A conference for VOM front-line ministry workers in northern Nigeria was relocated last week amid concerns for the safety of the workers and their families. Violence by Islamic extremists, including several suicide bombs set off in nearby cities and a massive attack in Baga, Nigeria where nearly 2,000 were reported to have been killed, raised security concerns.
The conference, set to begin on Jan. 12, was for Christian leaders who serve in the northern states of Yobe and Gombe, both states currently under a barrage of attacks by the Islamist Boko Haram group. The Boko Haram insurgents have killed thousands of Christians since 2009.
After attacks in the cities of Damaturu and Potiskum in Yobe state on Jan. 9, 10 and 11, the training conference was moved to nearby Bauchi state. “Thanks to the Lord,” said a VOM worker, “most of the ministers we invited were able to make it out of Yobe to attend the training.”
Photo: Abubakar Shekau leads Boko Haram in its brutal pursuit for an Islamic state in northern Nigeria.
On Friday, Jan. 9, residents of Yobe’s state capital were forced to seek safety when the sound of heavy artillery weapons erupted in the southern section of Damaturu. Nigerian security personnel launched an attack against Boko Haram insurgents who have occupied pockets of the city since Dec. 1. Explosions and sporadic gunfire were heard for hours.
Sixty miles to the west, police officers in Potiskum arrested a member of Boko Haram on Jan. 10 when he was discovered in a stolen vehicle. The suspect and the stolen car were transported to the divisional police headquarters for inspection. When officers opened the car’s trunk, it triggered an explosion that killed two policemen.
The next day, an attack by suicide bombers in Potiskum killed at least seven people. Two young females entered a market areas strapped into suicide vests and set off explosives just seconds apart. In addition to seven killed, 48 people were wounded. A VOM contact reported that the explosion occurred in front of an evangelical church.
Moving the meeting to Bauchi made it possible for the front-line ministry workers to attend training in relative safety. However, just as meetings concluded, several leaders from Gombe began receiving phone calls from family members. While they were meeting, a suicide bomber drove a motorbike into a crowded area in Gombe and set off an explosion that injured 20 people. Though no deaths were reported in the Jan. 13 attack, one pastor was notified that a church member was affected by the blast.
These front-line workers returned to their homes in Yobe and Gombe fully aware of the increase of terrorist attacks around them, but strengthened and equipped for more ministry through the training conference.
Please pray fervently for Nigeria and for our Christian brothers and sisters there, especially in the days leading up to the February 14 presidential elections in that country.
This story originally appeared on Persecution.com.