At least 22 Christians murdered, 2,000 displaced in three-days of Fulani militant violence

At least 22 Christians murdered, 2,000 displaced in three-days of Fulani militant violence

At least 22 Christians were killed and more than 2,000 displaced during three days of attacks by Fulani militants on villages in the predominantly-Christian Gora ward of Kaduna state, Nigeria, from 10 to 12 July.

The onslaught escalated in multiple attacks despite the presence of increased security personnel drafted in to enforce a 24-hour curfew imposed following previous attacks in the area.

A community in Kaduna State hold a funeral for 17 Christian villagers murdered in an attack by Fulani militants in May 2020. Scenes like these are sadly becoming familiar as Fulani attacks surge in Nigeria’s Middle Belt

The first of the murderous raids began in the early hours of Friday 10 July, when the militants invaded the Chibob farming community, killing nine villagers, mostly women and children. Seven were injured and 20 houses burned before the militants made off with animals and food stocks.

Neighbouring Kigudu village was attacked the following day, when ten women, a baby and an elderly man were burnt to death in a house where they had taken refuge. Another seven villagers were injured and four houses burnt out.

On Sunday 12 July, the entire village of Anguwan Audu was razed when Fulani militants attacked, killing one person and injuring three others. 

The attacks were described as “barbaric” by the Southern Kaduna People’s Union, which estimates that around 2,000 people fled the area as a result, taking refuge in IDP (internally displaced people) camps. “Over 3,000 are currently in those camps, creating a dire need for support,” said a union spokesman.

Widowed Christian, Bilkisu James, is receiving hospital treatment after being shot during the attack on Chibob, in which seven people in her household, including two of her children, died. 

“The Fulani came in and were shooting. They killed two of my children,” said Bilkisu, as she described her appalling ordeal to Barnabas. The militant hacked another five of Bilkisu’s relatives to death with machetes including a mother and her baby daughter and a mother and her two sons.  

“I heard them light the match and set the house on fire. We were lucky. It was more of smoke, which I was able to survive,” she continued.

“Before I was shot, I saw the Fulani man who is my neighbour, he even identified me. I surrendered to him on my knees,” Bilkisu explained. Her assailants then shot at her chest and back simultaneously and she fell to the floor. “As I lay there, I heard my daughter say she is dying,” she said. 

Fulani attacks on Christian communities in Nigeria’s Middle Belt have increased during the Covid-19 lockdown as extremists exploited the facts that the authorities diverted security resources to combatting the virus and that villagers, forced to stay at home, became sitting targets. In May, more than 20 Christians were killed in four days of Fulani militant attacks in the Kajuru Local Government Area, Kaduna State.

From Barnabas Fund contacts

Source: Barnabas Fund



Pray for new Govt freedom of religion group to change hearts and minds, says Bishop of Truro

by Cara Bentley

A new group, which will meet throughout the year to discuss the progress of freedom of religion in the world, needs prayer according to its Chair. 

The Government is commissioning a UK Freedom of Religion and Belief Forum “to ensure that the UK plays a leading role in global efforts to advance religious freedom or belief around the world”. 

The Forum is due to start in September and will raise awareness of religious intolerance and discrimination across the globe. 

The Bishop of Truro, Rt Rev Philip Mounstephen, who wrote the report of the the Foreign Office’s response to Christian persecution last year, will chair the forum and told Premier this will need prayer as much as the report did. 

“I honestly believe that it was only through the prayers of God’s people that we managed to land the report in the way that we did. I have to say, with days to go before we were due to deliver it, I was very uncertain, I thought we might end up with considerable amounts of egg on our face but we didn’t. We delivered something that was substantial. 

“But that wasn’t the end of it, then the Foreign Office said they’d accept the recommendations in full and then the Government as a whole said they’d accept the recommendations in full and that again, I think, was an answer to prayer. That was a result of a lot of people getting on their knees and asking for God’s favour and God’s help with this. There was a following wind of the Spirit and I’d just encourage people to continue to pray that the wind of the Spirit blows and fills the sails of this initiative and gives it some reach and the ability to change hearts and minds where they need to be changed.”

