Originally published in Christianity Today
Christians in the Niger are still reeling from the destruction of more than 70 churches over the weekend as Muslims angry from the Charlie Hebdo cartoons attacked these places of worship.
According to the World Watch Monitor, at least 10 people were killed during the violence. While local police reported only 45 churches damaged, World Watch Monitor claimed that there were more than 70 churches that sustained damage.
Reuters said that the attacks were triggered by the latest Charlie Hebdo magazine cover, which featured a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammad.
The violence took root in the city of Zinder on January 16, which resulted in the destruction of eight churches and 12 homes owned by Christians. The attacks did not spare schools that were built by Christians, as the mob ransacked two of these in the confusion.
After Zinder, the attacks continued and spread out to other cities. In Goure, the city’s sole church was set on fire. Local Christians evacuated to the army barracks for protection.
Protesters in Tanout destroyed two churches maintained by Evangelical Christians, while Magaria’s Christian community lost one church to the violence. In Maradi, the mob destroyed two Evangelical churches. Despite the efforts of security forces, one small Fulani church in Birnin Gaoure fell to the attacks.
The protesters managed to destroy three more churches in Birnin Gaoure as the violence approached the capital, Niamey, where 1,000 Muslims attacked Christians across the capital. They also vandalised several buildings, including the ruling party headquarters as well as a beer factory, in addition to Christian churches.
World Watch Monitor’s sources claimed that security forces in the capital made no response, making Christian-owned properties and places of worship easy targets for the attacks.
Niger’s President Mahamadou Issoufou condemned the attacks on Saturday evening and said that the attackers were people who “did not understand anything about Islam.”