from Africa in Transition

More Nigerian Church Bombings

September 25, 2012

Blog Post

On Sunday, September 24, immediately after an early mass, a suicide bomber attacked St. John’s Roman Catholic Cathedral in Bauchi. Five were reported killed with another forty-six injured.  Doctors warn that many of the wounded are in bad condition, and may die. No part of Boko Haram, a radical Islamic movement that targets the Nigerian political economy, has claimed responsibility. It is likely, however, that most Nigerians will impute to it the responsibility. The BBC, among other media, has stated that church bombings have waned while Boko Haram shifted its focus to communications towers. The Nigerian press, on the other hand, has reported attacks nearly every Sunday since at least the beginning of August.

The northern chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), the umbrella group that includes almost all of the Christian churches, appears to be working to dampen down Christian revenge against Muslims.  Its spokesmen characterize the bombings as “a test of faith.” One CAN spokesman said, “Christians should look up to God, because vengeance is of God.  We are not comfortable with the killing of Christians, but we leave everything to God.  He has not failed us, and will not fail us.”

According to the Society of African Missions, Catholics in Bauchi number only seventy thousand, or 2 percent of the population. As the cathedral and the seat of the bishop, St. John’s is the most prominent Catholic church in the state and, as such, a target.

Attacks also continue on prominent Muslims associated with the Nigerian government.  Unidentified gunmen last week murdered the former controller general of prisons, Alhaji Ibrahim Jarma.

The Nigerian press is also reporting that the military have deployed one thousand troops to the adjacent state of Yobe in anticipation of increased Boko Harm activities there.  It also reports that the military and police have arrested more than one thousand people, including forty-five civil servants. According to the press, efforts by the civil servants to identify themselves were “brushed aside.”

Christians in Bauchi are weak in numbers and influence.  It is likely that many of them are “settlers” originally from other parts of Nigeria. Unlike the fire-and-brimstone rhetoric against Boko Haram and Muslims by their co-religionists elsewhere, Bauchi’s Christian leaders appear to be doing what they can to avoid escalating a religious dimension to the conflict by rejecting revenge.  On the other hand, the whole sale and apparently indiscriminate arrests by the security forces in Yobe may encourage popular support or, more likely, acquiescence to Boko Haram.