Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Nigerian congregation living in fear

Church of the Brethren knows Boko Haram's terror tactics all too well

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A few items from my files this week...

The world was horrified by April's kidnapping of more than 200 Christian girls in Nigeria by the radical militant group Boko Haram.

While the kidnapping has grabbed global attention, Boko Haram has been attacking Christians in that country for about five years. One of the main targets of the attack is the Church of the Brethren, a member of the worldwide Mennonite/Anabaptist family.

Many of the girls who were kidnapped are members of the Church of the Brethren, which is called Ekklesiyar Yan'uwa a Nigeria, or EYN. Since 2009, about 250 EYN members have been killed, and more than 20 churches destroyed.

"We need your prayers," wrote Rebecca Dali, wife of EYN president Samuel Dali, in a message to Church of the Brethren members in the United States "People are suffering."

In another message to Church of the Brethren members, Nathan Hosler, the church's co-ordinator of the Office of Public Witness, wrote: "This is deplorable and absolutely unacceptable. Nigerian Brethren have been living under the threat of violence for many years, and this mass kidnapping by Boko Haram is just the latest example of the true fear our Nigerian brothers and sisters have to live with every day."

Updates and more information about the violence and kidnapping, along with prayer and worship resources, can be found on the Church of the Brethren website at

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Why isn't the world becoming more atheistic? It's because atheists don't have enough babies says British geneticist Steve Jones.

In an article in The Independent, Jones says the world could see a resurgence of religious belief because people of faith have more children than atheists.

According to Jones, a professor in genetics at University College London's Galton Laboratory, population decline in skeptical countries, as in Europe, combined with rapid population growth in more religious countries in places like Africa, will see a resurgence of religion -- leaving atheists in the minority.

"We atheists sometimes congratulate ourselves that the incidence of religious belief is going down," he said.

"But religious people have more children... it's clearly the case that the future will involve an increase in religious populations and a decrease in skepticism."

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It's well known that mainline Protestant denominations are losing members. But Southern Baptists are also declining, losing members for the seventh year in a row.

According to a report from the church, membership dropped from 15.9 million to 15.7 million between 2012 and 2013. Weekly church attendance also decreased, falling to 5.8 million as a weekly average, while the number of baptisms fell by 1.5 per cent.

Russell Moore, president of the church's public policy arm, said Southern Baptists can no longer pretend to be the moral majority and should instead seek to be a "prophetic minority."

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Expressing "great sadness" that the Syrian conflict continues to create "unspeakable suffering and thousands of refugees," Pope Francis has decried the "globalization of indifference" that has taken hold of too many of the world's people.

"There is a risk of becoming used to it," he said on May 30 about the ongoing war in Syria. "Once again we have to repeat the name of the illness that makes us feel so bad in the world today -- the globalization of indifference."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 7, 2014 D15

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