Kidnapped Nigerian church leader executed only 18 days after abduction

January 22, 2020 by Lindy Lowry in Africa

We have extremely tragic news to report. Only 18 days after he was kidnapped by Boko Haram, Rev. Lawan Andimi, a senior leader in the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and father of nine children, has been violently executed.

On Twitter, Nigerian journalist Ahmed Salkida reported that Rev. Lawan was beheaded on Monday afternoon, January 20. Salkida noted that he had obtained a video of the execution and had informed authorities. Open Doors has been able to verify the report is true.

The Boko Haram splinter group reportedly responsible, Islamic State Western Africa Province (ISWAP), has not yet confirmed the murder. Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari condemned the killing, calling it “cruel, inhuman and deliberately provocative.”

‘Thank God for everything’

On January 3, 2020, Rev. Lawan was abducted in an attack on the major town of Michika near the Cameroon border. Days after his kidnapping, his kidnappers released a six-minute proof-of-life video in which the pastor called on church authorities to secure his release. He also praised God, telling his family and colleagues, “don’t cry, don’t worry, but thank God for everything.”

“I have never been discouraged because everything is in the hands of God,” he said in the video. “By the grace of God, I will be together with my wife, children and colleagues and if the opportunity has not been granted, then maybe it is the will of God.”

Watch the video below.

In recent months, both ISWAP and Boko Haram insurgents have notched up kidnappings and attacks. Rev. Lewan’s kidnapping and death comes only a couple weeks after Boko Haram attacked a Christian village in Borno State near Chibok on Christmas eve, killing seven believers and taking a teenage girl—the second attack on the village in 2019.

Days before that attack, Boko Haram splinter group ISWAP executed 11 Nigerian Christians over Christmas 2019 and released a video on December 28 reminiscent of the 2015 video of the beheadings of 21 Christians on the Libyan coast.  In both videos, the martyrs wore orange jumpsuits, their killers in black.

“This message is to the Christians in the world,” ISWAP said in the 56-second propaganda video.

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Islamization across sub-Saharan Africa

With reports of kidnappings, attacks and executions coming in almost daily, sub-Saharan Africa has become increasingly violent for Christians. Research for the 2020 World Watch List shows Islamization in this area as one of the major trends in persecution over the last year.

The violence gives way to what Open Doors is calling, “a wave of Islamist influence backed by money, weapons, drugs and organized crime spreading across Sub-Saharan Africa.”

Of the 2,983 deaths of Christians reported during the year-long 2020 World Watch List reporting period, well over half of Christians killed and churches attacked were in sub-Saharan Africa. In Nigeria, Central African Republic (CAR), South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Burkina Faso, 2,476 Christians were martyred for their faith—1,350 reported in Nigeria alone. In Nigeria, Christians are targeted by Fulani militants, Boko Haram, ISWAP and a range of armed criminal groups that attack Christian communities and churches, kill, kidnap and rape with little-to-no consequences.

Rev. Lawan puts a face on horrifying World Watch List statistics as one of the 87 Christians abducted each month for their faith and one of the eight Christians killed every day for following Jesus.

Download the 2020 World Watch List

While reacting to the killings, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari condemned the apparent killings and urged Nigerians not to let themselves be divided along religious lines.

“We should, under no circumstance, let the terrorists divide us by turning Christians against Muslims because these barbaric killers don’t represent Islam and millions of other law-abiding Muslims around the world,” he said in a statement.

CAN spokesperson Bayo Oladeji spoke to the International Center for Investigative Reporting about Rev. Lawan’s violent death: “It is pathetic and painful to learn that such a gentleman could be killed like a ram,” Oladeji said, adding that CAN would release an official statement this week.

Pray with us

Through prayer, we can stand with Rev. Lawan’s family and the churches he served. And by sharing his story, especially his testimony on the video released two weeks ago, we stand with the Nigerian church in unity. And we honor his life by sharing about the Savior that Rev. Lawan loved and served.

  • Please pray for Rev. Lawan’s family and loved ones. Ask God to comfort them in their grief.
  • Pray for extraordinary grace and peace in the midst of this storm.
  • Pray that Rev. Lawan’s testimony would have far-reaching effect.
  • Pray for protection for Nigeria’s church leaders and churches.
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