AFRICA/NIGERIA - Christians fleeing the violence of the "Boko Haram" sect, which has "changed strategy"

Lagos (Agenzia Fides) - The Nigerian Christians of indigenous tribes in the state of Yobe are terrified and are preparing to abandon their ancestral territories, due to the threats and violence of the Islamic militia group "Boko Haram", which continues the attacks against churches and homes of Christians. This is what sources of Fides in Nigeria report, recalling that "the population of the North is in a panic and insecurity after the expiry of the ultimatum launched by the militia, which enjoined Christians to leave the country". The attacks of Boko Haram in northern Nigeria continue, even after President Jonathan had decreed a "state of emergency" to prevent violence in four states and temporarily closed the nation's borders with Cameroon, Chad and Niger. According to Fides sources, "Boko Haram is changing tactics to circumvent the state of emergency. They are monitoring the areas where Christians gather, they point out the houses and Christian chapels and then they attack, house to house during the night". As the NGO "Christian Solidarity Worldwide" reports to Fides which is present on site, in Damaturu, capital of Yobe State, gunmen attacked a Christian complex in Gashu'a Road, killing two people and wounding others. The militia continues to organize bomb attacks in the states of Borno and Jigawa and Gombe. According to local Christians, "the danger is that there will be retaliation, which can trigger further violence and bloodshed". Fr. Timothy Lehane Barrett, Secretary General of the "Pontifical Society for the Propagation of the Faith", who was recently in Nigeria, told Fides: "Boko Haram does not represent Nigerian Muslims: I have seen many manifestations of interreligious dialogue and solidarity, because Muslims see the good works carried out by Christians. Our message to the Nigerian Christians is that they are not alone, that many communities around the world are praying for them and their neighbors. I know that the faithful in Nigeria offer their sufferings to God and pray for persecuted Christians around the world and even for their enemies, that is for those who attack and kill them". (PA) (Agenzia Fides 07/01/2012)