PUBLISHED ON 22 SEPTEMBER, 2016 BY LYNDSEY KOH
Nigeria (MNN) — Earlier this week, Boko Haram launched a spattering of attacks within hours of each other in northeast Nigeria. In one assault, they gunned down eight Christians as they were leaving church. Boko Haram members also ambushed a Nigerian military convoy, and beheaded a village chief and his son.
All this comes in the wake of failed negotiations between Boko Haram and the Nigerian government to swap kidnapped women and girls for imprisoned insurgency members.
It’s been seven years of Boko Haram militants terrorizing northern Nigeria. But the crisis they’ve instigated is not grabbing headlines like their Euro-Middle Eastern ISIS counterparts or attacks on the West.
Greg Kelley with World Mission says, “They’re causing all kinds of terror and it’s incredibly difficult. In fact, there are so many communities in northern Nigeria that Christians have 100 percent evacuated just because they are literally targeted and murdered on site as they’re identified.”
This crisis isn’t just Nigeria’s problem. It’s affecting countries around them — and really, no matter how far the effect goes, Christians need to fight against and pray for injustices.
“The reality is that Boko Haram, although they’re concentrated in Nigeria, their influence has spilled over into Niger and Cameroon, specifically where you have hundreds of thousands of refugees. The numbers we have are that there’s an additional 400,000 refugees in just those two countries as a result of Boko Haram.”
Because of the hostilities, northern Nigeria can be a very volatile area for ministry. And Kelley says it’s exactly where World Mission has been called.
“Literally, as Christians are fleeing, the people we work with are leaning into and going into those very places and sharing the Gospel with these terrorists, essentially,” explains Kelley.
“Nigeria is a dichotomy in missions, because [in] the southern part around Lagos you’ll find all kinds of Christian activity and churches and meetings…. But there’s a line that literally runs right through the center of the country. North of that is majority Muslim, south of that is majority Christian. So all of our work is targeted in the northern part where Muslims live and worship, and that’s where Boko Haram is very active.”
Over 2.6 million people have been torn from their homes because of Boko Haram. Most are in camps now, and they need hope.
“There are these IDP or Internally Displaced People camps scattered throughout northern Nigeria where Muslims have essentially been congregated because of Boko Haram, and it really makes them very accessible [for ministry]. So our strategy is going into these IDP camps in northern Nigeria where there are more than a million people just in Nigeria alone living.”
According to the United Nations, northern Nigeria is seeing famine-like conditions created by these attacks. Many of the refugees used to be farmers, and have now lost their livelihood.
“We’re being told there are 20,000 children right now just on the verge of death due to malnutrition in these camps in Nigeria. And we bring in food and sanitary items, and our partners are building relationships with them and just loving them without strings attached.”
Kelley continues, “And then of course they share The Treasure, which is World Mission’s solar-powered audio Bible in the native tongue, which is Hausa, and people are gathering around, Muslims gathering around in small groups listening to the Word of God in these refugee camps.”
But why audio Bibles, rather than the written Scriptures? Kelley says not only is the community in northern Nigeria highly oral and relational, but also, so many schools in the area have been destroyed and literacy has gone down.
“Even prior to [Boko Haram], there was a highly illiterate area. But once you bring the chaos in of people running indiscriminately from place to place, it takes out all of the infrastructure which includes medical [and] it includes schooling. So people literally don’t have access to schooling right now in so many places in northern Nigeria, so the illiteracy levels we’re seeing, they’re getting even worse now,” explains Kelley.
“So audio Bibles are critical because the people can’t read and they do things in oral cultures together anyway. So it sort of hits the sweet spot of them listening and engaging with the Word of God.”
World Mission would love for you to get involved in making sure aid and spiritual resources get into the hands of people in Nigeria!
“People can send resources. It takes us about $50 to send aTreasure into northern Nigeria, and then another $50 allows us to feed an entire family for a couple of weeks with rice and provide clean water and that kind of a thing.”
He also encourages, “We need people to pray. We need to pray that as Boko Haram has caused chaos, that the Lord uses it in some way for us to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with people who have never heard before.”
Kelley leaves us with this thought: “It does create an opportunity for the Church, even though it’s not on the radar, it’s not being promoted aggressively in the news like some of these other things. It’s a huge crisis in our time, in 2016, that the Church needs to respond to.”
Click here to donate to World Mission and send The Treasure and humanitarian aid to our Christian brothers and sisters in Nigeria!