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Huge surge in attacks on Christians in Nigeria reported by charity

A man walks past burnt out houses following an attack by Boko Haram (AP)

Figures released by a Christian charity show there has been a 62% increase in violent killings of Christians in northern Nigeria in the past year.

The report released today by Open Doors and the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), entitled Crushed but not defeated, the impact of persistent violence on the Church in northern Nigeria, shows that in 2015 there were 4,028 killings and 198 church attacks. Figures recorded for the previous year were 2,484 killings and 108 church attacks.

The report focuses on persecution of Christians by three main groups: Boko Haram, Muslim Fulani herdsmen and the Muslim religious and political elite that dominates government in northern Nigeria. An estimated 30 million Christians in northern Nigeria form the largest minority in a mainly Muslim environment.

Lisa Pearce, chief executive of Open Doors UK and Ireland, said that “even though Nigeria is officially a secular federal state with a constitution that guarantees freedom of thought, conscience and religion, the reality in northern Nigeria is radically different.”

“For decades, Christians in the region have suffered marginalisation and discrimination as well as targeted violence. This is happening not only in the Sharia states of the far north where the pressure of Islam is hard felt, but also in the non-Sharia middle belt states where Sharia has not been formally implemented,” she said.

“Several areas of Northern Nigeria have seen Christianity virtually wiped out. Mutual trust has disappeared and Muslims and Christians have become increasingly separate groups, clustering together in town, suburbs and distinguished rural areas.”

In the report, a Christian woman describes how her husband was killed and her house was burned down.

“We used to live among the Fulani. We gave them no reason to kill us. The only reasons they had were religious reasons: they wanted to kill us because we are Christians,” she said.

General secretary of CAN, Rev Musa Asake, said the publication of the report was an “an opportunity to let the entire world know, especially the country, what the Christians in Nigeria have been going through.”

Open Doors works with persecuted Christians in northern Nigeria, funding development projects such as schools, community health training, provision of waterholes and teacher training. The charity also provides Bibles, Sunday school materials and other Christian literature.