Nigeria (MNN) — The fighting between Boko Haram insurgents and Nigerian military has dragged on for years, worsening every year since the terror group burst onto the scene in 2009.
In their quest to carve a caliphate out of the country, they’ve targeted anyone deemed an obstacle to that Islamic State goal, including but not limited to: moderate Muslims, Christians, law enforcement, educators, journalists and the military.
The humanitarian fallout from the chaos inflicted by Boko Haram (now also called ISWAP-Islamic State West Africa Province) is the fastest growing crisis in Africa. Violence caused a surge in population displacement in and around the Sahel region, which is one of the poorest in the world and home to 140 million people.
Nigeria, war weary and fed up, elected a new president, Muhammadu Buhari, who vowed to end the insurgency. Since his election victory, there’ve been more alliances with neighboring countries, and a different military response. With the advances they’ve made, the military has gone on record anticipating an end to Boko Haram’s violence by December.
The government is looking forward to rebuilding and reunifying a shattered nation. They’re not alone. Christian Aid Mission is also working to help make a brighter future possible for those who have been displaced.
No newcomer to post-war impact, Christian Aid partners and those supported by the ministry acknowledge that an end to the fighting won’t immediately fix every problem the terrorist group has stirred up in the last years.
According to Chronicle News, almost 20,000 people have been killed, including women and children. Many families have abandoned Nigeria altogether to attempt in finding refuge.
“People are leaving, you know, with the fighting going on. People are fleeing in different directions. Families have lost relatives and all they’ve ever owned,” says Amie Cotton with Christian Aid Mission.
UNICEF recently reported that 1.4 million of the displaced people are children. 500,000 have become IDPs in the last five months.
“Each of these children running for their lives is a childhood cut short,” said UNICEF Regional Director for West and Central Africa, Manuel Fontaine. “It’s truly alarming to see that children and women continue to be killed, abducted, and used to carry bombs.”
Cotton says the displacement could have negative effects on children in the long run. “Children have been out of school now for many months or even years. This has been going on since 2013. So some of these kids have been out of school for quite some time,” she says.
Cotton says education is an imperative tool that helps kids grow and thrive. That’s why Christian Aid is partnering with a local ministry to put a better future within reach.
They have plans to send up to 200 children to rural schools in safe areas of Adamawa and Niger state to help kids succeed, despite the loss they’ve faced.
And they’re meeting immediate needs by providing food, and clothing. Their work has proven to be so effective, the government recently invited the ministry “to be a part of a trauma healing program and to develop post internally displaced communities, where people will be equipped to get jobs and become self-sustaining contributors to society again.”
But their work isn’t strictly a humanitarian aid program. They don’t just meet basic needs. That just helps them to open the doors to talk about the Gospel. “Whenever these ministry workers are reaching out…they’re always sharing the love of Christ,” Cotton says. “They’re always sharing the Gospel.”
Many of the children have been very receptive to the message, and Cotton says that pulls in parents as well. They see how the ministry truly cares about the people. They want to hear their story and care for them. “There’s a relationship that is starting to be built. And that opens the door for the Gospel and them receiving Christ.”
Be praying for the fighting to come to an end and for children and families to be able to pick up the pieces with Christian Aid’s help. Also pray for open hearts while they hear the message of Christ.
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