A weekend ceremony celebrates the beginning of construction for two of the largest evangelical churches in Niamey burnt during Muslim rioting
Samaritan’s Purse Niger staff attended two brick laying ceremonies on Sunday, January 17, 2016, both held at churches burned exactly a year ago during Muslim rioting.
When shootings happened at the office of the satirical magazine “Charlie Hebdo” in Paris on January 7, 2015, tensions extended all the way to Niger. The 98 percent Muslim population was distraught about the cartoons of Muhammad that had appeared in the publication and wanted to avenge their prophet.
They planned demonstrations across the country, but as the crowd grew, the situation got out of control. People began going to Christians’ homes, stealing what they wanted and burning the rest. The damage quickly extended to churches and missionary schools.
The first burning in Niamey happened on January 17 at the Baptist Church at the Round Point. Throughout Niamey, 60 churches burned in four hours. In total, 70 churches across the country burned in two days.
When the burnings first happened, Samaritan’s Purse provided tents, chairs, songbooks, and musical instruments for several of the churches. In the long-term, we have committed to rebuild churches in Niamey, Zinder, and Gouré.
Like a Hand from God
At around 10:30 a.m. on January 17, 2016, Samaritan’s Purse staff members and Nigerien church leaders gathered with the pastor and congregation of The Baptist Church at the Round Point to celebrate the beginning of the rebuilding process.
The ceremony started with the song “Onward Christian Soldiers,” followed by several short speeches by the pastors; Bishop Kismo Boureima, the president of the Evangelical Alliance in Niger; and Carl Becker, the Samaritan’s Purse Niger country director.
After the speeches, church leadership unveiled the new church plan, and the first brick was laid.
“Round Point folk mentioned repeatedly how grateful they were that Samaritan’s Purse has come like a hand from God to help them to be able to rebuild their church once again,” Carl Becker said.
Earlier in the week, many of the same people had gathered to pray for God’s blessing as the sites were cleared and as new construction moved forward. Boureima also prayed for the future of the church’s ministry.
When the ceremony was finished, Samaritan’s Purse staff members continued with Boureima to the second church that is preparing for a rebuild, Boukoki.
Since their building was burnt, the church has been meeting in a converted warehouse. The first part of the ceremony was held inside the warehouse as the final part of their regular Sunday service. The pastor; Maiaike Kadade, the president of the Evangelical Church of the Republic of Niger; Boureima; and Becker spoke to the congregation.
After the speeches, the entire congregation moved outside for the brick laying ceremony. The church leadership unveiled the new plans, and the first brick was laid.
“May angels come to sing with us in the new sanctuary,” Kadade said.
The church hopes that the new church building will strengthen their ministry. One ministry they plan on doing soon is distributing Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes.
When the ceremony was completed, Samaritan’s Purse staff members toured the pastor’s house, which was also burned on January 17, 2015. We recently completed the rehabilitation, and the pastor received his new keys after the ceremony.
“This is really the expression of the faithfulness and goodness of God and of his church,” Boureima said. “Since the first day of the attacks, we have proclaimed that the church has forgiven. We must turn the page of the past and look forward.”