An increase in violence against Nigerian Christians has caused many to issue dire warnings of an impending “genocide” and “cleansing” of Jesus-followers in the African nation.
Christian persecution charity Release International said on Sunday that the spike in attacks at the hands of Islamic Fulani herdsman amounts to “ethnic and religious cleansing.”
“The effect of it is to displace many thousands of people. The interests that it serves is [sic] the interests of those who want to see the ethnic and religious cleansing of certain tribes, and the Christian faith from the north of Nigeria,” the charity’s spokesman Andrew Boyd told Premier UK.
Boyd described the horrific violence faced by these faithful followers of Jesus:
“They’ll set fire to some of the houses. The villagers flee the flames and they flee the bullets. They rush outside their villages where these guys are lying in wait with them – sometimes with nets which they use to catch animals – and they’re then hacking them down with machetes.”
Many questions remain over who exactly is arming this extremely violent group of Islamists. Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari has been heavily criticized for his lackluster attempts to combat Islamic extremism in his country.
Following a mass abduction of schoolgirls at the hands of Islamic terror group Boko Haram earlier this year, the Nigerian military was widely criticized for failing to act on crucial intelligence that could have led to the attack being thwarted by authorities.
“The Nigerian authorities must investigate the inexcusable security lapses that allowed this abduction to take place without any tangible attempt to prevent it,” said Osai Ojigho, Amnesty International’s Nigeria Director at the time.
“These murderous raids beg important questions,” Release International’s Paul Robinson told the outlet. “Why is the military apparently powerless to stop the slaughter of unarmed farmers? Who is arming and training these Fulani militants? And whose agenda does this killing of mainly Christian communities serve?”
“These long-running attacks by Boko Haram and the heavily armed Fulani point to a strategy to drive Christians from the north of Nigeria. The government of Nigeria must protect its vulnerable Christian communities in the north.”
In the latest spate of attacks, Fulani herdsmen targeted general secretary of GAFCON (Global Anglican Movement Conference), Rev. Benjamin Kwashi. According to Release International: “The Anglican Archbishop was at home at the time, with some 60 orphans in his care when the raiders struck.”
The second primate and archbishop of the Anglican Church in North America, Most Rev. Foley Beach released a statement on the attack, as reported by Anglican Ink:
“It was an honor and joy to share Christian fellowship with my brother, Archbishop Ben Kwashi last week. He has long been a good shepherd to his people, and while his life was spared in this latest attack, I grieve with him at the death of his neighbor. The lack of basic security around Jos is not a new story, but it is an important one that has been underreported. Please pray for courage and protection for our brothers and sisters in Jos, and the surrounding region. Pray also that the Nigerian government will be proactive and successful in ending the violence and instability.”
A spokesperson for Archbishop of Canterbury and head of the Anglican communion, Justin Welby, said that the leader had “had a private, pastoral telephone discussion with Ben Kwashi” following the attack.
The violence has become so severe that Christian persecution charity Open Doors has set up a fundraiser for those in affected regions.
“Urgent Need: Militant Fulani herdsmen recently went on a four-day killing spree near the town of Jos in northern Nigeria. Our field workers report at least 200 Christians were killed between June 21-24. There is currently a dusk-to-dawn curfew in place, but the violence continues,” the organization wrote on the page.
“These suffering Christians need our immediate help. In many cases, their lives depend on it.”
You can donate here.
Pray for all those affected by the violence in Nigeria. May God grant them strength and fortitude at this testing time.