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Nigeria: Church Decries “Slow Genocide” of Christians

The Catholic Church in Nigeria claims that the Christians in their country are the victims of a process of ethnic cleansing at the hands of islamist Fulani Muslims, with the complicity of the state.

During a webinar hosted by Aid to the Church in Need International (ACN) respective speakers. Among them, one bishop and several priests from Nigeria, confirmed that the violence that has been plaguing the country for the past several years is not simply due to “clashes” between Muslim herdsmen and Christian farmers, over land.

“It is not just about issues of grazing. For me, this is a religious war,” stated Bishop Wilfred Anagbe, of the diocese of Makurdi in Benue State.

A concerted, well-planned occupation.”

“They have an agenda, which is the Islamization of this country. And they are doing that by carefully eliminating all the Christians and occupying the territories. If it was about grazing, why kill people? And why burn their homes?” he asked.

Johan Viljoen, director of the Denis Hurley Peace Institute of South Africa currently researching the Fulani armed militia attacks in Southeast Nigeria speaks of a “concerted, well-planned occupation. This is all happening under the cover of Miyetti Allah, of which President Buhari is the patron,” he said, referring to an organization which claims to defend the rights of Fulani herdsmen.

Parishioners of St. Francis Parish Fwapwa at the Mass in honour of those killed in the Fulani attacks. JOS, NIGERIA: THE NIGHTMARE OF FULANI HERDSMEN ATTACKS at the end of September 2018 The city of Jos, in Northern Nigeria suffered long years of violent inter-religious crises in the past and just when it seems to be rising up like the phoenix from the ashes, the incessant Fulani herdsmen attacks which has torched many other states in the country, makes this impossible. Cycles of violence were re-triggered by a night attack on innocent citizens by the herdsmen, rendering so many orphaned, widowed and helpless.

High-level state involvement is one reason why the armed forces have proven unwilling to step in and control the violence. “I don’t think the army is trying to solve anything. If anything, they would try to promote it,” explained Mr. Viljoen, recalling a recent fact-finding mission to Nigeria, during which his colleagues were stopped every five kilometres by soldiers, all Fulani, acting in a threatening manner and pointing guns. Mr. Viljoen observed that despite years of violence “not a single Fulani has been prosecuted for the violence.”

Bishop Wilfred stressed that the armed forces lie under the direct control of the President and, furthermore, “all the service chiefs, from the navy, army, air force and police are Muslims.”

Cattle (belonging to Fulani herdsmen) openly grazing on farmers crops , following attacks

“We have to take the narrative away from the government of Nigeria.”

Official figures point to around 3,000 dead from the wave of violence over the past few years. But, those on the ground say that the number could be as high as 36,000, with many more displaced, destitute, or deeply traumatized by their experiences. With many NGOs leaving the danger zones, the Catholic Church and its institutions, with which ACN International works closely, are the only reliable alternatives to get aid to the people on the ground.

Destruction of churches and houses at Gogogodo in Jemaa, by the Fulani Herdsmen terrorists. a local government area in Kafanchan diocese of Kaduna State.

Church representatives ask those who are in the West to help with the provision of relief, but also through other channels. “We have to take the narrative away from the government of Nigeria,” said Fr. Remigius Ihyula, also from the diocese of Makurdi. “They have planted protégés in embassies all over the world, so that the narrative makes it seem like there is nothing happening,” he explained during the ACN hosted webinar.

Fr. Joseph Fidelis, from the diocese of Maiduguri, expressed frustration when he hears people refer to “clashes” or “conflicts” between opposing groups. “It is not a clash; it is a slow genocide. To displace people from their ancestral homeland, deprive them of their livelihood and butcher them is a form of genocide.” 

The gruesome killing of two Catholic Priests of the Diocese of Makurdi who were celebrating morning Mass along with 14 other parishioners in Mbalom community of Gwer East LGA on the morning of 25th April 2018. Their bodies rest on the diocesan prayer ground of Sesugh Maria at Ayati a village 16 kilometers out of Makurdi the Benue.

Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country. There are no official figures, but estimates point to an even split between Muslims and Christians, with the former dominating in the north and the latter in the south. The violence has now spread throughout the country, threatening stability nationwide.

Shelter situation on some unofficial camps located at Ichwa village, north bank Markurdi, Benue State – Photo © Catholic diocese of Markurdi

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