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India (Morning Star News) – Before Pastor Jai Singh appeared before a judge in northern India and was jailed on false charges of luring people to convert, Hindu extremists had dragged him from house worship to a school where groups of six beat him in turns, he said.
“From the school, they took me to a Hindu temple and forced me to sit before the idols,” Singh said. “They told me that they ‘are policemen, we can make you admit whatever we want.’ They had beaten up my legs with wooden sticks and pulled my legs apart.”
He was wearing a long, white tunic called a Kameez that was soaked in blood from the beatings on Jan. 5 in Bichpari village, Sonipat District, about an hour north of Delhi.
“They forcefully undressed me and threw my Kameez away,” Pastor Singh told Morning Star News. “It was evening by the time they dropped me at Gohana police station. I was severely bruised and was howling in pain.”
The radical Hindus had assaulted him and other house-church worshippers after an attempt to attack their mother church in nearby Siwanka over Christmas was thwarted, sources said. The pastor, who struggles to provide for his family as a day-laborer, is still unable to walk due to the severity of the beatings, they said.
Police took Pastor Singh to a hospital, where he received an injection, then returned him to the police station. Soon Inspector Shri Bhagwan registered a First Information Report (FIR) against him, pastor Ram Kishan of Siwanka and three other unnamed persons based on a complaint by a Bichpari resident identified only as Ramesh, the pastor said.
The FIR falsely accused them, Naresh Singh and several other Christians of offering money to Hindus to lure them to convert to Christianity, he said. The next day, Jan. 6, he was presented before a judge and sent to judicial custody.
“Unknown persons in plainclothes were driving me to the court and then to the jail,” Pastor Singh told Morning Star News. “At first I suspected that they must not be a police officer as the persons were not in uniform. The journey from court to jail was torturous, as this person in plainclothes abused in vulgar Haryanvi language. He abused my family members, including my wife and children. I kept quiet and said in my heart, ‘Oh Lord, if it is in Your will, then let it be, but give me strength to endure this. I am weak. I need you.’”
An attorney with legal advocacy group Alliance Defending Freedom-India filed a petition for bail, and he was released on Jan. 7, he said.
“Even inside the jail, I was very afraid that I might have seizures – I was under medication, and the jail authorities did not allow me to take my medicines,” Pastor Singh said. “Now I’m in a very bad state. I can’t sit or stand or lie down straight on my back for five minutes. The marks of beatings are still all over my body. My legs feel very heavy and stiff, so that I can’t even stand on my feet.”
After he was treated at a hospital in Sonipat District, an undisclosed Christian organization has enabled him to receive treatment from a hospital in Delhi, he said.
Vinod Kumar, son of accused Pastor Ram Kishan of the mother church in Siwanka, said the same radical Hindu assailants had shown up at that congregation’s Christmas celebrations. Church members did not let them enter the premises.
“We kept watch that day and stopped them from causing any disturbance,” Kumar said. “They could not do anything and waited outside for a while for a chance to attack but, vexed at us restraining them, they left without causing any harm.”
On the first Sunday of 2020, the assailants then showed up at the Bichpari village house church and attacked Pastor Singh, home-owner Naresh Singh and his relatives.
“Their minor children also suffered injuries,” Kumar said. “Pastor Jai Singh is a native of Siwanka. He is not able to sit or stand or walk as of now. It seems there are internal injuries that would take time to heal. There was a crack in Pastor Singh’s right leg, and by God’s grace it is healing.”
Pastor Singh said a mob of 250 to 300 people initially surrounded the house during the Jan. 5 worship. Naresh Singh went out to find out what they wanted, and those inside suddenly heard the mob attacking him.
Before they could go outside to help him, about 30 assailants burst into the home and began shouting at them in foul language, Pastor Singh said. Naresh Singh’s female relatives tried to stop the radical Hindus from attacking Pastor Singh and were shoved away, injuring the women and children, the pastor said.
“Minor children of Naresh Singh and his brother also got injured,” Pastor Singh said. “Then they held me by my collar and dragged me outside the home.”
Accusing him and Naresh Singh of being responsible for the growing number of people converting to Christianity, the approximately 30 assailants beat them while the rest of the radical Hindus looked on, he said.
“They pushed me to the floor, and I could not understand who was kicking me, who was slapping or beating on my back,” Pastor Singh said. “As a huge crowd surrounded me, I could only see their hands and shoes kicking me. They picked me up from the floor and took me inside Singh’s home and told me that I should go with them, if not they would kill me there on the spot.”
Pushing him into a vehicle, the assailants ranted at him in foul language, he said.
“They uttered disgustful, caste slurs against my faith and community that I cannot repeat with my mouth,” Pastor Singh said.
At the school they beat him on his forehead close to his eyes, he said.
“My eyes got swollen. There was severe bleeding from my forehead,” he said. “The remaining members who were following us by motorbikes and other vehicles also reached the school, and they took turns to beat me. A batch of six assailants would beat me up at once, after that they would sit back and relax while the next batch of five to six continued the beating. I was howling in severe pain, and I do not remember for how long that continued.”
They tried without success to force him to falsely admit to luring Hindus to convert with money, he said.
