Twenty five Christian worshippers were killed by gunmen on Monday night during an evening church service in Okene in Kogi state nearby the federal city of Abuja.
The attackers arrived in a Toyota van, blocked the entrance, turned off the lights in the church, and fired shots into the church building, said the commander of the Joint Military Task Force in Lokoja, Lt. Col. Gabriel Olorunyomi. Fifteen of the dead were women, 10 were men.
Tunde Ishaku, a senior member of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) an umbrella body of the Nigerian Christians, says that Christian patience with government protection was wearing out, and that Christians in Nigeria either must rise up and protect themselves, or allow their enemies to continue killing them.
There is “not any religion in the world that accepts killing of innocent people at their worshipping centers,” Mr. Ishaku tells the Monitor. “We have to be serious now to take urgent action for the sake of our life and that of our followers."
No group has claimed responsibility for the attack. But the radical Islamist sect, Boko Haram, advised President Goodluck Jonathan over the weekend to embrace Islam or face the wrath of their struggle.
Boko Haram, (a Hausa-language term for “Western education is forbidden, or sinful”) has carried on a low-level insurgency since 2009 to overturn Nigeria’s secular government and replace it with an Islamic system. While Muslims make up 50 percent of the country’s population, they are dominant in the impoverished north, while Christians and animists are dominant in the commercially powerful and oil-producing south. Security analysts worry that the three year long insurgency, which has killed some 660 people thus far in 2012 is straining the country’s secular foundations to the breaking point.
Boko Haram has been quite active, launching attacks on an almost weekly basis, but their radical message does not resonate with all Nigerian Muslims.
Sheikh Ahmed Gummi, a respected Islamic scholar in northern Kaduna state told reporters recently, “Those killing innocent people are heartless people who are not fearing their God. The incessant attacks are condemnable, it’s against the teaching of any religion, so those who are doing this act are criminals who will face God hereafter.”
The fighting in the north has gotten so bad that even other Nigerian militant groups, engaged in their own insurgencies against the Nigerian government, have threatened to take action against Boko Haram.
Alhaji Mujahid Asari-Dokubo, the leader of Niger Delta People Volunteer Force in the oil-rich Niger Delta region, has threatened to intervene against Boko Haram, and to cut off the north from both food and weapon supplies.
Mr. Asari-Dokubo, in an interview with reporters, said if it came to war, "it will continue forever. We are just waiting. It is we that they [Boko Haram] are pushing. They will push us to the extent that we will tell Goodluck [Jonathan, the Nigerian president] that you are on your own. Now we want to fight and the guns will start coming out.”
“What will happen is unimaginable in the history of the world,” Asari-Dokubo said. “I feel pained because I am a Muslim. I know the north will suffer because not only oil, we will cut them off totally from the coast. No food will go in.”