Worldwide Church called to stand with persecuted Nigerian Christians

Archbishop Benjamin Kwashi at a camp for displaced Nigerians near Jos, in the north of the country.Andrew Boyd/Release International

Benjamin Kwashi, the Archbishop of Jos in northern Nigeria, has expressed a need for the church "everywhere" to "identify persecution" and "do what it can to help the persecuted".

"The secular world hates to picture the present suffering of Christians as persecution. The major reason is they don't have an answer to it. They have no sensible response, they explain it as clashes of tribes," he said.

Christians in the Plateau and Kanduna states in Nigeria have suffered relentless attacks by Islamic militants who have attacked their homes and families, he said during Release International's online event called 'Out of these Ashes'.

"Their aim is to make sure the church is made terribly poor and impoverished. They will kidnap mainly pastors, worshippers on Sundays, and children," said Archbishop Kwashi.

Paul Robinson, CEO of Release International, added, "For the past 20 years they have faced sustained and worsening persecution.

"Thousands have been killed and tens of thousands have been forced to flee their homes in ongoing attacks by radical terrorist groups."

The online event marked the launch of Release's 'Out of these Ashes' campaign focusing on the plight of Christians in Nigeria.

"Over the next three months, Release International wants to call Christians in the UK to prayer and to action," said Robinson.

The organisation works through local church partners in 30 countries helping persecuted Christians.

The event aimed to spread awareness of the situation Christians are facing in the north of Nigeria.

Mark Lipdo, Program Coordinator at the Stefanos Foundation, shared a harrowing account of the impact the attacks are having on believers and their communities.

"Christians are denied rights to propagate their faith - even rights to places of worship are denied," he said.

He continued: "Now we see a political manoeuvre where Muslims are advocating a totalitarian Islam leadership.

"Christians who are supposed to be strong in faith are giving up and some are even giving into Islam."

Pastor Gah Yohanna Sunday, a local church leader in northern Nigeria, thanked international supporters.

"I feel loved and I feel I have brothers who actually have concern for me. I get encouragement when I remember Jesus who was also persecuted, he suffered. It helps me to continue to do what I need to do as a pastor," he said.

Lipdo added that the Church should view the persecution of believers as a problem for the body of Christ as a whole and "stand with those who are suffering".

He thanked UK Christians for standing with persecuted Nigerian Christians and praying for them.

"We are seeing the results here in Nigeria. We are seeing many who could have been dead, but because they ... took us to prayer, many people are alive today," he said.

"Let's not forget that the reward is not here; it is in heaven. Even though we are here facing challenges with earthly things, our hope is eternal life."