Christian students targeted in Nigerian massacre

SANTA ANA, Calif. — New details confirm that Christians were targeted in the October 1 massacre of 29 students in Mubi, Nigeria. An Islamist militant group, invaded the off campus hostel northern Nigeria and separated Muslim students from Christians.

Jerry Dykstra, media relations director for Open Doors, said post-massacre follow-up by Open Doors workers at the site reconfirms an Oct. 3 report that Christians were the focus of the attack.

"Many mainstream media have reported the massacre was likely the result of a political/election issue among students at Federal Polytechnic State University," Dykstra said. "But Open Doors coworkers have reconfirmed that those targeted were mostly Christians. The coworkers have talked directly to Christian leaders in Mubi and to several survivors. Christians around the area of Mubi have been targeted by the Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram for a long time."

Open Doors reported that just before midnight, the attackers called students out of their rooms and asked them for their names. Those with Christian names were shot dead or killed with knives. The bodies were left in lines outside the buildings. Students with traditionally Muslim names were told to quote Islamic scripture.

"If you succeeded, you were let go," a survivor told an Open Doors worker who traveled to Mubi, located in northern Nigeria, after the attack.

"I was asked to say my name, to which I replied that I am a Christian and that my name is Elkanah," student Elkanah Sardauna said. "They threw me to the ground and shouted 'Allahu Akbar' [Allah is greater]. I cried out to Jesus, face to the ground. They demanded that I stop calling on Jesus but I persisted. The next moment I was shot in the hand and then slashed with a knife at the back of my neck. They must have thought I was dead because they left."

When the church in Mubi celebrated its 52nd anniversary on Oct. 1, little did the church know that the day would end in a bloodbath.

According to Mubi church leaders, a total of 29 people, mostly students, were killed and at least five injured in the attack. Fully armed attackers suspected to be members of Boko Haram invaded the area, firing several shots into the air. They made their way to the off-campus hostels of the Federal Polytechnic State University, College of Health Technology and several private residencies of Christians.

Manasseh, a student who survived a gunshot and severe knife injuries, shared his ordeal.

"They asked me to recant my Christian faith to spare my life. I refused. After my Muslim roommate quoted some Islamic scripture, he was told to leave the room. They said they were only after these 'infidels' who would all die that day. Then they shot me and slashed my back. This is really a picture of the great hatred for us Christians in the region."

The Associated Press has reported that approximately 800 Nigerians have died from Boko Haram violence this year. Many on that list are Christians but it also includes moderate Muslims, government military troops and police. Nigeria is ranked No. 13 on the Open Doors 2012 World Watch List of the worst persecutors of Christians.

For the past three months the Mubi church has been seeking God's face through praying and fasting, as Christians in Mubi have been under siege for a long time.

Prior to the Oct. 1 attack, Muslim extremists circulated letters to some Christians in the area, giving believers an ultimatum to either recant their faith within two weeks or suffer fatal consequences. According to one believer, who showed Open Doors workers a letter, they were warned not to disclose the threat to anyone as any leakage of the information will result in death.

The Christian Association of Nigeria in Mubi gave the letters to security operatives in Yola. A search team was deployed to conduct house to house searches in Mubi. Many sophisticated weapons were seized from Muslim extremists, Open Doors reported. Police also discovered water tanks stacked with ammunition and several dry wells that were turned into storerooms for weapons.

However, these actions did not prevent the attack on the Christians in Mubi.

Maxwell Iliya, a minister representing CAN in Mubi, said, "We are only living by the grace of God. The weapons recovered by the search team in Mubi are enough to eliminate every single Christian in Mubi and the entire Adamawa state. Boko Haram is out to eliminate us. The city has become very dangerous. The government is no longer interested in protecting us. The attackers spent two hours killing and destroying, and to date not a single government official has come to sympathize with us."

Just days before the massacre in Nigeria, extremists hurled grenades into a church in Nairobi, Kenya, during Sunday School, killing one boy and injuring eight other children, according to Open Doors. Six boys and one girl between the ages of 6 and 10 were rushed to the Kenyatta National Hospital, where two of them were taken in for immediate surgery, while one was admitted to the intensive-care unit, Open Doors reported.

Police believe that al Shabaab, an Islamist militant group based in Somalia, was likely responsible for the attack in Kenya, according to news reports.

— Open Doors News