Niger casts a wary eye to the violence in Nigeria

By February 1, 2012

Niger (MNN) — Clashes
continue in northeast Nigeria, the part of the country with the greatest Boko
Haram activity.

Boko Haram is an Islamism sect with ties to al Qaeda. The group's name in Hausa means "Western education
is sinful."

David Bast with Words of
doesn't doubt the flare up of trouble in the neighboring
country, but he says there's something else to consider. "I think it's
important to note that there's some question about Boko Haram. It's always possible for ordinary criminals or
thugs to use that in order to cover their activities, so it's very difficult
for us to know what's going on, on the ground."

Either way,
the atmosphere across the North remains tense among Christians in Nigeria. Bast says while
their Niger team is not being directly affected by the persecution, there's
reason to be wary. "The tribal and linguistic group straddles that border–they're
Hausa speakers, and something like 40 to 50 million."  

Words of Hope's French programs are trying to influence the
region for good. Given that radio is the
most important means of mass communication, it's one of the best ways to share
crucial information.   

An overwhelming majority of the population has ownership or
at least access to radios within their household and listens to radio
faithfully. From the survey results, the respondents' favorite radio programs
discuss news and religion. That's
another plus. The Words of Hope team is producing daily
radio programs in Hausa. Bast says,
"They're on 30 radio stations throughout the country. They're
very positive in the way they present the good news about Jesus. One of the things
that they report is that their programming has made it easier for evangelists
from the church to enter the villages."

Although Niger is majority Muslim country, the history with
Christians has been peaceful. Radio capitalizes on that relationship to
introduce Christ. "The Muslim population of the villages has already heard from
the church, in effect, through the radio. They like the programs, and so they're willing
to give a hearing to the evangelists that come in. It's kind of clearing away misconceptions
and maybe popular prejudice."

Over the last five years, the number of listeners has grown
exponentially because of what the ministry addresses. As a
result, they've heard from missionaries and pastors who say the Muslim
community is listening. There are
several imams who listen to the programs and appreciate them.

As the situation continues to deteriorate in
nearby Nigeria, the Words of Hope program director says despite the uncertainty
of the time they're living in, "'We have a great duty which consists in
loving our Muslim brothers despite the fact that some of them kill innocents
every day. It's also the love that brought
Jesus to the cross. We must redouble
our efforts to bring the Gospel of peace, restoration, and forgiveness wherever
it should be.'"

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