Displaying items by tag: Nigeria
Fulani herdsmen attacked a worship service at an evangelical church in Kachia county, killing one and wounding many others. Then they destroyed dozens of homes in two villages, wounding more Christians and killing thirty. ‘Our hearts are filled with pain, fears, bitterness and disappointments,’ said a survivor. ‘The trauma, the macabre series of murders, the daily kidnappings, attacks on farmers and destruction of crops, the burning of houses, churches and humans alive, the mass burials. All we’ve got left is God and hope.’ A few days earlier an agitated mob hacked Rev Yohanna Shuaibu to death and burned down his home, church and school over the killing of a woman by a man they believed had converted to Christianity. Pastor Shuaibu had built a school for indigenous Christian children denied an education because of their faith. May God comfort all the bereaved, heal the physically and emotionally injured, and provide for all the homeless.
The idea that Nigeria is well-intentioned but under-resourced to contain religious violence is incomplete. The government may be under-resourced, but is not blameless in the matter of sectarian violence. Government forces have fought to quell the violence in some instances, but in others they exacerbated the problem if not created it in the first place according to a report by International Christian Concern. The report considers ways which Nigerian states contribute to discrimination and violence against Christians: in particular, twelve northern states which adopted Sharia criminal law, leading to problems for Christians in the region and impacting their ability to participate as equal members of society. Using Sharia to adjudicate on criminal matters has done significant real-world harm, and the departure from secularism has harmed Christians in northern Nigeria.The report recommends the US government to establish an official stance against non-secularism in northern Nigeria, rework aid delivery to Christians, and appoint a special envoy to address each region’s issues.
Nigerian Christians have experienced horrendous violence against their communities in recent years. Many have been killed, thousands have fled homes and land, and many live with the trauma of seeing loved ones killed or brutalised. Their needs are now being met by trauma-healing workshops that help them express their pain, face up to it, and to bring it to Christ so that feelings aren’t buried deep within. The workshop seeks to bring victims to a point where, by the grace of God, they are able to forgive those who hurt them. They then have a foundation on which to rebuild their lives. Each workshop helps forty people over a five-day period. They equip church leaders with biblical principles to respond to suffering – their own and the suffering of others. There is also a separate youth version of the workshop, for young people traumatised by violence.
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.