By BosNewsLife Africa Service with reporting by BosNewsLife's Stefan J. Bos
ABUJA, NIGERIA (BosNewsLife)-- Nigerian authorities have recaptured a top suspect in a Christmas Day church bombing that killed at least 37 people outside the capital, Abuja amid claims that survivors of another church blast "rededicated their lives to Christ."
Government officials said Friday, February 10, that the African nation's State Security Service re-arrested Kabiru Sokoto in eastern Taraba state near the Cameroon border, almost a month after he escaped on January 17. Authorities said he has been flown to Abuja.
The suspect is linked to Islamic group Boko Haram, or "Western education is a sin", which wants to establish an Islamic state and claimed responsibility for the December 25 attack on St. Theresa Catholic Church.
Yet increasing violence in Nigeria "has only strengthened local Christians' faith, even sparking a revival at the Deeper Life Bible Church in Gombe" the capital of Gomve state, where nine Christians were killed in a January 5 attack, said Voice of the Martyrs Canada (VOMC), which has investigated the situation.
"During a funeral service on January 19 for those killed, many believers rededicated their lives to Christ, and others came to faith in Christ for the first time," said VOMC in a statement to BosNewsLife. "Weeping and singing while on their knees a choir led about 500 attendees and 50 pastors in worship."
It said "the martyrs' relatives and other dignitaries" including a deputy governor speaking on behalf of the state's governor , mentioned each murdered Christian.
"The four-hour service then moved on to intercessory prayer for the Church in Nigeria, the nation at large, Muslims in Nigeria, and the Muslim extremist group Boko Haram."
A VOMC worker, who was not identified amid security concerns, said "The leader of the prayers based most of the prayers from the book of Isaiah 61:1–4, among other scriptures, which strengthen and encourage the Church" and Israel. The verse says: "They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations," according to the New Living Translation.
The VOMC worker recalled that the speaker encouraged "the Church to be more prayerful than complaining." And, "He said the Lord knows how to fight His own battle in His own way, and we should not revenge whatsoever."
VOMC told BosNewsLife that it has urged its supporters to "Pray that the Lord will continue to comfort and provide for those mourning" and "that He will sustain the faith of believers in Nigeria during these difficult trials."
Boko Haram is blamed for hundreds of deaths in bombings and shootings over the past 18 months, mostly in northern Nigeria, where it has ordered Christians to leave the region.
In one of the recent anti-Christian incidents, early morning attacks on January 22 in Tafawa Balewa area of Nigeria's Bauchi state left at least seven Christians dead and a church building destroyed, Christians said.
The attack on the Evangelical Church Winning All Church was reportedly carried out by local Islamic militants and members of Boko Haram with assailants shooting at Christians in the town, about 100 kilometers (62 miles) south of Bauchi City.
STATE OF EMERGENCY
President Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian, has declared a state of emergency in 15 areas as part of his response to the unrest. The president also has deployed extra troops to the north, but attacks have continued.
He recently pressured the police chief and his top deputies to retire early.
Nigeria's over 160 million people are divided almost in half between Muslims living mainly in the north and Christians in the south, according to several estimates.