Armed gunmen kidnap 19 Christians, kill one in Kaduna State, Nigeria

Suspected Fulani herdsmen stormed a church choir practice and kidnapped 17 Christians in north-central Nigeria on May 19, the same night gunmen killed a Christian and kidnapped two others at a Baptist church, sources said. Each attack took place in Kaduna State where assaults on Christians have recently ramped up.

In Dankande village the gunmen attacked Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) after midnight as a combined choir made up of members of two churches was rehearsing.

“As we were in the church Fulani herdsmen numbering over 20 just surrounded the church and started shooting,” a local source said.

Nathaniel Waziri, chairman, of the ECWA Zaria District Church Council, confirmed May 23 the gunmen kidnapped local pastor Zakariya Ido, his daughter and 15 other church members, including the son of the pastor of an Assemblies of God church.

Christians make up 51.3% of Nigeria’s population, while Muslims living primarily in the north and middle belt account for 45%.

Nigeria ranked 12th on Open Doors’ 2019 World Watch List of countries where Christians suffer the most persecution.

In related news

• When police took Gornath Chalanseth from his home in eastern India early on the morning of Dec. 13, 2008, he assumed they only wanted to question him over minor political activity in his capacity as a member of the local village council.

Ten years, five months and six days after he was taken into custody Chalanseth walked out of prison May 21, again released on bail. He had been released on bail twice before but had been taken back to prison shortly after. This time, however, because the Supreme Court issued the release on bail he does not have to return unless the high court itself so orders.

Chalanseth said he is happy to be released but he also is concerned about the six others who remain in jail while claiming innocence. There is hope his release could set a precedent for the others.

• Village leaders in eastern India prohibited five Christian families from working on their farms or walking on the main road before district authorities revoked the order in May, sources said.

Leaders of Banhardi village, in Jharkhand state’s Latehar District, told the five families in April to either convert back to their ancestral Sarna religion or face punishment. When the Christians refused to renounce their faith the village issued a decree April 10 instructing their farmland be confiscated and prohibiting them from interacting with anyone, fetching water and buying or selling, they said.

After District Collector Rajiv Kumar intervened and annulled the order May 13 the villagers agreed to let the Christians receive government rations and water, but they said they will continue to refuse to associate with all who have converted to Christianity.

India is ranked 10th on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2019 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian. (MS, BP)