In case you missed it, Muslim protesters, angry about the Charlie Hebdo cartoons, have destroyed more than 70 churches, killing at least ten people since January 16th. The protesters, angry over depictions of the Prophet Mohammed, have attacked not only Christian churches, but also Christian homes and schools — and even an orphanage. Various sources reported that there was little protection offered to Christians by security forces in Niger, which made them an easy target. Christians whose homes were destroyed fled with just the clothes on their backs.
But in the midst of the heartbreak and destruction — and the attempt to annihilate the tiny Christian church in the 98% Muslim country of Niger — one pastor has a message of hope and even expressed his gratitude for what the church has experienced.
“They burned our church, they burned my house, only we emerged safely and we glorify God for that,” he said. “All that I can say is this: may the name of the Lord be glorified right now in Niger.”
Instead of complaining about the suffering, the pastor took to heart the Apostle Paul’s instructions to rejoice in it. “So it is a glory and a joy that they burned our church,” he said. “We are moving forward and this is the time for the harvest. Many souls will come to Christ in Niger. I believe that!”
In other words, the pastor knows that God’s ways are higher than man’s ways. Just as Joseph said to his brothers who sold him into slavery in Egypt, “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good,” the pastor in Niger knows that history has demonstrated over and over and over again that the Christian church grows — often exponentially — during times of persecution. So instead of looking at the immediate circumstances and the temporary suffering, he is able to find hope, believing that God will ultimately triumph over evil.
“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.” 1 Peter 4:12-14
Here are some heartbreaking social media posts — and a few very hopeful ones as well!
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There are 7 police trucks guarding the outside of our church in Maradi, For 2 days the youth of the church are inside literally holding up the walls of the compound, The grounds of the church are covered with rocks and debris at the many attempts from the mob to enter, Over 30 churches have been burned in the capital Niamey (where we currently are), Pastors and church members are now displaced with nothing more then the clothes on their back, As we stand in a burned down church this morning, We know that He makes all things new, We know that the church will rise through persecution, The events of the past few days are the evidence of Gods Kingdom invading Niger, This is not simply a response to something that happened in France, It is not a political demonstration against the current President of Niger, It is the devil trying to burn down what God has built, But, like Shadrach, Meshack and Abednego – God is with us in the fire, He is with us in every fire of life and is faithful to complete the great work He has started. Be apart by praying and giving at runintl.org
— CitizenGO (@CitizenGO) January 21, 2015
From @SPNiger: Churches destroyed, Bibles burned by Islamic militants. Imagine the outcry if this was the Koran. pic.twitter.com/hTqhI7y5Xx
— Franklin Graham (@Franklin_Graham) January 28, 2015