Nigeria (VOM/MNN) — The commercialized version of Christmas that has taken root so firmly in the West has little to offer people who are suffering.
But when Jesus birth is being celebrated in an appropriate and reverent way, then Christmas means everything–even to victims of Boko Haram in Nigeria.
Late last month, Voice of the Martyrs brought Christmas to Christian families in Borno.
Dozens of children clapped and sang as a Christmas celebration began in a Maiduguri church. Although they were among the thousands of Christians who fled Islamic extremist violence in northern Nigeria, inside there were smiles and songs.
The late November celebration was held to distribute Bibles and aid to Christian families in Borno state’s capital city who fled attacks on their churches, homes, and villages. Some of the families receiving the aid now live in makeshift tents set up around the perimeter of the Maiduguri church compound.
In mid-September, Boko Haram militants surrounded and besieged the city of two million people. Many of the roads into the city were impassible, and neighboring cities were overrun by the Islamist group. Nigeria’s military intervened in Maidurguri, but conflict in the region has not ended. Tens of thousands of Christians in Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe states have been forced to flee the violence.
When Boko Haram attacks, those who aren’t killed flee into the bush, leaving behind their homes. Insurgents steal food, livestock, and anything of value, and armed men guard the village to prevent villagers from returning to reclaim their property. Villagers are then forced to live as refugees in surrounding areas, hoping that they will someday be able to return to their homes.
As the Christians at the church gathered, they began by joining in prayer for the people of Maiduguri as well as those throughout northern Nigeria. VOM workers from Nigeria told the believers that Christians all over the world have heard about the violence. “You are not left alone, and they are sharing your pain with you,” they said.
The day included activities for both adults and children. Some of the widows and children in the group performed songs, focusing on all that Jesus had done. Then the distribution began. The gifts included much-needed food staples like rice, beans, noodles, and milk. Children also received soccer balls, coloring books, school supplies, and a children’s Bible.
With no end to the violence in site and thousands of believers displaced after repeated violence, VOM continues to provide aid throughout northern Nigeria.