Thursday, April 4, 2013

Nigeria: under siege

(Images courtesy Christian Aid Mission)

Nigeria (CAM/MNN) ― Nigeria is under siege.

The Islamist militant group called Boko Haram has made a mission out of reshaping the country into a Muslim nation under Sharia law. Most of the shaping comes in the form of violence against those regarded as enemies: law enforcement, government, religious minorities, i.e. Christians.

Last year, insurgents targeted churches on a weekly basis in Niger State, Borno State, Plateau State, and Yobe State. One report from quoted a priest from Maiduguri (Borno State) who estimated that Boko Haram has destroyed 50 out of 52 churches in that area alone.

According to Human Rights Watch (a global human rights monitoring group), militants have claimed 3,000 lives since the campaign began in 2009. To put that into perspective, in the first 10 months of 2012, more than 900 people died in suspected attacks by the group. Little seems to have a deterrent effect on the Boko Haram.

In the first quarter of 2013, terrorism and death have been the hallmark of Boko Haram with over a dozen attacks and hundreds of deaths. Christian Aid Mission Africa Director Brittany Tedesco says the situation has hit too close to home for a ministry they support in Nigeria. "They actually attacked a prison in an area right near one of the mission fields where Christian Aid supports missionaries."

Gabriel Barau, ministry leader of Missionary Crusaders Ministries in Nigeria, noted in a recent report, "30 gunmen walked into the town, destroyed the police station...and killed 64 persons instantly. That is the tension we have in the northeast every day. We sincerely need your prayers to raise the funds needed to move our headquarters office to a safe location."

Another concern, Tedesco added: "They (Boko Haram) released over 100 prisoners. The citizens are just constantly living in fear of what might happen next."

For more than 20 years, Barau has rented an office headquarters in Adamawa State, the site of this most recent deadly attack. Tedesco says the endless barrage of attacks has complicated things, forcing the MCM ministry team to work out of the leaders' home. "It's just too dangerous to be able to utilize that office. That place was also the place where they had a discipleship and mission's training school. That's kind of been put ‘on hold' for now."

For 28 years, Barau has worked to share the gospel with unreached tribes in Nigeria, training native missionaries and sending them out to live among the people they are reaching. "Every day we live with the threat of death for ourselves, our children, and the staff who live here with us," Barau reports.

That statement, says Tedesco, means that all 183 workers are still moving forward, planting churches and discipling converts. Many of their mission fields are located in the country's Muslim northern region, where the majority of Boko Haram attacks have occurred. "They have identified another unreached people group that they are committed to reaching. So far, they are reaching about 17 unreached people groups."

Christian Aid Mission assists the work of these missionaries through monthly sponsorships. They have also provided funds for MCM to construct a new headquarters in a safer, more centralized location. Tedesco remarks that they are looking for people to come alongside in two ways: "The two big prayer needs that I see for this ministry are protection and funds."

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