By BosNewsLife Africa Service
ABUJA, NIGERIA (BosNewsLife)– Fighters of the Islamic militant Boko Haram group have murdered at least 10 Christians in Nigeria’s north-eastern city of Maiduguri in the past two months as part of efforts “to eliminate Christianity” in the area, rights activists said Wednesday, August 10.
U.S.-based International Christian Concern (ICC), which has close contacts with local Christians, told BosNewsLife that the attacks in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State, have been described as “the silent killing of Christians” as they so far remained unnoticed outside the region.
No names or more details were immediately released, apparently amid security concerns.
“Boko Haram is seeking to eliminate Christianity because they want Islamic (Sharia) law. They don’t want to see anything Christian in the northern states [of Nigeria]. That is why churches are being persecuted and Muslims who don’t follow the [hardline teachings of] Boko Haram are also persecuted,” ICC quoted an unidentified church leader as saying.
There was no known comment from Boko Haram regarding the latest allegations. But the group has made clear it seeks to establish a state with strict Islamic legislation.
ICC said that Boko Haram is close to achieving its goal of eliminating Christianity from Maiduguri, amid reports that most of the Christians have fled the city in fear of further attacks by the Islamists. “Of the churches that remain, some have felt compelled to suspend their services to protect their congregations,” ICC said in a statement.
Nigeria’s government, which has also been attacked by Boko Haram, reportedly deployed security forces to quell the violence, but came under sharp criticism from human rights groups for the perceived excessive use of force and the indiscriminate killing of civilians.
The government of Nigeria has established a committee to investigate the members of Boko Haram and look into the reasons for the violence.
ICC’s Regional Manager for Africa, Jonathan Racho, said his group welcomes the deployment of the Nigerian security forces to “protect innocent civilians from the attacks by Boko Haram” and efforts to investigate Boko Haram. “We call upon the [government] committee to look into the plight of the victims and ensure that the perpetrators of the violence are brought to justice.”
The few Christians remaining in the city are reportedly praying and fasting “for God’s intervention.”
In remarks distributed by ICC one church leader said the believers “pray for their fellow Christian brothers and sisters in Maiduguri. [We also] ask for assistance in the rebuilding of churches that have been burned down since 2006. The government has not compensated for the loss of Christians, but it has compensated for losses that Muslims suffered [at the hands of radical Islamists].”
Government officials did not immediately react, but have made clear they take the violence seriously and pledged to step up security.
Maiduguri was founded in 1907 as a military outpost by the British and has since grown rapidly with a population exceeding
1 million by 2007, according to estimates. Its residents are mostly Muslim, but there was also a considerable Christian
population before the outbreak of the latest violence.