Attacks on Christians in Nigeria are a 'forgotten tragedy', says bishop

Churches and houses have been destroyed in Kafanchan Diocese, Kaduna by Fulani militants(Photo: ACN)

Children and pregnant women are among the victims of attacks being carried out on Nigerian Christians by Fulani herdsmen, a bishop has told Aid to the Church in Need.

Bishop William Amove Avenya, of Gboko Diocese, said the attacks were a 'forgotten tragedy' and posed a much greater threat to Nigeria's Christian community than Islamist terrorism.

He said the mostly Muslim herdsmen had killed more people in 2018 than Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram.

'But no one is doing anything about it,' he said.

According to the 2018 Global Terrorism Index, Fulani extremists are believed to have killed as many as 1,700 people in Nigeria between January and September this year.

The report, published earlier this month, stated: 'In 2018 alone, deaths attributed to Fulani extremists are estimated to be six times greater than the number committed by Boko Haram.'

It added: 'Fulani herders are primarily Muslim while the southern farmers are predominantly Christian, which adds a religious dimension to the conflict over resources.'

Despite the staggering death toll at the hands of the Fulani, Bishop Avenya said the authorities are failing to act.

He told Aid to the Church in Need that in his diocese, located in Nigeria's Christian-majority Benue State, 'Fulani tribesmen, armed to the teeth, are murdering pregnant women and children, and destroying our smallholdings.'

According to the bishop, the herdsmen appeared to be armed with sophisticated weaponry 'of a kind not used by simple herdsmen'.

'This is a time bomb that threatens to ignite the whole region,' he said. 'We need to ask who is behind this.'

Bishop Avenya, who was recently in Brussels for a meeting about ACN's 2018 Religious Freedom in the World report, is not optimistic about receiving support from EU politicians, who he said seemed to be 'poorly informed' about the situation.

He has previously called on the international community 'not to wait for a genocide to happen before intervening'.

Bishop Avenya added: 'Meanwhile, the Church continues to try and heal the wounds. We have not lost hope, but we do need help.'