At least 40 Christians were killed and several more abducted in an attack on a church as it gathered to celebrate Pentecost. Six men with links to ISWAP have now been arrested.
Six men have now been arrested for the Pentecost attack on St Francis Catholic Church in Owo, south west Nigeria, which killed more than 40 worshippers and injured others (see original story, below).
During the morning service, armed men entered the building where they strategically set off explosives that sent worshippers running for the exits. Outside the building, further gunmen shot at those who were fleeing.
Last week, the Chief of Defence Staff General Lucky Irabor informed Nigerian media that investigations led to the arrest of four men responsible for the attack. Those arrested were Idris Abdulmalik Omeiza (a.k.a. Bin Malik), Momoh Otohu Abubakar, Aliyu Yusuf Itopa and Auwal Ishaq Onimisi.
Only a few hours after Irabor’s announcement, two more men, Al-Qasim Idris and Abdulhaleem Idris, were apprehended in connection with the attack. According to the Director of Defence Information, Jimmy Akpor, the men are linked to the Islamic State of the West Province (ISWAP, a splinter group of Boko Haram with links to so-called Islamic State). Abdulhaleem Idris is responsible for previous coordinated attacks on military targets in Kogi State.
Church attacks are usually rare in the south of Nigeria and the onslaught highlighted once again the deteriorating security situation in Nigeria.
Please pray for those who continue to grieve for loved ones killed in the attack, that they would know God's loving comfort. Ask God that justice would be done in the courts, and that Christian communities would be safe from further violence. As Jesus instructed, we also pray for those who persecute believers: ask that God would have mercy on these six men and show them His love, so they would turn from their wickedness and choose to follow Jesus.
6 June 2022
At least 40 Christians, including children, have been killed and dozens injured in an attack on a church in south west Nigeria as it gathered to celebrate Pentecost. Several believers were also kidnapped.
The attackers shot at people outside and inside St Francis Catholic Church in the town of Owo in Ondo State on Sunday (5 June). Explosives were also detonated. The presiding priest is among those abducted.
No one has yet claimed responsibility for the attack, but Adeyemi Olayemi, a lawmaker in Ondo, told The Guardian that the attackers are believed to have been militant Fulani herdsmen in retaliation to the state recently imposing restrictions on grazing following a surge in kidnappings.
“We have enjoyed improved security since herdsmen were driven away from our forests by this administration,” Olayemi said. “This is a reprisal attack to send a diabolical message to the governor.” Open Doors is investigating these claims.
This latest attack reflects how the Islamic insurgency typically concentrated in northern Nigeria and the Middle Belt is affecting other parts of the country, including the Christian-majority south where Owo is located.
“The south of Nigeria is known for being peaceful and safe for the church, but now things are changing,” shares Zula, Open Doors country manager for Nigeria. “The violence from the north and Middle Belt is spreading rapidly and this is the result of violence that has gone unpunished.”
"The south of Nigeria is known for being peaceful and safe for the church, but now things are changing" Zula
Last week, the head of the Methodist Church in Nigeria was abducted along with two other clerics in the south east of the country. They were later released after a ransom was paid.
Nigeria is number seven on the World Watch List, but it would be number one if it were based purely on violence. More Christians were killed there last year for their faith than in all other countries combined.
“We condemn in the strongest terms possible the attack on Christians as they gathered in peace to worship God,” says Jo Newhouse, Open Doors’ spokesperson for sub-Saharan Africa. “We call on the Nigerian government to adequately discharge its legal obligation of duty to protect its citizens, both under international and domestic legal regimes.
“We also call upon the authorities to take a strong stance against all violence, including Fulani militant violence, investigate the perpetrators, hold them accountable to the justice system and break the cycle of violence that is expanding to other areas of the country, as is clearly shown by this incident. The longer these acts go unpunished, the longer they will continue.”
“People are full of trauma,” says Zula, who adds that many Christians are not going to church for fear of attack, or even stopping travelling on roads to avoid abduction. “Continue to pray for faith to be increased as well, because having seen these things going on it affects the faith of many. They begin to question God – whether God is still alive. Let’s keep praying for the church in southern Nigeria and Nigeria as a whole. Thank you.”
Every £24 could train a church leader to better disciple their church community
Every £35 could help empower a West African church to give persecuted believers emergency shelter and food
Every £45 could help equip a church member to provide trauma care to believers in their community
Your support helps persecuted Christians continue to courageously follow Jesus.
Together, we can reach those where persecution hits hardest.