Christian Communities Disappearing Near Nigeria

by | Jun 15, 2011 | Charisma Archive

nigeriamapcroppedIn a village
outside this Bauchi state town in predominantly Muslim northern Nigeria,
what was once a Christian community has vanished.

Last
March the Christian peasant farmers of Mdandi village, eight kilometers
(five miles) northwest of the Government Girls Secondary School in
Tafawa Balewa town, were busy harvesting crops and preparing for a new
farming season.

On March 27 scores of armed, hard-line Islamists—avoiding the surrounding Muslim villages—descended on Mdandi,
destroyed the Christians’ homes and drove them out, former residents
said.

The attack on Mdandi was preceded by an assault on
Feb. 10, believed to have been the fall-out of violence rooted in Muslim
and Christian youths fighting over a Muslim’s Jan. 27 burning of a
Christian’s billiards table. Some Christians were injured in the Feb. 10
attack.

“On their first attack, we fought back, defending
ourselves and our families,” said Luka Zafi, pastor of the Church of
Christ in Nigeria congregation in the village. “And not being
able to force us out, they retreated. We had thought that we would not
be attacked again. But you see, they left and returned the second time
with more of them, and all armed with guns. We could not fight back
since we do not have arms to fight them. We ran out of the village, and
they destroyed our two church buildings and our houses.”

Zafi, whose house was gutted in the March 27 attack, said his church
building along with a Roman Catholic Church building were set ablaze.
Area Christians are now living as displaced persons in Tafawa Balewa
town, while some of his members have moved to the suburb of Nahuta
village.

Prior to the attacks, Zafi’s church had 50
members, he said; they are now scattered among various villages. A
Compass visit to the village found Muslim Fulani nomads had taken it
over and were using it to graze their cattle.

The marauders
were believed to have been Islamists from other parts of Bauchi state
collaborating with local Muslims and Fulani herdsmen. The Christians
said they believe they were targeted, as the assailants bypassed
surrounding Muslim communities.

Zafi lamented that
three months after the attacks, the Christians have received no
assistance from the state or federal governments.

“We
appeal that they help resettle my people back in Mdandi village,” he
said. “The government can do this by assisting the community to rebuild
their destroyed churches and houses.”

One reason the
government has been slow to check Islamist aggression is that neither
officials nor Western news agencies question false claims that the
ethnic Seyawa Christians steal the Fulani Muslim herdsmen’s cattle, the
supposed reason for the Fulani attacks, according to area Christians.
They said many people are not aware that some local Christian farmers
also own cattle and have never stolen them from the Muslim nomads.

Because
the religious crisis in neighboring Plateau state has also been
portrayed as communal property squabbles, the government has limited its
response and many lives of Christians have been lost because of
inaction, they said.

Zafi said the need for the
government to halt the attacks of the Muslim militants in northern
Nigeria was more important than restoring the Christians’ property.

“Unless this is done, I am afraid, Christians in this part of the country may be on their way to extinction,” he told Compass.

Following
the gutting of their church building, his congregation used the primary
school in Nahuta village as their worship place, he said.

“But
because we did not have houses to live in around there, we had to
disperse to the various villages in search of abodes,” he said. “So the
church members no longer meet to worship together.”

COCIN has reassigned Pastor Zafi to assist with another church in Nahuta village as an associate pastor.

Nigeria’s
population of more than 158.2 million is divided between Christians,
who make up 51.3 percent of the population and live mainly in the south,
and Muslims, who account for 45 percent of the population and live
mainly in the north. The percentages may be less, however, as those
practicing indigenous religions may be as high as 10 percent of the
total population, according to Operation World.

Neighboring Violence
Muslim
extremists also attacked Gumel, another Christian village in Tafawa
Balewa Local Government Area, in February—leaving two Christians dead,
destroying three church buildings, burning more than 50 houses and
displacing more than 300 residents, Christian leaders said.

Killed
in the Feb. 5 attack was COCIN church elder Mallam Riga Ubandoma, they
said. A 14-year-old girl, Numkwi William, died from a snake bite while
fleeing from the assailants.

Residents have taken refuge
in Tafawa Balewa town. Ishaya Magaji, 65, pastor of the displaced Gumel
COCIN church, told Compass that the Muslim aggressors took them by
surprise at 5 p.m. that day.

“They overpowered us, so we
had to flee with our wives and children,” Pastor Magaji said. “They
burned our houses and destroyed our properties.”

Before
the attack, Magaji said, his church had about 166 members; now all of
them have been displaced. Magaji and his wife, Saratu, are
living with their nine children at the house of other Christians until
they receive help to find a new home.

“We cannot return to
the village—not only because our houses have been destroyed, but
because the Muslims have taken over the village and are using the place
as a grazing field for the Fulani Muslims in the area,” Magaji said.

Besides
the COCIN church building, the Muslim extremists also destroyed the
buildings of a Roman Catholic parish and an Evangelical Church Winning
All congregation. He said most of the villagers have been displaced to
other towns and villages in Tafawa Balewa, including Rafin Ganba, Bwar,
Mantokshin and Nahuta.

