A village in the north of Nigeria faced a terrible catastrophe. A single Bible study prevented another one from occurring.
The attack took the people of the village by surprise. Mayo Belwa is a small community in the Adamawa State, north-eastern Nigeria. A group of nomadic cattle rearers swooped on them, decimating much of the village and leaving nine people dead.
North-eastern Nigeria has been plagued by ethnic and religious violence in recent years – affecting Christians, Muslims and all other communities. The question that the villagers faced now is one that many others have wrestled with: how do we respond to an unprovoked attack?
Living by the sword?
A number in the community decided that revenge was the answer, including a number of villagers who were part of a newly formed Bible study fellowship.
‘Sadly, many of the Bible study members were among those agitating for revenge,’ recalls Enoch, who had helped to set up the fellowship with this group of young Christians.
‘To choose vengeance didn’t just mean arming themselves with dangerous weapons. They were also planning to protect themselves with amulets and gain strength by drinking special concoctions.’
Many of the Bible study were new Christians, and these things were hangovers from their former lives in the village. In short, to take the path of revenge would take the villagers away from their new-found faith in more than one way.
It was at this time that Enoch received the latest edition of Footsteps – a Tearfund magazine providing practical Bible-based insights on development and change.
‘One of the Bible Studies in that edition was all about “Christ triumphs over Conflict” and it couldn’t have come at a better time,’ says Enoch. ‘The community listened to us as we taught about the best way to respond to wrongdoing, and withdrew their intentions to avenge the killings. Peace has now returned to the community.’
Adamawa is one of the several states in northern Nigeria that have been affected by religious and ethnic tensions and conflict. Along with violence like the sort seen in Mayo Belwa, there have been regular attacks from the ultra-violent Boko Haram group.
Not surprisingly, the question of ‘how do I respond to violence and persecution?’ is one that many people find themselves having to ask.
‘The story of Mayo Belwa Village shows how Bible study isn’t just something you do in someone’s living room on a Wednesday evening. The Bible has the power to change whole communities.'Sara Baines, Tearfund Learn
Cutting to the heart
‘Tearfund believes that the Bible speaks directly into situations like these around the world,’ says Sara Baines of Tearfund Learn, which publishes regular Bible studies for an overseas audience.
‘The story of Mayo Belwa Village shows how Bible study isn’t just something you do in someone’s living room on a Wednesday evening. The Bible has the power to change whole communities; in this case, it has undoubtedly saved lives. This truly demonstrates that grappling with how to live ‘biblically’ really can be a matter of life and death.’
Footsteps magazine is produced by Tearfund Learn. It offers a wide variety of materials for grassroots development workers around the world.
- Thank God for the Christians of Mayo Belwa and their choice not to avenge the killings.
- Pray for both Christians and Muslims in the north east of Nigeria that they can choose non-violence instead of retribution.
- Pray for the work of Footsteps as it offers practical wisdom to Christian workers across the globe.