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Nearly 150 Christians killed in sustained violence in Nigeria

Members of Bethel Baptist church in Kogi State bury 13 of their fellow members killed by militant Fulani herdsmen in July. All Africa Baptist Fellowship Facebook photo

MIDDLE BELT, Nigeria (BP) — Nearly 150 Christians have died in a campaign of violence by militant Fulani herdsmen in Nigeria’s Middle Belt since April, including 33 Christians believed to have been killed Aug. 5-6 in Kaduna State.

Nigeria’s government has provided little defense to residents of Christian villages in several states. Those residents have only been hampered by 24-hour curfews designed to protect residents, survivors told Christian Solidarity Worldwide and other international religious liberty advocates.

“Christians are getting killed like chickens; children getting slaughtered; women getting raped and molested,” an area resident told Morning Star News. “Southern Kaduna is bleeding, and the government is silent; we need help.”

In the latest attacks, terrorists killed 20 residents in the Christian communities of Atakmawei, Apyiako and Magamiya in Kaduna state around midnight Aug. 6, continuing attacks that began the previous evening in Apiashyim and Kibori villages. Terrorists killed 13 in those villages.

“The fact that these attacks continue is a damning indictment of (Kaduna) Governor (Nasir Ahmad) el-Rufai’s decision to extend the duration and scope of a 24-hour curfew that had manifestly failed,” Christian Solidarity Worldwide Founder/President Mervyn Thomas said Monday (Aug. 10). “Instead of protecting villagers the curfew not only subjects them to privations, but also makes them sitting targets for militia who continue to attack at will.”

Christians of all denominations dressed in black Aug. 9 for the second in a series of “Black Sunday” services the Kaduna State Chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria has organized to peacefully protest the killings.

The string of deadly attacks — though not considered comprehensive — includes:

— On July 29, militant herdsmen killed 14 members of Bethel Baptist Church in Agbadu-Daruwana in central Kogi State, 200 miles southwest of Kaduna, including 13 members of one family, Morning Star News reported.

— On July 24, Fulani militants killed 10 Christians near Jema’a County in Kaduna state, including Pastor Shamah Kuyet Ishaya of the Evangelical Church Willing All (ECWA). Victims included Baptists, members of ECWA, Anglican and Roman Catholic, according to Morning Star reports quoting several residents.

— On July 20, 11 were killed in the Kaduna village of Gora Gan, and seven others were injured, according to International Christian Concern.

— On July 19, Fulani militants killed 18 people and injured 30 others at a wedding reception at a home in the Kakum Daji village in Kaduna, Christian Solidarity Worldwide reported.

— On July 16, four people were killed and 32 abducted from Mai-ido and neighboring villages in the Kachia Local Government Area in Kaduna, the Adara Development Association told Christian Solidarity Worldwide.

— July 10 -12, Fulani killed at least 22 people and displaced more than 1000 in a series of attacks in the Zangon Kataf Local Government Area, according to Christian Solidarity Worldwide. Survivors said the attacks continued for three days despite a significant military presence in the area.

— In attacks on several Kaduna villages in April, militants killed at least 25 Christians and kidnapped others.

Numbers of casualties are not known in some cases, according to Christian Solidarity Worldwide. Attacks have occurred since January but surged in July, and reports of attacks are not always available. Typically, militant Fulani herdsmen ride into villages on motorbikes or trucks, killing residents with high-powered rifles or machetes, burning homes, raping women and displacing 1,000 residents or more in attacks spanning hours or days.

Advocates and community leaders have decried the attacks and repeatedly called for government intervention.

“CSW urges the European Union and the governments of the U.K. and U.S. to ensure that humanitarian assistance is allocated towards assisting and rehabilitating these and other victims,” Thomas said after the latest attacks. “The disturbing allegations of survivors regarding the failure of security personnel to intervene in ongoing violence and apprehend the perpetrators require swift, transparent and independent verification. We therefore reiterate our call for urgent international interventions, including the convening of a special session on the human rights situation in central Nigeria by the UN Human Rights Council, with particular focus on current violations in southern Kaduna and Plateau State.”

Many humanitarian groups have termed the violence against Nigerian Christians as genocide, including Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Christian Association of Nigeria, International Christian Concern, the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, the Jubilee Campaign for Religious Freedom.

Militant Fulani herdsmen and Boko Haram terrorists and its factions are blamed for the genocide. While exact death tolls are not certain, International Christian Concern accused the groups of killing as many as 50,000 to 70,000 Christians in the two decades ending in 2018. Other tallies blame the groups for about 30,000 deaths through 2018. Millions have been displaced.

Herdsmen killed an additional 1,000 or more in 2019, the All-Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom of Religion or Belief said in a new report on the genocide of Nigeria’s Christians.

Boko Haram is active in Northeast Nigeria. In one of the latest attacks, the Boko Haram faction known as the Islamic State in West Africa Province killed at least 121 and injured hundreds in Christian villages in the region.