The Freedom of Religion and Belief (FoRB) forum will have other faith leaders on it, as well as non-faith representatives from Humanists UK, as it will aim to protect the rights of people not to have a religion nor be forcibly converted as well. 

The group will have regular roundtable meetings and Bishop Philip will lead it for the first year, after which he doesn’t want it to be “seen as a Christian initiative or an Anglican initiative.” It will also check the Government’s progress on the report recommendations after three years. 

Eleven out of the 22 recommendations have been enacted or are in the process of being so according to the Foreign Office and the bishop praised Rehman Chishti MP, the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy, saying he “has really approached this with a significant amount of energy and commitment, and he’s been doing a lot of networking with international partners on it.”

Speaking of what he would like the group to acheive, he said: “The report said that this needs to be put front and centre of the UK’s approach to foreign policy and one of the implications of that is saying ‘we will not do trade at any price, we will call out abuses even if that is costly for us to do so’. And that’s a big ask and I really salute the Government for being willing to take that on and to say there are values that we hold as a country that a non-negotiable, and that’s absolutely right.”

Source: Premier



Christian families flee Indian village under threats of rape, murder after prayer house attacked by mob

DELHI, INDIA – MAY 05: An Indian man walks outside a deserted church, as India remains under an unprecedented extended lockdown over the highly contagious coronavirus (COVID-19) on May 05, 2020 in Delhi, India. The death toll in India due to coronavirus stands at 1,583 as the country reels under an extended lockdown which was eased beginning Monday with relaxations such as opening of standalone shops. (Photo by Yawar Nazir/Getty Images)

Christian families in India have been forced to flee their homes following a series of mob attacks against a Christian prayer house and threats that if they didn’t leave the village, they would be raped and murdered.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide, a United Kingdom-based human rights group that works in over 20 countries, is decrying the mistreatment of a small Christian community in the Dassmora village of the Azamgarh district in the Uttar Pradesh state. 

According to the nonprofit, two Christian families from the village fled their homes on Saturday and left behind their livestock after a string of attacks in the days prior carried out by groups of suspected Hindu radicals in the village. 

A local source told the NGO that Christians in the village first faced harassment last Thursday when a mob of about 35 villagers entered the prayer house — built in 2018 and said to be used by hundreds of Christians — and verbally abused those who were present at the time. 

The next day, another mob of people is said to have broken into the prayer house, assaulted Pastor Vikas Gupta and ransacked the property. 

According to CSW and also reported by LiCAS.news (a news outlet staffed entirely by lay-people across Asia that supports the mission of the Catholic Church) is the claim that the mob threatened to rape and murder those who gathered at the prayer house. 

The mob also reportedly threatened to burn down the prayer house if the Christians didn’t leave the village. According to the reports, Gupta was dragged to a local temple shrine last Friday and ordered to bow before an idol. 

Then on Saturday, another mob was said to have torn down the walls of the prayer house and destroyed the windows and doors. Also, the mob is said to have destroyed a motorcycle. 

After Saturday’s attack the Christian community notified police, CSW reports. 

In response, the police reportedly arrested men connected with the mob attack, according to a local source that spoke with CSW. However, dozens of people went to the police station to pressure authorities to release the arrested men. According to sources who spoke with LiCAS.news, the mob at the police station was led by the village head. 

The pressure resulted in the men being released.

“The police buckled under pressure and released those it had arrested earlier,” Gupta, 21, was quoted as telling the news outlet. 

Gupta said that the communal anger against him and other Christians grew after the men were released from prison, which resulted in another and more severe attack. 

“When we saw no other option, we fled from the village, leaving behind our houses, household and livestock,” they explained. “We have now become like refugees.”

According to CSW, two of the Christian families living in Dassmora initially took shelter inside the police station before fleeing to another undisclosed location. 

“We are deeply concerned by the repeated attacks these families have had to endure,” CSW Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said in a statement. “They have lost both their livelihood, and their fundamental freedom to worship. We urge local police to properly investigate the matter and bring the perpetrators to justice. We call on the authorities to take corrective measures to ensure these families are able to resume their way of life and support the faith of other Christians in the surrounding villages.” 

