By Joseph DeCaro, Worthy News Coorespondent
ABUJA, NIGERIA (Worthy News)– 'Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the state, not a Christian was stirring, because those who dared attend services in Nigeria that night risked their very lives.
At least twelve Christians were killed by gunmen in separate attacks; the assailants are suspected to be militant members of Boko Haram, an Islamist group that has already killed nearly 100 Christians around Christmas in Nigeria over the past three years.
On this Christmas Eve, gunmen entered the Evangelical Church of West Africa in Peria near midnight; they shot the pastor and five worshipers and then set fire to the church and any Christian house near it. The African Free Press reported that six bodies were later recovered.
In another attack that night, worshipers at the First Baptist Church in Maiduguri were shot by unknown gunman, leaving a deacon and five of his congregation dead.
Although it has yet to claim responsibility, Boko Haram has been known to target Christians and their places of worship, especially around the holidays; the group is believed to be responsible for killing over 3,000 people since it began an armed insurgency in 2009.
"Earlier this year, Boko Haram demanded all Christians leave Nigeria's North," said William Stark, International Christian Concern'sRegional Manager for Africa. "Since then, the group has continued to wage a campaign of terror against those Christians who decided to stay.
"The United States is still deciding whether to designate Boko Haram a Foreign Terrorist Organization, which if given, would allow the U.S. to seize Boko Haram's assets under U.S. jurisdiction; this would help stem the flow of arms and funds the group receives from sources outside Nigeria's borders."
In the mean time, Christians inside Nigeria's borders continue to live in fear, especially during the holidays.