Niger Christians growing in faith despite wave of violence

Churchgoer Romain Oke poses for a picture inside an evangelical church that was destroyed in riots demonstrating against French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo's cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad, in Niamey, Niger.Reuters

The faith of the Christians in Niger continue to grow despite a series of violent attacks from January 16 to 18 that left more than 70 churches in ruins.

The attacks were perpetrated by Muslims who were angry at the latest Charlie Hebdo cartoon that depicted Mohammad carrying a sign expressing solidarity with the victims of the attack on their editorial offices earlier this month.

Now, Christians are holding meetings and services in their own homes under the protection of the Niger police.

"Last night the church members met for prayer as the pastor, who lost everything, encouraged them by flashlight to not only stand strong, but to move forward and to know that this attack will grow the church," Christian Headlines quoted a letter from a missionary couple in the Niger. "The room was dark on the outside but illuminated by the fire in the hearts of His people, even as stones were being thrown on the roof."

The violence began in the city of Zinder on January 16. By January 18, the destruction and attacks have spread to the capital city of Niamey. The perpetrators specifically targeted Christian buildings and properties, leading Mahamadou Issoufou to condemn the attacks on live TV.

The magnitude of the attacks was unprecedented and have not occurred before, the missionary couple wrote.

"Nearly every church in the capital city of Niamey was burned or looted, along with some schools and orphanages and several other churches and Christian homes throughout the nation," the couple said.

Despite the destruction, the Christians praise God and have gathered together at church meetings in Niamey to share their testimonies of how God remained faithful to them throughout the attacks.

So many people turned up that they were asked to "wait until Sunday," the couple told Christian Headlines.  They also expressed optimism that everything will be restored: "The overall damage was extensive, and there is much loss. Now begins the process of rebuilding and restoring what was lost."