“The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever”–Isaiah 40:8
A Bible miraculously survived a fire set to a Christian family’s home by a Muslim mob in the West African nation of Niger, motivating the believers to exhibit Christ-like forgiveness to their persecutors.
Todd Starnes of Fox News reports that in early January, Muslim mobs set fire to at least 45 churches and looted the homes of a number of Christian ministers. Ten people were killed, and dozens of believers were forced to flee for their lives.
The home of Neal Daniels, a prominent leader of a Christian ministry in the majority Muslim area, and his wife, Danette, was among few that remained unscathed.
“We immediately started packing a trunk, putting in our valuables, our documents, and we loaded up the car,” Neal said, explaining that his family was prepared for the violence. “There were concerns our family would be targeted.”
According to the AP, the protests were over the cartoons poking fun at Islam’s Prophet Muhammad that were published by the French magazine Charlie Hebdo.
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“They offended our prophet Muhammad. That’s what we didn’t like,” Amadou Abdoul Ouahab, a demonstrator, told Reuters at the time. “This is the reason why we have asked Muslims to come, so that we can explain this to them, but the state refused. That’s why we’re angry today.”
One of the parsonages destroyed by the mob belonged to a local pastor, his pregnant wife and his three children, forcing them to move in with the Daniels.
“Both of their houses were burned and completely looted,” Neal said. “One of our pastors lost everything.”
However, the pastor’s Muslim neighbors worked tirelessly to help the family save their belongings before the fire demolished the house.
“While the mob was burning the front of the house, his neighbors came in through the back and they hauled out clothes and everything they could get through the back window,” explained Neal. “They helped to save the pastor’s property while the crazy mob was burning everything.”
The next day, while looking through the blackened remains of the church, Neal and his wife were shocked to come across a Bible, still smoking and warm with ashes.
“It was an emotional moment as you see your church in ashes,” Neal said, adding that it caused a stirring in his heart.
Then, instead of responding with anger, the Daniels, and other Christian leaders in Niger, held a press conference and announced they forgave those who burned the houses of worship.
“That’s because we are people of mercy and grace and faith,” Neal said. “We don’t react in the flesh and we don’t react out of anger.”
“The church is recognizing this is something to be joyful over-the church and their faith have been proven,” Neal said. “Jesus said rejoice and be exceedingly glad when men persecute you, for great is your reward in heaven.”
Although the Muslim mobs may return, Neal said he and his Christian brothers and sisters will continue to forgive them and exhibit Christ-like behavior.
“We are preaching the Gospel and living as an example before the people,” he said. “It was demonstrated in our response. It is not our nature to be aggressive or violent. We forgive those that attack.”