Denying that he would ever offer people money to convert, the father of four began to weep as he said, “I am just a daily laborer – my children and family are leading a very difficult life. I do not have enough means to bring up my children, I can’t even provide them a nutritious meal.”
Afraid to Worship
Kumar, the pastor’s son in Siwanka, said Hindu extremism has increased in the area as the number of people putting their faith in Christ has grown.
“The Hindutva [Hindu nationalist] government is in power in the center as well as the state, and they have been elected twice consecutively,” he said. “They strongly believe that the rise in Christianity was possible ‘by giving money to convert,’ which is not the reality actually, but at the ground level people have been made to believe this narrative.”
A source said on condition of anonymity that high-caste Brahmins are the main opponents of Christianity in Haryana state, but they remain veiled by utilizing the Hindu extremist Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council), Bajrang Dal and allies to do their bidding.
The assailants of the house church in Bichpari were members of the VHP, Bajrang Dal and the Hindu extremist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), area Christians said.
“Earlier there was good strength of believers in Bichpari, but now they are very scared and backslidden due to the rising opposition,” Pastor Singh said.
Now only three families attend worship services, he said.
“I was doing the Lord’s work and also was working very hard to earn some money to feed my children,” he said, tears welling up in his eyes. “Now I have been made as fit for nothing.”
The Jan. 5 attack resulted in the closing of Naresh Singh’s shop at the market center in Bichpari.
“After the Jan. 5 attack on our home church, the owner of the shop called and told me to vacate the premises immediately,” Singh said. “It has been two weeks, and we don’t have any earnings since then.”
He had been earning 200 to 300 rupees (US$3-4) per day selling boiled eggs, he said.
“It was the only source of livelihood for my family,” Singh said. “In the shops, the villagers refuse to sell us daily necessities. We have been socially ostracized. Even the neighbors and friends in the village, who had long been our regular visitors, do not even look at us now. We were beaten up, but police registered cases against our people.”
Singh filed a complaint at Gohana Sadar police station, and officers registered an FIR against alleged assailants identified as Pappu Sarpanch, Sonu, Ravi, Sunil, Jagbir and Sarpanch of Jagsi village, and about 200 other unnamed persons, he said, adding that no action has been taken against them.
The FIR accuses them of disturbing religious assembly, voluntarily causing hurt, abduction and criminal intimidation under the Indian Penal Code, “but they are all roaming free,” Singh said. “Only Pastor Jai Singh spent three days in custody after getting beaten up brutally.”
India is ranked 10th on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2020 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian. The country was 31st in 2013, but its position grew worse each year after Narendra Modi of the Bharatiya Janata Party came to power in 2014.
India (Morning Star News) – Police in northern India’s Uttar Pradesh state work in tandem with Hindu extremists to treat Christians and other religious minorities especially harshly, sources said.
“The UP police force is very different from the rest of India,” Dinanath Jaiswar, a volunteer with legal advocacy group Alliance Defending Freedom-India, told Morning Star News. “They are very brash in their dealings with Muslim and Christian minorities, and there have been several cases of violence in police custody, but by God’s grace we have tried our best to reach them on time, and even while in the clutches of the enemy, God protects His people.”
From April 2017 to February 2018, India’s National Human Rights Commission registered 365 cases of judicial and custodial deaths in Uttar Pradesh, according to The Indian Express; the next highest amount was 127 cases in West Bengal state.
“It does not take long for a police officer here to lose his temper and thrash a person in custody,” Jaiswar said.
Most cases reported against police stations in several Uttar Pradesh districts fell under the categories of torture, infliction of injury and grievous hurt, according to the National Crime Records Bureau.
“It has become a trend that a batch of Hindu extremists barge inside Christian homes and accuse them of proselytizing Hindus to Christianity,” Jaiswar said. “When Christians deny the accusations and restrain them from disrupting the prayers, they use the police force to take Christians into custody.”
ADF-India personnel in Uttar Pradesh are often called to rush to police stations to try to intervene before any charges are filed, ensure that Christians are safe and work to release them as soon as possible, he added.
“UP’s legal aid team works like a Rapid Action Force,” Jaiswar said. “We aim at immediate release of pastors in custody. If police extend the custody over the night, the next morning they would file the FIR [First Information Report], and the victims will be presented before the judicial magistrate and will be sent to judicial custody.”
Obtaining bail is a lengthier process, but ADF’s Uttar Pradesh Legal Aid Cell strives to arrange for immediate release on personal bonds, he said.
Pastor Surendra Vanwasi of Jeevan Marg Trust was leading Sunday worship at a home church in Karubir village, Mau District on Nov. 17 when police arrived and took him into custody. The station house officer at Chirraiyakot Police Station “was rash and adamant,” Jaiswar said.
“Tens of requests were put before the higher ranked police officials, and only then the SHO agreed to release Pastor Vanwasi,” he said. “In the guise of enquiry police had detained him, but thankfully no charges were filed.”
Similar case of detention was reported in Mirzapur District on the same day. A church leader identified only as Pastor Khaiya from Mizoram state was invited to Uttar Pradesh to deliver a message to a congregation in Mirzapur. By noon, a mob of upper-caste Hindus and Hindu extremists had surrounded the venue, Jaiswar said.
