Nigeria (Morning Star News) – Amid reports of more Christians killed by Muslim Fulani herdsmen, a clergyman here told protestors that in the past 15 years he has conducted more funerals than weddings.
After leading hundreds of Christian demonstrators to the Plateau House of Assembly on Aug. 31, the Rt. Rev. Benjamin Kwashi, Anglican archbishop of Jos, said the deaths were the result of attacks by Muslim Fulani herdsmen and Islamic extremist group Boko Haram.
“As a pastor, I have conducted more burial services of those killed through attacks than weddings and naming ceremonies since 2001,” he said. “It’s sad to note that most victims of the attacks are harmless children, some infants, women and youth.”
Archbishop Kwashi, also addressing members of the House of Assembly, said urgent steps must be taken to curtail the violence.
“The Nigerian government must end the killings,” he said. “Attention should not be concentrated only in the northeast alone, as people too are being killed here in Plateau, Benue, Nasarawa and Kaduna states.”
Peter Azi, speaker of the House of Assembly, responded with a statement condemning unprovoked attacks on Christian communities in Plateau state. He gave assurances that parliamentarians were doing everything possible to urge the federal government address the violence.
A protestor, Teyei Paul, said the Nigerian government has been largely silent on the unprovoked killings. Quoting Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s statement, “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil,” Teyei said government silence is an indication of subtle support for the onslaught against Christians in Nigeria.
On the day of the protest, armed Muslim Fulani herdsmen killed five Christians in Tanabu village, Gashish District, Barkin Ladi Local Government Area, including a community leader and a leader of a Women’s Fellowship Group of a an area Church of Christ in Nations (COCIN), sources said.
An area resident whose identity is withheld identified the victims of the ambush as Maiungwa Akare Mangam, Mashingil Mangam, Paul Akare, Elizabeth Ezekiel and Josephine Sunday, all of the COCIN congregation in Tababu Makoli Gashish, Barkin Ladi LGA. The source told Morning Star News they were killed on their way to a local market.
“The five Christians were ambushed and murdered on Monday, Aug. 31, at 6 a.m.,” he said. “They were shot with guns, and their heads were smashed and their faces destroyed. The victims were on their way to Mai-katako market for business.”
He added that it was the second attack in two days.
“Two days earlier, on Aug. 29, Jol village was attacked by the same Fulani herdsmen,” he said. “In this village, the Muslim Fulani gunmen killed many of the villagers and wounded dozens of others.”
He said Jol village has been attacked more than 30 times.
“Several Christian communities in Barkin Ladi and Riyom have completely been uprooted and displaced,” he added.
The Rev. Dachalom Datiri, president of the COCIN, confirmed the killings.
“We did receive report from our local church in that village on the killing of our members, and like we have always stressed, there is the need for the Nigerian government to take necessary steps to end these killings of Christians in the country,” Datiri told Morning Star News.
One of the Christians leading protestors alongside Archbishop Kwashi in Jos, Daniel Meshak, said Christians have largely deserted Barkin Ladi and Riyom LGAs, with survivors living in displaced persons camps. He said 50,000 Christians have been displaced from their homes.
Istifanus Pwajok, member of the Plateau House of Assembly, told Morning Star News at the protest that there were more than 22,000 displaced Christians in eight camps alone. Another protestor whose name is withheld told Morning Star News that on Aug. 29 he witnessed the killing of a Christian in Riyom.
Boko Haram also has continued to target Christians. Addressing journalists a week earlier, the Rev. Samuel Dali, president of the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria, said the Islamic extremist group, which seeks to impose Islamic law (sharia) throughout the country, had destroyed denominational church buildings, hospitals and Bible schools in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states.
Dali said most Brethren pastors in the three states lost their lives or been displaced.
“Seventy percent of our churches have been destroyed in Adamawa, Yobe and Borno states by Boko Haram, more than 8,000 of our members were killed and 176 of the girls kidnapped in Chibok are our members,” he said.
The Brethren church’s headquarters in Mubi, Adamawa state in northeast Nigeria have been moved to Jos following an attack on the church headquarters last year.
Nigeria’s State Security Service issued a statement from Abuja on Aug. 30 that it had arrested 20 Boko Haram members in different parts of the country, and that some of them were involved in carrying out bombings in Jos.