19 killed in attack on Nigerian church, evangelist slain

The church attack scene. (Photo: Daily Times Nigeria)

Gunmen armed with Kalashnikov assault rifles surrounded a church in central Nigeria and opened fire during a Monday night worship service. According to the Associated Press report, the attackers killed 19 of the worshippers at Deeper Life Bible Church in the town of Otite in Kogi state, located 155 miles southwest of Nigeria’s capital Abuja.

In a separate attack in Maiduguri metropolis in the north-eAstern Borno state an evangelist, Ali Samari, 57, was killed late on Tuesday, August 8, after he returned from work, said Paul Jongas, himself an evangelist who also reports for Worthy News from the region. Two gunmen were involved in the violence, local police and residents said.

According to the Associated Press, no arrests had been made in connection with the Deeper Life Bible Church attack as of Tuesday morning. No group has claimed responsibility for the massacre. However, the radical Islamist sect Boko Haram has attacked numerous churches and has vowed to make Nigeria an all-Islamic country while driving out all Christians. An Associated Press count puts the number killed by the Boko Haram at 660 this year. That number includes many Christians as well as moderate Muslims and police.

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“The increasingly intentional activity of Boko Haram has taken on the characteristics of a real war,” said Open Doors USA president Dr. Carl Moeller. “These are not random attacks as they’re often characterized in the media. They are intentional, and they’re designed with one purpose in mind: the elimination of Christianity. I call it ‘religicide’ or the intentional and systemic effort to eliminate a religious belief and its followers from a country or region.

“Our prayers go out to the families of the victims and members of the Deeper Life Church. May they experience the peace which only our Lord can give.”

Open Doors USA is among a group of religious leaders and human rights advocates who 10 days ago sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton expressing their deep concern regarding the continuing religiously motivated violence in Nigeria. The letter calls on the State Department to designate Boko Haram as a terrorist organization as well as to work with the Nigerian government to provide improved security for religious minorities.

The State Department’s 2011 International Religious Freedom Report released last week stated: “In Nigeria, attacks by elements of the violent extremist sect Boko Haram claimed the lives of both Christians and Muslims. The government did not effectively quell rising hostility or investigate and prosecute those responsible for violence.”

Nigeria is ranked No. 13 on the 2012 Open Doors World Watch List of 50 countries which are the worst persecutors of Christians. According to World Watch List, Nigeria had at least 300 martyrs in 2011, although the actual number could be closer to 1 000.

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