OPEN DOORS FIELD REPORT: NIGERIAN CHRISTIANS SUFFERING IN REFUGEE CAMPS
Open Doors estimates that more than 12,500 Christians have been killed in religion related violence in northern Nigeria between 2006 and 2014. Boko Haram violence has claimed most of the lives. It is also estimated that Boko Haram related violence has displaced more than 500,000 Christians in northern Nigeria.
For the past two years Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State in Nigeria’s northeast area, has suffered the brunt of the Boko Haram insurgency. It has been cut off from the outside world. But a lull in the violence made it possible for Open Doors representatives to visit the region last month. Their report follows:
“Security in Maiduguri remains tight. Because of continued suicide attacks, people are afraid to move around the city. This main street that had once been bustling with traffic was eerily quiet. The situation was the same on side streets. We visited a displaced people’s camp which Christians had set up for themselves. The government wants the Christians to live in camps shared with Muslims, but the leader of the camp explained that the Christians faced discrimination and provocation there. Under those circumstances, some Christians converted to Islam. This price was simply too high and so the Christians Association set up a camp for Christians. This circumstance is an illustration of the fact that the insurgency has not only succeeded in killing, injuring and displacing people, but has increased distrust among people of different faiths.
“The conditions in the camp are very hard for the almost 2,000 Christians who have found refuge. They live in squalid circumstances. When it is time to receive their daily rations, the people form long lines outside the camp kitchen. Until March the camp received food from the Nigerian Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), but this has been suspended because it is the desire of NEMA that the Christians move to Muslim majority camps.
“So churches and individual Christians started contributing food. But this is becoming very hard to sustain. There are days that the camp dwellers simply go without food. Some of the Christians have been able to work on farms in the surrounding areas in exchange for food. Once more it was the circumstances of the children that were hardest to observe. Although children on the surface seem playful and happy, this crisis will leave a permanent mark on them. And it is not clear what will become of children who have lost both of their parents in the violence.
“It was a privilege to visit the believers of Maiduguri and to be able to assure them that even though they had been isolated for more than two years, they have not been forgotten. There are many around the world who have been faithfully persisting in prayer for them as they live out their faith on the frontlines.
“There is much in the situation that might leave one feeling hopeless. But the sight of a church that was previously destroyed and now has been rebuilt instilled hope and reminded us of the fact that although the Church is facing a total onslaught, the Lord has not abandoned His children or His promise to build His Church. Although this is just a building, we remember that it is a building that represents people. Though we do not understand fully how the Lord uses our prayers, we know that our prayers make a difference. We are so thankful that you have been partnering with us in prayer for Nigeria and thank you that we may continue to rely on that partnership.
“Pray for peace in northern Nigeria. Pray for the Lord to sustain His children and provide for their needs. Pray that the Boko Haram insurgency will come to an end soon and that people will be able to resume their normal lives. Pray for wisdom for the Church as it considers how to address the immense needs created by the violence. Pray for wisdom and for God’s provision as church leaders consider how to help the many children who have been orphaned as a result of the violence.”
Nigeria is ranked #10 on Open Doors 2015 World Watch List (www.worldwatchlist.us) of the 50 worst persecutors of Christians.
Compiled by Jerry Dykstra. For media inquiries, contact Christine Cape at 404-545-0085 or Christy Lynn Wilson at 770-401-9842.