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Church leaders in Nigeria are sharply divided over how to react to a surge in violent attacks against Christians and churches in the country's Muslim-majority north.

Hundreds of Christians have been killed and churches burnt in regular attacks launched this year by Fulani herdsmen in Jos and members of the Boko Haram terrorist sect in Kaduna, Borno, and Niger states.

Such attacks increased this spring following the controversial April election of Christian president Goodluck Jonathan. More than 800 people were killed in the violence, mostly in northern states. The Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA), a major northern denomination headquartered in Jos, said it lost more than 32 members, three ministers, and 48 churches. The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) said 84 of its churches were destroyed as well.

In November, a series of church bombings killed dozens in Yobe state. In September, a Christian family of eight was killed in Barkin Ladi in Plateau state.

The steady attacks have thrown the Christian community into opposing camps. While some continue to advocate for calm and prayer, others are now urging Christians to defend themselves.

CAN national president Ayo Oristejafor stated that Christians can no longer continue to watch while aggressors attack them. "I have a responsibility to defend myself and my family," he said. "Christians in the nation have suffered enough.

John Praise, general overseer of Dominion Chapel International Churches in Abuja, has called for churches to raise "young people to defend the church because nobody has the monopoly of violence.

"People say, 'When they slap your cheek, you turn the other.' We have turned both, and they have slapped us. There is nothing else to turn."

By contrast, bishop Wale ...

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December 2011

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