Bishops in Nigeria Plan Mass Demonstration to Protest Radical Muslims' Ongoing Slaughter of Christians

A Christian family mourn three relatives killed by armed Fulani herdsmen in Jos, Plateau state, Nigeria, in December 2011.
A Christian family mourn three relatives killed by armed Fulani herdsmen in Jos, Plateau state, Nigeria, in December 2011. | (Photo: Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde)

Nigeria's Catholic bishops will hit the streets next week to protest the killing of more than 100 Christians by Islamic Fulani herdsmen in northern Nigeria this year thus far.

The protest will take place on May 22 in Makurdi, the capital of Benue state, where two murdered priests will be buried the same day, according to Crux Now, which reported that Fr. Ralph Madu of the Secretariat of the Bishops' Conference has urged all dioceses in the country to "organize a peaceful rally or rosary procession or any other appropriate demonstration of solidarity" the same day.

Madu called on Catholics to travel to Makurdi for the demonstration if they could. "Bishops who can make it to Makurdi for the funeral Mass are encouraged to do so, as we pray that this directive be communicated to the clergy, religious and the faithful in the most effective way possible."

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Last month, two Catholic priests, Fr. Joseph Gor and Fr. Felix Tyolaha, and 17 others were killed in an attack by Fulani herdsmen, who have been accused of aligning with the Boko Haram terror group that has been seeking to impose strict Sharia law on its northern regions.

A little over 51 percent of Nigeria's population is Christian, and Muslims account for about 45 percent in the country's north and middle belt.

The 2017 Global Terrorism Index described the herdsmen as terrorists in 2014, and said the Fulani are responsible for more than 60,000 deaths since 2001.

Since 2011, the herdsmen have destroyed 500 church buildings with attacks that have displaced 170,000 people, Akpen Leva, chairman of the Benue state chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria, said last month.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari also belongs to the Fulani tribe.

Nigerian bishops have called for Buhari's resignation over his failure to protect the lives of Christians. "He should no longer continue to preside over the killing fields and mass graveyard that our nation has become … it is time for him to choose the path of honor and consider stepping aside to save the nation from total collapse," they said in a statement last month.

The Methodist Church Nigeria earlier urged the country's Christians to pray for peace.

"There is a need for Christians to be patient with those who irritate them the most and stop being self-centered," Adeolu Odugbemi from the Methodist Church said. "For any nation to live right, it must strive for peace and holiness, because where there is envy and strife, there is confusion and evil. Anybody who raises strife is of the devil.

"Christians should kill the spirit of war that some people are trying to raise. [They] should not be an initiator of any crisis by opening the doors of confusion through their statements."

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