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Yet, Another Boko Haram Massacre

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Blood flowed freely in Bauchi on Sunday, June 3, as a Boko Haram attack on Living Faith Church, in Yelwa area of Bauchi claimed many lives

“An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.”  This biblical statement, taken from Matthew chapter 5, 38-40, is one that many Christian teachers do not subscribe to, as it runs contrary to the virtues or teachings on forgiveness. They would rather adhere to the dictate that people should turn the other cheek, “if anyone strikes you on the right cheek.”

But that line of thinking, it appears, no longer appeals to some top members of the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, the umbrella body of Christians across the country. The members are furious, and they are not hiding it. They are unhappy that Christians are consistently targeted for attack by the Islamic sect, Boko Haram, and, as such, have been voicing their anger. 

Last week, some CAN members, through their association, again warned that their patience was running out and that they might be forced to retaliate further assaults on them. This warning came on the heels of the latest bombing that claimed the lives of at least 17 Christian worshippers in Yelwa, Bauchi State.

On Sunday, June 3, members of the Living Faith Church, otherwise known as Winners Chapel, who had just concluded  the day’s first service were  about to leave for their various homes when suddenly, a  loud explosion, rent the air. It turned out to be a bomb attack. Eye witness accounts said a car owner, on a suicide mission, had accelerated towards the Winners Chapel despite attempts to halt it by the security operatives stationed within the area. Even though the driver failed to hit his intended target as the speeding car finally rammed into the iron barricade leading to the church, he did achieve his aim. The resulting loud explosion left many people dead. Apart from the human casualty which included injuries to scores of people and cars that got engulfed by the inferno, part of the Harvestfield Church of Christ, which is located close to the Winners Chapel, caved in. Boko Haram, the Islamic fundamentalist, claimed responsibility for the attack.

Following the incident, David Oyedepo, president of the Living Faith Church, visited Yelwa, to assess the extent of damage. He enjoined Christians to be strong and not lose faith in the Lord. God, he said, would not forget his people nor condone any evil done to them. “We serve a God of vengeance who has vowed to avenge the saints. He will descend his instrument of death on the camp of the enemy. We invoke the vengeance of God on the camp of Boko Haram and their sponsors. We decree that this week is a week of vengeance and God will unleash his instrument of death on their camp. This month is a month of vengeance and so we release arrows of humiliating deaths on them.”

Ransom Bello, chairman of CAN in Kano State, said the situation was getting out of hand and could lead to a religious war. “This is provocative because it could force Christians to react in the same manner. All these while Christians have kept quiet believing the attack will abate and again because violence is not part of the teaching of the Almighty God, we have remained calm” he said, adding that “we cannot continue like this and I hope government is evaluating the implication, which is a likely sign of antagonism against Christians and capable of provoking them to also react.” He urged the government to do everything within its power to halt the slide towards anarchy. “Government at all levels should view this development seriously before the country is plunged into a religious war.”

Bello regretted that the government had not been able to halt the insurgency and that each time the country witnessed a new attack, the response from government had always been that “we are on top of it, we are making efforts.”

In recent months, Boko Haram had been blamed for series of bombing and killing of Christians in places of worship in Northern Nigeria. The latest onslaught, prior to the Yelwa incident happened on April 29 inside the Bayero University in Kano when gun men stormed the open theatre being used as a church by Christians  and threw homemade bombs into it. The ensuing explosion, apart from the instant deaths it caused, led to a pandemonium that saw people fleeing for their lives, only to be cut down by a hail of gun fires by members of the sect who had taken position waiting for them. No less than 15 people, including two university professors, lost their lives in the attack.

Reacting to the incident, Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, said that: “the latest terror attacks in Nigeria ... during Christian religious celebrations are horrible and despicable acts to be condemned in the strongest possible way.”

The Bayero University incident, came days after a suspected Boko Haram member drove a bomb laden car that exploded in an area close to a church in Kaduna. The incident occurred on Easter Sunday. Most of the victims, however, were said to be muslims, some of who were commercial motorcyclists, as the explosion occurred in an area where they usually hanged out, after the bomber was said to have changed his mind about heading towards the church, having noticed the security around the area. The number of dead were put at 36.

Before the Bayero incident, there was the Christmas Day bomb attack at Madalla, a border community between the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja and Niger State. That day, many parishioners of  St Theresa’s Church, Madalla, were either leaving or heading towards the church as the 6.00 am mass had just been concluded  and the  8.00 one about to follow. It was at that point that a suicide bomber drove the car that exploded within the church premises, leaving more than 40 people killed. While some died instantly, others gave up the ghost on the way to the hospital.

Apart from these incidents, similar bomb or gun related attacks had claimed the lives of both Christians and Muslims in other Nigerian states such as Borno, Yobe, Plateau, Adamawa and Taraba.

Following the Madalla incident, Ayo Oritsejafor, president of CAN, said Christians reserved the right to defend themselves in the face of attack.”We have the legitimate right … and we will do whatever it takes,” he said at the time. Further attacks saw him asserting that CAN was making “a final call to the Nigerian government to use all resources available to it to clearly define and neutralise the problem” as the Church leadership which has hitherto put “great restraint on the restive and aggrieved” Christians “can no longer guarantee such cooperation if this trend of terror is not halted immediately.”



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