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Canadians called to pray for Nigeria after Christmas bombings

January 4, 2012 No Comment

by Mathew Block

While North Americans slept soundly Christmas Eve, violence marred Christmas Day celebrations in Nigeria. In Madalla, a bomb exploded outside St. Theresa Catholic Church as parishioners left Christmas morning Mass. According to the church, the death toll stands at 43 dead and 73 injured. Churches in Joss and Gadaka were also bombed. A plot to bomb a church in Benin on New Year’s Day was reportedly foiled by security forces.

Religious unrest is common in Nigeria, where the population is split between a predominantly Muslim north and a predominantly Christian south. The radical Islamist group Boko Haram instigates much of the violence, and has taken credit for the recent Christmas bombings. The past year has been particularly volatile. At least 80 people were killed in Christmas Eve bombings and subsequent clashes between Christian and Muslim youth in December 2010. Numerous killings and reprisal killings have taken place between that event and the 2011 Christmas Day bombings. On January 1 of this year, a purported spokesperson for Boko Haram issued “a three day ultimatum” to Christians living in the north “to move away.”

The unrest has led the Canadian government to advise against all non-essential travel to Nigeria, and further warn any Canadians visiting Nigeria to be “extremely vigilant around places of worship.”

Ivan Rasch notes that Lutherans in Nigeria have not been directly affected by recent terrorist attacks, but he urges Canadians to keep the situation in prayer. Rasch lives in Nigeria and serves the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod as Volunteer Coordinator for English-Speaking West Africa.

Things are set to go from bad to worse after a recent decision by the Nigerian government to remove subsidies on petrol. Fuel prices have more than doubled, and violent protests have already erupted across the nation.

Lutheran Church of Nigeria Jubilee Logo

The unrest occurs just as the Lutheran Church of Nigeria (LCN) is set to hold its national convention January 5-8. “This is a wonderful time of worship and celebration together as a church,” Rasch notes. But that celebration threatens to be overshadowed by recent events. Rasch requests Canadians to keep the convention in prayer, “especially in light of the tensions now complicated by the fuel price increase.” He writes, “Please pray for safety in travel for all those attending, especially for those coming from far away.”

The convention’s theme this year is “Liberated to Serve Him Joyfully.” God-willing, Christians in Nigeria will find opportunity to witness to God’s mercy even in the midst of persecution.

“We the Christian community of this church have forgiven those who hurt us.”

At St. Theresa’s Catholic Church in Madalla, that is exactly what is happening. “We the Christian community of this church,” said the congregation’s priest Rev. Fr. Isaac Achi, “have forgiven those who hurt us, those who killed us, those who murdered us.” He continued: “I call on all Christians all over the country to forgive them.”

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