February 4, 2023

Nigeria’s Christians are in a perilous position

By Hardeep Singh

Six years ago the kidnapping of 276, mainly Christian, schoolgirls by Islamist group Boko Haram in Chibok, Nigeria resulted in international condemnation. #BringBackOurGirls trended on Twitter and even Michelle Obama, then First Lady, posted an image of herself with the hashtag. For a brief period in 2014, an awareness of Christian suffering in Nigeria was heightened worldwide.

Last week, the UK All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for international freedom of religion or belief published a report on its findings of Christian persecution in Nigeria. Their plight may no longer be at the forefront of our minds here in the West, but it has nevertheless been meticulously captured here. The report includes the testimony (in graphic detail) of numerous Nigerian survivors of violence over the past decade. It makes for grim reading, and it’s difficult to fathom the barbarity described.

One victim is Rebecca Sharibu – the mother of schoolgirl Leah Sharibu who was kidnapped by Boko Haram two years ago and remains in their captivity. According to the APPG there are thousands of girls like her, and ‘millions of others who suffer… unspeakably.’

Boko Haram are not the only threat facing Nigerian Christians. APPG chair Jim Shannon points out that ‘attacks by armed groups of Fulani herdsmen have resulted in the killing, maiming, dispossession and eviction of thousands of Christians.’

At times, the scale and horror of the atrocities being perpetrated in Nigeria is truly staggering. Amnesty International estimates that up to October 2018 approximately 3,641 people may have been killed, 406 injured and 5,000 homes burnt down in clashes between predominantly ethnic Muslim Fulani herders and Christian farmers . The Christian Association of Nigeria say that in six months in 2018, over 6,000 people were killed. Hundreds of thousands have been displaced due to the conflict. In April, more than 300 Fulani herders reportedly attacked Christians in the village of Hukke, near Jos. Several people were reportedly killed and 23 homes set on fire. A survivor said: ‘I saw the Fulani as they came towards me, they started shooting, I fell and they passed over me into my house and killed my two sons, they then went straight to the pastors house and shot and killed him, they set some houses on fire and left.’ Often there is a retaliatory response to Fulani violence by young men compelled to become vigilantes – men who’ve lost faith in the authorities to protect them and their families from murder and mayhem in the name of Allah.

Although much of the world’s media has remained silent on Christian persecution since the Chibok kidnappings, some brave British parliamentarians and journalists have travelled to Nigeria and spoken to survivors in an effort to shine a light on ongoing persecution.

On a 2016 visit to a war-ravaged village of Jong in central Nigeria, Baroness Cox narrowly missed an ambush by Fulani gunmen with AK-47s herself. Meanwhile, Douglas Murray captured the nightmarish fate of Christian villages in northern Nigeria here in the Spectator.

Despite being less well known in the West compared to the gun-toting jihadists of Boko Haram, the Fulani violence has claimed thousands of lives in Nigeria, and ravaged a much wider geographical territory, stretching across more states. There are various theories about why this is all happening, including competition for land due to desertification caused by climate change. But it is clear that religious ideology features prominently in the conflict. Islamists – including the Boko Haram splinter group known as Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP) – have been responsible for the destruction of churches and many Fulani herdsman appear to have adopted similar tactics and targeted Christians and symbols of Christian identity. Christian pastors and community heads are singled out, and herders are reported to have shouted, ‘Allahu Akbar’ and ‘wipe out the infidels’ when launching attacks. The level of violence, before its too late.

Culled from: The SPECTATOR