At the beginning of the year the Church in Niger suffered extensive damage when Muslims, angered over Charlie Hebdo cartoons, went on a rampage and destroyed close to 80 of the country’s churches. At least three Christians were killed. Many Christian properties were also destroyed.
Christians were caught off-guard by the incident because they have mostly enjoyed good relations with their Muslim neighbors. But Open Doors researchers have been warning of growing radicalization of Muslims.
As the Church looks back on the riots, its prayer is that the experience will not go to waste, but will instead be used by God to purify the Church, urge Christians to pursue a deeper walk of faith and will lead to greater faithfulness in evangelism and discipleship.
Open Doors is walking closely with the Church in Niger. Apart from Open Doors’ strategic operations in the country, it has come alongside the Church to help them deal with this crisis through the provision of food and clothing, replacement of study materials and donations towards the rebuilding of destroyed or damaged churches. It has been a huge encouragement to the Christians.
Pastor Isa Hashim says: “I can say we lost everything, but God sent help through Open Doors. This is not only helpful to us, but also helpful to even the unbelievers around who will come to seek assistance and food from us. Jesus said we should love our enemies.
“The church in Gouré is really grateful to Open Doors for supporting us. We know you have prayed and are still praying and also visited. You went further to support us with food and funds. On behalf of the church in Gouré, we are very grateful for your support to us in diverse ways.”
Many Muslims in Niger did not agree with the attacks on Christians and are ashamed at what some extremists have done. Some tried to douse the flames started by other Muslims. Some took fleeing Christians into their midst. Others later came to apologize on behalf of Muslims in general.
“My neighbor who used to behave harshly towards us became very sober and sympathetic,” says Pastor Cappo Chichi of the Nazarene Church in Niamey. “He came and pleaded with me not to be annoyed with him, since those who committed these acts were not [true] Muslims. A few days later he came to my house again with his wife to accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Who would have expected that out of this bad situation people would be so bold to come out to receive the Good News?”
Niger is 98 to 99 percent Muslim with approximately 50,000 Christians.
Compiled by Jerry Dykstra. For media inquiries, contact Christine Cape at 404-545-0085 or Christy Lynn Wilson at 770-401-9842.