Published: 14:00 GMT Standard Time - Wednesday 15 February 2012
Islamist violence drives nearly 95 per cent of Christians from Nigerian state
Country/Region: Africa, Nigeria
One Northern Nigerian state has been almost entirely cleared of Christians; they have been forced to flee the relentless campaign of violence against them by militant Islamist group Boko Haram.
Anti-Christian violence is increasing
in Northern Nigeria
The Rev. Garba Idi, chairman of the Yobe State chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), said that nearly 95 per cent of the Christians have left Yobe.
The situation in Yobe is terrible. Churches were burnt and attacked while many Christians lost their lives in the course of this mayhem…
We have to leave because the sect is hunting us; that is why we had to flee… Many Christians have left Yobe to save their lives from these attacks.
More than 20 churches have been torched in Yobe since November; homes and vehicles belonging to Christians have also been damaged. Many lives have been lost in the violence; 15 Christians have been killed so far this year.
Following a series of attacks over Christmas, Boko Haram issued an ultimatum on New Year’s Day giving Christians three days to leave the North. They followed up the threat with further killings, which are having the intended effect of driving many Christians out of the North.
Some are going to safer parts of the country while others are crossing the border into Cameroon.
The Church of England’s General Synod last week called on the Government to “do all it can” to support the protection of religious minorities in Nigeria.
The Bishop of Durham, the Rt Rev Justin Welby, said that the violence in the country had become “pervasive”, and that the Church in Northern Nigeria was “systematically, deliberately and progressively being eliminated”.
The authorities have been criticised for their inadequate response to the violence by Boko Haram, which is fighting to establish an Islamic state in the North. A report to the General Synod warned that the church in the north east of the country in particular had received “little protection, if any”.
On 10 February, a man suspected of masterminding the bombing of a church in Madalla near the capital, Abuja, on Christmas Day that left around 35 people dead was recaptured. Kabiru Sokoto was initially arrested last month but escaped the following day while being escorted by the police. It was an embarrassing episode for the police that led some to criticise their incompetence, while others suggested that there may even have been collusion between security officials and Boko Haram.