Christians Slain in Central Nigeria, Animists Attack in South

Church building burned during night vigil, injuring members.

Ogun state, Nigeria. (Uwe Deering, Creative Commons)

Ogun state, Nigeria. (Uwe Deering, Creative Commons)

ABUJA, Nigeria (Morning Star News) – Fulani herdsmen on Thursday (Sept. 1) killed six Christians in central Nigeria, and the next day animists attacked a night prayer service in the country’s southwest, area residents and officials said.

The herdsmen attacked the predominantly Christian village of Umella, in Benue state’s Guma County, at about 3 p.m. and killed six Christians, area resident Nenge Matthew said.

Mike Ubah, chairman of Guma Local Government Council, confirmed that six Christians were killed in the attack.

“Some of the victims were shot, while others were attacked with machetes,” Ubah said in a text message to Morning Star News.

Paul Hemba, an adviser to the governor of Benue state on security matters, corroborated the information.

“Six of the villagers were killed, and two were injured by the Fulani bandits during the attack on Umella village,” Hemba said in a text message to Morning Star News.

Matthew identified five of the Christians killed as Aginde Ibember; Orfega Ibember; Alex Msuega; Tsula Iortyer; and Verlumun Ortese.

“A sixth Christian was killed, and two other Christians were injured and are currently receiving treatment at a hospital here in Benue state,” Matthew said.

Attack in Southwest Nigeria

In southwest Nigeria’s Ogun state, animists who practice tribal religion on Friday (Sept. 2) burned down a church building where Christians were worshipping and holding a prayer vigil, area residents said.

The attack on Cherubim and Seraphim Church in the Agbado area left many Christians injured, said area resident Theresa Adenugba.

“The incident led to the destruction of the church building, which was burned down by the idol worshippers,” Adenugba told Morning Star News in a text message. “Many Christians were injured, including a woman who is currently at an Intensive Care Unit of a hospital here in Agbado, and Abisoye Oyinkansola Adekoya, 15, an orphaned girl, who was living in the church before the attack.”

Another area resident said the Christians were holding a night vigil prayer service when the adherents of traditional religion attacked.

“The traditional religion worshippers said Christians were not allowed to hold worship services in their churches any time that they, the traditional idol worshippers, were holding fetish initiation rites,” Mojisola Olatunde told Morning Star News in a text message.

Also in the southwest, in the Oko Oba area of Lagos state, animists on Aug. 23 attacked the Truth and Spirit Prophetic Church during a night worship service. Area residents said the adherents of traditional tribal religion forbid Christians from worshipping or even going outside their homes on days when the animists are observing fetish religious rites.

“Christians were holding a night vigil service at the Truth and Spirit Prophetic Church, Oko Oba area of Lagos state, when Oro traditional religion worshippers attacked the church,” said area resident Lanre Adebayo, in a text message to Morning Star News. “In the stampede that occurred during the attack, as members of the church tried to escape, one of the idol worshippers died when he was trampled upon.”

As a result, police arrested the pastor, Mercy Okocha, and nine of other members of her church, Adebayo said.

Benjamin Hundeyin of the Lagos State Police Command said in a press statement that police in Oko Oba received a call that Truth and Spirit Prophetic Church was about to be set ablaze by irate youths.

“When our personnel got to the church premises, they found that a group of traditionalists were performing their Oro sacrament in the area, while the church members were having a vigil,” Hundeyin said. “The Oro worshipers instructed the church members to stop their service, and pandemonium ensured, resulting in the death of a member of the Oro worshippers.”

He confirmed that Pastor Okocha and nine other church members were arrested while investigations continued.

Nigeria led the world in Christians killed for their faith last year (Oct. 1, 2020 to Sept. 30, 2021) at 4,650, up from 3,530 the previous year, according to Open Doors’ 2022 World Watch List report. The number of kidnapped Christians was also highest in Nigeria, at more than 2,500, up from 990 the previous year, according to the WWL report.

Nigeria trailed only China in the number of churches attacked, with 470 cases, according to the report.

In the 2022 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian, Nigeria jumped to seventh place, its highest ranking ever, from No. 9 the previous year.

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