January 28, 2023

Tired of burying their loved ones, persecuted Christians in Nigeria pray for safe Christmas

A woman displays placard at a vigil held near Jos to pray for peaceful Christmas

It was 6:30pm, an unsafe time for residents to be outside in the farming town of Nding-susut, located 15miles southeast of Jos the capital of Plateau State in central Nigeria.

But the Christian locals did not yield to threats. Dozens of them gathered in the center of the village to cry to God for a peaceful Christmas next week.

The 500 residents of the hilltop town were tired of burying their loved ones following armed attacks that had displaced hundreds of local Christians in recent years, said Mrs. Sarah Reng Ochepe, a former federal official who is a native of the area.

Residents display placards during a prayer held at Nding-susut village near Jos

The attacks by Islamic extremists waging a religious war killed at least 312 Christians in the State this year as of October according to the International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law (Intersociety).

A further 30 people were killed in a series of attacks on villages near Nding-susut in the following month of November according to officials and media reports.

The attacks in the neighboring Bokkos Local Government Area have recalled a similar invasion of Nding-susut on the new year Eve of 2019 which killed at least seven residents and destroyed more than 300 houses.

Mrs. Sarah Reng Ochepe, former Minister for Water Resources and BoT Chairperson, ECCVN

“We want to have peace in Nding-susut, in Barkin Ladi Local Government Area, Plateau State and Nigeria as a whole,” said Ochepe, Nigeria’s Minister for Water Resources during the regime of Mr. Goodluck Jonathan.

“We are thanking God for the return of many of us who were previously displaced by the attacks. We are also remembering those killed helplessly as well as [government securities and volunteer guards] who died protecting us during the invasions,” Ochepe said, speaking as the Board Chairperson of Emancipation Center for Crisis Victims in Nigeria (ECCVN) which organized the event.

A banner displayed at a prayer for Christmas

The gathering of more than 100 men, women and children saw the congregants weeping in prayers as they displayed placards that read: “End the pogrom,” “We want a peaceful Christmas,” and among others, “Stop forced Islamization.”

The solemn assembly aimed to draw global attention on the religious persecution in the State and as well pray for the safety of the remaining Christians said Mr. Solomon Dalyop, the Chief Executive Officer of ECCVN. “It is an annual event and it is observed by Christians all over the world for the safety of Christians in this community,” Solomon said.

Barrister Solomon Dalyop, C.E.O ECCVN

Last year, the gathering was held in Riyom, a Christian suburb on the western outskirts of Jos which has also suffered attacks, he noted.

ECCVN according to him is a nongovernmental organization that tracks terror attacks and advocates for victims. The organization has spent millions of dollars in aid to victims of attacks and natural disasters in the country, he said.

One of its latest interventions was the repair of a primary school classroom block destroyed by terrorists in Nding-susut, he said.