Over 1,200 Christians killed in Nigeria in first half of 2020 - human rights group

The Cathedral Church of Christ in Lagos, south Nigeria, where Christians are relatively free to worship without fear, unlike in the northern regions where they have been killed in large numbers.(Photo: Unsplash/Temitayo Aina)

Over 1,200 Christians were slaughtered in Nigeria in the first six months of 2020, according to a human rights group based there.

The International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law said the killing of Christians had reached "genocidal" levels, the Nigerian Voice reports.

The perpetrators are Islamist militants and members of the predominantly Muslim Fulani group. 

The report attributes 390 of the deaths to radical Islamist groups like Boko Haram and the Islamic State West Africa Province, both of which are linked to ISIS. 

Some 812 deaths were attributed to Fulani herdsmen who have targeted Christian farming communities. 

"Thousands of defenseless Christians who survived being hacked to death have also been injured and left in mutilated conditions with several of them crippled for life," the report said.

"Hundreds of Christian worship and learning centers have been destroyed or burnt; likewise thousands of dwelling houses, farmlands and other properties belonging to Christians."

While some groups have labeled the Fulani attacks as part of a dispute over land and resources, the International Society dismisses this theory and argues that Christians are being specifically targeted.

"All the areas under Jihadist Herdsmen attacks are Christian communities, as to date," it said.

"There are no pieces of evidence anywhere showing killing of Muslims and taking over of their lands, farmlands and houses or destruction or burning of Mosques by the Jihadist Herdsmen."

The report warns of a "rapid" rise in the number of girls and women being abducted in Nigeria. The organization says that these abducted women "hardly" ever escape, and some are forcibly converted to Islam and married to a Muslim man, while others are used as sex slaves. 

"In other words, Nigeria's genocidal and atrocious Jihadists including Jihadist Herdsmen and Boko Haram/ISWAP have rapidly increased their rate of abduction of the referenced females, both legally married and unmarried.  Such abducted women hardly return when abducted," it says. 

Open Doors ranks Nigeria 12th in the world for the most severe persecution of Christians. 

This week, Ayo Adedoyin, Chief Executive of PSJ UK, an organization campaigning for an end to the persecution of Christians and other minorities in Nigeria, appealed to the UK Government to take a similar approach to Nigeria as it has done for persecuted Rohingya Muslims in Burma. 

"As the UK takes its role in this post-Brexit era as a global leader on the world stage, it is vital that the new FCDO (as the FCO will become from September) leads the way in providing equal or more amounts of funding to help persecuted Christians in Nigeria's north as we did for the Rohingya Muslims in Burma," he said.

"As we buff up our human rights credential, we must extend the very welcome Magnitsky sanction lists to perpetrators of freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) violations, and we must also consider suspending military co-operation as we did in Burma."