On the morning of Sunday, Oct. 31, Christians around the world were in church, worshiping — but one congregation in Nigeria was about to be attacked by gunmen.
At around 11 a.m., a group of bandits entered Emmanuel Baptist Church in Kaduna City, shot and killed two people, injured two more and took at least 60 hostages, according to The Epoch Times.
The kidnappers took young and old alike, and Christians in the area fear what’s to come.
“Among the people they kidnapped were several pregnant women, some that will soon give birth; there are also very old men and women and children below 6 years, among others,” said the Rev. Joseph Hayab, president of the Kaduna chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria.
“Put in mind that they kidnapped 121 Baptist students in July this year. Family members and sympathizers had to pay hundreds of millions of naira to secure their freedom in batches, and up till now we still have four students they are holding as hostages.”
“The Baptist church is the worst-hit church in this state,” Hayab said. “Surviving as a Christian, and especially as a Christian cleric in Kaduna state, is largely by the mercy and grace of God if you are in these vulnerable communities.”
“In the past one year, not less 10 clerics have been killed by armed gunmen and at least 30 kidnapped, some with their families, and given humiliating maltreatment and abuses,” Hayab said. “This is all to suppress Christianity and destroy the church.”
He added that matters have been complicated by a lack of communication.
“Communication networks in areas where such attacks are common have been shut down by Kaduna state government under the directives of Gov. Nasir el-Rufai,” he explained. “This means that the criminals can come and do what they like, and no one has any means of calling for help.”
In a statement to the group The Voice of the Martyrs, Hayab summed up the sad state of affairs: “Citizens are being killed like chickens with only press statements as consolation.”
The onslaught from the Fulani, a militant Muslim tribe, has been going on for two decades and has gotten worse since 2015, according to the International Committee on Nigeria.
Emmanuel Umaru Musa, a criminology professor at Niger State University–Lapai, said the attacks are a form of ethnic cleansing.
“The political leadership of Nigeria and that of Kaduna state have subtly assured the so-called bandits that one religion is superior to the other, and as such, it is OK for them to stamp control over southern Kaduna and other parts of the Christian north,” he said.
“Kaduna state has become a criminogenic environment, and no one is doing anything to stop it because the drivers of the crime come from the same tribe and religion with the men at the helm of affairs of the country and Kaduna state.”
“It is true that they attack Muslims and kidnap some of them, but the purpose of that crime is to raise money for arms and recruit more terrorists. But when they attack a Christian enclave, their aim is to steal, destroy, kill and occupy the community.
“They also kidnap Christians basically to humiliate them, rape their women and even marry their women by force. They also take ransom, all to further impoverish their Christian victims.”
Jo Newhouse is a spokeswoman for Open Doors, an organization that supports Christians in over 60 countries “by supplying Bibles, providing emergency relief and helping persecuted believers stand strong for the long-term,” according to its website.
Newhouse said the situation in Nigeria has been steadily worsening and asked people to keep Nigerian Christians in their prayers.
“This kidnapping is a shocking example of the audacity of the so-called bandits and the impunity that is escalating, seemingly without bounds in Nigeria,” Newhouse said in a news release.
“The government is grossly failing its citizens in this matter and the continuing lawlessness is creating [an] ideal breeding ground for extremism. We call on the international Body of Christ to remain in fervent [prayer] for the release of the church members, and pray that the Lord will use this situation to bring a breakthrough in this situation.”
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.