By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
(Worthy News) - Suspected Islamic militants threaten to attack churches in Nigeria’s northern state of Zamfara unless they stop worship services and close their facilities, Christians said Thursday.
In a letter to Christians, unnamed militants reportedly issued “an ultimatum” demanding that churches in the state close within the next three years.
The threat against Zamfara’s churches and individuals comes after a similar warning was sent to Christians in Nigeria’s Plateau State in late October, Christians recalled.
“It is believed that these threatening messages were sent from an Islamic militant group. [But] no specific details have been made available,” confirmed aid and advocacy group Voice Of the Martyrs Canada (VOMC) to Worthy News.
The letters were copied and sent to Zamfara police and other security forces who set up a special unit to patrol church properties and protect worshippers, Christians confirmed.
“The threats targeting the Christian community in Zamfara State are considered to be credible,” said VOMC, which supports local believers.
Thousands of Christians, including pastors and priests, have been killed in Nigeria by Islamic fighters this year, according to several sources.
Amid ongoing violence and threats, Christians were instructed by authorities “to intensify security measures in all places of worship, along with pastors' homes and other church-owned facilities,” VOMC added.
The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in Zamfara State, which represents denominations, reportedly asked churches to cancel worship services after 5 p.m. for the next three months.
An unnamed influential Christian leader also urged churches in other northern areas of Nigeria to take similar measures, Worthy News learned.
VOMC asked believers to pray for “all the Christians who are being affected by these recent threats – whether in Zamfara State or other areas of Nigeria.”
It also sought prayers for security forces investigating the “identity of the potential attackers directing them to the very militants responsible for sending the threatening letters. So further violence can be prevented.”
Nigeria’s government has come under mounting pressure to end the attacks against Christians and increase security around vulnerable Christian communities.