From supplying food aid to providing victims of trauma with a new beginning, our partner Stefanos Foundation supports Nigerian Christians in their darkest hour. Tom Hardie reports…

R123 Jude Nigeria
Despite seeing his wife killed and suffering terrible injuries, Jude has forgiven his attackers


Christians in central and northern Nigeria are continuing to face bloody and unrelenting violence – most notably today at the hands of militant Fulani herdsmen.

Each week we receive reports of further atrocities carried out against predominantly Christian communities. It seems  the persecution is only intensifying in this two-decades-old story of Christian suffering, but while the Nigerian authorities appear ineffective or even sometimes complicit in the violence, believers continue to respond with love and forgiveness towards their aggressors.

Jude Gudugudu, who lost his wife in a Fulani raid on his community in May 2021 as well as being severely injured himself, said he forgave those responsible.

‘I was asleep with my wife, Mary, when [Fulani militants] arrived.  When  I woke up I discovered that they had completely surrounded the house and they started shooting where we were sleeping.

‘I forgive them. If God can forgive, who am I not to?’

‘We got out of bed and tried to cover the window so they wouldn’t see us. Then we tried hiding in the corner but they kept on shooting until they shot her dead. Then they continued shooting, first at my leg, second my lap and then in my back. The fourth [bullet] went into my right eye.

‘They thought that I was dead and then they left until security came and took me to hospital. The whole community was attacked. They killed about eight people.’

Of those who were shot Jude was the only one to survive and, despite the loss of his wife and the injuries he suffered, he holds no bitterness towards the perpetrators.

‘I forgive them. If God can forgive, who am I not to?’

Jude asked for prayer for himself and his community. ‘Maybe the prayers will touch the hearts of the herdsmen,’ he said.

To help the oppressed simply to carry on – many like Jude have lost loved ones or been injured or driven from their homes – our partners provide them with vital practical as well as pastoral support.

Release International partner Stefanos Foundation helped Ladi to rebuild her home

R123 Ladi Nigeria

Ladi Chohu (pictured), whose community was also raided by Fulani, told us: ‘We were in our homes when militants started attacking our community and chasing people from their homes. Most of us were chased into the towns. While we were there, they were attacking our homes and destroying and setting them ablaze. And they burned all our homes.’

‘After the attack we came back to see if we could put things back together again but we couldn’t. All our resources had been burned. All our money and everything was gone.’

She added: ‘Then the rains came and finished off the destruction. So we were struggling to put [our] home back together until the Stefanos Foundation [a Release International partner] came and helped us to rebuild.

‘We can’t be sure of what Fulani militants might do in the future but we, the Christians, want this to be the end. We came back home and we are staying; and we are willing to stay in peace with them. We are trusting God that they will not be able to attack us again.’

She said: ‘I would like people in the UK to remember to pray for us; that what has happened will never be repeated. Pray that God will replenish what we have lost.’

Mark Lipdo, head of Stefanos, described the changing shape of persecution over the past 20 years. The oppression had started in northern Nigeria with the denial of basic rights such as freedom to worship, then had focused on issues such as children’s education and ultimately to the point where it became violent towards anyone who was not a Muslim.

As a result believers were attacked in their homes or on the street and forced off their land so they were not able to produce crops to feed themselves.

That’s where the long-term help of Release international supporters has been so crucial.

‘I much appreciate the support of Christians in the UK, particularly through the work of Release International to us at Stefanos,’ he said. ‘Over two decades, we’ve tried to structure all that you send to us  in three forms. We are committed to making sure that the voice of these people is heard… hoping that other Christians will get to learn about their suffering and pray.’

Secondly Stefanos advocates on their behalf with the Nigerian authorities and internationally; and thirdly, and critically, responds to the practical needs of the persecuted and displaced such as supplying food relief as  well as meeting survivors’ emotional needs.

Mark said: ‘You can provide physical support, because you see that a roof has been burned down. But some wounds are internal. And  people have come to live with them. You may see someone laughing but inside he has a secret heart wound. So we try  to engage with them in those areas through trauma healing… which enables them to have a new hope and a new beginning.’

Like Jude and Ladi, Mark also appealed to UK Christians to pray, as well as ‘to speak for persecuted Nigerian Christians within your churches, within your government’, adding: ‘We will continue to thank God for you as we bear this together to the end of the calling.’

You can download and read more stories from our latest Voice magazine here.

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