Last week, the 7th January, marked the one-year anniversary of the Charlie Hebdo shootings in which 12 people were killed in Paris. But the event wasn’t simply to have effects in Europe. The repercussions of this atrocity were also felt in Niger.
Over 80 churches were subsequently attacked and at least three Christians were killed when local Islamists channelled their anger over the publication of Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons at Niger’s Christian population. And churches in Niger are still paying the price for this reaction: many buildings are still unrepaired and over the Christmas period, police guarded churches over fears that Islamists would choose to attack worshippers during the festive season.
Rev Kimso Boureima, President of Niger’s Evangelical Alliance, spoke to the World Watch Monitor in July about the impact this violence has had on Niger’s Christians.
“Most of our destroyed churches and infrastructure have not yet been rebuilt for lack of funds,” he explained. “At this stage, it’s difficult to say how long the reconstruction effort will take.
“The start of the rainy season is a real concern, because the tents set up after the violence cannot withstand wind and storms. If it rains at worship times, many churches will be forced to cancel their service. For now, we continue to go on, without knowing what will happen.”
On 2 July the government announced that it would commit 300 million CFA (around £336,500) to help rebuild the damaged churches. However, initial estimates suggest that this will not account for all of the damage.
“We say that an effort (by the government) has been made, but it’s not enough with regards to the extent of damages which amounts to four or five times this amount,” said Rev Kimso Boureima.
Open Doors has been working with local partners to provide emergency provisions to the victims, trauma counselling and training sessions in how to deal with increasing persecution.
Despite the loss of life, homes, Christian schools and churches, believers in Niger have been holding onto their faith.
“We have forgiven – and I have asked all Christians to forgive – in order to grow in faith. But we want to shed light on what happened: it’s a matter of social justice,” said Rev Kimso Boureima. “The incidents of January (2015) have strengthened the conviction of the church regarding its mission.
“Today our churches are better attended than ever before and people are beginning to understand that we have a message of hope, a message of love and life.”
Source: Open Doors; World Watch Monitor; Daily Mail
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