Many Christians have fled the city of Maiduguri in northern Nigeria, fearing large-scale attacks by Islamic extremists after months of escalating violence. In the past few weeks, church attendance has dropped drastically and police have boarded up many churches and placed them under police or military guard, according to Compass Direct News. Leaders of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) have advised churches that remain open to suspend or reschedule services to outwit potential attackers.
Christians who remain in Maiduguri are bracing for a massive assault at the end of the month. The Islamist sect Boko Haram is expected to launch a large-scale attack to commemorate the two-year anniversary of the death of Boko Haram founder Mohammed Yusuf, who died while in custody. The sect recently issued a declaration warning Nigerians to avoid Christians, security agents and government officials or risk death.
“This Boko Haram has to be dealt with before they plunge the entire nation into a very serious crisis,” a church leader in Maiduguri told Compass Direct News.
Christians began streaming out of the region after a recent series of attacks and church bombings, for which the militant group Boko Haram claimed responsibility. On Tuesday, July 5, 2011, Boko Haram militants bombed two churches. And on the weekend of July 9 and 10, more than 30 people were killed and 20 homes burned in Maiduguri.
“It is difficult to estimate the number of dead or injured, as people are presently on the run,” a member of the Stefanos Foundation reported.
Ayo Oritsejafor, president of CAN, said he thinks Boko Haram militants have compromised or penetrated security forces to carry out their terrorist attacks. “The way and manner this is happening shows that some of our intelligence security operatives have either been compromised, or their rank-and-file are already infiltrated by members of this Islamic sect,” Oritsejafor told Compass Direct.
Church leaders said attendance at the Living Faith Church has dropped from 2,250 to 759 and that the Church of Christ in Nigeria’s attendance has dropped from 500 to 240 in recent weeks.
Sources: Compass Direct News, Release International