Date: June 10, 2020
Nigeria (MNN) — A Nigerian pastor and his pregnant wife were laid to rest on Friday, leaving behind eight children between the ages of one and 19 years old. It’s the latest in a barrage of ethnic and religious violence overwhelming Nigeria. More Nigeria headlines here.
“It’s frustrating,” Todd Nettleton with Voice of the Martyrs USA says.
“The government of Nigeria seems to lack either the will or the ability to get control of these kinds of attacks and put a stop to them.”
Bloodshed is increasingly common these days in Nigeria. Hostility between the country’s Christian and Muslim populations has effectively split the country in two. Earlier this year, the number of internally displaced people in Nigeria surpassed two million.
“Yet again, we see Christians being targeted,” Nettleton says. “Nigeria has been on a sort of nationwide lockdown because of the coronavirus, but it has not slowed the wave of attacks.”
Nigerian Christians killed while farming
As described here on Pastor Emmanuel Saba Bileya’s LinkedIn profile, the Nigerian church leader furthered his theological education at Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan. “It gave me an environment that was peaceful and with good resources so I could concentrate on my studies,” Pastor Bileya commented in this 2015 article.
In a recent letter to his Nigerian cohorts, Calvin Theological Seminary President Jul Medenblik wrote of his interactions with Bileya:
I remember our interactions as ones that always exuded his appreciation, joy and faithfulness. As you may know from a Banner (church magazine of the CRCNA) article, he was so appreciative of his time at Calvin Seminary that he took upon himself the task of cleaning windows as a tangible expression of his appreciation. As a result, I will never walk by any of these windows again without remembering Pastor Emmanuel and Juliana and their children.
Windows help us see and provide a way for sight and vision beyond the walls of a building. Pastor Emmanuel helped us see beyond the walls of Calvin Seminary to see and hear of his ministry in Nigeria. Even as he and his church and family faced significant challenges, he always expressed deep confidence in being called by God to live fully before His face and be an instrument of reconciliation.
After graduating in 2014, Pastor Bileya returned home to train pastors and church leaders. He later began distance learning at the Institute for Worship Studies or IWS. On a memorial page, the IWS community remembers Bileya’s servant leadership:
Rev. Bileya was an ordained pastor in the Christian Reformed Church of Nigeria. Born on Christmas Day of 1968, his family gave him the name Emmanuel, “God with us.” For all in the IWS community who were blessed to meet Emmanuel, share a class with him, or enjoy a meal alongside him, it can truthfully be said that “God with us” was an apt name for him. Emmanuel’s humility and gentleness, his kindness and compassion, and his love for God’s Word and God’s people spoke to all of the voluminous love of God in His Son, Jesus Christ.
Love for the Lord and his community put Bileya and his wife in harm’s way last week.
Tribal conflict has ravaged Pastor Bileya’s village and the wider community for several weeks. Most people fled for safety, but Bileya stayed behind, “praying and hoping for God’s restoration of peace and protection of the town and church.” As described on the memorial page, Pastor Bileya and his wife sent their eight children to a safe haven mere days before the couple was attacked.
On Monday, June 1, “This pastor and his wife were in their field, working on their crops, [when] they were attacked and both of them were killed,” Nettleton says. “She was pregnant at the time, so their unborn child was also killed in this attack.”
How to help
Reach out to IWS on Facebook to learn how you can help Pastor Bileya’s children. Most importantly, pray. Use this Prayercast video and the prompts listed alongside this article. “Every time a pastor is killed, it [places] a little more weight on the rest of the pastors,” Nettleton says.
“Pray for Christian leaders in Nigeria to have the courage and the strength to continue on.”
Header image depicts Emmanuel Saba Bileya and his wife, Juliana. Photo courtesy of IWS.