Violent protests in Niger: District Apostle cancels trip

District Apostle Bernd Koberstein of Germany has been following the recent developments in Niger with a great deal of concern. During violent protests last weekend, dozens of Christian churches were set on fire and at least ten people were killed.

The protests erupted over the latest issue of the French magazine Charlie Hebdo, featuring a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed on its cover. After their Friday prayers, angry Muslims took to the streets in the country’s capital, Niamey, and in Zinder, the second largest city, looking to attack Christian churches.

At least 45 Catholic and Protestant churches were looted and torched, Caritas, an international aid organization, said. Furthermore, 36 bars and restaurants run by Christians were attacked. The violent protests over the weekend cost ten lives, the authorities reported.

Given the situation in the country, District Apostle Koberstein of Germany, who is responsible for the pastoral care of the New Apostolic Christians in Niger, cancelled his planned visit to Niamey. He recommended the local Bishop to temporarily halt the celebration of divine services to avoid putting our brothers and sisters in danger. The Catholic Church reacted in a similar way.

Niger is one of the poorest countries in the world. According to Caritas, Niger has until now been considered as peaceful and the Islam being practised there as moderate. Several newspapers reported, however, that the violent protests erupted not only because of the cartoon but also because of social and political tensions.

Meanwhile, Mission, another aid organization, reports of an incident in which a 73-year old Lutheran pastor was attacked in Zinder. The man and his family were trapped in their burning home. When their Muslim neighbours noticed the fire, they rescued the family.

Update: According to the latest reports from Open Doors USA, a non-profit organization focused on serving persecuted Christians, 72 churches have been destroyed in Niger so far, along with seven Christian schools, several shops run by Christians, and an orphanage. Also more than 30 homes of Christians and an unknown number of parsonages have been looted and burned.

Photo: BOUREIMA HAMA/AFP/Getty Images

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