PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari’s government has been indicted by a report recently put together by a group of British clergymen for persecuting and killing Christians and being one of seven countries that pays scant regard to the security of its adherents.
Earlier this week, the report, authored by the Rt Reverend Philip Mounstephen, the Bishop of Truro in the UK, was submitted to the British Parliament. It studied seven countries including Iraq, Indonesia, China, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Syria and Nigeria and concluded that they were the world capitals for the persecution of Christians.
In the case of Nigeria, the report focused on the killings carried out by Fulani cattle herdsmen in the Middle Belt of the country. According to the report, the unwarranted killings of unarmed Christians by Fulani herdsmen who are often armed with sophisticated weapons has gone unchecked by the government and the security structure in Nigeria appears reluctant to go after the attackers.
It read: “The intensification of conflict in Nigeria in recent years comes at a time when Christians in the country have suffered some of the worst atrocities inflicted on churchgoers anywhere in the world. Since 2009, Boko Haram, the Islamist militant group in allegiance with Daesh Isis extremists in Iraq and Syria, has inflicted mass terror on civilians, killing 20,000 Nigerians, kidnapping thousands and displacing nearly 2m.
“The kidnapping of mostly Christian girls from a school in Chibok north-east Nigeria in April 2014 and the forced conversions to Islam of many of the students, demonstrated the anti-Christian agenda of the militants. Boko Haram’s continued detention of teenager Leah Sharibu, kidnapped in April 2018, showed that the militants were continuing to target Christians.
“The Catholic Church in northeast Nigeria reported in spring 2017 that Boko Haram violence had resulted in damage to 200 churches and chapels, 35 presbyteries and parish centres. At least 1.8m people in northeast Nigeria’s Borno state had been displaced by March 2017, according to Church sources and to this extent, Boko Haram delivered on its March 2012 promise of a war on Christians in Nigeria, in which a spokesman for the militants reportedly declared: “We will create so much effort to end the Christian presence in our push to have a proper Islamic state that the Christians won’t be able to stay.”
According to the report, by 2017 Boko Haram had carried out a genocide against Christians in northern Nigeria and by that time, a new and growing threat to mainly Christian farming communities had emerged from nomadic Fulani herdsmen. It added that there have thus been retaliatory attacks against Fulani by predominantly Christian farmers, such as the November 2016 killing of about 50 mainly Fulani pastoralists by ethnic Bachama local residents in Numan district, Adamawa state.
Furthermore, the report pointed out that the conflict cannot simply be seen in terms of religion, although the religious dimension is a significantly exacerbating factor, as the Fulani attacks have repeatedly demonstrated a clear intent to target Christians and potent symbols of Christian identity. This was evidenced, for example, by the April 2018 murder of two priests and 17 Christians during an early morning mass at St Ignatius Catholic Church, Mblaom, in Benue State.