|12/31/2014 Niger Republic (International Christian Concern) – In most cases, governments bent on promoting a single religion or no religion at all, religious zealots and armed militants are the world’s persecutors, but for many in places like Niger, families, friends and colleagues are often the persecutors, especially for Christian converts. Sadly, throughout the world, fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, and brothers and sisters are being harassed, rejected, and even murdered by relatives, friends, and members of their communities for having converted from the religion of their ancestors for a redeeming faith in Christ.
This is the story of Mounira, a convert from Islam to Christianity who has suffered beatings, divorce and abandonment for choosing to put her faith in Christ rather than Mohammed in one of the most Islamic countries in the world: Niger.
For the past two decades, Niger has had an increase in radical Islamic. Niger has historically been a tolerant state toward religious minorities, but now Islamic teachers regularly preach hatred against Christians (especially converts from Islam). They are instructing Muslims to oppress and persecute converted Christians. In his messages, the leader of Boko Haram (the Nigeria-based radical Islamic insurgency responsible for the abduction of more than 200 mostly Christian school girls in April) regularly urges Muslims to persecute and kill “all the Christians.”
Niger is mostly desert of vast uninhabited spaces that house many radical Islamic insurgencies and terror groups, including al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) and Boko Haram. Islamic militants belonging to these and other groups regularly intimidate Christians in Niger and have, at times, forcibly converted, abducted and murdered believers for their faith. Across Niger, especially along its porous borders with Algeria, Chad, Libya, Mauritania and Nigeria, Christians live at risk of losing everything at the hands of Islamic extremists.
Niger, officially the Republic of Niger, is a landlocked country in Western Africa, named after the Niger River. Wikipedia
And yet, the faith of Christians in Niger has never withered. Rather, the Niger Christian community clings to verses like Romans 8:38, which reads, “For I’m convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any power can separate us from God’s love” (NIV).
Mounira comes from a very strong Muslim family and things are not easy for her today, because of her faith in the Lord Jesus. In fact, after receiving Jesus, her own family abandoned her and her son, Maoulé. After learning of her conversion, Mounira’s husband developed a hatred toward her because he simply couldn’t bear the fact that his wife had converted from Islam to Christianity. When Mounira’s husband would catch her reading the Bible, he would snatch the scriptures from her hands and tear them to shreds. On Sunday mornings, he would lock Mounira in her room to keep her from attending church. One night, back late from work, Mounira’s husband beat her unconscious for praying in a corner of the house. Thanks to her pastor, who Maoulé contacted immediately, Mounira was taken to the hospital that same night and treated back to health.
And yet, despite all of this, Mounira has never waned in her faith. Outraged by her determination to live for Christ, Mounira’s husband divorced her, kicking Mounira and Maoulé onto the streets to fend for themselves.
After the divorce, Mounira’s husband told Mounira’s Muslim family members about her conversion. Infuriated, Mounira’s family decided to murder her and arranged for some criminals to go to her house in the middle of the night to beat her to death.
By God’s grace alone, the night the criminals went to Mounira’s house to murder her, Mounira was at church for an overnight prayer gathering.
Her family then decided to hire a sorcerer that promised to send a satanic spirit to possess Mounira, making her fatally ill. Many Muslims in Niger still practice many customs-including sorcery-dating back to Africa’s animist roots, but as the Scriptures say in Isaiah 54:17, “No weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you” (NIV). In Jesus’ name, Mounira was protected from spirit and the practices of the sorcerer her family hired to harm her.
For converts like Mounira, life is a constant struggle against those committed to converting them back to Islam, or seeing to their death.
That’s why ICC is working with the local church and fearless Christians to provide relief to persecuted Christians, like Mounira, in their time of need. With the support of the global church, ICC was able to bless Mounira and Maoulé with three months’ worth of food. We were able to buy Mounira her diabetes medication that she hadn’t been able to take for months, and we were able to equip Maoulé with textbooks, note pads, pens, pencils and erasers before paying down the fees to put him back in school.
Today, Mounira is able to take joy in the Lord because of the sacrificial giving of ICC’s selfless partners. In speaking with ICC’s Niger Project Manager, René Benoît, Mounira said, “I’m still under threat and pressure because both my family and the one of my former husband are still looking ways to kill me. However, I rejoice every day in the Lord because he is my strength, my comforter and my protector; I know he will never forsake me. I have gone through much violence and torture from my former husband and moreover my family is making plots to kill me because I’m a Christian, but I lay everything in the hands of God.”
With five loaves and two fish, Jesus met the needs of thousands. In the same way, through prayer, partnership with our brothers and sisters on the ground, and the blessings of the global body of Christ, ICC is able to meet the needs of tens of thousands, one life at a time. But, Jesus said to His disciples in Matthew 9:37, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few” (NIV).
Like Mounira and Maoulé, thousands of Nigerien converts from Islam are suffering violence and abandonment for their Christian faith. The situation is critical: the compassion of the global church is needed to care for all these children of God who are abandoned by their families, beaten, tortured and threatened with death for their Christian Faith. As the book of Acts reminds us in 20:35, “In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the word of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said: it is more blessed to give than to receive” (NIV).
Tens of thousands of stories of persecution remain untold in countries all across Africa, but by the grace of God, and your partnership with ICC’s Hand of Hope Africa Fund, we can meet the needs of the thousands, even with five loaves and two fish.