The attack was just one of a string of twelve acts of violence that took place, all of which occurred within one weekend. Christians in the village of Maseh state that they had gathered at their pastor’s house in order to find a place of safety, but while they were there, a group of gunmen burst into the home and opened fire on those that were inside. Before the assailants left, the house was set on fire.
“They were killed alongside the wife of the pastor and children,” Dachollom Datiri, vice president of the Church of Christ in Nigeria, told the organization Open Doors International.
When all was said and done, every Church of Christ facility across the country was burned to the ground and 100 people were dead. Half of those were inside the pastor’s house in Maseh.
While some have their suspicions, the radical Muslim group Boko Haram is claiming responsibility for the attacks. It issued a statement threatening Christians in Nigeria to deny their faith and convert to Islam or they “would never know peace again.”
“Their goal is make all of Nigeria a country run and dominated by Shariah law,” Open Doors spokesman Jerry Dykstra said. “The Nigerian government needs to step up and protect Christian worshipers.”
“We’ve heard that the [Nigerian military] is here to provide protection to the weaker side in the conflict between Christians and Muslims,” Obed Dashan, the general secretary of the Church of Christ, said. “They have openly said they are here to protect Muslims. However, it is the same Muslims who are being protected that are attacking Christians and destroying our villages and church buildings. There is no single mosque that has been destroyed by Christians and we have never been on the offensive; so, why [are they] aiding Muslims to attack us?”
As previously reported, Boko Haram has been carrying out attacks on churches and other public sites for many months, and has caused a number of Christians to avoid going to church gatherings. According to sources, they are hiding in their homes instead.
Last month, the Islamic group conducted three suicide attacks on churches and other religious institutions, killing nineteen. A number of businesses closed days later and parents rushed to pick up their children from school early amid rumors that protests might take place throughout the city of Kaduna.
“We are still traumatized over the attacks and have no intention to attend church service until total peace and normalcy are restored,” stated Anthonia Eke, a resident of Kano. “God understands our situation here, so we have decided to pray at home. Only He can end this pain.”
Some Christians in Maseh are packing up and moving to other cities following the report that 50 of their fellow believers were burned to death in their pastor’s home.
“They are psychologically traumatized, and their productive economic activities are impeded,” Dashan said. “Most of them are peasant farmers and the attacks have not allowed them to go to their farms. Even those that have planted crops have had their crops destroyed by the Muslim attackers.”
However, others in various cities have been adamant that these acts of violence will not stop them from gathering together to worship.
“They will always tell you that they would prefer to die in the house of God than dying in nightclubs or dying in the streets,” said Franklin Okoye, the president of an Abuja-based church society.
Boko Haram has been prominent in the country since 2009 and is believed to be responsible for at least 1,000 deaths. Violence has been escalating in recent months as the group has stepped up its efforts to place the country under Islamic rule.