At least two Baptist pastors have been killed and a number of Baptist properties destroyed in violent attacks by extremists in Nigeria.
Olasupo Ayokunle, president and chief executive officer of the Nigerian Baptist Convention, told the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) that the pastors died “in the recent bombing of the chaplaincy at the Command and Staff College in Jaji, Kaduna state.”
A third pastor had to flee to the south of the country from the city of Maiduguri in Borno State in northeastern Nigeria after threats and assassination attempts on his life.
“Many other souls were lost elsewhere in the country,” Ayokunle said.
The attacks were allegedly caused by Boko Haram, a jihadist group that seeks to establish shariah law in Nigeria, which has claimed responsibility for some of the bombings.
The group has carried out a series of bombings against Christian churches and government facilities, such as police stations.
By early 2012, the group was responsible for more than 900 deaths.
In June 2012, almost 200 Christians were killed in at least three church attacks in the states of Bauchi and Plateau, located in northern Nigeria, and Kaduna state, which is in the central part of the country.
In one of the most recent attacks on Oct. 3, dozens of persons were massacred in the town of Mubi in Adamawa state during a nighttime raid.
“The BWA is deeply concerned about the continuing attacks being perpetrated by extremist groups, in many cases targeting Christians,” BWA General Secretary Neville Callam said.
“We are especially concerned about the unacceptable situation in Maiduguri, where it has been reported that Boko Haram is directing its aggression against Christians.”
The BWA, he said, “unreservedly affirms peoples’ right to enjoy religious liberty and peaceful co-existence with people of all faiths. We continue to fear that the increasing frequency of eruptions of violence is leading to an increase in the number of casualties that can have a negative effect on the future of Nigeria as a nation.”
A BWA human rights team led by BWA Director of Freedom and Justice Raimundo Barreto travels to Nigeria this month and is expected to meet with government and church leaders. The trip coincides with the observance of BWA Human Rights Day on Dec. 9.
In July 2012, the BWA passed a resolution calling for “a peaceful ending of all violence and abuse of human rights in Nigeria” and encouraged “our Baptist sisters and brothers to continue to seek ways to promote peace and respect for all persons in Nigeria.”
The BWA appealed to the government of Nigeria at all levels to ensure safety and security for all people in the country and encouraged “Baptists around the world to raise these concerns with their governments, religious leaders and persons of influence.”
BWA member organizations were requested “to commit to relentless prayer for peace where there is violence in Nigeria.”
The Nigerian Baptist Convention has spent more than $100,000 to provide relief to those affected by the violence.
“The Boko Haram sect is not using only bombs now, they are now using direct shooting of Christians from house to house, especially in Maiduguri, which is their stronghold,” Ayokunle said.
“We never faced this type of selective destruction before. Continue to pray for the church in Nigeria.”
This news release first appeared at the Baptist World Alliance website.