“They slapped Pastor Khaiya and handed him to police,” he said. “When we reached Jamalpur police station, the local believers informed us that Pastor Khaiya was taken to police station like a criminal. It is a Naxalite [Maoist rebel]-belt area, and the police station in Jamalpur is specially equipped to torture Naxal suspects. The police had locked up Khaiya in an underground cell.”
The ADF team used social media and called higher officials in the district in attempts to win immediate release, he said.
“The situation turned tense as the upper-caste leaders and Hindu extremists insisted the police officers level serious allegations of forced religious conversions under stringent sections of the Indian Penal Code,” Jaiswar said. “By later that evening, the SHO had finally agreed to release Pastor Khaiya on personal bail. We were forced to give it in writing that he would not be involved in any conversion activity in future.”
Youth Pastors Jailed
Youth pastors Om Prakash, 23, and Ajay Kumar, 20, were leading a worship service at the home of Kapildev Ram in Daraura village on Nov. 25 when the village president intruded into the house and ordered the Christians to stop, sources said.
“Ram’s sons did not allow the village president and his aides to attack the youth pastors,” the youth workers’ trainer, identified only as Pastor Ramjit, told Morning Star News. “They stood as defense and did not let the person touch the pastors. This made him angry, and he went and brought the police force with him and got the pastors and also Ram arrested.”
The youth ministry sends workers to 30 village house churches in four districts in Uttar Pradesh on weekdays. Leaders had sent Prakash and Kumar to Daraura village on Nov. 25, and the next day Ranipur police registered an FIR against them and Ram alleging promotion of enmity between religious groups, deliberately hurting religious sentiments, inducement by rendering an object of divine displeasure and other charges.
Lower court and District Sessions judges rejected their bail pleas. ADF-India’s attorneys have filed a bail petition in the High Court at Allahabad.
Ranipur Station House Officer Ashok Kumar Yadav noted in the Hindi-language case diary that neighbors were disturbed when the mob formed at Ram’s home.
“Our police team had reached it on time and urged them to disperse immediately,” Yadav wrote. “As our attempts to restore peace in the area had failed, we had to arrest the pastors to bring the situation under control.”
Pastor Ramjit said the youth pastors are facing mistreatment from heavy brutes in the district prison.
“When I visited them last week, they told me that under-trial prisoners in murder cases had put up fight and abused our boys in filthy language,” Pastor Ramji told Morning Star News. “They seem very frightened. Both their marriages have been set for summer, and their fiancées and families have been waiting for their release.”
‘You May Arrest Me’
When a mob of no fewer than 60 Hindu nationalists armed with hockey sticks stormed into a Christian’s home in Ghaziabad city, which straddles both Uttar Pradesh state and Delhi National Capital Region, and beat the homeowner and the pastor leading a Bible study, officers from Loni police station took both Christians into custody.
The assailants also vandalized the homeowner’s furniture, said Sanjay Mcgee of Indian Christian Assembly (Bharatiya Masih Mahasabha).
As it was late at night, Christians feared police would hold pastor Jagdish Marotiya and the homeowner overnight and charge them in the morning, Mcgee said. A Christian leader from the Delhi National Capital Region, Minakshi Singh, rushed to the police station and was there until midnight trying to persuade officers not to be misled by Hindu extremists.
“We had enough evidence of videos and photographs of the destruction the armed men had caused, and I was trying to reason with the officials as to why had not they taken any action against the assailants, and why the victims had been detained,” Singh told Morning Star News. “The argument went on for a very long time, and finally at midnight the police agreed release the Christians.”
In the area, called Bharat Nagar Society, about 25 Christian families refrained from putting stars outside their homes during Christmas season, terrified that they would be identified as Christians and targeted by Hindu fanatics, Mcgee said.
“When I visited the area on Dec. 3 after the attack on the home, there were security guards everywhere, and they stopped us from entering the colony,” he said. “I asked the guards where were they when a resident’s house was vandalized two days before, but they denied the attack. An elderly female member of the home church there told us that police had threatened [the homeowner’s] family not to pursue a case against the assailants.”
Good Shepherd Church in the Trilokpuri area came under attack a week before. On the second day of a three-day convention the church had organized, Nov. 23, more than 100 members of the Hindu extremist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh surrounded the site chanting, “Go back! Go back!” Singh told Morning Star News.
Higher police officials from the Mayur Vihar station reached the venue and ordered that the gathering must cease in order to restore peace, she said.
“As soon as I received this information, I rushed to Trilokpuri and met the assistant commissioner of police and told him that it is our constitutional right to pray to our God,” she told Morning Star News. “But the police official told me that it is not possible to let you continue Christian prayers, saying, ‘Who will take responsibility if the situation turns hostile?’ I told him that I will take the responsibility, ‘You may arrest me, but the convention should go on.”’
After long discussions on Nov. 23 and Nov. 24, police allowed them to continue as long as they refrained from using the sound system, Singh said. More than 200 policemen were deployed, and barricades were installed on four sides of the church building, she said.
