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In Nigeria, Pastor Jeremiah shepherds his people through tragedy.

“When we go to sleep at night, we are never sure whether we will make it alive to the next day.” 

As Pastor Jeremiah says these words, he’s sitting among ruined mud walls, blackened by scorch marks.

This was his home. 

Pastor Jeremiah’s village was attacked in April 2020—and it’s part of a massive wave of violence against Christians in Nigeria’s Middle Belt. In this region, militant Fulani herdsmen are pushing their cattle through the regions where Christians have lived for generations. When these radicals attack, they do so with brutality, killing anyone in their path, burning down homes and churches to gain more land and wipe out the Christian presence in the region.

Pastor Jeremiah is wearing a tan button-down shirt with golden retrievers and a deep green basketball jersey underneath. He has the voice of a shepherd, gentle but firm, even as he describes the painful memories of the attack—and the lingering effects that still impact the Christian community.

 “We have cried to the government to intervene, but they have done nothing,” Pastor Jeremiah says. “We still pray for [the Fulani militants] to change their ways because some of them were forced into it, while others had hardened their hearts to do this evil, but nothing is difficult for God.”

His village in the Kufana area is more susceptible to the Fulani attacks because of its remote location. Pastor Jeremiah says there is no electricity, no boreholes for clean water, no roads—and forest surrounds them.

The Fulani Attack

On April 23, 2020, around 4 pm, their worst nightmares came true.

“We heard gunshots close to our vicinity,” Pastor Jeremiah says. “So, we told our women and children to go to the next town, while the men stay guard.”

“About 15 minutes later, armed Fulani surrounded the town,” he says.

Many of the attackers were tall and wore uniforms. They came bearing automatic weapons, shooting anyone in sight, and torches to burn down the village.

It was impossible to protect the town against heavily armed men, so everyone fled. Some ran deep into the bush, others to the rocks, and others tried to run to the next town. “The Fulani [radicals] shot at me while I was running,” Pastor Jeremiah says.

Some of the Christians in the village didn’t make it out alive.

The Fulani militants went from house-to-house, setting everything ablaze. They also went into Pastor Jeremiah’s church. They stacked plastic chairs inside and placed them in a heap on top of the wooden benches that congregants sit on during church. They set fire to the chairs in the hope the blaze would burn the benches, engulf the church and destroy the roof. Amazingly, the benches did not catch fire.

“God, in His divine way, allowed only the plastic chairs to burn and melt instead of fueling the wooden benches and engulfing the roof,” Pastor Jeremiah shares.

Pastor Jeremiah’s village was attacked in April 2020 as part of a massive wave of violence against Christians in Nigeria’s Middle Belt.

Salvaging the loss

The next morning, after the militants had fled the area, Pastor Jeremiah and others returned to the village to survey the damage.

“When we came back in the morning, all we saw was fire and smoke rising from houses and stored grains,” Pastor Jeremiah says. “Those who were around began pouring water to salvage their grains, to have something to eat, even for just a few days.”

Layers of rubble, mudbricks, dishes, burnt corrugated steel, all laid in piles across the village. Homes stood naked without rooftops, and the mud-brick walls were pockmarked with black stains from the fires.

Even now, Pastor Jeremiah walks around the outside of his home. There’s still a doorframe with no door; the roof is gone, ash and soot cover the ground.

“They did this because they want to own this area, from here into all the bush,” Pastor Jeremiah says. “That is why they attacked intending to kill the people here. But God did not allow that to happen.”

Increased persecution

Pastor Jeremiah steps into his home, places his hands on the now-brittle walls and chips off some debris with his fingers. This kind of violent persecution is part of the Christian life for many believers in Nigeria today—No. 10 on the 2021 World Watch List of the most dangerous countries to be a Christian today. Even during the coronavirus pandemic, deadly attacks increased in the region.

“Before, we talked freely with the Fulani, but now we have become like a snake and man—when you give your hand to the snake, he will bite it. This has become heavy on us today,” Pastor Jeremiah shares.

Through this terrible attack, Pastor Jeremiah is still shepherding his people toward hope—reminding them they survived by the grace of God—and the Lord still has plans for them. Plans to bring glory to His name.

“We should give glory to God. He is alive and will help us,” Pastor Jeremiah adds. “Just as a hen opens its wings to cover her young.”

The fear of more attacks always looms, but Pastor Jeremiahs says the Christians here have never fought by carrying guns to kill people.

“Even if we die, we are in the hands of God,” he says.

One Church, One Family

Open Doors helped Pastor Jeremiah and the other believers living around Kufana with critical support to buy food, medicine and materials to rebuild their homes—along with spiritual support and trauma care—to help encourage them in their faith and strengthen the church.

“If you had not come, we would have suffered even more,” Pastor Jeremiah says. “Open Doors, on behalf of my people, we are saying, thank you.”

These Christians of Kufana represent hundreds of thousands of believers across Nigeria and sub-Saharan Africa. They risk their lives every day to live out their faith in Jesus in hostile regions to the gospel. Their need for support, trauma counseling, discipleship and emergency relief is critical.

But what is also critical is what that support represents: Fellowship.

“God has allowed us to fellowship with one another,” Pastor Jeremiah shares, speaking directly to Christians who have prayed and sent support to their village. “Even with all our differences, together, because of Him, we are One.”

PLEASE PRAY

  • Pray for the Christians of Kufana as they return and rebuild from this violent Fulani attack. Ask God to give them strength and faith to continue gathering as the church and to be a light for Christ in the region.
  • Pray for those who lost loved ones in the attack. Ask God to give them comfort and peace to rest in Him.
  • Pray for the Nigerian government to do more to intervene and protect the Christian community from violent militants. Pray also that the government will reach these communities with relief and aid and the resources to rebuild.
  • Pray for Pastor Jeremiah to have wisdom, courage and strength to continue to shepherd the Christians of Kufana and point them toward forgiveness and hope.
  • Pray for our partners on the ground in Nigeria. Ask God to give them wisdom and success in delivering support, trauma counseling, discipleship and training.

Your support this Easter will cause hope to rise for persecuted Christians in northern Nigeria – so they may survive, stay strong and be safe.

Every Php 2,350 could give a Christian family of five food for a month after they’ve fled their home.

Every Php 5,000 can help train a church goer as a counsellor who can help many persecuted Christians through their trauma.

Every Php 7,500 could give a church leader crucial discipleship training as they serve on the front line in a volatile region.