By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
(Worthy News) - Nigerian Church leaders have appealed for more security after dozens of Christians were killed by Muslim nomadic herdsmen from the Fulani tribe and bandits.
In the latest attack, 14 Christians were killed on Pentecost Sunday in Kwi village near Jos in Nigeria’s central Plateau state and eight others in the same region’s Dong village, Christians said.
Herdsmen attacked Kwi village in Riyom County, near Jos, said area resident Solomon Mandiks in published remarks.
“Fourteen Christians were butchered to death, including children,” in Kwi village in Riyom County, said area resident Solomon Mandiks in published remarks.
“Eight members of one family have all been killed. This is besides an additional six other Christians killed by the herdsmen in the village, “ Mandiks was quoted as saying by Morning Star News agency.
Earlier that night in Dong village in Jos North County, armed herdsmen reportedly killed eight Christians while shouting “Allahu Akbar” or “Allah is greater.”
ATTACKING AT NIGHT
Asabe Samuel, a 60-year-old member of the local Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) congregation, said a many herdsmen came as villagers were about to sleep.
“I still rushed to my house, and just as I was getting closer to my house, I found that Istifanus Shehu, 40, a member of COCIN [Church of Christ in Nations] who has had mental health challenges, was shot dead. His corpse was lying beside my house,” Samuel said.
Besides Shehu, she named those slain as Ruth Adamu, 20, an ECWA member; Naomi Adamu, 40, of the ECWA; Friday Danladi Riya, 22, of the ECWA; Awuki Matthew, 28, Catholic; Gospel Matthew, 4, Catholic; PraiseGod Matthew, 2, Catholic; and one identified only as Chinyere of St. Jude’s Anglican Church.
“Awuki Matthew was killed alongside her two daughters, Gospel Matthew and PraiseGod Matthew, leaving behind her husband, who’s blind,” she said. “Who will care for this blind man, and how will he cope with life without his wife and children?”
Monday, Auta, an ECWA member, and her neighbor were reportedly shot in his shoulder and received hospital treatment. Ruth Adamu and daughter Naomi Adamu were her neighbors and members of her ECWA church, reported Morning Star News.
The late Shehu’s sister, Jummai Shehu, a 32-year-old COCIN member, told Morning Star News that her brother was visiting the house of Samuel, where they once lived. “The armed Fulani herdsmen spotted him and shot him dead,” she said, reportedly weeping. “I feel very sad about the way my brother was killed in cold blood. Why must we live in fear every day, not knowing the evil that awaits us as Christians in this country?”
REGIONAL CHURCHES SUFFER
Local Christian leaders say several churches were impacted by the violence and complained that security forces were reluctant to intervene.
Prior attacks in Plateau state in April took the lives of at least 15 other Christians. Herdsmen on April 30 attacked Ta-Hoss village in the state’s Riyom County, killing Emmanuel Joshua, 32-year-old Christian rights advocate Mandiks said.
Fulani militia also attacked Sopp village in Riyom County on that day, wounding seven people. And amid the violence, hundreds of people already displaced from Kak village in 2012 were forced to flee again from their camp for Internally Displaced Persons, Mandiks said.
In predominantly Christian Baten village in the same Riyom County, herdsmen reportedly attacked April 25, forcing residents to flee their homes though nobody was hurt.
That was different in Wereng village, Riyom County, where herdsmen reportedly attacked on April 15, killing six Christians and sending two others for hospital treatment. Dalyop Solomon Mwantiri, director of the Emancipation Centre for Crisis Victims in Nigeria (ECCVN), identified those slain as Chuwang Williams, 29; Bulus Danbom, 41; Peter Williams, 39; Dung Gyang, 60; Dachung Gara, 44; and Davou Dachung, 45. Injured were Davou Jatau and Gyang Jatau.
Residents in nearby Kuru village in Jos South County added that herdsmen attacked on April 9, killing eight Christians.
NOMADIC HERDSMEN AGENDA
Many attacks are attributed to the Fulani nomadic herdsmen who clash with local farmers over resources like pastures and water.
However, Christian leaders say the attacks by herdsmen in, for instance, Nigeria’s Middle Belt are inspired by their desire to forcefully take over Christians’ lands and impose Islam in the area.
Separately, last week suspected Muslim bandits reportedly killed Catholic priest Alphonsus Bello, while another priest Joe Keke, was abducted from St. Vincent Ferrer Catholic Church in Malunfashi in northern Katsina state. Catholic officials said the killing happened during an attack on the parish residence.
Amid the violence, several Bishops said in statements that more security is urgent as killings and kidnappings “are increasingly becoming rampant.”
Catholic Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah of Sokoto said Nigeria “is in a confused state without direction since no one knows where we are going or where we are coming from.”
Another Catholic Bishop, Stephen Dami Mamza of Yola Diocese, said, “citizens are losing confidence in the government because it is not fulfilling its primary constitutional responsibility, which is protecting lives and property of citizens.”
Likewise, the Director of Social Communications for the diocese of Makurdi, Moses Iorapuu, decried the “massive wave of persecution,” resulting in the displacement of Christian communities. He condemned “the inability of the authorities to rein in these fundamentalists while they continue to kill, rape, destroy homes, farmlands and kidnap.” He said that “among the thousands killed by armed herdsmen in recent years “were priests, catechists, men, women, and children of our faith. Many parishes and outstations are closed, many cannot have the services of their pastors, and they have no access to the sacraments.”
MANY CHRISTIANS KILLED
Nigeria was the country with the most Christians killed for their faith last year, according to advocacy group Open Doors. It said in November 2019-October 2020, at least 3,530 Christians were killed.
The church leaders' appeal for more security came while hundreds of protesters blocked a highway into Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, following a spate of kidnappings.
Their grievances stemmed from kidnappings over the weekend, during which at least fifteen persons from the Gauraka area community were abducted. The State Police Command reportedly confirmed that some gunmen had on Monday invaded the community and had abducted another six persons.
Residents of Gauraka claimed that the kidnappers seize the people in exchange for exorbitant ransoms. They added that more than thirty people had been kidnapped from the area since January.
In widespread anti-Christian violence, Nigeria is second only to Pakistan, and it trailed only China in the number of churches attacked or closed, 270, last year rights activists said. The International Criminal Court prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, has recently urged an investigation into crimes against humanity in Nigeria.
The U.S. State Department already added Nigeria to its list of Countries of Particular Concern for engaging in or tolerating “systematic, ongoing, egregious violations of religious freedom.” Nigeria joined Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan on the list in December.