Violence against Nigeria's Christians hits record high

Violence attributed to militant Fulani herdsmen in Nigeria has reached a record high this year, according to World Watch Monitor.

In the central state of Benue alone, 492 people have been killed this year.

Protests in Kaduna state against Fulani violence.World Watch Monitor

Speaking at the burial last week of 19 Catholics, including two priests, killed at St Ignatius Church, Nigeria's vice-president Yemi Osinbajo pledged that the killings would not go unpunished,

A controversial law was passed in in November 2017 banning herders from open grazing in the state. Following this, attacks have been carried out on an almost daily basis.

However, Benue state governor Samuel Ortom appeared to blame the killings on religion, saying at the funeral: 'The reverend fathers are not farmers. The church...has no grass. It is therefore curious why parishioners...who were worshipping God would be killed by herdsmen in the church. By so doing, the armed herdsmen have moved the narrative of the current crisis from search of grass to other obvious motives.'

The killings have had a devastating effect on local people, who have deserted their villages in large numbers. According to Ortom, more than 180,000 people live in eight camps, 80,000 of them children of school age receiving no education. More than 500,000 other people are living with relatives or in uncompleted buildings.

Other mainly-Christian states such as Taraba, Plateau, and Nasarawa, and the southern part of Kaduna state also have been affected by militant Fulani attacks.

The mass burial on May 22 coincided with a nationwide protest organised by Catholics. Clerics across the country urged President Muhammadu Buhari to take urgent steps to end the killing of Christians.

Cardinal John Onaiyekan, archbishop of the capital Abuja's diocese, called on Nigerians to rise above religious, political and ethnic divides. 'The nation is in a state of emergency,' he said. "We demand for synergy; division, especially on tribal lines, will only throw our nation to anarchy.'

In an open letter to Buhari, the Archbishop of Lagos, Alfred Adewale Martins, wrote:

'We are very saddened by the fact that our security agencies have not been able to put measures in place to bring the situation under control. Instead, the signals we are getting are that we do not have enough personnel to secure all the people of Nigeria.'

He continued: 'Communities are being wiped away in a manner that can only be likened to ethnic cleansing. Human life, a most sacred gift from God, has become of less value than cattle in this part of the world.'