Church attendance is dropping in northeastern Nigeria, due to fear of continuing terrorist attacks targeting Christians. The attacks are primarily perpetrated by radical Islamist group, ‘Boko Haram’, meaning “western education is sinful” in the local Hausa language.
The uptick in violence against Christians has prompted Adventists to close churches and cancel large-scale outdoor evangelism in northern Nigeria. According to Adventist News Network, church leaders have called for days of fasting and prayer, and members have launched small group evangelistic efforts in response to the violence.
The uptick in violence against Christians has prompted Adventists to close churches and cancel large-scale outdoor evangelism in northern Nigeria
The Northeast Nigeria Conference President, Bindas Stephen Haruna, reports that the Adventist Church has not suffered property damage or loss of life, however some members have had their property looted or burned. There are 165,000 Adventists and 506 Adventist churches in Nigeria. In addition, the Seventh-day Adventist Church operates one of the nation’s most respected universities.
Christians from all denominations are struggling with the situation, as Boko Haram continues to exploit a climate of impunity. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom reports that Nigeria has lost more than 13,000 people to religiously-related violence since 1999. Few of the perpetrators have been brought to justice, say critics. As a result, they predict that religious violence will continue unabated in Africa’s most populous nation.
The Nigerian government has deployed thousands of troops to quell the violence, and has 300 people in custody. Nevertheless, Todd Nettleton of Voice of the Martyrs, USA, states “the government seems unable to stop these attacks [and] unable to take a really significant stand against Boko Haram.” Further, religious freedom advocates claim that the Nigerian Government has a very poor track record of ensuring those arrested are eventually successfully prosecuted.