National fast declared in Nigeria as attacks on Christians soar

Pastor Enoch Adejare Adeboye, General Overseer, The Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG). COURTESY PHOTO.

Originally published in UG Christian News

The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has declared three days of prayer and fasting starting on January 31 in the wake of extremist violence against believers in Christ across the west African nation.

In a statement released by Pastor Enoch Adejare Adeboye, General Overseer, The Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) on Monday, Rev (Dr) Supo Ayokunle, the President of CAN noted that “every local church is to observe” this fasting period.

“CAN has declared three days of prayer and fasting to save Nigeria and Christians in particular from being consumed by insurgents, Islamic terrorists, bandits, kidnappers and ritualistic all over our states. The fasting and prayer is from January 31-2nd of February, 2020,” Rev (Dr) Supo Ayokunle said.

“If possible, local churches should meet in the evening of each day of fasting to pray together,” he added.

On February 22020, Ayokunle said there will be prayer walk around each church’s locality pronouncing Jesus, the Prince of Peace as Lord.

On the same day, believers will also be expected to carry placards saying “No” to further killings and “demanding that the Federal & State governments should rise up to their responsibility of securing the Lives and property of their citizens.”

The development comes days after Christian pastor Rev Lawan Andimi, a leading person in the Christian Association of Nigeria, was abducted and beheaded by the Boko Haram terror group soon after he made headlines for praising God in a ransom video

The execution, which is one of the latest atrocities in a long and painful history of extremist violence in Nigeria, also impelled Christian leaders to petition the government.

“If the clergy are targeted, ordinary community members are even more at risk.” said the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) general secretary Rev Dr Martin Junge, in a joint statement with World Council of Churches condemning the murder of Christians.

A recent report into the persecution of Nigeria’s Christian community found that around 1 000 believers were killed by Islamic militants during 2019 alone.

Released by the Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust (HART), the report said the exact number of Christians killed by Islamic militants Boko Haram and Fulani Herdsmen was unknown, though the data suggests the figure to be sitting at around 1 000 for the year 2019.

The organisation believes that some 6 000 have been killed since 2015, and with an additional 12 000 displaced.

Nigeria ranks as the 12th worst nation in the world when it comes to Christian persecution on Open Doors 2020 World Watch List. Open Doors USA CEO David Curry warned during a press event last week that the rise of Islamic extremism in Nigeria is spilling over into Cameroon and Burkina Faso, according to the Christian Post.

The US State Department added Nigeria for the first time to its “special watch list” of countries that tolerate severe religious freedom violations in December.

“We are designating [Nigeria] special watch list for the first time because of all of the increasing violence and communal activity and the lack of effective government response and the lack of judicial cases being brought forward in that country,” US Ambassador-at-large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback said, according to the Christian Post.

“It is a dangerous situation in too many parts of Nigeria. The government has either not been willing to or have been ineffective in their response and the violence continues to grow.”

Protesters gather during a demonstration against Fulani herdsmen killings, in Abuja, Nigeria March 16, 2017. | REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde

 Christian Post reports that Muslim Fulani herdsmen killed 16 Christians in separate attacks in Plateau state this month amid a spate of violence carried out by various groups against believers in Nigeria.

Herdsmen invaded Torok village in Riyom County on January 20, killing Reuben Bulus, a 25-year-old member of the Church of Christ in Nations, said Dalyop Solomon Mwantiri, a human rights activist with the Emancipation Centre for Crisis Victims in Nigeria, to Morning Star News.

Just two days earlier, 13 COCIN members were slain in Plateau state’s Kulben village, Mangu County, in an attack carried out by about 20 herdsmen who also wounded three others. In Gako village, near Rim in Riyom County, another COCIN member, Ngam Stephen Dachung, was shot and killed by herdsmen on Jan. 1, Mwantiri said.

In December, herdsmen killed a Christian woman, Mary Machief, and her baby daughter in Plateau state’s Bokkos County. A relative told the outlet Machief was not killed instantly but died later from her wounds.

“We all prayed for God to give her quick healing, but God deemed it fit to take her to eternal home,” he said.

Christians in the northern region and in the Middle Belt have experienced an uptick in violence at the hands of radical Islamic groups, such as Boko Haram, ISWAP, and Muslim Fulani herdsmen in recent years.

A 2018 report from the Combatting Terrorism Center at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point suggested there could be as many as 6,000 Islamic State-aligned militants spread over nine different cells in Africa.

The recent ransom video of executed Pastor Andimi followed another video released by the extremist faction last month purporting to show the killing of 11 Christian aid workers in Nigeria.

Additionally, the Islamic State recently published a video showing a child soldier killing a Christian man in Nigeria. The child is seen declaring that “[w]e won’t stop until we take revenge for all the blood that was spilled.”

Faith McDonnell, the director of religious liberty programs at the US-based think tank Institute on Religion & Democracy, responded to the news of Andimi’s murder by condemning the Nigerian government’s inaction.

“It is obvious that the president of Nigeria will do nothing to stop this without pressure from the West,” she wrote on Facebook. “We need President Trump to appoint a Special Envoy for Nigeria and the region soon.”

At a news conference this month, Open Doors CEO David Curry also criticized Nigeria’s government for its inability to control the violence perpetrated by terrorist groups across the country.

“The great tragedy of Nigeria’s ineffectual response to Boko Haram and Fulani herdsmen is now parts of Cameroon and those other areas like Burkina Faso are greatly affected,” Curry said.

Curry said Nigeria still represents the most violent country in the world for Christians as far as Open Doors USA’s data can track. The persecution watchdog ranks Nigeria at No. 12 on its 2020 World Watch List of countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian.

Notes Open Doors: “The violence against Christians by militant Islamic groups in the north often ends in loss of life and physical injury as well as loss of property. Pray for those dealing with the effects of recent violence against them. Please pray for the Lord’s provision in all their physical and spiritual needs.”

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