FALLS CHURCH, Va. (ABP)—The head of the Baptist World Alliance protested continuing violence in Nigeria that recently claimed the lives of two Baptist pastors.
BWA General Secretary Neville Callam said he is “deeply concerned about the continuing attacks being perpetrated by extremist groups, in many cases targeting Christians.”
Callam issued the statement after Olasupo Ayokunle, president and chief executive officer of the Nigerian Baptist Convention, reported two pastors were among at least 15 people killed Nov. 25 in a suicide bombing of a church located on a military base in Jaji in Kaduna State.
Callam cited special concern about Maiduguri, where a third pastor reportedly fled after assassination attempts. Maiduguri is located in Borno state, the epicenter of a violent campaign by the militant group Boko Haram.
Boko Haram is fighting Western influence and wants to form an Islamic state in Nigeria’s north. The group is responsible for more than 900 deaths since 2009, in attacks mostly aimed at government forces or officials and Christians, whom they see as infidels.
Ayokunle said Boko Haram has moved beyond bombings to direct shootings in house-to-house searches targeting Christians.
“We never faced this type of selective destruction before,” he said. “Continue to pray for the church in Nigeria.”
Meanwhile, Amnesty International released a report in November alleging human-rights violations by Nigerian security forces in response to the Boko Haram killings.
In July, the Baptist World Alliance general counsel passed a resolution calling for “a peaceful ending of all violence and abuse of human rights in Nigeria, while encouraging our Baptist sisters and brothers to continue to seek ways to promote peace and respect for all persons in Nigeria.”
A human-rights team led by BWA Director of Freedom and Justice Raimundo Barreto is scheduled to travel to Nigeria in early December, and expected to meet with government and church leaders. The trip coincides with the Dec. 9 observance of BWA Human Rights Day.
Nigeria has about equal numbers of Muslims and Christians, including 3.5 million Baptists in the 10,000-church Nigerian Baptist Convention, the largest BWA member body in Africa.