Patsy David, who works with the nonprofit advocacy group Alliance Defending Freedom India, told LiCAS.news that there are over 15 people in the targetted families who were forced to flee the village. 

According to David, those families had recently moved to the village and began holding prayers services in their homes, which drew the attention of the other locals. 

“There is a community called Raj Bhars living in the village and a few people from this community got inspired from the message of Christ and began attending the prayer services out of curiosity,” David explained. “This angered the village locals who accused the Christian families of forcefully converting people there.”

Attacks against Christians and other religious minorities in India carried out by Hindu nationalist radicals have become all too common in India in recent years.

Open Doors USA, a religious freedom monitoring group that operates in 60 countries, ranks India as the 10th worst country in the world when it comes to Christian persecution. 

Open Doors notes that incidents of persecution against Christians in India have increased since the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party took power in 2014. Open Doors warns that Hindu radicals “often attack Christians with little to no consequences.”

“The view of the Hindu nationalists is that to be Indian is to be Hindu, so any other faith — including Christianity — is viewed as non-Indian,” an Open Doors fact sheet on India reads. 

International Christian Concern, another U.S.-based persecution watchdog group, reported this week that a Christian family in the Chhattisgarh state of India was attacked by suspected Hindu nationalists in their home on July 1 for refusing to renounce their faith.

A local source told ICC that a 21-year-old woman and 18-year-old man were seriously injured during the attack in which their home was ransacked and their “land taken away.” 

Tunaviram Markham, who attends church with the family, told ICC that the many people from the village surrounded the family’s house, broke in and beat up family members.

“I came to visit this family when I heard about the attack on Laxman family,” Markham explained. “There was nobody to help; also, the police are not allowing outsiders into the village. It was pathetic to see helplessness (of) the only Christian family.”

Source: The Christian Post



Katsina: The motorcycle bandits terrorising northern Nigeria

Motorcycle-riding armed bandits operating out of abandoned forest reserves are ransacking communities in Nigeria’s north-west.

The groups are the latest to join Nigeria’s lucrative kidnap for ransom industry, and are quite brazen in their operations.

In the last decade more than 8,000 people have been killed in the states of Kebbi, Sokoto, Niger and Zamfara, according to the International Crisis Group.

But recent attacks in the president’s home state of Katsina, where more than 100 people were killed in attacks between April and June, have led to protests and calls for his resignation.

On two separate occasions the bandits targeted villagers who had received food handouts from the government during the coronavirus lockdown.

“They were about 200 on motorbikes, each bike rider carried a passenger and they all carried AK47 guns,” Bashir Kadisau, an eyewitness, told the BBC.

He said he climbed to the top of a tree when he saw the large number of motorcycle riders coming into Kadisau village, and saw the attackers loot shops, steal cattle and grain, and shoot people who were fleeing.

Climate change fuels conflict

The attacks are rooted in decades-long competition over resources between ethnic Fulani herders and farming communities.

The herders are mostly nomadic and can be found on major highways and streets across the country herding their cattle, but they have become involved in deadly clashes with farmers in Nigeria’s north-western and central states.

This is because these areas have suffered massive deforestation, due to the impact of the Sahara Desert spreading south, causing arable farming land to disappear and water to become scarce.

“The persistent clashes led to the formation of armed self-help groups, called vigilantes, by both sides for protection,” security analyst Kabiru Adamu told the BBC.

‘Kidnapping more lucrative than herding cows’

Armed groups within Fulani communities are being accused of resorting to criminality.

“The herders now see kidnapping and pillaging as more lucrative than the herding.

“The biggest cow would go for 200,000 naira but one kidnapping would fetch millions,” Dr Adamu said.

Nigeria’s Fulani herders deny the accusation.

The main Fulani cattle-breeders association, Miyetti Allah (Hausa for Thank You God), said they are the ones mostly affected by the activities of the bandits and that hundreds of their members have been kidnapped. 

