15 March 2017

Christians denied access to vital aid as humanitarian crisis hits sub-Saharan Africa

With millions of people facing starvation and famine in sub-Saharan Africa, Christian persecution charity Open Doors is supporting displaced Christians who have faced discrimination in the distribution of vital aid.

Bishop William Naga was forced to flee his home in Gwoza, Nigeria, the city Boko Haram declared the capital of their 'caliphate' (Islamic State) in 2014. He explained, "The governor did his best when the Christians had to flee in 2014 and 2015. But when the care of the camps was handed over to other organisations, the discrimination started. They will give food to the refugees, but if you are a Christian they will not give you food. They will openly tell you that the relief is not for Christians."

Displaced Christians started to form their own, informal camps, when they no longer felt welcome in the main camps. John Gwamma, the chairman at an informal Christian camp confirmed, "We have started informal, purely Christian camps because Christians were being segregated in the formal camps. They had not been given food, or allowed to go to church. There is a term called 'arne', meaning pagan. Meaning, you are pagan and not a Muslim, and as long as you are not a Muslim, we don't like you to stay together with us."

After being denied access to essential supplies, many were left in dire circumstances - some were forced to eat leaves to survive. But Open Doors has been able to work through local churches to provide thousands of families in these informal camps with vital aid, including food and blankets.

Mary Charles, one displaced Christian who received this support, said, "We had to flee Boko Haram because they didn't allow us to go to our farm. We had no drinking water and we didn't have anything to eat. I thank God for this food aid and I thank the people who brought it. We now have food that we can give to our children."

Nigeria is number 12 on the 2017 Open Doors World Watch List. Christians are in the minority in northern Nigeria, and have faced discrimination for years in the 12 northern states where Sharia (Islamic law) has been implemented; they are frequently denied access to community resources, such as clean water, health clinics and higher education. Christians have also faced violent persecution at the hands of Islamic fundamentalist groups Boko Haram and Hausa-Fulani herdsmen.

Alongside emergency food aid, Open Doors partners with the local church in Nigeria to provide training, scholarships for children, community development projects, legal assistance and trauma counselling.

Photo of Mary Charles:

Photo of Bishop William Naga:

Larger versions of photos available on request

- ENDS -

 

Note to editors:

For more information call the Open Doors press office on 01993 777377, 01993 777346 or 07484 000 441, or email Tania at taniac@opendoorsuk.org or Beth at bethf@opendoorsuk.org

Information on Open Doors - www.opendoorsuk.org

Open Doors UK & Ireland is part of Open Doors International, a global NGO network which has supported and strengthened persecuted Christians in over 60 countries for over 60 years. Last year it raised approximately $70 million to provide practical support to persecuted Christians such as food, medicines, trauma care, legal assistance, safe houses and schools, as well as spiritual support through Christian literature, training and resources. Open Doors UK & Ireland raised over £11 million.

Every year Open Doors publishes the World Watch List - a ranking of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian. This is produced using detailed information provided by Open Doors co-workers in more than 60 countries, as well as independent experts. Data is gathered on five spheres of life - private, family, community, national and church life- plus a sixth sphere measuring the degree of violence impacting Christians. Persecution in each country is recorded by Open Doors using a point system. Open Doors' research methods and results have been independently audited by the International Institute for Religious Freedom. The 2017 World Watch List accounts for the 12 months ending 31 October 2016.