On Easter Sunday, worshippers at the ECWA (Evangelical Church Winning All) Good News Church in Kaduna, Nigeria were taking communion in celebration of the risen Savior when a suicide bomb exploded in the street, killing at least 38 people and injuring dozens more. All the windows and doors of the church were shattered, as well as some of the equipment, Pastor Joshua Raji told an Associated Press reporter. Nearby, All Nations Christian Assembly church was damaged, roofs from homes and hotels were blasted off and vehicles destroyed. Emergency rescue workers from the National Emergency Management Authority and the Red Cross removed bodies and evacuated the injured to four hospitals in Kaduna and Zria.
Luka Binniayat, a Christian resident of the city, reported to Compass Direct News that law enforcement agents believed the ECWA to be the primary target. Binniyat reported that “the bomber, described as dark, lean-looking and in his mid-30s, approached the ECWA Good News church at around 9:30am.” Because of the fear in the wake of recent attacks, a roadblock had been set up to safeguard the church about 100 meters from its entrance. Security personnel there blocked the suicide bomber as he tried to force his way past. Binniayat further reported that “the police, fully armed, told him to move away. He drove away in a reckless manner. As we were regretting not searching his car, in about four to five minutes, we heard an earth-shaking explosion.” The explosion reportedly occurred in the street at a nearby motorcycle taxi center.
No group has taken credit for the blast, but it is thought that the suicide bomber was a member of Boko Haram, a terrorist group dedicated to destabilizing the government and imposing strict sharia law in Nigeria. While they have also targeted state offices, law enforcement sites and some moderate mosques, Kaduna resident Stanley Yakubu said that Christians are one of the group’s main targets.
Dr. Carl Moeller, President/CEO Open Doors USA, concurs. “The increasingly intentional activity of Boko Haram has taken on the characteristics of a real war,” said Moeller. “These are not random attacks, as they’re often characterized in the media. They are intentional, and they’re designed with one purpose in mind; the elimination of Christianity. Christians are particularly at risk on Christian holy days such as Christmas and Easter. Last Christmas a suicide bomb attack at a church in Madalla killed 44 church members.”
The 2012 Open Doors World Watch List ranks Nigeria as No. 13 on the list of countries which are the worst persecutors of Christians. There were at least 300 martyrs in the country in 2011, though the actual number could be double or triple that.
Father, we pray Your comfort to wash over those mourning the loss of loved ones. We pray for the violence to come to an end in Nigeria. We pray that Your peace, beyond all understanding, would fill the believers and that Your hand of safety would gather them about. Soften the hearts of those who persecute them, Lord, and draw them to Yourself that peace might prevail. In the name of Jesus, the Prince of Peace. Amen.