The persecution of Christians in northern Nigeria has run rampant over the past several years, as the terrorist group Boko Haram continues to target Christians in their efforts to implement Sharia law throughout the region. Now, insurgents are targeting Bible translators residing in Nigerian villages.
In April, the insurgents kidnapped over 200 schoolgirls (#bringbackourgirls), gaining the attention of the international community. However, very little has been done to rescue the girls.
However, Wycliffe Associates President and CEO Bruce Smith says the kidnapped group of girls-most of whom are Christians-are far more than just a headline to his team of Bible translators in the region.
"Unfortunately, to us they're not 'unknown faces.' They're family members of some of the people that are directly involved in Bible translation in that part of Nigeria," he stated.
Nearly three and a half million Nigerians have been displaced inside the country last year due to a combination of Boko Haram attacks, counter insurgency operations, and ongoing inter-communal violence, reports Nigeria's National Commission for Refugees (NCFR). The terrorist's use of suicide attacks, bombings, and raids have spread to most northern states and south toward Abuja, targeting small villages and killing numerous civilians.
Smith says the Boko Haram's unpredictable and violent attacks are a continuing and immediate threat to translation partners in the region.
As a result, "They have essentially all abandoned their homes, and they're sleeping out in the woods and in surrounding areas because they're afraid of being attacked directly." Smith adds, "We still have staff that are living and working in Nigeria. Bible translation is a high priority need there. They have more than 300 languages that have been identified that have not one verse of Scripture and need to be started."
However, the missionaries refuse to be halted, and Smith reveals that the terrorist attacks have actually served to motivate those working tirelessly to translate the Bible.
"The desperation of the situation actually increases their motivation for getting God's Word translated because they realize that the political and religious solutions are not working," reveals Smith. "They need some truth that's going to change hearts, change perspectives, in order to make any difference for the long haul."
While in the woods, translators use a BTAK (Bible Translation Acceleration Kit) which includes a small, portable netbook computer satellite communication terminal solar panel battery and power supply.
"I went [to Nigeria] a few years ago to train the translation team in the use of some of this technology that helps them be more mobile," Smith revealed.
Smith says the dedication of those translating the Bible is heartening, as many members of the translation team survive as subsistence farmers, living on the brink of poverty.
For them, the Boko Haram insurgency is devastating, explains Smith. "For this kind of an impact to occur in their area just puts them closer to death's door. Even if they're not the victims of direct violence from the antagonists, they're being starved out because they're not able to take care of their own economic welfare."
Smith asks Christians around the world to pray for Bible translators in Nigeria, as they are facing extreme persecution in their efforts to spread the gospel.
"This has fundamentally changed their community and changed their family relationships. Just pray for God to intervene and to bring the Holy Spirit, the comfort, and the counsel that they need from His Word and from other Christians in their community," he said.
To support Wycliffe Bible translators and learn how to pray for those serving in Nigeria, visit their website.