By BosNewsLife Africa Service
ABUJA, NIGERIA (BosNewsLife)– Christians in Nigeria are mourning dozens of believers killed since Thursday, January 5, amid warnings from the head of Nigerian Christians that the violence is reminiscent of the outbreak of the 1960s civil war.
“We are reminded by the occurrences of these killings of the genesis of the civil war that took place here in Nigeria,” said Ayo Oritsejafor, head of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), in comments monitored by BosNewsLife Sunday, January 8. That conflict claimed more than a million lives in the late 1960s.
At least over 30 Christians have been shot dead in northeast Nigeria in recent days, many of them while praying in churches, after the expiration of an ultimatum from Islamic group Boko Haram for Christians to leave mainly Muslim northern Nigeria.
Most of the attacks targeted Christians in Mubi and Gombe, both towns in the north-east where a state of emergency was declared by President Goodluck Jonathan last week. Some 17 other deaths were reported in other regions. In one of the latest confirmed attacks, suspected Boko Haram fighters opened fire Friday, January 6, on a group of Christians gathered in Mubi to mourn the deaths of three people killed the previous night.
At least 18 people died in Friday’s attack, Red Cross officials said, bringing the death toll to 21 in Mubi alone. Earlier Gombe, on Thursday, January 5, at least 9 worshipers died when when gunfire sprayed the Deeper Life Church in Gombe, the capital of the African nation’s Gombe state, according to latest figures released by rights group International Christian Concern (ICC).
Pastor Johnson Jauro told reporters that his wife was among those killed and that at least 10 others were injured. Boko Haram, which means ‘Western education is a sign’, says the attacks are part of its campaign to establish a state based on Sharia, or Muslim, law.
CAN leader Oritsejafor warned Christians would “do whatever it takes” to defend themselves. Several church officials have urged believers not to engage in revenge attacks. “I ask Christians in Nigeria that we should exercise restraint and pray that the God of Elijah will surely fight for us. And Christians should show love for their neighbors because that is what Jesus Christ teaches, said Reverend James Wuye, a northern Nigerian church leader, in published comments.
Oritsejafor said however that at an emergency meeting, several church leaders concluded “that the pattern of these killings does suggest to us a systematic ethnic and religious cleansing.” Goodluck, a Christian, has come under domestic and international pressure to step up security around churches and improve the protection of Christians.
In remarks published Sunday, January 8, Dutch Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal said he was “shocked about the violence against Christians in Nigeria” and urged the president to take action against the violence. He said the Netherlands plans too send the Dutch ambassador for Human Rights to Nigeria to investigate the situation.
Among other attacks reported earlier was a massive Christmas Day bombing on the St. Theresa Church in the town of Madalla, near capital Abuja, which killed at least 35 people, while four others died in similar blasts.
The Mountain of Fire and Miracles Church volatile in the religiously mixed town of Jos, the capital of Nigeria’s central Plateau state, and another church in Gadaka town in the northern Yobe state, were among other targets of attacks on Christmas Day.
ICC Regional Manager for Africa, Jonathan Racho, said his group has urged the international community to take faster action to halt the violence. “The world is doing nothing as religious cleansing unfolds right before our eyes. It’s high time to end these senseless killings and bring the perpetrators to justice,” he added in a statement to BosNewsLife.
“We are extremely saddened by the continuous killing of Christians in northern Nigeria. The Islamists are engaged in Jihad war in order to eradicate Christianity from northern Nigeria.” Nigeria’s close to 160 million people are divided between the mainly Muslim north and predominately Christian south and church leaders have expressed concerns that Boko Haram wants to trigger reprisal attack to spark an all-out civil war.