Jono Fox recently travelled to Nigeria with Voice of the Martyrs to meet persecuted Christians. He will be sharing his experiences at this year’s Thirteen Three Fearless youth events to help raise awareness and funds for Nigerian Christians.
We caught up with Jono recently to find out more about his trip and what life is like for Christians in Nigeria.
Tell us what you learned about the situation for Christians in Nigeria.
Life is incredibly hard in Nigeria. Many families struggle to put food on the table and there is limited access to clean water. Houses are not built with good materials and the roads are not well-maintained.
For Christians, the hardships are increased, especially in the north.
The Islamic militant group Boko Haram is trying to purge Christianity from northern Nigeria. Many Christians have been killed or maimed and many churches have been burned to the ground.
The violence against Christians is so frequent that it has become normal. If you are a Christian in northern Nigeria, you expect persecution.
Can you tell us about one person you met who particularly encouraged your faith?
I was really challenged by what one of our Nigerian contacts, Yoney, said to me: ‘Christianity is only in the north because Christians remain there.’
Put yourself in the shoes of Nigerian Christians and imagine what it would be like if your friends were killed for their faith and your church was burned down. I know that I would want to move my family further to the south where it is safer for Christians.
But many of the pastors I met are convinced that God wants them to stay in the north to advance the Gospel. They truly believe that ‘to live is Christ and to die is gain’ Philippians 1:21.
The courageous faith of these Nigerian pastors continues to be an inspiration to me.
You gave out Thirteen Three wristbands to many persecuted Christians in Nigeria. Why did you do this? And how did they respond?
I met one pastor called Samuel whose church had been burned down by Islamic militants. I really wanted to encourage Pastor Samuel so I gave him a Thirteen Three wristband and told him, ‘The youth of Australia wear these wristbands to remember that they are bound with their persecuted brothers and sisters around the world. This year the youth of Australia will be praying for you and raising money to support Christians in Nigeria.’
Pastor Samuel put the wristband on immediately and had a huge smile on his face. He was so grateful for our support. A few hours later, Samuel came and asked me for more wristbands to encourage other pastors in the region.
This made me realise how important a simple gesture like wearing a wristband is to encourage persecuted Christians who often feel alone.
You will be sharing your experiences from Nigeria at this year’s Thirteen Three Fearless youth events. What do you think Australian youth can learn from Nigerian Christians?
Most of us will probably never face the same persecution that Nigerian Christians face. They live in constant danger, and yet many say they are not afraid because they have Jesus.
Even though we live in safety and freedom, Australian Christian youth have many fears. Some are afraid of not belonging, others of being alone, of being teased or bullied. These fears can get in the way of living for and proclaiming Jesus.
My prayer is that through the Fearless events, Australian youth will learn from Nigerian Christians to overcome their fears and ‘fearlessly make known the mystery of the Gospel’ Ephesians 6:19. For more information, or to register for a Fearless event in your area, click here.