“The blood is still there. It’s still spread all over the floor.”
Joel Veldkamp, head of international communications at persecution watchdog Christian Solidarity International (CSI), shared these chilling words while discussing the vile attack on a Nigerian church Sunday that left at least 50 dead.
Veldkamp told CBN’s Faithwire about the incursion, as well as a brave journalist who visited the site afterward and witnessed a series of heartbreaking stories and scenes.
“It was Pentecost Sunday in Nigeria, so the church was full of people gathered,” Veldkamp said. “According to one report, the gunmen snuck in disguised as worshippers. And then other gunmen arrived on motorcycles from the outside and started shooting from the outside, and then the ones who were already inside the congregation started shooting as well.”
The assailants then reportedly placed bombs on the altar and around the church before detonating them.
So far, no one has claimed responsibility for the attack, though some reports ponder whether radical Islamic terror groups could be culpable.
“Lots of people are still in the hospital,” Veldkamp said. “Some may yet still die as we’re speaking here.”
The location of the attack — in a southwest region of Nigeria — is one of the factors that adds to the “distressing and disturbing” details, as that area is typically peaceful and unaffected by the terror that has gripped portions of northern Nigeria.
This development is sparking worries about what’s to come.
“There are a lot of fears that this is going to open up a new chapter in anti-Christian terrorism in Nigeria,” Veldkamp said.
He also shared how a brave Nigerian journalist named Amaka Okoye went to the church after the killing spree to take photos and speak with the victims.
“[Okoye] was quite shocked to find that the church is not protected. It’s not cordoned off. There’s no security tape or anything like that,” Veldkamp said. “She literally just walked into the church, and she took photos and videos for us, and the blood is still there. It’s still spread all over the floor.”
Bewildered survivors can also be seen walking around in a daze as they grapple with the horrific experience.
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“There are people walking around — survivors walking around — in a daze, and she was able to talk to some of them,” Veldkamp said.
One man recounted how he tried to escape when the shooting started. When he approached a fence to try and flee, he saw a gunman shoot someone else climbing up.
“Then the gunman pointed his gun at a little girl who was standing right there and shot her, too,” Veldkamp said. “Then [he] pointed his gun at this man and said mockingly, ‘Now you try to climb the fence,’ and he did and somehow survived, somehow escaped with his life.”
This horrific event comes on the heels of other deadly acts of extremism in Nigeria. With these events progressing, the U.S. government has been under increased scrutiny over its decision to remove Nigeria from the Countries of Particular Concern list last year.
Experts like Veldkamp believe removing the designation — which pinpoints nations with severe religious freedom violations — could cause more calamity and persecution.
Renewed critique emerged last month after a Muslim mob reportedly fatally stoned Deborah Emmanuel Yakubu, a 25-year-old Christian college student, on May 12.
“We’re puzzled by this,” David Curry, CEO of Open Doors USA, recently told CBN’s Faithwire of the designation change. “Because nothing has gotten better in Nigeria; it continues to get worse.”
Curry said removing the designation could cause more calamity and persecution. Veldkamp also warned of the dire situation inside the country and called on the U.S. to be more proactive.
“The U.S. has a pretty large infrastructure dedicated to religious freedom,” he said last month while speaking about the student’s deadly stoning. “If [Deborah’s] own government is not going to take this seriously and our government is not going to take this seriously, I’m really pessimistic about the chances for anything changing for the better in Nigeria.”
Read more about Deborah’s death and the issues in Nigeria here.
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