Another Attack on Christians During Sunday Church Service in Nigeria, Killing at Least 50 as They Worshiped

By 

Shaheryar Gill

|
June 8

3 min read

Persecuted Church

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In 2020, over 2,200 Christians were murdered by Islamic militants, a 60 percent increase over the prior year. In 2021, there was over a 100 percent increase with at least 5,191 unarmed Christians being butchered by Islamic militants and the Muslim-dominated Nigerian security forces. However, despite the year-over-year increase in murders, in November 2021, Secretary of State Antony Blinken decided to remove Nigeria from the State Department’s list of Countries of Particular Concern (CPC) – a critical persecution watchlist  .

Sadly, the violence has only gotten worse. As we reported last month, Islamic militants in Nigeria executed 20 Christian prisoners as an act of vengeance for the death of ISIS leaders in the Middle East.

This week, at least 50 Christians were slaughtered with many more injured during a Sunday service at St. Francis Catholic Church in the Nigerian state of Ondo. Gunmen stormed into the church and started “shooting sporadically.” The attack left many women and children among the dead. Nina Shea, a human rights lawyer, stated:

This massacre in a church while filled with Sunday worshippers is an atrocity that we’ve repeatedly seen in northern Nigeria over the years. Those were the work of Islamist extremists . . . . [I]t is clear that large-scale, war-like attacks on Catholics and other Christians are spreading in a system of impunity . . . . The Buhari government has allowed this [to] continue unabated and fails to protect Nigeria’s churches. This governmental passivity is being seen as a green light for extremists to target Christians.

We’ve reported numerous horrific instances of religiously motivated violence committed by Islamic radicals. Terrorists have ransacked and burned Christian villages, gunned down entire families, and beheaded Christians. Innocent young Christian girls are kidnapped and sold as slaves, forced into marriages, and raped. We have highlighted these and many other incidents in our submissions to the United Nations. Yet, despite these atrocities, not only has the Nigerian government been passive, but in some cases, they have been the perpetrators of violence themselves with security forces murdering the innocent and raping victims of Islamic extremist violence who they were supposed to protect.

The systemic violence against Christians, including women and children, is pervasive in both the militants’ and the government’s actions. The purpose of designating a country as a CPC is to bring about reform in the specified country and put an end to the atrocities. However, the Biden Administration has chosen to ignore the violence. Because of the continued violence against Christians in Nigeria, we are preparing a letter to urge the Biden Administration to redesignate Nigeria as a CPC.