* Many stay away from church fearing bombs
* More than 100 killed last week in bombs and retaliation
* Security experts not anticipating all-out conflict
By Augustine Madu and Joe Brock
KANO/ABUJA, June 24 Anthonia Eke is trusting God
to end an Islamist insurgency in northern Nigeria but won't be
praying in church any more, after a string of bombs at Sunday
Some churches in northern Nigeria, usually packed with
worshippers, were almost empty on Sunday morning and many people
stayed away in other parts of the country after a week of
violence in religiously-mixed Kaduna state.
At least 92 people were killed in the tit-for-tat attacks
between Muslims and Christians in Kaduna last week, sparked by
suicide bombings at three churches last Sunday that killed 19
people and were blamed on Islamist sect Boko Haram.
"We are still traumatised over the attacks and have no
intention to attend church service until total peace and
normalcy are restored," Eke told Reuters in Kano, Nigeria's
second-largest city after Lagos.
"God understands our situation here so we have decided to
pray at home. Only he can end this pain."
There were fewer than usual at churches in the capital
Abuja, which sits in the centre of the country where the largely
Muslim north and mostly Christian south meet.
But hundreds still queued to pass through military
checkpoints outside the largest churches in Abuja, and hundreds
of thousands of worshippers around the country were determined
to attend regardless of the risks.
"They will always tell you that they would prefer to die
in the house of God than dying in nightclubs or dying in the
streets," said Franklin Okoye, president of a church society in
Religion plays a key role for almost everyone in Africa's
most populous nation, where "Thank God" and "Inshallah" are as
common greetings as "hello" or "how are you?"
The escalating violence has raised fears of wider sectarian
conflict in Africa's top oil producer, which is reeling from
months of attacks on government buildings and churches by
followers of Boko Haram.
Boko Haram admit responsibility for some of the attacks but
deny others, and security sources and many Nigerians believe
their name is used as a cover for other groups aiming to stoke
"There seems to be some political undertones because for
some time now people have been attacking the churches perhaps
with a view to getting a reaction from the Christendom so that
there will be a war in the country," said John Abuere, a
parishioner in Abuja.
Similar violence in the past has usually failed to spark
sustained conflict in a nation whose Muslims and Christians
mostly co-exist peacefully, despite periodic flare-ups of
sectarian violence since independence from Britain in 1960.
"We do not preach gospel of retaliation, we preach peace ...
security is everybody's concern whether you are in your house or
you are in the market or in the church or you are in the
Mosque," said Father John Sixtus Okonkwo, priest at Holy Trinity
Catholic Church in Abuja.
President Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian from the southern
oil-producing region, has been criticised for not stemming the
flow of violence in the north, a region his opponents say he is
out of touch with.
Jonathan traveled to Brazil for a sustainability summit at
the height of the violence in Kaduna last week, drawing anger
from many Nigerians.
He sacked his defence minister and national security adviser
on Friday, a move foreign diplomats said was long
(Additional reporting by Abraham Achirga in Abuja; Writing by
Joe Brock; Editing by Andrew Roche)