Evangelical church in Nigeria demands action to stop Fulani jihadists slaughter of Christians

Mourners attend the funeral of 43 farm workers in Zabarmari, about 20km from Maiduguri, Nigeria, on November 29, 2020 after they were killed by Boko Haram fighters in rice fields near the village of Koshobe on November 28, 2020.
Mourners attend the funeral of 43 farm workers in Zabarmari, about 20km from Maiduguri, Nigeria, on November 29, 2020 after they were killed by Boko Haram fighters in rice fields near the village of Koshobe on November 28, 2020. | AFP via Getty Images/AUDU MARTE

A church leader in Nigeria has called for urgent action to stop mass killings that many have described as a “genocide” being committed by Islamic Fulani herdsmen. At least 70 people have been killed in an area of Plateau state in two weeks.

Apart from the 70 killed, at least 15 villages were destroyed, more than 400 houses were burned down, including churches and an orphanage, nearly 20,000 people were displaced and thousands of hectares of farm crops were destroyed in a series of attacks targeting Christians between July 23 and Aug. 2 in Irigwe area in central Nigeria, says the president of the Evangelical Church Winning All, the Rev. Stephen Baba Panya.

Authorities must “stop the genocide taking place in Irigwe land,” he said in a statement, adding that the continual violence has become a “nightmare” for the Christian Irigwe ethnic group, who are indigenous to  Bassa Local Government Area in Plateau State, and to Kaura LGA in neighboring Southern Kaduna.

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“Many of the villages, where these killings and burnings are taking place, are basically located behind the 3rd Armoured Division Barrack of the Nigerian Army, yet, these militias are allowed to continue their heinous murders and carnage without any intervention by the Nigerian Army and other security agencies ..., eroding the confidence of the populace in the military and security agencies, as unbiased protectors of all, devoid of tribe, ethnicity or religion,” he added.

Baba Panya points out that “no single AK-47 wielding militia” has been arrested, and “the indigenous youth who tried to defend themselves with crude instruments are paraded as aggressors.”

The U.K.-based group Christian Solidarity Worldwide reports that the assailants also attacked Ungwan Magaji, Kishicho, Kigam and Kikoba Irigwe villages in Kaura LGA, southern Kaduna, where at least 48 people were killed, over 100 homes were razed to the ground and at least 68 farmlands were destroyed.

“It is time for the international community to put aside debates about the origins and nature of this violence and to focus instead on pressing and assisting Nigeria to address this network of organized armed non-state actors,” CSW’s Press and Public Affairs Team Leader Kiri Kankhwende said.

“It is a tragic indication of failing or failed governance that groups with ready access to small arms, which reportedly include foreign elements, can continue to unleash the most appalling violence across the country, with minority ethnic and religious groups bearing an alarming burden of death and loss.”

The U.S.-based persecution watchdog International Christian Concern designates Fulani radicals as the fourth-deadliest terror group globally, which has surpassed the Boko Haram terrorist group as the greatest threat to Nigerian Christians.

“Many believe that the attacks are motivated by jihadist Fulanis' desire to take over farmland and impose Islam on the population and are frustrated with the Muslim-dominated government that is believed to be enabling such atrocities,” ICC warned in May.

The Anambra-based International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law estimated in May that as many as 1,470 Christians were killed in Nigeria during the first four months of 2021, the highest estimate in the first four months of any year since 2014. The number also surpasses the estimated number of Christians killed in 2019. The report estimated that as many as 300 people had been killed in Kaduna in the first four months of 2021. 

In the first four months of this year, the organization estimates that at least 2,200 Christians were abducted. Kaduna state recorded the highest number of abductions at 800.

The Global Terrorism Index ranked Nigeria as the third-most affected country by terrorism and reported over 22,000 deaths by acts of terror from 2001 to 2019.

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