NASHVILLE – Boko Haram militants are blamed for increased religious persecution in Nigeria, including the murder of 43 Christians and the wounding of many others in several year-end incidents, religious freedom watchdog groups have reported.
In two separate Christmas Eve attacks, 12 Christians including a pastor were killed and numerous others wounded at churches in Borno and Yobe states in Nigeria, according to reports from Christian Solidarity Worldwide, International Christian Concern and Morning Star News.
In the week following Christmas, 10 Christians were killed and five injured in various attacks on villages in Nigeria’s Plateau state, Adeniyi Ojutiku, a U.S. associate of the Young Wing Christian Association of Nigeria, told Baptist Press.
Olasupo Ayokunle, president and chief executive officer of the Nigerian Baptist Convention (NBC), said the targeted slaughter of Christians at their homes is unprecedented.
“We have never faced this type of selective destruction before,” he said in a Baptist World Alliance (BWA) press release. “Continue to pray for the church in Nigeria.”
The NBC has spent more than $100,000 on relief efforts for those affected by the violence, the BWA reported.
Many have blamed the violence on the Boko Haram, a militant group that has vowed to eradicate Christianity from Nigeria and impose a strict version of Islamic law.
Boko Haram is also suspected in a Dec. 1 raid on the village of Chibok in northeastern Nigeria, when militants entered private homes and slit the throats of 10 Christians, including a pastor, and in separate attacks setting fire to three churches, a police station and an immigration and customs office, according to the reports.
On Nov. 25, an attack including two suicide bombs at St. Andrew’s Military Protestant Church in Jaji killed 11 people and wounded 30 others, Morning Star News reported.
Ojutiku, a member of Providence Baptist Church in Raleigh, N.C., is co-founder of the nonprofit Lift Up Now Foundation, a religious, social, economic and political justice outreach to Nigeria. (See related story.) Lift Up Now, with a Nigerian membership that Ojutiku numbers at 2,500, is among several entities encouraging the U.S. Congress to declare Boko Haram a “designated foreign terrorist organization,” aimed at weakening the group’s ability to attract money and military weapons.
Already, the U.S. State Department has listed three top Boko Haram leaders as “specially designated global terrorists,” which Ojutiku said has had “immediate and sweeping” effects on Nigeria’s political leadership.
Lift Up Now compiled in 2001 and continues to update a catalog of Boko Haram attacks. In the past decade, Boko Haram has killed approximately 4,000 people and dismembered or and seriously injured thousands more, according to Lift Up Now’s count.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ staff writer.)