In a tragic incident that unfolded on Friday, September 15, in southern Kaduna state, Nigeria, 15 Christians lost their lives in an attack perpetrated by Fulani herdsmen.
The assault occurred in Dogon Noma village, situated in Kajuru County. Additionally, 32 Christians were reportedly abducted by the assailants, leaving the community in a state of anguish and fear.
According to reports from local residents, the assailants, numbering in the hundreds, surrounded the village at around 7 a.m., indiscriminately shooting at anyone in sight. David Musa, a resident of the area, described the horrifying event in a text message to Morning Star News and requested prayers for the beleaguered Dogon Noma community.
Moses Ishaya, who personally suffered losses in the attack, shared the heart-wrenching news with Morning Star News, stating that two of his relatives fell victim to the massacre. He identified the deceased Christians as Bala Laya, Gimbiya Coaster, and others who were kidnapped, including Set Alkali, Saviour Christopher, and Sico Nicholas.
This latest assault adds to the grim statistics of violence against Christians in Kaduna state. Over the past four years, a total of 23 pastors have lost their lives, and approximately 200 places of worship have been forced to close due to similar attacks.
Expressing their concerns over the escalating violence, Ernest Maidawa, a youth leader in the region, called upon government officials to take immediate action. He urged both state and federal authorities to fulfill their primary responsibilities of safeguarding lives and property.
Meanwhile, Christian leaders in Kaduna state convened a meeting with police officials on Tuesday, September 12, in the city of Kaduna. During the meeting, they conveyed the distressing reality that attacks carried out by armed Muslim Fulani herdsmen and other extremist groups had resulted in the deaths of 23 pastors, the abduction of 215 Christians still held in captivity, and the forced closure of 200 church buildings within the span of four years.
The gathering, held at Albraka Baptist Church, aimed to strengthen the relationship between the police and Christian leaders. Kaduna State Commissioner of Police Musa Garba acknowledged the importance of collective security efforts, emphasizing that individuals must also play their role by providing information to law enforcement.
Disturbingly, Nigeria held the disheartening distinction of leading the world in Christians killed for their faith in 2022, with a staggering count of 5,014, as reported by Open Doors’ 2023 World Watch List (WWL). The nation also led in Christians abducted, sexually assaulted, harassed, forcibly married, physically or mentally abused, and recorded the highest number of homes and businesses attacked for faith-based reasons. Additionally, Nigeria ranked second in church attacks and internal displacement of people.
The 2023 World Watch List identified Nigeria as the sixth most challenging country for Christians, marking its highest-ever ranking, up from seventh place the previous year. The report highlighted the pervasive violence against Christian communities, perpetrated by various militant groups such as the Fulani, Boko Haram, and Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP). These attacks encompass killings, maiming, rape, and kidnappings for ransom or sexual slavery.
Despite the growing evidence of religious persecution, Nigeria’s government continued to deny the existence of such persecution, allowing violations of Christians’ rights to persist with impunity.
The Fulani, who number in the millions across Nigeria and the Sahel region, consist of various clans with differing ideologies. While most Fulani do not hold extremist views, some have adopted radical Islamist beliefs. A 2020 report by the United Kingdom’s All-Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom or Belief (APPG) revealed that these radicalized elements employ tactics similar to those of Boko Haram and ISWAP, specifically targeting Christians and symbols of Christian identity.
Christian leaders in Nigeria have posited that the Fulani herdsmen’s attacks on Christian communities in the Middle Belt region stem from their desire to forcibly acquire Christian-owned lands and impose Islam. This shift is believed to be driven by environmental factors such as desertification, which have made it increasingly difficult for them to sustain their herds through traditional means.