Beheaded Brethren leader taken captive in Nigeria said he was at peace with death because Jesus “is still alive.”
Reverend Lawan Andimi , Church of the Brethren pastor in Adamawa, northeastern Nigeria. Image: Morning Star News
Boko Haram has beheaded a Brethren church leader in Nigeria, according to the same investigative journalist who shared the pastor’s hostage video which encouraged many with its testimony.
“To break some news items can traumatize. I'm battling with one of such. Reverend [Lawan] Andimi, abducted by #BokoHaram was executed yesterday,” tweeted Ahmad Salkida. “Rev. Andimi was a church leader, a father to his children and the community he served. My condolences go to his family.”
“Reverend Lawan Andimi was beheaded yesterday afternoon, the video of the appalling executions with that of a soldier was obtained at 2:42pm,” wrote Salkida. “I made sure that the family, the authorities and the church were duly informed before the news was put out to the public this morning.”
Andimi’s denomination, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria (EYN), confirmed the pastor’s death.
“This is horrific and truly a shame,” said Gideon Para-Mallam, the Jos-based Africa ambassador for the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students who spoke with EYN general secretary Daniel Mbaya about Andimi’s fate. “It strikes at the heart of efforts to build some form of religious harmony in Nigeria. But we are undeterred.”
The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) declared three days of prayer and fasting, and condemned the “brutal murder” of Andimi as “a shame to the Nigerian government.”
“The Church did everything within her reach to secure the safe release of this pastor gentleman,” stated Kwamkur Samuel Vondip, CAN director for legal and public affairs, “but it was not possible because they didn’t have the military power to do so. The Church views the unabated kidnappings, extortions, and killings of Christians and innocent Nigerians as shameful to the government that each time boasts that it has conquered insurgency.”
CAN called for Nigerian Christians “to be calm” but challenged President Muhammadu Buhari and his national government “to be more proactive about effort to get rid of the continuous siege on Nigeria and end the wanton killings and destructions of lives and property.”
“We cannot loose hope on divine protection and the power of our Lord Jesus Christ to expose those behind the sponsorship of terrorism in Nigeria and to get Nigeria safe from the arms of the criminals,” stated Vondip. “We shall remain constant and not bow to the antics of terrorists and their sponsors. We know that very soon, God will unmask these ungodly and wicked elements amidst us and their collaborators in Jesus’ Name.”
Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) also condemned the murder.
“As Christians, knowing there is life after death, we nevertheless value the gift of this life,” stated chief executive Mervyn Thomas, “and we join in mourning an uncommonly courageous man, who despite knowing death was a very real prospect, maintained a calm and deep faith that will continue to inspire for generations.”
Meanwhile, CSW reported that a recently released hostage confirmed that Leah Sharibu, the teenager whose perseverance has become an inspiration to Nigerian Christians, is still alive.
Nigeria is the second-most violent country for persecuted Christians (Pakistan is No. 1), according to the 2020 World Watch List released last week by Open Doors.
The list ranks Nigeria at No. 12 among the top 50 countries where it’s hardest to be a Christian.
According to Open Doors, Nigeria led the world in Christian martyrdoms, with 1,350 confirmed, and in Christian abductions, with 224 confirmed, during the list’s reporting period from November 2018 to October 2019.
“Rev. Andimi died a martyr and therefore no doubt a Christian hero,” said Para-Mallam. “The blood of martyrs is the seed which waters and grows the gospel of peace as good news to a broken and hurting world which Jesus Christ called us to proclaim. Rev. Andimi’s blood will water the spread of the gospel in the North East, Nigeria, and other parts of the world. No doubt about this.”
A hostage video released last week by Boko Haram did far more than issue another plea for rescue from a Nigerian Christian.
It revealed a modern-day Shadrach.
“By the grace of God, I will be together with my wife, my children, and my colleagues,” said Lawan Andimi, a Church of the Brethren in Nigeria (EYN) pastor in the troubled northeastern state of Adamawa. “[But] if the opportunity has not been granted, maybe it is the will of God.
