[Cover image by Ayo Oritsejafor / Story photo courtesy Christian Aid Mission]
Africa (MNN) ― Niger is in trouble.
The country is surrounded by the threat of insurgency to the west and terrorism to the south. The government is beefing up border patrols to keep an eye on Islamist movements spilling in from its north and south.
There are just two problems with that. First, says Christian Aid Mission Africa Director Rae Burnett, "Niger is one of the ten poorest countries in the world. If you look at the U.N. list, they're all 10 from Africa." Second, the rebels are better resourced. "Billions of dollars are being poured into the financing of these groups, " says Burnett, "so they have resources for guns, for whatever types of strategies they're using to take over."
Niger is also trying to cope with disaster. They've got massive flooding, drought, and food shortages all throughout the country. The government appealed to Nigeria to start joint military patrols along its border. So far, they've managed to avoid involvement in the Tuareg rebellion that split neighboring Mali, but Islamist fighters from Nigeria's Boko Haram sect to the south are invading.
The government appealed to Nigeria to start joint military patrols along its border. Burnett says, "They're looking to Nigeria to keep Boko Haram out of Niger. Well, Nigeria's not handling Boko Haram in their own country, so it's unlikely that they would be able to keep them in... which I'm not sure they want to do, anyway."
The problem, though not recent, boils down to poverty. Burnett says the Islamists have slowly been infiltrating for years. "They can go into these poor areas and build schools, dig wells, and all kinds of things like that." Now, it's a competition for the right to be heard. C ompared to the apparent gifts in community development, "The poor missionaries don't have anything. They're barely able to feed their families."
That's also why Christian Aid Mission supports the indigenous missionary. They help provide aid, vehicles, and training, which makes the Gospel workers more prepared for challenging ministry. It's a good thing, because this latest concern has impact, notes Burnett. "One of the effects on the missionaries is that they're in much more danger, continuously in danger. There are people fleeing to their areas from Mali, where our missionaries are trying to help, and using that as an open door for the Gospel but not having the resources to really meet the needs that are being presented to them."
With the multiple fronts threatening Niger, Burnett says they're providing as much funding as is wise. More to the point, there are specific prayer needs. "We have one every strong missionary in Mali and several very strong missionaries in Niger, one very strong missionary ministry in Nigeria that is reaching the entire Islamic North."
If you can't go, you can give. If you can't give, you can pray. That's actually the foundation of all Gospel work. "We need to know who is doing the work of the Lord. Pray for them and send them as much help as we can to meet the needs that are in desperate situations with the purpose of taking the Gospel to them."
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