ABOUT 40 people have been killed in a wave of bombings that targeted churches in northern and central Nigeria on Christmas Day.
The attacks were carried out by the extremist Islamist Boko Haram sect, which has claimed responsibility for them. They have been condemned by the American and British governments and the Pope.
Most of the deaths occurred at St Theresa’s Roman Catholic Church in Madalla, near Abuja, which was packed with worshippers for Christmas Day mass. At least 35 people are estimated to have been killed there, after bombers hurled explosives at worshippers who were leaving the service. Christian Solidarity Worldwide reports that “scores more” are suffering from various injuries.
The Mountain of Fire Ministries church in Jos, Plateau State, was also attacked by bombers, who destroyed a wall outside the building. One policeman is reported to have been killed in a gun battle after the attack.
Multiple explosions took place in Damaturu, Yobe State, while a church in Gadaka, west of Damaturu, was also targeted, but no lives were lost.
The Foreign Secretary, William Hague, condemned the attacks as “cowardly”, and said that they were aimed at “families gathered in peace and prayer to celebrate a day which symbolises harmony and goodwill towards others”.
Speaking during his post-Christmas blessing in St Peter’s Square in Rome, the Pope expressed his “sincere and affectionate closeness to the Christian community and to all those who have been affected by this senseless act”.
Release International, which campaigns for persecuted Christians around the world, said that its partners in Nigeria believe that the Islamists’ aim might be to tear the country in two, in order to create a separate north ruled by sharia. Its CEO, Andy Dipper, called for prayer for those who had lost family members, and for Christians not to be provoked into retaliation.