© 2019 Robert Osburn

Update on March 11, 2020: Please read this article which details the growing horrors in Nigeria, and invites you to take action.

The Wall Street Journal  this past week called it the “new war against Africa’s Christians.”  My friend, Dr. Musa Filibus, Archbishop of Nigeria’s 2-million strong Lutheran church and current president of the Lutheran World Federation, has been pleading for several years: “Christians are dying here at the hands of Muslim extremists, and the world does not care!”  

Despite efforts by the New York Times to portray the attacks on Nigeria’s Christians by Muslim Fulani raiders as disputes over scarce land and resources, the evidence mounts: The attacks on followers of Christ in Africa’s most populous nation (approaching 200 million) is, more than anything, an extension of the radical Islamic pledge to conquer the world in the name of Islam. It’s the same mission that fuels Al-Qaida, ISIS, Al-Shabaab, Boko Haram (who also operates in very bloody ways elsewhere in Nigeria and nearby nations), and countless other smaller violent Islamic movements.  

While we Americans desperately need a Christmas break from our internal political turmoil, there is no break in the attacks that take place with increasing frequency over much of Nigeria’s so-called Middle Belt, as well as its north and northeast.  Christian villages are mercilessly attacked by Fulani raiders who, as herdsmen, are ostensibly pushing aside Christian farmers (the distinction here is that the former roam with their cattle, whereas the latter are fixed to plots of land where they generally grow grains and perhaps a few animals).  But, the important factor is that the message conveyed by the Fulanis is the same as Al-Qaida: “Islam wins!”  

And, says Archbishop Filibus, there is evidence that some members of the Nigerian government’s armed forces collaborate with the Fulani warriors, as Britain’s Baroness Cox attests in her reports.

Of course, when I write about this, many of my American friends make unfair generalizations that all Muslims are violent.  This is simply not true.  Most love to discuss religion (much more so than secularized Americans), and the fact remains that they all need Christ. Please do not fear Muslims, but, most of all, remember our brothers and sisters aboard who need our help, our advocacy, and our prayers. 

My friend Dr. Filibus, whom I met at the airport when he came to the Twin Cities in 1994 for his doctorate, has told me over the past few years that Christians who survive the Fulani Muslim attacks most often finds refuge in the homes of other Christians.  Refugee camps, he says, are problematic for a variety of reasons (e.g., serving as a breeding ground for social problems).  An unintended consequence of these extraordinary efforts by Christians to care for one another is that it builds unity and love as Christians sacrifice for one another.

As I wrote a few months ago, we should not glamorize or somehow extol the persecuted church.  But, we must pay attention to brothers and sisters around the world who are suffering during a period of Christian persecution that is perhaps unparalleled in the last 100 years, as US foreign policy expert Walter Russell Mead pointed out in today’s Wall Street Journal.  To his credit, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is making religious freedom issues, which include religious violence, a priority.

So, may I ask a simple favor?  As you join family and friends tomorrow to celebrate the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ, would you please make a point to pray for persecuted Christians, especially those in Nigeria?   Please consider letting your congressperson know that you value Secretary of State Pompeo’s focus on religious freedom, and that you want him or her to join in support.  And if you wish to give a gift to increase advocacy for Nigeria’s persecuted Christians, please go to a sister organization, 21Wilberforce, and designate your gift for persecuted Christians in Nigeria.  

May you joyously celebrate the Savior to whom our Nigerian brothers and sisters cling with vigor and soul during this bloody persecution.