JOS, Nigeria (Morning Star News) – Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan defended his administration’s efforts to protect churches as he visited a worship service in Abuja last Sunday (Dec. 30), amid disputed reports of massacred Christians in Borno state.
While the administration says it found press reports of a massacre of 15 Christians in Chibok, Borno state on Sunday (Dec. 30) to be false, a pastor who visited the site of a Dec. 21 slaughter of 15 Christians in Musari village confirmed the killings with survivors and other area residents.
The pastor, who serves a congregation in the state capital of Maiduguri and whose name is withheld for security reasons, told Morning Star News that he visited the site about three kilometers (almost two miles) from his church the day after the attack. The military had removed the bodies, evacuated the injured to a hospital and claimed only five people were killed by Islamic extremist group Boko Haram, but area survivors told the pastor the Islamic militants slit the throats of 15 Christians.
The Boko Haram militants took only Christians out of their homes at gunpoint and gathered them together, he said.
“The gunmen invaded the village at night and brought out the Christian members of the community, and then they tied their hands and slaughtered them,” he said.
Lamenting that so many Christians have felt compelled to flee Borno, the pastor said he was prepared to lay down his life for the sake of the gospel in spite of threats from Muslim extremists.
Military authorities in Maiduguri confirmed that militants from Boko Haram, which seeks to destabilize the government and impose strict sharia (Islamic law) on Nigeria, selectively killed Christians in an attack between 1 a.m. and 3 a.m. on Dec. 21.
At the same time, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) this week denied a news report of a massacre at a Church of the Brethren (Eklisiyar Yan Uwa, or EYN) congregation in Kyachi, a village in Borno state’s Chibok area. Mohammed Kanar, NEMA’s area coordinator, had been quoted in media reports as confirming the attack, but NEMA spokesman Yushau A. Shuaib roundly denied it.
“Though some of the reports claimed a source from NEMA provided the information, the agency not only contacted the same officer who denied it in its entirety, it also assigned a special team to investigate and verify the allegation, which was later found to be unsubstantiated and untrue,” Shuaib reportedly said.
President on the Defensive
President Jonathan was visiting an EYN congregation in Abuja when he told the church that his administration had foiled several Christmas Day attacks.
“Boko Haram planned to carry out a lot of attacks on Christmas Day, but we suppressed their plans during the Christmas holiday, and most of their plans were not executed because of the strategies put in place by the security agencies, which aborted their efforts,” he said.
EYN leaders had informed Jonathan that 109 of its members have been killed by Islamic extremists and 50 congregations in the country’s northeast have been destroyed. The Rev. Daniel Mbaya said the Church of the Brethren is one of the most prevalent denominations in the northeast but has been severely damaged by Boko Haram.
Boko Haram, which means “Western education is a sin,” has attacked Christians particularly in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states, destroying Christian-owned businesses as well as harming churches. Many Christians have fled as displaced persons or become refugees in Cameroon.
The president commended EYN leaders and members for remaining steadfast in their faith in spite of intense persecution.
Boko Haram killed 780 people in 2012, according to a tally by The Associated Press. Said to have loose ties with Al Qaeda in the Maghreb, Boko Haram has vowed to eradicate Christianity. The Islamic extremists have targeted churches, state offices, law enforcement sites and some moderate mosques in their effort to destabilize the government.
Christians make up 51.3 percent of Nigeria’s population of 158.2 million and live mainly in the south, while Muslims account for 45 percent and live mainly in the north. But those practicing indigenous religions may be as high as 10 percent of the total population, according to Operation World, so the percentages of Christians and Muslims may be less.
c. 2013 Morning Star News. Used with permission.
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Publication date: January 9, 2013