Displaying items by tag: Nigeria
Naomi, a Nigerian Christian widow, never expected to suffer persecution, but when her town was overrun by Islamists, she was ready. Her Bible had taught her, ‘Persecution is God’s Word being fulfilled.’ While Naomi was working her farmland outside the city she heard distant gunfire. She immediately ran toward the sound, concerned for her children at home. After passing scenes of horrific violence on her way she gathered her children and fled to nearby mountains, where they stayed before moving to a Cameroon refugee camp. Poor conditions there forced them to return to Nigeria. When mission workers learned of her situation, they helped the family move into their own home and arranged for the children to attend a good school. Naomi said, ‘Attacks made my faith stronger.’
On 24 June a court in Kano State acquitted Professor Solomon Tarfa on charges of ‘running an illegal orphanage’ and ‘criminal conspiracy and abduction of minors’. He has faced a series of false charges, including child abduction and forgery, and appears to have been targeted simply for running a Christian orphanage. On Christmas Day 2019, over 60 plain-clothes policemen raided his orphanage and arrested him. Later, 27 children were removed from the orphanage and placed in a government-run home, where they have been harassed, prevented from attending church, and reportedly assaulted. Five of the youngest children were forcibly relocated to an orphanage in a remote area. A source said that three of these children looked ‘ill and emaciated’ and had had their names changed to Muslim ones. The ordeal is not over. Sixteen children are still waiting to be returned home, and Professor Tarfa will appear in court again on 27 July to defend the forgery charge.
Christians are increasingly being persecuted violently: by brutal IS in the Middle East, Boko Haram in Nigeria, and Hindu extremists in India. Release International issued a report on persecution trends in 2021. It is a wake-up call to take our prayers for our persecuted family to new levels. Nigerian attacks are driven by Islamist ideologies to destroy ‘the infidels’. 300 Christians remain detained without trial inside Eritrea. The Chinese government is increasing its ‘clean-cup’ of anything that does not advance the communist agenda. North Korea’s policy against Christians is the longest, harshest persecution in recorded history. Iranians constantly fear they are under surveillance when they meet secretly. The pressure has led to an exodus from Iran that will continue in 2021. Egyptian Christian converts from a Muslim background will continue to pay a high price for their faith and will be expelled from their families, divorced, and lose their employment.
Across Nigeria 1,470 Christians have been murdered and 2,200 abducted since January. The most recent offence was in Kaduna State when eight Christians were killed and a church was burned down. Pray for an end to such attacks by Fulani Muslim herdsmen and jihadists. In Burkina Faso jihadists ambushed a baptism and killed 15 of the Christians. Al-Qaeda and IS have been growing in West Africa since January. Pray for God's peace for the many who are living in fear and protection over those who ran away. In India’s Rajasthan state 15 radical Hindu nationalists carrying swords, sickles, and a gun attacked the family of a pastor after they all refused to renounce their Christian faith. The assailants killed the pastor’s 52-year-old father. Pray for God to strengthen and encourage church planters and house churches in different Hindu-dominant villages. Armenian Christian gravestones are used to build roads in Azerbaijan as they seek to eradicate evidence of Armenian culture and identity.
Leah Sharibu was 14 when she was abducted in 2018 by Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP). She defied the terrorist group, a splinter group of Boko Haram, when they abducted 110 girls from school. ISWAP released 104 of them a month later; five died, and Leah was the only one not freed because she refused to renounce her Christian faith. President Buhari pledged to secure her freedom during his visit to the USA. In London, he told the Archbishop of Canterbury he is working quietly to free her. In January 2020 there were reports that Leah had had a baby. In March 2021, rumours surfaced that she had given birth to her second child. Her parents said that the government had not helped them secure Leah’s release; they rest their hope in God, not government. Her mother Rebecca said, ‘By the grace of God. I have not lost hope because God is in control and people are praying.’
Gunmen abducted 39 students, most of whom are Christians, from a college in Kaduna state on 11 March. An armed gang raided the college in Kaduna at 9.30 pm, shooting indiscriminately and rounding up 219 people. Of these, 180 were rescued by the army soon afterwards. Several videos have been released showing the 39 abducted students being threatened, beaten, and whipped. In another video, a male student (named Emmanuel) being held at gunpoint pleads with the government to intervene. He added, ‘Many of us here have been injured - badly injured. Most of us here have health issues.’ Meanwhile we can praise God that Pastor Yakuru, kidnapped by Boko Haram on Christmas Eve 2020, was released on 3 March, the day the terrorists said they would execute him. His release was negotiated by the department of state services and a national charity.
Nigeria was the country with the most Christians killed for their faith last year. In overall violence, it was second only to Pakistan, and it trailed only China in the number of churches attacked or closed. Nigeria also led the world in the number of kidnapped Christians last year and broke into the top ten countries for the first time, where it is most difficult to be a Christian, jumping to number 9 (from 12 last year). On 2 April you were asked to pray for the release of eight Christians who were abducted on their way to evangelise in Kaduna state. This week we can thank God that our prayers have been answered, and they were freed and taken to hospital for checkup and tests.
Eight Christians have been abducted while on their way to evangelise in Kaduna state. The group of members of the Redeemed Christian Church of God were travelling towards the town of Kafanchan when gunmen intercepted the bus, according to International Christian Concern and the Nigerian Tribune. Eje Kenny Faraday, a witness, posted a picture on Facebook showing the empty bus saying, ‘All passengers in the bus are just kidnapped along Kachia Road, Km 63 from Kaduna.’ The kidnappers have demanded the equivalent of £88,000 for their release. A search for the members has been launched by security agencies including the police and the military.
When Nigerian front-line worker Daniel Zagi was interviewed by Voice of the Martyrs, he used the word ‘pray’ 42 times. ‘If there is anything you want to do for us, pray’, he said. ‘We are here, and we are fighting for the cause of the gospel in the north.’ Many Christians in northern Nigeria have lost loved ones and homes in attacks by Boko Haram and Fulani militants, who seek to drive Christians out and establish an Islamist nation. Many pastors have been forced to flee the region, and entire congregations have been displaced. Nigerian believers need our prayers as they advance the gospel amid these violent attacks. Pray that believers suffering repeated attacks will withstand persecution and persevere in faith. Ask God to comfort all those who have experienced great loss because of this violence.
The 2014 kidnap of 276 Chibok schoolgirls brought global attention to raids on schools in Nigeria. Now criminals are making money with copycat crimes. Nearly 300 girls were kidnapped from a boarding school last week, then released four days later after a ransom was paid. One girl said, ‘Most of us got injured, and we could not carry on walking. They said they would shoot anybody who did not continue walking. We walked across a river and they let us sleep under shrubs in a forest.’ Their release was secured through negotiations between government officials and the abductors. Kidnapping for ransom is a widespread criminal enterprise. Both rich and poor are seized by gunmen on almost a daily basis. Security personnel have also been held. The aim is to secure someone's release by raising funds from friends and relatives - or even selling their assets.