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43K Nigerian Christians killed, 18K disappeared in last 12 years: NGO report

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Christians 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. |

A Nigerian civil society organization estimates around 43,000 Christians have been killed by Nigerian Islamic radicals in the last 12 years, while 18,500 have permanently disappeared and 17,500 churches have been attacked.

The Anambra-based International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law (Intersociety) published a new report this week, estimating that about 10 million people have been uprooted in northern Nigeria, where extremist violence is most severe, from July 2009 to July 2021. 

During that time, the report states, about 2,000 Christian schools were attacked. 

The atrocities include “massacres, killings, mutilations, torture, maiming, abductions, hostage-taking, rape, girl-child defilements, forced marriages, disappearances, extortions, forceful conversions and destruction or burning of homes and sacred worship and learning centers," Intersociety reports.

Intersociety said the mass violence has resulted from the “propagation of radical Islamism."

Intersociety is an organization headed by Christian criminologist Emeka Umeagbalasi and relies on what it deems to be credible media reports, government accounts, reports from international rights groups and eyewitness accounts to compile statistical data. 

However, a lack of adequate government record-keeping means that death tolls reported by media outlets or the government are estimates that can often be skewed. 

"The total number of ‘direct’ Christian deaths since 2009 or from July 2009 to July 2021; a period of twelve years, is independently put at no fewer than 43,000," the report reads. "The figure arises from total jihadist killing of not less than 72,000 defenseless citizens."

"The total number of moderate Muslims killed by the Jihadists since same July 2009 is independently put at 29,000," the report continued. "Of the no fewer than 43,000 Christian deaths, 20% or over 8,600 deaths are members of the Church of Brethren in Nigeria or EYN."

The deaths, the report explains, are a result of "systematic and coordinated attacks" carried about by Islamic extremists and their collaborators. 

The report comes as international human rights advocates have long voiced concern over the increasing violence in Nigeria.

In the northeast, groups like Islamic State and Boko Haram have attacked civilian communities, killing and abducting thousands. In the farm-rich center of the country, attacks have been carried out against predominantly Christian farming communities by suspected radicalized Fulani herders, many of which are Muslim. However, advocates for the herders claim that youths from the farming communities have also attacked their communities in reprisal attacks. 

In another report released in July, Intersociety reported that 3,400 Christians had been killed by extremists since January, which nearly surpasses the number of Christian deaths estimated in Nigeria for all of 2020.

“It is deeply saddening that till date those responsible for the anti Christian butcheries in the country have continued to evade justice and remained unchecked, untracked, uninvestigated and untried; leading to impunity and repeat-atrocities,” Intersociety said in the July report.

“The surviving victims and families of the dead victims are also totally abandoned by the Government of Nigeria.”

Critics accuse the Nigerian government of failing to protect civilians adequately from radical attacks and failing to hold perpetrators accountable. 

Kidnapping for ransom has become a lucrative industry in Nigeria, though the government denies paying ransom to terrorists. 

“People in Nigerian government and terrorists and jihadists [want] to inflict pain by forcing people to believe what they believe or act the way they want them to act,” Hafsat Maina Muhammed, a Nigerian woman and founder of Choice for Peace, Gender and Development, shared during a recent U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom panel discussion.

More Christians are killed in Nigeria than anywhere else globally, Christian persecution watchdog Open Doors USA reports. 

Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country and ranks No. 9 on Open Door’s 2021 World Watch List for Christian persecution due to an “extreme” level of Islamic oppression. 

The Global Terrorism Index ranks Nigeria as the third country most affected by terrorism in the world and reports over 22,000 people killed by acts of terror from 2001 to 2019. 

Nigeria is the first democratic nation to be added to the U.S. State Department's list of "countries of particular concern" under the International Religious Freedom Act. 

Human rights activists have warned Nigeria is headed toward Christian "genocide" if global action is not taken quickly.

Frank Wolf, former U.S. congressman, religious freedom advocate and author of the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, shared during a June panel discussion how the U.S. and the international community must intervene in Nigeria.

“When the world and the U.S. ignored … genocide in Rwanda, hundreds of thousands of people died,” Wolf said. “History is repeating itself. Because of the atrocities in Rwanda that we had ignored, President Bill Clinton flew to Rwanda and apologized to the Rwandan people near the end of his term.”

“If what is happening in Nigeria were happening to nearly any country in Europe, the world would be enraged and engaged," Wolf continued. "But in Nigeria, there is no action."

The population split between Christians and Muslims is roughly even in Nigeria. Around half of Nigeria's population identifies as Christian, and there are over an estimated 95 million believers in the country of over 200 million people. 

The Nigerian presidency released a statement last year stating that organizations and groups that claim a religious genocide is taking place in Nigeria are receiving funds from separatist groups. However, some activists have refuted that claim. 

Intersociety, which is based in an Igbo-dominated area that seceded from Nigeria as part of an independent Biafra in 1967, told CP that it has received support in the form of free professional resource donations, expert advice, technical assistance and “individual cash donations or cash sums” that are “periodically and voluntarily donated by some concerned citizens” who are “usually less politically exposed persons.” 

CP was told that Intersociety has never received sponsorship from a foreign body or international grant sponsorships and its advocacy campaigns on the killing of Christians have been done free of charge "without group sponsorship."

Emily Wood is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at: emily.wood@christianpost.com

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