What happened the day that riots overtook Niger and terror devastated a small Christian community?
Early in 2015, a French satirical magazine (Charlie Hebdo) published a controversial cartoon, which triggered an attack on their office in Paris, France, where 11 people were killed. As two million gathered in Paris in a peaceful show of national unity, the event set off a ripple effect across the Muslim world, including in Niger where rioters lashed out at the closest thing they associated with the West – the church. Rioters killed three Christians, burned and looted 76 churches and Christian institutions and 50 Christian homes. Open Doors field workers met with and supported many who were effected.
Here are some of the pastors stories…
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In Africa, there are Christian communities that are denied access to daily essentials, such as safe drinking water, healthcare, education and work. For seven years, Open Doors has been running ‘Walk to Water’, an event aimed at raising awareness and funds to strengthen the church in Africa. We do this by providing necessities such as safe drinking water, infrastructure, healthcare, education, vocational training, and micro-loans.
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On 16 January, protests erupted in Niger’s second largest city, Zinder.
It was in response to a cartoon of the Muslim prophet Mohammed on the cover of the latest publication of Charlie Hebdo magazine in France. The protests in Zinder quickly turned violent and then spread to surrounding areas and finally the capital Niamey.
At least 10 people died in the ensuing days of violence, including three Christians who were killed while trapped in churches. Open Doors contacts have counted at least 72 churches that have been destroyed, along with several Christian schools, shops and vehicles owned by believers. Over 30 Christian homes have been looted and burnt. The fighting sent 300 of Zinder’s estimated 700 Christians fleeing, many with just the clothes on their backs.
(Warning: Graphic content – pictures show destroyed church buildings/cars)