40 Christians Killed Shortly Before Easter in Nigeria

April 26, 2019 by Robert Kenna in Africa

Our field has confirmed recent news about Easter attacks on Christians in Nigeria that killed more than 40 people—many of them children. We ask for your urgent prayers for those who lost loved ones and those who are recovering from injuries after these attacks.

Most of the attacks in Nigeria were not covered in the major media, likely due to the Sri Lanka bombings, which overshadowed other news stories. But today, we ask you to stand with your Christian family in Nigeria through prayer—to let them know they’re not alone and the worldwide Church is with them.

Background on Nigeria

Most Christians in the southern part of Nigeria live in an environment where their religious freedom is respected. However, Christians in the middle belt and in the north often suffer from violence perpetrated by militant Islamic groups like Boko Haram and Fulani militants.  Such violence often results in the loss of life and physical injury, as well as loss of property. Many Christians living in the north of the country go to sleep not knowing if they will wake up again. Each day is an act of faith.

Below, we share reports from our field around the Easter attacks in Nigeria:

Palm Sunday, Nassarawa 

At around 9 pm on Palm Sunday, April 14, Fulbe-speaking Fulani herdsmen invaded the village of Kochum-Numa, Andaha in Akwanga local Government area Nassarawa State, a part of north-central Nigeria.

The assailants who arrived at the community massacred 17 people at a late-night naming ceremony (christening) for a child. The parents of the child were among the victims. Several others sustained various degrees of injuries, our source in the village said.

Sixteen out of the 17 victims were buried while the remaining one, believed to be a Muslim family member who was hired as a DJ for the event, was buried earlier.

“Anger and sorrow were evident, and tears rolled uncontrollably down faces as the victims of this carnage were laid to rest in Kochum-Numa yesterday,” the source said.

The state deputy governor, Silas Ali Agara, attended the mass burial sponsored by the state government. He pledged continued commitment to swiftly finding the perpetrators.

Akwanga and Andaha are communities neighboring the troubled Sanga in southern Kaduna, and may have experienced this attack as a spill-over of the Fulani violence there. In recent months, the conflict seems to have expanded and communities that were normally considered safe are now experiencing sporadic attacks, wrote regional field workers.

Good Friday, Benue 

Eleven people were killed and many are unaccounted for in a Good Friday attack by gunmen on worshippers returning from church at Tse-Aye and Tse-Ngibo, Ikurav Tiev in Katsina-Ala Local Government Area of Benue State, according to the newspaper Vanguard. Neither the identities of the attackers nor their motive is clear at this stage. 

“… People went for Good Friday Service and were on their way back home when many of them were ambushed … the hoodlums mounted a roadblock and killed 11 of them; several others are still missing,” an official who requested anonymity told the newspaper.

“The death toll may be higher because nobody knows the whereabouts of close to 40 missing persons. … After killing the innocent victims, the attackers seized a vehicle from one of those killed and rustled several cows from the same village and went away with their loot. For some time now, Ikurav has come under repeated attacks. Sometimes young men in that community would be abducted at the border area for no reason whatsoever, and nobody will see or hear from them again.”

Mowed down in Gombe, Easter Sunday

On Easter Sunday, a Muslim defense officer killed 13 boys taking part in a late-night Easter procession in Sabob Layi, Gombe State. The procession in Sabon Layi is an annual event to commemorate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Some media outlets described the incident as an “accident,” but eyewitnesses say the officer, known as Ukasha, and his friend, a Nigerian police officer and two unidentified women, met the group of Christian boys around midnight and had a disagreement with the boys regulating traffic.

“Ukasha refused to use the lane reserved for vehicles and took the lane used by the procession. He apparently threatened to shoot the boys controlling traffic with his service firearm,” a field worker reports.

After the argument, Ukasha apparently dropped off the women before returning to the procession, turning off the vehicle’s headlights, and then ramming his vehicle into the group. He instantly killed nine and injured 32, 12 of them critically. Four more boys died later at the hospital, bringing the number of deaths to 13.

Ukasha and his friend both jumped from the car, attempting to escape, but the angry mob that had gathered caught them and beat them to death.

“This incident may seem like a misunderstanding between Ukasha and the Boys Brigade, but locals see this as an example of the growing intolerance against Christians in Gombe state,” reported a field worker. “Prior to this incident, there were isolated confrontations between Muslims and Christians in the area, but things seem to be escalating into violent conflict.” Leadership reports: “When the news broke out yesterday morning, tension engulfed Gombe, the state capital, it took the immediate intervention of the state government and the leadership of the Christian Association of Nigeria before calm returned.”

Attack on Rural Settlement

At 8 a.m. on April 17, a large number of suspected Fulani militants invaded the Sendegh rural settlement in Kwande local government area of Benue state. They killed two, but many others are still unaccounted for. One of the victims was murdered on the way to his farm. An unknown number of people were injured. The attackers also burnt down homes and shops.

A Prayer For Peace From Nigeria

Recently, two women who have survived attacks from Boko Haram (Esther) and Fulani militants (Aisha) shared their hope for peace in their country. Join them in their prayer:

“Dear God, I ask that you help us, save us. Give us peace at this time of Easter (Aisha).

I bring before you my country of Nigeria. Whatever the evils ones have planned, look down on your children with mercy (Esther).

At this time of Easter, Jesus died for our sins. After He died, He rose again, and this gives us hope of salvation. His death and resurrection from the dead have given us victory (Aisha).

I pray for all doing evil. Do not destroy them, but bring them back to Your path. As we celebrate Easter, let there be peace in our land (Esther).

Continue to preserve our lives so that we work and live for You. Grant us peace of mind and keep us safe in Your hands in Jesus’ name (Aisha).”