“Our cows have been rustled. The bandits are a bunch of criminals comprising all sorts of groups. We have lost 30% of cattle in Nigeria to different types of crises,” Miyetti Allah’s national secretary Baba Othman Ngelzarma told the BBC.

He said the attackers in Nigeria’s north-west were “foreign herders from neighbouring countries”.

Nigeria’s north-west, an area almost the size of the UK, borders Niger and criminal gangs criss-cross between the two countries, evading security.

‘Herders seek revenge’

The borders are porous and the vast forest reserves in the border regions have been turned into operational bases for the bandits. 

Police say the attacks in the north-west are being carried out by criminal gangs, as well as Fulani herdsmen.

“The Fulani herders suddenly realised that they now have arms to protect themselves. But they are not just protecting themselves, they are also going after those who wronged them in the past,” Isah Gambo, police spokesman in Katsina state, told the BBC. 

Media captionInside Nigeria’s kidnap crisis: A 2019 BBC Africa Eye investigation

Kidnapping for ransom is widespread in Nigeria, with victims forced to pay between $20 and $200,000 for their freedom.

At its height in 2017 and 2018, the major road connecting the capital Abuja in central Nigeria to Kaduna in the north-west had 10 kidnappings per day with 20 different groups operating on the route, the police head of a special unit fighting kidnappers, Abba Kyari, told the BBC.

Peace deal with bandits

The governor of Katsina state, Aminu Bello Masari, went into the forest hideout of the bandits last year, negotiating a deal that would see them escape prosecution in exchange for stopping the attacks. 

But he caused shock among many Nigerians when he appeared in a photo standing next to a bandit wielding an AK-47 rifle.

Businessman Nasif Ahmad, who had been kidnapped in Katsina only days before, condemned the governor for making the deal. 

“How can a state government go into a deal with bandits who have no education, have no sympathy or faith and behave like animals,” he said.

Mr Ahmad said he fought off the bandits after they abducted him, and spent the night in the forest.

“I felt very, very bad when I heard about the governor going into a deal with them,” he told the BBC.

Buhari targeted

The governor said at the time that the talks were aimed at ending the “incessant wanton destruction of lives and property”, and were yielding positive results.

But last month, Mr Masari told journalists that the peace deal was off because of continuing attacks. 

“These bandits come to town, spray bullets, kill indiscriminately for no purpose and no reason whatsoever. How can a human being behave the way an animal cannot behave?” he asked.

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Last month’s street protests in Katsina saw angry protesters burn down an old campaign billboard of President Muhammadu Buhari, the clearest indication yet that people in his home state had run out of patience.

Mr Buhari, a retired army general, was elected in 2015 on promises of solving Nigeria’s various security challenges. 

But in his time, a deadly Islamic insurgency has continued to rage in the north-east, while criminal activities, along with the farmer-herder clashes, appear to have escalated in the north-west and central states. 

Nigeria’s military is currently carrying out an operation on the orders of the president to “sweep bandits and kidnappers” out of his home state.

Mr Buhari has also attempted to solve the underlying reasons for the conflict by proposing grazing reserves for the herders. 

But in a country divided along ethnic lines, many powerful state governors refused to buy into the project, accusing the president, a Fulani, of hatching a plan to seize land for his ethnic group.

It is increasingly clear that the lines between the farmer-herder clashes and banditry are becoming more blurred in the north-west, and as the Katsina state governor learned, bandits do not keep their word.

Source: BBC News



Over fifty attacks in six months by Boko Haram go unreported

The Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) has reported that Boko Haram terrorists carried out over “fifty different attacks on different communities between the end of 2019 to June 2020,” most of which were “unreported or under reported by both the print and electronic media.”

In a statement read out on 2 July by EYN National President Reverend Joel Billi during a press conference in Yola Adamawa, the Church also revealed that over 700,000 church members have been displaced, eight pastors and over 8,370 lay people have been killed, and an unknown number of people have been abducted by the terrorist factions. “Only seven out of 60 District Church Councils […] were not directly affected by the insurgency.”

