Twenty-three pastors have been killed and over 200 churches shut down in Kaduna State, North West Nigeria, in the last four years.
Reverend John Joseph Hayab, the chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), an umbrella body of Christians in the country, disclosed this on Wednesday September 13 during a meeting with the state Commissioner of Police, Musa Garba and church leaders from the 23 local government areas.
The meeting was held at Albaraka Baptist Church, Barnawa, Kaduna at the instance of the police commissioner.
“In four years, the church has come under severe attacks by bandits and other criminal elements in Kaduna State where we lost 23 pastors and over 200 churches were shut down,” Rev. Hayab said.
The CAN chairman told the police that the church had gone through difficult times in the state as a result of the activities of criminal elements.
He further recounted, “A pastor who was kidnapped on 8th of August, 2023, told CAN leadership that there are over 215 Christians abducted by the bandits in Birnin Gwari forest. They are still there and the pastor told us that the bandits asked him to lead prayers for the 215 Christians while he was in their den.
“We are calling on the CP to look into this issue among many others holistically to build the confidence of the people once again.”
Also speaking at the forum, Rev. Yunusa Nmadu Jnr, a former Secretary General of the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) worldwide, and other pastors, appealed to the commissioner to sanction pastors and imams who deliver hate sermons and speeches.
They also asked the police to look into cases of those who sell hard drugs because, according to them, they commit most of the criminal acts under the influence of the drugs.
Mr Garba, in his response, said criminality had no religion and therefore any one that engages in it should be regarded as a criminal without describing such a person as a Christian, Muslim or a member of a particular ethnic group.
“Security is the responsibility of all and not only that of the government. While the government takes the lead in the protection of lives and property, individuals are also expected to play their parts particularly in the area of providing information.
“The meeting was basically to strengthen the relationship between the police and religious leaders and listen to their challenges and together foster possible solutions. The police force under my leadership in the state will do its best in the discharge of our duties. We should all be our brother’s keeper. Always reach out to security personnel around your communities with prompt information once you identify suspicious persons,” the commissioner said.
US-based Christian watchdog, Open Doors, in its 2023 World Watch List report released in January, said 5,014 Christians were killed for their faith in Nigeria in 2022 while 4,726 others were abducted. It also said the country ranks sixth among 50 nations of the world where it is dangerous to practice Christianity.
Open Doors said, “Militants from the Fulani, Boko Haram, Islamic State West African Province (ISWAP) and others conduct raids on Christian communities, killing, raping and kidnapping for ransom or sexual slavery. This year has also seen this violence spill over into the Christian-majority south of the nation….Nigeria’s government continues to deny this is religious persecution, so violations of Christians’ right are carried out with impunity.”