***NEWS RELEASE*** For Immediate Release | July 24, 2019
Hamilton Strategies, Media@HamiltonStrategies.com
Prayer News Network Connects Americans With Nigerians Who Are Persecuted for Their Faith
Save the Persecuted Christians Leaders Are Working to Enable Americans to ‘Adopt’ Nigerians, Pray for Them and Create Awareness
WASHINGTON—Since its inception more than a year ago, Save the Persecuted Christians (STPC), which advocates on behalf of hundreds of millions of persecuted Christians worldwide, has worked diligently to create awareness among Americans that their brothers and sisters in faith are being attacked, tortured or killed—simply for their beliefs.
Two advisory board members within the coalition are working to make that awareness personal—especially for Christians in war-torn Nigeria, where persecution is not only commonplace but also intense.
“We wanted to help Nigerians get sustenance and support outside the government for their long-term survival,” said Douglas Burton who leads the Prayer News Network, a non-profit effort, along with War Desk News, a citizen journalism project that seeks to uncover and share stories of persecution. MagnaFaith Krimi, a Nigerian-born diaspora leader residing near Washington, co-founded both organizations with Burton and serves as their executive director.
As a state department official for two years in Iraq from 2005 to 2007, Burton helped connect civil society organizations in the U.S. with those in Iraq that wanted to start fresh. Fast-forward to 2019, when Burton, also a freelance journalist, with his partner, Krimi, applied a similar idea as he was covering Boko Haram violence against Christians in Nigeria. To obtain firsthand accounts for their stories, Burton and Krimi connected with Christians on the ground who were experiencing persecution and seeing the devastation for themselves.
“We were calling people to get information for stories in Nigeria,” he said. “Why not pray with them directly too?”
The impetus for the Prayer News Network began this past April when Burton interviewed a Roman Catholic priest in Nigeria who was ministering on the edge of a Boko Haram stronghold. The first filmed outreach of citizens praying with Nigerians in harm’s way was at a club meeting April 9 in Lorton, Virginia, where Virginia Women for Trump prayed with this priest.
“His community had been attacked several times,” Burton said, “and his cemetery was full of victims. We prayed together and cried together for resolution and aid.”
After that call, they began to think of a way where private individuals could “adopt” one person who was living in a warzone and thereby engage in private citizenship diplomacy. Not only could they pray together, Burton said, but those living in the warzone could also report on the violence they were experiencing so Americans could be better informed. The prayer partners don’t even need to be of the same denomination or religion, he added.
Although the Prayer News Network can work anywhere in the world, Nigeria is an apt place to begin for several reasons: 1) most residents of Nigeria speak English; 2) a large Christian population exists in Nigeria; and 3) many people on the ground in Nigeria are in harm’s way. Likewise, calls between Americans and Nigerians, or residents of other countries for that matter, are very inexpensive if not free through WhatsApp, the platform the Prayer News Network encourages.
Burton and Krimi’s goal for the Prayer News Network is that more Americans will be connected with those who are experiencing persecution for their faith, pray with them and spread the word that persecution is real—all the while circumventing conventional means.
“Go around government and go around mainstream media,” Burton said. “Go directly to citizen journalists who at least will post a story on their Facebook page or will get it to a responsible journalist. The government will take action if the media gets the story straight.”
Those interested in partnering with a believer in Nigeria can visit WarDeskNews.com and click on the Prayer News Network tab or email WarDeskNews@gmail.com. Online, organizers give instructions on how to get started.
“I believe prayer with a stranger is a revolutionary act,” Burton said. “It’s a way of encountering ‘the Other.’ There’s something special about praying with a total stranger.”
In June, STPC along with the International Committee on Nigeria (ICON) hosted several members of a Nigerian delegation in Washington, D.C., to give voice to Nigerian victims to describe the horrors they have suffered. Among them was Rebecca Sharibu, whose daughter, Leah, was taken captive in 2018 by the Islamic State West Africa Province, a Boko Haram splinter group, and held as a “slave for life” for refusing to renounce Christianity.
Joining Sharibu last month was her translator, Dr. Gloria Puldu, president of the Leah Foundation, along with Alheri Bawa MagajiandMercy Maisamari, daughters of the Adara Chiefdom of Kaduna State, who experienced weeks of Fulani militia violence earlier this year and whose leaders were falsely arrested and held without charge. Napoleon Adamu, victim of Fulani militia violence from Benue State, and Professor Dr. Richard Ikiebe, a senior fellow at the Center for Excellence in Journalism at the Pan-Atlantic University of Lagos, also visited the U.S. as part of the delegation. Krimi also spoke at the townhall meeting in Dallas where all four women within the delegation spoke. It was tagged “One Night for Leah.” (Read more about the delegation’s visit here in CBN.)
Lisa Ritchie, another STPC advisory member, was the first to connect with a Nigerian believer through the Prayer News Network. After the Nigerian delegation’s visit to the U.S., Ritchie spoke with Alheri Bawa Magaji several times and prayed with her.
“It was surreal actually speaking to someone whose father was kidnapped and held in prison for many, many days for just being a Christian,” Ritchie. “We don’t have a clue here in America what real persecution is—when your life is in danger for standing firm for Jesus. I will continue prayers for Alheri and her family and her country.”
Burton described the scourge of religious persecution worldwide as a “crisis.”
“It’s a crisis of minorities being abandoned and ignored,” he said. “It’s not only Christians being persecuted. It’s a holocaust any way you look at it. We can head it off if we are willing to get involved. Knowing what I know, I cannot avoid getting involved. Digital media is our friend. Prayer moves mountains; publicity saves lives.”
The mission of Save the Persecuted Christians is to save lives and save souls by disseminating actionable information about the magnitude of the persecution taking place globally and by mobilizing concerned Americans for the purpose of disincentivizing further attacks on those who follow Jesus.
According to Aid to the Church in Need, which released its biannual report on Religious Freedom in the World in November, over 300 million Christians experience persecution. According to Open Doors USA World Watch List, 245 million Christians are victims of high to extreme levels of persecution (i.e., torture, rape, sex-slavery, expulsion, murder and genocide), an increase of 14 percent over 2018. Open Doors also estimates 1 in 9 of the world’s Christians experience persecution and that every month: 345 Christians are killed, often in public and without regard to gender or age; 219 Christians are abducted and imprisoned indefinitely without trial; and 106 churches are demolished.
Because most of these crimes are not covered in the media, Save the Persecuted Christians has developed a dedicated news aggregator—www.ChristianPersecutionNews.com—to capture current instances of persecution and to provide readers with an easy way to share these heartbreaking stories with others.
With so much of the world’s Christian population being attacked, imprisoned and/or exiled for their beliefs, such as Christians in Nigeria, the need has never been greater for the sort of grassroots campaign STPC’s SaveUs Movement is working to foster. Its efforts are modeled after a miraculously successful one that helped free another population suffering from heavy persecution—Soviet Jews—by penalizing those in the Kremlin responsible for such repression. Through this movement, Save the Persecuted Christians endeavors to provide American policymakers with the popular support they need to effect real change worldwide and alleviate systemically the suffering being experienced by so many of those following Christ.
To interview a Save the Persecuted Christians representative, contact Media@HamiltonStrategies.com