“A mob of at least 200 Hindu extremists showed up outside the church premises and were shouting to the top of their lungs, ‘Har Har Mahadev [Shiva is everywhere],” she said. “We told the police that our people would remain calm, and there will not be any problem from our side, and you please control the mob outside the premises.
“By God’s grace, the final day of the convention was a success. The police also had the chance to hear the gospel and joyfully joined us for the meal after the prayer service.”
India is ranked 10th on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2019 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian. The country was 31st in 2013, but its position has been worse each year since Narendra Modi of the Bharatiya Janata Party came to power in 2014.
Kenya (Morning Star News) – Suspected members of Somali Islamic extremist group Al Shabaab intercepted a bus in northern Kenya on Friday (Dec. 6), separated out those who were not local ethnic Somali Muslims and executed them, sources said.
The Medina Bus Co. vehicle en route from Nairobi to Mandera had 56 people aboard when it was intercepted at 5:30 p.m. between Kutulu and Wargadud in Wajir County, where the population is largely ethnic Somali Kenyans, sources said. A witness who escaped told a Morning Star News contact that the assailants separated out 11 Kenyan workers from the interior (assumed to be Christians) from local residents, assumed to be ethnic Somali Muslims.
“One of the Muslim men gave me Somali attire, and when the separation was being done I went to the side of the Muslims, and immediately we were told to get into the bus,” the survivor told the Morning Star News contact. “As the locals were getting back into the bus, the non-locals who were left behind were fired upon with gunshots.”
The bus was stopped as the workers were returning to their station in Mandera, he said.
“I think the attackers were monitoring our travelling all the way from Nairobi,” he said. “The militants knew that we were not armed.”
Two of the victims were teachers identified as evangelical Christians, but their names were withheld pending official notification of relatives, another source said.
“We have lost two teachers who used to attend our church,” the source from a congregation in northern Kenya (undisclosed for security reasons) told Morning Star News.
A third victim was a doctor who belonged to an Africa Inland Church congregation, the source said, and three others were said to be Roman Catholics. The religious affiliation of five other people killed was yet to be determined at this writing.
Al Shabaab, which is waging war against the government of neighboring Somalia, reportedly took responsibility for the attack, saying victims included “secret security agents and government employees.”
Official information about the attack was inconsistent. Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said in a statement that several police officers were among eight people killed, and a police source told Agence France-Presse that seven of a total of 10 people killed were officers.
Al Shabaab, which is allied with Al Qaeda, or Al Shabaab sympathizers have killed several non-local people in northern Kenya since 2011, when Kenyan forces led an African coalition into Somalia against the rebels in response to terrorist attacks on tourists and others on Kenya’s coast.
Al Shabaab militants were suspected in the killing of two Christian teachers on Oct. 10, 2018.
On April 2, 2015, 148 people at Garissa University College lost their lives in an attack by Al Shabaab, and several attacks on churches and Christians have taken place in Garissa, also in northern Kenya.
Somalia’s constitution establishes Islam as the state religion and prohibits the propagation of any other religion, according to the U.S. State Department. It also requires that laws comply with sharia (Islamic law) principles, with no exceptions in application for non-Muslims.
Somalia is ranked 3rd on Christian support group Open Doors’ 2019 World Watch List of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian; Kenya is ranked 40th.
No relief for Nigerian Christians subjected to continuous Muslim Fulani brutality.
(Morning Star News) – Muslim Fulani herdsmen killed a Pentecostal pastor and abducted a Baptist pastor in a spate of kidnappings this month in Kaduna state, Nigeria, sources said.
“The herdsmen, about 20 of them, shot into our house and broke the doors of the house,” said Emmanuel Noma, who along with his father, 60-year-old pastor Elisha Noma, was kidnapped at 1 a.m. on Aug. 14. “They forced us out of the house at gunpoint and took us away. After two hours they released me, with the demand that I should go and raise 20 million naira [US$55,155] for them before they will release my father or else he would be killed.”
The Rev. Joseph Hayap, chairman of the Kaduna State Chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), confirmed the kidnapping of Pastor Noma, of Nagarta Baptist Church in Makiri, Kaduna state, in north-central Nigeria. Pastor Hayap said the kidnappers have reduced their ransom demand from the original 20 million naira.
“The kidnapping herdsmen are now asking for 7 million naira [US$19,304], but we are still negotiating,” said Pastor Hayap, a Baptist.
Two weeks earlier, Fulani herdsmen killed pastor Jeremiah Omolewa of Living Faith Church in the Romi New Extension area of the city of Kaduna and kidnapped his wife, a church source told Morning Star News. Attacked on Aug. 4 along the Kaduna-Abuja highway on their way to Abuja, he was killed when the herdsmen shot at their car after the pastor finished leading three services at his church, the source said.
Pastor Omolewa’s wife was released after the church paid 3 million naira (US$8,273) to the herdsmen as ransom, the source said. A press statement from the church reported that the ransom was paid after negotiations with the herdsmen brought the amount down from 10 million naira (US$27,577). She was released on the Aug. 8 at about 10 p.m.
Kaduna State CAN Chairman Hayap told Morning Star News that she was recovered along the Kaduna-Abuja Highway.
