Abducted Christian leader makes video plea for help

The Rev Lawan Andimi asked for help to secure his release but also told loved ones not to worry(Photo: Morning Star News)

The abducted chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has appealed for help to secure his release in a video message. 

Rev Lawan Andimi was declared missing following a raid on Michika town on January 3.  The attackers were reportedly dressed in military fatigues, and in addition to abducting the pastor, ransacked the town for food and valuables.  During the raid, the pastor was seen being forced into a pickup truck. 

In the footage released by the Shekau faction of terrorist group, Boko Haram, he speaks about his continued faith in God despite his ordeal, saying that he is not discouraged "because all conditions [in which one] finds himself is in the hands of God".

However, he asks his colleagues at CAN and the president of the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria, Rev Joel Billy, to petition Adamawa state governor Ahmadu Umoru Fintri about his release.

He later speaks of his confidence in being able to return to his wife and family, and his colleagues at CAN "by the grace of God", although he adds that he is ready to accept that "maybe it is the will of God" if this does not happen. 

He concludes by telling his friends and family not to worry. 

"Don't cry, don't worry, but thank God for everything," he said. 

The video was sent to Nigerian journalist and Boko Haram expert Ahmed Salkida. 

Christian Solidarity Worldwide Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said: "We are deeply concerned by Pastor Andimi's abduction and call for his unconditional release. We echo his plea for Governor Ahmadu Umoru Fintri and any other officials with influence to intervene to secure the release of this courageous man."

The pastor's abduction is part of a wave of violence targeting Christians over Christmas.  On December 22, attackers boarded two passenger buses in Borno state and killed three men, including a pastor from Deeper Life Bible Church. The pastor's relative and two humanitarian workers were abducted.

The day after Christmas, 10 Christians were beheaded and one Muslim was shot by the Islamic State West Africa Province, while bride-to-be Martha Boulos was killed in an ambush by the Shekau faction, along with six members of her bridal party, as they travelled to Adamawa state for her wedding, which had been set to take place just days later on 31 December. Her sister Zainab was reportedly among the victims.

Mr Thomas appealed to the Nigerian government and international community to take action to stem the violence against Christians.

"The sheer scale and pace of attacks by terrorist groups over the Christmas period should cause alarm worldwide," he said.

"We urge the government of Nigeria, assisted by its allies, to formulate a comprehensive solution to the alarming rise in violence and abduction that is afflicting the lives of Nigerian civilians.

"In addition, given the general rise in jihadi activities in the West African region, we also urge the United Kingdom, France and other members of the international community to assist the Economic Community of West African States in formulating a coordinated regional response that will prevent this threat from metastasizing further."