CHRISTIANS in northern Nigeria are reported to have fled the region after attacks by the Taliban-inspired group Boko Haram. The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has said that it will hold an emergency meeting to respond to the violence.
Boko Haram said that it carried out attacks in Yobe and Borno states at the weekend, which targeted locations that included police stations and churches. Nigerian authorities put the death toll at about 53 people; the Civil Rights Congress put the figure at 152, news agencies have reported.
The president of CAN, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, said that the organisation is “calling on the federal government to demonstrate the political will to deal decisively with the increasing wave of terrorism.”
He told the Nigerian Tribune newspaper that CAN would not wait until all its members in the north were killed before confronting the threat. He said that in the New Jerusalem area of Damaturu, the capital of Yobe, six churches were torched by suspected Boko Haram members, in a bombing that also affected a police station.
Boko Haram is loosely modelled on the Taliban and is mostly active in the impoverished northern states of Yobe, Kano, Bauchi, and Borno. The group’s Arabic name, “Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal-Jihad”, translates as “People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad”, but it is usually called Boko Haram in the Hausa language, which translates as “Western education is forbidden/ sinful”.
The president of Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian, has asked Christians to pray for peace. He told pilgrims en route to Israel on Monday: “Your prayers can transform the attitudes of those who do not believe in the progress and peace of our country, so pray that God will touch them so they can change for the better; this should be your preoccupation in the Holy Land.”
The United States embassy in Nigeria has issued a warning that Boko Haram is planning attacks on hotels in the capital, Abuja.