Unrest Continues in Nigeria – at Least 45 Christians Killed
The Fulani are a large ethnic group in West Africa. A third of all Fulani people are pastoralists, making them the largest nomadic community in the world. Muslim herdsmen along with Muslim soldiers have killed at least 45 ethnic Berom Christians in Plateau state in the past week, Christians in this northern-central Nigerian town said. Compass Direct News reports that the attacks began on Monday, November 20, in Barkin Ladi and nearby Kwok village, reportedly over allegations by Fulani Muslims of cattle theft. The next day sources said that a Christian was beheaded behind a popular hotel. On Wednesday, four Christians were killed during an attack on a church, and an assault on Thursday left 35 Christians dead, according to area Christian leaders.
“On Thursday at about 9 a.m., the Muslims’ call to prayer was made at the Izala [Islamic sect] mosque,” said farmer Choji Pamjamo, 51. “And shortly after that, we saw hundreds of armed Muslims invading the town from all directions, attacking and killing Christians. They were shouting ‘Allahu akbar, Allahu akbar, Allahu akbar,’ [God is greater] as they were burning properties belonging to Christians.”
David Gyang, 51, an elder at the Church of Christ of Nigeria (COCIN) in Barkin Ladi, lamented that Muslim soldiers brought to town to restore order joined their fellow Muslims in killing and maiming Christians. “Muslims soldiers took sides with their fellow Muslims and were shooting and killing Christians,” he said. “They also had soldiers guarding mosques in the town, but none was sent to watch over our churches.”
Thousands of Christians have left the area, leaving churches nearly empty on Sunday. Gyang said the COCIN church in Barkin Ladi had an average Sunday service attendance of about 1,200 people, but yesterday only 50 showed up. “We could not go on with the worship but held a prayer meeting, and then our pastor left to Kwok village for the burial of the 26 killed there.”
Almost all churches in the town cancelled or held reduced worship services after the crisis was contained, as nearly all area Christians have fled to Jos or have left Plateau state, long hit by ethnic property conflicts fueled by anti-Christian sentiment. “Christians are fleeing the town because we have no guns to fight back,” said one woman in a group of six Christians trying to leave Barkin Ladi. “Muslims have guns, and they have their soldiers fighting for them, so we have no choice but to leave town.”
But leaving has its challenges as well. “Most Christians who live in Muslim quarters have to get soldiers to accompany them before they get their few belongings to leave the town,” said David Alamba, 48, a technician whom Compass met near the town’s police station as he was trying to leave Barkin Ladi. “You have to pay the soldiers at least 2,000 naira (US$12) before they escort you to your house to get a few belongings.” Alamba said Muslims have been moving into the farms belonging to Christians and are destroying crops. “This is to chase us out of the town and make us homeless, and at the same time starve us to death, since we now have no food to eat.”
“As a church, we have become targets of attacks,” Emmanuel Kyesmen, secretary of the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) congregation said. “Our pastors and members are being killed in Plateau state by Muslims, while thousands of others have become refugees in their fatherland. There is the urgent need for the Nigerian government to find a lasting solution to this problem.” Religious conflict has been growing in Plateau state since 2006, according to Kyesmen, with numerous investigating committees instituted to investigate and report on the immediate and deeper causes. “But the surprising thing is that none of these reports has been implemented, and no individual has been made to face the wrath of the law. The government must have the courage to ensure that those causing these problems are prosecuted.”
Our heavenly Father, once again we bring before You the cries of Your people in Nigeria. We pray that You will bring about justice and peace in the volatile Plateau State where much of the violence has occurred. Comfort those who mourn the loss of friends and loved ones in last week’s attacks. Heal those who have been injured. Provide food and shelter for those who fled and provide for them to return in safety. Intervene on behalf of the people, that the government might address the causes of this violence and take action with courage and conviction. And strengthen Your church there that has been severely diminished as thousands have fled. We pray for a new day in Nigeria when thousands will call on Your name and raise high the name of Christ. In the name of Jesus our protector and strength, Amen.