Saturday, July 16, 2011

NIGERIA: CSW calls for urgent prayer over Islamist violence 13/07/2011

Last week CSW reported that the Boko Haram sect had attacked the security forces, bars, markets, churches and Muslim opponents in the north-eastern state of Borno. Since then, at least four more attacks have taken place, with violence spreading to other states.

Militant Islamist sect expands its attacks

On Monday 11 July, suspected members of the Boko Haram sect threw a bomb at a church building in Madalla, a suburb of Suleja in Niger State, where congregation members were holding their weekly prayer meeting. The bomb fell short of the building, damaging the outer walls, but causing no injuries. The church is part of the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) denomination, which suffered great losses during the recent electoral violence.
On 10 July in the same town, a bomb was detonated at the All Christian-Fellowship Mission during a church committee meeting, killing three people and injuring three others.
On the same day in the neighbouring state of Kaduna, several people were injured when a bomb exploded in a dustbin at a popular night spot.
Meanwhile in Maiduguri in Borno State, the university has closed indefinitely, and hundreds are fleeing after non-stop violence over the weekend that killed over thirty people. One resident told CSW, “I am just so overwhelmed. It’s just been God’s mercy keeping us. Things are very tough and difficult – we need help”.

CSW is calling all supporters to pray urgently over this situation.

The Boko Haram sect targets security personnel, Muslim critics, churches and Christians in the north-eastern state of Borno.

Islamist militia carry out mounting attacks

The north-eastern city of Maiduguri experienced relentless attacks by the Islamist militia group, Boko Haram, translated as ‘western education is forbidden’, with news reports indicating at least 40 deaths in a ten day period.

In April this year, Boko Haram issued a three page statement saying, “we will never accept any system of governance apart from the one described by Islam because that is the only way Muslims can be liberated. They went on to say, they would continue to fight the Nigerian military and police “because they are not protecting Islam." According to an unconfirmed report, the group has now warned people to stay away from Christians, security agents, and government institutions and functions, or risk death.

Multiple killings in troubled Maiduguri

The group is thought to have carried out well-over 20 attacks this year. This July, Boko Haram murdered five people, including a prominent political leader of the All Nigeria People’s Party, Mallam Mustafa Baale, a three-time chairman of Jere local government area, (LGA) who had just been reappointed to the post by the Borno State governor, Kashim Shetima.

Just weeks before this, Boko Haram shot two church workers dead in Maiduguri. Reverend David Usman pastored a the Church of Christ in Nigeria COCIN) church located close to the former Boko Haram headquarters in the Railway area, and Hamman Andrew was the assistant church secretary. The assailants had set a trap for Reverend Usman, faking a phone call telling him that Hamman Andrew had been shot and was lying in a pool of blood in the church, prompting him to rush to the premises where they lay in wait.

Christians, police and Muslim opponents targeted

Over June, Boko Haram attacked police stations, bars, churches and Muslim leaders who oppose their extremist philosophy. This included gun and bomb attacks on police stations, bars and a Catholic church, and assassinations of prominent Wahabbi imam Ibrahim Birkuti, and Ibrahim Ahmed Abdullahi, another Muslim cleric, who had both criticised the upsurge in sectarian violence and the targeting of policemen and politicians.

Government reaction

There is now a curfew in the capital, Abuja, and the army has taken over security operations in Maiduguri. President Goodluck Jonathan is also reportedly creating a panel to review the security situation in the country. However, the federal government seems torn between rehabilitating and prosecuting suspected militants.

Meanwhile the bitter dispute between the authorities and the Islamists rages on. Boko Haram at one stage threatened to “hunt down” the governors of Bauchi and Gombe states, along with the former Borno State Governor, vowing to “[search] for them until they come out publicly and apologise”. The seeming response to this was an apology from Governor Isa Yuguda of Bauchi State and former governor of Gombe State, Alhaji Danjuma Goje, for any rights violations suffered by Boko Haram during a military crackdown on its armed uprising in 2009. The current governor of Borno, Kashim Shetima, has now offered Boko Haram an amnesty and Ali Modu Sheriff, the former governor of Borno,has also apologised.

CSW encourages prayer
CSW is requesting urgent and sustained prayer for an end to the continuing violence and for protection for those targeted by the sect..

Please pray the following:

- That God would comfort, protect and encourage the Church in Maiduguri.

- For wisdom for President Goodluck Jonathan, and that his government would formulate an effective strategy to deal with this violence

- For the new security efforts to be effective in stemming the violence and restoring order.

- That the militants would have a change of heart and embrace dialogue and peaceful co-existence.

- For the protection of those currently targeted by the groups, including religious leaders from both communities.

- For protection of the Christians in northern and central Nigeria following the recent alleged threat

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