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06/12/2023 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – Fulani militias swept through one rural community in Plateau State, Nigeria, on Easter weekend in 2021 and 2022, burning hundreds of houses and a church.

This Easter, an International Christian Concern (ICC) staffer joined hundreds of worshipers at the same burned church. Families sat on the ground, on cinder blocks, or on plastic chairs that they brought from home. They gazed up at the sky because the church had no roof. “Sometimes we worship in the rain,” said the pastor. “… I am passionate to preach the gospel of Christ.”

Militants have attacked dozens of farming Christian communities in the Rigwe chiefdom in Plateau in recent years. They often attack villages at night or ambush Christians in the day while they travel to their farms or church.

We wanted to learn more about the courage and faithfulness of the pastor and his community.

Below are questions we asked of him – we are withholding his name and that of the church.

What led you to become a pastor, knowing the path would be difficult?

Of course, since it is God’s call, I have no regrets. Some people even advised me not to be a pastor, but I went in fully and am glad. I enjoy doing it, despite the suffering.

You and many of your worshipers have lost everything and endured much. What keeps you going?

What gives you hope? The Scriptures tell us about this. We know that we are living in the last days, and we cannot stop worshiping God. That is why we have come back and continued our work because it is our land. Secondly, we know our God. Thirdly, even if we die in the Lord, we have no regret.

Your community was attacked over the Easter weekends in 2021 and 2022. What was your worship service like this year?

Many have come back, but there are still more people that have not returned yet … but many have returned fully. We have returned because we know our God, and we wish to reunite and continue our worship, despite any suffering.

How did you see the Lord move in your church?

Attendance in church service has reduced due to the attacks because many are still living far away from the area. We have reduced in number but spiritually and character-wise, we are stronger as evidenced by our togetherness and worship. We worship within the area of the church building, but due to the challenge of heat, we have to schedule our church activities in the early hours of the day before the heat of the sun becomes too much … there is no roof, everything was burnt, and not even a single chair was left.

How did you see the Lord move in your church?

God is doing his work. The situation has resulted in some people becoming more committed. Those who were not born again have drawn closer and committed themselves to the Lord in repentance and some people rededicated their lives. People in the community who were not attending church have begun to come to church. Even in the aspect of church offerings, members are doing their best … they are lacking food, but they are giving offerings. So, I would say they are trying harder than before the crisis.

How does fear affect those in your congregation and community?

Due to fear, some people have relocated from the community. However, most people have returned, and we expect those who relocated to return. Surely, we all became afraid and fled, but we have rekindled hope and returned to our community fully. That is why the people attend the church.

Tell us about some of the local people who inspire you.

There are many people that encourage me so much here. Considering the unfortunate situations that we have found ourselves in here, they would say that I haven’t come at a good time to enjoy their support as their pastor … He who called me will see me through to the end. They encourage me so much, and I am thankful to them. But there are also some of our people that are not committed, they also are many.

What specific prayer needs do you and your church/community have?

Some members do not even have food, because we couldn’t cultivate our lands last year due to the Fulani attacks. Some people have not been able to rebuild their houses. See the church building. The main building of the pastor’s house is still in ruins. Secondly, we need prayers for this issue of Fulani attacks. Until now, Satan is still controlling them. Presently they are not attacking us here, but they are attacking other places including some neighboring communities. Our hope is that these attacks will end. They should pray for the lives of our members who have not accepted Christ yet to come to the saving knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

How difficult is it for you and your church to forgive the Fulani militants?

We have already forgiven them since we are still together with Fulanis day and night. Some of them are even saying it is not their desire to see things happening this way, but some of their relatives want it that way. But as for us we have already forgiven them.

You have forgiven them, and they have returned to destroying farms again?

(Laughs) Well, there is nothing we can do. Last night there were cows scattered around the houses in this village around 3.00 am, but there was no problem.

Where do you see the Lord working in your life, giving you strength and courage?

God is helping me greatly, and I am eager to serve him. I have never gone without food any day. I have no regrets. My family is supportive. That’s great encouragement. Perhaps, if I were in a better place than this, I may not have been dedicated to serve God as I am doing now. I am closer to God because of this situation. I am happy because God gives me strength. Even if I die doing this work (as a pastor), I am happy.

God says in His Word that the gates of Hades won’t prevail. Where do you see hope in growth of believers and the church in Nigeria?

My hope is just as the Scripture says. We have no doubt and hope that the gates of hell cannot prevail over the church. I hope that someday, in this church, everyone will want to come and worship in it because peace will return. Even those who are attacking the church will accept Christ and become believers. What is happening is a challenge that the Lord God already informed us would happen. By the time they have tried again and again as they have been doing and failed, and they see the church progressing, they will someday repent and become believers. This is what I look forward to.

What do you want Christians in the West to know and understand about what is happening here?

I think it is good that all believers everywhere unite. All Christians in Nigeria too should unite. If we unite as the letter to the Corinthians says, I think whatever request we make to God will be answered. I believe that Christians in the West have heard about our situation. If they unite with us too in prayers to God, whatever we ask God in unity will be answered.

If we Christians in Nigeria unite and inform our brothers and sisters in the West about the exact difficulties that we face, not the requests of individuals for their selfish purposes, they will also unite and rise to support us in our predicaments. We will progress and the world will be amazed. Some NGOs from somewhere that we don’t even know where they came from were giving some support in many communities that have been attacked. It shows that Christians are united. May this kind of support continue, and Christianity will progress, and yes, we are progressing. The troublemakers do what they do because they don’t know God, but we will continue to progress. Our desire is that fellow believers in the West would support us.

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