A pastor abducted by a faction of the radical Islamic extremist group Boko Haram during a raid in the Adamawa state of Nigeria last week has issued a plea for help in a video released by the terrorist group.
The Nigeria-based extremist group known for terrorizing the Lake Chad region released a video last week showing the Rev. Lawan Andimi pleading for his release.
Andimi is the head of the Christian Association in Nigeria’s chapter in the Adamawa state and was declared missing on Jan. 3 following a raid in the town of Michika.
His abduction comes as abductions and violence carried about by both Boko Haram factions have increased since December.
According to the U.N.-accredited NGO Christian Solidarity Worldwide, the video was sent to a Nigerian journalist covering Boko Haram. Before the video’s release, the pastor was last seen being taken away in a Toyota.
In the video, Andimi pleads for his pastor colleagues to call on Gov. Ahmadu Umaru Fintiri to secure his release.
“I have never been discouraged because of all conditions that one finds himself is in the hand of God,” Andimi assured.
Despite the abduction, the pastor explained that his captors — believed to be part of Boko Haram’s Shekau faction — have treated him well.
“These people have been doing good to me. They are feeding me with what I want to eat,” he said. “They are providing a nice place for me to sleep, a blanket and every need.”
“I believe they didn’t do anything wrong to me,” Andimi added. “I still believe God who make them to act in such a way is still alive and will make all arrangements. By the grace of God, I will be together with my wife and my children and all my colleagues. If the opportunity has not been granted, maybe it is the will of God.”
Andimi urged his supporters to be “patient.”
“Don’t cry, don’t worry, but thank God for everything,” he said in the video.
In a press release, CSW Chief Executive Merwyn Thomas called for Andimi’s unconditional release.
“We echo his plea for Governor Ahmadu Umoru Fintri and any other officials with influence to intervene to secure the release of this courageous man,” Thomas said.
According to Thomas, the increase in Boko Haram attacks over the course of the last month in multiple states in Nigeria should “cause alarm worldwide.”
According to CSW, Boko Haram is accused of carrying out a Dec. 22 attack on two passenger buses on Munguno road in the Borno state.
While Muslim passengers are said to have been released, Christian passengers were separated by gender. Three men, including a pastor from Deeper Life Bible Church, were said to have been killed. Meanwhile, three females were kidnapped.
On Dec. 26, a Christian bride and her bridal party were beheaded by suspected Boko Haram extremists days before he wedding while the group was traveling from the Borno town of Maiduguri to the bride’s country home in Adamawa.
The reported bridal party beheadings came on the same day in which 11 Christian aid workers were reportedly murdered by suspected Islamic extremists after being abducted in Maiduguri and Damaturu.
CSW further reports that on Dec. 23, Boko Haram’s Islamic State West Africa Province faction killed several people in an attack in Damaturu — the capital of the Yobe state — and the Borno town of Biu. The attack was reportedly the third attack that occurred in Damaturu in two months.
On Dec. 24, CSW reports, the Shekau faction of Boko Haram killed at least six people in an attack on the Borno village of Kwarangulum.
“We urge the government of Nigeria, assisted by its allies, to formulate a comprehensive solution to the alarming rise in violence and abduction that is afflicting the lives of Nigerian civilians,” Thomas stated.
Last month, the U.S. State Department for the first time placed Nigeria on its “special watch list” of countries that have engaged in or tolerated “severe violations of religious freedom.”
“We are designating [Nigeria] special watch list for the first time because of all of the increasing violence and communal activity and the lack of effective government response and the lack of judicial cases being brought forward in that country,” U.S. Ambassador-at-large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback told reporters.
“It is a dangerous situation in too many parts of Nigeria. The government has either not been willing to or have been ineffective in their response and the violence continues to grow.”
Nigeria ranks as the 12th worst country in the world when it comes to Christian persecution, according to Open Doors USA’s 2019 World Watch List.
“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.’”