Nigerian Churches Demand Government Compensation for Buildings Destroyed by Boko Haram

People gather at the site of suicide bomb attack at Redeem Christian church in Potiskum, Nigeria, on July 5, 2015. Witnesses say a woman suicide bomber blew up in the midst of a crowded evangelical Christian church service on Sunday and killed at least five people, the latest in a string of bombings and shooting attacks blamed on the Islamic extremist group Boko Haram that has killed some 200 people in the past week. (AP Photo/Adamu Adamu)

Religious leaders in Nigeria are renewing and amplifying their call for the government to pay compensation for the destruction of churches by Boko Haram, even as the Islamist militants escalate attacks in the country’s northern states.

Nigerian clergy say at least 1,000 churches have been destroyed in the six-year insurgency, which the government declared crushed last year.

Human rights groups say thousands more churches have been abandoned or closed in the conflict — in which schools, mosques, markets and military installations have also been targeted.

Clergy say the attacks on churches have compromised freedom of religion in the nation, as well as Nigerians’ right to live in peace. And while Boko Haram is the agent of the attacks, religious leaders also assign blame to the government.

“The church … is demanding compensation from the government for lives lost and properties destroyed by the (Boko Haram) criminals,” said the Rev. John Bakeni, secretary of the Maiduguri Roman Catholic diocese. “We believe the government should have provided security for lives and property.”

The Rev. Felix Omobude, national president of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, described the destruction of the churches as a breach of the freedom of worship guaranteed in the Nigerian Constitution. He also considers compensation a government responsibility.

“Churches that have been destroyed should be rebuilt by the state governments … and appropriate compensation paid to the victims,” Omobude said in a recent statement.

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SOURCE: Fredrick Nzwili  
Religion News Service