They Cry in Silence Nov/Dec 2012
Violent attacks on Nigerian Christians continue to increase at an alarming rate, and they seem to be the work of the notorious, radical Islamist group Boko Haram, which has vowed to rid Nigeria of Christianity.
Members of the Deeper Life Church in central Kogi State were gunned down in August after a Bible study. The attackers blocked all exits, then fired Kalashnikov rifles into the church, killing 19 of the trapped Christians, including the pastor. When the killers fled, the wounded were taken to hospitals.
Although not immediately identified, the attackers are suspected to belong to the Boko Haram, a radical Muslim group that reportedly has killed more than 1,000 people since 2009. Its representatives have boasted about burning churches and carrying out suicide attacks on Christians that have resulted in many deaths.
In June leaders of Boko Haram (which means “Western education is sacrilege”) boasted, “Allah has given us victory in the attacks we launched against churches…which resulted in the deaths of many Christians and security personnel.”
The group has stated its goal in no uncertain terms: “The Nigerian state and Christians are our enemies and we will be launching attacks on the Nigerian state and its security apparatus as well as churches until we achieve our goal of establishing an Islamic state in place of the secular state.”
Boko Haram militants backed up their announcement with a series of attacks in the predominantly Christian area of Zaria, where they crashed a car into a barricade at an evangelical church, setting off explosives that killed at least 24 people and wounded 125. Later, they detonated explosives at a Catholic church. An eyewitness told Compass Direct News at least 10 bodies were removed from the cathedral. Many more were wounded, some critically.
Cause for alarm has accelerated because the August attack on the Deeper Life Church took place in Central Nigeria where the population is primarily Christian. Most previous attacks have been in the north, which is heavily Muslim. Christians fear Islamists intent on creating an Islamic Nigeria are spreading into other areas of the country, thus widening their campaign.
The attack on the Deeper Life Church came one day after the Boko Haram demanded Nigerian President Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan, 55, convert to Islam or resign. If he did not, he was told, the attacks would continue.
Jonathan Racho of International Christian Concern believes the terror will continue regardless of what the president does. Racho and others are calling on outside governments to apply international pressure to protect Nigerian citizens.
Unfortunately, such calls usually fall on deaf ears. In countries like Nigeria, where Christians and members of other faiths used to live side by side in relative peace, the climate is rapidly changing.
Several years ago a missionary in Jos, a city of about 900,000 people, asked for prayer after churches in the area were burned and many Christians killed:
Pray for wisdom and righteousness for all decision makers in this disconcerting situation; for just actions by the military to restore order; for peace in Jos [and in all of Nigeria] amidst a populace now beleaguered with repeated instances of violence; for the LORD’s protection of His people; for His empowerment of grace upon them to faithfully seek the purposes of His king-dom amidst evil forces.
His prayer request is more relevant today than ever.