July 2015 – Week after week, the terrifying headlines keep coming from Nigeria: “Churches burned in suspected Boko Haram attack.” “Dozens killed in raids on churches.” “Boko Haram attack caps week of bloodshed.”
It’s estimated that more than 13,000 Nigerians have been killed over the past six years by Boko Haram, a Muslim extremist group allied with al-Qaeda.
The attacks, which primarily target Christians, leave Nigerian Lutherans fearing for their lives.
“About four months ago, a son of one of our evangelists was killed in one of the attacks in Bauchi,” related Rev. Dr. Nelson Unwene, LHF’s project coordinator for Efik translations and retired rector for Jonathan Ekong Memorial Lutheran Seminary (JEMLS) in Nigeria.
“Churches in our area have been warned to check against any attack during worship,” he continued, “but the churches have no equipment to detect explosives or other devices. Should we ask a stranger why he comes to our church?”
Nigeria is Africa’s most populous nation, and its new president faces the growing challenge of preventing Nigeria from breaking along ethnic and religious lines.
“The new president, Muhammadu Buhari – a Muslim himself – continues to make promises about tackling the Islamic militants and halting their destruction. But so far, they are still mere promises, as nothing tangible is recorded,” said Rev. Dr. Michael Adoga, LHF’s project coordinator for Yala translations and current JEMLS rector.
Boko Haram’s attacks seem concentrated in the northern and central areas of Nigeria.
“My heart goes out to each of those congregations in the northern part of the country that I was privileged to assist in establishing,” said Rev. Unwene. “I worry about the young native pastors in those areas at this time. I keep calling and encouraging them to keep and share the faith. I pray a lot for each of them. Every time I hear of any attack in Jos, Abuja or Kaduna, I call each of them to be sure of their lives. O, come, Lord Jesus!”
Rev. Adoga reflected that Lutheran books provided by LHF in the languages of the people he serves have been a source of great comfort.
“Where LHF has translated the Small and Large Catechisms into the mother-tongues of the people, they go a long way in boosting the faith of Christians to withstand persecution, like the wickedness meted out by Boko Haram on Christians in Nigeria today,” he said.
Rev. Unwene agreed. “Several pastors of our Lutheran churches are doing their best in encouraging their members to remain faithful,” he said.
Another book that’s proven particularly helpful is Understanding Lutheranism Through Her Augsburg Confession, which LHF published in English in 2012.
“The book supplements our Efik edition of the Confessions and the catechisms,” Unwene explained. “Some are using the book because it has more than 70 pages on the history of the persecution of Luther and the Lutherans during the Reformation.
“Other Bible classes are studying the Acts of the Apostles. As one pastor told me, he and his members must learn how the Early Church people went through persecution. Many churches hold all-night prayer services, praying for help from God to bring an end to the present situation.”
Rev. Unwene and Rev. Adoga both stressed the need for prayer for the Nigerian people.
“We trust that a lot of our Lutheran brothers and sisters in America have been thinking, worrying and praying for us,” Rev. Unwene said. “We need more of those fervent prayers. We also ask them to encourage your government to assist the Nigerian government in the fight again the inhuman terrorists, Boko Haram.”
“But also,” added Rev. Adoga, “continue to support LHF in translating and making available the Lutheran texts that boost and encourage Christians to stand firm in the face of tribulations.”
Only with your help can this important work continue. Prayerfully consider how you can help support LHF projects.