|(Photos courtesy Open Doors USA)|
Nigeria (MNN) ― Sunday was a bloody day in Nigeria.
Nigerians were reeling from news that there were likely no survivors from a plane crash in Lagos, when news about a suicide bomber striking Bauchi hit. Carl Moeller withOpen Doors USA explains, "Swallowed under the news of the plane crash was the news that there was another suicide bomber at a church in Northern Nigeria, in Bauchi. Apparently, at least 10 others were killed and 30 injured in that attack."
No one claimed the attack, however, the hallmarks point to the group that's been wreaking havoc among Christians this year. Moeller notes that "it's just another one of a series of attacks orchestrated by Boko Haram, an extremist terrorist group that is directing their violence against Christian in order to exterminate them from the northern part of Nigeria."
Authorities say the attacker rammed through a checkpoint before detonating the bomb at the gate of Living Faith church. The attacked was timed to maximize casualties as members were leaving an early morning worship service.
Eyewitness told Compass Direct News that the explosion also brought down a wall of the adjacent Harvest Field church.
Boko Haram last struck in late April, killing 22 people in two separate incidents. The group's name means "Western education is sacrilege" in the Hausa language of Nigeria's predominantly-Muslim north. Moeller says, "It literally puts almost a dividing line through the center of Nigeria, with the southern half being predominantly Christian and the northern half being predominantly Muslim. The Christians in the north obviously face extreme pressure to conform to Sharia law."
The sect's targets have included churches, often attacked by suicide car bombers. Why? There's a bigger picture than control over land. Moeller says, "Boko Haram has been at the forefront of calling for the eradication of Christians from this part of Nigeria and ultimately, from all of Nigeria. This is a very dangerous group, and I think people of America need to be aware of how utterly destabilizing this group is to a country that has the most populace in Africa."
A grab for power? It's at least a distraction for the current government. Moeller notes, "The reality is: this is the kind of violence that they want to precipitate across the entire country." More concerning is that it doesn't look like it will stop with just the North being under full Sharia. It's the kind of violence that president of Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathon, is facing spreading throughout the rest of the country."
Moeller says there are also concerns that Christians will strike back. On May 42, church leaders issued a final warning and issued demands for protection. Will this attack be the "tipping point?" Moeller says they're still encouraging believers not to give in to retaliation. "Violence in response to violence only produces more violence." However, he goes on to acknowledge that "the question here is, 'At what point is enough, enough?' You take whatever steps necessary to protect your family, your church, and your community. I think that point is drawing very close where the Christians of Nigeria are going to be making responses and retaliation."
Despite the Boko Haram's call for jihad, there's a bright side to this story. "The church is growing remarkably rapidly in Nigeria. Also, our co-workers continue to be extremely bold in their witness. This also is not only producing pain, suffering, and fear among Christians, [but] that fear is often being replaced by boldness, and it's also producing desperation in the Islamic community."
Pray. There is a deep, spiritual hunger growing throughout Nigeria. Believers have an opportunity like never before to bring the hope of the Gospel into play. "When Christians are being persecuted and they continue to show love to those who are persecuting them, that is the most powerful witness: the truth of the good news of Jesus and that there is a spiritual hope to be found in Jesus, despite all of this suffering."
You can see more of what Open Doors is doing in Nigeria through the Featured Links Section of our Web site.