Last year, 121 students were kidnapped from a Christian school in Nigeria. In good news, all but one have been released. However, the rising number of kidnappings from schools mean many parents have stopped sending their children to school. It reflects the worsening persecution facing Christians in Nigeria, which has risen two places to number seven on the latest World Watch List.
The kidnap of students from schools in Nigeria has become so common that parents have stopped sending their children there
In good news from Nigeria, all but one of the 121 students kidnapped from a Christian school last summer have been released. The students were taken by armed bandits from Bethel Baptist School in Kaduna State on 5 July. They have since been released in batches, with the latest coming at the turn of the year.
“The number of the released students includes one student, who was freed on 28 December 2021 and another one who was freed on 1 January,” reports John Hayeb, Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN). “With the release of these two students, a total of 120 students have regained their freedom… only one student is still with the bandits.”
The Nigeria Baptist Convention (NBC) has admitted to paying ransoms to secure the release of the students.
“Initially we didn’t want to spend money, we didn’t believe in spending any money, that was how we began,” shares Israel Akanji, president of NBC. “I even said this openly that we will not spend money, but I am also saying it openly now that we have had to spend money, we were forced to spend money.”
He continues, “When our children spent one month and did not come and these bandits were telling us that they will start killing our children one by one, then we had to weigh between our money being in our pockets and our children dying or our children been released to us and we losing our money.”
Armed bandits are targeting civilians in Nigeria with increasing impunity. Christians are amongst those affected, even if faith tends not to be the motivator behind the bandits’ activities. That said, most bandits come from Muslim backgrounds and there are links between them and militant groups such as Boko Haram. Consequently, kidnapped Christians are vulnerable to harsher treatment.
It’s reached the point where parents have opted against sending their children to school, because schools are a soft target for the bandits. The risk of kidnap – and the financial and emotional cost it would bring – is too great. This has led to the closing of several boarding schools across states in north-west and north-central Nigeria.
The bandits’ activities extend to terrorising entire villages and communities, and in some cases they demand ‘taxes’ to ‘protect’ people against further attacks.
The recently launched World Watch List revealed that more Christians are killed for their faith in Nigeria than anywhere else the world combined. The country – which rose two places to number seven on the list – would be number one if the list was based purely on violence. The targeted violence largely comes from Fulani militants, Boko Haram and ISWAP (Islamic State in West African Province), with the latter two groups having links to so-called Islamic State.
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