Concern over militant attacks in Maiduguri
CHRISTIANS IN the northern Nigerian city of Maiduguri are expressing dismay at what they perceive as a lack of international concern for the suffering of their communities.
Based in the northern part of the country, Maiduguri has been the scene of inter-religious clashes, with Islamic militants targeting the Christian community. Already, local deaths in the city are estimated to be over 800.
During a recent spate of violence, Islamist Boko Haram militants attacked both government and Christian targets, killing individuals and taking many civilians captive for possible use as human shields against government forces besieging their compound in Maiduguri’s Railway District.
Once in the camp, male captives were given a choice between conversion to Islam or death, while women and girls were kept on as hostages. Maiduguri’s Good News Church held a memorial service recently for one of the hostages, Pastor George Orji, who had been beheaded and his body left in a mass grave there. He leaves behind a heavily pregnant wife, and two children, aged two and four.
Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), an organisation that supports persecuted believers, reports that 20 churches were destroyed during the violence.
In February 2006, Maiduguri was the scene of the infamous ‘Cartoon Riots’, during which 57 churches were destroyed and over 60 Christians were killed. Surviving victims of that violence have still not received compensation.
Archbishop of Jos, Benjamin Kwashi said: “It is unfortunate that the mayhem unleashed on the Church is systematically downplayed in the media. The first victim was the Ecclesia, which was subjugated and sacrificed prior to any attack on the establishment, yet no report is pointing to Christians as the number one target before all others. We will continue to speak out.”
There are concerns that the furore surrounding the recent death of the Boko Haram leader may be obscuring the suffering inflicted by the sect on northern civilians, and may eventually raise him to iconic status. Yusuf Mohamed was reportedly killed in questionable circumstances on July 30 while in police custody.
Tina Lambert, CSW’s advocacy director, said: “We are disturbed by indications that the Boko Haram leader may have been killed extra-judicially. A full investigation into this claim is needed but it is vital that this does not inadvertently obscure or detract from the appalling nature of the crimes committed by this sect against innocent civilians.
“There is an urgent need to assist and compensate the deeply traumatised victims, and for action to ensure a definitive end to the cycle of deadly religious violence in Northern and central Nigeria.”