Niger (MNN) — It’s been about four months since American missionary Jeff Woodke was kidnapped in Niger, yet little progress has been made in finding him.
Woodke, who worked for a local branch of the US-based Youth With A Mission, was taken on the evening of October 14th from the town of Abalak in northern Niger. Nigerien authorities tracked his captors to neighboring Mali, but his exact condition and whereabouts are unknown.
“As the mayor was saying, as many of his colleagues who he worked with before [were saying], there’s never been an issue, there wasn’t a person who disliked this man, yet he was kidnapped and they don’t know what happened to him,” Emily Fuentes, communications director for Open Doors USA, says. “They’ve never had their safety quite at this risk before.”
Niger has often been a peaceful place for Christians to live, but the kidnapping and other recent events reveal a disturbing trend. On Monday, Niger’s defense ministry said at least five armed police officers were attacked in Wanzarbe near the country’s western border with Mali. Two weeks prior, Islamic extremists killed at least 15 soldiers near the same border in the Tillaberi region.
“I think the concerning trend is that it was five, six years ago that it was viewed as a relatively peaceful country, especially for the region,” Fuentes says. “But now we’re seeing, okay, these incidents could sometimes lead to other incidents, and I think we’re going to see maybe a steady stream of continual persecution.”
Open Doors works in Niger and other countries where Christians face persecution by providing education for children, providing jobs for widows, caring for refugees and rebuilding churches. Fuentes says there’s something critical you can do.
“It’s absolutely vital that we be praying for them, especially in a country that’s so used to a more peaceful way of Muslims and Christians living side-by-side,” Fuentes says. “[There are] not many Muslim extremists. We’re seeing some spilling over from Boko Haram in Nigeria as well as maybe other extremists popping up.
“On average, in Nigeria, five churches are destroyed every Sunday.”
Can you come alongside these believers in their time of desperation? There are numerous ways you can help Open Doors assist the persecuted, including prayer and donations. Click here to learn how.