Church leaders in Nigeria have expressed their shock and sadness after what they describe as ‘Black Sunday’ – a day in which a plane crash in Lagos killed 153 people. This was followed a series of bomb attacks on churches which killed at least 18 people and injured a further 32.
Mgr Ignatius Ayau Kaigama, Archbishop of Jos and President of the Episcopal Conference of Nigeria, said he had been attending the National Catholic Prayer Pilgrimage with the bishops when the news broke. He said everyone was deeply shocked: “The faithful prayed with great intensity. After prayer, the Bishops met with President Goodluck Jonathan, to discuss the problems of security of the country and attacks against Christian churches, especially in the north.”
A suicide bomb attack by Boko Haram targeted two churches in Bauchi State, north east Nigeria. The bombing occurred just as the congregation of Living Faith Church in Yelwa Tudu, Bauchi city was leaving the service. However, the casualties came primarily from the neighbouring church, Harvest Field Church for Christ, which bore the brunt of the explosion. Twelve cars and a number of buildings were also reported to have been destroyed by the blast.
Local sources report that rumours of imminent bombings by Boko Haram had circulated over the weekend, and that while security in the area was initially reinforced, it had been relaxed prior to the bombing.
Three other bombers carrying explosives were reportedly intercepted on their way to the Church of Christ in Nigeria (COCIN) and Catholic churches in Yelwa Tudu, but were killed by angry crowds that gathered there. In a separate development, reports emerged on Saturday of a night attack by armed Fulani tribesmen on Sansun Village in Zangon Kataf Local Government Area (LGA), Southern Kaduna State, in which a man named Matthew Aetung and his son were hacked to death, his wife was critically injured, and his home was razed to the ground.
Mervyn Thomas, chief executive of Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), said: “Once again we have witnessed terror attacks on innocent civilians who were peaceably expressing their faith, while a family was murdered in their home by armed assailants. CSW extends our heartfelt condolences to the families of those who died in each of these terrible attacks, and reiterates the call for a decisive, intelligence-led strategy to combat the insurgency, and for comprehensive protection of areas that are known to be under threat of ethno-religious violence.”