RIVERS STATE, Nigeria (BP) — The deaths of nearly 150 Christians have been reported in targeted attacks on religious minorities in Nigeria, Cairo and India during the 2017 Christmas season, according to various reports from religious liberty advocates and news agencies.
Among the latest attacks, unidentified assailants killed between 14 and 16 Christians leaving a midnight New Year’s Eve service Jan. 1 in Omuku town in Rivers State, Nigeria, the BBC and Nigerian Independent news reported Jan. 2. The gunmen fired at random and at close range, according to police who said the violence might have been related to rivalry among gangs in Nigeria’s oil-producing regions in the Middle Belt.
Also in Nigeria’s Middle Belt, suspected Fulani herdsmen killed four Christians and injured 10 others during a celebration two days before Christmas in the Southern Kaduna village of Nimdem, religious freedom advocate International Christian Concern (ICC) reported Dec. 26, 2017. The gunmen attacked around 10 p.m. on Dec. 23, local pastor Gideon Mutum told ICC, “during an interdenominational carol that comes every Christmas with Bible quiz, drama, songs and preaching.” It was not clear whether the attack occurred inside a church building.
Among deadly attacks elsewhere, a masked gunman killed two Christians Jan. 1 outside their business in Cairo, the London Daily Express news reported Jan. 1. The attacker fired a rifle, killing the two men who are biological brothers, before fleeing on his motorcycle, security forces told the Daily Express.
The double murder followed the killing of nine people, including eight Coptic Christians, as they left St. Menas “Mar Mina” Coptic Orthodox church south of Cairo on Dec. 29. (See BP’s Jan. 2 story.)
In the largest and deadliest of the attacks, reported by BP on Dec. 15, raiding Fulani herdsmen killed more than 100 Christians during several raids in Adamawa State, Nigeria Dec. 4–11. (See BP’s story here.)
In India, Christians were attacked for their faith in more than 23 incidents during the Christmas season, ICC reported today (Jan. 3), but reported no deaths.
Among the attacks in India, about 20 Hindu radicals joined by police personnel attacked 300 Christians Dec. 19 during a Christmas celebration at a community hall, the ICC reported. The radicals, identified as members of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, destroyed Christian literature and electrical equipment.
In another pre-Christmas incident in India, 30 Catholic carolers were attacked and their car torched outside a police station in Madhya Pradesh state, the ICC reported in its press release, but did not specify the date and time of the violence. The attacks in India created widespread fear among Christians, leaders told ICC.
“As at the First Christmas, [there] has been joy, but under the shadow of fear,” John Dayal, a member of India’s National Integration Council, told ICC. “In some small towns and villages in central India, it [Christmas] was not celebrated in the open for fear of marauding hordes.”