To increase our awareness and effectiveness overseas, ICC routinely sends Regional Managers into the field to collect data and make contacts. Our Regional Manager to Africa recently returned from Nigeria.
By now, many of you know about the unspeakable level of violence against Christians in Nigeria. But I warn you: do not be fooled by what the media tells us. The truth is, you cannot fully grasp the plight of the persecuted Christians in Nigeria until you actually visit them. That is why I decided to fly to Nigeria to see to myself what is really happening to the persecuted church there. Nothing prepared me to what I saw.
I experienced the pain of the Christians in northern Nigeria in less than an hour after I landed in the country. My host Rev. Samuel Ayoba (name changed for security reasons) picked me up from the airport and we started driving to the city of Kaduna. As we drove, my mind started to wonder to the different stories I have read about attacks on Christians. Hoping that it was just me, I asked Rev. Ayoba, “How safe is this road? Are we going to be stopped by the Islamic radicals and get killed?” Instead of reassuring me of our safety, the reverend looked into my eyes and said, “Anything could happen. All we could do is to entrust ourselves to God.” As soon as I heard those words, I felt the pain of living in constant fear. I noticed that we were the only car on the road, and my mind became clouded with suspicion and questions: It’s getting late. Where are the other cars? When will we get there? But I told myself not to be shaken and focus on trusting the Lord.
As we drove towards Kaduna, I saw several mosques. A friend told me that Muslims receive funds from Saudi Arabia and other wealthy Muslim countries to build the mosques. Some of those mosques are then used for teaching hatred against Christians.
When we finally arrived in Kaduna, it was obvious to see evidence of violence in the city. There were check points every few miles. Shortly before I arrived, Islamists carried out a suicide bomb attack targeting a church. They missed their target, but the attacker killed over 40, mainly Muslims who happened to be near the church.
I stayed in Nigeria for 10 days. During my time there, I spoke with dozens of victims of persecution. I visited villages decimated by Islamic violence. One of the saddest days of the trip was when I was asked to speak at the funeral of a Christian who was killed. The man was killed after he visited his father, an evangelist who is living among Muslims.
I came face to face with what it means to go through persecution. I was also reminded of how important it is to stand with the body of Christ that undergoes persecution. I came back from Nigeria with the passion to work more to help the oppressed. One of the victims that ICC helped said to me, “You make us feel that somebody cares for us.” Let us continue making them feel that they are loved!