|(Photo courtesy of Open Doors USA)|
Nigeria (MNN) ― Revival Church in Central Nigeria just barely avoided a bomb attack on Tuesday, one of many moves against Christians in the country.
The bomb was discovered and safely removed by Nigeria’s Anti-bomb unit. So far, no groups have claimed the attempted attack.
This discovery came right on the tail of an attack the day before. Shooters surrounded Deeper Life Church in Central Nigeria, blocked the church entrance with a van, and murdered 19 believers. The pastor was among those killed.
While no group has claimed these attacks, the pattern matches that of the Muslim extremist group Boko Haram.
Carl Moeller with Open Doors USA says the targeting of Christians is part of an agenda. “This is an intentional effort on the part of the Muslim extremists to drive Christians completely out of the country, particularly out of the northern part of the country.”
Moeller says, “These attacks are an escalation of the violence that has plagued Nigeria along this north-south dividing line for years. It is accelerating at a rate that is very troubling.”
Boko Haram gives no indication of letting up on their attacks. Over the weekend, Boko Haram’s leader Abubakar Shekau released a video clip online. On the video, he demands that Nigerian Christian President Goodluck Jonathan “repent and forsake Christianity.” Shekau stated that if President Jonathan does not convert or resign, Boko Haram’s violent campaign will continue.
Reuben Abati, the presidential spokesman, dismissed the threat as attempted blackmail. But Boko Haram has been very systematic with carrying out their activities.
Such intimidation has failed to stomp out the faithfulness of Nigerian Christians. If anything, it has fanned the flame of devotion.
“As the Gospel spreads, it comes in contact with more and more hostile forces. They persecute those [who] are bringing the Good News of Christ,” says Moeller. “As persecution comes, Christians are forced to deal with the fact that superficial faith won’t cut, and so their faith becomes deeper and stronger. That of course encourages them to more boldly witness. This cycle continues.”
Open Doors has been working with the Nigerian church to bring encouragement and to help rebuild. According to Moeller, “It’s a daunting challenge because there’s so much violence in the area. Open Doors is often the primary organization going in when others are coming out.”
Projects include training churches to stand strong before violence occurs, and where violence occurs; rebuilding sanctuaries, replacing Bibles and books, and providing trauma counseling.
“We are there as a shoulder to cry on in many cases,” Moeller says. “But also with the hope of Christ in the midst of that trauma, Christ can actually come in and through the Holy Spirit heal the deep wounds that are caused by it.”
Open Doors also gives a voice to persecuted Nigerian Christians. They are actively involved in the media and present their case before authorities in Washington D.C. and the United Nations.
Moeller asks for prayer. “Pray for the church in Nigeria…that they would pray for those who persecute them, not attack them. And then that they would be able to rebuild and continue to bring the hope of Jesus Christ to their fellow countrymen.”