Nigeria: Christians and Muslims join hands in defiance of Boko Haram attacks

Kaduna churches have been among the targets of Boko Haram attacksAP

Christians and Muslims in Nigeria are uniting in peace efforts in the face of relentless attacks by Islamist militant group Boko Haram.

A "Friends Day Service" was held at a church in Tudun Nupawa, Kaduna in Northern Nigeria, one of the areas being targeted by militants.

Successive attacks by Boko Haram over several years have left thousands dead.  Most recently, an attack on Saturday left at least 210 dead in Borno State. 

Around 50 Muslim leaders attended the service at the church belonging to Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA). 

Gifts were given to the Muslim leaders and the service was followed by a shared lunch.

During speeches, Senator Aziz Zego, chairman of the event's planning committee, said that commitment to peace should not only be in words but also visible in deed, while Sheikh Dahiru Adamu, the Imam of the Salam'at Jumu'at Mosque Bachama, Tudun Wada, called on members of both religious communities to live in peace in order to ensure development, stability and progress, Christian Solidarity Worldwide reports.

Reverend Yunusa Nmadu, senior pastor of the ECWA church and CEO of Christian Solidarity Worldwide–Nigeria (CSW-N) said, "As Christians it is our responsibility to love our neighbours as ourselves and this is without exception.

"We did what we did to demonstrate the love of Christ and to contribute to peace building in our community knowing that as a local congregation, we are meant to impact our immediate community positively with the message of peace and reconciliation, which is at the heart of our faith."

The ECWA church is situated in a largely Muslim community and has previously been the victim of attacks, having previously been set on fire.

As a gesture of goodwill, the church previously donated food to six mosques in the area.  The food items, which included sugar, maize, millet and beans, were presented to the Muslim community at the residence of the local traditional ruler, Alhaji Shuai'b Balarbe, before being distributed to impoverished families to help them in their post-Ramadan feasts.

The peacebuilding efforts were followed by a surprising act of kindness during one outbreak of violence, when Muslim youths turned out to protect the church from attack. 

Balarbe was one of those present at last Sunday's Friends Day Service.

Mervyn Thomas, Chief Executive of CSW-UK, praised the church in Tudun Nupawa for its "courageous" peacebuilding efforts.

"As Boko Haram's divisive acts of appalling and indiscriminate violence continue to claim hundreds of innocent lives, there is a pressing need for more members of both faith communities across the country to initiate similar peacebuilding efforts to break down barriers of distrust and to foster reconciliation, unity, and the concept of common and equal citizenship, regardless of tribe or creed," he said.