It is frustrating that there is so little that can be done if the Nigerian government is determined on a policy of slowly eradicating the Christian populations of north and central Nigeria over the years with mass murder, destruction of churches, homes, crops, and demographic replacement with people from northern Muslim tribes.
The persecution of Christians in Nigeria seems to be intensifying. Anyone paying attention is aware that there are continuing reports of people being killed in the north of Nigeria, and its so-called “Middle Belt” of farmland, where the mostly Christian farmers are being killed, their crops destroyed, and villages and homes burnt by radical Islamic groups: Fulani herdsman, Boko Haram, and the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP). However, Christian holidays are especially likely to be a time for attack, and this past Christmas saw one of the worst attacks yet, the slaughter of 200 Christians in Plateau State in the Middle Belt on December 23 through 25.
Atrocities on Christian Holidays
This attack recalls the Pentecost Sunday attack on St. Francis Catholic Church in Owo, Ondo State, in southwest Nigeria in 2022. There 50 people were killed. A video clip of the church with pools of blood on the floor immediately after the attack in this article from LifeSiteNews.com is simply horrific.
The choice of a Christian holiday to attack Christians highlights a key controversy which is raised whenever there is attention to the killing in Nigeria. Is this simply a “farmer/herder” conflict, driven ultimately by economic factors, in particular, desertification of the Sahel (the semi-arid transitional zone south of the Sahara Desert), or is it a basically a religious clash, with Muslims attacking Christians in an effort to seize the property of Christian farmers and Islamize Nigeria? The governor of Plateau state, Caleb Mutfwang clearly stated after the attacks that what is happening in Nigeria is genocide. The word may be overused in our day but does express that what is happening is not a “clash,” or a “conflict,” or “sectarian violence,” all of which terms would indicated two sides fighting, but simply radical Muslim groups attacking Christians with the objective of killing them and seizing their property.
Configuration of the Crisis
As noted by Jeff King, President of International Christian Concern in a video clip interviewing a Nigerian pastor cited in an article last fall, when the British ruled Nigeria, they relied on northern Muslims, and particularly the Fulani tribe (with millions of members across the Sahel) to rule the country. This left northern Muslims in charge of the military and security apparatus, with the result that Nigerian army today is reluctant to act against Islamic terrorists (former President Muhammadu Buhari was himself a Fulani), or is even complicit in attacks, arresting or attacking civilian guards against the violence.
In line with this pattern, TruthNigeria, which attempts to report on ongoing slaughter and negligence of Nigerian authorities stopping it and the Western establishment in recognizing it, reported on January 7 that “Nigerian army soldiers are standing as watchmen for Fulani terrorists who have moved into some of the conquered villages …. The terrorist invaders will prevent the return of the 10,000 displaced residents, the majority of whom are Christians, according to victims and humanitarian aid givers.” Additionally, the army has been arresting the civilian guards who attempt to protect the northern communities from Islamic terrorists. Meanwhile, the attacked villages of Mutfet, Ndun, Mbong, and Yelwa Nono still have no security presence. Faced with enormous criticism from the West regarding the Christmas massacre, the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission has ordered broadcasters in Nigeria to stop reporting on the killing and violence.
Life After an Attack
But for those on the ground in Nigeria, the sudden catastrophe and sorrow at the loss of loved ones, property and livelihood as they were preparing to celebrate Christmas is compounded by the immediate need for food and shelter, and the prospect of how they will rebuild their lives and communities with no assurance (despite promises) of security. A Nigerian pastor who lost his home in the Christmas attack spoke movingly of having lost seven family members as well. Like surely many, many others, he lost everything in his home, “bought foodstuffs, clothing, and whatever. It was a furnished house, but it is burnt, and even the church that is by my side was burnt.”
The hapless residents of northern Nigeria are doing what they can to respond to their plight. The civilian guards, while themselves apparently the occasional targets of the army, are one response. In another response to the Christmas massacre, residents of the affected areas rallied in Jos, the capital of Plateau State.
The displacement of people from devastated and dangerous areas has resulted in multitudes of displaced persons. The linked article above from Barron’s on the most recent attacks also noted that “thousands of people were also displaced in the attacks, which hit mostly Christian villages.” But many others have been displaced as well, as the violence has intensified. Last October it was reported that over two million persons were displaced by the “farmer/herder” conflict in Benue State. (south of Plateau State).
Persistent Government Complicity
Government complicity was discussed in this writer’s previous article on the Nigerian crisis, and seems to be continuing. Reports of the violence not uncommonly implicate the government in what is happening. As noted in my earlier article in September, it is estimated by Vatican News that 52,250 people have been killed in the last 14 years, and 18,000 churches have been set on fire. Such statistics testify either to a government unable or unwilling to stop the violence. The Director of the International Society for Civil Liberties and the Rule of Law (InterSociety),Emeka Umeagbalasi, has accused the government of encouraging the bloodshed. “The level of violence is expected to continue, and it has continued to rise because the authorities are fueling the crisis,” he said.