Bulus James, a Gumel village teacher, is among those displaced.

“I
was in my house that evening when I heard gunshots all over,” James
said. “I ran out of my house, only to see a large number of armed men
shooting at our people, setting fire on houses and churches. I had no
choice than to run into the bush, and that is how I survived the attack.
Since then I have not gone to the village, because the Muslims have
taken over the area.”

James, who now teaches at the COCIN
Metropolitan School in Tafawa Balewa, estimated the number of raiders at
about 200 and said they were carrying guns.

Magaji, saying
the attack on the village was part of an extremist jihad (Islamic war)
being waged against Christians in Bauchi state, said Muslims easily
attacked the Christian village because it is surrounded by the Muslim
villages of Yamgar, Wurogara, Shafali and Sakom.

“We have
lost all that we have and have nowhere to turn,” he said. “The
government should help us by rebuilding our churches and homes so that
we can all return to the village.”

Attempts by Compass to
visit Gumel with Magaji were thwarted, as they were chased away by
nomadic Muslim Fulani herdsmen who have taken over the village.

CHARISMA NEWSLETTERS

Stay up-to-date with current issues, Christian teachings, entertainment news, videos & more.

The latest breaking Christian news you need to know about as soon as it happens.

Prophetic messages from respected leaders & news of how God is moving throughout the world. 


MORE FROM CHARISMA

The Church Revived: 3 Keys to the Emerging Move of God

The Church Revived: 3 Keys to the Emerging Move of God

During the past two years, I believe the church at large has been in a season of returning to God. Repentance is crucial when it comes to revival. Scripture shows a clear pattern that repentance precedes the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (see Joel 2:12-28 and Acts...

How Divine Wrestling Changes Our Identity

How Divine Wrestling Changes Our Identity

All of us at some point will hit a place of getting the wind knocked out of us. We all experience unexpected detours and times when there seems to be no way out. But there is One who lives in us, the Lord Jesus Christ, who gives us the strength to overcome obstacles....

Spirit-Filled Pastor: How Does God Lead Us Today?

Spirit-Filled Pastor: How Does God Lead Us Today?

Whether it is the Spirit leading or forbidding in the book of Acts, or the Spirit leading throughout Christian history, it’s clear that the leading of the Spirit is important. In the Old Testament, it appears that the Spirit of God could be withdrawn completely from...

Joyce Meyer: Keys to Winning Your Race in Life

Joyce Meyer: Keys to Winning Your Race in Life

Everyone has a race to run. That just means we all have a life to live. The apostle Paul says in Hebrews 12:1 (NIV), “Therefore...let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for...

Prophetic Word: The Lord Says, ‘I Am the Consuming Fire’

Prophetic Word: The Lord Says, ‘I Am the Consuming Fire’

God says that during this season, He is turning up the heat, finding the gold and bringing His refining fire. Job makes a powerful statement of faith as he says of the Lord, "When he has tried me, I shall come out as gold." God knew Job's heart and Job knew the heart...

What Is ‘The One Thing’ God Wants From You?

What Is ‘The One Thing’ God Wants From You?

In 1971, I was invited to spend one month in Singapore at a new institute that had been started by John Haggai. It was still in the formative stages then—a place where Asian church leaders would be trained and challenged to witness for Christ. Today, more than 40...

RECENT ARTICLES

Bill Johnson: Reformers Are Arising to Transform Our World for Christ

Throughout history, reformers have lived with the conviction of the superiority of the gospel of Jesus Christ to transform individual lives, communities, and ultimately, nations. Recently I had the...
37 Prayers for the Suffering Persecuted Church

37 Prayers for the Suffering Persecuted Church

It was a Pentecost bloodbath and most Christians never heard about it. More than 50 Christians were killed in one of the deadliest terror attacks on Nigerians this year. Scores of gunmen rushed in to kill Christians in the midst of worship. All told, over 360 million...

The United States: Birthed in Prophetic Symbolism

The United States: Birthed in Prophetic Symbolism

One of the most amazing facts about the Founding Fathers of our nation is this: The one referred to as the "voice" of the revolution (John Adams) and the one referred to as the "pen" of the revolution (Thomas Jefferson) both died on the same day—July 4, 1826—exactly...

Why Did God Give ‘This’ to Me?

Why Did God Give ‘This’ to Me?

It’s a question I frequently hear. It’s one I’ve asked. And maybe it’s one you’ve asked, too. The question is, “God, why did You give this to me?” This can be any number of issues, from emotional or psychological struggles to symptoms or sicknesses, disabilities or...

No Evil Can Stop What God Has Planned

No Evil Can Stop What God Has Planned

I sense it. And I perceive a growing number of people in massive proportions sense the increasing momentum of power and might worldwide. Something is on the horizon—something more eerie and ominous than what the people of the world have ever before experienced. Even...

Pin It on Pinterest