In 1923 the first SIM missionaries came to Niger from Nigeria, and by the following year had opened the first SIM station in the city of Zinder. At first, the work in Niger was administered from Jos in northern Nigeria, but when the the Maradi station opened in 1940 it became the new central headquarters.
Within twenty years, work was ongoing within another eight areas in south-central Niger (Tsibiri, Soura, Maza Tsaye, Galmi and Dogondoutchi, Tahaoua, Guschémé and Aguie). The ministries ranged from a girls’ home and a boys’ home to a farm school and a leprosarium. There was also a push in to the far south east of the country, opening up stations in Goure, Mainé-Soroa and Diffa in the 1960s.
The work of SIM in Niger was begun amongst the Hausa speaking people, but since independence from France in 1960 ministries have started with the Tamajaq, Kanouri/Manga, Toubou, Songhaï, Zarma and Gourmantché peoples.
In the 1970s, SIM Francophone became its own administrative area and brought together the work in Niger, Burkina Faso and Benin. The administrative center of the three countries was in Niamey, the Nigerien capital, but Maradi remained the headquarters for the work of SIM within the country. In 1974 the Bible school at Fada moved to Niamey to become the École Biblique de Niamey, which served all three Francophone countries.
The Church in Niger
The church that grew out of SIM’s ministries in Niger was the Eglise Evangélique de la République du Niger (EERN) and it became independent of SIM in 1960, receiving official government recognition in 1961. Today, it has approximately 60 churches. It runs Bible schools at Aguié and Danja, and branch Bible schools at Maza Tsaye and Gueschémé, and also a primary school at Tsibiri and a bookshop in Maradi. It’s headquarters are in Maradi.
In 1989, there was a schism at the administrative level in the EERN, causing SIM to break off formal relationships with the church at the national level. As a result of the split, two other national church bodies were born; the Union des Eglises Evangéliques et Protestantes du Niger (UEEPN) and the Eglise Evangélique Salama du Niger (EESN or Salama). These new churches were formed in 1990 and received official government recognition in 1991. The both have their headquarters in Niamey. The Eglise Evangélique Internationale (EEI) started as a prayer group for civil servants, but grew and was granted government recognition in 1991.
In 1998 an alliance between the Niger churches was formed and named AMEEN (Alliance des Missions et Eglises Evangéliques du Niger). This is an alliance between 16 different churches and missions in Niger. The major objectives of the alliance are to: allow all the different evangelical organisations to meet together from time to time to strategise and share visions; give the government a channel through which it can contact the vast majority of Protestant organisations; provide a channel for outside organisations to contact the churches and missions in Niger; encourage open discussion between churches and mission to avoid conflict and competition; and encourage different organisations to work together to reach the land of Niger with the Gospel.
Adapted from ‘Camels, Culture and Customs of Niger: A Niger Orientation/Resource Handbook’, updated October 2011.