We have another devastating report of violence against our sisters and brothers in Sub-Saharan Africa. Throughout the year, you’ve read about violent attacks that have made this region the deadliest in the world for persecuted Christians
. Christians in Nigeria
, the Democratic Republic of the Congo
and other places around the continent
The suffering of God’s people in Sub-Saharan Africa is unthinkable, and it’s heartbreaking to hear of yet another report.
This time, the incident took place in Niger
, near the border with Burkina Faso
Christians living in this region face severe pressure from Islamic extremist groups—including the Islamic State group—that are active in the area. Some churches have been forced to close, and believers live in fear; some have even had to flee their home because of the growing insecurity.
In mid-August, one of these Islamic militant groups stormed into two churches in a village in this part of Niger. First, four armed men entered a church in the middle of a service. According to eyeswitness accounts, each militant carried an assault rifle, a knife and a whip.
The gathered believers were preparing to close in prayer as the men entered the church. The militants pointed their guns to the congregation, and according to a believer present in the church, they asked the Christians: “Have you not heard that we have prohibited Christian acts of worship in this area?”
The Christians replied they were not aware of such a ban. “We have been in this area for three years now,” the extremists responded. “How will you say that you have never heard that we have banned Christian acts of worship in this area? If you say you didn’t hear our warning, you are lying to us.”
The armed men ordered the Christians to kneel. One of the jihadists took his whip and told them that he was going to beat them because they did not obey their ban on Christian worship. Thankfully, the extremists spared any women who were pregnant or had children—but in all, 14 men and three women were beaten. The pastor was then beaten with the whip even more.
The Christians were left with a warning to stop any Christian acts of worship in the village. According to the believer who was there, they were told that if they wanted to continue meeting in the village, they must turn their churches into mosques, because Christianity is banned in the area.
But the horror didn’t stop there.
The men went to another church, where some young believers were meeting. The extremists caught three more Christians and beat them. They were told that if they tried to continue worshiping Jesus, the Islamic radical group would return and destroy the village.
According to Open Doors local partners, there used to be five churches in the village—now, all of them are closed.
The militants went on to two more villages that day to stop any churches from meeting. The same message was shared: If they wanted to continue worshipping in their village, they should better become Muslims and turn all their churches into mosques. Christianity is not allowed in that area because it is under the control of these Islamic extremist groups.
This latest attack shows how vulnerable Christians are in this part of Niger and Burkina Faso—as well as this general part of Africa, the Sahel region. Political instability has not helped. Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger have all experienced coups in the last two years, often because of the violence caused by these violent radicals.
Our local partners are asking us to pray with our family in Niger and Burkina Faso as the region endures yet more pain and violence. Here’s how you can pray:
- Please pray for God’s intervention at the Niger-Burkina Faso border. Pray that God will rescue His people from the hands of the Islamic extremist groups.
- Pray for these Christians who were beaten for their faith. Ask God to bind up their wounds and help them to find healing.
- Ask God to make a way for believers to keep meeting and worshiping.
- Pray the Lord will strengthen the church in the Sahel region and help believers remain steadfast in their faith during this uncertain time.
- Pray for wisdom for the church leaders in this area as they try to lead their communities with wisdom and faith.
- Pray that Niger’s new government—and the governments of Burkina Faso and Mali—will have wisdom and diligence in dealing with this threat and ensure the protection of all.