More Churches are suspending the traditional new year Passover night, fearing attacks from the extremist Boko Haram sect.
The sect has warned of further bombings after the deadly Christmas Day coordinated attacks that claimed more than 40 lives.
Amid increasing tension Saturday, with religious groups trading accusations, fresh attacks occurred in Maiduguri, Borno State with at least four killed, and military authorities said the group is to blame.
The rampaging attacks have exacerbated tensions and fear across the country, and the Christian Association of Nigeria urged its members to defend themselves “any way they can.”
But the impact of the attacks is already taking a toll on the yearly New Year eve night, a Christian ritual, during which faithfuls pray and celebrate into the New Year at different churches.
Many churches have already announced either a rescheduling or total cancellation of the service.
Where the service holds, they would be under tight security, and low attendance, many worshippers say.
Some Churches that planned to forge ahead with the service sent out text messages to the members Friday, rescinding the decision.
“Christians are under a siege by Islamic fundamentalist4 and as expected, the federal government is helpless. In view of this, the crossover night slated for 31st is cancelled” said Brooklyn Ovie, the pastor of the Church of God Mission, Kubwa, Abuja, in a message to members announcing a cancellation of the service.
Authorities of the Catholic Church have ordered the ceremony around Madalla, near Abuja – where dozens were killed Sunday – be cancelled with a brief mass conducted by 4pm.
In Lagos, large congregations are following suit. The Deeper Life Bible church is rescheduling its service for 4pm to 7pm, while the Household of God’s pastor, Chris Okotie has directed the church members to mark the event at home.
Still, many churches and followers insist the night event will go ahead, arguing that a boycott will only embolden further attacks.
“We will not give in to the threats and intimidation,” said Alexander Oko, a pastor with True Bible church, Abuja. “They obviously want fear to reign.”
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