Don’t recall this story? That’s because it wasn’t covered by the mainstream media. Most of the victims were in their homes sleeping when the attacks began … when Muslim Fulani militant herdsmen began their killing spree in Nigeria that lasted four days, Thursday through Sunday evening and into Monday.
In only days, a dozen villages in Nigeria’s Plateau state were wiped out. The affected communities surround the city of Jos—known as the epicenter of Christianity in northern Nigeria’s Middle Belt.
According to our on-the-ground sources, as many as 200 Christians had been killed, however, some residents fear the death toll may be even higher, as more bodies are yet to be recovered, while others were burned beyond recognition. On Sunday, 75 of the victims were buried in a mass grave.
We are still gathering information about the violence, but the details we have from our sources on the ground so far reveal the scale and brutality of the attacks, in many cases more extensive than have been reported elsewhere:
- 120 people who were attending the funerals of an elderly member were hacked to death as they returned home.
- In another attack, in Gana Ropp village, a pastor, Rev. Musa Choji, was killed, as were his wife and son.
- In Gidin Akwati, the whole community was burned down. Local sources say that some of those displaced are still hiding in the bush, as they haven’t yet been able to find their way to a safe haven.
- A pastor with the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) denomination, who wanted to remain anonymous for security reasons, said that following an attack on Saturday, his entire village was reduced to ashes, and more than 100 people lost their lives.
The ECWA pastor said more than 50 heavily armed herdsmen surrounded the village of Nghar, in Gashes district, at around 3:30 a.m. They burned down all the houses, as well as two churches. Only a few people were able to escape.
His wife’s family was decimated. The assailants killed 14 members of her family, including her mother and sister. Others who had come to visit them were also killed. In total, 27 people lost their lives in the same house. They were all burned to death. Only one person—his wife’s younger brother—survived, as he managed to escape through the roof.
World Watch Monitor reports that on the day of the attack in Nghar, only two soldiers and one policeman were in the village, but they reportedly ran for their lives when the herdsmen launched their attack.
Attacks Were Peak of Ongoing Violence
Reportedly, the violence in the attacked areas has been happening for the last two weeks. Over the weekend, the violence reached a peak. Pastor Steve Kwol, chairman of the Pentecostal Federation of Nigeria for Plateau North, which includes the attacked areas, said that herdsmen were ambushing people going to their farms or traveling on their motorbikes.
Since Thursday, the herdsmen militants had launched “very serious attacks” on the whole communities, he said. Despite the current dusk-to-dawn curfew and the presence of military, the attacks are still ongoing, he says. Two villages—Kwi and Dorowa—were badly damaged on Monday.
In Dorowa, most of the properties were burned down, including four church buildings. The adjoining buildings, such as pastors’ houses, were also destroyed by fire.
In Kwi, a number of buildings, including churches, were also set on fire. The exact number of people killed there is not yet known, but many were displaced and are now living in camps in neighboring villages.
“We’ve been living peacefully with [Fulani herdsmen]” Pastor Kwol said. “Since this crisis started in Plateau in recent months, our people have not killed one Fulani man. Instead, they have been killing our people one by one. We just buried them and carried on.” he said. As a result of the ongoing insecurity, there are places where people can no longer go to farm,” he said, “because when they go, the Fulani will come and take their cows, or attack them.”
“Just two weeks ago, they shot my wife’s young brother. But he survived. He was discharged on Wednesday and had returned home on Thursday, only to get killed in the last attack, on Saturday.”
‘It’s part of a grand plan to Islamize Nigeria’
The attacks have some local sources saying that the ongoing violence is part of a “grand plan to Islamize Nigeria.”
“The killings are becoming no longer herder and farmer clashes” but a “deliberate attempt to conquer and occupy the land of the people’s ancestral heritage,” said Dr. Soja Bewarang, who also denounced the attack on a Bible school that trained African missionaries in Gana-Ropp village.
Reverend Gideon Para-Mallam, of the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students in Jos and founder of the Citizens Monitoring Group working with Christians and Muslims in Nigeria, notes that the violence is part of a pattern, an emerging agenda, saying that it is “another in disguise.”
The same Fulani people who have been living in peace with farmers suddenly have changed from using sticks to tend their cows, all of a sudden going to the farmlands, killing Christian farmers. their wives and children, surrounding whole villages. It’s a pointer … because Plateau state is the epicenter of Christianity.”
Watch as he shares:
Painful Memories of Bloodshed
The violence forced the state governor, Simon Lalong, to cut short his time at a national convention and return to Jos, the state capital. President Muhammadu Buhari, who is seeking a second term in the coming 2019 elections (due in February), was also attending the convention.
Criticized for his perceived ‘lukewarm’ attitude towards the ongoing Fulani violence in the country, President Buhari condemned what he called “painful” and “regrettable” killings and expressed his “deepest condolences to the affected communities.”
In his address to leaders of farmers and Fulani communities on Monday, Nigeria Vice President Yemi Osinbajo denounced the manner in which people are being “mercilessly” killed in Plateau state, and pledged that the federal government will bring the perpetrators to justice.
“There is no reason for killing any Nigerian,” he declared. “We were told that herdsmen sacked an entire community; this is condemnable and I don’t understand what those people think, but the federal government will take immediate action to ensure that this madness is put to a stop. It is unfortunate that some people want to make some gains out of this, and are taking advantage of innocent women and children.”
But for many, particularly among the Christian communities in the Plateau and the other Middle Belt States like Benue and Nasarawa where Fulani militias have attacked, the weekend of violence brings back memories of the March 2010 attacks when more than 500 people were massacred by herdsmen in Dogon Na Hauwa village.
Between 2010 and 2012, Plateau was the epicenter of the violence in Africa’s most populous country, but in the next five years, the state even became known as a model state as violence decreased.
However, since September last year, the violence has resumed with repeated attacks against Christian communities. It has escalated further this year, particularly in Riyom, Barkin Ladi, Bassa and Bokko local government area. Bassa is still under curfew following previous violence in March of this year.
Praying With Christians in Plateau State and Nigeria’s Middle Belt
- Pray that God would be near to our brokenhearted brothers and sisters in Jos and throughout Africa. Ask God to be tangibly close.
- Ask God to pour out His Spirit of love, order and calm over these communities. Pray for safety and protection in the days ahead.
- Ask God to intervene in this violence and bring the persecutors to justice. These attacks have gone on for too long.
- Pray with Pastor Kwol and his wife who have lost so much family and their home.
- Pray with Rev. Musa Choji’s church who have lost their pastor and his family. God we ask you to bring beauty from the ashes.
- As we realize the magnitude of these attacks and previous ones, pray that God would end this movement and any aspirations of Islamizing Nigeria.
Although the realities of violence like these attacks can be overwhelming, we have repeatedly seen how the Lord sovereignly uses the Body of Christ to bring hope and remind Christians on the front lines that they are not forgotten.
Open Doors is standing with believers in these areas through emergency relief aid; training on how to stand strong in the midst of persecution; legal help and more. Right now, we are rushing critical aid and support to African believers whose lives are immersed in persecution. These Christ followers are risking all they have to follow Jesus.