Nigeria’s Ongoing Conflict: A Christian Genocide?

“I went to encourage the Christians. When I got there, the Christians were gone and an Islamic center occupied the space where the church had been,” said an ANM partner in Nigeria when asked about what many are calling a Christian genocide.

Nigeria is now one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a Christian. “Pure genocide” is what local church leaders are calling it. They claim that over 6,000 Christians — mostly women, children, and the aged — have been killed or maimed by Muslim Fulanis.

Nigeria’s 195 million inhabitants are roughly divided in half between Muslims in the north and Christians in the south. In the north, the Muslim Fulani are nomadic animal herders. The southern part of the country is the center of agriculture, populated by Christian farmers. The so-called “Middle Belt” has become the conflict zone. One farmer said, “Our area used to be known as the ‘food basket of Nigeria.’ Today it is a blood basket.”

On New Year’s Day, cattle herders wielding machetes butchered 72 Christians. Then in April a group of Fulani attacked Christians during an early morning service, killing two priests and 17 parishioners. They then torched 50 homes and sent the community running for their lives. Deadly nighttime raids have become commonplace.

Violence intensifies after new law

Disputes over land in the middle part of Nigeria go back several years, growing worse as herders looked for new grazing lands because of the jihadist group Boko Haram’s terrorist activity and changing climate conditions in the north. Farmers claimed livestock were destroying valuable farmland. Violence intensified after November 2017, when Nigeria’s government passed a new law forbidding the Fulani to graze their cattle freely.

Recently, the Fulani attackers have often been heavily armed, and local Christians suspect the conflict has become more about religion than land. According to civil rights lawyer Emmanuel Ogebe, Boko Haram is supplying arms to the Fulani. “How else could a herdsman afford an AK-47? What we have is a genocide. They are trying to displace the Christians, possess their land, impose their religious ideology, and replace democracy with strict Islamic sharia law on the country,” says Ogebe.

Bosun Emmanuel, secretary of the National Christian Elders Forum and a prominent Nigerian Christian leader, accused Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari (a Fulani) and other rich Fulani who hold political power, of funding these operations. He warns that if nothing is done to stop the bloodshed, the Nigerian church will cease to exist in 25 years.

After intense pressure, Buhari expressed immense sadness at the “wicked and callous” attacks on innocent children. He said, “This is one attack too many, and everything must be done to provide security for the people in our rural communities.” He assured Christians that relevant security agencies had been directed to do everything possible to arrest those behind the regrettable incidents and avert further attacks. He expressed his sorrow for the victims and their families and wished the injured a speedy recovery. Buhari visited the combat areas, launched several operations, and sent additional security.

So far, local sources say, little has actually changed.

ANM’s Nigerian partner asks believers to, “Pray for brothers and sisters in Nigeria who are enduring this carnage. Ask God to deliver these persecuted Christians from harm and reveal Himself to the enemy. Also, please pray that other nations of the world will rise up and demand this religious cleansing to stop!”

Thank you for praying with us.

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