1,202 Nigerian Christians killed in first 6 months of 2020: NGO report

Christians faithfuls hold signs as they march on the streets of Abuja during a prayer and penance for peace and security in Nigeria in Abuja on March 1, 2020. The Catholic Bishops of Nigeria gathered faithfuls as well as other Christians and other people to pray for security and to denounce the barbaric killings of Christians by the Boko Haram insurgents and the incessant cases of kidnapping for ransom in Nigeria.
Christians faithfuls hold signs as they march on the streets of Abuja during a prayer and penance for peace and security in Nigeria in Abuja on March 1, 2020. The Catholic Bishops of Nigeria gathered faithfuls as well as other Christians and other people to pray for security and to denounce the barbaric killings of Christians by the Boko Haram insurgents and the incessant cases of kidnapping for ransom in Nigeria. | AFP via Getty Images/KOLA SULAIMON

A Nigerian civil society group estimates that 1,202 Christians have been killed in Nigeria in the first six months of 2020 by jihadists, radicalized herdsmen and others as 22 more Christians were reportedly killed in the Kaduna state last weekend. 

As rights groups continue to voice concern about “genocidal” crimes being committed in Nigeria, the Anambra-based International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law has released a new report stating that no fewer than 1,202 Christians were killed between January and June 2020. 

Intersociety, an organization headed by Christian criminologist Emeka Umeagbalasi, relies on what it deems to be credible local and foreign media reports, government accounts, reports from international rights groups and eyewitness accounts to compile statistical data. Due to the lack of adequate government record-keeping, death tolls reported by media outlets should be construed as estimates. 

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According to the report, the majority of Intersociety’s estimated 1,202 Christian death toll through the first six months of 2020 comes mostly from the 812 killings committed by members of the predominantly Muslim Fulani herding community who have been radicalized to carry out attacks against predominantly Christian farming communities in the farming-rich Middle Belt States. 

Additionally, 390 Christian deaths were attributed to killings committed by radical Islamic groups in the northeast, like Boko Haram and the Islamic State West Africa Province, in addition to other perpetrators such as armed bandits. 

“Thousands of defenseless Christians who survived being hacked to death have also been injured and left in mutilated conditions with several of them crippled for life,” the Intersociety report states. “Hundreds of Christian worship and learning centers have been destroyed or burnt; likewise thousands of dwelling houses, farmlands and other properties belonging to Christians.”

Intersociety reports that between January and the end of June, Boko Haram killed over 600 people of different religions, 260 of which were killed between May 15 and June 30. 

According to Intersociety, 100 of those people killed by Boko Haram and ISWAP between mid-May and the end of June “were strongly believed to be Christians.”

Additionally, the organization notes that at least 258 killings were committed by radicalized herdsmen between May 15 and June 30. 

As Fulani radicals have increasingly attacked Christian farming communities in recent years, the killings have been labeled by the Nigerian government and some human rights groups as part of the decades-long conflicts between herders and farmers in Africa. However, advocates for Nigerian Christian communities contend that the “herder-farmer conflict” label is misleading because it doesn’t take into account other factors at play, such as religious elements. 

“All the areas under Jihadist Herdsmen attacks are Christian communities, as to date," the Intersociety report reads. "There are no pieces of evidence anywhere showing killing of Muslims and taking over of their lands, farmlands and houses or destruction or burning of Mosques by the Jihadist Herdsmen."

The organization also warned that there has been a “rapid increase” in the number of young girls and women who are abducted by radicals nationwide. 

“In other words, Nigeria’s genocidal and atrocious Jihadists including Jihadist Herdsmen and Boko Haram/ISWAP have rapidly increased their rate of abduction of the referenced females, both legally married and unmarried,” the report explains. “Such abducted women hardly return when abducted.”

According to the report, abducted women are sometimes used as sex slaves by their captors and are forcefully married and converted to Islam. 

Intersociety's new report was released the same weekend in which 22 more people were reportedly killed and an unknown number of people were injured and displaced by a series of attacks in remote areas of the southern Kaduna state between July 10 and July 12. 

Last weekend's attacks in Kaduna were said to have been carried out by suspected Fulani assailants, according to the Southern Kaduna People’s Union. 

Christian Solidarity Worldwide, an organization that works with the persecuted church in over 20 countries, reports that nine people were killed and many more injured during an attack carried out in the Chibwob community in the Gora ward of the Sangon Kataf local government area of Kaduna last Friday. 

Most of the victims were women and children. Assailants are accused of burning down over 20 homes, burning motorcycles and destroying farms. 

The next day, Fulani assailants reportedly attacked settlements close to Chibwob that include the Kigudu community. In that attack, 10 women, an infant and an elderly man were reported to have burned to death inside a home. 

On Sunday, suspected Fulani assailants attacked the Ungwan Audu village in the Gora ward. 

The assailants reportedly killed one person and burned down the entire village. The village consisted of 163 households. 

According to CSW, over 1,000 people and 11 pregnant women were displaced by last weekend’s violence and are now taking shelter in an educational facility owned by the Evangelical Church Winning All denomination. 

On Sunday, the Southern Kaduna People’s Union released a statement condemning the attacks and pointed out the fact that police officers assigned to the area to enforce a 24-hour curfew were nowhere to be found when the attacks began.

“With the curfew still in rigid enforcement, Anguwan Audu, a Surubu village, still under Gora ward was invaded this morning of 12th July, 2020, where the village was looted and entirely burnt and one person killed,” SOKPU Public Relation Officer Luka Binniyat said. “This brought to a total death toll of 22 persons in three days of unbroken attacks under a 24-hour strictly imposed curfew that has been running for 31 days today.”

Binniyat argues that the recent attacks “confirm a veiled but documented threat” issued on June 17 by the leaders of five Fulani supremacist groups at a press conference in Kaduna. 

“We are dismayed by the actions of the security forces, who reportedly attacked peaceful protestors and arrested farmers for violating the curfew, yet failed to prevent armed non-state actors from terrorising civilians for three consecutive days,” CSW Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said in a statement. 

“The ongoing violence and loss of life in southern Kaduna is emblematic of an enduring failure or unwillingness on the part of both levels of government to fulfill the responsibility to protecting all citizens in an effective and unbiased manner.”

In the Tse Chembe district of the Logo local government area of Benue state, another seven people were killed by suspected Fulani radicals last Friday. Benue Gov. Samuel Ortom called on President Muhammadu Buhari to declare Fulani radicals as terrorists. 

Nigeria ranks as the 12th worst country in the world when it comes to Christian persecution on Open Doors USA’s 2020 World Watch List. 

Last year, the United States-based nongovernmental organization Jubilee Campaign advised the International Criminal Court in Hague that the standard for genocide against Christians in Nigeria has been reached and urged an investigation. 

There is growing pressure in Washington, D.C., for the U.S. government to appoint a special envoy to Nigeria and the Lake Chad region to investigate the mass atrocities being committed there. The U.S. State Department placed Nigeria on its special watch list of countries that engage in or tolerate severe violations of religious freedom last December. 

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