Nigeria: Suleja Bombings Set Churches On Edge
“Two bomb attacks within a space of 24 hours have changed the perception of the people. We have decided to improve security around our churches to guarantee the safety of our congregation.”
By Michael Oche
07/17/2011 Nigeria (All Africa.com)-Few days ago, a bomb went off at a church in Suleja, a border town of the Federal Capital, Abuja. The next day, it was the turn of another church MICHAEL OCHE reports that people in the area no longer sleep with their two eyes closed.
It all started last Sunday when a bomb blast at a church in Suleja, a satellite town on the outskirts of the Federal Capital Territory(FCT), Abuja, killed three people and wounded seven. Since then, life has not been the same for the residents.
Barely 24 hours after the attack, another blast occurred in another church in Madalla community, near Suleja. Though no death was recorded but scores of peoples were injured.
Presently, police and other security has been beefed up around church premises with more security men deployed to the areas.
“Two bomb attacks within a space of 24 hours have changed the perception of the people. We have decided to improve security around our churches to guarantee the safety of our congregation,” a pastor told LEADERSHIP SUNDAY.
Some churches have gone one notch higher by discouraging members from coming to church with their hand bags. Such is the level of apprehension and security consciousness that has engulfed the once peaceful town of Suleja, and possibly some other towns in the FCT.
A similar but less dramatic incident played out at St Peter and Paul Catholic Church, Nyanya just before the Suleja bombs – two Sundays ago.
A photographer who had come to cover a child dedication had it hot in his pew as the next man hotly pushed him out of his seat, together with his work bag. Even the intervention of the church warden did not allay the man’s fears. It was only after some parishioners had identified the young man that he was allowed to return to his seat. That was after half an hour of remonstration! All this went on while the priest was delivering the homily. Such is the bomb fear.
Presently, residents no longer sleep with their two eyes shut. And Christians are wary of what seems a deliberate attack on worship houses.
Suleja was the target of a deadly bomb attack at its electoral office on the eve of April parliamentary election.
Speaking to leadership Sunday, a resident, Samuel Nnamdi, said: “It’s pathetic to witness the spate of bombings in Nigeria; however, we look at it, it has religious and political undertones. I dare say that in our about 51 years of existence as a republic, we have never had a taste of nationhood. Nigeria is a country that’s too divided along various lines: religious, tribal, etc.
“We must renounce religious fanaticism, play down the significance of religion in our existence as a nation, embrace patriotism and set goals for our nationhood. I am afraid; going the way of Sudan is never the solution to our problem, there is a good number of Christians in the north, and Muslims in the south.”
“As you can see, the town is unsafe, and it is just appropriate for any church leader to be reasonable and safe,” a pastor who declined to give his name for fear of attack told leadership Sunday. “We took the decision to hold a one-and-a-half-hour service earlier than our usual time so that our people can return home in time because of the threat.”
Church leaders said that church attendance had drastically gone down in the last one week.
Ayo Mathew, a member of All Christain Fellowship, said he wondered how the terrorist Islamic sect could continue to carry out deadly attacks on churches in spite of the presence of security agencies. He said Christian leaders believed that the sect had infiltrated the country’s security forces.
He said, “The way and manner this is happening shows that some of our intelligence and security operatives had either been compromised, or their rank and file had already infiltrated by members of this Islamic sect,” he said.
He lamented that the violence unleashed by the Boko Haram had gone unchecked for too long, saying “they have burned churches and forced many Christians to run away from their homes.”
He warned that the violence by Muslim militants could divide the country along religious lines. Peter Okoduwa, a pastor in one of the Pentecostal churches, concurred.
He said that the Islamic sect had infiltrated the ranks of security agencies and warned that if the government did not take decisive actions, the country’s Christian/Muslim divide would deepen.
Another member of Living Faith Church, Michael Onyebuchi said the government needed to step up its crackdown on the sect.
“This Boko Haram has to be frontally dealt with before their activities plunge the entire nation into a very serious crisis. The federal government should deal with the issue tactfully before the sect sets the entire nation ablaze. Those behind the crisis should be fished out and dealt with and there should be no sympathy for them,” he said
Rev. Ladi Thompson, coordinator of the Macedonian Initiative, a ministry to Christians facing persecution, recently said that Boko Haram had plans to attack more churches in the months ahead, and added that unless the government took immediate steps to strengthen security, the sect would have its way.
Church leaders said they were aware that the Islamic sect could be an offshoot of Al Qaeda and urged Nigerian security agencies to rise to the challenge
One church leader who did not want his name mentioned (probably for security reasons), said: “Wicked men forget that there is a living being greater than them, and even millions of worlds like this Earth in which we live in, wicked men do not know they are being watched by God.