Christians in Nigeria hold prayer vigil after intense violence

A survivor of violence in Mangu in what is left of his home.(Photo: Open Doors)

Prayer vigils are being held across central Nigeria after a wave of attacks that has left hundreds dead and tens of thousands displaced. 

Open Doors reports that violent attacks against Christian farmers in Plateau State have "continued unabated" since May. 

The state is no stranger to tensions, sitting between the mostly Muslim north of Nigeria and its largely Christian south.

The latest wave of attacks, however, has been especially deadly, according to Rev Dr Gideon Para-Mallam of the of the Para-Mallam Peace Foundation.

"How long must we sit-out these religiously motivated and criminal killings in Nigeria," he said.

"The degrading of the value of human life without respect to our common humanity is beyond comprehension."

An estimated 350 people have been killed across the state in the last few months, and a further 80,000 left internally displaced.

The epicentre of the violence has been Mangu Local Government Area, where extremist Fulani have looted and burnt the homes of Christians, and killed them as they tried to escape, Open Doors reports.

Dr Para-Mallam continued, "The current harvest of deaths in Mangu must be treated with the utmost urgency it deserves.

"These unjust killings have lingered on too long – not just for Mangu but in other hotspots in the Middlebelt areas in particular as well."

Despite the scale of the violence in the last few months, Open Doors says that the Nigerian Army only stepped in last weekend. 

A survivor named only as Simon described a harrowing attack on his community on 1 July.

"We were surrounded by Fulani militants," he said. "I just escaped. Two of my neighbours were killed. My wife and children narrowly escaped.

"I saw the extremists with my own eyes, they burnt our food, mattress, cushions, palm oil. Everything I owned; they burnt it. All I have now is the clothes on my body."

Another survivor, Danladi, lost everything he owned in a similar attack on his village.

"It was at night," he said. "We were just at home when they surrounded the whole community. They came and started shooting; they killed many of us, we escaped narrowly. Our houses have been burnt; we are still living with stress."

He pleaded for help: "We are calling on Christians all over and those in Nigeria to come to our rescue."