The EYN is the largest Christian denomination in northeast Nigeria, where the Boko Haram factions operate. Consequently, it is the denomination most impacted by terrorist violence. 217 of the 276 school girls abducted from their school in Chibok in April 2014 are EYN members, and over 300 of the denomination’s 586 churches have been either burnt or destroyed, “with uncountable numbers of houses belonging to our members looted or burnt.”

In his Democracy Day speech on 12 June, President Muhammadu Buhari stated that the former inhabitants of local government areas (LGAs) previously overrun by Boko Haram had long since been able to return to them. Describing this assertion as “unfortunate, misleading and demoralizing,” the EYN President clarified that the four EYN District Church Councils (DCCs) which existed in the Gwoza LGA of Borno State prior to the insurgency are no longer there. “There are over 18,000 of our members who are still taking refuge in Minawao, Cameroon. There are also about 7000 of EYN members who are taking refuge in other IDP Camps in Cameroon […].” While some people have returned to Gwoza town and Pulka, “the total number of IDPs in the Cameroon Camps, who are over 95% from Gwoza, is over 47,000.” Additionally, 34 villages in southern Borno and northern Adamawa are currently deserted due to repeated attacks by Boko Haram.

While the statement commends “the renewed zeal” of the security forces in tackling Boko Haram, it also calls on the Federal Government and the State Governments of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa to rescue the remaining Chibok Girls “as matter of urgency,” and appeals to the Federal Government to rescue Leah Sharibu, Alice Ngaddah, “and others abducted by Boko Haram factions.” 

The statement urges President Buhari to deploy “at least a battalion of military to the deserted areas behind the Gwoza Hills” in order to facilitate the return of refugees, and to send “more security personnel to volatile areas to mitigate further attacks.” Other calls are that the government should reconstruct and rehabilitate homes, schools and houses of worship destroyed by the insurgents, and make plans for the return of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) by the end of 2020.

The statement also addresses the high levels of insecurity prevailing throughout the country, urging the government “to live up to its constitutional responsibility” by bringing “the continuous killings, abductions, rape and all forms of criminality” to an end, and to urgently address “the activities of Fulani Militia, Armed Bandits and Kidnappers terrorizing our communities.”  It further implores State and Federal Governments “to ensure that Christian Religious Studies (CRS) is taught in public schools” in northern states where this is not occurring, and the “immediate reversal and correction of the imbalance in most appointments” by the president, which “have always been skewed to favour a particular section and religion.”

CSW’s Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said: “The Boko Haram factions continue to be responsible for the most appalling violence in northeast Nigeria on an almost daily basis. However, aside from particularly appalling incidents that garner international attention, the majority of these attacks go unreported and unnoticed. Both local and international media outlets must do more to report on the violence which is unfolding across Nigeria. We are deeply saddened by the suffering endured by the EYN and its members, and echo its calls on the Nigerian government to take immediate action to mitigate and address attacks by all non-state actors.  We also reiterate our call to Nigeria’s international allies to encourage the government in its efforts to tackle every source of the violence effectively, including by offering technical assistance and humanitarian support to those who have been displaced or otherwise affected.”

Note to editors:

1.       A sample of unreported attacks since December 2019:

·         On 25 December 2019 Boko Haram attacked the Bagajau community in Askira/Uba LGA, Borno State, killing nine Christians. Among them were Damjuda Dalihis, his two children and their friends, who were burnt alive in their room. Other victims included Daniel Wadzani, Ijuptil Chinampi, Jarafu Daniel, Peter Usman, Ahijo Yampaya, Medugu Auta and Waliya Achaba. 

·         On 29 December 2019 18 Christians were abducted following an attack on the Mandaragirau community in Biu LGA, Borno State, in which the church building, primary school and foodstuffs were destroyed. The oldest abductee was Esther Buto, 42, and the youngest was Saraya Musa.

·         On 18 January 2020 Boko Haram attacked Kwaragilum village in Chibok LGA, Borno State, and abducted female EYN members Esther Yakubu, Charity Yakubu, Comfort Ishaya, Deborah Ishaya, Gera Bamzir and Jabbe Numba.

·         On 27 January 2020 the Tur Community of Madagali LGA, Adamawa State, was attacked and the homes of 10 EYN members were looted and burnt.