“When she was with the kidnappers, she didn’t know that her husband had died,” Pastor Hayap said.
The day she was released, another group of herdsmen attacked a Roman Catholic parish in Kasuwan Magani, a town south of the city of Kaduna. A security guard was killed as the parish priest at St. Luke’s Catholic Church, the Rev. Joseph Kato Kwassau, escaped.
About 20 armed herdsmen arrived at the premises in a mini-van, according to a church press statement.
“They were armed with guns and other dangerous weapons,” it read.
Kwassau told Morning Star News by phone that the attack took place at about midnight, when only he and the church guard were in their living quarters on the premises.
Kidnapping is rampant in Nigeria. Hayap said more than 500 Christians have been kidnapped in Kaduna state in the past four years. Churches have paid about 300 million Naira (US$827,321) to Muslim Fulani Herdsmen to ransom them, he said.
“We as the church, the body of Christ, have found ourselves in a very bad situation in Kaduna state,” he said. “Pastors and church members are being kidnapped, and huge sums of money are being demanded, and nothing has been done by Nigeria government to halt the situation.”
Hayap appealed to the Nigerian government to urgently take measures to bring to an end to attacks on Christians and churches in Kaduna state and across the country.
Kwassau of St. Luke’s, who is also a dean of Rimau Deanery of the Catholic Archdiocese of Kaduna, said that the Christian community at Kasuwan Magani has been under attack from herdsmen and local Muslims for some time. Hayap concurred that Christians in Kasuwan Magani have been attacked various times by herdsmen.
“As I speak to you, a daughter of a Baptist pastor in the area of Kasuwan Magani is under the captivity of the herdsmen,” Hayap said. “So we are really concerned that Christians and their pastors in Kaduna State are no longer safe.”
Nigeria ranked 12th on Open Doors’ 2019 World Watch List of countries where Christians suffer the most persecution.
Please keep our Nigerian brothers and sisters in your prayers.
Nigeria (Morning Star News) – Suspected Muslim Fulani herdsmen ambushed and killed a 26-year-old Catholic on Thursday (May 2) in north-central Nigeria and two other Christians in the same manner on April 27, sources said.
After a herdsmen assault in March 2018 that left 27 Christians dead in the predominantly Christian community of Dong village north of Jos, assailants on Thursday (May 2) killed David Musa, 26, at 5:25 p.m., said Nuhu Ako, 42-year-old Christian youth leader at the area’s St. Monica’s Catholic Church.
“We heard the sound of gunshots around the stream west of Dong village, where you’re now talking to us,” Ako told Mornning Star News. “We rushed there to find out what happened and found again the killing of a member of our community.”
As Muslim Fulani herdsmen have been attacking Dong and Nzehrivoh villages for two years, Ako and other Christians suspect they are behind the slaying of Musa and the April 27 killing of Sunday Adi, 45, and Jonathan Joseph, 29, at 7:25 p.m. on that Saturday.
“We were returning to Dong village after the day’s work at Nzerivoh village, our former village where we were displaced last year, and we heard gunshots,” he said. “We decided not to proceed with our movement and remained where we were. A few moments afterwards, two people riding on a motorbike came to where we were and told us that they saw two corpses not far from the spot where were standing.”
The Christians went to the site and found the two bodies, he said.
“We immediately phoned soldiers of the Special Task Force (STF) and informed them about our findings,” he told Morning Star News. ‘They told us to wait for them at the spot. We waited for them and they never showed up. We left the spot and returned to our homes at Dong, until the following morning, which was Sunday, 28 April, before the soldiers came to the spot and left without picking the two corpses.”
Adi, member of a Catholic church, was buried in the now desolate Nzehrivoh village. Joseph, a member of the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA), was buried in Dong village, Ako said.
He said armed Fulani herdsmen have been attacking Christian residents of Dong and Nzehrivoh villages for the past two years for no reason.
“We are farmers and have not been able to continue with our vocation because of these attacks,” he said. “We and our elders and church leaders have met several times with these herdsmen to understand what is prompting them to attack us without finding any real reason for such acts against us.”
Herdsmen leaders have often assured villagers that “they would impress it on their people to end such attacks on us, but it appears they only do this in order to perfect their plans to attack us the more,” he said.
The herdsmen have destroyed Nzehrivoh village, west of Dong, Ako said.
“The destruction of our houses was carried out right in the presence of soldiers who were brought to the village to protect us,” he said. “Instead, we have been forced to escape to Dong community, and here, too, the herdsmen are now attacking this community. We do not know where to run to since the whole of this area is under attack.”
On April 29 soldiers stationed in Nzehrivoh were evacuated, and the following morning, herdsmen went to the village and burned down the few houses remaining there, he said.
Kadzai Prince Peter, a Catholic catechist of St. Augustine’s church in Jos, said Christians have tried to forestall attacks by welcoming the Fulani herdsmen.
“We have tried to embrace all these Fulani people, to live with them,” Peter told Morning Star News. “We’ve been kind to them; we gave them our land to stay on and to graze their cattle. Unfortunately, they’ve been killing our members.”
His parish in Nzehrivoh has been destroyed and parishioners displaced by the herdsmen, he said.
