“I followed the people who were also running away when our village was attacked. I saw how my father was shot. He told me to run and that God will take care of me. I wanted to stay back and die with him, but I just found myself running in an unknown direction with other people. I thought my mother was among the crowd, but to this day I have not heard anything about her.”
Those are the sad words from a young orphaned boy named Zira James, who lives in the city of Yola in north-eastern Nigeria. He was likely the only survivor of his family after a recent brutal an extremist group that is located primarily in Northern Nigeria attack.
Zira’s story was documented by Isaac, an Open Doors researcher for Nigeria who recently returned from the war-torn area.
One of the most heart-breaking things Isaac experienced in Yola was meeting 16 children such as Zira who have lost both of their parents in the violence. They all come from different communities. Most of these children narrowly escaped from the hands of an extremist group that is located primarily in Northern Nigeria, to now face fear and abandonment.
Zira continues: “I have been here (in a camp near Yola) two months. All my siblings are nowhere to be found. I am now alone in the camp, just staying with other children. Sometimes we get food but many times we sleep without food or a mat to sleep on. God alone will help me.”
According to Isaac, every evening the children meet in a car park inside the camp and sing songs to the Lord before they disperse to where they sleep, often under the stars.
Another orphaned child, Tabitha Fogu, told Isaac: “God will not let us down. He will come to our rescue. We depend on Him. Even though we have no parents, by coming together to sing every day, we receive courage and look to God to help us in our difficult situation.
“Everyone here is struggling, so no one can help us. If we had our parents here, they would have struggled for us, but we are left alone. We believe God will struggle for us.”
There are now almost 10,000 displaced people living in a giant camp near Yola. Many are living in tents.
Isaac learned that in the village of Biu 4,000 people arrived after trekking on foot for miles with only the clothes on their bodies.
“They wash their clothes at night and wear them again tomorrow,” he stated. “These refugees also come from different areas. Their homes have been destroyed. Some of them have lost their loved ones. Some are looking for their children, husbands and wives. There are cries in the camp every minute of the day. Children are dying of hunger.”
During Isaac’s visit, about 200 families found the strength to come together for a time of worship.
“It was a time of encouragement for the people to know that people around the world are praying for their situation. We are thankful that there are pastors among the refugees who are consoling the people and encouraging them to hope in God and cast their fears upon the Lord. It is very difficult here. But although it is very painful to witness these circumstances, I was encouraged to see these Christians smiling despite their suffering.”
Open Doors has already distributed aid to the beleaguered believers and is planning extra relief items over the next few weeks. Please pray fervently for the Lord’s care for the children of Nigeria who have lost one or both parents and all those who suffer because of these atrocities.
Nigeria is ranked No. 14 on the Open Doors 2014 World Watch List of the 50 worst persecutors of Christians.