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16 May 2013

State of emergency announced in three Nigerian states

State of emergency announced in three Nigerian states

This week a state of emergency has been announced by President Goodluck Jonathan in three states in the north of Nigeria; Borno, Yobe and Adamawa.[1]

Violent attacks have escalated in the north and centre of Nigeria, and the president has taken this measure to address the "systematic effort by insurgents and terrorists groups which pose a very serious national threat to national unity and territorial integrity". On the same day as the President's announcement (14 May), two Boko Haram members shot dead the Pentecostal pastor and secretary of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Reverend Faye Pama Musa, in his home in Borno state. Kassim Shettima, Borno state governor, has admitted that Boko Haram is close to seizing control of the entire state.

One third of Nigeria's 36 states are under Shari'ah law, creating a state religion despite the country's national, secular constitution. Alliance member Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) reports that more than 50,000 have died due to religious violence since 1999 when these states came under Shari'ah law. Approximately half of Nigeria's population (of more than 166 million) are Christians, and non-Muslims in the north face discrimination in employment, health care and clean water, restrictions in schooling, and threats of abduction. Alliance member Open Doors UK explains that it is very hard for churches to integrate converts from Islam, and rank northern Nigeria 13th on their World Watch List.

The Religious Liberty Partnership released a statement in March 2010 expressing their deep concern at the continuing violence against men, women and children in north Nigeria, and committing to stand with their Nigerian brothers and sisters who are seeking peace and religious freedom for all. Members of this Partnership include CSW, Open Doors International, Release International and the World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty Commission GLOBAL.

The heartbreaking story of Nigerian Nvou Dauda was shared at Alliance member Release International's recent heart2heart annual women's conference. Nvou survived a vicious attack in 2002 when Muslim extremists, including her neighbour, destroyed her home, shot her 20 times and killed her unborn child. She forgave her neighbour and her home was rebuilt by a Release International partner, but in 2012 her home was destroyed again by militants. Following this she is reported to have 'simply slumped and died of trauma' in a refugee camp. Heart2heart encourages Christian women in the UK to stand with their persecuted sisters across their world.

Many Christian organisations are working hard to support persecuted Christians in Nigeria, campaigning for an end to persecution, and raising awareness in the UK church. Release International are encouraging churches to take to the streets, holding services outside in solidarity with their persecuted family across the world. This year's Great Outdoor Church Service takes place on 19 and 26 May. Open Doors UK are holding a Great Big Tea Party from 25-27 May to raise support for the persecuted church, and CSW are encouraging people to sign the Operation 18 petition. This petition seeks to make Article 18, the right for religious freedom, into a reality, calling for an action plan to be created from UN recommendations.

Prayer is urgently needed for the situation in Nigeria. Please pray:

  • for healing and comfort for those injured or made homeless by the violence and the families of those who have been killed;
  • for organisations that are working for peace and religious freedom in Nigeria and supporting those who are persecuted;
  • that God would protect Christians in northern and central Nigeria;
  • that the Nigerian government and international community would do all they can to take action against Boko Haram;
  • that peace would come to Nigeria, and that Boko Haram and other militants would end their violent actions.

[1] See CSW's press release from 15 May 2013.

   Photo credit: Darwinek via Creative Commons