Christians killed by suspected Fulani gunmen while on way home from church service

People react as a truck carries the coffins of people killed by the Fulani herdsmen, in Makurdi, Nigeria January 11, 2018.
People react as a truck carries the coffins of people killed by the Fulani herdsmen, in Makurdi, Nigeria January 11, 2018. | (Photo: REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde)

A number of Christians — anywhere from five to 30 — were reportedly killed by suspected radical Fulani herdsmen during social unrest stemming from the murder of a Christian man last Sunday, local sources report.

According to The Daily Post, police have confirmed that at least five victims were killed in the societal violence that took place in the local government area of Jos in the Plateau state on May 26.

However, the head of a local Christian association has put the death toll of Christians from last Sunday’s violence at about 30.

Authorities reported that at least 12 homes were burned in the violence as Christian and Muslim herdsmen communities clashed after local Christians took to the streets to protest the death of Enoch Monday.

State police told media that Monday’s body was found around the Tina Junction in Jos.

“On [May 26] at about 11:30 [a.m.], the Plateau State Police Command received a report from one Sarki Arum of Tina Area of Jos North Local Government Area of Plateau State that one Enoch Monday of Tina was seen lying motionless at an area between Dutse Uku and Angwan Damisa in Jos North Local Government,” the statement from Public Relations Officer DSP Tyopev Matthias Terna reads.

“The Command immediately mobilized to the area and removed the body to Plateau Specialist Hospital where he was confirmed dead by the doctor on duty and corpse deposited at the mortuary of the same hospital.”

According to police, local youths in the area gathered to protest following Monday’s death.

“This has always been the trend in the area. Once anyone crosses over to the other side, his or her safety was never guaranteed,” a local source told The Daily Post. “These are Christian and Muslim communities that share boundaries. However, gunshots began renting the air from all sides with people running helter-skelter, including those coming back from Church.”

Officers were sent to the impacted areas to help restore peace.

A local Christian man named Peter Sarki assured to the U.S.-based persecution outlet Morning Star News that at least seven Christians were killed and more than 12 others were injured in the violence.

Rev. Luke Shehu, head of the Arewa Christians and Indigenous Pastors Association, said in a statement that at least 30 people were killed and 20 homes were burnt in less than 12 hours by “Muslim militia.”

According to The Punch, Shehu said that some of the perpetrators were “in military uniforms.” He added that all the areas impacted by the violence border Muslim communities.

“These targeted attacks on innocent Christians are unacceptable, particularly with confirmed arrests of over 30 Christian women fruit and food vendors by soldiers around Tina junction in Jos after the attack today, 27th May 2019,” Shehu asserted.

Shehu added that the killings are a “sacrilege unimaginable to be carried out in the month of Ramadan.”

Along with Monday, Sarki identified another slain Christian man as Istifanus Ismailaj. Both of Ismailaj and Monday, Sarki said, were killed on their way home from an Evangelical Church Winning All service.

Sarki also identified Michael Anthony Pam, a parishioner at St. Michael’s Church in Nasarawa Gwong, as another victim. Pam was said to be the head of the St. Michael’s chapter of the Catholic Youth Organization of Nigeria.

The violence impacted motorists and some community members, including a Morning Star News correspondent who was forced to stay in church for shelter rather than return home that Sunday.

Fulani violence has escalated greatly over the last couple of years in Christian farming communities in the Middle Belt and southern parts of Nigeria as Muslim herders from the north have migrated to the south.

While the Nigerian government and some secular human rights watchdogs have blamed the violence on “farmer-herder” clashes, Christians in the region have claimed that it is ignorant to overlook the religious element of the violence and the fact that the attacks against Christian communities have become much more violent in recent years than they were in the past.

Christian activists have also claimed that Fulani violence against farming communities greatly outnumbers reprisal attacks committed against Fulani communities since farming communities do not have the advanced weaponry that radicalized Fulani do.

Nigeria ranks as the 12th worst nation in the world when it comes to Christian persecution, according to Open Door USA’s 2019 World Watch List.

Thousands of Christians have reportedly been killed by suspected Fulani herdsmen since the beginning of 2018.

“Nigeria’s score for violence has stayed as high as possible, primarily due to the increased attacks on Christian communities by Hausa-Fulani Islamic militant herdsmen,” an Open Doors factsheet on Nigeria reads. “These attacks claimed the lives of hundreds of believers during the reporting period, and scores of villages and churches were burned to the ground.”

Last Monday, in the Riyom local government area of Plateau State, it was reported that suspected Fulani radicals killed six members of one family while they were having dinner. A survivor of the attack recalled in an interview with The Daily Post how she survived the attack by pretending to be dead. 

Follow Samuel Smith on Twitter: @IamSamSmith

or Facebook: SamuelSmithCP

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