Fourteen members of a Baptist church in the Kogi state of Nigeria were reportedly killed during a raid by suspected Fulani radicals last week. Residents have since fled the area as farming communities in Nigeria’s Middle Belt continue to be targeted.
As alleged genocide has reportedly claimed the lives of more than 1,400 Christians in Nigeria this year, the attack last Wednesday is the latest reported massacre of Christians in Nigeria.
Kogi State Command Commissioner of Police Ede Ayuba told the nonprofit persecution news outlet Morning Star News that an attack was carried out in the Agbadu-Daruwana area of the Kogi state around 2 a.m. on July 29.
Ayuba explained that killed in the incident were 13 members of one family, leaving only one surviving member.
The survivor lost his wife, mother, all of his children and the rest of his extended family, including an aunt, uncle and sister-in-law.
According to Morning Star News, leaders of the All Africa Baptist Fellowship posted on the group’s Facebook page that the victims in the Agbadu-Daruwana attack are all congregants of Bethel Baptist Church, a member of the Lokoja Baptist Association.
“They have since been buried,” the All Africa Baptist Fellowship’s Facebook post is quoted as explaining. “All the community members, mainly Christians, have all fled. Please pray for God’s intervention against antichrist in the land.”
According to a resident of the area, a Fulani language was spoken during the attack.
The Fulani people group, which consists of millions across Africa, are predominantly Muslim cattle herders. Some have been radicalized to carry out heinous attacks on farming villages across Nigeria's fertile Middle Belt states in recent years as land resources have become increasingly scarce.
The attack took place in a predominantly-Christian village, near other villages that have been victims of attacks.
“They invaded the village armed with guns and riding motorcycles,” the resident named Rachael Nuhu claimed. “They were speaking in the Fulani language as they attacked our people. This is not the first time they’re attacking our communities, as other villages around us had been attacked in a similar way by these herdsmen.”
The attack comes as human rights groups have sounded the alarm that the atrocities committed against Christians in Nigeria — both by Fulani herdsmen and Islamic extremist groups in Nigeria's northeast — are reaching the standard for “genocide.”
On Jan. 30, Christian Solidarity International issued a genocide warning for Nigeria after the Jubilee Campaign issued a similar warning last year in a report to the International Criminal Court.
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.
Last week, the International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law estimated that no less than 1,421 Christians have been killed in the first seven months of 2020, with Fulani radicals reportedly responsible for 1,027 deaths. Meanwhile, extremist groups like Boko Haram and the Islamic State West Africa Province in the northeast Lake Chad region are responsible for 310 deaths.
The Intersociety report provides a state-by-state breakdown showing that 54 have been killed in Kogi state this year. Violence has hit harder in other states as 363 Christian lives were taken in the Kaduna state, 158 in Pleatue state and 152 in Benue state.
“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,” Intersociety stated in a July report. “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, which is headed by Christian criminologist Emeka Umeagbalasi and based in Anambra state, also reported a rapid increase in young women being abducted in Nigeria. Sometimes, women are forced into sex slavery and rarely returned to their communities.
Intersociety estimated in July that 1,000 Christian citizens have been abducted in Nigeria this year.
Nigeria ranks as the 12th-worst country in the world when it comes to Christian persecution, according to Open Doors USA’s 2020 World Watch List.
According to Christian Solidarity Worldwide, 10 women, an infant and an elderly man were reported to have burned to death inside a home during a suspected Fulani attack in settlements close to Chibwob in early July.
“All the areas under Jihadist Herdsmen attacks are Christian communities, as to date," Intersociety explained in its July report. "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 frequency and severity of attacks towards Christians reached the level of genocide in Nigeria more than a year ago, according to the Jubilee Campaign, which advocates on behalf of religious minorities across the globe.