After repeated attacks, Christians in Cameroon ask: ‘Pray for our enemies, Boko Haram’

December 8, 2020 by Lindy Lowry in Persecution updates

Because of the violent work of Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram, the far north region of Cameroon has now been marked a “red zone,” as the group continues to expand their campaign from northern Nigeria into the three bordering divisions of Cameroon’s far north.

 

Over the past eight years, villages here have been attacked numerous times. And there is no end in sight. With each assault, Christian communities are left even more vulnerable than before. In this area,  Christians are their preferred violence target, which has been physically and psychologically crippling.

 

In the last quarter of 2020, Open Doors partners undertook the long and dangerous journey to deliver life-giving relief aid to more than 300 families that have suffered at the hands of Boko Haram.

Outside and in the shade of a nearby tree, 15-year-old Dieudonne keeps watch, armed with his Bible and only a stick. “If I see anything, I will immediately notify the others,” he says.

The wicked don’t rest on Sundays. So Christian villagers take turns watching out for danger as the community comes together for a Sunday worship service and fellowship.

On Sundays, congregants, most of whom livie in the mountains for protection, come down to attend church.

“We wait for them to come down,” the pastor explains. “They come one by one, and when we have a considerable number, we begin the service.”

On this Sunday, more than 100 men, women and children eventually filled the church. The women, wrapped in colorful traditional cloths, stood in stark contrast to the nearly bare white walls of the building. The pastor read from Luke 22:31-32: “Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.”

“Let us be zealous in the Lord. (Trust) Him to support us,” the pastor admonishes the weary believers. “If we do not walk in the way of the Lord, we will get lost. It is difficult, not everyone can do this … let us have the courage to remain. Let us find strength in Jesus to walk in the Word of God. If we do not encourage ourselves, who will? … Take courage and strength!”

‘This is how we live here’

This map indicates the “red zone” where Christians in the far north of Cameroon are repeatedly targeted and violently attacked.

After the service, the team joined the pastor in the arduous climb up the mountain to visit a widow and her children. Like many others, she still has a house in the village, but felt too vulnerable to the repeated attacks. Instead, they prefer to contend with the snakes and mosquitos that inhabit the rocky crevices. Her temporary house made of stone, mud and thatch offers what feels like a rather fragile layer of protection—safety is never guaranteed.

As the team arrived at the house thirsty and sweating, the children rushed out to greet them. The widow generously offered them a drink of water. “Imagine this distance with a gallon of water on the head,” remarks the pastor as he takes a sip.

A child, maybe 6 years old, comes running down the mountain yelling. The air quickly became thin and tense … But behind him his mother thankfully appears and reassures the visitors there was no reason for concern.

“That is how we live here. If we hear loud shouts, we first run before we think. You see the way that child screamed, if it were down there, it would have caused a stampede,” the pastor notes, pointing down to the village.

Many villages have formed vigilante groups to patrol the area and try to defend their loved ones and property. However, their simple weapons are no match against the sophisticated weapons of Boko Haram. David is a member of one such vigilante group. He was injured in the last attack.

“It happened at two o’clock in the morning. I pointed my torch to see who was coming. That is when they shot at me. The bullet hit my little finger. It was cut off.”

Relief to strengthen what remains

More than 300 families from 15 villages have gathered to receive the support our teams provide: food items, sleeping mats, a bucket and cloth. Widows and church leaders also received cash support to help them meet their most urgent other needs.

Mariam, a widow lost her husband in one of the many attacks. She receives an envelope with additional financial support to pay for her children’s school fees.

“You can start a small trade,” the elder who hands her the envelope explains. “Buy a big bag of groundnuts and then sell them in small amounts to earn money for your upkeep,” he advises her. Mariam sat forlorn on the floor while nursing her youngest. “I understand. Thank you very much,” are the only words the young mother and widow could muster.

The loss these Christians have experienced is both physical and emotional.

“Thank you for helping us. We have nothing at home anymore. Everything has been stolen from us,” Issa says in French. “We also thank you for your presence here, because it is not easy to come into the red zone.”

“You gave me millet and rice and a loincloth and two liters of oil and a mat to sleep on, a bag of salt, and a full bucket of tiny fish,” says Halima. “I want to thank everyone who helped us by bringing these items. I am sure that if they had not thought about us, no one would help us. So, I thank them for that. I am very happy,” she says before her face breaks into a broad smile.

‘Pray that God will change their hearts’

Many Christians who received the emergency aid asked us to pray for them, but also for their enemies. They shared poignant and heartfelt prayer requests:

“The whole area is suffering. Please pray that God will strengthen our churches,” asks a pastor in the far north area.

“Please pray God will give us the strength we had before, so we may continue running the race and may enjoy my eternal life with the Lord. Pray for us, that our faith may not falter,” begs a believer named Bernard.

“Please pray for our families; in the village, life is hard. Pray we do not lose faith. Things are hard for the young widows. Pray they will not lose faith and that they put their trust in God who will help them raise their children,” asks Pierre, a church elder.

“Please ask the Lord to protect us from Boko Haram. They have caused us much suffering …” Mary says.

“Pray for our enemies, Boko Haram. Pray the Lord will change the heart of our persecutors so they may know Him as their only Savior,” another Christian from the far north asks.

“Please pray that God will help us regarding Boko Haram who continues to attack us. Also ask God to change their hearts because what they are doing is not good. So that they will change their lives,” says Halima.

Amadou, another believer, confirms, “We pray that the Lord will bring all the enemies to faith, so that they will be part of us. Because I know that also the Apostle Paul persecuted the Christians.”

Stand with Christians under attack

The church in northern Nigeria and its bordering countries is under attack as extremist groups continue to push into areas to expand their agenda. Will you stand with Christians in Cameroon and beyond and equip them to be disciple makers in their families and communities?

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