BY WILLIAM STARK
Boko Haram often attacks Christians while they worship at church. The church (above) was destroyed by Boko Haram militants in one of Nigeria's "Middle Belt" states.
Every year, for the past three year, Boko Haram has used the Christmas holiday as a time to instill terror into the lives of suffering Christians in Northern Nigeria. Here in the US, the Christmas holiday makes most people think of Christmas trees, family gatherings, some time off work and yes… snow.
For suffering Christians living in Northern Nigeria, the Christmas holiday is a time which the treat of being attacked by Boko Haram is at its greatest. In 2011, Boko Haram militants bombed several churches across Northern Nigeria, killing many Christians as they attended worship services.
Unfortunately, 2012 was no different.
“We had warned that Boko Haram would continue its tradition of killing Nigerian Christians on Christmas day. Last week marked the third straight year that the terror group has murdered Nigerian Christians in the church on a Christmas Day,” said a statement released by the Christians Association of Nigerian-Americans after discovering that Boko Haram had again terrorized Christians in Nigeria over the Christmas holiday.
Christmas Eve Attacks
The attacks started on Christmas Eve and continued until the New Year. On Christmas Eve, at least twelve Christians, including one pastor, were killed in two separate attacks on churches. Late on Christmas Eve, gunmen attacked the Evangelical Church of West Africa located in Peri, a village in Nigeria’s “Middle-Belt” state Yobe.
“A group of gunmen entered the village around midnight and went straight to the church,” witnesses told the Deccan Chronicle. The gunmen then broke into the church and began killing the Christians worshiping there. “They opened fire on them, killing the pastor and five worshipers. They then set fire to the church,” another witness said.
In a separate attack, worshipers at the First Baptist Church of Maiduguri, located in the northeastern state Borno, were also attacked by gunmen. In that attack six of the worshipers were killed.
Unfortunately, these two attacks were only the beginning of a string of attacks on suffering Christians over the Christmas holiday.
New Year’s Attacks
Five days after the Christmas Eve attacks, fifteen Christians living in Musari, a neighborhood located on the outskirts of Maiduguri, were killed when militants broke into their homes and slit their throats. The fact that the militants specifically targeted Christians is supported by the fact that the attackers only broke into Christian homes located in an area of Musari that is predominantly Christian.
“The attackers came in and silently went into homes whose residents were all Christians and slit the throats of their victims. They killed fifteen people,” a resident of Musari told the press.
The next day, on New Year’s Eve, another fifteen Christians were killed by gunmen in the village of Kyachi, outside Chibok, near Maiduguri. Gunmen stormed a church service and shot worshipers in the church. “We received information from our personnel in Chibok that some attackers stormed a church during Sunday service and killed fifteen people,” Mohammed Kanar, the regional coordinator for the National Emergency Management Agency in Nigeria, told AFP.
Although Boko Haram has not officially taken credit for any of these Christmas holiday attacks, the group has created such a signature for killing suffering Christians during the holiday season that taking officially credit would be redundant.
Attacks continue to be reported, but for now the death toll stands at forty two. Forty two Christian were killed in Northern Nigeria because they believed in Jesus Christ.
On December 31, the night fifteen Christians were to be killed in Northern Nigeria, President Goodluck Jonathan declared that security forces lead by his administration had foiled numerous Boko Haram plots to kill Christians.
“Boko Haram planned to carry out a lot of attacks on Christmas Day, but we suppressed their plans during the Christmas holiday, and most of their plans were not executed because of the strategies put in place by the security agencies, which aborted their efforts,” the president told a church he attended in Nigeria’s capital of Abuja.
The claim that the government was supposedly able to foil “a lot attacks” by Boko Haram is little comfort to the families, friends and communities affected by the attacks that were not foiled. Whether or not they were attacked, suffering Christians in Northern Nigeria continue to fear the ever present threat of Boko Haram. Without definitive action by the international community, Christmas 2013 is likely to be no different for the suffering Christians of Northern Nigeria than the past three.