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Nigerian communities seek an end to attacks

Central Kaduna state residents pray and call for better security


Houses burned by bandits in the Kukawa village in April Getty Images/AFP

Nigerian communities seek an end to attacks

Last Sunday, Christians and Muslims in the town of Kagoro in Nigeria’s central Kaduna State sat under white canopies in an open field, singing and praying.

The community in Kaura County holds an annual festival on Jan. 1 to welcome the New Year. This year’s interfaith rally took place against a backdrop of persistent attacks on predominantly Christian communities across the southern Kaduna region. Many are calling for a better security response to the relentless killings and abductions.

On Dec. 26, armed men abducted more than 40 people from at least two villages in Kajuru County. Later that evening, gunmen also seized 14 members of the Evangelical Church Winning All denomination in Giwa County. Reuben Buhari, the co-founder of the Kaduna-based nonprofit Resilient Aid and Dialogue Initiative, said in a social media post that such attacks happen on a near-daily basis.

“To survive, some villagers vacate their village at night, sleep in the bush, and return in the morning,” noted Buhari, who continues to track the attacks. “Some keep watch with local weapons that are ineffective against guns held by these gunmen.”

Southern Kaduna is a predominantly Christian region in the state that has a majority of Muslims and ethnic Hausa-Fulani. The region has a long history of clashes, but residents blame the recent targeting of Christian communities on armed Fulani herders and bandit groups. In recent years, bandits have increased attacks in central and northwestern Nigeria.

On Christmas Day, gunmen killed one Christian and abducted several others as they gathered to worship in Angwan Aku in Kajuru County. Jonathan Peter, who serves as a youth leader in a Kajuru village, quickly learned of the attack through what he described as their local early warning community network.

“The village is always on a red alert,” Peter told me. “During the rainy season, they had to negotiate with bandits to allow them to travel on their own land.”

On Dec. 23, Christians gathered for a mass burial service of the 40 people killed in two communities in Kaura County. Most of them were Catholic and Evangelical Church Winning All members. The day of the funeral, at least three Christians were killed in Kagoro.

Because of poor roads, security forces often don’t arrive at villages that have been attacked until hours later. Many now rely on armed neighbors and vigilantes for protection. Violence has left some communities without pastors and livelihoods. On Tuesday, Peter learned another community abandoned its village after receiving threats.

“People can’t even farm enough to eat, [not to mention enough] to sell,” he said. “But yet they kidnap these people and ask them for ransom in millions of naira.”

At the Sunday prayer summit in Kagoro, Rev. Joseph Hayab, who serves as country leader for the Global Peace Foundation, said both Christians and Muslims in the community attended the prayers.

“Let’s show the enemy of peace that we are more together,” he said. “Those killing us are criminals and not part of us, so … the government should go and fish them out.”

World Radar

MYANMAR: The ruling military junta charged Pastor Hkalam Samson, former president of the Kachin Baptist Convention, under the draconian Unlawful Association Act. The administration arrested Samson at the Mandalay International Airport in early December as he was on his way to Thailand for a medical examination, UCA News reported. His trial is expected to start next Wednesday. If convicted, he could face three years in prison. The Baptist World Alliance condemns Samson’s “unjust” arrest. According to its statement, the military has “terrorized” communities in the states of Kachin, Karen, Kayah, Chin, and the Sagaing region since the 2021 coup, by burning villages, destroying churches, and detaining religious leaders.

The junta shelled St. Michael Catholic Church in Kachin State on Dec. 30, killing at least one person and injuring five others. According to the U.S. Department of State, Christians—predominantly Baptists, Roman Catholics, and Anglicans—make up about 6 percent of the 57 million citizens of Myanmar, also called Burma.

PAPUA NEW GUINEA: Port Moresby General Hospital and a local government authority buried 92 unclaimed bodies in a mass grave on Wednesday. A video posted on Facebook on Monday showed several cloth-wrapped bodies in a shed on the hospital’s premises as flies swarmed some decaying corpses. The mortuary of the hospital in the country’s capital was originally intended to store only 60 bodies of inpatients, a spokesperson for the hospital said. It was overloaded following tribal warfare in the region, as there is no public mortuary. Despite installing refrigerated containers to store 300 bodies, the hospital morgue still overflows as the population increases and relatives delay in claiming bodies.

MALI: Togolese President Faure Gnassingbe traveled to Mali on Wednesday to help mediate between Mali and its southern neighbor, Ivory Coast. Last Friday, a Malian court sentenced 46 Ivorian soldiers to 20 years in prison for conspiring against Mali’s government, accusing them of being mercenaries. But Ivory Coast officials say the soldiers were in Mali to assist a United Nations peacekeeping mission. Malian authorities detained the Ivorians upon their arrival at the airport in Mali’s capital of Bamako in July, claiming they flew in without permission.

HONG KONG: Catholic Cardinal Joseph Zen, 90, received court permission on Tuesday to attend the funeral of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI on Thursday. Authorities confiscated Zen’s passport after arresting him last May for alleged foreign collusion in connection with a now-defunct humanitarian fund that supported pro-democracy protesters. Courts convicted Zen and four other fund trustees of failing to register the fund as a society, though the group later filed an appeal to the High Court. At a closed-door hearing, a magistrate ruled the retired cardinal could leave the city for five days and temporarily have his passport back. Benedict elevated Zen to cardinal in 2006.

JERUSALEM: Two young men wearing yarmulkes and knotted fringes toppled and smashed the headstones of over 30 graves at the Protestant Cemetery on Mount Zion on Sunday. The Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem said the vandals also damaged the bust of Jerusalem’s second Protestant bishop Samuel Gobat, who founded Jerusalem University College, formally known as the Gobat School. The graves of three British police officers, who served in Palestine when it was under British rule, were also destroyed. The diocese said the vandals’ destruction of stone crosses indicated they were motivated by “religious bigotry and hatred against Christians,” and called for authorities to prosecute them “to the fullest extent of the law.” Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs also condemned the “immoral act” of vandalism as an “affront to religion,” while the United Kingdom  said it was dismayed at the “latest in a string of attacks against Christians and their property in and around the Old City.”

DUBAI: Known as the “party capital” of the Gulf, Dubai scrapped its 30-percent tax on alcohol starting Sunday. The city in the United Arab Emirates also stopped charging for licenses that residents needed to consume alcohol at home. The changes will run for a one-year trial period in an attempt to attract more foreigners with Dubai’s comparatively more liberal lifestyle in the Gulf.

WORLD Asia correspondent Erica Kwong contributed to this report


Onize Ohikere

Onize is WORLD’s Africa reporter and deputy global desk chief. She is a World Journalism Institute graduate and earned a journalism degree from Minnesota State University–Moorhead. Onize resides in Abuja, Nigeria.

@onize_ohiks

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