Nigerian Christian leader pleads for help to stop death and destruction by Islamist Fulani militia
A Christian church leader from Nigeria has described the horrors of the growing persecution of Christians by Fulani herdsmen, describing it as 'ethno-religious cleansing'. And so far, he said, the authorities have done little or nothing to help.
Rev Yunusa Nmadu, head of Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) in Nigeria and visting the UK this week, told Christian Today that Christian communities in central Nigeria have been suffering attacks from the Fulani militia for some time.
And he said there can be little doubt that Christians are being deliberately targeted and massacred by the Islamist gunmen, some of which have links reaching through to Islamic State.
'These attacks started in 2010, when some Fulani gunman invaded a village in Plateau State and sacked the whole community and killed about 500 people – children, women and men – in one night.
'Usually what they do is come into a commmunity in the night while people are sleeping. A few of the gunmen go into the centre of the village and begin to shoot sporadically. When people wake up they are rounded up, and people who try and run away are killed because they have gunmen stationed on the outskirts of the village.'
The persecution has increased. Three years ago the Fulani moved on to the southern part of Kaduna State, a largely Christian area, where they were attacking commmunities on an almost daily basis.
As no one has been prosecuted yet, it is impossible to establish what their reasons are, said Nmadu. 'But all the attacks so far, whether in Kaduna, Benue, Nassarawa, Plateau or any other states, have been on Christian communities.'
'The only explanation we can give is that it is a kind of ethno-religious cleansing. I am not sure of the total, but in southern Kaduna more than 800 people were killed in 2016 alone. The total number would run to 2,000 or more. The Fulani kill the people, loot their homes then set the whole place ablaze.
'More than 60,000 people have been displaced in southern Kaduna which is a Christian area. People can't go to their farms because they get attacked and killed, they will sack an entire community then take it over.'
He said some security measures were eventually taken but even when there are arrests the perpetrators are never prosecuted.
Nmadu, who is also General Secretary of one of northern Nigeria's largest churches, the Evangelical Church Winning All, said: 'We have learned they have some connection with Boko Haram, and there are links between Boko Haram and Islamic State.'
He urged the church worldwide to pray 'that God will embolden us to face the challenges that we have on a daily basis.'
Most help that has come to the thousands of displaced people in southern Kaduna is currently coming from churches, some NGOs or individuals. The government has not done much in terms of humanitarian assistance as no single IDP camp is set up by the government. We urge the church worldwide to help the displaced people rebuild and get back to their homes, to continue with their economic activities. 'We call on the international community to put pressure on the Nigerian government to end the culture of impunity surrounding violence that has religious undertones and to abide by constitutional provisions and international agreements Nigeria is a signatory to.'
While in Europe, Nmadu has taken part in an event in the European Parliament highlighting challenges to freedom of religion or belief in northern Nigeria.
CSW is asking concerned people to send an email to the Governor of Kaduna State asking him to protect and provide for people being attacked by Fulani militia.
'Hundreds of Christians and other religious minorities in central Nigeria have been killed by Fulani militia. Men, women and children are being murdered, their land taken away and their homes destroyed.
'These attacks, which are decimating families, are also contributing to an emerging famine, as people are too scared to work in the fields, where the Fulani militia members wait to attack them at their most vulnerable. The region that used to be the nation's breadbasket is now littered with destroyed homes and withered crops,' said CSW.
Anyone can help by sending an email to the Governor of Kaduna State, Nasir el-Rufai, asking him to protect Christians and other religious minorities from being killed by Fulani militia.
In 2014 the Fulani militia, also known as Fulani herders, a nomadic, predominantly Muslim tribe, was named the fourth deadliest terrorist group in the world by the Global Terrorism Index.
Even though the crisis is getting worse, it is often misattributed to 'clashes' between farmers and herders for scarce resources.
CSW said the destruction caused by the Fulani militia is just as serious as that caused by the better-known Boko Haram.
'Central Nigeria is known as the breadbasket of the nation; however, because farmers are being killed in their fields, they're afraid to go out to work. With nobody to tend the crops, they die, contributing to the current food shortage. It will only get worse unless we see action right now.'