“The way they attack us is terribly bad,” he said. “We tried to make peace with them, but this has not worked as they keep attacking us. They still kill our members. So, we don’t know what else to do.
“We as Christians see the herdsmen as our brothers and cannot send them away; but, unfortunately, these Fulani herdsmen do not appreciate our hospitality and are killing us and forcing us out of our lands. We just buried one of our members killed by the herdsmen a moment ago.”
Silas Jacob, a 42-year-old Catholic catchiest whose parish was in Nzehrivoh before the village was destroyed, said attacks on the community began on Oct. 13, 2017, killing some and displacing others.
“The Fulani herdsmen attacked us at about 9 pm and killed many of my members,” he said. “Those of us who survived the attack took refuge here at Dong village. After soldiers were brought to Nzehrivoh, we returned there, but in March 2018, again the herdsmen attacked us; this is even with the presence of soldiers in Nzehrivoh village.”
His parishioner returned to Dong, Jacob said.
“Then last Saturday [April 27], the herdsmen ambushed two of our people and killed them,” he said. “And just while we were still mourning the two, one of us was again killed yesterday [May 2] in an ambush again by the herdsmen. This is very disheartening. These attacks on us are being carried out in the presence of soldiers, and yet the Nigerian government has not done anything to end these unprovoked attacks on us.”
Church members have not ceased praying and thanking God for His mercies and protection, Jacob added.
“We use this opportunity to covet prayers of other Christians and also call for support from those who are led by the Holy Spirit to do so,” he said. ‘We have parishioners who have no places to sleep, food to eat, and even medical supplies for health needs. Truly, those of us who have survived these attacks are suffering.”
The government needs to take urgent steps toward finding a lasting, peaceful solution, Jacob said.
“We want a peaceful coexistence in this country, because it is only in doing this that development can take place,” he said. “The Fulani have deliberately been grazing their cattle on farms of Christians, and when these Christian farmers complain about such behavior, they are attacked by the herdsmen. This is not proper.”
The Catholic leaders said the attacks on Nzherivo village in 2017 and 2018 displaced entire congregations from six churches: ECWA Church, St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, Church of Christ in Nigeria (COCIN), Assembly of God Church, Anglican Church and a Seventh-day Adventist Church.
The church leaders pleaded for assistance to enable the them rebuild even one worship hall that would give them a place to pray and worship irrespective of denominational differences.
Nigeria ranked 12th on Open Doors’ 2019 World Watch List of countries where Christians suffer the most persecution.
(Morning Star News) – Muslim Fulani herdsmen attacked two predominantly Christian villages in north-central Nigeria after beating, raping and killing a 19-year-old Christian woman in the pre-dawn hours on Saturday (March 23), her father said.
Danlami Mante told Morning Star News that armed Muslim Fulani herdsmen ambushed Joy Danlami and her two younger siblings as they were returning to Mante village, Nasarawa state, at about 2 a.m. after the Christians attended a community feast in Katanza village, Akwanga County. His younger daughter, 16-year-old Patience Danlami, and 14-year-old son, Aboy Danlami, escaped with gunshot and machete wounds, he said.
“The armed herdsmen chased them with dangerous weapons,” Mante told Morning Star News. “Joy’s nose and face was battered, and then she was sexually assaulted by the herdsmen before being killed. She was shot.”
After the ambush, the herdsmen proceeded to the family’s native Mante village, where they burned down 17 houses, he said. They then rampaged through Nidan village, burning another 11 homes. They also burned two Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) buildings and two belonging to the Evangelical Reformed Church of Christ (ERCC) in the two villages, Mante said. His family belongs to the local ERCC congregation.
Hundreds of Christians displaced in the attacks have taken refuge in Akwanga town.
Pastor Samson Gamu Yare, leader of the Mada ethnic group in Nasarawa state, confirmed the attacks to Morning Star News by phone and appealed to security agencies to send personnel to the area. A resident of Akwanga town, Yare urged the federal government make urgent efforts to stem the tide of herdsmen attacks.
“We are faced with the burden of caring for those who fled the two villages in order to escape from the herdsmen carnage,” Yare told Morning Star News.
Samuel Meshi, chairman of the Akwanga Local Government Council, said by phone that officials are making efforts to assist the displaced villagers.
“We have informed the Nasarawa state government about the incident, and hopefully relief materials would be made available to those displaced in the attacks,” Meshi said.
Christians make up 51.3 percent of Nigeria’s population, while Muslims living primarily in the north and middle belt account for 45 percent.
Nigeria ranked 12th on Open Doors’ 2019 World Watch List of countries where Christians suffer the most persecution.
A spate of attacks on Christian communities in Nigeria last weekend left 45 dead and several more injured.
The attacks took place in five villages in the Kauru Local Government Area, in the Middle Belt state of Kaduna – an area mostly populated by Christians, on Sunday 13 November.
Most of the victims were women, children and the elderly, who could not escape the gunfire of the attackers, believed to be Fulani herdsmen. One hundred and twenty houses, including eight house-churches, were burnt down.
A resident of Kitakum (one of the villages), Samuel Adamu, told World Watch Monitor the attackers came at around 7pm local time.
