Believers in Nigeria Face Famine & Discrimination in Refugee Camps

June 16, 2017 by Sarah Cunningham in

Imagine you live in Nigeria…and your family was driven out of your village by violent Boko Haram extremists. Thankfully, after days of travel, you and your children finally reach a relief camp designed to assist displaced people. Tired and hungry, you join the line of families waiting for food. But as you reach the front of the line, your relief changes to disappointment.

Discrimination in Camps

“This relief is not for Christians.” The person dispersing the food says flatly, “The food is not for ‘arne’ people.”

Arne means pagan. And if you’re not a Muslim, you’re considered a pagan.

Soon, you learn the camp itself is also segregated—Muslims are housed in one area and Christians in another. In addition to being ineligible for food rations, you are also informed that Christians are not allowed to gather for worship. There will be no church for Christians encamped here.

“The governor did his best when the Christians had to flee their places in 2014 and 2015. But when the care of the camps was handed over to other organizations, the discrimination started,” says Bishop William Naga, the Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Borno State.

This is the situation many believers discovered upon arriving at relief camps after being uprooted due to Boko Haraman extremist group that is located primarily in Northern Nigeria violence. This insurgency, which started in 2009 and peaked in 2014, killed an unknown number of Christians and burned many churches.

Nowhere to Go

One uprooted woman explains the hardship that ensued. “We had to flee Boko Haram because they didn’t allow us to go to our farm. We had no drinking water and we didn’t have anything to eat.”

A local man further describes their dire circumstances. “In 2014, Boko Haram came to our village and started killing people. They have killed many. That is why we ran to Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State. We need help because we are suffering. We cannot find any paid job…I pray for the Nigerian country. We do not have enough security. If police and the army are strong, they can defend us against Boko Haram.”

But as of now, the state doesn’t have complete control.

“Only the bigger towns are fully under the control of the Nigerian army,” explains Bishop Naga. “The outskirts of these towns and villages in the state are not safe. Boko Haram is still in control of big parts of the Borno State. We cannot go back there now. And we fear to live together with our former Muslim neighbors. We don’t know if we can trust them.”

The situation, at times, is unspeakably bleak.

“Christians in Borno State are traumatized, displaced and truly they have lost hope.” Bishop Naga adds, “In the Gwoza area there is no single church standing. In the eastern part of Gwoza Christians were a majority. And even inside Gwoza town and in its surroundings there were many Christians. Now there are no Christians left in that area.”

The Church in Action

After fleeing and reaching relief camps that refused to serve Christians, believers were eventually aided by local Christian churches who hosted them in homes or formed informal camps to house and serve those in need.

Jack van Tol, the Open Doors Director for West Africa, shares about opportunities they have to support local Christians facing such scenarios. “We’re very grateful to be able to assist our brothers and sisters who were suffering so much. Reports reached us through our church networks that many Christians were in dire need of food aid. Many had resorted to eating leaves. There seems to be a general shortage of food aid in the northeast, and Christians testified they were discriminated against in general camps.”

Our Open Doors teams in local churches have already launched into action. But we’ve received word they need more support because they’re running out of resources to meet the massive need.

This is a special opportunity to demonstrate God’s love and compassion to families at risk in Nigeria. And your prayer and support could be the difference between life and death for a starving Nigerian family.

Most of all, we ask you to remember our brothers and sisters in Nigeria through fervent, daily prayer. We also ask you to prayerfully consider standing with our family in Nigeria through a generous gift for famine relief. As you read this, we’re rushing lifesaving food survival kits to the field.

Each kit is $123 and will provide food and resources for a family of five for two months.

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