Bulus*, 32, is in prison in Nigeria. His family had him arrested when they found out he was a Christian pastor. Now he’s waiting in an overcrowded cell to have his case heard but it could be up to ten years before there’s any significant progress.
Thrown in prison
Bulus is Fulani, a traditionally nomadic Muslim people in northern Nigeria. When his family discovered that he was not only a Christian but also a pastor they had him thrown in prison. “Before I could leave, relatives trapped me and started beating me,” said Bulus. “I thought I was going to die, but they dragged me to the police station and accused me of stealing some of their goats. Despite the fact that there was no proof, the police locked me up. Five days later they took me to court. I did not have the opportunity to defend myself but I was kept in prison anyway.”
Open Doors has provided funds for a lawyer to defend Bulus’ case. As an ex-Muslim there is pressure to have Bulus tried in Sharia court. Open Doors appointed lawyers is working to have the case heard in a secular court.
Nigeria is notorious for its broken justice system. Police can arrest people on a whim. Brutality and corruption are common. Cells are overcrowded such that each night is a battle to find enough space on the floor to lie down and sleep. Those who have been arrested can wait years to be convicted of any crime. While each year hundreds of prisoners die in the process from neglect or mistreatment.
An opportunity to share the gospel
Bulus knows that the end of this ordeal is still a long way off and he isn’t allowing himself any false hope of a speedy release. Instead he is using his imprisonment as an opportunity to share what he learnt at theological college. He said, “I decided to use my time in prison to preach the gospel. Many people don’t like it, but I continue anyway. I have received hope and strength from God to keep doing the work which He has called me to.”
His fellow prisoners regularly come to him for advice and prayer. One warden said, “Bulus is different. He seems at peace even when he faces difficulties.”
Before he became a Christian Bulus lived the semi-nomadic life of any Fulani. He tended his father’s livestock, herding them to fresh pastures. He knew to respect his elders and fear Allah. Five times a day he faithfully rolled out his prayer mat towards Mecca and prayed. Though he admits now that it never stirred his heart. Then one day a group of Christians visited. “An outreach team came to our village. After I heard their message I gave my life to Christ,” he said.
For his family this was unacceptable. To them being Fulani means being Muslim and they had an obligation to enforce their Islamic faith in the family. But Bulus was a firm his Christian faith. So his family disowned him. Bulus lost his inheritance, status in the clan and any prospects of a marriage. The future he had expected was gone. Still he was unwavering in his faith.
But when his family threated to kill him, he fled.
‘A very lonely time’
Bulus went to Jos, a city in Plateau State, where no one knew him. He enrolled in theological college to learn more about his new faith. He said, “In that time I learned a lot about Christ and experienced His provision in my life. But it was a very lonely time. I had no friends, no family and no support network. I was angry at my family for how they had treated me. But during the course I learned a lot about forgiveness. After I graduated I wanted to go home to see if there was any way my parents and I could be reunited.”
On his return to his village Bulus found the situation worse than before. “Their hatred had increased, especially when they heard I had become a pastor,” he said. That’s when they had him arrested.
- For wisdom for the lawyer as he defends Bulus’ case
- For strength and safety for Bulus in prison and courage to keep sharing the gospel
- That Bulus and his family would be reconciled and there would be forgiveness.
*Name changed for security reasons