In this past month, there have been several severe attacks on Christians in Nigeria. Although some news outlets picked up on it, much of it has been overshadowed by the events in Christchurch, New Zealand. However, what is happening in Nigeria should not be ignored, least of all by Christians.
Nigeria is one of the main Christian nations in the world. About half of this nation’s population, considers itself Christian. That is more than 80 million believers. Nigeria has the 6th largest Christian population in the world. It has also an active mission movement, sending out thousands of missionaries.
The other half of Nigeria’s population is mostly Muslim. Muslims are more predominant in the North, and Christians in the south. In the North, Boko Haram has been causing endless trouble, and the abduction of Christian schoolgirls and their forced marriages to Muslim men are fresh in many people’s memories. However, a greater threat has now arisen, predominantly in Nigeria’s middle belt, the Fulani herdsmen.
They have been responsible for thousands of deaths in the past decade, but recently their aggression has spiked. Partly this can be accounted for by climate change, which has forced the herdsmen further south in search of pasture. This leads to clashes between the Muslim Fulani herdsmen and the predominantly Christian farmers.
However, that is only part of the story. Many Christians feel that tensions that have existed for a long time are now being exploited by forces who want to Islamize Nigeria. Christians note that many attackers, although they are Fulani, are not the people they have lived alongside for so long, but rather come from over the borders, from Niger or Mali. Also, the herdsmen used to be armed with sticks, but now they have AK47s. Their attacks in the state of Kaduna are emboldened by new policies which aim to reduce Christian freedom, made by the Muslim governor, Mallam Nasiru El-Rufai since he came to power.
The herdsmen’s attacks are ruthless. Villages are ambushed, with some setting fire to houses, others shooting those running away and others hiding to catch those who have escaped. Women and children are killed alongside elders and men. We have received pictures from our contacts of the aftermaths of such attacks, that are to gruesome to publish. Between February 10 and March 11 of this year, 148 people were killed in the state of Kaduna alone. The death toll comes close to 300 when other states are counted as well.
Thousands fled and are now in camps. They have lost their loved ones, their homes and their crops. Many feel like the government does little to protect them. Both the governor and his deputy of the state of Kaduna are Muslim and so is the president. The message they implicitly send is that the rights of Christians are not important, and even if they don’t arm the herdsmen downright, as some Christians suspect, they do little to bring security.
We asked a sister from the area what she would like to ask Christians in other countries to do. Her response:
We wish Christians from other countries to share the plight of Christians in Northern Nigeria to the whole world. We are oppressed and intimidated by our own people because of our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. We watch in broad daylight, as our mothers and fathers are killed, children and youth are murdered, our homes and properties burnt to ashes. We have been displaced from our homes. We have become refugees in our own land. Please share our stories to the world. Secondly, let them pray to get directions from the Lord on how they can be of help to us materially.
Pray for the faith of the families that have lost their loved ones especially those that watched their innocent children being killed. Pray for the faith of Christians in Northern Nigeria. Pray that God may appoint God-fearing men and women to rule our Nation. Finally, let them pray that God will frustrate the evil plan of the president and Muslim communities to Islamize the country