Samaritan's Purse Celebrates Rebuilt Churches in Niger

November 22, 2017 • Niger

Once in ashes, new sanctuaries have been raised and Christians now have a stronger witness in this Muslim-majority, West African nation.

Where ashes and rubble once stood, churches are rising again in many parts of Niger.

Where ashes and rubble once stood, churches are rising again in many parts of Niger.

The young men, some of them teenagers, arrived on motorbikes and in taxis to burn churches to the ground. They threw Molotov cocktails and then torched piles of books, hymnals, Bibles, pews, pulpits, and even musical instruments. Dozens of church buildings were burned to rubble during two days in January 2015.

Bishop Kimso Bouremai, president of the Evangelical Alliance in Niger, said the people who burned more than 50 churches were “young boys without jobs,” easily manipulated by radical Islamic leaders in response to a controversy involving a cartoon of Mohammed in a Parisian magazine.

“Inside there is something burning,” he said, describing the young attackers. “And this is how it explodes.”

The response from the Christian community was swift, but it was the opposite of revenge. As church leaders and congregations grieved such tragic loss, they also met with plans to rise from the ruins.

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“In my heart, I felt a lot of sadness. It’s a day we can never forget,” said Hassane Hamadou, pastor of Emanuel Baptist Church in Goudel, Niger. “But we also prayed for the people who did this.”

"This sad situation has become one of joy. We are full of joy because all that we have received from God's people," Pastor Mamane Halibou said.

“This sad situation has become one of joy. We are full of joy because all that we have received from God’s people,” said Mamane Halibou, pastor of Evangelical Church, Boukoki, Niger.

As Samaritan’s Purse learned of the vast need, we worked with national and local church leadership to rebuild the burned churches. Earlier this November, a little less than two years after the attacks, those same church leaders joined with Samaritan’s Purse to celebrate 52 churches rebuilt throughout Niger.

A new, broader vision was also unveiled—to build 45 more churches to create an even more robust evangelical presence across the 1.2 million square miles of land in Niger.

“When you rebuild this many churches, it draws the attention of the Islamic community. There are 80,000 Christians in Niger, which has a population of about 18 million people,” said Samaritan’s Purse Niger Country Director Carl Becker. “There are many more Christians that we believe have been hiding in the shadows. The burning of the churches meant there was no hiding.”

Becker says the Muslim community in Niger wants to build a mosque every 20 kilometers so they can get “a firm hold on the country and shut Christianity out. We believe God has placed us in a strategic role in developing the strategy of the church throughout Niger.”

“We Are Not Alone”

"Because of Samaritan's Purse I see that we are not alone." --Hamani Sownaila, pastor of International Evangelical Church in Nordìre, Niger

“Because of Samaritan’s Purse I see that we are not alone,” said Hamani Sownaila, pastor of International Evangelical Church in Nordìre, Niger

“After they burned our building we started to rebuild with our own resources.” said Hamani Sownaila, pastor of International Evangelical Church in Nordìre, Niger. “When I heard Samaritan’s Purse is doing something here I nearly fell down. I cried. I told my wife it can’t be true. How does Samaritan’s Purse know me?

“My wife said, ‘They don’t know you, but God knows you.'”

Pastor Sownaila knew that without help his congregation faced years of waiting for funds to become available, and he knew it was possible they would never rebuild.

We helped Pastor Sownaila’s congregation build a hangar church (open air) made of strong materials like steel and concrete. This has replaced the wooden structure that was burned, and it is a very visible symbol for the Nordìre community that God has provided for His people.

Congregations celebrate the rebuilding of sanctuaries and also the redemption of lives through the power of the Gospel.

Congregations celebrate the rebuilding of sanctuaries and also the redemption of lives through the power of the Gospel.

“I believe God spoke to me strongly and gave me a mission, and that mission is for the country of Niger,” Pastor Sownaila said. “This is the only church in this area, and we are in the bush. But because of Samaritan’s Purse I see now that I have a family and that we are not alone.”

The goal of the attackers who devastated so many congregations was to extinguish Christian influence and expel the hope of the Gospel in communities across Niger. But those things they hoped to destroy have grown back stronger.

“After the burning we began worshipping outside and praying for help,” said Pastor Hassane Hamadou. “We continue worshipping because this is what we have been called to and persecution cannot stop us.

“Now through Samaritan’s Purse we have an even more comfortable building than we did before. Now my people can see that God is coming to help His people in their distress. This strengthens our faith—even if they burn this church we know that God has something better.”

Loving Their Enemies

The greatest accomplishment our teams and these churches are celebrating, though, is more than new worship space. The most important victory has been God’s love displayed through His people as they have forgiven their attackers.

Pastor Hassane Hamadou prepares for services in the beautifully rebuilt sanctuary at Emanuel Baptist Church in Goudel, Niger

Pastor Hassane Hamadou prepares for services in the beautifully rebuilt sanctuary at Emanuel Baptist Church in Goudel, Niger

The persistent prayer of church leaders has not been for protection from persecution but for the salvation of people blinded by lies. God is beginning to answer these prayers in unexpected ways.

“We’ve even had one man who helped the attackers come and confess to us,” said Pastor Prince Agbojan Abraham Sylveinre. “Now he is first person who shows up at our weekly church services.”

Many Nigerien Christians have become more willing to do whatever it takes to reach their neighbors for Christ.

“We want to win the lost at all costs in the country of Niger,” said Bishop Bouremai. “And thank God for Samaritan’s Purse who is willing to go to the places that are not easy and willing to say ‘We will stand with you.’ Thank God for those who are praying with the church in Niger and who are willing to come and stand with us in this desert region.”

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Niger Church Reconstruction
Niger Church Reconstruction Niger is one of the most impoverished countries in the world, and Christians here are in greater need than ever. Your gift of any amount can help Nigerien believers as they struggle to rebuild churches that were destroyed in early 2015. We have already reconstructed many church buildings with many more to go. Samaritan's Purse is also helping new congregations build meeting space and providing Biblical training to pastors who have little or no theological education.

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