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Nigerian church leaders plead for end to 'genocide'

United Nations, international community asked to intervene in Christian killings

Church leaders in Nigeria have called on the government of President Muhammadu Buhari to stop the horrific attacks and killings targeted at Christians across the country by armed Fulani herdsmen.

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“Stop this senseless … blood shedding in the land and avoid a state of complete anarchy where the people are forced to defend themselves,” pleaded Dr Soja Bewarang, chairman of the Denominational Heads Plateau and Christian Association of Nigeria Plateau State, in a press release.

The group estimates that more than 6000 people, mostly children, women and the aged, have been maimed or killed in night raids by armed Fulani herdsmen on Christian communities and churches across Nigeria. This has been acute in the Middle Belt, which is considered the epicentre of Christianity in the country.

No arrests have been made and, in some cases, the Nigerian police and/or military collaborate with attackers (or, at least, delay coming to the scene until the attack has been completed).

“The perpetrators are being deliberately allowed to go scot free.” – Dr Soja Bewarang

“We also wish to appeal to the international community, particularly the United Nations, to intervene in the ongoing Fulani herdsmen pogrom in the country to avert unpleasant consequences that may spill over into other countries and continents,” Dr Soja Bewarang said.

“We are particularly worried at the widespread insecurity in the country where wanton attacks and killings by armed Fulani herdsmen, bandits and terrorists have been taking place on a daily basis in our communities unchallenged despite huge investments in the security agencies. The perpetrators are being deliberately allowed to go scot free.”

The most savage of recent attacks was a mass slaughter of 200 men, women and children between June 22 and 24 in several Christian villages just outside the city of Jos. The houses were razed, crops destroyed and people burned alive. The attacks included a raid on the property of Archbishop of Jos, Ben Kwashi, and since then there are reports of attacks on Christians almost daily.

“The sole purpose of these attacks is aimed at ethnic cleansing, land grabbing.” – Dr Soja Bewarang

“There is no doubt that the sole purpose of these attacks is aimed at ethnic cleansing, land grabbing and forceful ejection of the Christian natives from their ancestral land and heritage,” Dr Bewarang said.

“The attacks by the so-called herdsmen across the local areas listed in 11 villages of Plateau State, where over 200 persons were brutally killed and our churches destroyed without any intervention from security agencies in spite of several distress calls made to them, further buttresses our concern that the security architecture of the land and the handlers have woefully failed.

“To further show the incompetency of the security agencies and deliberate attempt to hide the facts of the massacre that took place, the police could not and have not been able to determine the exact number of the casualties. They keep navigating from 11, 86 and 100 figures, which in actual sense has a death toll figure so far of 238. What is happening in Plateau State and other select states in Nigeria is pure genocide and must be stopped immediately.”

Nigerian Christians are angry that the government explains the brutal attacks as clashes between Fulani herdsman and farmers.

“How can it be a clash when one group is persistently attacking, killing, maiming, destroying; and the other group is persistently being killed, maimed and their places of worship destroyed?” says Dr Bewarang.

“Unfortunately, no armed herdsmen has ever been arrested for prosecution even when they are caught in the act.” – Dr Bewarang

“How can it be a clash when the herdsmen are hunting farmers in their own villages/communities and farmers are running for their lives? How can it be a clash when the herdsmen are the predators and the inhabitant/indigenous farmers are the prey? Until we call a disease by its real name and causatives, it would be difficult to properly diagnose the disease for the right curative medications.

“We view the recent arrest and quick convictions to death of five Christian youths defending their communities against herdsmen … in Adamawa State as part of the conspiracy and support by the government.

“Unfortunately, no armed herdsmen has ever been arrested for prosecution even when they are caught in the act.”

While local Christians appreciated the visit of the President, Muhammadu Buhari and his Vice-President, Yemi Osinbajo, to Plateau State to commiserate with them, “we urge the federal government to go beyond the cosmetics of such political visit to fish out the perpetrators of these attacks and make them pay for their crimes against humanity,” Dr Bewarang said.

Christians believe that the previously peaceful Fulani herdsman, who are Muslims, have been radicalised by outside forces, and that the government, which is controlled by a Muslim administration, is taking advantage of this to consolidate its hold on this Middle Belt of Nigeria.

“We need to understand these killings. This is another Boko Haram in disguise.” – Rev Gideon Para-Mallam

Rev Gideon Para-Mallam, Regional Secretary of the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students (IFES), has called the Fulani herdsmen: “Boko Haram in disguise.”

He told a local newspaper, “We need to understand these killings. This is another Boko Haram in disguise, Fulani herdsmen are Boko Haram in disguise.”

“The same Fulani people that had been living peacefully with the farmers, suddenly has changed from using sticks to tend their cows, to rear their cows, all of a sudden going to farmlands, killing farmers, surrounding whole villages, wiping out Christian farmers, killing their wives, children, burning their homes, displacing them; very clearly an agenda is emerging,” he said.

“It’s a pointer, it’s a reality. Because Jos is the epicentre of Christianity, Plateau State is the epicentre of Christianity in the North, in the Middle-belt and significantly in Nigeria.

“Jos is a miniature Nigeria. And when you begin to kill people in the rural areas and also in the cities, it’s a pointer that ethnic cleansing is taking place.

“Unless something is done, Christianity, Christians in Nigeria, will become history. Something needs to be done to arrest these killers, if Nigeria is to remain a united, one indivisible country.”

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