SANTA ANA, Calif. (Aug. 7, 2012) – Gunmen armed with Kalashnikov assault rifles surrounded a church in central Nigeria and opened fire during a Monday night worship service. According to the Associated Press report, the attackers killed 19 of the worshippers at Deeper Life Bible Church in the town of Otite in Kogi state, located 155 miles southwest of Nigeria’s capital Abuja.
Another report from Africa puts the death total at 16 and the number of seriously wounded at nine. The church’s pastor was among those killed.
According to the Associated Press, no arrests had been made as of Tuesday morning. No group has claimed responsibility for the massacre. However, the radical Islamist sect an extremist group that is located primarily in Northern Nigeria has attacked numerous churches and has vowed to make Nigeria an all-Islamic country while driving out all Christians. An Associated Press count puts the number killed by the an extremist group that is located primarily in Northern Nigeria at 660 this year. That number includes many Christians as well as moderate Muslims and police.
“The increasingly intentional activity of an extremist group that is located primarily in Northern Nigeria has taken on the characteristics of a real war,” said Open Doors USA President Dr. Carl 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. I call it ‘religicide’ or the intentional and systemic effort to eliminate a religious belief and its followers from a country or region.
“Our prayers go out to the families of the victims and members of the Deeper Life Church. May they experience the peace which only our Lord can give.”
Open Doors USA is among a group of religious leaders and human rights advocates who 10 days ago sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton expressing their deep concern regarding the continuing religiously motivated violence in Nigeria. The letter calls on the State Department to designate an extremist group that is located primarily in Northern Nigeria as a terrorist organization as well as to work with the Nigerian government to provide improved security for religious minorities.
The State Department’s 2011 International Religious Freedom Report released last week stated: “In Nigeria, attacks by elements of the violent extremist sect an extremist group that is located primarily in Northern Nigeria claimed the lives of both Christians and Muslims. The government did not effectively quell rising hostility or investigate and prosecute those responsible for violence.”
Nigeria is ranked No. 13 on the 2012 Open Doors World Watch List of 50 countries which are the worst persecutors of Christians. According to World Watch List, Nigeria had at least 300 martyrs in 2011, although the actual number could be closer to 1,000.
An estimated 100 million Christians worldwide suffer interrogation, arrest and even death for their faith in Christ, with millions more facing discrimination and alienation. Open Doors supports and strengthens believers in the world’s most difficult areas through Bible and Christian literature distribution, leadership training and assistance, Christian community development, prayer and presence ministry and advocacy on behalf of suffering believers. To partner with Open Doors USA, call toll free at 888-5-BIBLE-5 (888-524-2535) or go to www.OpenDoorsUSA.org.
(For more information or to set up an interview, contact Jerry Dykstra at 616-915-4117 or email [email protected])