Muslim youths attack Nigerian church

Persecution | Violence comes amid ongoing religious tension rippling across the country
by Onize Ohikere
Posted 7/18/16, 10:37 am

ABUJA, Nigeria—A group of Muslim youths attacked and vandalized a Catholic Church in Nigeria’s Niger state on Friday. The attack comes barely a week after the murder of a female street preacher in Abuja, the country’s capital.

Some 200 youths stormed St. Philip’s Catholic Church after afternoon prayers, at about 2 p.m., confirmed the vicar-general of the diocese, Rev. Luka Sylvester Goep. A group of women had gathered in the church for a prayer meeting at about the same time the nearby mosque held its afternoon prayers. The church and the mosque both use external speakers to broadcast their gatherings, said Niger state police spokesman Bala Elkana James. Angered by the competing broadcast, the youths attacked the church and told the Christians to stick with Sunday as their day of worship. Local police are currently investigating the case, James said.

“We have the key suspect who led the hoodlums to attack the church,” he added.

The youths beat one of the security guards as they entered the church building. Goep said the attackers also beat a seminarian living at the church. They chased away the praying women and vandalized the church, breaking windows and destroying musical instruments.

“The Muslim attackers kept shouting that it is only Muslims that have the right to pray on Friday,” one witness, identified only as Emmanuel, told Sahara Reporters.

Several other similar attacks have happened across the country in recent months. On July 9, Eunice Olawale was murdered during her regular morning evangelism in Abuja’s Kubwa neighborhood. On June 2, a mob killed Bridget Agbahime after a Muslim man accused her of blasphemy.

Following the violence, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) complained of the government’s lukewarm attitude to the growing religious tension and called for more vigilance on the part of civilians.

“In as much as we will continue to call on Christians to remain tolerant and law abiding, it is becoming inevitable to also call on them to buckle up and be ready to defend themselves against these incessant unprovoked and mindless attacks,” CAN’s general secretary, Rev. Musa Asake, said in a statement.

In a bid to avoid further tension, James said the Niger state police department organized a roundtable discussion between the different religious leaders in the state following the attack. The leaders of St. Philip’s Church and the mosque the attackers attended also will meet with police to discuss how to structure their meeting times to avoid future clashes, James added.

Onize Ohikere

Onize is a reporter for WORLD Digital based in Abuja, Nigeria.

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