Building a Safe Haven for the Children, Girls and Persecuted Muslim Background Believers of Northern Nigeria
“How beautiful on the mountain are the feet of those who bring the Good News,
who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation,
who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!'”
by Hedges of Mercy founder, Phillips Elisha:
In the last 5 years we have worked among Muslim folks and many have come to the saving grace of Jesus Christ and many are still being converted but through intense persecution. There are 3 major challenges that embody Muslim converts;
- They are denied inheritance, they lose everything they have worked for in life, lands, properties and everything that supports life. This exposes them to harsh social and economic conditions.
- In addition, they may be severely beaten, sometimes tied to a tree for several days, and also have their children forcefully taken away from them. They will be so stigmatized that the only option for them is to flee their ancestral communities and resettle somewhere relatively safe and begin life all over. This is often difficult and it comes with undue psychological pain and trauma and economic stress.
- In addition to 1 and 2 above, some of the converts have death sentences pronounced on them and their families unless they convert back to Islam. This category of converts requires immediate evacuation. Often, their children are abducted and given to men for marriage forcefully if they are girls or, sold for domestic slavery if they are boys. This is a fast growing trend. In Islam, a man of 70 years can be married to a girl of 13 years. To marry a Christian girl and convert her to Islam is a mission and a religious duty in the tenets of Islam.
These challenges render Muslim-background believers in dire conditions of poverty, often making them recant their faith or make decisions that will hurt their kids by either giving them out for domestic slavery or giving their daughters in marriage as a means of livelihood, thus feeding the agenda of the Muslims. In the last 15 years, Christians have faced varying degrees of persecution from the destruction of properties, to the gruesome and senseless killings and invasion of whole communities. Over 500 communities have been invaded at night, killing anyone in sight, and burning the whole village. The major aim of the attacks is to decimate Christians, reduce them to poor economic conditions and make them subservient to Islam so that out of their horrible and poor conditions they can now easily convert to Islam. This is a full-scale Jihad. The 3 parts of Jihad are: to de-populate Christians; destroy their economy and force them through violence to convert to Islam; and if they refuse, kill them as a religious duty. Sadly, they seem to be succeeding by the number of people killed, displaced and impoverished every single, solitary day.
Our work in the last five years has been creating Safe Havens for all these categories of Christians. We have created 3 categories of Safe Havens.
- Whole families who lost everything including a threat to life and who need to be discipled and relocated.
- Young girls who are forced into marriage to men old enough to be their parents or grandparents without their consent. These girls are often married off, used, and divorced after a few years and find themselves into prostitution, neglected, and abandoned and used as sex slaves.
- Young boys between the age of 4 and 15 who are sold to domestic slavery.
These are vulnerable people we have right now in our discipleship center. We disciple, rehabilitate, train with hands on practical ministry skills. We have opened a school for them so that the girls and children can access education – without this initiative, there is no way they will ever be in school.
- Our aim is to cushion the impact of persecution on poor Christians by providing a safer haven where they will be free to live their lives away from their source of pain and also disciple and ground them in the Word of God and train them with hands-on practical ministry skills – this we have been doing for the last 5 years. But, the facility we have now is not entirely safe for this purpose, hence the need for a safer facility.
- The Girl Child Rescue:to rescue girls from the practice of being forced as children into marriages and forceful conversion to Islam and, give them access to education as an immediate and long-term plan towards the total liberation of the girl child, unto generations unborn.
- To rescue young children from being used as domestic slaves and child labor as well as help them access education as a means of combatting this menace.
The Current Safe Haven:
We have a Safe Haven which accommodates 183 young girls and boys and 120 adults and families. This facility is not safe enough because it is situated right among Muslim residences. Several of our girls have been abducted and made again to marry, after being saved from this situation, because of the geographical proximity. What we have is much like a temporary facility for rehabilitating new converts and right now we feel we need to build a “Safer Haven” in Central Nigeria, particularly in Jos. This is especially for the most vulnerable converts and girls abducted for forced marriages.
The centrality of our discipleship training is love and forgiveness and reaching out to our persecutors. When we train, disciple, and nurture these young converts, they will in turn help evangelize the rest of the Muslim world. We have already planted 13 Churches in the last 5 years.
New Dangerous Trend:
Recently, there is a dangerous trend of picking Christians from soft areas for targeted killings. This trend is scary and dangerous. So the need to have this Safe Haven is becoming an emergency.
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