Nigeria (ODM/MNN) — Open Doors USA has issued an urgent appeal for prayer after receiving news that suspected Boko Haram terrorists attacked the predominantly Nigerian Christian village of Zangan in southern Kaduna around midnight on Monday.It was the latest in a string of attacks that prompted a State of Emergency.
Open Doors spokesman Jerry Dykstra says they're still trying to determine the details of what happened, but so far, "Open Doors says it understands an ‘entire village' has been destroyed: burnt down, many people are fleeing after the attack."
The village chief's residence was reportedly burnt to the ground, and the village chief's whereabouts remains unknown after he fled Zangan. Churches and homes were among the buildings destroyed in the attack.
Dykstra says this attack came after an earlier threat and days of uncertainty. "The report that we got from Open Doors in Africa said that they had been threatened before by the Boko Haram. They were living in fear almost daily. In that area, many schools have been closed down because of that."
"We do not have any more details at this stage, but we understand that this area saw a similar attack about four weeks ago. Open Doors urges prayer for the people of southern Kaduna state and Zangan village in particular." Police say 19 people died in that earlier attack.
Open Doors has been active in Nigeria since 1997. Over the last few years, "The Boko Haram actually wants to take over the whole country and put into effect Sharia Law," explains Dykstra. Their attacks–which are estimated to have cost 3,600 lives since 2009–have included suicide blasts as well as coordinated gun and bomb assaults on houses of worship, Christian centers, security forces, schools and other symbols of authority. All that means the Open Doors response teams have seen dramatic growth in the outreach they do.
With the Boko Haram targeting church leaders and Christian adults, that leaves an untold number of orphans and widows. Open Doors projects target schooling for the children, as well as socio-economic projects for widows of Christian leaders who have been killed. Dykstra adds, "We support the Christians there in emergency situations with trauma counseling. We do a lot of care for Muslim-Background Believers, distribution of Bibles, Sunday school training, assistance to Christians in Sharia-controlled States in the North."
Nigeria is ranked No. 13 on the Open Doors 2013 World Watch List (www.worldwatchlist.us ) of the worst persecutors of Christians in the world.
It's unlikely that this pattern will change much. Aside from the physical help, Dyskstra says Nigerian believers are asking for wisdom in their response. "I think we need to pray for Christians not to strike back. The Christian leaders are urging–especially the youth–not to retaliate. That would kind of just recycle this pattern of violence."