Nigeria (MNN) — The African country of Nigeria is mourning the death of its elected president, Umaru Yar'Adua, who died Wednesday night. He had been treated in Saudi Arabia for an unknown illness. Yar'Adua had not been seen in public since he fell ill last November and was subsequently transferred to Saudi for treatment.
Nigeria's acting president since February, Goodluck Jonathan, has already been sworn in as head of state. As a Christian southerner, he will likely continue to face opposition from Muslim northerners, who also happen to be Yar'Adua's policital base.
This could cause even more tension between the Muslim north and the Christian south, says Open Doors, USA.
On April 13, suspected Islamic extremists abducted and killed Church of Christ in Nigeria pastor Ishaku Kadah and his wife, Selina, in a village in Bauchi state in northern Nigeria, according to Compass Direct News.
They were forced from their church headquarters home and killed. They were buried on April 17. On Jan. 22, suspected Islamic extremists had set fire to their church building days after Christians displaced by violence in Plateau state had taken refuge on the church premises.
"This is yet another case of unprovoked killing of Christians, which we condemn and demand that the law enforcement agents must fish out the perpetrators of this act," Bishop Musa Fula, state chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria in Bauchi state, told Compass.
In early March, ethnic Fulani Muslims attacked three villages near Jos which resulted in the deaths of up to 500 Christians and the burning of about 75 homes. Eyewitnesses say the attackers used knives and cutlasses while shouting "Allah Akbar" (God is great) during their assaults which were carried out not only against men, but against many women and children.
Christians contacted the military for assistance, but it took over two hours for the military to arrive. By this time, the attackers had finished their assault and left. Tragically, there are reports that Saleh Maina, General Officer Commanding the Third Armored Division, knew about the planned attacks in advance and chose to do nothing to stop them.
Less than two weeks later, Fulani Muslims attacked two more villages in Plateau state, resulting in the deaths of 13 more Christians, including a pregnant woman and children.
The violence against Christians is increasing every day in Africa's most populous country, including the murder of seven Christians (of whom two were journalists) by Muslim youth gangs April 24-25. Although Open Doors workers immediately delivered beds, bedding, food and medicine to the suffering, hundreds remain homeless and traumatized.
In the face of these atrocities, Christians need to stand with their brothers and sisters in Nigeria to hold their government accountable for failing to protect Christians. You can support Nigerian believers by sending a message to Nigerian Ambassador to the United States Adebowale Ibidapo Adefuye, asking that the Nigerian government launch a thorough investigation of these incidents, hold the perpetrators accountable for their involvement in these crimes, punish officials who were complicit in the crimes, and ensure that the victims receive compensation for the crimes committed against them. To send a message, go to www.OpenDoorsUSA.org.
"Using your voice on their behalf is one way you can let these Nigerian Christians know they are not forgotten and that we as a body of Christ are standing with them," says Open Doors USA President/CEO Carl Moeller. "We cannot and must not stand idly by and let our fellow Christians suffer in silence. Take action now by praying and by writing the Nigerian ambassador."
Twelve states in northern Nigeria have enacted shariahlLaw (strict Muslim law). Northern Nigeria is ranked No. 27 on this year's Open Doors World Watch List of the worst persecutors of Christians. Nigeria is almost equally divided between Muslims and Christians, with the majority of the Muslims living in the north and the Christians in the south.
While persecution is creating a culture of fear, Moeller doesn't expect it to affect church growth long-term. "First, over the course of time in a given country, as persecution increases, it really serves to spread the Gospel, as we saw in the New Testament. Secondly, in dozens of countries over the years where persecution has increased dramatically, the church has also grown dramatically."
An estimated 100 million Christians worldwide suffer interrogation, arrest and even death for their faith in Christ, with millions more facing discrimination and alienation. Open Doors supports and strengthens believers in the world's most difficult areas through Bible and Christian literature distribution, leadership training and assistance, Christian community development, prayer and presence ministry and advocacy on behalf of suffering believers. To partner with Open Doors USA, call toll free at 888-5-BIBLE-5 (888-524-2535) or go to the Open Doors Web site at www.OpenDoorsUSA.org.