PO Box 609
Lake Forest, CA 92609, USA
Contact Us 
Friday, 23 January 2015 03:22

Violence in Niger Weighed as Question of Another Eruption Looms Featured

Written by
Sunday services throughout Niamey, the capital of Niger, were cancelled on Jan. 18 following violent protests the previous day against French magazine Charlie Hebdo’s depiction of Muhammad in the 98-percent Muslim country, but that didn’t stop some Christians from praising God in the gutted remains of this church building. Sunday services throughout Niamey, the capital of Niger, were cancelled on Jan. 18 following violent protests the previous day against French magazine Charlie Hebdo’s depiction of Muhammad in the 98-percent Muslim country, but that didn’t stop some Christians from praising God in the gutted remains of this church building. Photo credit: Christi Childs

From Chistian Aid Mission. For Immediate Release

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA (ANS -- January 23, 2015)  —When protests against depictions of the prophet of Islam in a French satire magazine emerged across some of the most hardline Islamic countries this month, the West African nation of Niger was not on too many people’s radar. It is now.

Rioting Muslims vented their anger at Charlie Hebdo magazine and France over the weekend of Jan. 16-18 by killing Christians and burning church buildings and other Christian institutions, including medical clinics and an orphanage. Violence in the country with a 98 percent Muslim population that had lived in relative peace with its tiny (0.3 percent) Christian minority for decades pointed to extremist elements that analysts have long suspected.

mir20150122 2There are signs that there could be future incidents.

“There have been rumors of people going around marking Christians’ houses for further attacks,” a Nigerien ministry leader assisted by Christian Aid Mission wrote to concerned parties on Tuesday (Jan. 20). “Later in the night, we received several phone calls from local Christians and missionaries that confirmed that their houses were marked. Please continue to pray for the very insecure situation in Niger.”

Christian Aid Mission is an evangelical missionary organization based in Charlottesville, Virginia, that assists indigenous missionary ministries overseas through prayer, advocacy and financial support. Since 1953, Christian Aid Mission has identified, evaluated and assisted more than 1,500 ministries in more than 130 countries that are reaching the unreached for Christ in areas of the world where there is no witness for Christ, where Christians suffer from poverty or persecution, or where foreign missionaries are not allowed.

Christian Aid Mission assists two ministries in Niger.

Analysts say the rise of violent Islamist groups across Africa, such as Boko Haram (supported by Al Qaeda in the Maghreb) in neighboring Nigeria, have fed the growth of radical elements in Niger. They theorize Islamic extremist groups were an important factor in Muslim Nigeriennes shouting, “Kill the infidels, kill the Christians,” burning 72 church buildings and killing at least 10 people.

While protests raged across countries with high-profile Islamic extremist elements, like Somalia and Pakistan, the violent response in Niger was surprising. Niger was unranked on Open Doors’ 2015 World Watch List of the worst persecutors of Christians.

In the capital, Niamey, furious Muslims burned 46 Protestant worship sites and 15 Catholic church buildings, a locally-based Christian leader said. Among church buildings destroyed was one a half mile from the compound of a ministry Christian Aid Mission assists, he said.

“Also this morning we learned of the Assemblies of God church being destroyed; this has very close proximity to the new office building,” he added. “Today we have many blessings to count, one of which is the fact that our church was spared.”

Violence began on Friday (Jan. 16) in Zinder, where several church buildings and Christians’ homes were razed. The rampaging continued, ruining church buildings in Gouré, Tanout, Magaria, Maradi, Birnin Gaouré, and hitting Niamey the next day. Besides Christian targets, angry Muslim youths also looted shops, attacked police stations, bars and hotels, as well as businesses that were either owned by non-Muslims or linked with France.

Following the Jan. 7 shooting deaths of 12 editorial staff, workers and police at Charlie Hebdo offices, by two Islamic extremists avenging cartoon depictions of the prophet of Islam, the periodical published a cover showing a weeping Muhammad carrying a sign with the slogan (“I am Charlie”) that had quickly come to signify solidarity with the victims and free speech.

