"Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in Heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you." -Matthew 5:11-12
(Niger, Africa)—Although Niger is 98% Islamic, the people have always maintained a respect and friendship between majority and minority religious groups. However, that changed shortly after the Charlie Hebdo terror attack. (Photo by: Danette Childs)
Amie Cotton, Director of Public Relations for Christian Aid, describes the attacks that have erupted against Christians in the country...
"[The violence] was very shocking to the people there... the different religions [normally] get along. They have relationships with one another, so there is a respect for the other even though there is not an agreement on the type of religion. They work together a lot better than their southern neighbors in Nigeria.
"But the Charlie Hebdo situation seemed to rile up some folks.
"Christian Aid supports two indigenous ministries in Niger; one since 2000 and the other since 2009."
72 Christian Churches Burned
"We got our first communication from Niger on the 17th. They were asking for prayer and telling us that houses and churches in Niger were being attacked. Then he came back and reported that 45 churches were burned, four Christians were killed, 17 families lost homes completely—that report was from just one ministry.
"Then we received [similar] word from the other ministry and came to the cumulative number of 72 churches burned and at least 10 killed. [Boko Haram] was pretty much going around torching churches and known Christian homes, and they were marking other Christians' homes for further attack."
And yet there is that photo of Christians standing in the ruins of their burned-out church, praising God. (Photo by: Christi Childs)
"Isn't that an amazing shot?! ...I wonder if I would do that under those circumstances. In Niger, being a Christian is a whole different world. They know their life is on the line. For us, it's very easy to sit in a church pew, get baptized and accept Jesus as our Lord. But they teach folks who are interested in learning about Christianity that it's a hard cross to bear, and it may cost your life—it may cost your family. They don't mislead people, but they let them know; 'in this world you will have trouble...' but that God will be with them through the storms. So I really respect the faith of the Believers there."
How can the Body of Christ in the West be praying for fellow Christians there in Niger?
"Their safety is paramount right now. That part of Africa is between the Sahara in the North and the Savannah in the South, so it's desert. Food and water are always an issue there; there are very few natural water supplies going through Niger.
"One indigenous ministry works with the children, widows and orphans; digging wells, and supplying practical needs.
"The other indigenous ministry we assist works with a hospital there, and they also have a radio and TV ministry. A lot of the country is illiterate so it's important to reach them in a way that they can be reached. Radio is a powerful tool for that.
"Believers in the West can pray for their peace, that it will go back to that quiet existence of working and living together, and that there won't be any more of these violent attacks."
Go to ChristianAid.org for more information or to help.