Nigeria: Armed terrorists kill 33 Christians; bishop calls bloodshed 'handiwork of the evil ones'

Burial of bodies of 33 Christians in Ruji village, Kaduna state, Nigeria, on Monday, April 17, 2023.
Burial of bodies of 33 Christians in Ruji village, Kaduna state, Nigeria, on Monday, April 17, 2023. | Morning Star News screenshot

ABUJA, Nigeria — Fulani herdsmen and other terrorists killed 33 Christians in an attack Saturday night through the early hours of Sunday in Kaduna state, Nigeria.

Area residents said herdsmen alongside other armed terrorists invaded predominantly Christian Runji village, in Zangon Kataf County, at about 10 p.m. on Saturday.

“Please pray for us. It’s a black Sunday, as 33 Christians were killed by herdsmen and terrorists in the early hours of Sunday, 16 April,” area resident Mugu Zakka Bako said in a text message to Morning Star News. “They were also buried today, Monday, 17 April.”

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The Rev. Jacob Kwashi, bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Zonkwa, Kaduna state, presided over the mass burial of the 33 Christians.

“In the past seven-and-half-years, we in southern Kaduna have seen the handiwork of the evil ones who have decided that they’ll keep releasing evil on us in our land until we don’t know when they’ll stop,” Kashi said. “It has always been obvious and clear that the government is capable and able to stop this evil, be it the government of Kaduna state or the government of Nigeria, they’re capable, they’re able to stop this evil, but the truth is that, are they ready and willing to stop this evil?”

The Rev. Bauta Motty, a Christian leader from southern Kaduna state and a former general secretary of the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA), said in a statement that the attack on Runji village was the third on area Christians in a week. He said the attack on Runji left many others wounded and burned many houses; published reports cited a government official as saying 40 homes were destroyed.

“Before then, two Christians were killed four days earlier in that same village,” Motty said. “This is beside the 17 Christians that were killed four days ago at Atak Njei village.”

Area resident Grace Bamaiyi said almost half the village’s houses were burned. Another resident, John Kantiyok, described the attack as a massacre.

“Let’s pray for Runji village in Zangon Kataf Local Government Area, which came under heavy attack on Sunday night,” Kantiyok said in a text message to Morning Star News. “Many Christians are feared killed, and almost half of the houses in the village have been burned and destroyed. It is nothing short of a massacre.”

Francis Sani, a council official of Zangon Kataf Local Government Area, in a press statement confirmed the killing of the 33 Christians.

“The attackers in their numbers maimed and burned mostly women and children, set houses ablaze, and raided several houses within the community, leaving an aftermath of gruesome murder of 33 people, with four sustaining various degrees of injuries and some in critical condition that have been referred to Specialist Hospital, and properties worth millions destroyed,” Sani said. “We are devastated and shocked by the level of carnage and mindless bloodletting.”

Samuel Aruwan, Kaduna state spokesman, said troops “had a fierce encounter with the attackers and are still in the general area.”

“While waiting for a detailed report, Gov. Nasir El-Rufai, who received the preliminary report in the early hours of Sunday, has condemned the killings as unacceptable and unjustifiable,” Aruwan said. “The governor consoled the families that lost their loved ones and prayed for the repose of the victims’ souls. He also prayed for the speedy recovery of the injured.”

Nigeria led the world in Christians killed for their faith in 2022, with 5,014, according to Open Doors’ 2023 World Watch List (WWL) report. It also led the world in Christians abducted (4,726), sexually assaulted or harassed, forcibly married or physically or mentally abused, and it had the most homes and businesses attacked for faith-based reasons. As in the previous year, Nigeria had the second most church attacks and internally displaced people.

In the 2023 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian, Nigeria jumped to sixth place, its highest ranking ever, from No. 7 the previous year.

“Militants from the Fulani, Boko Haram, Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) and others conduct raids on Christian communities, killing, maiming, raping and kidnapping for ransom or sexual slavery,” the WWL report noted. “This year has also seen this violence spill over into the Christian-majority south of the nation. … Nigeria’s government continues to deny this is religious persecution, so violations of Christians’ rights are carried out with impunity.”

Numbering in the millions across Nigeria and the Sahel, predominantly Muslim Fulani comprise hundreds of clans of many different lineages who do not hold extremist views, but some Fulani do adhere to radical Islamist ideology, the United Kingdom’s All-Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom or Belief (APPG) noted in a recent report.

“They adopt a comparable strategy to Boko Haram and ISWAP and demonstrate a clear intent to target Christians and potent symbols of Christian identity,” the APPG report states.

Christian leaders in Nigeria have said they believe herdsmen attacks on Christian communities in Nigeria’s Middle Belt are inspired by their desire to forcefully take over Christians’ lands and impose Islam as desertification has made it difficult for them to sustain their herds.

Morning Star News is the only independent news service focusing exclusively on the persecution of Christians. The nonprofit's mission is to provide complete, reliable, even-handed news in order to empower those in the free world to help persecuted Christians, and to encourage persecuted Christians by informing them that they are not alone in their suffering.

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