Islamist extremists have launched fresh attacks on Christian communities after telling them to leave northern Nigeria – or die.
Violent attacks in three northern states last week left at least 30 people dead after Boko Haram issued a new year ultimatum for Christians to leave northern Nigeria in three days. The Red Cross reports that in some areas Christians are fleeing the region in response to recent violence, including Christmas Day bombings (Prayer Alert, December 28, 2011).
At least 21 people were killed in the town of Mubi in Adamawa state – where, on Friday, gunmen opened fire on Christians who had gathered to mourn three people killed the previous day.
Release partner Stefanos Foundation reports that gunmen raided the Deeper Life Church in Gombe city, Gombe state, on Thursday evening. Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) reports that six people were killed, including the pastor's wife. Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for the attacks on Mubi and Gombe.
There have also been reports that gunmen fired on Christians leaving church in the Adamawa state capital, Yola, on Friday, killing several people – although precise details are not yet known. And CSW reports that two people died in a raid on a Christian compound in Damaturu, Yobe.
President Goodluck Jonathan, who has declared a state of emergency in Yobe, Borno, Plateau and Niger states, has just said that he suspects his Government and security forces include Boko Haram sympathisers. Christians fear that extremists' aim to split Nigeria along religious lines may heighten ethnic tensions between Christians and Muslims.
For more news and a country profile about Nigeria, click here
Chinese officials have announced that Beijing human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng is being held at a remote prison in Xinjiang province, north-west China. His brother, Gao Zhiyi, received a letter from the jail to that effect. ChinaAid reports that officials also announced that they had sentenced Gao to three years in jail for 'violating the terms of his probation'. Gao has not been seen since his arrest in February 2009, except for a brief reappearance in March 2010. His wife and children, who fled to the US, have had no confirmation of his condition or whereabouts.
To watch a BBC interview with our partner Bob Fu talking about Gao's sentence click here
(Sources: Agence France-Presse, BBC, China Aid, CSW, Reuters, Stefanos Foundation)
• Pray for wisdom and a firm resolve for all those involved in tackling the extremist threat posed by Boko Haram in Nigeria. Pray that Christians in the worst-affected states will 'rest in the shadow of the Almighty' (Psalm 91:1).
• Please pray for Release partner Stefanos and a project Release has supported that provides training on trauma counselling to children affected by the violence. The training takes place later this month.
• Ask God to bless, comfort and fill with His peace the family of Gao Zhisheng – including his wife Geng He, his children Geng Ge and Gao Tianyu.