State governments are mulling restrictions on religious practice in order to stem the spread of sectarian violence in Nigeria—a concern underscored Monday when gunmen opened fire at an evening Bible study in the country’s largely Christian south, killing at least 19 worshipers.
Church shootings and bombings have become all-too-commonplace in the troubled West African nation, especially in its largely Muslim north. But the attack at Deeper Life Church in Kogi state—150 miles southwest of the nation’s centralized capital, Abuja—represents an unusual southern incursion by militants. One assailant turned off the lights in the windowless sanctuary while others used assault rifles to mow down the crowd.
The shooting follows, among other incidents, the July killing of 50 church members seeking refuge in a pastor’s home in Plateau state, and the subsequent killing of Christian senator Gyang Dantong—known as Nigeria’s “bridge between religions, cultures and tribes”—and others during a funeral for the victims.
Reprisal attacks have increased in severity as Nigerian Christians have debated whether to turn the other cheek or seek “an eye for an eye.” A prominent member of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, Calabar pastor Emmah Isong, attributed recent reprisal attacks in Kaduna state to pent-up frustration.
“[They] were in response to the frequent attacks on Christians ...1