Middle Belt clashes that impact thousands
Over 38 million people belong to the larger Fulani cluster of ethnic groups found in pockets across 19 Central and West African countries. They speak a variety of languages, including Hausa, English, French and Arabic and are the world’s largest nomadic group. The Fulani people roam a wide territory for their cattle to graze. Among the Fulani, less than one percent are professing Christians; almost 100 percent of them follow Islam. Traditionally, the Fulani are herders, driving cattle across the wide grasslands of west Africa. But climate change and desertification have driven them south, often setting up conflicts with settled Nigerian farmers—many of whom are Christians.
There is an extremist faction of Fulani that goes beyond being just simple herdsmen. Pastor Jeremiah’s village was attacked by Fulani militants in April 2020, and it’s part of a massive wave of violence against Christians in Nigeria’s Middle Belt. In this region, militant Fulani herdsmen push their cattle through the regions where Christians have lived for generations. When these radicals attack, they do so with brutality, burning down homes and churches to gain more land and wipe out the Christian presence in the region.
Pastor Jeremiah described the attack on his village: “We heard gunshots close to our vicinity, so we told our women and children to go to the next town while the men stayed guard. About 15 minutes later, armed Fulani surrounded our town. They came bearing automatic weapons, shooting anyone in sight, and torches to burn down the village.
“It was impossible to protect the town against such heavily armed men, so everyone fled. Some ran deep into the bush, others to the rocks and others tried to run to the next town. The radicals shot at me while I was running. Some of us didn’t make it out alive.”
The militants went from house-to-house and set everything ablaze. Miraculously, Pastor Jeremiah’s church survived the fires. But his village and church is one of thousands that has suffered at the hands of militant Fulani.
Pastor Jeremiah in Nigeria captures the fear and trauma in Nigeria that our family lives with every day: “When we go to sleep at night, we are never sure we will make it to the next day.