Continued violence in Nigeria leaving Christians 'paralysed by fear'

Tola Mbakwe

A  Nigerian priest has said a surge in violence against Christians has left people paralysed by fear and unable to go about their normal lives. 

Speaking to Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), Fr Sam Ebute of Kangoro (pictured above) said Christians were constantly worried about the next spate of attacks.

He said: "For the past seven weeks, we have been burying our parishioners with no end in sight. These last attacks have left us all in fear and especially the fear of the unknown because we do not know when the next round of attacks will happen and what will trigger it. 

"We cannot worship in peace. We have no confidence in the safety of our homes."

He added: "Our movements are limited, our faithful cannot freely go about their activities. It is farming season now, but they dare not go to their farms for fear of being attacked there. 

"They have left their crops to perish. It is like we have been left to perish because of our faith."

In seven months 178 people were killed in Kaduna State, reports suggest mainly by militant Fulani herders. 

According to persecution watchdog Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) two people were burned beyond recognition in their homes in the early hours of 11th September during an attack on Manyi-Mashin village,in Zangon Kataf Local Government Area (LGA).  

The charity said militia razed almost every house to the ground after looting the village of valuables, and fled prior to the arrival of a detachment from Operation Safe Haven, a military taskforce aimed at tackling violence in the region. 

Meanwhile, three days before, herdsmen armed with knives and machetes had ambushed three young people from Atakmawei village in Zamandabo Ward as they went to clear weeds from their sugar cane farm, situated around a kilometre from their village. 

According to religious freedom charity Open Doors, Nigerians in the south of Nigeria are free to follow Jesus, but northern Nigeria and the 'middle belt' sees extreme Christian persecution.

Fr Sam was critical of the government's refusal to provide protection. 

He said: "What makes all of this even more difficult is the fact that the government doesn't take decisive measures to curb the menace. This is the most devastating and frustrating thing to fathom."

Fr Sam, who's also the Director of Vocations for the Society of African Missions, buried 21 of his parishioners after bandits attacked Kukum Daji village. 

The community had a gathering of youths when they suddenly heard gunshots and noises of men screaming," he said. 

"In less than two hours, the bandits left 17 youths dead, mostly girls, while four died either on their way to the hospital or at the hospital, making it a total number of 21."

"For four years, since I became a priest in 2016, I have been burying my parishioners."
His comments echoed those made by the bishops of Kaduna Province, in a statement sent to ACN, who warned that Nigeria has become engulfed by violence.

They said: "Dark clouds of violence have enveloped our land. Our country is in the firm grip of the grim reaper. In the last few years, the purveyors of this violence have taken over the land and placed our security forces on the defensive…

"In the last three years, we have witnessed the relentless attacks and ransacking of entire communities‚Ķ 

"Thousands of lives have been lost to these bandits who have operated with relentless abandon."

They added: "The ravages of Boko Haram, the herdsmen, kidnappers and the bandits have turned everyone into a victim."

Nigeria ranks 12 on Open Doors' World Watch List which ranks the most difficult places to live as a Christian. 

Lord, please protect our Nigerian brothers and sisters as they face extreme persecution. Grant dignity and peace to Christian women who have been mistreated, that they will be seen, valued and empowered to reach their God-given potential. Please convict Islamic extremists of their sin and turn them to you.
-    Prayer from Open Doors


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