Dear Friends and Partners,
Once again, as we in the West wind down our celebrations of the birth of Christ and begin a new year, blessed to enjoy the warmth and joy of the season together with friends and family in peace and security, our brothers and sisters in Nigeria are under attack and need our support.
At least 26 Christians were killed in two attacks carried out by Islamic extremists on January 5 and 6. These attacks, targeting Christians attending church services and a town hall meeting, come on the heels of a series of bombings carried out by an Islamic extremist group called Boko Haram less than two weeks ago which claimed the lives of at least 40 Christians and left dozens more wounded on Christmas Day.
The first and most devastating bomb struck St. Theresa Catholic Church, some 40 km away from the capital city Abuja, just as hundreds of worshippers were leaving Christmas mass. Later in the morning, two bombs exploded at churches in the city of Jos, along with other bombings in the cities of Gadaka, Damaturu, and Kano targeting both churches and security infrastructure, while in the town of Mubi authorities were able to disarm bombs planted around three churches before they were detonated.
Sadly these massacres are only the latest bloody chapter in a violent campaign aimed at Christians in Nigeria since the Christmas attacks we mentioned to you one year ago. This country in northern Africa is deeply divided along religious lines with a largely Christian and animistic south and a predominantly Muslim north. Despite accounting for nearly half of the population, many Christians, particularly in the northern states where Islamic extremists seek to enforce strict shariah law, live in constant fear of attack.
Hundreds of Christians were killed and thousands more injured or displaced in 2011. The central government has failed to suppress Islamic extremism and groups such as Boko Haram, or to prevent repeated attacks on Christian communities, especially since the summer, despite a paramilitary crackdown in a number of states. In several attacks in Plateau state alone, for instance, at least 150 Christians were killed and hundreds more wounded. Perhaps the most horrific attack, however, took place in Yobe state on November 4, as more than 200 members of Boko Haram surrounded the state capital of Damaturu sealing off all exit roads, and proceeded to systematically murder over 150 people, approximately 130 of whom were specifically singled out and executed because they were Christians.
It is critical that we continue to make our voices heard and call on our political leaders to encourage the Nigerian government to protect Christians. Shortly after the Christmas day attacks, Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs John Baird stated that "Canada strongly denounces such cowardly acts without reservation," adding that Canada will "stand with the people and the government of Nigeria at this difficult time." The White House also condemned the "senseless violence and tragic loss of life," pledging to "assist [the Nigerian government] in bringing those responsible to justice." We welcome these swift responses by our leaders to the Christmas attacks as well as earlier statements about two of the more serious incidents that took place in 2011. However, it is imperative that our governments’ response not be restricted to isolated statements condemning those attacks that are severe enough to attract the attention of international media. Public statements by our governments, while vital, are only the first step and must be backed up by consistent pressure on the Nigerian government to take action against Islamic extremists through diplomatic efforts and through linking our trade and aid to progress on human rights.
As we close out this holiday season, we must not forget that our brothers and sisters in Nigeria are not blessed with the peace and security we enjoy. We cannot afford to stand by as Christians are massacred simply because of their faith and religious practices. OFWI has been working since Christmas Day to provide medical and humanitarian aid to the wounded through our contacts in the region. Nigerian Christians desperately need our support, so please take a few moments from your day to join us in seeking justice and peace for our brothers and sisters. Your prayers, letters, and financial support are vitally important to reach the victims of these attacks with your comfort and encouragement.
• for courage, faith, and strength for the Christians in Nigeria during this time of deep trial. Pray that they would be encouraged and strengthened to stay true to their faith, in order that they might be a shining beacon of truth and the love of Christ both in a country desperately looking for light and throughout the whole world;
• for peace and healing in the country of Nigeria. Pray that the violence would be stopped, and that Christians would be able to live and worship in peace and security without fear of attack;
• that those carrying out these attacks would come to realize the wrongfulness of their acts and that they would seek the love and forgiveness of God and in turn apply their energies toward spreading peace rather than violence;
• for the Nigerian people as a whole, that they would be united and find true peace and meaning in the Prince of Peace.
The Bible teaches that faith without action is dead, so please take action urgently and write (contact details are included below):
• to the Nigerian high commissioner or ambassador to your country demanding that the Nigerian government take immediate and meaningful action to ensure the security of Christian communities and to control the violent extremist groups responsible for these attacks;
• to your Foreign Minister or Secretary of State, thanking them for their statements on the Nigerian attacks and insisting that they continue, through consistent attention to these issues both on the diplomatic front and through trade and aid policy, to hold the Nigerian government accountable for the protection of its citizens from Islamic extremism.
Please remember to send us a copy of your correspondence at:
Remember that the persecuted Christians are dying every day, but they are still smiling. They are in a very deep dark night, but they have the candle of the Lord. The enemy can have a very strong weapon and a very strong army, but we have the Lord Almighty.
"They can kill the dreamer, but they cannot kill the dream" in the Lord’s name.
Be with God and may God be with you.
Rev. Majed El Shafie President and Founder One Free World International El Shafie Ministries
CONTACT: In Canada: His Excellency Iyorwuese Hagher High Commissioner for the Federal Republic of Nigeria 295 Metcalfe Street Ottawa, ON K2P 1R9 Tel.: (613) 236-0521; Fax: (613) 236-0529 Email: email@example.com
The Honourable John Baird Minister for Foreign Affairs Foreign Affairs Canada 125 Sussex Drive Ottawa, ON K1A 0G2 Tel.: (613) 996-0984; Fax: (613) 996-9880 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
In the United States:
His Excellency Adebowale Ibidapo Adefuye Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 3519 International Court, NW Washington, DC 20008 Tel: (202) 986-8400 ext. 1097 or 1098; Fax: (202) 362-6541 or (202) 775-1385 Email: email@example.com
Secretary Hillary Clinton U.S. Department of State 2201 C Street NW Washington, DC 20520 Tel.: (202) 647-4000 (Main switchboard) Webform: http://contact-us.state.gov/cgi-bin/state.cfg/php/enduser/ask.php?p_sid=F5OZZa6i&p_lva=&p_sp=&p_li
In the United Kingdom:
His Excellency Dr. Dalhatu Sarki Tafida High Commissioner for the Federal Republic of Nigeria 9 Northumberland Ave London WC2N 5BX Tel.: (44) 207 8391244; Fax: (44) 207 83987463519 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Right Honourable William Hague Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Foreign & Commonwealth Office King Charles Street London SW1A 2AH Tel.: 020 7008 1500 (Main switchboard) Webform: http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/ministerial-feedback-form