Last Sunday, worshippers were gathered for a service in Nigeria when suspected Fulani militants attacked, killing one person and kidnapping a further 25. It’s the latest in a stream of attacks on Christians in Nigeria and reinforces the importance of this week’s Week of prayer for sub-Saharan Africa.
Attacks against Christians in Nigeria are concentrated in the Muslim-majority north, but it is spilling over into the south, which is mostly Christian
One person has been killed and a further 25 kidnapped in an attack by suspected Fulani militants on a church in Kaduna State, Nigeria, on Sunday (7 May).
The violent attack on Bege Baptist Church, in the village of Madala, happened as believers gathered for Sunday worship. “The Fulani militants came in their numbers and operated unhindered because they were wielding automatic weapons,” said one of the worshippers.
The militants kidnapped at least 40 people from the church; however, 15 of these managed to escape. “We thank God that, somehow, 15 of the kidnapped persons escaped,” said John Hayan, Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN). “However, 25 of the remaining worshippers are still in captivity without a word from their abductors.”
Attacks on Christians by Fulani militants are common in north west Nigeria, where Kaduna State is situated. Although both Christian and moderate Muslim communities are attacked, Christians are their preferred target. Kidnappings often lead to large ransom demands which can impoverish families and weaken Christian communities.
In this case, a ransom demand has yet to emerge. “We have not heard any contact for ransom or anything from them [gunmen] concerning the remaining people, and we pray that the abductors would be merciful to release the remaining 25 back to their families,” continues John.
The attack has been severely traumatising and debilitating to believers, and those who have been kidnapped are at acute risk of emotional, physical and sexual abuse.
According to local partners, this incident is the latest in a series of attacks by Fulani militants in southern Kaduna, which is mostly Christian. At least 50 believers have been killed in the last two months, whilst many houses and churches have been burnt.
“This latest attack on Christians in Nigeria underscores the crushing violence the church is up against,” says Jo Newhouse, Open Doors’ spokesperson for the work in sub-Saharan Africa. “We condemn this attack in the strongest terms possible and call on the Nigerian government to take a strong stance against all violence, bring perpetrators to book, and fulfil their obligation to protect all citizens.”
“We ask the wider body of Christ to join us in fervent and earnest prayer, especially as we are in the middle of a week of prayer for Africa and the situation the church in Nigeria and the wider Sahel is facing,” she adds.
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