Published: 12:00 GMT Standard Time - Tuesday 10 January 2012
Anti-Christian killings suggest “religious cleansing” – Nigerian church leaders
Country/Region: Africa, Nigeria
“I was leading the congregation in prayers. Our eyes were closed when some gunmen stormed the church and opened fire on the congregation.” Nigerian pastor Johnson Jauro
Intensifying anti-Christian killings in Nigeria suggest “systematic ethnic and religious cleansing”, according to the country’s church leaders, as the violence claims around 30 more lives.
Ayo Oritsejafor, head of the Christian Association of Nigeria, said on Saturday (7 January) that church leaders had held an emergency meeting about the escalating attacks, which, they concluded, are reminiscent of the run-up to the civil war of 1967-70. More than a million people were killed during that conflict.
Concerns of a repeat are growing following two further anti-Christian attacks, which come after militant Islamist group Boko Haram issued a three day ultimatum for Christians to leave the north.
At least eight Christians were killed when gunmen stormed a church in Gombe, capital of Gombe State, during a prayer meeting on Thursday night (5 January).
Pastor Johnson Jauro, whose wife was shot dead in the attack, said:
The attackers started shooting sporadically. They shot through the window of the church, and many people were killed including my wife. Many members who attended the church service were also injured.
The following day, around 20 Christians were gunned down in Mubi, Adamawa state, as they gathered to mourn the death of another Christian who had been killed the night before. The assailants chanted “god is great” as they fired Kalashnikov rifles. They were also carrying knives and machetes.
Then on Saturday night (7 January), three people believed to be Christians were shot dead in the north-eastern town of Biu.
A Boko Haram spokesman claimed responsibility for attacks following the three-day ultimatum, which expired on Wednesday (4 January).
The group was behind a series of attacks on churches and other targets in five states over Christmas that left more than 40 people dead and prompted President Goodluck Jonathan to declare a state of emergency in the most troubled areas.
Boko Haram is fighting to create an Islamic state and impose sharia law. The group has been responsible for more than 500 deaths over the last year.
Nigeria is descending into further chaos, with widespread protests over the government’s removal of a fuel subsidy that has resulted in petrol prices more than doubling.
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