The Nigerian government has finally acknowledged that radical Islamist groups like Boko Haram are targeting Christians for attacks. It only recently released a statement saying as much, but the problem has been going on for years.
Ed Weaver of Spoken Worldwide says the situation is complicated. “There are times when everything’s going well and the church is responding well. And then there’s times when the church is responding in incorrect ways. So there’s times when they’re brave, and there’s times when they’re full of fear.”
And it isn’t just Christians who are suffering from the attacks. Boko Haram’s beliefs and practices do not reflect the attitudes of Islam as a whole, and nominal Muslims often face violence just as fierce.
“They get caught up in in the same kind of violence and maybe even are more abused at times, than the Christians. It’s because [the militants are] saying, ‘You’re even worse than Christians because Christians don’t claim to believe what we believe. But you at least, [fellow believers of Islam] claim to believe what we believe.”
Those especially targeted by Boko Haram include pastors and other leaders of Christians communities. And yet Spoken Worldwide wants to train more pastors in the country.
Weaver is concerned that if all Christians flee from the North, the Gospel will leave with them. “One of the things that I’ve been concerned about is if there is a Christian brain drain, if you will, out of the North into the South, then there’s no opportunity for Gospel presence.”
Spoken Worldwide can’t promise these pastors an easy life, of course. Weaver points to the examples of the apostles, all of whom were mistreated and most of whom were martyred.
But isn’t that a terrible selling point for a new program? Perhaps, but Weaver says, “We thought we might have maybe five or six hundred people in the discipleship pipeline by now. We’ve got just under 7000. So what’s happened is the Muslims that are being chased away by Boko Haram are realizing that they’re having a crisis of faith, and they’re coming to Christ.”
How to pray
“We need to pray for courage on the part of the local believers in northern Nigeria,” Weaver says. “Believers in the West need to surround their African brothers and sisters in prayer. “They’re out there doing a pretty lonely job. And so if we can come alongside in prayer, that’s going to be incredibly valuable.”
Weaver says the natural human instinct to attack is to retaliate, and he has seen this instinct in the churches in Nigeria. He asks believers to pray that the Holy Spirit will give Nigerian Christians supernatural forbearance and love.
The attacks in Nigeria are really hurting Christians. Pray that the Holy Spirit will transform them ever more into the image of Christ and will heal the country of Nigeria.
Wilderness of Northern Nigeria. (Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)