“They laid siege to the village before they started shooting sporadically and throwing explosives at our homes,” he said. “They were armed with guns, knives, machetes and explosives.
“They slaughtered [and] butchered women, children and old people who could not escape.”
Adamu accused the government of failing to stop the persistent attacks that have claimed hundreds of lives in southern Kaduna.
The attacks came a day after the Fulani herdsmen and indigenous communities in Kauru and neighbouring Local Government Areas resolved to live at peace with each other.
That peace-deal ceremony, held in Samaru Kataf, was attended by Kaduna Governor Nasir El -Rufai, who commended the communities and assured that his administration was determined to ensure security of lives and property.
In reaction to the 13 Nov. killings, the state government’s statement condemned the “barbaric” attacks, saying they would not derail ongoing efforts at peace-building in southern Kaduna.
The Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) is the main church organisation in Kaduna (950 churches, over 2 million members) and most of the victims were ECWA members. Its Chairman for Kaduna State, at a news conference (16 Nov.), blamed the ongoing violence on a quest for grazing reserves.
“We have come to the unfortunate conclusion that the announced intention of the Kaduna State Government – to re-create existing cattle grazing reserves in southern Kaduna – serves as a major motivation for the renewed ethno-religious violence and cleansing currently being visited on southern Kaduna communities,” said Rev. Zachariah Gado.
He also said last week’s donation by the Kaduna state governor for the reconstruction of churches destroyed during the attacks was a misplaced priority, saying that the money should have been given to security agencies.
“As perpetrators continue to evade consequences for their illegal and violent actions, impunity and lawlessness are becoming entrenched, to the detriment of the entire state,” he said. “Since the violent aftermath of the 2011 Presidential election, there have been increasing indications of the existence of a desperate, well-funded, organised and executed campaign not only to make life unbearable for the entire southern Kaduna territory through threats, intimidation and psychological warfare, but also to occupy the land through what can only be described as ethno-religious cleansing by Fulani herdsmen militia.”
Since March 2013, at least 180 have been killed and 10,000 displaced, while hundreds of properties, including dozens of churches, have been burnt down. Some 16 villages have been overrun by Fulani, who are now fully settled with their cattle and families, noted Gado.
He appealed to both the State and Federal governments to restore all communities taken over by herdsmen to the rightful owners, saying that failure to do so will only encourage further lawlessness.
Zachariah Gado also reiterated his calls for the establishment of a military base in southern Kaduna, to end the killings.
Timeline of recent attacks by Fulani Herdsmen: May-Nov 2016
45 killed, 120 houses, including eight house-churches, burnt down, as Fulani herdsmen laid siege to five villages (Kigam, Kitakum, Unguwan Magaji , Unguwan Rimi and Kizipi), all in Kauru Local Government Area, about 300km east of Kaduna.
Attacks on Misisi village (Kaninkon Chiefdom): seven killed, including the village head, 26 houses burnt down. Also, attacks on Pasakori (3km from Misisi): two killed and 16 houses burnt down.
Godogodo: over 300 militiamen laid siege to the town. The killings and arson continued into 16 October and left 30 dead, 27,819 displaced, 326 injured and 326 homes burnt down, including seven churches. Properties estimated to be worth thousands of dollars were looted and destroyed.
Godogodo: seven killed as Fulani militia attacked the town (where thousands forcibly displaced from surrounding communities have sought refuge). The next day, an attempted raid was repelled by local vigilantes and security forces.
Akwa: two killed, 20 buildings burnt down, including churches.
Golgofa: nine killed and the entire town razed to ashes.
Unguwar Anjo village (estimated population 3,500) burnt down. A pastor and a community leader killed among others, two churches, including lots of materials, destroyed.
Ninte: the entire village burnt down, including three churches, three vehicles and foodstuffs.
Unguwan Kafinta, Dangwa villages attacked: five killed and 298 properties destroyed.
VOP Note: Earlier this year, concerns were raised that the Fulani could be the greatest threat to Nigerian Christians and the security of Nigeria as a whole. Church leaders say attacks on Christian communities by the herdsmen constitute “a war by Islam to eliminate Christianity” in Nigeria. Last year, President Muhammadu Buhari was elected for his promises to stop the murderous onslaughts by ‘terrorists’ and bring peace back to Nigeria. But a year later, many Nigerians have expressed their disappointment and distrust towards their new president. He’s now being accused of turning a blind eye to the Fulani attacks. Buhari comes from the Katsina State of Daura and is of the Fulani ethnic group.
(World Watch Monitor) In Waku, Benue State, one of the numerous villages in Nigeria’s ‘Middle Belt’ displaced by Hausa-Fulani Muslim herdsmen, on 18 August a small frightened calf was tied to a stake by a group of Christian villagers. The angry mob was waiting for the arrival of its owners, herdsmen who’d destroyed a farm belonging to a Christian, shortly before he could harvest his produce. It was a strategy that could subdue the herdsmen, who have a traditional sentimental attachment to the protection of tender calves: they would come to pick it up. Sure enough, within hours, the herdsmen who owned the calf arrived; and if not for the intervention of some community elders, the angry mob would have attacked the herdsmen. A local war and violent conflict was suspended but not averted.
