Christians in Northern Nigeria are being forced from their homes to such a degree that one state has been almost entirely cleared of Christians, according to the Barnabas fund.
The campaigning group which works on behalf of the persecuted church, says Christians have been forced out by a ‘relentless campaign of violence against them.’
The militant Islamist sect Boko Haram have taken responsibility for a series of attacks against Nigerian Christians.
They have specifically targeted Christians and others who come from Southern Nigeria, in an attempt to move them out of the northern half of the country where Boko Haram aim to build an Islamic state.
Now Nigerian leaders say that nearly 95% of Christians have left the state of Yobe in Northern Nigeria.
The Rev. Garba Idi, chairman of the Yobe State chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria, said: “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.”
Boko Haram gained worldwide notoriety when they carried out a series of co-ordinated bombings over Christmas in 2011, the group went on to issue an ultimatum to Christians, demanding that they leave. Despite government assurances that sufficient safeguards would be put into place, there have been a number of further killings 2012.
And in the state of Yobe, things have been particularly bad, with more than 20 churches burned down, and hundreds of people have been killed, since violence flared there in November.
Now many Christians are leaving the area, to take refuge in the predominantly Christian southern states, while others are migrating to neighbouring Cameroon.
The problems in Nigeria have been raised in parliament, and most recently during the Church of England’s General Synod, when the Bishop of Durham, the Rt Rev Justin Welby, told fellow Anglicans that Christians in Northern Nigeria were “systematically, deliberately and progressively being eliminated”.
Despite government claims to the contrary, Synod members heard that the church in the north east of the country in particular had received “little protection, if any”.
President Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian from Southern Nigeria, has said that he fears Boko Haram has supporters in his government, and others have suggested that the sect has members in the police and armed forces.
February 16th, 2012 - Posted & Written by Simon Cross