06/20/2022 (International Christian Concern) Nigeria- On Sunday, June 19, gunmen attacked two churches, Maranatha Baptist Church and St. Moses Catholic Church, in Nigeria’s northwest state of Kaduna. The gunmen reportedly killed three people and kidnapped more than 30 people. The attack reportedly targeted four villages in the area as well, destroying the homes of villagers in addition to the kidnappings. The gunmen were confirmed to be radicalized Fulani Islamic extremists.
The churches were holding services when the attacks began. The three villagers killed were members of the Catholic parish, while most of the kidnappings took place at the Baptist church. The three deaths were confirmed by the Kaduna State government, which stated that the attackers “stormed the villages on motorcycles” and that investigations are currently underway with security patrols being conducted in the area.
An eyewitness to the attack at St. Moses Catholic Church shared with an ICC representative that there were many gunmen who came to the church but could not remember the exact amount. “I was running to escape,” he said. “They all have guns,” he added. He also said the security came after the Fulani left and that those injured are receiving medical treatment in various hospitals within the state. The survivor said he escaped by a miracle.
Nuhu Bitrus, a Christian Right activist in Jos, Nigeria, told an ICC representative that “the killing in Nigeria by a group of Fulani Muslims is mainly to persecute Christians, but they are never prosecuted for the atrocities committed.” He believes that this is because Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari is a Fulani Muslim. Bitrus appealed to Christians around the world to come to the aid of Christians in Nigeria facing persecution by Islamic extremists. He said that Christian activists face threats because of what they believe and because they speak for vulnerable Christians.
Bitrus revealed to ICC that his village is currently facing threats from Fulani militants as villagers were displaced, his father, an ECWA pastor, was attacked by the militants, and Bitrus fled from the militants who are still looking for him.
The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) responded to the Sunday attacks in a statement made by Pastor Adebayo Oladeji to the Associated Press. “It is very unfortunate that when we are yet to come out of the mourning of those killed in Owo two Sundays ago, another one has happened in Kaduna,” he said. A funeral mass was held on Friday, June 17, to honor the victims of the St. Francis Catholic Church attack on June 6 in Nigeria’s southwest Ondo state.
Ondo state governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, spoke during the funeral, saying, “We have failed to defend these people – not because we are not trying but because the forces on the other side are evil and they have support.”
Last month, Archbishop Matthew Man-oso Ndagoso of Kaduna state described religious persecution in the north as “systemic.” He continued, “People are not pursued with a knife all the time, but there are unwritten laws that limit Christians’ freedom to practice our religion. You are not free to get land, pay for it, and build a church on it. Pastors are not free to preach the Gospel.”
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