Six Churches Destroyed in Nigeria Islamic Violence

At least six churches were destroyed in the last few days in Northern Nigeria as a result of the violence by members of a radical Islamic group.

Militants of the group Boko Haram, which translates to "western education is sin," have damaged at least half a dozen churches across four states ruled by Sharia, or Islamic law, according to Open Doors sources.

A Baptist church was burnt to the ground in Potiskum, Yobe state. Another five churches were reportedly burnt in Maiduguri, Borno state.

Moreover, the Christian ministry has learned that unlike what the government is saying, the number of deaths may be over 250 people. The official figure is about 50 deaths.

This past Saturday, the group Boko Haram, also known as the Nigerian Taliban, launched a series of attacks in Bauchi state against police stations and state facilities in Northern Nigeria. The violence soon spread to three other states: Borno, Yobe and Kano states.

Boko Haram is reportedly attacking police because it felt the government has become too secular and it wants to cleanse Nigeria of western influences. The extremist group also wants to impose Sharia law throughout the country.

The Islamic group was allegedly also behind the violence in Bauchi back in February, during which at least eleven people died, over 1,500 Christians were displaced, and 14 churches, and numerous homes were destroyed.

With the latest attacks, Christians in the affected areas are said to be living in fear and "holding their breath."

The Rev. John Hayab, the secretary of the Kaduna branch of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), has asked the government to protect Christians who may be the next target.

"We were unable to sleep throughout the night as there was an exchange of fire between the group and the security operatives a stone throw from our residence," said one Christian in Yobe, according to Open Doors. "They burnt one of our churches (the Baptist Church). Our lives are at risk. The group claimed not to be fighting Christians, but…we are not secured at all."

In Bauchi state, Christians have taken refuge in police barracks. Some in the barracks are said to be wounded with machete blows received while they fled the violence on the streets.

While the atmosphere remains tense in Northern Nigeria, some Christians have started to return home, believing that the police have the situation under control. But Christian leaders urge them to remain on high alert.

"Our Christian brothers and sisters in Northern Nigeria are repeatedly the victims of mass violence, with churches burnt and people killed, just as we have seen again in the last few days," said Dr. Patrick Sookhdeo, international director of U.K.-based Barnabas Fund. "All too often, as in this case, it is apparent that the attacks have been well planned and orchestrated.

"Please pray for peace and stability in this part of Nigeria, also for freedom and justice for its Christian minority, which suffers much in the states where full Sharia is in force."

He added, "Pray that Christians will not retaliate."

The latest violence is the deadliest since last November, when more than 300 people died in the central city of Jos during sectarian violence between Muslims and Christians.

Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa, is about evenly split between Muslim in the north and Christians in the south with minorities of both religions living where the other faith is dominant. Since democracy was restored in 1999, there have been at least 15,000 deaths due to religious, communal or political violence, according to BBC.