nepalese civil society leader has told ICC. ‘Perpetrators, seeing little to no response from the authorities in recent weeks, are encouraged to act more.’
The Allied Democratic Force (ADF), which operates primarily out of the DRC, is a violent extremist group that is gaining power in Central Africa. The known IS affiliate is notorious for targeting Christians in its violent campaigns to establish an Islamic caliphate in the region. A widening recruitment network and an increase in funding overseas contributed to ADF’s bloodiest year yet. While IS lost much of its power and control in Syria and Iraq, its affiliate groups in Afghanistan, the Sahel region, and Central Africa grew stronger. The ADF was listed as one of the worst terrorist groups in 2022. Pray for an end to ADF-led violence in this region. Pray for God to protect Christians throughout the DRC. Pray also for the group’s funding and recruitment network to be cut off.
The roots of violence, despair and hatred between Palestinians and Israelis goes deep, generated by possession of the land. The latest Israeli attack on the West Bank targeted the ‘unified command centre for the Jenin Brigade’ which has been at the heart of twelve months of escalating violence (over fifty recent attacks have come from there). Bulldozers drove through the Palestinian refugee camp which was also attacked by aircraft, reviving a tactic it halted two decades ago. Eight Palestinians were killed and one Israeli. For over a year, army raids have been linked to a series of deadly attacks by Palestinians against Israelis and rampages by Jewish settlers against Palestinian villages. Israel said it was striking terrorist infrastructure targets and armed gunmen in the Jenin camp and shared documents showing Jenin as a ‘stronghold of terrorist activity’ where half the people belong to militant groups. However, the scale of the attack on Jenin has drawn strong criticism from many sourcres.
Settlement expansion is not the only reason why a dialogue between Palestinians and Israelis is almost impossible. The USA, which sponsored talks in the past, has other preoccupations. It is much more concerned with its rivalry with China and the war in Ukraine. The Palestinian political leadership is deeply divided between Hamas in Gaza and the Palestinian Authority on the West Bank. They are not capable, as things stand, of making or delivering any sort of deal. The Palestinian Authority is barely capable of exercising its own limited powers. Israel is deep in its own internal political crisis about the nature of its own democracy. Peace between Palestinians and Israelis is as far away as ever. Neither side trusts the other. This year a serious upsurge in violence and death is a serious warning of even worse trouble ahead. Everyone here knows the risks they are running, but there is no realistic plan to head off the deadly trouble that lies ahead.