A pregnant mother-of-two was among the Christians murdered by Muslim Fulani herdsmen in Nigeria as attacks targeting followers of Christ continue to escalate in the West African country's Middle Belt.
Margaret Wakili, a 27-year-old member of the Baptist Church in Ancha village, Plateau state, was murdered by the Islamic extremists on July 15 while at her farm, according to Morning Star News.
The attackers launched an assault on the villages of Ancha, Tafigana, Kperie, Hukke and Rikwechongu, killing the three believers and burning down around 75 houses.
Two more Christians — Thomas Wollo, 46, and his son, Ngwe Thomas Wollo, 7 — were murdered in Tafigana village, Bassa County, according to a local resident. Herdsmen reportedly beheaded the elder Wallo after killing him.
“Both of them were ambushed and killed in Tafigana village as they were returning to their home after attending a church program at St. Peter’s Catholic Church, Tafigana, at about 8:30 pm,” she said.
Another resident, Lawrence, said that attacks are being increasingly frequent, particularly on Sundays, when church services are held.
“We have been experiencing daily attacks by these Fulani herdsmen in our communities, most especially on Sundays during worship hours or Thursdays when church activities are held,” he explained. “The herdsmen destroyed farm produce worth millions of naira, and a lot of domestic animals were killed in the two villages.”
A fellow resident, Ayuba, also confirmed the attacks and accused the Nigerian government of being negligent in seeking to curtail the violence.
“As a people, we are continuously under attack, and nobody seems to be hearing our cries for help, while killing of our people has now become a routine,” he said.
In recent years, militant Fulani herders have upped their attacks on Christian farmers in what is known as Nigeria’s Middle Belt. The Nigerian-based civil society group International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law has reported that no less than 2,400 Christians were killed by Fulani militants in 2018 alone. Additionally, many Christian communities, including entire tribes, have been displaced from their homes due to attacks.
In June, Fulani radicals killed 13 people, including three children, and burned hundreds of homes in attacks on predominantly Christian villages.
In April, herdsmen killed 17 Christians who had gathered after a baby dedication at a church in central Nigeria, including the mother of the child.
The Jubilee Campaign, a nongovernmental human right organization, recently submitted research to the International Criminal Court arguing that the standard for genocide has now been reached when it comes to the massacres of Christians at the hands of Fulani militants.
“I believe legally that we are now rising to the place of genocide,” human rights lawyer and Jubilee Campaign Director Ann Buwalda said during a panel discussion in Washington, D.C. this month. “If you look at international standards, ... each of these criteria have actually been reached.”
She went on to say that the criteria include “killing members of a group,” “causing serious bodily harm or mental harm to members of the group,” and “deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about physical destruction in whole or in part,” among others.
“We believe that genocide is loading. We believe that genocidal behavior and conduct has been taking place and that the perpetrators are not being prosecuted by the Nigerian government,” she added.
Christians make up 51.3% of Nigeria’s population, while Muslims living primarily in the North and Middle Belt account for 45%.
Persecution watchdog group Open Doors USA has ranked Nigeria as the 12th worst nation in the world when it comes to Christian persecution on its 2019 World Watch List, highlighting Fulani violence.