An exclusive report on persecution in Nigeria from John Wilson, VOM’s CEO. John shares his insights from meeting persecuted Christians on his recent trip to Nigeria.
Sorrow, tears and blood have become a regular part of many cities in northern Nigeria. Militant Muslim groups like Boko Haram have caused havoc among the Christian community, claiming credit for many recent deaths. Boko Haram, which translates to “Western education is forbidden,” said they are fighting to impose a strict Islamic state in northern Nigeria. For Christians living under this tension, their faith is constantly under fire.
Professor Kyari Mohammed, the chair of the Centre for Peace and Security Studies at a university in Yola, Nigeria, has said, “What helps unite the country now is the commonality of economic hardship suffered by everyone in Nigeria.” But statements like this contain no spiritual hope for the people, and without hope the nation will continually be in turmoil.
Recent discussions in the USA between the US President Barack Obama and Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan in September 2013 have raised issues of mutual concern. A White House statement after the meeting quoted Obama as saying, “In the northern regions of Nigeria we’ve seen the emergence of one of the most vicious terrorist organisations in the world, the Boko Haram.”
Facing Boko Haram Today
In March 2013, a team from VOM Australia travelled to Gombe in northern Nigeria to meet with pastors and Christian leaders. For Westerners travelling there, the dangers are very real and our visit was treated very cautiously as we ran the risk of being targeted for kidnappings or bombings.
With the cooperation of the local government and our national contacts, we were placed under heavy security 24/7. We had a squad of armed guards in full riot gear which was a little daunting and completely foreign to us, but security was vital. Despite our concerns, it is important we visit these difficult places to gather information firsthand and listen to Christian leaders about the situation faced by persecuted believers.
As we arrived at our destination, I noticed that the church compound was surrounded by high walls topped with razor wire and we were escorted by 18 armed guards. We met with 350 pastors and encouraged them in their faith. We then distributed a special Pastor’s Kit to each one that contained a Bible, Christian literature, a DVD player with evangelistic DVDs, a radio programmed with Gospel messages, a torch and a pair of gumboots (to protect them from the snakes in the jungles). We were honoured to shake their hands and they were blessed to receive this gift.
Among the pastors were six widows who had recently lost their husbands. They told us it was Boko Haram who claimed responsibility for their husbands’ deaths, and through their tears each one of these widows described what had happened. “At night time there was a knock at the door. My husband opened the door and a man with a gun was standing there. He just opened fire at point blank range then ran away. It all happened so fast,” said one of the widows.
Within seconds these six young women became widows, and their lives changed instantly. One of the ways VOM cares for Nigerian widows is through a special program that provides an opportunity for them to start their own business. We sponsor some widows with equipment like grinding machines to grind grain and sell it at the market. We also sponsor others to learn a skill like sewing. When they graduate they are given a sewing machine so they can start a small business that will provide an income to support their families. These widows are just some of the casualties of horrific persecution against Christians in northern Nigeria.
Please remember to pray for our brothers and sisters in Nigeria who face relentless attacks from Boko Haram. Pray that their faith will remain strong in the Lord and that God will continue to grow His church in the face of violent persecution.
You can partner with us to assist persecuted Christians in northern Nigeria by giving to our Nigeria: Where most needed fund. Click here to donate today. Thank you!