Nigeria (ODM/MNN) — Within a week’s time, there have been two separate attacks in Nigeria by the Islamic extremist group Boko Haram. The attacks have killed more than 200 people combined.
Open Doors USA president and CEO David Curry explains, “February 18th, we had a situation where Boko Haram surrounded a village, separated Christians from the Muslims, and then massacred 106 Christians. Then last week, it flared up yet again when they surrounded a school and killed over 100 children.”
President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency in three states last May, giving the military extra powers to curb the four-year insurgency. So far, it hasn’t done much to deter the extremist group. Curry agrees. “In the north of the country, they’ve set up rule based on Islamic law, and they’re trying to enforce it. There has not been the government stability or the strength to protect Christians.”
Curry says, “What’s happening is an enormous amount of pressure on Christians in the area. Many of them are leaving because they don’t have the security that they need to raise their families and to live their lives.” Open Doors is on the ground and ready to help these Christians through trauma counseling, advocacy, and by helping them rebuild their destroyed communities.
Open Doors is also standing with believers who have resolved to stay in Nigeria despite the violence and danger. Project “Endure Pressure” was developed as a way to strengthen and minister to these believers.
“All of us consider it a great privilege to be part of the team,” one of the team members shared. “With the support of Open Doors, our mission is to bring relief aid to Christians affected by Boko Haram activity. As we deliver the aid, we want to encourage believers to stand strong and remind them that the larger Body of Christ is concerned about their situation and praying for them day and night.”
The team traveled into the heart of Yobe, the birthplace of Boko Haram, in order to provide relief aid to several pastors still living there. Because of the high level of violence in Yobe, the majority of believers have chosen to leave this area. For the team, it was not an easy journey. They met resistance from the Nigerian army, and their vehicle was stopped and searched at every check point.
Because of the continued insecurity in the region, the team asked the pastors to meet them in a secluded area. The pastors warmly welcomed them upon their arrival, but signs of fatigue were clearly written on their faces. The months of insecurity left them weary and discouraged.
The team encouraged the pastors in their decisions to stay. In response, one pastor said, “We trust God and believe that the prayers of the saints around the world will keep us. We trust the Lord for protection. He is helping us and has been using Open Doors to strengthen us. It is our sincere prayer that God will strengthen you, and we continue to pray for you as you are praying for us.”
Traveling through other areas of Northern Nigeria, the team ministered to a group of widows whose husbands were killed by Islamic militants in a drive-by shooting. They provided them with groceries as well as money for rent, school fees for their children, and clothing. After spending time encouraging and praying for these women, there were tears of joy as the women rained blessings and words of gratitude on them. One widow, named Jummai Adamu, shared:
“God has brought you to come to my aid. He alone knows my situation. I didn’t have the courage to say what I was going through these days. This God I am serving is wonderful. I am extremely grateful for the gift of love you shower on me and my family. May the people that contributed to this gift be blessed in Jesus’ name.”
“…and having done all, to stand.” It’s a story of grace under pressure. Curry says there are lessons to be learned from the body of Nigerian Christians. “There’s a depth and a richness of our spiritual life when we go through difficulties, and it’s an encouragement for us to see the power of God’s love in the midst of tragedy.”
Despite the discouragement and fear that comes with stories like this, Curry is quick to add that there is always hope where the Gospel is concerned. “Be motivated to share your faith and to share the love of God with your neighbors because that is at the essence of what these folks want to do.”