A New York pastor has pledged to give $50,000 to rebuild an orphanage in the conflict-devastated Plateau State of Nigeria, which housed about 150 children, many of whom were orphaned by previous Boko Haram and Fulani attacks until the building was burned down by Fulani herdsmen.
“Thank God the … children were evacuated prior to the destruction by these demonic terrorists," says the Facebook page of Pastor Bill Devlin, who has committed to donating $50,000 to rebuild the orphanage. Devlin, co-pastor of Infinity Bible Church in South Bronx, New York, identifies himself as an “international humanitarian in the war zones.”
The Binta orphanage in Plateau State’s Jos area, the only orphanage supported by a U.S. nonprofit, the Religious Freedom Coalition, was destroyed on Monday, The Epoch Times reported.
The staff and children are safe, the coalition’s founder, the Rev. William Murray, was quoted as saying. “The 147 kids were evacuated to Jos,” he said.
“The attackers came when the place was becoming dark around 7 p.m.,” a civilian neighborhood watchman was quoted as saying. “The Fulani got support from the Nigerian army. They were escorted by the army on three army vans. We saw them from afar coming in numbers,” the watchman said. “The soldiers did not help us. They allowed Fulani to burn down our houses.”
The U.S.-based persecution watchdog group 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.
Advocates, including U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom Commissioner Gay Bauer, have warned that Nigeria “will move relentlessly toward a Christian genocide” if action is not taken. The U.S. State Department recognizes Nigeria as a "country of particular concern" for tolerating or engaging in severe violations of religious freedom.
Islamic extremism, notably carried out by groups like Boko Haram and the Islamic State West Africa Province in northeast Nigeria, has led to thousands of deaths and millions displaced in recent years.