Christmas brings fear of church bombs in Nigeria

Mon Dec 24, 2012 10:49am EST
 

By Joe Brock

MADALLA, Nigeria (Reuters) - Kneeling over a dusty grave on the outskirts of Nigeria's capital, 16-year old Hope Ehiawaguan says a prayer, lays down flowers and tearfully tells her brother she loves him.

He was one of 44 killed on Christmas Day last year when a member of Islamist sect Boko Haram rammed a car packed with explosives into the gates of St Theresa's Church in Madalla, a satellite town 25 miles from the center of Abuja.

Boko Haram has killed hundreds in its campaign to impose sharia law in northern Nigeria and is the biggest threat to stability in Africa's top oil exporter.

Two other churches were bombed that day and on Christmas Eve 2010 over 40 people were killed in similar attacks.

This Christmas, the police and military are expecting more trouble in the north. They've ordered security to be tightened, people's movement restricted and churches to be guarded.

But such is the commitment to religion in a country with Africa's largest Christian population that millions of people will pack out thousands of churches in the coming days. It is impossible to protect everyone, security experts say.

"I feel safe," Ehiawaguan says with uncertainty, when asked if she will come to church on December 25 this year.

"Not because of security here ... because we have a greater security in heaven," she says, wiping away her tears.   Continued...

 
People pray near the graves of victims of a suicide bomb attack during a memorial service at St. Theresa's Church in Madalla, on the outskirts of Nigeria's capital Abuja, December 23, 2012. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde