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The church steps in to care for thousands fleeing violence in Nigeria

10 July 2018

“Life has become a living hell for them. They have lost loved ones, houses and all they worked for in the twinkling of an eye. The agony they are going through is hard to describe.”

These are the words of Kerrie*, an Open Doors worker in Nigeria. For thousands of our brothers and sisters in Plateau state in central Nigeria, this is what life has become. When a group of Fulani herdsmen went on a murderous rampage at the end of June, they killed an estimated 200 people, and forced thousands of others to run for their lives.

Who can help these desperate families? Aid agencies have left due to the insecurity – but church leaders have stayed, and their churches are providing fleeing families with shelter, even as church buildings in other parts of the state have been reduced to piles of ash by Fulani extremists.

Open Doors workers were able to visit two of the informal camps that had been set up in churches for those escaping the violence, and your support and prayers have provided practical support for 3,000 people, such as rice, maize and toiletries. Some of the believers just burst into tears as they received these simple but vital gifts. The women immediately began to cook and share the food among the different families.

Children eat of the food we distributed

Every £20 can provide food aid to a hungry family in Africa, to help them survive for two weeks.

“The displaced Christians were in a pathetic situation,” says Kerrie. “We saw people who were still in a haze over what they have gone through. Children were crying hysterically, perhaps because of hunger or perhaps because of hunger and the trauma they had been through.”

‘God in heaven will take care of us’

Mary is one of those who received this support. Despite all that she has been through, her faith and thankfulness are astounding. She says, “I want to thank God for what happened for us. We never believed that God will keep us alive to see today. I thank God that some of us could escape and we have now found ourselves here in this camp.

“I want to thank you Open Doors: I remembered a day ago you came and visited us to see the situation we are in. We told you that there is severe hunger, no shelter and no clothing. Everything was destroyed, and in the camp, there is no food to eat.

“But we thank God for using Open Doors to bring help to us. In just an interval of a day you responded to our cry. Even the government has not done what you did for us. You have brought food items and toiletries for us. We are indeed grateful.

“My prayer is this: Wherever these resources are coming from, may God pay you back a thousand-fold and may He renew your strength. We plead that believers all over the world will pray that God will bring an end to all these killings because we have become homeless, fatherless and orphaned due to the attacks.

“I believe that God in heaven will take care of us and He will surely see us through, because he is aware of everything. May God continue to bless and protect all those who have sent this support to us. Thank you!”

‘Some people are still missing’

Rev Gob Davu Gyang is the pastor who is caring for one of the camps. With churches being burned and Christians being killed not far away, you might expect him to want to leave – but he has stayed to care for the 2,257 people who have found shelter around his church.

He says, “We sincerely appreciate you for the kind gesture that you have shown to us as we count our brothers and sisters who have been displaced in this region… Really your coming and your assistance will help us earnestly to take care of these IDPs (internally displaced people). May the Lord continue to bless and protect the life of people and Christendom in our country and our state and in our local government (area).”

Traumatised people sit around in one of the IDP camps

Rev Datung is another incredible church leader, caring for 769 people in another camp. He says, “We want to appreciate you people for coming to this place to give us these donations. We are so grateful for everything we have seen here and our prayer is that God will bless you.”

But Rev Datung is very aware of the many people who are not in his camp – and should be. “Some people are still missing. We are praying and hoping that we will find them. Because when they were displaced, some left for other areas. So, we don’t know where they are. Some of them, maybe they are corpses. We don’t know where they are.”

Stand with your church family in Nigeria

Sadly, this attack in Plateau state is just the latest of many. The state is in central Nigeria, located on the fault line between the mainly Muslim north and the Christian and animist south, and attacks by the Islamic Fulani herdsmen on Christian communities in the state have been happening for years. In March 2010 more than 500 people were massacred by herdsmen in Dogon Na Hauwa in the state, the worst such incident in Nigeria’s recent history.

Your gifts have enabled Open Doors workers to respond immediately to this crisis, and provide what these families need to survive. Every £20 can provide food aid to a hungry family in Africa, to help them survive for two weeks.

But they also need us to cry out to God and pray for an end to this violence and death. Mary says, “We plead that believers all over the world will pray that God will bring an end to all these killings.”

Please pray:

  • For peace in Plateau state, the entire Middle Belt region, and in Nigeria as a whole
  • For God’s provision for our brothers and sisters who have been left with nothing
  • That those who are still missing will be found
  • That those who have been effected by these attacks will somehow be able to forgive their attackers
  • That God will change the hearts of those carrying out these attacks and turn them to Himself
  • Nigeria’s President Buhari has renewed his commitment to bring the violence in Nigeria’s Middle Belt to an end. Pray for wisdom and urgency for him and others working to resolve this crisis.
  • 17 people have been arrested after this violence. Pray that justice will be served.

*name changed for security reasons

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