A new report from a non-governmental organization claims that more than a thousand Christians were massacred at the hands of Islamic militants in Nigeria in 2019.
The Christian Post reports that the violence is nothing new; nomadic tribes, which are mostly Muslim, have fought with established farmers, who are mainly Christian, for decades. But the new report, compiled by the non-government organizations and violence watchdog, HART, which exists to “support people suffering from conflict and persecution,” says violence has ticked up markedly in recent years. This is the second year in a row, the group says, that more than a thousand Christians have been killed in the African nation.
“Islamist Fulani militia continue to engage in an aggressive and strategic land grabbing policy in Plateau, Benue, Taraba, Southern Kaduna and parts of Bauchi state,” the report says. “They attack rural villages, force villagers off their lands and settle in their place — a strategy that is epitomized by the phrase: ‘your land or your blood.’”
The report does admit that the 1,000 number is likely low. It’s difficult to know exactly how many Christians have been killed because so few Nigerian states keep accurate death records.
“Preliminary data suggests that over 1,000 Christians have been killed since January,” the report says, adding that more than 5,000 Christians have been massacred in the country since 2015. There were at least five “major attacks” in the country in 2019 alone, and one state, Kaduna, accounts for at least half of the casualties. A series of attacks there claimed around 500 lives between January and November, when HART compiled their final report.
Missionaries and human rights activists were sounding the alarm about violence in Kaduna as early as March of 2019, per ABC News.
“From February through mid-March, as many as 280 people in Christian communities in northern and middle Nigeria were killed in attacks,” the media outlet reported back in the spring. “Islamic Hausa-Fulani militants and Boko Haram continue to attack Christians in the country — in 2018, there were thousands killed … Last week, 52 women and children were killed and 100 homes were destroyed in attacks on the Inkirimi and Dogonnoma villages in Maro, Kajuru Local Government Area (LGA), according to the Christian Broadcasting Network.”
“Thousands are displaced after so much violence has forced them to flee their homes. People who survived recent attacks have appeared in photos with machete wounds and burns from fires, according to CSW, an advocacy group supporting Christians worldwide,” ABC News reported.
But, as both The Christian Post and ABC News point out, the final number is hard to quantify, if only because Boko Haram — the radical Islamic group well known for its reign of terror in Nigeria — operates in more rural areas of the country, kidnapping, enslaving, and murdering hundreds over the course of the last half decade.
Although the massacres are significant, HART does say they’ve been largely ignored by the international community and that addressing the issue has become necessary, if not urgent.
Something has to change — urgently,” one activist with first-hand knowledge of the situation on the ground told The Christian Post. “For the longer, we tolerate these massacres, the more we embolden the perpetrators. We give them a ‘green light’ to carry on killing.”