Heroes of the Faith
by John Stewart
In 2002, a group was formed in Nigeria called “Congregation of the People of Tradition for Proselytism and Jihad.” The unofficial name of the group is “Boko Haram,” a Hausa term meaning “western ways are bad.” The stated goal of Boko Haram is to bring Muslim Sharia Law to all of Nigeria. The means by which the group is trying to reach its goal include kidnapping, terrorism, and murder. The primary target of Boko Haram terrorism is Christians, and the group has declared “war on Christians.”
Boko Haram is a terrorist offshoot of al-Qaida, and since 2010 has been responsible for an estimated 10,000 deaths in Nigeria. A month ago, the terrorist group made world headlines when it kidnapped nearly 300 Christian girls in north eastern Nigeria. This week Boko Haram set off two car bombs in Jos, Nigeria, killing 115 and wounding many more, and further north destroyed two villages, killing nearly 60. Our comrades are heroic through tragic losses and amidst oppression.
The city of Jos, a three-hour drive from the capital of Abuja, enjoys some of the best weather in Nigeria, due, in part, to its location on a plateau about 3,000 feet (1,000 meters) above sea level. The name “Jos” is believed to be an acronym for “Jesus Our Savior,” a testament to the effectiveness of early 20th century Christian missionaries that evangelized the area. Jos is the headquarters of several of the largest Christian denominations in Nigeria. But Jos also sits on the dividing line between the mostly Muslim north and the predominantly Christian south, and for this reason Jos has been an epicenter of Boko Haram violence.
In Jos in February of this year, our second mission to the city, we heard more stories of how terrorism had personally affected Christians there. However, we also saw how believers continued to worship and follow Christ despite living under a cloud of persecution. Second century Christian leader Tertullian’s aphorism rings true regarding what is happening in Jos—“The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.” In Tertullian’s day the paganism of the Roman Empire lead to times of widespread persecution. Today in Jos, it is the barbaric followers of the Boko Haram Muslim sect that have marked Christians for death.
When our team is asked about our consecutive trips to Nigeria, “Is it safe?” We say, “No. But we consider it a privilege to go and encourage believers in Jos who follow the Lord despite being targeted for death by Boko Haram. Standing up for Jesus under those conditions makes them our heroes, so when we have an open door of opportunity to minister to them, we go.”
Examples of the life of a Christian in Jos includes the weekly routine of soldiers and police blocking off the roads in front of churches so as to deter terrorists from suicide bombings of worship services…