Slaying of Priest in French Church Shocks the West, but African Christians See Such Atrocities Every Week

A suicide bomber struck at this Christian church in Potiskum, Nigera, July 5, 2015. (Associated Press)
A suicide bomber struck at this Christian church in Potiskum, Nigera, July 5, 2015. (Associated Press)

The murder Tuesday of an elderly priest inside a church in France during Mass shocked and sickened the West, but Christians in Africa have long known there is no sanctuary from radical Islamic terrorism.

In 2015, more than 2,000 Christian churches in Africa were attacked by terrorists, and more than 7,000 Christians were killed, according to the advocacy group Open Doors USA. Those figures show terrorist groups like ISIS, which claimed credit for Tuesday’s attack, as well as Al Shabaab and Boko Haram, will not hesitate to kill inside a house of worship.

“News of the murdered priest in Normandy has shaken many to the core,” David Curry, president and CEO of Christian Watchdog group Open Doors USA told “While in Nigeria, an average of five churches are attacked every Sunday, this is the first documented case of Western Christians being attacked by ISIS during a worship service.”

In Tuesday’s attack, self-professed ISIS soldiers Abdel-Malik Nabil Petitjean and Adel Kermiche stormed a Catholic church in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray during morning Mass and took hostages before killing 85-year-old priest Jacques Hamel.

Geography aside, the incident bore similarities to hundreds of attacks that have occurred in Africa, where in 2015 alone more than 2,400 Christian churches were struck by terrorists.

Nigeria has been hardest hit, due to the ruthless brutality of militant Islamist group Boko Haram. Huge numbers of the country’s Christian churches have been destroyed.

“Seventy percent of our churches have been destroyed in Adamawa, Yobe and Borno states by Boko Haram,” the Rev. Samuel Dali, a Nigerian pastor and president of the Church of the Brethren said last August, according to “Over 8,000 of our members were killed.”

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