As part of my continuing series of blogs in support of the upcoming Persecution Sunday on November 3rd, 2013, when more than 100,000 churches in over 115 countries will join together to pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ around the world, I want to share with you the story about Pastor John Ali Doro of Maseh, Nigeria. His story was told in the October 2013 issue of The Voice of the Martyrs Newsletter. On the morning of July 7, 2012, Pastor John heard shouts and gunshots near the compound that included his home and church. People were shouting that the Fulani are coming. The Fulani are a primarily Moslem ethnic group in Nigeria. In recent years, they have become radicalized in their Islamic beliefs. On that morning, the Fulani arrived in Maseh dressed in black, and armed with automatic weapons, they attacked Pastor John’s village. The Fulani wanted that the Christians to leave the area so that they could take their land as most Fulani raise cattle. As the Fulani arrived that morning, Pastor John dived into a nearby ditch to conceal himself from the armed attackers who had now surrounded his church. The Fulani were shooting at any Christian they saw, and in particular, those who were trying to flee. Many others rushed into the Pastor John’s church, huddling inside where they were screaming for help.
Pastor John lay in the ditch in shock, and terrified by what he was hearing. He later said, “I was confused. I didn’t know what to do. It was like a dream.” But he also realized that, as an unarmed man, had he run to the church building to save those inside, he would be killed. He could do nothing but to pray and endure the sound of terrifying screams from those inside the church. The Fulani then set the church on fire as they shouted “Allahu Akbar! Allahu Akbar!” The Islamic chants were mixed with the screams of those being burned inside the church. As the church burned, one of the Islamic extremists was heard by Pastor John saying to the other terrorists, “Let’s see if their God can save them now!”
Shortly thereafter, Nigerian Special Forces arrived forcing the Fulani to flee the village. But those troops arrived too late to save the 44 who died that day burned alive inside the church. Among those who died were Pastor John’s wife, four of his seven children, and two of his grandchildren. The next day a mass funeral was held for those murdered by the Islamic thugs. Among those in attendance at the funeral were senior government officials. But Fulani gunman returned to the funeral and opened fire on the mourners. Among those killed were a national senator and a leader of the state assembly. Nine other neighboring villages were also attacked, and almost 200 Christians were killed over the two days by the Fulani extremists.
The depth of Pastor John’s suffering is beyond imagination for most of us who live in the United States or Europe. Yet even in the midst of terrible grief, he chose not to become bitter towards the killers of his family and neighbors. Rather, he prayed for the men who had killed his wife, children and grandchildren. Pastor John, in a recent interview, said:
I just threw everything back to God. I prayed God would help them to understand that this is evil so that they can stop. I also asked God to help me to be able to use my life to propagate His gospel, because I knew that I could have died in the attack. It is painful and it’s hurting. What they did all that and I lost all my family, it’s very painful. But there’s nothing you can do to change the situation once it’s already happened, apart from lifting it to God. I left it all for God, not to do any bad to them but to change them. It’s only in their change that the world will be better. Job lost everything – wealth, children—everything except his wife. Yet he did not turn his back on God. That story has helped me, not only to deal with the situation but even to remain who I am. But throwing it all back to God and reflecting on the stories in the Bible, especially that of Job, has strengthened me to be who I am today.
I am reminded of the words of the late Pastor Richard Wurmbrand, the Romanian pastor who spent fourteen years in a communist prison cell and was, together with his wife, the founder of The Voice of the Martyrs. In 1976, he penned these words:
In Mark 5, Jesus orders demons to leave a possessed man and enter into a herd of swine. After the demons enter the swine, they run straight into the sea and drown. The owners of the swine, the Gadarenes, thus lost their means of feeding themselves and their children. How would we react if the entrance of Jesus into our lives meant the loss of our house, car, bank account, or job? The Gadarenes reacted by asking Jesus to leave the area. . . . Friendship with Jesus is costly. Faith alone saves, but saving faith is never alone. It is always accompanied by great sacrifices for Christ’s sake. Preachers who promise prosperity, good health and continual joy lead men astray. In reality, you might lose a herd of swine. You are meant to lose all. “Whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be my disciple, “ says the Lord (Luke 14:33).
May God give peace to the eternal memory of Pastor John’s family and congregation. Please pray for Pastor John and his congregation, most of whom are poor and have been displaced by violence. Please pray also for the Fulani Moslems who attacked Pastor John’s church and killed so many Christians, so that they will come to know the Lord Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. As we read in Revelation 6:10, the martyrs plead, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?” Maranatha, O Lord, holy and true!