Existential threat to Nigeria’s vulnerable Christians
Fearless believers in Nigeria are paying the ultimate price for sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ, reports Kenneth Harrod
Reverend Ibrahim Isa has won many people for Christ – and was determined to continue preaching despite threats to his life. Now he has paid the ultimate price for his Lord.
Ibrahim and his wife Laraba (pictured), along with their five children, lived in a village not far from Jos, in Nigeria’s Plateau State. Laraba and the children had been staying in Jos on the morning her husband was killed by Fulani militants.
‘I called him at about 6.30 am and asked if he was okay and he said he had slept well. I asked him about the village and he said all was fine. He said he was going out that morning to plant some wheat on the farm. He said a friend had called him and they were going to the farm to do some planting. I said, “okay”, and prayed that God would protect him,’ said Laraba.
About a quarter of an hour later she received a phone call from a church member, calling her to the village. ‘He said I should come immediately. I said, “But I just spoke to him a moment ago.” He repeated that I should just come right away.’ On the way, and fearing the worst, she called a friend who confirmed that her husband had been killed.
‘It seems that while I was speaking to my husband on the phone the killers were already there waiting for him. When I got there what I saw was that it seemed they had attacked him in the room; he had tried to escape through the window – and as he fled they shot him dead. I saw his body lying where he was shot,’ Laraba explained.
Like many Nigerian Christians in rural areas, Ibrahim was in the habit of sleeping outside at night, as this is often considered safer than sleeping in homes which may be targets for attack.
‘He had been warned several times that he was possibly going to be a target.’
‘They specifically came for him,’ Laraba continued. ‘He came [to their home] in the morning to get ready to go to the farm and it seems they followed him and killed him.’
Ibrahim was a pastor from a Fulani background. He served as an evangelist in the Kpachudu community near Jos, working among Fulani Muslim groups and seeing many come to faith in Christ. A community leader told a Release International partner, ‘He had been warned several times that he was possibly going to be a target for killing by the Fulani Islamist militias ravaging the villages in Miango.
‘But Ibrahim said that he had a duty to preach and bring the gospel to his people.’
When asked how she can be prayed for, Laraba said, ‘As long as you are a Christian, you know that someday we will leave this world. I know my husband is at rest with the Lord. I know also the Lord will be with me and provide what I need for these children’s needs.
‘But my biggest challenge now is where to stay. Because the house where my husband was killed was our home. We bought it and built it. It was a place where my husband built his ministry and where we held meetings with missionaries.’
‘Ibrahim said that he had a duty to preach and bring the gospel to his people.’
Two years ago we reported a similar targeted killing. Matthew Tagwi had been serving as a pastor near Miango for just three months when Fulani militants attacked his village. They went to his house, called him out by name and shot him. At the time his pregnant wife, Rose, was in another town for an antenatal check-up.
After the incident Rose – already a mother of two young daughters – spoke powerfully of her prayer that her husband’s killers would come to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour.
Rose subsequently gave birth to another daughter, who she named Patience. However, our partner told us recently that sadly the child later died.
‘The trauma and challenges facing Rose in a village which is constantly under threat and where people are always running to the bushes at night or sleeping in another relatively safer village then walking back to their houses the next morning often takes its toll,’ he said.
Rose told him: ‘It has been hard to live as a single mother with two children and to have to go to farm and then take the children to school. If Matthew were still alive it would not have been so hard.’
‘I am so excited about the enthusiasm of the pastors… to bring the love of Christ.’
Our partner has been offering Rose pastoral counsel and support.
In the past year, he noted, there have been a number of church leaders and pastors specifically targeted by Islamist groups in central Nigeria.
Some have been killed while others have been kidnapped for ransom payment.
However, that has not deterred Christians from continuing to share the gospel in the most dangerous of circumstances. One of the projects Release International supports in Nigeria actually involves strategic training to equip church leaders and evangelists to take the message of Christ into areas most ravaged in recent years by Islamist violence.
Our partner told us: ‘The pastors training is going very, very well. I am so excited about the enthusiasm of the pastors, and their commitment to bring hope, to bring the love of Christ, and to continue to stand with their congregations and communities.’
- Please pray for Laraba, for Rose and for other Christian widows, whose faithful husbands have been targeted and killed because of their gospel ministry. Pray that the Lord will sustain them and provide for them.
- Also pray for the strategic training of pastors by our partner and for effective gospel outreach in central and northern Nigeria.
As we spoke to our partner about Ibrahim and Laraba’s story he informed us of another targeted attack by Fulani militants in May in which six people were murdered. It was the second time that their village, Gora Gan, had been attacked. Many locals had fled the area and were taking refuge in neighbouring communities.
‘The attacks and killings are ceaseless now. In April this year, Boko Haram executed 20 Christians in an online video, posted on a website, to send a message and avenge the killing of one of its leaders in the Middle East.
‘As a Release International partner I would say that the situation Christians find themselves in in Nigeria today is dire. It is fast becoming more of an existential matter for many Christian communities in central Nigeria. It is apparent, much more now, with government complacency, manipulation of electioneering processes and rising terrorism by ISWAP (Islamic State West Africa Province) and Islamist Fulani cattle herdsmen militia that Christians are likely to face persecution for a long time to come.’
He added: ‘We ask for prayers for God to raise men and women who will continue to stand for the Church and be voices for the vulnerable. We ask for prayers for God to raise men and women who will fight for justice for the victims of this religious carnage and slow the genocide unfolding in northern Nigeria.’
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Population: 219 million
Government: Federal presidential republic
Religion: Muslim 53.5%, Christian 45.9% (to 51.3%), Other 0.6%
Sources: World Factbook, Operation World
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