26 July 2019 marked ten years since Boko Haram began their devastating insurgency in Nigeria. Since then, thousands of Christians have been killed, displaced, abducted and abused at the hands of this deadly insurgent group. Christians in Nigeria and nearby countries need your prayer more than ever.
In July 2009, a violent clash between Yusufia (followers of Muhammed Yusuf, founder of what became known as Boko Haram) and security forces at the central mosque of Maiduguri, in Borno state, left at least 700 people dead. Most of the fatalities were Boko Haram members, including Muhammed Yusuf.
Families affected by Boko Haram attacks receiving Open Doors aid, March 2018.
A hint of the violence to follow
The bloodshed that day was only a foretaste of what was to come. Yusuf was regarded as a martyr, and many disillusioned and indoctrinated youths joined the ranks of Boko Haram. As their techniques became more sophisticated, tens of thousands of Nigerians were murdered, thousands abducted and forced to convert to Islam and millions displaced. Christian women and girls are particularly in danger of being victims of kidnap and forced marriage.
In 2014 the insurgency was at its strongest. Its soldiers claimed large swathes of the northeast. Notoriously, in the April of that year, they kidnapped nearly 300 mostly Christian students from the Chibok Secondary School. More than 100 remain in captivity.
Leah Sharibu. Photo taken by her family
In March 2015, the leader of Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau, pledged allegiance to so-called Islamic State (IS). However, his leadership has been challenged and, in August 2016, IS declared that Abu Musab al-Barnawi had been appointed as the new leader of their West African branch.
It is this faction that kidnapped Leah Sharibu and 104 others from Dapchi Secondary School in February 2018. One girl died in captivity. All the other girls were released about a month later – except Leah, because she refused to give up her faith in Christ. 17 months later, she is still in captivity. Please keep praying for Leah and her family.
Boko Haram continues
Nigerian officials have repeatedly claimed victory over Boko Haram but, while they have lost a lot of territory, Boko Haram are still powerful. They are estimated to have more than 3,000 fighters.
Sadly, the trauma has not remained within the borders of Nigeria. Chad, Niger and Cameroon have all seen violence. Today, around 50 per cent of Boko Haram attacks occur in these countries. Most recently, there were reports of Boko Haram fighters storming the Christian village of Kalagari and surrounding villages in Cameroon on 29 July, where they took eight women hostage and cut off the ears of some. It is not yet clear if all of them have been released.
The countries where Boko Haram attacks are also seeing a great deal of humanitarian need. More than seven million people are dependent on food aid in Nigeria, while half the population of conflict-hit Lake Chad Basin region need humanitarian assistance. Hunger and malnutrition remain high. Christians can face discrimination when government aid is distributed.
Pray, support, write
With your help, Open Doors partners with the local church to strengthen persecuted believers in Nigeria with training, community development, emergency relief, trauma care and legal assistance.
You can also write to Esther, who was kidnapped as a teenager by Boko Haram. She was heavily pregnant when she escaped, but has been ostracised by some in her community because of her experiences. Having attended an Open Doors trauma-care seminar, Esther knows that God sees her and will bear her pain: “I felt like I was handing all of my sorrow over to God”.
Could you write to Esther to let her know that she is seen and loved?
Esther with some of the letters she has received.
And, importantly, please keep praying for those who have suffered at the hands of Boko Haram in the past decade.
- Pray for protection and hope for Christian communities in Nigeria and other targeted countries
- Pray for wisdom for the governments of Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and Niger as they work to ensure protection for civilians
- Pray for wisdom and commitment for Open Doors partners and the international community in its support to Nigeria as they continue to battle this danger
- Pray that the Lord would stop the violence of Boko Haram and show them His mercy by bringing its leaders and fighters to salvation.