Muslim Fulani herdsmen kill 16 Christians in Nigeria; gov't condemned for inaction

Protesters gather during a demonstration against Fulani herdsmen killings, in Abuja, Nigeria March 16, 2017. | REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde

Muslim Fulani herdsmen killed 16 Christians in separate attacks in Plateau state this month amid a spate of violence carried out by various groups against believers in Nigeria.

Herdsmen invaded Torok village in Riyom County on Jan. 20, killing Reuben Bulus, a 25-year-old member of the Church of Christ in Nations, said Dalyop Solomon Mwantiri, a human rights activist with the Emancipation Centre for Crisis Victims in Nigeria, to Morning Star News.

Just two days earlier, 13 COCIN members were slain in Plateau state’s Kulben village, Mangu County, in an attack carried out by about 20 herdsmen who also wounded three others. In Gako village, near Rim in Riyom County, another COCIN member, Ngam Stephen Dachung, was shot and killed by herdsmen on Jan. 1, Mwantiri said.

In December, herdsmen killed a Christian woman, Mary Machief, and her baby daughter in Plateau state’s Bokkos County. A relative told the outlet Machief was not killed instantly but died later from her wounds.

“We all prayed for God to give her quick healing, but God deemed it fit to take her to eternal home,” he said.

Christians in the northern region and in the Middle Belt have experienced an uptick in violence at the hands of radical Islamic groups, such as Boko Haram, ISWAP, and Muslim Fulani herdsmen in recent years.

A 2018 report from the Combatting Terrorism Center at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point suggested there could be as many as 6,000 Islamic State-aligned militants spread over nine different cells in Africa. 

Last week, it was reported that the Rev. Lawan Andimi, a Nigerian pastor who made headlines for praising God in a ransom video, had been executed by Boko Haram militants in Nigeria.

That video followed another video released by the extremist faction last month purporting to show the killing of 11 Christian aid workers in Nigeria. 

Additionally, the Islamic State recently published a video showing a child soldier killing a Christian man in Nigeria. The child is seen declaring that “[w]e won't stop until we take revenge for all the blood that was spilled.” 

Faith McDonnell, the director of religious liberty programs at the U.S.-based think tank Institute on Religion & Democracy, responded to the news of Andimi’s murder by condemning the Nigerian government’s inaction.  

“It is obvious that the president of Nigeria will do nothing to stop this without pressure from the West,” she wrote on Facebook. “We need President Trump to appoint a Special Envoy for Nigeria and the region soon.”

At a news conference this month, Open Doors CEO David Curry also criticized Nigeria’s government for its inability to control the violence perpetrated by terrorist groups across the country. 

“The great tragedy of Nigeria’s ineffectual response to Boko Haram and Fulani herdsmen is now parts of Cameroon and those other areas like Burkina Faso are greatly affected,” Curry said.

Curry said Nigeria still represents the most violent country in the world for Christians as far as Open Doors USA’s data can track. The persecution watchdog ranks Nigeria at No. 12 on its 2020 World Watch List of countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian.

Notes Open Doors: "The violence against Christians by militant Islamic groups in the north often ends in loss of life and physical injury as well as loss of property. Pray for those dealing with the effects of recent violence against them. Please pray for the Lord’s provision in all their physical and spiritual needs."

In December, Nigeria was placed for the first time on the U.S. State Department’s Special Watch List for countries in which severe religious freedom violations are tolerated. 

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