The COCIN president, in an interview with Martyrs CRY, a newsletter of the Voice of the Christian Martyrs stressed the need for Nigerian Christians to unite and intensify prayers as well as give generously to reinforce the Christians in the Middle Belt, arguing that Christianity in that region may soon collapse under Islamic pressure on the Middle Belt.
Rev. Datiri maintained that the impact of Islamic fundamentalists on the church in the region is unquantifiable, stressing that the destruction is unbelievable.
“In Bauchi State, the Tafawa Balewa Area has been under constant attacks. Even after the elections, the congregations there were attacked. It is only the grace of God that is sustaining the brethren there. Coming to Plateau State, communities outside Jos are being attacked almost on a daily basis.
“I cannot tell you how many Regional Church Councils have been decimated in these attacks. All these are communities not far from Jos. The Muslims kill Christians and destroy their properties. The media report is usually that these communities have been attacked by unknown gunmen or by Fulani herdsmen. The underlying motive is to destroy the Church.
“Even in Nasarawa State, we have lost no less than five congregations. When you ask who is responsible for the destruction, security officers will claim they are unknown gunmen or Fulani herdsmen. Yet, in most instances, they come dressed in military uniform. Where did the Muslim insurgents obtain the military uniform that they wear when going to destroy churches?” the cleric asked.
Asked about the implications of the attacks, Rev. Datiri said his church is the predominant denomination in Plateau as well as in some parts of Bauchi state, maintaining that COCIN forms probably 70% to 80% of Christians on the Plateau.
“If they succeed in destroying COCIN, they would have succeeded in eradicating a sizeable portion of the Church on the Plateau. Since their goal is to wipe out Christianity in Plateau State, in their bid to overrun Nigeria with Islam, eliminating COCIN on the Plateau is tantamount to overrunning Nigeria with Islam.
“Plateau State”, he further argued “is a big hurdle for the Islamists in their quest and overcoming COCIN on the Plateau is a sure sign that they have conquered Christianity in Nigeria.
“So, they concentrate their forces on eradicating Christianity on the Plateau. It is only by the grace of God that we are surviving. We keep asking God for strength, wisdom, and courage. But, I must tell you, it is heartbreaking. At times I receive phone calls in the middle of the night from members asking for help and in the background, I hear the sound of gunshots. It is tragic,” he narrated.
According to the church leader, the most veritable remedy to the attacks is for the Church to be united, “speak with one voice and let the world know that Boko Haram and the Fulani herdsmen are orchestrated attacks on the Church. All the Christians in Nigeria must see these attacks as intentionally designed destruction against the Body of Christ in Nigeria. The unity of the Church will go a long way in solving the problem.”
“The target of all these Islamic attacks is the Church and the goal is to destroy the Church so that Islam can take over,” Datiri said, lamenting that in the midst of the ferocious attacks, compromise is still noticed amongst ministers of the gospel, even in the affected areas.
Acknowledging that it is a serious problem in the Church, the COCIN helmsman said: “As the devil is working through Boko Haram and the other insurgents from outside to destroy the Church, we also notice that unsanctified ministers of the gospel also weaken the Church from within.”
He stressed the urgent need for the Nigerian Church to unite to confront this evil agenda to eradicate Christianity in the country, and intensify prayers and intercession, particularly for the Christians in the North.
“The only thing that will save the Church is for us to be united. If the Nigerian Church can unite, they will stop these Islamic attacks. I think that the biggest problem Nigerian Christians have is that we lack genuine Christian conviction. For many Nigerian Christians, their faith is superficial, it is only on the surface. We need to develop deep faith and the way we can easily do that is to pay attention to Biblical discipleship. If we cultivate genuine Christian conviction, our problems will be over.
“One important area in which we appeal for the support of Christians nationwide is meeting the needs of the victims of these attacks. In most instances, those who survive are often impoverished. Every means of livelihood is intentionally destroyed by these rampaging forces.
“Their homes are burnt to the ground, their properties are burnt, their food is destroyed and even their farmland is destroyed. The Fulani herdsmen intentionally go to the farms and destroy the food crops. The aim is to impoverish the people, destroy their economy so that they can dominate and control them.
“There is a great need for material and financial support for the brethren undergoing these persecutions. They need clothes, foods, medical treatment and so on,” Rev. Datiri appealed to fellow Christians in the country.