UPDATE: Sunday’s attack on St Francis Catholic Church in the Nigerian town of Owo killed 22 people and injured 50, an official from the National Emergency Management Agency said on Tuesday. Previous reports said more than 50 people were killed.
Attacks like these are common in the north but rare in Nigeria’s southern half. Docudramas about persecution in the early Church can help believers in the south as they face increasing oppression.
International Media Ministries’ Denise Godwin explains, “It’s extremely significant that they (believers in Nigeria) know they aren’t unique in Christian history to that kind of persecution; they’re not alone.”
Persecution vs. prosperity
So-called “prosperity gospel” is common in southern Nigeria, as it is in the United States. This style of preaching sees God as a means to an end; if Christians pray hard enough, God will grant them any material desires they might have. Prosperity gospel teaches that if a Christian does not have wealth, they must not be praying hard enough.
“In our lifestyle in the United States, we want quick, easy, and we don’t want any discomfort,” Godwin says.
The Bible presents a different message. Jesus said in Matthew 10, “You will be hated by all for My name’s sake.” Jesus also encouraged His followers with the secret to overcoming persecution in John 16:33, and the answer wasn’t health or wealth.
“When you talk to people living in persecution, they usually say, ‘Pray for me to stay strong, and not deny Christ,’” Godwin says.
“They’re not often worried about their safety, which I find touching.”
Ask the Lord to comfort survivors of this weekend’s attack. Pray believers will grow in their faith. “We can pray that the Holy Spirit would strengthen them to be a witness to their culture, sometimes at the cost of their lives,” Godwin suggests.
Find your place in the story
Pray God will give His wisdom to the IMM team wisdom as they develop resources for the local church. Learn more about IMM’s work here.
“The smaller dialects in West Africa are under consideration right now; some are in the translation phase, where they’re just translating the script,” Godwin says.
Pray believers will find the “right” people to present information in IMM’s productions. Anyone taking part in a piece like this risks being identified and targeted by persecutors in the wider community.
“Being on camera is a big deal. Finding [a] local person to go on camera is so significant, and such an important matter for prayer, because these people have to be sure the risks they’re taking are something God has called them to,” Godwin says.
Header image courtesy of ©EC/ECHO/Anouk Delafortrie via Flickr.