“Be patient, don’t cry, don’t worry. But thank God for everything.”
It is testimony even to his Islamist captors, said Gideon Para-Mallam, the Jos-based Africa ambassador for the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students.
“This is completely different from most hostage videos,” he told CT. “[Andimi] appeared as one who has already conquered death, saying to his abductors and the rest of us that he is ready to die for his faith in Christ.”
Andimi’s home area of Michika was attacked by armed terrorists the evening of January 2. Local residents fled into nearby bushes and hills.
“Our people had to run helter-skelter when they heard that the terrorists were approaching the town,” Zakariah Nyampa, a member of Nigeria’s parliament representing the Michika area, toldMorning Star News, noting that the army killed several attackers.
“We thank God for their lives, but the only civilian casualty is the missing pastor whose whereabouts are still unknown.”
Para-Mallam believes Andimi was deliberately targeted. Well-known in the area, the pastor was also the EYN district leader and the regional representative of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN).
“To annihilate the Christian faith, there is no better way than to eliminate its prime movers,” said Para-Mallam. “It is also Boko Haram giving a signal that they are not degraded like the government says, and can still strike.”
Less than a week earlier, 11 Nigerian Christians, seized in neighboring Borno state, were executed by a Boko Haram splinter group now affiliated with ISIS called the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP).
Andimi followed hostage video protocol and appealed to denominational leadership and the Adamawa governor to intervene for his release.
But showing none of the usual signs of desperation, the pastor made clear his hope lies elsewhere.
“I believe that he who made them to act in such a way is still alive, and will make all arrangements,” Andimi said.
“I have never been discouraged, because all conditions that one finds himself is in the hands of God—God who made them to take care of me and to leave [me with] my life.”
Samson Ayokunle, president of CAN, issued a statement four days after Andimi’s abduction, urging the Nigerian government to take the necessary steps to rescue the EYN pastor and all other captives held by Islamist terrorists.
And prior to the ISWAP executions, CAN endorsed the US State Department placing Nigeria on a “Special Watch List” of governments that have engaged in or tolerated severe violations of religious freedom.
“If criminals are invading the Christian communities, killing and abducting unchallenged, what do we call it if it is not persecution?” stated CAN in reference to Andimi, noting the subsequent abduction of an additional 41 Christians from the north-central state of Kaduna.
And the next day, following criticism from the Nigerian government that the Christian umbrella group was politicizing religion, CAN reiterated its position.
“Let the government wake up to its responsibilities and see if we will not stop talking about its failure to protect our members,” CAN stated.
“We are praying for the government on a daily basis, but that does not mean where the government is failing we should keep quiet.”
Nigeria ranked No. 12 on Open Doors’s 2019 World Watch List of the 50 countries where Christians suffer the most persecution.
“This is not just a religious issue, it is social justice,” said Para-Mallam, referring also to the nearly two-year captivity of Leah Sharibu, a teenage girl whose perseverance despite persecution has also inspired many Nigerian Christians.
Last March, the Nigerian government negotiated the freedom of 104 Dapchi school girls, though ISWAP held back Sharibu because she refused to recant her Christianity.
“The government must do more to get her out,” said Para-Mallam, who with Ayokunle is critical that the teenager was left behind.
“We don’t want promises, we want her free.”
Para-Mallam noted also the ongoing ISWAP captivity of Alice Ngaddah, Grace Tuka, and Jennifer Ukumbong.
“Our God who delivered the people of Israel from the Egyptian bondage will surely deliver them,” said Ayokunle in his original statement for CAN. “They will not die in captivity, in Jesus’ name.”
There is hope for Andimi, said Para-Mallam, because Boko Haram has released Christians in the past. However, ISWAP has shown mercy only to Muslim captives.
But until then, the EYN pastor continues his witness.
“Andimi lives in the light of eternity, which is a sign of his courage,” said Para-Mallam.
“From the lion’s den, he said to death: ‘To hell with you, I’m not afraid.’”
Copyright 2020 Christianity Today
Additional reporting by Morning Star News