A breeding ground for recruitment
Experts warn that extremist groups will also exploit the pandemic to recruit members. “We are already seeing indications that this has started happening,” writes Bukarti.
“Either way, groups claiming to fight for Islam in Africa will use the virus outbreak to recruit and radicalize fighters and justify their narratives of hate, division and enmity,” Bukarti says, adding that they have already seen examples of this from ISIS and al-Qaeda affiliates in other parts of the world in their coronavirus messaging.
Open Doors has witnessed how extremist groups in Africa work to deliver services such as health and infrastructure to recruit members and build credibility even in normal times. There is serious concern that these groups will exploit the pandemic and lack of resources and work to provide people with resources the state is failing to provide—creating a dependency on, and even affinity for, extremist groups.
Yasin A*, Open Doors’ East Africa director, underscores the importance and impact of bringing food and critical support to believers: “If the persecuted church is not strengthened and supported at this time, then the enemy will not sleep to dismantle and take advantage against believers.
“If persecuted believers are not supported now in their spiritual, economical and emergency needs, it would be a discouragement for them in many ways. For many new, weak and troubled believers, it would be difficult to stand strong.”
For new believers, like Yohannes, an Ethiopian young man, who have left the religion of their larger family to become Christians and are struggling to eat, critical support means the difference between reverting back to Islam and even basic survival.
A former Muslim in West Africa candidly writes: “We went into hiding and avoid Muslims, especially our relatives. However, our problems have multiplied because of the pandemic which has kept Christians away and prevented them from supporting us. I know I will die soon from hunger because I have not eaten any reasonable food for days.”
We have had similar cries for help from Sudan and several other of our operational countries. When we strengthen believers in crisis, we equip and empower them to share their story of faith with others. Essentially, we help build the Kingdom.
“Your help is important to provide the basic economic and livelihood needs, and emergency needs of persecuted believers,” Yasin explains. “For some of the underground believers and Christian converts from Islam, it will also be helpful to minister, encourage and pastor them online and through any other available digital media or in person.”
9,000 families least likely to receive government help
After Rose gave birth to her third daughter, Open Doors local partners quickly put together a relief package and visited Rose. “Nagode, Allah ya yi muku Albarka,” meaning “Thank you, may God bless you,” she said after unpacking the food and other essentials we brought.
“I have never imagined that I would receive such gifts, but today, my faith in Christ has been strengthened,” Rose told our partners. “Indeed, He who watches over the widows neither sleeps nor slumbers. This support will enable me to care for family. God in Heaven will richly reward you.”
Rose is just one of the thousands of believers in desperate need of help. In Nigeria alone, Open Doors has identified more than 9,000 families who don’t know where their next meal will come from.
The simple truth is that if we do not help them, no one probably will, explains a spokesperson for our Africa team. “These believers are the least likely to receive help from their governments or agencies like the World Health Organization. In situations like COVID-19, authorities usually prioritize areas where they can save the most lives in the shortest time.”
Open Doors’ calling is to stand with our brothers and sisters who face blatant sidelining because of their faith. Our vision is to see a prepared and resilient persecuted church in Africa that’s faithfully engaged in fulfilling the Great Commission. One objective towards that vision is. to care for the severely persecuted church in the form of crisis relief, presence ministry and spiritual encouragement as well as trauma care. Most of these believers have no other source of help. Relief aid distribution is happening as we speak across the region.
Please pray for the Lord’s provision in their lives and if you are able, continue to help us bring urgent relief and hope to Rose, Yohannes, Adane and many others like her across Africa. With your help, Open Doors can provide things like food, soap, rent assistance and spiritual support to widows and their children, Muslim-background believers, and lay leaders. Every $65 provides relief to one family for one month.