ABUJA, Nigeria (BP) — Nigerian Christians are peacefully protesting terrorist attacks as advocacy groups urge Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari to protect the church.
Churches across the country responded to the Christian Association of Nigeria’s (CAN) call to peacefully protest April 29, CAN said, with additional protests planned May 6.
Protest marches with Christian songs and prayers preceded Buhari’s April 30 meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump in Washington, where advocacy groups hoped Trump would pressure Buhari to enact counterterrorism measures.
Among most recent attacks on Christians in Nigeria, Fulani herdsmen gunned down two priests and 17 worshipers at an early morning mass April 24 at St. Ignatius Church in Benue State, it was widely reported. The Fulani militants proceeded to raze more than 60 homes, farmland and food barns in Benue’s Gwer East Local Government Area, World Watch Monitor reported.
Trump encouraged Buhari to enact widespread, peaceful solutions to the violence and to protect all people, regardless of ethnicity or religion, according to press reports. The dialogue was hopefully a beginning in bilateral cooperation to end violence from Boko Haram and militant Fulani herdsmen, Open Doors USA communications team editor Chris Summers told Baptist Press today (May 1).
“We want to make sure that there’s some follow through to those statements,” Summers said. “We do want to see some concrete solutions from the Nigerian government” to particularly address “violence by Fulani militants in the middle belt of Nigeria.” Open Doors will continue to advocate for an end to the violence, Summers said.
CAN, in calling for nationwide protests in Nigeria, accused Buhari of complacency and complicity in attacks that have killed hundreds of Christian farmers since late 2017.
“In the past few months, there have been Islamist insurgent attacks on Benue, Taraba, Plateau, Yobe, Borno, Nasarawa, Enugu, Imo, Abia, Rivers, Ogun and Oyo States,” CAN General Secretary Musa Asake said at an April 27 press conference in Abuja. “The Islamists and their agents have extended their trail of blood and destruction to Bwari in Abuja and Ilorin in Kwara State…. All these were done with full security ‘protection’ as it were, for the attackers, according to eyewitnesses report.”
Asake cited several isolated Fulani attacks following the killings at St. Ignatius Church, including the murder of 30 in Guma Local Government and the killing of 27 in Logo.
“War seems to be looming in Nigeria,” Asake said. “Yet President Buhari, who was popularly elected in 2015, has not seen the need and urgency to issue a presidential order … to halt the killings” or punish the perpetrators.
“The Dark Age that has come with the Administration of President Buhari in Nigeria is giving the Christians in this country a huge concern,” Asake said.
Protests were widespread, according to news reports, with rampant calls to vote against Buhari in nationwide elections in 2019.
“We all know, three years back, we all stood and voted this government to power with full understanding that they were going to calm the situation for all Nigerians, but the reverse is what we are seeing,” a Jos pastor leading a group of protestors said in a video posted on CAN’s website. The group sang “Move On To the Righteous Side” before chanting and praying.
Boko Haram has killed more than 20,000 Christians and Muslims and displaced millions in the past 10 years, according to official counts, in a move to establish national Sharia law. Militant Fulani herdsmen have joined Boko Haram in its violence in recent years, reportedly killing thousands.
Nigeria’s population is nearly equally split between Muslims and Christians, with Muslims living predominantly in the north, and Christians spread across the south, east and west, according to demographic studies.