At least 120 killed in recent attacks as deadly violence continues for over a year.
ABUJA, Nigeria (ChurchMilitant.com) – International news is nearly silent as Muslim militants continue killing Christians in Nigeria.
On March 11 alone, a string of attacks left 53 dead and 143 homes destroyed in the villages of Inkirimi and Dogonnoma in the Kajuru Local Government Area in Kaduna State, Nigeria.
Just a day before that, an attack on the village of Ungwan Barde killed 17 people and destroyed dozens of homes. One month prior, about 16 people had been killed in Ungwan Barde village in a series of attacks on Feb. 9 and 10.
The governor of Kaduna State imposed a curfew last week on the local government area owing to the deadly outbreak of violence.
On Feb. 26, some 32 Nigerian Christians were killed in the Maro district of the Kaduna State. The attackers burned down an evangelical church and shot people fleeing. This violence was also suspected to be the work of Fulani militants.
Local lawmakers say the recent attacks have displaced at least 3,000 locals, with many people’s homes destroyed and many others fleeing for safety.
In Benue State, Fulani attacks on several villages on March 4 left 23 dead.
Violence by Fulani militants in Nigeria exploded over a year ago. The Fulani are a majority-Muslim ethnic group, and many Fulani live as semi-nomadic herdsmen.
Christian communities in rural parts of Nigeria are commonly the victims of violence by Fulani militants.
In addition to the ethnic and religious differences, some trace the violence to changes in Nigerian law that made it harder for Fulani herdsmen to find land for their herds.
In November 2017, the Nigerian government banned herdsmen from having their livestock graze on other people’s property. The law was aimed at avoiding clashes between the Muslim herdsmen and Christian villagers — but the explosion of violence seems to prove that the policy change only escalated tensions.
Fulani gunmen in Benue State shot up a Catholic church during an early morning Mass in April 2018, killing two priests and about 15 laity. The priests’ deaths sparked protests in the weeks that followed, with Catholic clergy calling on the Nigerian government to better protect its citizens.
In May 2018, suspected Fulani militants attacked a Catholic seminary. Gunmen assailed two priests and a handful of seminarians at Sacred Heart Minor Seminary in Jalingo, the capital city of Taraba State in Nigeria. The attackers beat the priests with rods, shooting one of them in the leg, and did damage to an automobile and other property.
In June 2018, some Christians farmers allegedly attacked Fulani herdsmen. In the series of retaliatory attacks that followed, Fulani gunmen killed about 120 people in Plateau State in central Nigeria. There were apparently disputes regarding the exact body count; it could be as low as 86 people or as high as 200.
The outbreak of violent clashes with Fulani militants came just as Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram was on the decline in Nigeria. Government forces beat back the terror organization with significant help from overseas powers — including the United States.
Amid the Fulani violence, some Nigerians have laid blame on President Muhammadu Buhari, who is of Fulani descent.
Bishop William Amove Avenya of the diocese of Gboko in Benue State warned last year that Fulani violence could quickly become a full-fledged genocide against Christians in central Nigeria.
“Please don’t make the same mistake as was made with the genocide in Rwanda,” Bp. Avenya told Aid to the Church in Need in June last year. “It happened under our noses, but no one stopped it. And we know well how that ended.”
EDITORS NOTE: This Church Militant column is republished with permission.