Peace building the focus of ministry in Nigeria.

By September 25, 2006

Nigeria (MNN) — The unstable economic situation in Nigeria has provoked heated conflict over crude oil. This is in addition to years of tribal infighting among the country’s more than 400 ethnic groups, entrenched in their traditions.

John Orkar is the country consultant for the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee. Through urban ministries and village outreaches, the CRWRC is helping to bring the hope and healing of Christ to the poor throughout Nigeria.

Orkar says they’re working to build peace and unity in that conflict-ridden country. “I believe that God has never made a mistake, for creating many ethnic groups in Nigeria. It’s not a mistake, but people misuse what God has created and ethnicity has brought a lot of disunity among the people. Quite often you have one ethnic group fighting another ethnic group and some of the members of that ethnic group are Christians, and so we are appalled that this continues to happen. So through our ministry of peace and justice, we have been working with communities in many places to be proactive so that this shouldn’t be happening.”

The CRWRC has been helping facilitate the peace effort. They also have groups working with young people to promote awareness and encourage young people to bring peace instead of fighting.

There are many Muslims in Nigeria and several states declared Sharia law a few years ago. Orkar says that it was mostly a political move that has quieted down somewhat, although “there’s an uneasy tension between the Christians and Muslims, but they always wait for something that will blow it up.”

Again and again, conflict has destroyed the foundations of community development. Yet, in spite of the troubles in Nigeria, Orkar says God is working and people are responding to the Gospel. “We have seen how God has allowed changes to take place. For example, many of our pastors and churches would preach that Christ was interested in (only) our souls, and it was as if those souls didn’t live in any bodies. Through our holistic ministries the Lord has opened the eyes of people to see that Jesus Christ is interested in the total person, not just in his soul. And so we should work with people in such a way, and we thank God that more and more are beginning to see that.”

Orkar emphasized that we need each other, whether we’re Christians in North America or in Africa. “CRWRC will not be in Nigeria forever. We are working with partners, and one of the partner groups has about 13 denominations represented. We love that! We love to see the unity among Christians so that they can work together in such a way that when CRWRC is not there, they will be able to continue with this ministry. So pray for our partners.”

Prayer is needed as they carry out their work among the poor. “We need the Spirit of the Lord to move in our churches because, sometimes because of tensions and because of hardships, the church is not what it should be,” says Orkar. “We know that the church is growing in Nigeria, very fast. And you also have individuals who are starting churches, and so the work is going on, but we need these people to be discipled. We need these people to have a daily walk with the Lord, and my prayer is that nothing would stop that.”

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