ABUJA, Nigeria — Fulani herdsmen killed a church pastor, his wife and 41 other people in an attack last month on two predominantly Christian villages in Nasarawa state, Nigeria, sources said.
The Rev. Daniel Danbeki of the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) in Takalafiya village, Karu County, and his wife were killed along with villagers who were sleeping in their homes the night of May 11 in the attack that lasted until the early hours of May 12, survivors said.
Also attacked was nearby Gwanja, said the chairman of ECWA District Church Council, the Rev. Danladi Ndoh.
“One of our pastors, the Rev. Daniel Danbeki, and his wife are among the 43 Christians killed during the attacks,” Ndoh said in a statement. “And this is aside from our worship building which was burned and many houses destroyed in the two communities.”
Takalafiya resident Livinus Dandaura said the herdsmen attacked at about 9 p.m.
“Most of the victims killed during the attack are women, children and the aged, as most of them were unable to escape as the armed Muslim terrorists and herdsmen shot randomly at anyone they sighted during the ambush on the village,” Dandaura told Morning Star News in a text message.
Village resident Isaac Dabu said the wounded received treatment at the Federal Medical Center, a public health facility in Keffi.
“I write this with pains, as I have been to the Federal Medical Center, Keffi, almost every day to check on my people who were attacked by Fulani herdsmen and terrorists at Takalafia, and to my shock, no government official ever visited them in the hospital to see and assist them,” Dabu said. “These Christian victims have been left at the mercy of God, with their medical bills piling up, with no one to offset the bills.”
Four of the wounded at the hospital died due to lack of proper medical care, he said.
“A medical consultant at the hospital told me that nothing can be done further medically for the injured, as officials of the Nasarawa state government have not made any effort to settle the medical bills of the victims,” Dabu said. “The sad reality is that officials of the Nasarawa state government have not said anything about the attack, nor rendered any assistance to displaced Christians who are scattered in Nasarawa state and in nearby Abuja.”
Seven of those slain in the attack on Takalafiya were his relatives, he said.
“My elder brother was critically injured and is lying between life and death,” Dabu said. “The question is, what is the sin committed by Christians in Takalafiya and Gwanja communities? Is it because we’re Christians that we’re being attacked, and the Muslim-controlled state and federal governments do not care to protect us?”
A Nigerian news outlet reported that the attacks came in retaliation for the death of a herdsman who was grazing his cattle on the farmer’s land. When the farmer objected, the herdsman reportedly attacked him with a cutlass that the farmer used against him in self-defense, killing him.
The corpses of the 43 people slain in the attacks on Takalafiya and Gwanja villages were buried in a mass grave by officials of the Nasarawa state government and security agencies on May 13, Dabu said.
“The 43 Christians who were killed were given mass burial without the consent of surviving relations from the community,” he said. “The irony is that most of the victims killed were women, children and the elderly who were not able to escape from their attackers.”
Emmanuel Akabe, Nasarawa’s deputy governor, attended the funeral of the slain Christians at Takalafiya village, which was officiated by ECWA leaders. Akabe expressed shock over the killings and said the Nasarawa state government would investigate the motives of the attack and arrest the perpetrators.
James Thomas, chairman of the Karu Local Government Council, condemned the attacks.
“I find it difficult to understand the rationale behind these barbaric attacks,” Thomas said. “I want to appeal for calm in the affected communities and want to assure that we shall work closely with security agencies to arrest the perpetrators of the act in order for them to face the full wrath of the law.”
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.
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