Christians throughout Nigeria are fasting to invoke divine intervention and protection from the Islamic cult, Boko Haram, that has threatened to attack Nigerian Christians on the anniversary of their founder’s death.
Churches and their followers all over the country have begun a 21-day period of fasting in the hope of divine intervention to avert the looming attack.
Due to heightened insecurity, church attendance has dropped significantly in recent weeks. Less than half of those that attended church regularly can be found in attendance due to safety concerns.
Bombs have been going off on a daily basis in the northeastern city of Maiduguri, while the Nigerian capital of Abuja faced a bomb attack on a car park last month.
The anniversary attack is expected to occur on July 30, the day Boko Haram was founded by former leader Mohammed Yusuf.
Yusuf died in police custody in 2009, and was allegedly killed while trying to escape from prison.
Boko Haram, which can be translated to figuratively mean, "Western or non-Islamic education is a sin," claims that it is fighting for the establishment of an Islamic state in Nigeria.
However, the Nigerian constitution guarantees a secular state and freedom of religion for all.
Upon the discovery of the planned attack, the Nigerian government under Christian President Goodluck Jonathan, has increased security in vulnerable areas, particularly in the northern cities of Bauchi and Maidugur, two key areas of Bako Haram.
However, Christians and Muslims alike are fleeing and communities are becoming 'ghost towns' as people are increasingly leaving. One community with upwards of 1,000 homes has only one resident left.
Of Bako Haram's planned attack, Carl Moeller of Open Doors USA has said, "They may not kill all the Christians in a region, but if they can get them to flee, it effectively accomplishes the same goal."
Nigeria is Africa's most populous nation, and Islam and Christianity are the country's two major religions. The religions are said to be spilt pretty evenly among the population.
The religious divide has long resulted in conflict and violence in the country.