Depictions of Muhammad of any kind are forbidden in most strains of Islam, and key schools of Islamic jurisprudence prescribe death for defaming him.

Among the dead from the attacks in Niger were at least three Christians trapped inside church buildings. Another leader of the ministry assisted by Christian Aid Mission condemned the violence.

mir20150122 1“Of what crime are the churches and Christians of Niger guilty?” he said. “We condemn these disturbances and deplore the loss of human life and the high number of injuries among the innocent citizens they attack.”

The ministry leader in Niamey said he and other church leaders did not witness further demonstrations on Monday (Jan. 19).

More than 170 people were injured, officials said, and the scale of the rioting suggested other factors contributing to the chaos besides a magazine cover. Rioters also expressed anger that Niger President Mahamadou Issoufou participated in a unity march in Paris against the attack on Charlie Hebdo. Analysts also pointed to the violence beginning in Zinder, where there is a strong opposition to the ruling party, suggesting political rivals were stoking the fires following the president’s presence in Paris.

The hand of Islamic extremist groups was suspected, and officials were said to be investigating whether Boko Haram of neighboring Nigeria was involved. Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau is from Niger, and Boko Haram flags appeared amid the chaos.

While the majority of Niger’s Muslims may not have approved of Charlie Hebdo’s depiction of Muhammad – including President Issoufou, who emphasized that he was marching against terrorism and not supporting the magazine – most did not seem sympathetic to the scale and degree of the riots. Many Nigerienne Muslims helped Christians who were fleeing in terror.

“I look forward to the fact that next month I have the opportunity to meet each and every Muslim who aided the safety of God’s people in Niger and to thank them,” said one leader of a ministry assisted by Christian Aid Mission.

He likened those who attacked to those who crucified Jesus, saying Christians must forgive them because they knew not what they were doing.

“Just as Jesus was wrongly condemned and tortured, so were the Christians in Niger, but I wholeheartedly believe that they [the assailants], too, ‘know not what they have done,’” he said. “So as Jesus made the bequest to the Father, I too plan to forgive these people.”

Photo captions:

1) Cross amid ashes in burned church in Niamey, Niger (Photo by Danette Childs)

2) Bible charred in attack on church building in Niamey, Niger (Photo by Danette Childs)



Make Your Shopping Count

[pb_row background="none" solid_color_value="#FFFFFF" solid_color_color="#ffffff" gradient_color="0% #FFFFFF,100% #000000" gradient_color_css="" gradient_direction="vertical" pattern="" repeat="full" image="" stretch="none" position="center center" paralax="no" parallax_scroll="no" video_url="" autoplay="no" border_width_value_="0" border_style="solid" border_color="#000" width_value="" width_unit="%" div_padding="" div_padding_top="10" div_padding_bottom="10" div_padding_right="10" div_padding_left="10" css_suffix="" id_wrapper="" ][pb_column span="span12"][pb_tab el_title="Shopping" initial_open="1" fade_effect="no" tab_position="top" appearing_animation="0" ][pb_tab_item heading="Amazon" icon="" ]Now you can support ASSIST every time you shop on Amazon. With every purchase you make Amazon will donate 0.5% of the purchase price to ASSIST. It’s very easy to make this happen. All you need to do is shop via www.smile.amazon.com and select the charity of your choosing for your donation. I am asking that you make Aid to Special Saints in Strategic Times (ASSIST) your designated charity for the site. AmazonSmile is the same Amazon you know with the same products, same prices and same service. It’s that simple![/pb_tab_item][pb_tab_item heading="CGF" ]Another way to help ASSIST is to make purchases through the Charitable Giving Foundation. Just go to the CGF website and everything is explained: charitablegivingfoundation.org
I recommend you view the short video. After you make a purchase, click on the “Causes” tab and fill in the “Select a Cause – After Purchase” form. This form allows you to select your designated charity. Aid to Special Saints in Strategic Times (ASSIST) is located under the “Religious” section. You will only need to fill in the form the first time you make a purchase.[/pb_tab_item][/pb_tab][/pb_column][/pb_row]