A Woman's Perspective On The Times We Live In


February 4, 2015

An Example For Us: The Faith of Persecuted Christians

   
     The nation of Niger in western Africa has been the site of recent demonstrations and violence after the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attack in France.  It is located north of Nigeria and to the east of Mali, both countries that have seen their own share of violence in recent years.  In the last couple of weeks seven Christian churches in the capital city of Niamey (along with more than 60 throughout the nation) have been burned in retaliation for the satirical depiction of the prophet Mohammed.  Niger was once a French colonial possession and retains strong cultural ties with France, and because the nation is more than 90% Muslim, the backlash against Christians has been severe.
     According to The Christian Post, U.S. missionaries in the country have reported , "all of [their] churches have been burned along with the pastors' homes ... almost every church [they] know or are associated with has been attacked." The missionaries, who despite seeing smoke "around all sides of [their] house," remain in Niamey, the nation's capital.  It has also been reported that ten people have died in the attacks.
     Christians in Muslim countries around the world are being targeted in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo controversy.  Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau, who was born in Niger, has issued sermons against Christians, calling on Muslim men to join a global jihad that can be heard at mosques across the country of Nigeria.  In addition, Christians in Mali, Sudan and Somalia have fallen into states of panic in the face of increased persecution.
     Cameron Thomas, the African regional administrator of International Christian Concern (ICC), stated,  "Christians in Muslim-majority countries hostile to even the practice, let alone the spread, of Christianity face incredible hardship for their faith that is often made worse by seemingly unconnected actions in the Western world. Over the course of these riots, dozens of churches and Christian businesses and homes will burn for a cause unconnected to themselves."  ICC is an organization that derives its purpose from serving the persecuted Church in the world.  And it seems as if that need is growing.
Neal and Danette Childs, and family
     In a report on the Niger attacks, Todd Starnes of The Blaze shared the testimony of Neal and Danette Childs, who have been missionaries in the West African country since 1998; serving through their Reaching Unreached Nations (RUN) ministry.  “Our immediate response — there is that little bit of panic,” Neal Childs related. “We were ready. We were on guard.”  Childs reported that the parsonages where two ministers and their families were living were also destroyed and looted, leaving at least one of those preachers with practically nothing left over.
     But their tremendous faith is something that we here, in America, would do well to imitate.  The Christian pastors have forgiven the mobs and returned to public worship... they are not afraid.  "The church is recognizing this is something to be joyful over — the church and their faith have been proven. Jesus said rejoice and be exceedingly glad when men persecute you, for great is your reward in heaven."
     I have to ask ... where has the media coverage been over the fallout of the Charlie Hebdo storm?  Why is no one reporting that Christian communities in Africa are suffering increasing persecution?  The White House website carries no news about the events in Niger.  The New York Times quoted the reason the Muslim rioters were angry, but no comments from the Christian victims. USA Today repeated the often heard mantra that "Islam is a peaceful religion", while making no mention of the 70 Christian churches across the nation that lie in smoldering ruins.
Pastor Nwene
     But I don't want to focus on the negligence of the press.  Rather, I want to shout for joy at the faith and endurance of the Christian pastors in the persecuted churches of Niger.   On his website for his ministry, Neal Childs features the encouraging message of Pastor Nelson Nwene.  His message?  "We need to forgive.  In fact, we need to ask God to forgive those who did this, so judgment doesn’t fall on them.  Then we need to go after them.  Not to retaliate, but to reach them with the power of the Gospel.  We have an opportunity like we’ve never had before."  Childs also states, "There were tears, but more than the tears, there was rejoicing.  The church in Niger is strong!"
     In fact, Pastors across Niger rejoiced in their faith.  Pastor Zabeyrou preached by flashlight.  Pastor Moctar gave his church members the opportunity to share testimonies.  One after the other came and gave glory to God for His protection in spite of all that happened, and in spite of the fear all around them.  They shared how their neighbors saw them with a new respect when they saw them returning to church.  And mostly they shared how they had forgiven, and are excited about what God is going to do through this unprecedented persecution.
Pastor Zebeyrou preaches by flashlight
     And here is Neal Childs' own assessment of how God will use this persecution to glorify His Church:  "The Church in Niger was attacked ... The Body of Christ in this land.  At least 70 churches were burned, vandalized and looted.  Ours included.  The majority of the attacks took place on Saturday.  Also attacked were pastor’s homes, orphanages and Christian Schools.  It was an unprecedented attack that the Enemy meant to use to destroy.  What an idiot he is."
     I wanted you to know about this persecution and pray for these good people in Niger; these faithful people.  And I want us to ask ourselves the following:  1)  Are we prepared to suffer as these Christians are?  2)  Would we react in the same spirit of love and forgiveness?  3)  Are we willing to intercede in prayer on their behalf, or we will remain unmoved for our Christian brethren in their time of need, as we bask in our affluence and freedom from fear?  Think seriously about these questions, because I can tell you that we will not be spared such persecution in the future.  And I fear that the American Church will not rise from the ashes in solidarity and faith, as have the persecuted in Niger.  Look at those faces of joy in the midst of such devastation and pray that we will be found such jubilant Overcomers as they.

If you wish to make a donation to these Pastors and their churches, click here.  The donation is made to RUN ministries here in the States, and administered by Neal and Danette Childs.  To read about their committed lives as missionaries in Africa, click here
   
Hosea 12:6    “So you, by the help of your God, return, hold fast to love and justice, and wait continually for your God.”  

   
   

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for shedding light on this. M6 heart has been so heavy for the suffering of the faithful ones. Time to really examine ourselves and our faith.

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