Wow, it has been awhile since I posted. I could tell you that school made me too busy, or I forgot to write, or a host of other excuses, and while those may be partially true they don’t tell the full story. The real reason I haven’t posted in months is that I haven’t felt like I had anything important to say.
Friends, that has changed. I recently met someone with an incredible story, and his one request for me was to share it. I cannot use his real name, so we will call him F.
I sat next to F at a meal and he asked me why I don’t eat meat. I gave him my classic answer about factory farming and pollution, and he responded that he doesn’t eat meat either. I asked why, and his answer blew me away. F doesn’t eat meat because in his native country, Nigeria, people kill cattle farmers in order to take over their land, use their animals, and turn a profit. He doesn’t eat meat because he is unwilling to put money into the hands of murderers.
I am horribly uneducated on Nigerian culture and current events, so I asked him what else went on that people in America wouldn’t expect. He said, “I am a professor and divisional head at a top university in Nigeria, and I haven’t been payed in 9 months.”
Because he works at a state university his pay is subject to the whims of the government, and right now the government doesn’t feel like paying. F has no living family, but said that this is a blessing because he wouldn’t be able to support a family.
What struck me most about this story wasn’t the details and actions themselves. What struck me was F’s fear. He cannot tell this story or ask for help because he is a Christian living in the “middle belt” of Nigeria, where persecution from the north is spreading (think Boko Haram). Additionally, he lives under a government that is democratic by name, but can not be said to allow free speech. For example Buhari (before he was president) drafted Decree Number 4. This was when he was part of a military coup. The decree states that “Any person who publishes in any form, whether written or otherwise, any message, rumour, report or statement […] which is false in any material particular or which brings or is calculated to bring the Federal Military Government or the Government of a state or public officer to ridicule or disrepute, shall be guilty of an offense under this Decree”. While this decree is thankfully no longer in effect, a quick google search pulls up articles such as Hate Speech Bill 2018: Is Decree 4 Of 1984 Reincarnating? and Memories of Decree 4 as Buhari’s CSO evicts reporter.
F is at risk of being harmed because of his religion, is not being payed for his work, and cannot reach out to the government for help. He was offered a teaching position in the US, but couldn’t afford to relocate because of his lack of income.
Most of us heard about the abduction of school girls by Boko Haram in 2014. It happened again in 2018. Now you have heard about a much milder, but still awful, story of everyday life in Nigeria. Here’s my question: how many stories does it take for us to do something? As Christians, when will we begin to see these people as our neighbors whom we are called to love and serve?
I asked F what I, as one person who lives continents away, could do to help. “Tell my story. If people don’t know what’s happening, they can never help.”
I’m not here to condemn anyone or say that the people of Nigeria need some white saviors to swoop in a fix things. We all know that doesn’t help anything. I am here to say that the world is full of these stories, and if we just listened to each other we would be taking a step in the right direction.