By BosNewsLife Africa Service
ABUJA, NIGERIA (BosNewsLife)– Christian missionaries in Africa remained concerned about their future Monday, May 2, after reports that colleagues and over 500 other Christians have been killed in Nigeria alone.
Thousands of Christians in North Africa and Nigeria spent the Easter holidays locked behind closed doors for their safety, said Rae Burnett, Africa Director at U.S.-based Christian Aid Mission (CAM),which supports native missionaries.
She said during the last 10 days of rioting over the outcome of the presidential election, more than 60 churches were burned down in Maiduguri and Sokoto by anti-Christian mobs in northern Nigeria along with thousands of homes and businesses owned by Christians.
Among those killed are native missionaries, pastors and leaders, Rae told BosNewsLife in a statement. Thousands more are reportedly fleeing to the predominantly Christian South, despite government-imposed curfews.
Last year, more than 2000 Christians were killed in targeted Nigerian violence, more than in any other country in the world, CAM said.
Nigeria is no exception.
“We need to pray for our fellow believers, not only in Nigeria but also throughout North Africa,”said Burnett. “Many of our brothers and sisters in these areas are undergoing severe and increasing persecution. Native missionaries survive and minister in what seems to be a continual state of war or political upheaval – particularly right now in Egypt, Ivory Coast, Libya, Eritrea, Zimbabwe, Somalia and Sudan.”
She said mission work has become dangerous in several parts of Africa. “Ministry leaders tell me that travel is impossible, so few first-hand reports are available yet. But we are still sending relief funds so they will be ready when curfews are lifted.”
“In Ivory Coast,” Burnett explained, “foreigners fled the country as post-election civil war erupted. More than 90,000 Ivorians are flooding into other West African countries. Neighboring Liberia is especially burdened. CAM assisted indigenous ministries are doing their best to help the homeless and starving.”
Burnett said Christian workers “are fearful” that a new government in Ivory Coast will lead to “persecution of Christians. It is clear that this new administration is backed by well-organized and financed anti-Christian groups.”
The CAM leader spoke after meetings with mission leaders in Chad, which she called “one of the poorest and most neglected African countries” where “Christians are praying that they will be able to handle the influx of Libyan war refugees.”
She said they “want to witness to them” about the Christian faith “with emergency aid and lead them to the Lord.”
Many native missionaries, she said, “are already involved with Darfur relief efforts since Sudan shares Chad’s eastern border. Libya shares the border to the north.”
However there are also some hopeful signs for devoted Christians, she said. “Indigenous ministries helped by CAMare leading Darfur refugees to Christ as well as helping poor villagers through ministry-established clinics and schools. Many have come to know the Lord through these efforts”.
She said her organization has also urged prayers for believers in other troubled nations, includingAlgeria, Morocco and Mauritania “who live under constant surveillance and uncertainly of what will happen to them next.”
Burnett cited a West Saharan Christian as saying that believing can be dangerous. “Even my own father would cut my throat,” the Christian was quoted as saying.
She said she was followed “constantly by secret police” when visiting the northern Moroccan portion of that divided and war-torn country.
In Senegal, Christians in the southern Casamance face danger from both sides as rebel forces have been fighting for independence since 1990. There are also concerns over Burkina Faso where, she said, “anti-government violence has broken out in and near” the capital.
“We here in the United States and other free countries often have more information about some of these situations than even local leaders. We need to use our knowledge to pray and help with humanitarian aid along with the Gospel.”
As Africa Director for CAM, Rae Burnett has traveled extensively in North Africa, which her group described as the most neglected and hard to reach part of the continent.
“I have met underground believers secretly in tents and on the desert. Sometimes, we sit together in a noisy public place, over coffee or a meal, where they are sure there is no surveillance. Under threat of persecution and even death, these men and women are quietly, wisely, and successfully bringing the Gospel to their people.”
It must be understood, she said, that “for these men and women, every moment of their lives has been potentially dangerous since the day they became followers of Christ.”