END OF THE FIRST DAY OF III INTERNATIONAL “WE ARE ALL NAZARENES” CONFERENCE –
-Saturday afternoon there were speeches from the bishop of the Nigerian diocese of Bomadi, Hyacinth Oroko Egbebo, and from Antonio Pampliega, a journalist who was kidnapped by Al Qaeda, and contributions from the historian and founder of the group Strategic Studies, Florentino Portero and the journalists José Javier Esparza, Luis Losada and Hermann Tertsch.
-The international event where persecuted Christians are the protogonists continues this Saturday with further testimonies from victims of radical islamism in Africa and the Middle East, such as Rebecca Bitrus who was kidnapped by Boko Haram and Tom Uzhunnalil who was held captive by jihadists in Yemen, among others.
MADRID, 19 DE OCTUBRE DE 2018.- “If Boko Haram manages to take Nigeria, all of Africa will fall to Islam. Christianity in this country is very much alive, but if they take over, we Christians won’t be able to stay there.”
A video of the III #WeAreN2018 International Conference can be viewed here.
With these words Monseñor Hyacinth Oroko Egbebo, the bishop of Bomadi, Nigeria, finished his speech at the III “We are all Nazarenes” International Conference (#WeAreN2018) which is taking place from Friday to Sunday, 21. October. The bishop asked for military intervention of the UN, affirming that “If the UN acts, Boko Haram will be finished within a year.”
Bishop Egbebo said that his presence at the #WeAreN2018 Conference didn’t meet with the Nigerian government’s approval. “I received messages saying that I should be careful with what I say at this conference, because I might upset someone in the government. Being here may have consequences for me. Nevertheless I only follow God,” he made clear.
A far as the situation of Christian children in Nigeria and specifically in his diocese is concerned, the prelate feels that the Nigerian government has abandoned them. “I have been the bishop of Bomadi for 10 years and the government hasn’t built even one school. The children are dying from treatable diseases such as those that are transmitted through mosquito bites. Many priests are giving blood to save the lives of the children. And the government looks on with total disinterest. We don’t know where the money is going. There is a lot of corruption,” he explained.
Images from Monsignor Egbebo’s testimony can be viewed here.
A Spanish journalist kidnapped by jihadists
In the evening of the first day of the Conference Antonio Pampliega, the journalist who was kidnapped in Syria, moved the audience with the retelling of his experience. He denounced the ongoing conflict in this country. “I have never seen a war like the one in Syria and I hope that no one will ever have to see something like this,” he said.
Pampliega had this to say about this captivity: “It was my 15th trip to Syria. I travelled there to report on a monastery in which there were only 5 Christians left of the 20 that I knew. Upon leaving the monastery there was a van with 6 jihadists aiming AK47s at us. When they put us in the van, the first question we asked ourselves was who was kidnapping us. If it was Al Qaeda, we might survive. If it was Islamic State, we were dead.”
During his captivity Pampliega started doubting the existence of God. “I am a Christian but when I was being held captive along with two of my associates, I started to doubt. I asked myself where God was when I saw children who had been dismembered by bombs or when I witnessed 86 people being executed with a shot in the head,” he said.
However everything changed when the Spanish journalist was separated from his two companions as his captors suspected him of being a spy for the Spanish government.“One day one of the kidnappers came armed with a black knife, lifted my chin so that I could look into the camera and held the knife to my throat. From then on I went back to talking to God and He heard me,” he told the audience.
And he added: “I spent Christmas in captivity where I used pieces of a clementine as if they were 12 grapes. I even tried to kill myself with the tip of the knives that the terrorists used to shave.”
The journalist then told the audience what happened after his liberation: “The toughest thing after being held captive was to return to reality. The first thing I did was call my mother, whom I thought I would never see again. And when she picked up the phone, all I could say was that I was sorry. Having been kidnapped did not only bring bad things, but good ones as well. It taught me to value life one day at a time.”
He concluded: “I don’t hate my kidnappers, nor do I forgive them, because during my captivity I learned that I cannot be like them. I don’t hate them for what they did to my parents, because it is not their fault. I had been working in a war zone and could have died.”
Islam, jihadism, islamophobia
Furthermore a roundtable took place where journalists and experts looked for answers to the question of whether we are condemned to confrontation when it comes to Islam, jihadism and islamophobia.
The participants of the round table were the historian, expert in international relations and founder of the group Strategic Studies, Florentino Portero and the journalists José Javier Esparza and Hermann Tertsch. The round table was chaired by the journalist Luis Losada. The overall conclusion was that “now is the time for Christianity”.
“We have been at each other’s throats for centuries,” said Esparza. “Europe is rejecting fundamental principles and today it doesn’t want to know right from wrong. For this reason it does not know what to say to muslims when it comes to integration,” noted Portero. “The West has to find itself because it is “going through a process of destruction” in which “the problem isn’t islamophobia, but christianophobia”, said Tertsch.
Images from the round table “Islam, jihadism and islamophobia: Are we condemned to confrontation?” can be viewed here.
During the first day of the #WeAreN2018 Conference there was also a screening of the documentary ‘This is how persecuted Christians live’, produced by MasLibres.org with original images taken by the platform’s volunteers on mission trips to Pakistan and Iraq.
A Conference to lift the voices of the persecuted
After the conference held in 2015 (Madrid) and 2016 (at the UN headquarters in New York), this year’s conference is specifically dedicated to the children who suffer because of their faith and there will be harrowing testimonies as well as a screening of the film “This is how persecuted Christians live” and the documentary “21 martyrs”.
The III International Conference “We all are Nazarenes” (#WeAreN2018) is organized by the foundation CitizenGO and the foundation MasLibres.org, established in Spain in 2011 with the aim to defend religious freedom.
Information about the III International Conference “We all are Nazarenes” #WeAreN2018 can be found here.