Recently, a suicide bomber attacked St. Rita’s Catholic Church, Ugwan Yero in Mallai, Kaduna. A young man reported to be driving a Honda CRV, with a rosary dangling on his neck, approached the church’s gate. He was turned back. Pretending to be leaving, he reversed the vehicle. Then, he stepped heavily on the throttle to send the vehicle into full speed and rammed it into the children’s section. Eight persons were immediately confirmed dead, while scores, including the parish priest, sustain serious injuries.
No time in the history of Nigeria has the church faced the level of persecution it is currently going through. For about two years now, hundreds of Christians have been killed and tens of churches destroyed. Sometimes, they are killed while in church services like this last one. The Islamic sect called Boko Haram has always claimed responsibility for all these attacks. The other time, the Deeper Christian Life Church in Okene, Kogi State was attacked and about 20 worshippers were gunned down right in the church service. Many others who had various degrees of gun shot injuries are still lying in the hospital. Last Christmas the Catholic Church in Madalla, Niger State was bombed, leaving scores of worshipers dead or maimed. The same day another church was bombed in Bauchi.
A few months ago, two churches in Bayero University Kano were attacked. Many worshippers, including university professors, lost their lives. Just last month, about 50 people, including women and children, who took refuge in a church were smoked out and shot. The attackers first set the church building ablaze, then stood at the entrance and were shooting these innocent women, children and old people as they tried to escape from the furnace and smoke. And we have since lost the count of the churches that have either been bombed or attacked by gunmen in Yobe, Gombe, Plateau, Kano, Bauchi, Borno, Adamawa, Kaduna and Kogi States. All in the north.
But this is not the first time the church is passing through such persecutions in the northern part of country. The differences with the present are the spate, degree and coordination of the attacks. Before now, any riot or demonstration in this part of the country will always end up in killing of Christians and people from other regions. Thousands have gone this way. Amongst so many is the case of Gideon Akaluka, who was beheaded and his head used to make a show around the market. What of the young Yoruba female teacher who was slaughtered in Gombe on the flimsy excuse that she touched the Koran as she tried to stop her students from cheating in an examination? She put a call through to her husband as she saw the attackers, but could not finish before they lynched her. Her little baby was saved by good Samaritans who jumped the fence of the school to rescue him. And these are just few cases that space will allow us to pen down here.
But who is responsible for all these atrocities against Christians and humanity? What crime has the church committed? Are these executions and destruction accidental or a part of the larger plan to get rid of Christians in Nigeria? Is the current onslaught an expression of frustration by those who boasted that they will forcefully impose their belief from the desert to the sea? Has the very rapid, phenomenal and constant growth and prosperity of the church in the country, which has made nonsense of the plot and expectations, angered them, hence, their resort to declaring war against the people of God?
Now, the Christians have paid enough price for the peaceful co-existence of the country called Nigeria. The whole land is saturated by the blood of these innocent women, children and men, whose only crime is what they believe in a secular nation that is supposed to be ruled by a constitution that has guaranteed freedom of worship and association.
With the current resurgence of attacks, we urgently call on the Federal Government and the security agencies to step up the efforts to stop these onslaughts, unmask those behind it and bring them to book. The government, the Inspector-General of police, the army and other security agencies should see that the churches and Christians are well protected from the current unwarranted destruction. Security protection should immediately be sent to all these endangered places of worship, especially in the northern part of the country. The government must not continue to watch the citizens being slain everyday for frivolous, dubious, criminal and satanic religious and political reasons.
We call on the security forces to also immediately declare total war against these criminals, their sponsors (political and religious) and harbourers. They should also be made to pay the supreme price to these crimes against humanity. Where are the ones arrested so far? These must be done very very urgently. Enough is enough! Then, the blood of these Christian martyrs must not be in vain. Remember, like the blood of Abel, they would be crying against the murderers and the nation until justice is done.
For the attackers, you are embarking on a project that is impossible to achieve. Go and read the church history. All attempts ever made to annihilate Christianity have always ended in futility. And why? You cannot successfully fight against your creator. Jesus said that He will build His church and the gates of hell will NEVER prevail against it. The church will always mysteriously expand and prosper even in the face of persecution. True! So, I advise you and your sponsors within and without the country to keep down your arms against God and His people and embrace the gospel. Stop kicking against the STONE!
And for the church, we must not be discouraged. The word of God said that we should not fear those who can only destroy the body, but cannot touch the soul. In fact, it said that we should rejoice in tribulation, for it is an indication that we belong to Christ and that the gospel is making the expected impact. The enemy -Satan – is just reacting out of frustration. This is a time for us to rededicate of lives and service to God.
Though, we must adopt the Nehemiah strategy now. As he and his team were re-building the ruined walls and city of Jerusalem , they also were well-prepared to fully defend themselves against the enemies. And this successfully checked the opposition until the work was completed. Let us all pray that God will change the hearts of these enemies of the church, give us peace and prosper the gospel and the country in Jesus’ name – Amen!
Rev. Agbo is of the Assemblies of God Nigeria and the author of the book: Power of Midnight Prayer. [email protected] 08037113283.