·         On 2 February 2020 all three EYN Churches were burnt down during an attack on the Leho community of Askira/Uba LGA, Borno State.

·         On 20 February 2020 Boko Haram overran the Tabang community in Askira/Uba LGA, Borno State, abducting a 9-year-old boy, injuring a female EYN member, and burning down the homes of 17 EYN members.

·         On 21 February 2020 the Garkida community, the birthplace of the EYN, was attacked and the first EYN Church was burnt down, along with an Anglican and a Living Faith church building. Additionally, the EYN Brethren College of Health Technology, the EYN Rural Health Department and its vehicles, and prominent Christian homes and shops were looted and burnt, and Mr Emmanuel Bitrus Tarfa was abducted.

·         On 29 February 2020 four Muslims, two Christians and a soldier were killed during an attack on the Rumirgo community in Askira/Uba LGA, Borno State.

·         On 1 March 2020 Boko Haram attacked Rumirgo in Askira/Uba LGA, Borno State, once again, and left with a truck loaded with foodstuffs.

·         On 3 April 2020 Boko Haram attacked Kuburmbula and Kwamtiyahi villages in Chibok LGA, Borno State, burning down 20 homes and abducting and subsequently murdering Meshack John, Mutah Nkeki and Kabu Yakubu.

·         On 5 April 2020 Boko Haram attacked Mussa Bri in Askira/Uba LGA, Borno State, looting and burning Christian-owned shops belonging to Samuel Kambasaya, Yuguda Ijasini and Matiyu Buba.

·         On 7 April 2020 the Wamdeo community in Askira/Uba LGA, Borno State, was overrun by Boko Haram terrorists, who burnt two vehicles, burgled stores and killed five people, including Ndaska Akari, Yunana Maigari and a security guard at the EYN clinic named Pur Thlatiryu.

·         On 6 May 2020 Boko Haram attacked the Debiro, Dakwiama and Tarfa communities in Biu LGA, Borno State, killing Mr Audu Bata, destroying two of the villages along with several houses in Tarfa, and burning down two EYN Churches.

·         On 12 May 2020 Boko Haram once again attacked Mussa Bri in Askira/Uba LGA, Borno State, killing Luka Bitrus and inflicting machete wounds on Mrs Ijaduwa Shaibu.

·         On 30 May 2020 terrorists attempted to annihilate an entire family in Kwabila village in Askira/Uba LGA, Borno State. Dauda Bello, Baba Ya’u and a woman named Kawan Bello were killed, while Aisha Bello, Rufa’i Bello and Amina Bello were hospitalised with injuries sustained during the attack.

·         On 2 June 2020 Boko Haram returned to Kwabila village and killed Bello Saleh, the head of his household, injuring Amina Bello, who died later in hospital.

·         On 7 June 2020 Kidlindila community of Askira/Uba LGA, Borno State witnessed the abduction of woman named Indagju Apagu, while a man named Wana Aboye was injured, a car was stolen, and several houses were looted 

·         On 16 June 2020 Boko Haram attacked Mbulabam in Chibok LGA, Borno State, abducting a young girl named Mary Ishaku Nkeke.  Her brothers Emmanuel and Iliya went missing for three days.

·         On 17 June 2020 Boko Haram attacked the Kautikari community in Chibok LGA, Borno State, killing Mr Yusuf Joel, 30, Mr Musa Dawa, 25, and Mr Jacob Dawa, 35. Five women and girls belonging to  EYN were abducted: Martha Yaga, 22, Mary Filibus, 13, Saratu Saidu, 22, Eli Augustine, 21, and Saratu Yaga, 20.

·         On 22 June 2020 Boko Haram attacked the Kautikari community in Chibok LGA once again, killing Bira Bazam, 48, and Ba Maina Madu, 62; and abducting Laraba Bulama, 20, Hauwa Bulama, 18, and Maryamu Yohanna, 15.  

·         June ended with a terrorist attack on farmers in Nasarawo, Kautikari, Chibok LGA, in which Mr Zaramai Kubirvu, 40, was killed. 

Source: Christian Solidarity Worldwide