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Nigeria: Christian schools ordered to close amid spate of kidnappings

Boko Haram
Released students gather at the Government House with other students from the Government Science Secondary school, in Kankara, in northwestern Katsina State, Nigeria, upon their release on December 18, 2020. More than 300 Nigerian schoolboys were released on Thursday after being abducted in an attack claimed by Boko Haram, officials said, although it was unclear if any more remained with their captors. |

After more than 140 students were abducted from a Christian boarding school in the Kaduna state in northwestern Nigeria, authorities have ordered the closure of schools in the area, identifying them as “vulnerable.”

The head of the Kaduna State Schools Quality Assurance Authority sent a letter last week to 13 schools in the state, most of which are run by Christian groups. The letter ordered the schools to halt all classes temporarily, the United Kingdom-based nonprofit Christian Solidarity Worldwide reports.

The letter stated that the decision to close the schools was made at a “meeting with the National Association of proprietors of Private Schools (NAPPS) and some key stakeholders.”

Among the schools identified for closure are Deeper Life Academy in Maraban Rido, Evangelical Church Winning All Secondary School in Ungwar Maje, St. Peter’s Minor Seminary in Katari and Bethel Baptist High School, which was the latest target.

Kaduna state has become an epicenter for abductions in Nigeria, where four kidnapping incidents took place within 24 hours last week.

Last Monday, the day senior students were scheduled to take their final exams at Bethel Baptist High School in the Chikun local government area, armed assailants barged into the compound and abducted at least 140 of them.

The head of Kaduna's Baptist conference said at least 28 students had been reunited with their families. A teacher has also reportedly been rescued while the search continues for remaining hostages.

The abductors promised the parents that their children would not starve if they provided rice, beans, palm oil, salt and stock cubes. They said a ransom demand would follow, Reuters reported. 

Video footage released by Christian Solidarity Worldwide shows distressed mothers and fathers crying out to God and praying on the school grounds for the release of their children.

Terrorist groups with a foothold in the region, like Boko Haram, have carried out mass kidnappings in recent years, including kidnapping over 200 girls from a school in Chibok in 2014.

Dede Laugesen, the executive director of Save the Persecuted Christians, told The Christian Post in a previous interview that terrorists will often kidnap boys and brainwash them to become jihadis. 

Kidnappings are also carried out by other criminals seeking ransom payment. 

After Last Monday’s abduction incident, Seun Bakare of Amnesty International told Voice of America that the dropout rate is already high due to the dangers of going to school.

“We risk the loss of a generation if these attacks on schools and attacks on education continue,” Bakare was quoted as saying. “It is so shameful that on one hand, bandits and Boko Haram are attacking children and their right to education, on the other hand, the government’s only response is to shut down schools. The government's response is also an attack on education and this is completely unacceptable.”

Last Monday’s abduction was the 10th mass kidnapping in northwest Nigeria since December, according to Reuters

Many Nigerians have raised concerns about what they perceive as the government’s inaction in holding terrorists accountable for the rising number of attacks and kidnappings.

In an earlier interview with CP, Emeka Umeagbalai of the International Society for Civil Liberties and the Rule of Law, said kidnappings of Christians happen for various reasons.

Some terrorists, like Boko Haram, the Islamic State West Africa Province and radical Fulani militants are motivated by money while others are motivated by Islamic radicalism.

Security analysts say kidnapping for ransom is becoming a lucrative industry in Nigeria. Weapons are becoming readily available to militants in Nigeria thanks to war-torn Libya.

Christian persecution watchdog group Open Doors USA ranks Nigeria No. 9 on its 2021 World Watch List of countries where Christians face the most severe persecution. Nigeria is also recognized as a "country of particular concern" by the U.S. State Department for tolerating or engaging in severe violations of religious freedom. 

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