Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Persecuted Church in Nigeria

Boko Haram was founded as a Sunni Islamic fundamentalist sect in Nigeria in 2002 with the goal of establishing an Islamic state there that would function under strict sharia law.  Initially, they had a religious center with a school for poor children that served as a recruiting tool for the organization. Over the years, the sect has become increasing militant and, by 2009, there were clear acts of violence against those who did not follow the tenets of Islam.  As the years passed, violence, acts of terror, and outright persecution have increased.  Boko Haram became a household name of terror with the abduction of nearly 300 schoolgirls from Chibok earlier this year, but their reign of terror was in full swing well before the girls were taken.

One village in northern Nigeria was attacked by Boko Haram forces eleven times over a period of twenty-one months, beginning in January 2012.  Villagers were attacked and forced to flee their homes.  Christians were threatened and killed.  That same year, Boko Haram raided and attacked a village where a young man was pastor.  When he refused to recant his faith and accept Islam, he was shot in the face and left for dead while his wife and young son stood helplessly by, watching in horror.  That day, Boko Haram forces went to the homes of more than thirty of his church members. Every person was offered the chance to recant their faith and accept Islam or be killed.  Every one refused to deny Christ and every one was killed for their faith.  Every single one.  

Every single person refused to deny their faith and was killed.
Every single one.

As I read those words, I thought, "I wish I were a part of that church."  Imagine being a part of a church where everyone understood that nothing can separate them from the love of God, including the AK-47 of a terrorist, and that to die, as the apostle Paul said, is gain.  That is a church where God's Spirit can reign and rule!

Today, consider what your response would be to terrorists armed with AK-47's as they burst into your home. Would you stand firm for your faith or would you deny Christ for a chance to survive?  We may, or may not, encounter that situation, but our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world live with that possibility every day of their lives.  We cannot sit idly by and do nothing for our brothers and sisters in such grave peril.  We cannot fail to help while thousands die in Nigeria every year at the hands of Boko Haram.  We can give, we can go, but most of all we can pray, and pray we must!  Pray that those who are persecuted can hold to their faith, that those who grieve will be comforted, and that those who have lost so much will find that our Lord restores the years the locusts have stolen, but do not fail to pray that the God who changed a Saul into a Paul would do the same in the hearts and lives of the Boko Haram militants who have fought against Him so viciously and for so long.

Material about Boko Haram drawn from Wikipedia.  Information about the young pastor from multiple internet sources.  For more information about the persecuted church in Nigeria, see Voice of the Martyrs.