Christians Reach Breaking Point in Central Nigeria
Islamist Fulani militia have been carrying out a ruthless set of strategic attacks to drive indigenous Christian communities out of the Middle Belt of Nigeria. Since 2009 between 13000 and 19000 people have been killed, 3000 alone in the first six months of this year.
In the run up to the International Ministerial Conference on Freedom of Religion and Belief in London (July 5 and 6) Baroness Caroline Cox, the Founder President of Humanitarian Aid and Relief Trust (HART) and Canon Hassan John from Nigeria, who broke the story of the abduction of the 276 Chibok girls in 2014, reported on their recent visit to scenes of these atrocities earlier in the Spring. Over 60 participants heard them address a zoom meeting of the Nigeria group of the UK Forum on Freedom of Religion and Belief entitled ‘Breaking Point in Central Nigeria’ on June 29, including the Prime Minister’s Envoy on Freedom of Religion, Fiona Bruce MP.
Such militia use sophisticated military equipment such as night vision goggles and guns with laser guided sights. Their attacks are ignored by Nigerian armed forces who have checkpoints everywhere. In some cases the attackers are abetted by helicopter gunships. But no investigation of the army or air force has taken place. It was claimed that senior figures in the Nigerian Government collaborate in the attacks.
The militia send messages to villages to convert to Islam or pay a ransom. These ransoms have amounted to over £1.2 million over the years. But then they attack the villages anyway, drive out the inhabitants, and settle their cattle herds in the villages which they rename.
While attacks by Boko Haram and the Islamic State in Northern Nigeria are reported in western media, this ethnic cleansing or even genocide amounting to a religious jihad has been ignored and described as a tit-for-tat conflict due to issues of climate change between settled farmers and nomadic herdsmen. Nigerian journalists who report this religious persecution for what it is have been imprisoned.
Western Governments are complicit. The UK and USA train the Nigerian Army and the United States has removed Nigeria from its list of countries nations guilty of particularly severe violations of religious freedom.
To address this situation, HART sponsors 4×4 vehicles to take schooling to almost 2000 children displaced from 25 villages and plans to deploy more to reach 1500 children more. Ayo Adedoyin, the CEO of the International Association for Peace and Social Justice called for the sleeping giant of the Nigerian Diaspora in the UK to join with others to write to their MPs (on https://psjuk.org/contact-your-mp/). They also called for Nigeria to be replaced on the USA list of countries of particular concern, and for sanctions to be placed on the Government of Nigeria.
An edited version appeared in the Church of England Newspaper July 8th 2022