Militant Fulani herdsmen are attempting to eradicate Christianity from the Middle Belt region of Nigeria, according to a local bishop.
Up to 100 Christians have died this year at the hands of nomadic herdsmen. The Fulani are Muslim, while Christians tend to be farmers or town-dwellers.
According to Bishop Wilfred Chikpa Anagbe of Makurdi, unknown sources are arming the Fulane with 'sophisticated weapons'.
In an interview with the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, Anagbe said: 'There is a clear agenda – a plan – to Islamise all of the areas that are currently predominantly Christian in the so-called Middle Belt of Nigeria.'
He said 11 parishes in his diocese had been attacked. In one incident two priests and at least 17 parishioners were killed when militants struck at St Ignatius' church during early morning mass last month.
Anagbe added: 'The Fulani tribesmen for the most part live in the forests and cannot afford the luxury of such sophisticated weapons – so who is funding them?'
He criticised the security forces, saying: 'When the attacks take place, there are never any police or soldiers present.'
The Fulanis' agenda was the same as that of Boko Haram, he said: 'both groups are united in the same intention to Islamise the entire region'.
Asking for prayer and support, Anagbe said: 'Please pray for us and make yourself spokesmen for the suffering our community is going through.
'We need people to raise their voices in our defence.'