ABOUT TEN Christians are reported to have been killed, and at least 12 churches to have been burned down, during a bloody campaign of violence in northern Nigeria by an Islamic extremist group, Boko Haram, which caused the deaths of about 800 people.
The group, the country’s self-styled “Taliban”, seeks to impose sharia law throughout Nigeria. It has attacked government buildings, police stations, and schools, as well as churches, in the northern states of Bauchi, Borno, Kano, and Yobe.
Much of the violence centred on the city of Maiduguri, in Borno. Barnabas Fund, a campaign group, said two pastors had been killed, and two others were missing. One of the dead, Yakubu Soko, pastor of a Maiduguri congregation, had been hacked to death with a machete.
Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), another campaign group for persecuted Christians, reported that five churches had been destroyed in the Wulari suburb of Maiduguri, and that Christians were sheltering in the military barracks there.
Mervyn Thomas, chief executive of CSW, said it was not the first time Christians had been targeted by Islamic extremists in Nigeria. “We’ve been calling for justice for Christians in these areas where there is sharia law, but so often the Government turns a blind eye.” In Maiduguri last year, he said, he had spoken to a number of pastors whose churches had been destroyed, and heard “how Christians had been killed in their homes. The anti-Christian violence has been rumbling for a long while.”
The Archbishop of Canterbury has written to the Primate of Nigeria offering his prayers for the country.
He said: "I am writing to let you know how deeply your Christian brothers and sisters here in the UK feel for you all in the midst of the violence and uncertainty that has overtaken you in Nigeria and especially in Abuja in recent weeks.
"In the face of mindless and brutal aggression, you have been asked to witness to the essential Christian truths, and we honour your courage and faithfulness. 'You have kept my word and have not denied my name' (Rev.3.8)."
The Revd Dr Samuel Kobia, general secretary of the World Council of Churches, urged the Nigerian government to “ensure the safety of all citizens”, and condemned the “wanton acts of violence”.
Last Saturday, however, Nigerian security forces declared they had defeated Boko Haram, and had killed its leader, Mohammed Yusuf.