One of the most encouraging things about taking part in Gafcon 2018 was seeing the strength of Christianity in Africa. Africa not only has the numbers, it increasingly has the leadership and the maturity. That was evident in some of the stories were heard in Jerusalem, two of which I would like to share. Both are from Nigeria. Christians in the centre and north of Nigeria are increasingly under pressure from Islam. Only in the last few days, hundreds have been killed there. Although the western media are reporting this as attacks by Fulani nomads on villagers, this is only half the truth; the Fulani are mostly Muslim, and the attacks are aimed at Christians.
In one attack in February this year, 110 school girls from the Dapchi people were kidnapped by the Boko Haram terrorist group. Five were killed, but a month later 104 were released, after agreeing to wear a hijab, and say the shahada, (the Muslim creed). Even if they said it under duress, and not from the heart, in the eyes of many Muslims, this is a formal conversion to Islam. But one refused. Leah Sharibu is 15, and said that they could kill her, but she would not say that she is a Muslim. So she is still being held prisoner. She could have been released- but chose captivity rather than betray Christ. Her father is quoted as saying: “I am feeling fantastic because she did not deny Christ as her personal saviour”. At Gafcon, Leah was described as one of the “heroes of the faith” of our time.
Leah’s story is told here: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/mar/24/boko-haram-kept-one-dapchi-nigeria-girl-who-refused-to-deny-her-christianity ,(and all credit to the Guardian newspaper, not normally friendly to Christians, for having the honesty to report it).
The second story is that of Benjamin Kwashi, the Archbishop of Jos in Plateau state. Last week, he was announced as the new General Secretary of Gafcon. He and his family have suffered three attacks from Muslims. In the first, all his cattle were stolen. In the second, his wife Gloria was viciously assaulted. This did stop Ben and Gloria opening their home to 50 orphans whom they have adopted as their children. The third attack took place only a few days ago, just after Ben and Gloria returned from Gafcon. Again, his cattle were stolen, and a neighbour who shone a torch in the direction of the attackers was shot dead. Ben remains cheerful, and keeps on preaching the Gospel. This surely confirms that Gafcon is doing the right things, if the evil one attacks one of its leaders right after the conference.
The story is here: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/northamptonseminar/2018/06/30/attack-on-the-archbishop/ , and an interview with Ben and Gloria here: http://vimeo.com/277271302.
There is an old saying from Tertullian, one of the Church Fathers: “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church”. It is surely no coincidence that the Church of Nigeria, which is suffering persecution, is a strong, vibrant church. During Gafcon, I had the opportunity to meet another Nigerian bishop, himself a converted Muslim, who has had four attempts on his life. He said “I like persecution- it makes me stronger!”, (lest you misunderstand, try to picture him saying that with a smile), and “I’m not afraid to die- I know where I am going”. In this, as in many other ways, the Church in Africa shows us the way forward- towards Christ.