Church leaders abducted, Christians killed in Nigeria during Christmas week

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. | Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde

Armed Muslim Fulani tribesmen abducted at least three Christian leaders and killed 18 Christians in the week leading to Christmas Day as they increased attacks on farming communities in Nigeria’s Kaduna state, according to a report.

On Dec. 24, armed Fulani men “mercilessly” beat the Rev. Luka Shaho of the Assemblies of God Church and then abducted his wife, Jumai Luka, in the Ungwan Waziri area in Chikun Local Government Area of central Kaduna state, the U.K.-based group Christian Solidarity Worldwide reported.

On Dec. 21, over 100 well-armed men attacked the Gwazunu community in the Gwagwada area of Chikun Local Government Area and abducted the Rev. Thomas James of Godiya Baptist Church Gwazunu.

The same militia then attacked the Gbaja Katarma community and shot dead eight people. Four others reportedly sustained gunshot injuries, CSW said.

On Dec. 19, assailants from the Fulani ethnicity abducted the Rev. Luka Dani of the Evangelical Church Winning All after they attacked the Galumi community in the same area in Gwagwada.

On Dec. 17, Fulani men killed 10 people — five of them were from the same family — and burned down 18 homes in Gora Gan village in Zangon Kataf Local Government Area in the Atyap Chiefdom, CSW added.

On Dec. 21, the Ikulu Traditional Council, a local body, warned the chief executive of Zagon Kataf Local Government Council that a government-run school in Unwan Gimba was being used as a base by unidentified armed men. 

“The urgent and deteriorating situation in Kaduna must not be forgotten, nor must the religious element to these attacks be brushed aside,” CSW’s founder and President Mervyn Thomas said. “The authorities must develop a comprehensive security plan that considers the different dimensions to this security crisis, amid signs that the violence is not only continuing but has also spread to other areas.”

CSW blamed the renewed attacks on “inadequate official intervention to address ongoing violence by armed men of Fulani ethnicity on Christian farming communities in central Nigeria, and a concomitant proliferation of light arms.”

In a report released last week, Nigeria’s International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law revealed that the country’s government lists murders of Christians by radical Islamists as having “other causes.”

The report said that since 2009, 34,400 Christians had been killed by radical Islamists, with 2,200 slain in the last year. Radical Muslims had also killed an estimated 20,000 moderate Muslims.

Intersociety leader and founder Emeka Umeagbalasi said Nigeria’s government tells media that Fulani tribe herdsmen travel south fleeing desertification and kill during conflicts with local farmers. However, Christian activists say Fulani tribesmen travel south because they are radical Islamists looking for Christians to kill.

The Nigerian government hides these attacks because it supports radical Islamists, Umeagbalasi asserted. President Muhammadu Buhari is a Muslim. He is also a member of the Miyatti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, which supports radical Islamic tribesmen, he added.

In June, five of Nigeria’s major Islamic groups made an alliance with each other to rise up against Christians.

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