Three months after a brutal attack at the hands of a Muslim mob, Christians in the west African nation of Niger have vowed to rebuild and move on.
Ten people lost their lives and hundreds were injured when Muslim mobs went on the deadly rampage in early January.
It happened January 17, just 10 days after two Muslim terrorists stormed the offices of French magazine Charlie Hebdo, executing 12 people for publishing satirical images of the Islam’s Prophet Mohammed.
About 3,600 miles away in Niger, Muslims, angered by the cartoons, attacked the country’s Christians in revenge.
“We spent years building the church,” [Pastor Musa] Issa told CBN News while standing in the ruins of his church. “Within minutes it was all gone!”
And it wasn’t just Pastor Issa’s church. Mobs also destroyed Boureima Kimso’s church.
“Sixty-nine churches and 11 homes were destroyed. That’s a total of 80 Christian buildings within a few hours,” Kimso said.
In one town, a single Christian church remains standing, and the militants ransacked a Christian school. Officials have yet to arrest or prosecute a single person for the attacks.
Local Muslim officials deny any wrongdoing and have even claimed that Christians orchestrated the attacks, even though the militants wrote pro-Islamic messages on walls and blackboards in the school.
“Islam is a religion of tolerance and peace,” Boubacar Seydou, of the Islamic Association of Niger, said. “In Islam, we are not familiar with such acts of violence!”
“Muslims did not take part in these attacks. Sure, there were many Muslims protesting the cartoons, but no one pushed them to attack churches. I’m sure if we arrested some of those involved in the church burnings you’d discover that in fact Christians were among those taking part in the violence!” Seydou said.
Pastor Zakaria Jadi, whose church and home were among those destroyed, says it is ludicrous to claim Christians were involved.
“The mob kept chanting over and over in Arabic ‘God is great!’ God is great’ as they robbed and burned my home. I’ve lived with Muslims all my life. I know a Muslim when he stands in front of me!” Jadi said.
The government of Niger is working with these churches to help them figure out how to rebuild, and the pastors are preaching a message of forgiveness and preparing for revival.
“The Lord is training us; He’s building us. There cannot be increase without hardships. If you want to go to the next level you have to go through hardship,” Jadi said.
Image courtesy of Fox News