Your gifts helping Christians in Nigeria
This is the Gospel of Christ – to feed the hungry and the vulnerable.” These are the words of a pastor in Zonkwa, a town in Zangon Kataf Local Government Area, southern Kaduna State, Nigeria, in response to Barnabas Fund’s practical support for the victims of persistent anti-Christian violence.
Like many in Nigeria’s Middle Belt, the Christian-majority village communities in Zangon Kataf have suffered greatly from violent attacks. In July 2021, 28 people, including a baby, were killed in attacks on several villages by Fulani militants. The attackers also destroyed homes and attempted to burn down a church building.
Sadly, these atrocities are not unusual. In July 2020, after eleven people were killed in Zangon Kataf, Pastor Stephen Baba Panya, president of the Evangelical Church Winning All, declared: “It is as if the lives of Christians no longer matter.”
Yet, if the lives of Christians matter nothing to Fulani militants and other Islamist extremists, your gifts have shown our brothers and sisters that their lives do matter to you.
“The message this has sent is that the Church worldwide is aware of the atrocities going on in Nigeria,” says our project partner. “We are excited and thank God for the support that we have received from Barnabas Fund and the incredible difference this is making. It is like a light in the midst of these tragedies.”
Practical aid to victims of violence
Barnabas Fund has been able to supply practical aid to victims of anti-Christian violence in several villages of southern Kaduna and Plateau states. For example, one of our project partners is distributing food aid – 100 bags of maize and 100 bags of beans – as well as 100 bundles of roofing sheets, 50 packs of roofing nails, 100 blankets and 100 sleeping mats for those whose homes have been destroyed or damaged.
At the time of writing nine villages have been reached. Food has been distributed to 487 households, an estimated 6,818 people. Distribution is still ongoing.
The security situation remains dangerous, says our project partner. “The Fulani Islamist militias continue their attacks on vulnerable targets. They had attacked the funeral processions of those going to bury their dead soon after an attack.”
Because of the ongoing threat, community leaders advised that a date should be set for villagers to travel and collect aid, instead of distributors facing the risks of travelling throughout the affected areas. However, not all of the needy villagers came, “because, we later learned,” explains our project partner, “that there were Fulani attackers prowling in the areas who would kill people along the roads or in the bushes.”
Bravely, therefore, the distributors set out to take food, blankets and other supplies to the villagers, despite the threat of attack.
The Zonkwa-based pastor expressed the feelings of Nigerian church leaders. Owing to their own poverty, they are unable to help as much as they would love to do. “This is what we would have done if we had the capacity,” he said. “This assistance has made our preaching stronger and has given us relevance in the community. We cannot just pray for people without feeding the hungry. Please give our gratitude to Barnabas Fund.”
“I am so grateful”
Another way in which your donations have helped our Nigerian brothers and sisters is in the payment of hospital bills. Violent attacks often leave Christians seriously injured and in need of urgent medical intervention. Yet few medical services in Nigeria are free of charge, and impoverished Christians struggle to afford the care they so desperately need.
“I would have died if you hadn’t intervened. My children would have been orphans now.”
“I am so gateful for what our Christian brothers and sisters have done,” said one recipient, hospitalised with a serious leg injury.
Without professional treatment, he explained, there was little hope of recovery. “I would have lost my leg or died of gangrene infections if you hadn’t intervened. My children would have been orphans now.”
“We do not take anything for granted”
The ongoing instability and disruption takes its toll on the lives of children. As part of the distribution of food and supplies, our project partners have provided notebooks, pens and pencils, and flipchart boards, all of which are needed for Christian children to continue their schooling. A total of 810 schoolchildren have been helped in the Miango and Bassa areas of Plateau State.
“We have over 1,000 children affected by the Fulani attacks that we brought in and formed into classes so that we can give them some education,” said a teacher in Miango.
“Above all is the joy that you cared to send this support.”
“Some are wearing torn clothes and barely any have shoes on their feet,” the teacher continued. “Their parents can’t afford a pencil, much less a notebook. They have lost everything. These books are both a great encouragement for the children and a relief for the parents. But above all is the joy that you cared to send this support. Please thank Barnabas Fund for this great sacrifice.”
Our project partner explains, “In this part of the world and particularly in these circumstances, any assistance, any funding, could make the difference between life and death … We do not take anything for granted. A few notebooks and pencils make the difference in the encouragement for a child to go to school and the enthusiasm to complete schoolwork.”
“We cannot describe the smiles, excitement and laughter on the faces of children as we give school material – and as we leave they follow our vehicle shouting, ‘Thank you, sir!’”
Prayers needed for our brothers and sisters
Because there is no designated refugee camp for those displaced by the violence, our project partners have to try to follow the victims to wherever they have sought shelter in order to distribute aid. Continued instability has also delayed progress, though our project partner says, “The security situation has only slowed down progress a bit, but we are on track to complete the project.”
“We are asking for prayers for the victims of the attacks,” he adds. “We ask for prayers for the pastors and church workers, to never give up hope but to remain the beacons of hope in the communities and villages – to continue to preach Christ with every opportunity.”