Relaymedia

200 Muslims Volunteer to Protect Persecuted Christians during Nigerian Christmas Service

( [email protected] ) Dec 31, 2014 04:46 PM EST
As Christians are increasingly targeted in Muslim countries around the world, a ray of hope shown through last week as a reported 200 young Muslims protected a group of Christians from attack in the Nigerian city of Kaduna.
Abubakar Shekau, leader of the Nigerian Islamist extremist group Boko Haram. Photo: BBC

As Christians are increasingly targeted in Muslim countries around the world, a ray of hope shown through last week as a reported 200 young Muslims protected a group of Christians from attack in the Nigerian city of Kaduna.

Pastor Yohanna Buru, a cleric of Christ Evangelical Church in south Kaduna's Sabon Tasha, talked about the attack to the News Agency of Nigeria on Friday.

"I really appreciate their love and care,'' he said, while describing an interfaith effort to strengthen a peaceful bond between Muslims and Christians in Nigeria.

After a series of suicide bombings and attacks on Christian worship buildings in Kaduna by Islamist militant group Boko Haram, the Muslim youth volunteered to do what they could to protect a Christmas worship service being held by the Christians in the area.

One such attack happened on Saturday, when gunmen "dressed in military uniforms" opened fire on a village in Nigeria's Tattaura region, killing 10 Christians and injuring several others who were enjoying a post-Christmas celebration.

One witness to the shootings said that, "the people of Tataura choose every 27 day of December to celebrate their Christmas, but the celebration was cut short Saturday night when 10 people were killed by gun men and many others injured and taken to the general hospital in Gwantu."

And just six days earlier, 22 people were slain throughout two separate villages in the same Sanga government district and two car bombs killed more than 30 people on December 11 in the city of Jos. The city was also the target of a much larger car bomb attack in May that killed 130 people.

The Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram -- whose name translates to "Western education is forbidden" -- is estimated to be responsible for over 5,000 deaths between July 2009 and June 2014. The targets of the group are traditionally Christians and those who side with a democratic state in Nigeria. The goal of the group is not only to eradicate what they see as threats, but also replace the current government with an Islamic state ruled by Sharia law.

The terrorist group is known for using women as suicide bombers, many of which are believed to have been kidnapped for the soel reason of being used to bomb areas where foreigners are known to assemble.

The group has already taken over several villages in the country's northern border with Cameroon, and declared an Islamic caliphate for the region.

But this recent joining together of non-militant Muslims and Christians gives hope to those looking for peace in the area. Pastor Buru said that the Muslim youth who protected the Christians did so as an initiative of peace and hopes that it will serve as an example that will further bind the two religions once and for all.

The pastor also prayed that the peace would last and the gesture would inspire many others to follow suit by emulating the interfaith solidarity.

Nigeria is currently split almost exactly in half between the northern Islaimic rule and the southern Christians. Many of the attacks, including those in Sharia-ruled Kaduna, are near the unofficial border of the two religious regions.