Violence against Christians Persists in Nigeria

Children, elderly among those killed in Bauchi state.


Widows and coffins of their husbands slain by suspected Islamic extremists Sept. 16, 2012, in Bauchi, Nigeria.

Widows and coffins of their husbands slain Sept. 16, 2012, Bauchi, Nigeria.

BAUCHI, Nigeria (Morning Star News) – September proved a bloody month in Nigeria as Christians continued to come under attack from Islamic extremists.  

A suicide bomber believed to belong to the Islamic extremist Boko Haram sect on Sept. 23 detonated explosives in a car he was driving in the parking lot of St. John’s Catholic Cathedral in Bauchi, killing at least four Christians and injuring at least 46 others.

The attack was the second on the Christian community of Bauchi in two weeks, with nine Christians killed by unidentified gunmen in the Bauchi suburb of Zango on Sept. 16.

When a suicide bomber targeted the church, he was prevented and instead he detonated his explosives in the parking lot, killing one person, and among the injured victims taken to the hospital, a boy between the age of 6 and 8 died while receiving treatment,” police spokesman Hassan Mohammed Auyo told Morning Star News.

Auyo said the bomber was driving Opel Vectra car. Among the injured were two policemen deployed to protect the church.

Kyeme Nzarmo, a Christian student in the Science Laboratory Department of the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University (ATBU) in Bauchi, said the bomber detonated his explosives in the parking lot after failing to gain entrance to the church building. Nzarmo said a woman and a boy of 6 were killed.

Security agents have cordoned off the area as the victims were being evacuated to the ATBU Teaching Hospital.

No group has taken responsibility for the attack, though Bauchi has been frequently targeted by Boko Haram, whose name means “Western education is a sin.” Boko Haram has been blamed for the deaths of 1,400 people since 2010, according to the BBC. The Islamist sect has targeted churches, state offices, law enforcement sites and some moderate mosques in its effort to destabilize the government and impose a strict version of sharia (Islamic law) on all of Nigeria.

Christians make up 51.3 percent of Nigeria’s population of 158.2 million and live mainly in the south, while Muslims account for 45 percent and live mainly in the north. But those practicing indigenous religions may be as high as 10 percent of the total population, according to Operation World, so the percentages of Christians and Muslims may be less.

Nine Killed in Zango

In the Sept. 16 slaughter that drew little international attention, gunmen shot nine Christians to death, reportedly retirees and community leaders in their 60s who were playing cards under a tree in Zango village.

The three gunmen were said to have arrived on a motorcycle and a three-wheeled vehicle.

At a funeral service on Sept. 18 at the Church of Christ in Nigeria (COCIN) in Bauchi, the Rev. Lawi Pokti urged Christians to refrain from avenging the deaths of those killed by Islamic extremists.

For more than half a century, Fulani herdsmen who are primarily Muslim and farmers who are primarily Christian have engaged in tit-for-tat violence over property disputes, and in recent years Islamists have exploited the conflict to dramatically increase the Fulani attacks on Christians.

Six of those killed in the Sept. 16 attack were buried at the Christian cemetery in Bauchi, while three others were buried in Bogoro Local Government Area of the state.

Iliya Ayuba, a relative of one of the murdered Christians, told those attending the funeral that family members were shocked as the attack took place for no apparent reason.

Christian leaders in Bauchi state told Morning Star News that the incident is the latest in 21 years of attacks in which Muslims have killed 55,000 Christians.

A total of not less than 55,000 Christians have been killed by Muslim Fulani herdsmen who have been invading our villages in these two local government areas for unprovoked reasons,” said the Rev. Daniel Shermi, chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in Tafawa Balewa Local Government Area.

He expressed concern the Nigerian government is doing little to curtail attempts to eliminate Christian communities in the state.

This killing began in April 1991 and has continued unchecked,” Shermi said. “The reason for these attacks on us is that we Christians have refused to be converted into Islam. So, this is our crime. But I want to assure you that we shall never give up our Christian faith.”

Shermi said Christian communities had been attacked sporadically starting 1948, with the violence having become common since 1991.

The recurring attacks on Christians here date back to 1948 during the colonial era,” he said. “It has become a recurring problem for us since 1991, resulting in the loss of several innocent lives and properties worth hundreds of millions of naira and the displacement of many Christian families.”

Abdu Aliyu Ilella, secretary to the Bauchi state government, told Morning Star News that officials were working hard to contain attacks on Christian communities.

Our administration is desirous of providing permanent peace in the two local government areas and has resolved to curb the recurrent problems that have bedeviled the areas,” he said. “The violence which for long has resulted in the great loss of innocent lives and wanton destruction of properties is not in the best interest of anybody, and it retards progress.”

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