Nigeria (MNN) — Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has declared
a state of emergency in parts of the country following attacks from the
Islamist group Boko Haram.
Haram means "Western education is a sin." The group is pushing to establish Sharia
law and has been the source of explosive discontent over the last few years. They have been carrying out increasingly deadly attacks throughout 2011,
including an August suicide bombing of UN headquarters in Abuja and Christmas
violence that triggered fear and anger.
temporarily closed international borders, and the military is in place, a
measure meant to reinforce the emergencies in Yobe, Borno, Plateau and Niger states.
came in response to a threat issued by the Boko Haram, an extremist Muslim sect
with close ties to al Qaeda. They issued an ultimatum, warning Christians to
leave the North by January 3, which led to a response from Christian leaders
that they would defend themselves if such attacks continued.
Smith, President/CEO of Wycliffe Associates, says their
translations teams have not been directly affected by the threat. However, the emotional and spiritual toll has
been much higher. "It's an
extremely stressful circumstance for them. They're very concerned. They're seeking
wisdom about how to respond in these circumstances. They're actually looking to
God's Word for the answers that they really need in terms of how they relate to
their neighbors and other members of the community that are part of this
Jonathon has been urging calm, a religious war weighs heavily on recent
memory. Even with the stepped-up
security, their teams have not allowed the situation to disrupt their deadlines
for translation work. Smith
acknowledges, "It's definitely creating a climate of
uncertainty and increases their concern about how to continue carrying out
their work." However, "They know that God's Word
has the real power to change people's hearts and that continuing to move forward
in Bible translation is the best way to
remedy the situation that they face."
There's "news," and then there's the story behind it that impacts local
Christians, Smith explains. The team has
a testimony in the local community, and fleeing impacts the mission work and
Bible translation, in terms of its ability to move forward, he adds. That's why they're laying low and being extra
vigilant. "The people that are primarily working in Bible translation
right now are Nigerians. These are people that are working in their own
communities. They are well aware of the local circumstances; they know who is
affiliated with which groups and where their allies are. They're wired into the
local situation and very attuned to it."
is a normal part of living in a country like Nigeria. For the local translation teams, they work
around it and pray. "Pray for God's protection. But also pray for God's
wisdom that these circumstances will actually yield opportunities to speak a
testimony for Him, to make His name known, and for hearts to be changed,
because that's the ultimate solution."
Boko Haram is blamed for three murders this week that could be a
precursor to a bloodbath, and Smith says their team wants other Christians to pray for change. "Pray that God's Word and the truth of
God's Word continues to impact the communities across Nigeria. It's not government, it's not political, it's
not military force that's going to change people's hearts and minds. Ultimately
it's the truth of God's Word."