A First-Hand Account of Persecuted Believers in Nigeria: “Everybody Lives in Fear All the Time, Day or Night”

About forty years ago, my Nigerian friend Samuel Kunhiyop and I were talking in my living room. We discovered we were the same age. After he shared what a privilege it was to be attending seminary in our country, I said, “I love my country, but it really surprises me that you have such a great appreciation for it. So many countries, even those we’ve helped, are anti-American. But a number of Nigerians were bought or stolen and shipped to America and sold as slaves, weren’t they? With all the countries that resent us without good reason, I’d think you of all people would despise us. Can you tell me why you don’t?”

I’ll never forget the chills I felt hearing Samuel’s measured response, spoken slowly with his rich accent: “No matter what else you did, you brought us the gospel…and that is all that matters.” Two generations earlier, a wave of missionaries sent by American churches had gone to Africa and won his village, including his parents, to Christ. As a result, while I was growing up in a non-Christian home in America, my friend Sam was being raised in a Christian home in Nigeria.

Yes, I believe that other things matter besides preaching the gospel—among them character, integrity, and biblical social justice. But Samuel was saying the same thing the apostle Paul said—that the gospel is more important than anything else.

Sadly, today, many of our Nigerian brothers and sisters in Christ are being severely persecuted and oppressed. Samuel, a brother I dearly love and trust, recently sent a letter, sharing how he visited two camps for displaced persons in Southern Kaduna in Nigeria, where he was born and raised. He wrote, “What I saw really shocked me beyond what words can describe.”

Southern Kaduna is predominantly Christian, and believers have been persecuted there for years. Samuel explained:

Now that we have a Muslim President, the Muslims, especially the Fulanis who belong to the same ethnic group, use this time that their own man is in office to attack, assault, kidnap, rape women, and destroy property. They are often well armed with sophisticated weapons such as AK47s and pickup trucks. There are similar attacks in other parts of the country.

One of the camps Samuel visited was a children’s primary school in Zonkwa:

I saw women, children, and few men—about 3,000. The reason for the few men is that the men usually go back to take care of their farms during the day as they all come from farming communities. When the attacks started about a month ago, the gunmen in pickups with AK47s usually will arrive the villages between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. and shoot and kill at sight. They will also burn and destroy houses and farms. This is the farming season in Northern Nigeria. 

According to the records, five villages were completely destroyed, leaving behind displaced families. In this camp alone, three pregnant women have given birth to their babies and sleep with other family members that are also displaced. They sleep on mattresses on the floor in classrooms. I would say that about 50 adults and children stay and sleep in one classroom. They have one central cooking area in the open and few makeshift places to bath and dress. They often meet in the church to have their worship to the Lord.  

Samuel answered a series of questions:

What is the government doing to prevent these attacks?

Basically, the government is unable to provide security for the citizens not only in Southern Kaduna but all over the country. The few soldiers and police are ill-equipped and simply overwhelmed by the well-armed gun men. There is insecurity everywhere as bandits, kidnappers, armed bandits, militia, Fulani herdsmen, cattle rustlers, etc. are loose and freely ambush, kill, kidnap, and abduct innocent citizens at will. 

Often people are kidnapped in their houses, highways, churches, schools, etc. and taken to a hideout and thousands of dollars as ransom demanded. A few weeks ago a high school owned by the Baptist Church was attacked at 2.00 a.m. and over one hundred students were abducted and ransom is being demanded. As I write this update, a few of them have been freed, a handful escaped, and about 87 are still held captive. Failure to pay often means death to the victims. In some instances, ransom is paid and still the victim is killed.

…Even the few military check points that are posted in some of these areas are not safe.  A man was murdered by these heartless gunmen in the presence of the military post. …The night before I wrote this update, there was an attack on some villages about 15 minutes from my home and yet the security agencies (police and soldiers) could not do anything to prevent. One wonders if the government is not complicit. 

Do we feel safe? 

Not at all.  Everybody lives in fear all the time, day or night, 24/7. 

Is there hope? 

Our only hope is God who is our shield and protector. 

What can the world do? 

In my mind, what is happening in Nigeria needs to be given urgent global attention. It is genocide and if the Nigerian government is not prosecuted, then something very wrong is happening. It is simply unacceptable in a civilized world like ours. The world cannot ignore or suspend immediate action on atrocities happening in the Nigeria. It is now or never.

What about the church worldwide? 

Pray, pray, and act as God will lead.

Samuel described the need for foodstuff, mattresses/blankets, medicine, and roofing sheets for those that lost their houses.

If you would like to give to this cause you can  donate to EPM’s persecuted church special fund. 100% of donations will be given to worthy organizations helping persecuted believers, including those in Nigeria. You can also give directly to a ministry our brother Samuel recommends, helping believers in Southern Kaduna, by mailing a check to BILD International, 2400 Oakwood Road Ames, IA 50014-8417. Please indicate that the money is meant for Southern Kaduna Support c/o of Dr. Samuel Waje Kunhiyop.

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:10-12, ESV)

Here's some ways to also be praying for our persecuted brothers and sisters in Afghanistan. Pray too for the people of Haiti, suffering after the 7.2 magnitude earthquake. 

Photo by Tope A. Asokere from Pexels

Randy Alcorn (@randyalcorn) is the author of over sixty books and the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries