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‘Our Families Are Crying’

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Relatives of Christians killed by Islamist Fulani herdsmen in Nigeria cry at their funerals (Photo: EMMY IBU/AFP/Getty Images)
Relatives of Christians killed by Islamist Fulani herdsmen in Nigeria cry at their funerals (Photo: EMMY IBU/AFP/Getty Images)

Close to 60,000 thousand Christians have been killed by nomadic Muslims in Nigeria since 2001, according to one of President Donald Trump’s lawyers and chief counsel at the American Center for Law and Justice Jey Sekulow.

The figures are even on par with what President Jeff King of the International Christian Concern says is the main killing ground for Christians today.

In the last 20 years, 50-70,000 Christians have been killed by Islamists within the last twenty years, with over 6,000 within the first six months of 2018 alone.

The following video explains the long-running conflict over land and resources between ethnic Fulani Muslim cattle herders and largely Christian farmers:

Christian persecution in Nigeria, which can be traced back to the Sokoto caliphate (1804-1903), has surged since 2015 when Muhammadu Buhari was elected president.

The late-Catholic bishop Joseph Bagobiri of the Diocese of Kafanchan (northwest Nigeria which has had sharia law since 1999) stated that in 2016, alone 53 Christian villages were burned down, over 800 Christians murdered, and more than 1,400 homes and 16 churches were destroyed by Fulani Islamic militants.

He expressed dismay that the persecution of Christians in Nigeria is not given anything like the same level of international attention as persecuted Christians in the Middle East.”

Surprisingly, these insurgencies have not come from Boko Haram, which Buhari has made little progress in defeating.

Igbo Nigerians (south-central and southeastern Nigerians) have been tacitly targeted by the Fulani Muslims because of their ethnicity and Christian faith.

Bagobiri was one of the first to indicate the Nigerian government’s involvement in the Christian persecutions: “The attacks on Christians meet with seeming indifference on the part of the country’s leadership — either the police do not have the appropriate weaponry to intervene, or else they have not been given orders to do so.”

According to Emmanuel Ogebe, a leading human rights lawyer, “Buhari, who is himself from the jihadists‘ Fulani tribe, has filled his security council with his kinsmen. He infamously refused to visit Benue State after the New Year‘s Day Massacre [in 2018] that claimed over 70 then commanded the state governor to go and accommodate the Fulani Herdsmen who had killed his people. The minister of defense has justified the killings and General Buhari‘s Government condones and sometimes outrightly supports the herdsmen. Worse still, General Buhari is a life patron of one of the herdsmen associations that has claimed some of the attacks.”

Amnesty International has gone so far as to accuse the Nigerian Air Force for its complicit involvement in the killing of at least 86 people on December 4, 2017, as they fired rockets at villages where Fulani Muslims were attacking Christians.

Also suspect on the government’s part was the gunning down of 19 Catholics, including two priests by Islamists during mass at a church in village of Mbalom.

It cannot be denied that Buhari has always had an Islamist agenda. In 2001 at an Islamic seminar in Kaduna, then-General Buhari stated, “I will continue to show openly and inside me the total commitment to the sharia movement that is sweeping all over Nigeria. God willing, we will not stop the agitation for the total implementation of the sharia in the country.”

The Catholic Bishops‘ Conference of Nigeria has urged Buhari to resign in the wake of the Mbalom massacre arguing that he has deliberately placed power in the hands of the adherents of only one religion. The speaker of the Nigerian House of Representatives Yakubu Dogara publicly summoned Buhari “to answer pertinent questions concerning what [he] is doing to put a decisive end to the spate of killings in different states of the Federation.”

Last year, the U.S. confirmed a $600 million sales of arms to Nigeria. The Russians sold Buhari $320 million in fighter jets in 2017, and the Chinese sold him military equipment. Yet Buhari’s focus is to protect his oil facilities from rebel attacks and abductions of foreign oil workers.

The killing of 218 Christians between June 23-25, 2018, including a pastor, show a continual lack of interest on Buhari’s part to ensure Christians’ safety in the country.

As an anonymous Nigerian soldier recently stated: “Mr President, it’s like you’re not doing your work. What is the meaning of this? We are crying, we are dying. Our families are there, at the end of the day, they will not get or gain anything. What is the use of the job?”

The information for this article was provided by a Nigerian priest from Maiduguri where many Christians have suffered under sharia law.

 

Watch the trailer of Clarion Project’s latest film, Faithkeepers, about the violent persecution of Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East. The film features exclusive footage and testimonials of Christians, Baha’i, Yazidis, Jews, and other minority refugees, and a historical context of the persecution in the region. To host a screening of the film or find out what you can do to help stop the genocide, click here.

 

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Mario Alexis Portella

Portella holds an MA in Medieval History from Fordham University in New York and a double doctorate in Canon Law and Civil Law from the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome. Portella is an American priest at the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence, Italy and Chancellor of its archdiocese. He is the author of Islam: Religion of Peace? - The Violation of Natural Rights and Western-Cover-Up.