Christians massacred in Church by Muslim extremists

( [email protected] ) Mar 08, 2004 02:07 PM EST

Nigeria - A total of 48 people were axed to death in Yelwa, Nigeria in the worst single incident so far in Nigeria.

According to the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), a group of armed Muslims invaded an early morning prayer service on February 24, ordered the congregation to lie face down, and proceeded “to machete and axe them to death in their house of worship.” The victims included women and children.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) Director Tina Lambert commented, “CSW is deeply disturbed by the renewed violence and horrified by the massacre of Christians during a prayer service. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of all those affected. We call on the Plateau State Government to guarantee the safety of Christians in southern Plateau State and ensure that those responsible for such appalling violence are swiftly brought to justice.”

In a strongly worded statement on March 2, CAN called on Muslims in northern Nigeria to emulate their western counterparts by living peaceably alongside northern Christians.

A recent escalation in violence in southern Plateau State in Nigeria has claimed at least 100 lives. A local source reported that the violence might ultimately be aimed at undermining a recent decision by the Plateau State Government to allow the area of Kadarko to administer itself separately from the Wase Emirate. Kardarko is the largest of only three Christian areas remaining in Wase Local Government Area (LGA) following the violence of 2002. Local sources also indicate the latest violence is part of a campaign organized by a coalition of local and external extremists.

The Yelwa incident was preceded by an attack on Tunka in Shendam LGA during which 18 people were killed, including four policemen who were assigned to the area to maintain peace. A local source reported that the attacks were being carried out by as many as 400 heavily armed Muslims wearing read and black uniforms shouting “Allah u Akhbar” (God is great). As government reinforcements arrived in the area to stop the violence, the attackers are said to have adopted hit-and-run tactics, striking Christian areas and moving on before troops could engage them. By February 26, there were reports of similar violence in Shendam Town, Mikang, Langtang South and Langtang North LGAs.

Reverend Ben Kwashi, a Bishop of the city of Jos, said, “We ourselves are not discouraged. We have outgrown retaliation, vengeance and anger. We are living by the grace of God and encouraging the faithful not to give in. What makes me sad is that as soon as we begin to reconstruct homes, churches, and even peoples’ lives, we get shattered again by events such as these. What gives me joy, on the other hand, is that we are not tired and we will continue with fresh zeal as long as there is life to reconstruct, rebuild and develop.”

Nigeria has seen an increase in inter-religious violence since several northern states began to call for full Shari’ah Law, or Islamic Law, in 1999. 12 of 36 Nigerian states have implemented full Shari’ah law. Many observers believe the Shari’ah campaign has been engineered by Muslim northern power elite which had dominated Nigeria’s political and military establishments since independence, and which felt it had lost power following the election of Christian President Olusegun Obasanjo. So far more than 10,000 people have died as a direct result of Shari’ah related clashes.

[source: Christian Solidarity Worldwide]