SPECIAL REPORTS

Remaining Strong

The Nigerian Church Keeps the Faith in the Face of Targeted Attacks

A scene from Nigeria. As a result of political differences and religious divide, this sense of normalcy is tainted by the ever-present danger of bombings. © Wikicommons 

Leonard Lee, founder of Leadership, Inspiration, Nurture, and Compassion (LINC) ministries, stands with pastors of Nigeria. Lee is involved in training the pastors to withstand the persecution churches in Nigeria are facing. ©  

In Northern Nigeria, churches are suffering immense persecution at the hands of a terrorist group that has taken the lives of a hundreds of Christ-professing individuals.

Even as the militant Islamist sect known as the Boko Haram claims credits for the majority of the persecution and loss of Christian lives, many Nigerian congregations and pastors are not losing hope and taking proactive measure to keep their respective body of believers intact.

Increased security measures and equipping of pastoral leadership have allowed the congregations to sustain the threats and bloodshed.

The faith of these Christians is noteworthy considering the extreme violence exhibited by the Boko Haram. According to the Global Post, the militant group has taken credit for much of this persecution, and has already claimed the lives of 650 people.

The Boko Haram, which translates from the Nigerian language known as ‘Hausa’ to mean a rejection of Western education, believes that the government has been corrupted by false Muslims and must be returned to a purer Islamic state. By attacking the government, bombing churches, and burning schools, this sect violates the security and safety of Nigerians at large.

Recent incidents have happened all over the country. In Kaduna this past April, as cited by the New York Times, a blast occurred in the street from a suicide car bomber whose charge went off in the vicinity of Easter services and killed 38 people. The explosion damaged two churches, but the bomber was unable to navigate into the church compound, which could have caused even more death. This event and many others like it are a daily reality for many Nigerian Christians.

On June 10, 2012, two attacks occurred involving one church bombing and one church shooting and resulted in at least 3 people dead and more 40 people injured. According to PM News, the Boko Haram held a phone conference with reporters and took responsibility for the incidents that happened in the cities of Jos and Biu. The Boko Haram then made a statement that declared their purpose and intention as quoted by PM News: “The Nigerian state and Christians are our enemies and we will be launching attacks on the Nigerian state and its security apparatus as well as churches until we achieve our goal of establishing an Islamic state in place of the secular state.”

While these claims from the Boko Haram threaten further violence, churches do continue to meet together. Increased security measures in many churches make it so only a select few can park within the guarded compound and security check points are frequent along the road. These measures enable the congregation to gather for worship in a more secure environment and continue to meet on Sunday mornings.

Due to the fear instilled by the rampage of bombings, the challenges are great to keep a congregation intact. While many churches are providing security, there still remain those that are unable to offer these security measures causing them to no longer meet as people fear what could happen. Along with the issue of the livelihood of these churches, pastors are also in need of both encouragement and prayer as they have an immensely difficult job of encouraging people under these dangerous circumstances. Both of these issues, however, are currently being addressed by pastoral training.

Aiding the pastors in Nigeria is a crucial and fundamental element in supporting these persecuted churches. By uplifting the pastors, the congregations are uplifted as well and the church in Nigeria will grow stronger.

Leonard Lee, founder of Leadership, Inspiration, Nurture, and Compassion (LINC) ministries, has centered his ministry on equipping pastoral leadership to weather the storms of persecution. LINC provides biblical training to pastors and leaders in countries that have limited resources.

Having recently returned from Jos, Nigeria to train 225 pastors, LINC was able to serve these leaders who live in a terrifying reality of persecution.

On this visit, Lee met with a pastor friend and discussed the training curriculum. The subject most needed, said this particular pastor, was what to do in the face of this extreme persecution.

“He paused and told us how frightened so many of the pastors are because of the Muslim conflict,” said Lee recalling the discussion. “‘Will you please give us training on what to do?’”

This statement reveals the tragic and complicated situation these pastors face on a daily basis.

Throughout Nigeria, these pastors are persecuted for their faith. Lee can recount a number of pastors , who have been beaten for their beliefs and dedication to stewarding a congregation.P

Pastor Daniel Izang is one pastor who has been severely injured for his persistence to serve the Lord. He said he had trapped and beaten by Muslims in January, his neck has the scars of the machete that they tried to behead him with. His body was doused in gas, at the last minute security came in, and he was treated.

“He cannot smell and his taste is [ruined], but he is fully recovered and back serving and preaching and planting churches,” said Lee.

Providing pastors such as Izang with Biblical training is an extremely important issue. These pastors are asked questions from hurting individuals that they have not been prepared to answer, but with training they can receive both the preparation to go further in their ministry and be encouraged and supported.

A huge emphasis of the training is centered on unity. Because of the varying backgrounds of the Nigerian people, many groups segregate and isolate themselves from each other. As churches are being bombed and fellow Christians are being persecuted, the Nigerian church needs to tie itself together together and builds a web of support that is necessary to thrive under persecution. and support those in need. Lee especially emphasized how training these pastors in unity draws communities

While the Boko Haram remains a constant threat in Jos, Nigeria, pastors and community leaders have been provided with biblical training and encouragement to further their ministry amidst the danger. This training further enables pastors to provide powerful reconciliation and healing in their community through practical applications of the gospel. Although the persecution continues, the church in Nigeria is not without hope.

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To find out more information about LINC ministries go to www.lincministries.com or email leoskeo@surewest.net.