The Pandemic of Persecution

May 7, 2020

He hadn't kissed the bride. No one is sure they got through their vows. If they did, the words "death do us part" might have still been hanging in the air when men with rifles stormed the church, ripping the bride and groom away from the happiest day of their lives. Terrified, people tried to escape. The ones who couldn't were taken -- like the couple, who hasn't been heard from since.

Everyone in the Nigerian villages knows what happens to Christians. Five were slaughtered in cold blood the same day the couple was kidnapped. Burning and beheading their way through the remotest areas of Niger State, the Fulani herdsman have started breaking into homes at midnight, dragging people out at gunpoint like church elder Emmanuel Iliya Agiya. If they don't vanish, they're hunted down and attacked. Yusaf Pam was riding home in a rainstorm when herdsman ambushed him with machetes, slashing his face until he was unrecognizable. Lying in a pool of blood, his wife thought he was already dead.

For the Christians in Nigeria, this isn't a once-in-awhile problem. This is an every second of every day torment that is destroying their very existence. While we here in the West grapple with an enemy we can't see, theirs is the country's own Muslims. For so many families, just waking up in the morning -- alive -- is a victory. "This and many other savageries on our communities in recent times affirm the fear that, for our vulnerable communities, the danger posed to our existence and well-being by the coronavirus pandemic is less grim than the perennial murderous acts of armed herdsmen," Christian Luka Binniyat said solemnly.

This bloody legacy is what put Nigeria back on the recommended list of countries of particular concern in the latest report by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). Together with Boko Haram, the Fulani herdsman are targeting military groups, missionaries, farmers, and humanitarian aid workers, killing hostages, taking slaves, and torching villages. The government, which has all but abandoned its people to this chaos, continues to do nothing. For Christians, who live with terror we can't imagine, their only hope is in countries -- and prayers -- like ours.

So today, FRC's Lela Gilbert and Arielle Del Turco urge, let's take a moment to look beyond ourselves and our borders and consider the trials faced at this very moment by millions of our fellow Christians. "Our own challenges are undeniable, but let us also reflect on those who endure indescribable dangers every day. We may not know their names, but they are part of our spiritual family and in grave need of our prayers. Let us remember to pray for our sisters and brothers who are struggling to survive overseas and around the world." And thank God for the freedom we have to do so.