Living in fear of Boko Haram: “I did not dare go to church”

A bombed-out church in Kaduna, northern Nigeria.
 
As the Islamist militant group Boko Haram continues to terrorise northern Nigeria, residents of Kaduna are still reeling from the simultaneous bombing of three churches a week and a half ago. One of our Observers in Kaduna tells us these attacks convinced many Christians to leave town, while those who have stayed face an uncertain future.
 
In the past few weeks, Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for a series of attacks on churches throughout northern Nigeria, which, unlike the south, is mainly Muslim. After the group’s attack on three churches in Kaduna during June 17’s Sunday mass, Christian youth rioted and attacked Muslims. Between the bombings and the retaliatory killings, at least 50 people died in all. The Nigerian government imposed a curfew on the entire state, which remains in effect.
 
The aftermath of a bomb attack at the CKC Church in Zaria, Kaduna state, on June 17. 
Contributors

“Christian youth have mounted road blocks around churches”

Paul Aminu lives in Kaduna with his wife and 5-month-old son. He works as a manager for football players.
 
I am Christian. I did not dare go to church last Sunday. I was too afraid of another attack. But as I drove to the gas station, I passed near a church. The youths of this church had mounted road blocks all around it, and were checking every vehicle very thoroughly, irrespective of who the driver was. Now, Christians and police are working side by side to guard the churches. Seeing this makes me feel safe enough to go back to mass this coming Sunday.
 
Many Christians, including some of my neighbours, left Kaduna after the church attacks. Most went back to states they originally hail from, where life is not as dangerous as it is here. My family and I decided to stay, in the hope that things will improve.
 
“They’re doing this to discourage us from going to worship”
 
I’ve lived here for four years, in which time the city suffered four attacks by Boko Haram: they’ve attacked a military building, a spare car parts market, and a major road, before this time attacking churches. They used to say they were fighting against the government, but lately they seem to want an Islamization of the entire country, and to do this they’re trying to discourage us from going to worship. I think Christians have been really pushed against a wall with all these attacks, and that’s why in Kaduna, some of them unfortunately engaged in reprisal attacks on Muslims, exacerbating the situation.
 
Here, Christians and Muslims may work together, but they are not neighbours. The city of Kaduna is virtually split in half, with Christians living in the south and Muslims in the north. Most of the time, the relationship is cordial, but it can blow up at the slightest provocation.
 
“Boko Haram’s attacks are causing major economic problems for our state”
 
Beyond security, Boko Haram’s attacks are also causing major economic problems for our state. Lots of companies are leaving, and no new ones are coming in. The curfew that has been imposed throughout the state – from 7 p.m. to 4 a.m. – is not good for business. Companies from outside the state no longer want to export food to us, or else it’s very expensive. Since the attacks, the cost of living has been getting much higher. I use a 12.5 kg gas cooker. Before, it cost 3,000 Naira (about 15 euros) to fill it up; now it costs 3,500 (17 euros). Bags of rice went up from 1100 Naira (about 5,50 euros) to 1220 (6 euros). And a chicken has gone from 900 Naira (4,50 euros) to 1,400 Naira (7 euros)!
 
For me, it would be difficult to leave Kaduna. My business is here; if I left, I would have to start all over again.

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