Violent persecution is escalating across sub-Saharan Africa – but you haven’t abandoned your brothers and sisters there. Here are three stories of how your gifts and prayers are transforming lives in countries where Christians face increasing danger for choosing to follow Jesus. Thank you for standing up to violent persecution – please keep supporting believers like Apevia, Blessing, Lydia and Zeinabou.
Apevia in Togo grew up following an animist religion. That all began to change in 2014 when she heard a Christian radio programme. After a while, Apevia chose to follow Jesus – and later she started attending a local evangelical church in secret. “From time to time, I would hide and go to church for prayers, especially at night,” she says.
At first, Apevia’s husband didn’t seem to mind that she wasn’t willing to take part in animist rituals anymore. He had always been kind to her, including supporting her when she opened a dressmaking and tailoring business. But that all changed when he discovered that she was secretly going to church.
“He chased me away from his house with our three children,” Apevia says. “He said he didn't want to have a Christian woman in his house and he didn't want to see his children become Christians.”
For a few years, Apevia lived with her father – he was also an animist, but he was more tolerant of her new faith. But after he died, and Apevia’s brother became the head of the family, she was in danger. Last year, he beat Apevia and her 18-year-old daughter and forced them out of the house.
"We live in peace today because of your help." Apevia
Apevia moved in with a friend. A few months later, she received a call from her husband. “He called us to make it clear that he would never take care of us as long as we followed Jesus,” she remembers. “He no longer took care of our basic needs. He refused to pay our daughter's school fees because we would not abandon Jesus.”
Thanks to your gifts and prayers, Open Doors local partners were able to contact Apevia and support her with a microloan to start a new business, as well as financial support to buy food, rent a house and pay her daughter’s school fees.
“We live in peace today because of your help,” says Apevia. “I also have work and by the grace of God, we have what we need to survive. We peacefully continue to worship the Lord. Thank you very much for your support.”
She continues: “My beloved ones in Christ, I would like to say thank you for the grace you have shown me and my family. God bless you and return it to you too. As you have remembered me, God will remember you too. Thank you, thank you, thank you!”
Earlier this year, Fulani militants murdered Blessing’s husband. They lived in Kaduna State, one of many regions in Nigeria that have seen escalating violent persecution. Their marriage hadn’t been entirely easy – Blessing wasn’t accepted by her in-laws, and two of their five children sadly died in infancy. But Blessing was still very happy with her husband: “My husband showed me so much love,” she shares. “He was my everything, and he was so good to me.”
On 14 March 2023, Blessing’s husband went to the market for food. On his way home, he was ambushed and killed by Fulani militants. They had just attacked another nearby village. Blessing went with some men to search for her husband the next day, and found his body.
“Since my husband's death, my life has been emptied of joy and peace,” Blessing says. “He provided for me the best he could. I am so grateful because he made me happy. After his death, I was left with nobody to take care of me or my children – I am now left with three boys aged 15, seven and two to care for.” Blessing’s in-laws have refused to help her.
Blessing was desperate for help – and she found it at the trauma care centre run by Open Doors partners. Her pain has been transformed through the trauma counselling programme, particularly the encouragement and unity she is receiving from the Open Doors partners.
"This programme has brought joy to my heart. I am very grateful." Blessing
“I had not been able to get anyone to talk to and share the burden in my heart with, and I have been living with deep heart wounds,” she says. “However, when I came here, I found people who were willing to listen and pray with me. I am very happy. Even though I still feel the pain, I feel more relieved now.”
She adds: “This programme has brought joy to my heart. I have experienced a lot of hardship and pain in this life, but I have learned that God knows about my pain, and I am not alone. I am very grateful.”
“I am really pained with what is happening in Niger. Everyone has the right to practise his religion, but we Christians face persecution for following Christ,” says Lydia, a believer from the Maradi region. “In one way or the other, the Muslims treat us as second-class citizens in our country.”
"Jesus is with me, and He will never let me down. Thank you very much for this training." Zeinabou
Like most parts of Niger, Maradi is mostly Muslim. The minority Christian population often faces persecution, discrimination and marginalisation. In many parts of the region, there are smear campaigns against Christians and the church. Elsewhere, Muslims use economic incentives to try and entice Christians into denying their faith.
One of the things enraging the Fulani Muslim population is the growing number of Fulani men and women who are encountering Jesus and choosing to become Christians. “Seeing that many Fulanis are coming to Christ, the Muslim community has risen and challenged their fellow Muslims in Niger to stop Christians from evangelising,” says a local source.
As the situation has become more hostile for Christians, Open Doors local partners organised persecution survival training for Fulani converts.
“Thanks to this training, my eyes are opened to how to respond to persecution,” says Lydia. “I now understand that these are the footsteps that Jesus Christ left for all those who believe in Him. Persecution is inevitable, but we must stand strong during persecution, and we should pray for our persecutors as Jesus commanded us in Luke 6:27-28.”
Another participant, Zeinabou, adds: “I am blessed with the word of God; I have strategies to overcome the persecution. I never knew anything about persecution response, but now my eyes are open – I am more than victorious, I must overcome persecution, because Jesus is with me, and He will never let me down. Thank you very much for this training.”
Zeinabou and Lydia are among 120 vulnerable Christians who were able to attend these training sessions recently, helping them strengthen their faith, persevere through persecution and be salt and light in Niger.
Thank you for all you are doing to support persecuted believers in Nigeria, Niger, Togo and other countries in sub-Saharan Africa where Christians face increasing violence. You are making a difference to the worldwide body of Christ.