Christians in the United States have faced persecution for their beliefs over the past few years. Media outlets have done a decent job reporting on the incidents where believers face threats to their religious liberty. But in other parts of the world, Christians are paying for their faith with their lives.
Nigeria is one of the most dangerous countries for Christians, a nation that ranks 12th on Open Doors USA’s World Watch List.
Over the past few years, we’ve heard of the stories of Boko Haram and their terror against Christians, but Nigerian believers are facing an even more recent threat that’s not getting the press it deserves.
In one of the most under-reported international stories, militants have killed more than a hundred Christians in Nigeria over the past few weeks. The Fulani militia, a group of traveling herdsmen who happen to practice Islam, has unleashed a series of attacks on Christians in the Nigerian state of Kaduna since February.
In the most recent attack, militants killed nine people and destroyed 30 homes in the pre-dawn hours of March 16. That raid followed five other attacks since February 9 in which at least 120 Christians lost their lives.
Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) has reported some of the horrific violence that Nigerian Christians have suffered at the hands of the Fulani militia:
Pictures have emerged of hospitalised survivors of the Dogonnoma attack, showing men women and young children with deep machete wounds to different parts of their bodies. CSW was informed that one traumatised female survivor who suffered a deep cut to the hand had delivered a stillborn baby soon after the attack.
Local authorities, including the state’s governor, Nasir el-Rufai, claimed to have sent troops to quell the attacks, but they continue. Interestingly enough, the governor himself may be responsible for prompting the attacks, according to reports from CSW:
The attacks on Kajuru occur in the wake of a televised statement by Governor el Rufai on the eve of February’s presidential and national assembly elections, in which he asserted that 66 people had been killed in Kajuru LGA and insinuated that the victims were mostly women and children from the Fulani ethnic group. This was widely refuted, including by the Nigeria Emergency Management Agency (NEMA). However, as pressure mounted on the Governor to either prove or withdraw his claim, he reiterated his assertion, raising the alleged death toll to 133 and ordering the arrests of nine Adara elders and village chiefs in connection with the alleged massacre.
Other authorities dispute the governor’s claims and point to the fact that the Fulani militants kidnapped and murdered a beloved tribal leader in October 2018 even after collecting a ransom.
State and national officials have condemned the actions of the Fulani militia and have imposed curfews from dawn to dusk throughout the region.
In a statement issued on 16 March, Hon Shehu Nicholas Garba, Representative for Jema’a/Sanga in Nigeria’s House of Representatives, called for an urgent local and international response to the continuing violence: “The renewed and ferocious attacks on communities in southern Kaduna calls for the urgent attention of the nation and the international community. Our communities are helpless and are pleading that all persons of conscience should speak out.”
The Kaduna state government condemned the attack on the Nandu Gbok community, expressing condolences to victims and deploying troops to the area.
In other parts of Nigeria, terrorists are conducting attacks as a show of solidarity with the Fulani. Hundreds of Christians and Muslims have lost their lives in the state of Zamfara, but local troops recently killed 55 terrorists and released several hundred kidnapping victims.
Christian everywhere need to pray for their brothers and sisters in Nigeria. Pray for their safety and that they can somehow be a light that can lead these militants toward the love of Jesus. Nigeria is a scary place for Christians, and unless circumstances change, it looks as if the situation will get even worse.