YAOUNDÉ, Cameroon – Church leaders in Nigeria are deeply troubled by the recent resurgence of suicide attacks in the country.

On June 29, suspected female suicide bombers carried out coordinated attacks at a wedding, a hospital, and a funeral in Gwoza in Borno State, located in northeastern Nigeria. Gwoza is a neighboring town to Chibok, where insurgents kidnapped 276 schoolgirls in 2014.

The first attack occurred during a wedding reception, where a woman with a baby strapped to her back detonated a bomb, tragically killing herself, the baby, and five other people.

The second woman detonated her bomb at a checkpoint when stopped by the military for inspection. A third explosion occurred in a hospital, and the fourth took place during a Muslim prayer for victims of the first explosion.

The death toll is staggering: At least 30 people lost their lives in these attacks, and dozens more were wounded.

In response to these events, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), whose membership includes the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria, issued a statement condemning the attacks. The statement signed by its President, Archbishop Daniel Okoh – of the Christ Holy Church International – expressed grave concern about the resurgence of suicide bombings and emphasized the need for collective action to combat terrorism.

“The National Leadership of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) is deeply worried by the recent suicide attacks in Gwoza, Borno state, which have claimed numerous lives and injured many others. We are concerned about the resurgence of suicide bombing in our country and the threat it poses to the lives and livelihoods of Nigerians,” Okoh said in the statement.

“This senseless act of violence is a stark reminder of the evil that terrorism represents, and the need for collective action to defeat it,” he added.

He commended the security agents who have been working to contain the threat of terrorism in Nigeria and encouraged them to continue fighting to prevent the country from relapsing “into the dark days of suicide attacks.”

“We must not let down our guards, as the situation could escalate and affect not only innocent lives but also worship centers and other large gatherings,”Okoh said.

Nigerian President Bola Tinubu condemned the attacks as “desperate acts of terror” and claimed that it was an “isolated episode.”

But Africa’s most populous nation has been battling jihadist terrorism since 2009 when Boko Haram launched its campaign of murder, in efforts to create a caliphate in the African country of over 200 million people, divided almost evenly between the predominantly Christian South and the Muslim North.

While there is limited information about who was targeted in the recent attacks, Boko Haram by its core mission is out to instill the strictest form of Islam, and at the same time decimate Christianity. And its Islamization project is now helped by other anti-Christian terrorist organizations, like the Fulani herdsmen.

According to the Catholic –Inspired NGO, International Society for Civil Liberties and the Rule of Law, Intersociety, more than 52,200 Christians were killed in Nigeria between 2009 when Boko Haram started its murderous campaign, and 2022.

The figures have significantly increased. And the recent attacks come at a time of brewing anger in Nigeria over the failure by the US State Department to designate Nigeria as a Country of Particular Concern which should have placed Nigeria in a difficult spot as a severe violator of religious freedom under the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) of 1998.

“There is no denying that the victims of insecurity and terrorism in the country are adherents of Christianity, Islam and other religions, “said Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Abuja.

The leading Nigerian archbishop told Crux that “it has to be observed that Christians have borne the brunt of the violence in a spectacular way.”

He noted that “the egregious abuses of religious freedom are mostly found in the Northern part of the Country.”

“In Nigeria, we continue to see deteriorating religious freedom conditions including mass violence, killings, and the enforcement of blasphemy laws. Blasphemy laws encourage brutal mob violence and inflict severe harm on minority Muslims, Christian converts, and others,” Kaigama told Crux.

He said even before the adoption of Sharia by some Muslim dominated states in the north, “Christian minorities in those states had been living under extremely difficult situations.”

The archbishop said far more Nigerians are being killed in the infamous herder-farmer conflicts, in which Christians have borne the brunt.

“Militants among the herders have been responsible for most of the killing and have been allowed to act largely with impunity,” Kaigama told Crux.

“The Government has been paying lip service and insufficient attention to the incidents of abductions, Kidnappings and killings of many Christians. So far, the government’s response to these incidences of violence and abuse of human rights has been weak at best and negligent at worse. The fear is palpable that matters may worsen if this sad situation is not nipped in the bud,” he said.

The archbishop then called on Nigerians to prevail on their government to change its behavior with regard to freedom of worship, because it embodies all other freedoms.

“Freedom of worship, like the right to life, liberty, movement, assembly, and association as well as of expression, is a fundamental right guaranteed in the constitution, which the President and the state governors swore to uphold. Democracy is empty without it. The government must wean itself of religious violations, and then protect the persecuted from non-state actors,” he said.