(Story photo courtesy Voice of the Martyrs USA)
Nigeria (MNN) ― A roadside blast and two separate gun attacks rocked Nigeria's Maiduguri Sunday.
Todd Nettleton is a spokesman for Voice of the Martyrs USA. He describes one of the attacks outside the Church of Christ in Nigeria. "[It] seems to be a husband, and a wife, and their child who were shot as they were leaving their church in Maiduguri, Nigeria."
The same day, the Nigerian army confirmed an early morning assault on a mosque that killed over 20 people. One attack seemed to be more military, the other more personal in nature. Nettleton says, "At this point, Boko Haram has not publicly taken credit for this. But it looks like what they've done in the past, so the assumption is that Boko Haram was behind it."
The city in Nigeria's restive northeast is a bastion for Boko Haram. The terrorist group has ties to al Qaeda and is known for their open declaration of war on Christians, among others. They want to create an Islamic state in the mainly Muslim north of Nigeria. These Islamists have also vowed to kill many of Nigeria's traditional Muslim leaders, many of whom they accuse of betraying Islam by submitting to the authority of a secular government.
The attack on the family brought its own question: was it personal? "Is there some connection to this particular family that they were being targeted, rather than indiscriminately targeting Christians as they were leaving church? Both of those are possibilities with Boko Haram." Nettleton says answering that question is up to the authorities.
Boko Haram is known for two kinds of attacks: "There are attacks just indiscriminately just seeking to create chaos, seeking to create a high body count. There are other attacks that target specific people that they don't like, or people who have advocated philosophies that they don't like."
Boko Haram is blamed for killing more than 1,400 people in Nigeria since 2010. Maiduguri is considered the group's base. The group may be succeeding in accomplishing one aim in their campaign to eradicate Christians, says Nettleton. "I think the first goal is to create fear and to make the Christians fearful."
Pray that believers will not be overcome with fear, but that they will sense God's presence and peace. "Scriptures tell us that when one part of the body of Christ is hurting, we're all supposed to connect with that. We're all supposed to feel that pain. So if you think about a husband and wife and a child who were shot and killed as they left church, their family is hurting, their church family is hurting, and we're a part of that family."
So, continue to pray. It's the first thing believers are asking for, says Nettleton. "Pray for our Christian brothers and sisters there, that they won't succumb to that fear, that they won't be overwhelmed by a sense of fear and a sense of hopelessness." At the same time, there's the realization that "when there is chaos, that can be a time when people are open to the Gospel, and it can be a time when people ask questions about eternity and about life after death."
Please lift up Nigerian Christians in your prayers for God's protection and consolation. Remember the families of the believers who have lost their lives as a result of these attacks. Pray that the government will take steps to protect Christians from further violence.
VOM assists hundreds of Nigerian pastors and also provides food, clothing, and medical aid to Nigerian Christians who are attacked by Muslim extremists. There's more. Check our Featured Links Section for details.