When Hate Crosses the Border

Dec 23, 2022 | Uncategorized

When Abdou and his wife, Halima, heard that Islamic extremists had crossed from Mali into Niger and killed numerous Christians, some of whom were wearing cross necklaces, Abdou decided to prepare for a possible attack on their village

First, he fastened his own cross necklace around his neck to show his devotion to Jesus Christ, but when one of his seven daughters noticed Abdou’s bold display of the cross, she grew concerned.

“Why are you continuing to wear this cross?” 13-year-old Salome asked him.“If I have to die,” he replied, “I want to die with a cross hanging from my neck.” Three days later, on the final day of Ramadan in 2021, the extremists entered their village.


On the morning of 12 May, just after Abdou and Halima had finished praying and were getting ready for the day, 18 men on motorbikes rode into their quiet village and surrounded the church next to their home.

Halima ran outside just in time to see armed men entering the church building. The extremists threw all the Bibles, hymnals and crosses in a pile outside the church and set them on fire, before leaving to hunt down local Christians. About 40 Christian families and 140 Muslim families from the Songhai people group lived in the village.

The attack on Abdou and Halima’s village is part of a growing trend. Although Niger’s small Christian population enjoys the freedom to follow Christ in their predominantly Islamic nation, Muslim extremists from Mali, Burkina Faso and Nigeria are crossing into Niger and other neighbouring countries to attack Christians.

The extremist groups, often linked to the self-proclaimed Islamic State (ISIS) and al-Qaida, have also killed or kidnapped hundreds of community leaders, regardless of religion. Their goal is to establish Islamist control amid the disorder they’ve created.

After the attack began on Abdou’s village, he looked out the window and saw the extremists approaching his neighbour’s house. Wearing his cross necklace and a traditional African garment with his church’s logo on the front and a large cross on the back, Abdou left his home to help his Christian friend. His progress was slowed, however, by the crutches he used for his walking impairment.

As Halima started to run towards her husband to help him, an extremist approached Abdou. The man kicked Abdou’s crutches, knocking him to the ground, and then shot him in the head.

“I ran toward my husband,” Halima recalled, “and they continued shooting him, about eight times.”