Washington (BWA)--Baptist World Alliance General Secretary Neville Callam has strongly urged the president of Nigeria to ensure the security and protection of all its citizens, including Christians.
In a letter addressed to Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, the Nigerian president, Callam expressed grave concern at the attacks in the cities of Jos and Maiduguri where Christians, including Baptists, were attacked and killed on Christmas Eve, December 24.
Callam insisted that those who committed these acts of violence should be brought to justice, and that the president "take all necessary measures to eliminate the conflict and violence with their accompanying human rights violations."
Indicating that one of the churches attacked was the Victory Baptist Church in Maiduguri, the capital and the largest city of Borno State in northeastern Nigeria, Callam informed the Nigerian president that the pastor and several members of the congregation were among those killed, while the pastor's house was set on fire.
"This kind of violence that broke out during one of the most important Christian celebrations, Christmas, claiming many innocent lives, is unacceptable," Callam told the Nigerian leader. "We urge Your Excellency to ensure the protection and security of all citizens in the areas of conflict, [and] introduce more programs that ensure peace and reconciliation."
Callam also sent a letter of encouragement and support to Ademola Ishola, general secretary of the Nigerian Baptist Convention (NBC). "It was with great shock and profound sorrow that we heard the news of the tragic and unprovoked attacks against Christian churches in Jos and Maiduguri," Callam said. "We are immensely saddened by this new episode of violence against our brothers and sisters in northern Nigeria... which have become so frequent. On the behalf of the Baptist family around the world, we extend our prayers and solidarity to the families of those who died, and to those who have been injured."
Baptists and other Christians, mainly in northern Nigeria, have come under increasing attacks in recent years. Approximately 1,000 persons died from what were allegedly religious clashes in 2001.
In November 2008, some 300 persons were killed, at least 12 of them Baptists, and five Baptist churches burned, during riots sparked by local election results. In July 2009, major religious violence committed by the Islamist group Boko Haram in four cities in northeast Nigeria, including Maiduguri, left more than 700 people dead.
In January 2010, approximately 500 persons died from clashes between Muslim and Christian factions, with an estimated 5,000 persons displaced by the fighting. Six Baptist members were among those killed while seven Baptist churches were burned. Also in March last year, more than 500 Christians were killed, most being women and children, in villages close to Jos, the administrative capital of Plateau State.
The attacks in December have left dozens killed in both Jos and Maiduguri. The violence, suspected to be carried out by Boko Haram, have continued into January, including against a number of police stations. Several police officers have reportedly been killed.
Nigeria, where there are two BWA member bodies, has the largest number of Baptists in Africa. The NBC has 2.5 million members in 9,500 churches. The Mambilla Baptist Convention has 23,000 members in 255 churches.