Fulani extremists in Nigeria shot and killed a church elder, abducted three other Christians and hospitalized another in a recent attack in northwest Nigeria.
Mati Sani, a 65-year-old lay-leader with the Evangelical Church Winning All, was murdered at around 1 a.m. on Feb. 16 during a terrorist attack carried out in the village of Kadabuki Dan-Marabu, Kankara County, Katsina state, according to Morning Star News.
Sani had served in the church for over 35 years.
Ibrahim Lawal, Mamar Rahila and Hafsat Yusuf were all abducted. Meanwhile, Danjuma Sani Mati was transported to a hospital to receive treatment for gunshot wounds, the late pastor's son, the Rev. Ali Mati, told Morning Star News. The nonprofit news outlet reports that all of the victims are Christian and related to each other.
Stephen Enada, the co-founder of the International Committee on Nigeria, a coalition focusing on religious freedom and human rights in Nigeria, told The Christian Post that Christian persecution in Nigeria is widespread and has “escalated” in all regions of the country. The terrorist and militant groups operating in the region are motivated by an agenda to Islamize the country, he contends.
“The rate of insecurity and terrorist and militant activity [in Nigeria] is unprecedented,” Enada stressed.
Since 2009, 34,400 Nigerian Christians have been murdered by radical Islamists, with 2,200 slain last year, according to a report released in December by the Nigeria civil society group International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law. Radical Muslim extremists have also killed an estimated 20,000 moderate Muslims.
Enada told CP that the Nigerian government has done little to alleviate the terrorist threat and attacks on religious freedom and said recruitment for militant groups has increased.
The two major groups waging attacks on Christians in Nigeria are the Boko Haram terrorist group and radical Fulani herders.
Nathan Johnson, the Africa regional manager for Christian advocacy group International Christian Concern, told CP in an earlier interview that while most people have heard of Boko Haram, “people need to understand that the Fulani crisis is probably the bigger issue for Christians in Nigeria."
"They’ve killed more people than Boko Haram in the last few years,” Johnson explained.
The U.N. estimates that over 3.4 million people in Nigeria have been displaced due to the Islamic extremist violence in the northeast and violence in the country’s Middle Belt carried out by radicals from the herding community.
In December, the U.S. State Department designated Nigeria as a "country of particular concern" for the first time. Then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo named Nigeria and nine other nations as CPCs for engaging in or tolerating "systematic, ongoing, egregious violations of religious freedom.’”
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom recommended Nigeria be named as a CPC in its 2019 report. Nigeria was the first democracy to receive this designation.
More believers are murdered for their faith in Nigeria than in anywhere else. According to the persecution watchdog organization Open Doors USA, Nigeria leads the world in the number of Christians who are kidnapped.
The persecution watchdog's annual World Watch List names Nigeria as the ninth-worst country in the world when it comes to Christian persecution.
" ... Christians are often murdered or have their property and means of livelihood destroyed. Men and boys are particularly vulnerable to being killed," Open Doors reports. "The women and children left behind are very vulnerable and living testimonies to the power of the attackers. Perpetrators are seldom brought to justice. Christian women are often abducted and raped by these militant groups, and sometimes forced to marry Muslims."
About 46% of Nigeria's population identifies as Christian, with over 95 million believers. The divide between Christians and Muslims is roughly even, Open Doors adds.
Lela Gilbert, a senior research fellow for international religious freedom at the Family Research Council, raised concerns in a piece for Providence magazine about the scant coverage in secular media of the slaughter of Christians in Nigeria that some have warned has reached the level of genocide.
“There is a bloodbath in Nigeria,” Gilbert wrote. “Those of us who track religious freedom violations and Christian persecution agree with those who increasingly speak of another genocide. Murderous incidents are acted out with accelerating frequency, perpetrated primarily by two terror groups — Boko Haram and Fulani jihadis. Tens of thousands of Nigerians have been slaughtered in the last decade. But their stories rarely appear in mainstream Western news reports.”
Enada said all Christians must know what is happening to fellow believers in Nigeria so they can pray for their fellow believers.
“Every Christian should be made aware of what is happening,” Enada said. “... We want people to be aware of what is happening for brothers and sisters in Nigeria and also to pray for them.”