These kind of incidents are very common, as the Hausa-Fulani Muslim herdsmen’s attacks continue unabated across central, and now into southern, Nigeria. The reasons for the continuity of these attacks are not far-fetched. At the height of the Boko Haram violent conflict in 2011, the Hausa-Fulani Muslim herdsmen took advantage of the ‘conflict environment’ to launch attacks against Christian communities, particularly in the Middle Belt region of Nigeria, with the purpose of conquering the territory.
Shortly before the 2015 general elections, these herdsmen’s attacks increased tremendously, affecting some of the north central states, especially Taraba, Benue, Nasarawa, Plateau and Kaduna. Over the past five years, official figures* show that thousands of Christians have been killed and at least a million others displaced. The intervention of the Nigerian government has been slow and haphazard.
In mid-August, the Federal Minister for Agriculture reiterated the need to frame a government policy on the establishment of grazing areas for Fulani herdsmen. Joint meetings between government officials and community elders were held in states such as Benue, Taraba, Kaduna and Plateau – followed by the issuance of communiques calling for more consultation. In Plateau State, which is majority Christian, this prompted a call by the Christian Association of Nigeria against the Federal Reserves’ Grazing Bill that 11 states are said to have agreed to.
However, no attempt was made to address key issues. No herdsmen were held accountable for the atrocities already committed; there was no discussion of prosecution for perpetrators, nor of compensation, nor provision of security for victims. Many communities were left displaced and fearful, without any security. At one point, the government blamed not the herdsmen but displaced Boko Haram fighters, both local and foreign, effectively undermining the reality of attacks perpetrated by the herdsmen against indigenous Christian communities.
This lukewarm attitude of the government means that the conflict has been downplayed and neglected. Equally, national State attention has shifted to the resettlement of Boko Haram victims and, as such, Fulani herdsmen continue to attack unprotected communities with impunity:
1-3 Aug: 17 Christians killed in Godogodo village, Jama’a LGA, Kaduna.
21 Aug: Three Christians killed, including Pastor Luka Ubangari of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), in Anguwan Anjo, Godogodo. Said to have been ambushed and shot during a pastoral visit to Golkofa, a local neighbourhood.
8 Sep: Christian farmer Aondoaka Maka killed at Antsongo Akiki in Jatau village, Bornon Kurkur, Bali LGA, Taraba. Herdsmen destroyed Maka’s farm produce and fed it to their cows. With no authority to appeal to, Maka confronted them and was butchered to death.
Away from the Middle Belt, Fulani attacks have spread from the Middle Belt to the south of Nigeria, a much more strongly Christian area:
25 Aug: Over 50 Fulani herdsmen armed with AK-47 and machetes attacked the community of Ndiagu, Attakwu, Akegbe-Ugwu in Nkanu-West LGA of Enugu state. They beheaded a Catholic seminarian, Lazarus Nwafor, slit open the stomach of a pregnant Christian woman, Mrs Ogbodo Nwarum, and injured several other people.
The consistency of these attacks, including lack of security and government attention, has forced many communities and states to find ways of protecting themselves. For instance, states such as Ekiti, Taraba, Plateau and Benue have rejected the policy of the government to impose grazing areas for Fulani herdsmen because, they say, the herdsmen do not run institutions bound by laws and regulations. They are therefore incapable of enforcing any joint community agreements regarding these grazing fields.
Importantly, in cases where herdsmen have been allocated the most fertile land belonging to farmers who depend on that land, it motivates more herdsmen to carry out attacks, giving legitimacy to their demands, and encourages other movements to adopt violence in securing their requests from the government.
In Benue State, an indigenous group called the Movement Against Fulani Occupation (MAFO) was formed a few years ago. MAFO is a non-violent group committed to creating awareness of the atrocities of the Hausa-Fulani Muslim herdsmen in Benue and beyond. Furthermore, it is intended to influence government policy on preventing Fulani herdsmen from occupying land belonging to indigenous communities. Importantly, it also wants to draw the attention of the international community to the atrocities perpetrated by the herdsmen.
Despite these indigenous efforts, the atrocities of the Hausa-Fulani Muslim herdsmen against Christian communities continue in both central and southern Nigeria. Public opinion among the victims suggests that, as the dominance of Islam continues to grow under the current administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, there seems to be a conspiracy to take over Christian territories. At the moment, many local communities are without protection. Their farm produce has been destroyed, and houses and farmland taken over by the Fulani herdsmen. One way or another, victims will be forced to arm and defend themselves. Without concrete government intervention, the conflict can only be delayed; the atrocities won’t stop.
*Benue State Emergency Management Agency 2014 Report on Internally Displaced People, seen by World Watch Monitor.
Atta Barkindo has almost finished a PhD at SOAS, University of London, UK. This article is based on his recent travels through the Middle Belt states of Nigeria, when he met eyewitnesses of the attacks he refers to. He’s also recently published an article on Boko Haram for the African Research Institute’s ‘Counterpoint’.
Last year, WWM published his detailed report on Fulani violence in the Middle Belt, and in 2014, at the time of the Chibok girls’ kidnap, his report on Boko Haram violence against women and girls since 1999.
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