Christians in northern Nigeria have paid a heavy price for Fulani herdshmen’s attacks and Boko Haram’s insurgency, which aims at implementing Sharia in Africa’s most populous country.
An estimated 11,500 Christians were killed, over 1.3 million others were displaced and 13,000 churches destroyed or abandoned between 2006 and 2014, said Mgr. Joseph Bagobiri, Bishop of Kafanchan (Kaduna State), at a conference held at the UN Headquarters in New York.
The most affected Christian communities are in the northern states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe. Many have relocated mainly to the predominant Christian states in the Middle-Belt: Plateau, Nasarawa, Benue, Taraba and the southern part of Kaduna state.
But in recent months, these areas have been affected by the violence of Fulani herdsmen. “Christian communities in the predominantly Christian states in the Middle Belt areas are the most affected by the Muslim Fulani herdsmen’s forceful invasions and attacks. This is a blatant foreign invasion of the ancestral lands of the Christian and minority communities”, said Mgr. Bagobiri, quoting a detailed study: “Crushed but not defeated: The impact of persistent violence on the Church in northern Nigeria“, released jointly by the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and Open Doors International on 24 Feb. in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital.
“In these Middle Belt states, the Fulani herdsmen have incessantly terrorised many communities, wiping out some from existence, and in places like Agatu in Benue state and Gwantu and Manchok in Kaduna state, these attacks assumed a genocidal character, as between 150–300 vulnerable persons were killed overnight,” he said.
Mgr. Bagobiri called on the international community to put pressure on the Nigerian authorities to ensure freedom of worship for Christians and other minorities in northern Nigeria, and to tackle the humanitarian emergency of displaced populations.