Calls for urgent action as Christian deaths soar in NigeriaBlog
The world needs to "wake up" to what is happening in Nigeria, Release International has said, after reports revealed the horrific death toll among Christians at the hands of jihadists and Fulani militants.
The call from Release, which supports persecuted Christians around the world, follows the release of a report by Nigeria-based NGO Intersociety warning that at least 1,470 Christians were killed in the country in the first four months of this year alone - the highest death toll since 2014.
Another 2,200 Christians were abducted by jihadists in the same period, the report says.
The numbers were calculated using data in reports from the media, government, eye witness accounts and human rights organisations.
At least 800 of the deaths were by Fulani militants, with the NGO dismissing the common assumption that the violence is simply part of a conflict between herders and farmers over natural resources.
Intersociety argues that the attacks have a clear religious dimension, a viewpoint shared by Release International and other Christian NGOs.
The findings suggest that more Christians are being killed in Nigeria than anywhere else in the world.
The US State Department and United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) have both singled out Nigeria as a "country of particular concern" for "tolerating severe violations of religious freedom".
The latest USCIRF report notes recent deadly attacks, including the brutal murder of the local chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in Adamawa State after he refused to renounce his faith, and the execution of five aid workers as a warning to "all those being used by infidels to convert Muslims to Christianity".
Nigerian Minister of Culture Lai Mohammed was quoted in the USCIRF report as saying that Boko Haram and ISIS fighters "have started targeting Christians and Christian villages... to trigger a religious war and throw the nation into chaos."
The report also cites CAN president Reverend Samson Ayokunle, who warns that his country is "under siege" by terrorists and Fulani militants who have the common "goal to Islamise Nigeria".
The UK All-Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom of Belief has also spoken up about the plight of Christians in Nigeria.
In a recent report, it says that Fulani militants have adopted "a comparable strategy to Boko Haram and ISWAP [Islamic State West Africa Province], and demonstrated a clear intent to target Christians and potent symbols of Christian identity".
Commenting on the findings, Release International CEO, Paul Robinson said: "These latest reports reinforce what Release has been saying for many years, that the world must wake up to what is happening in Nigeria.
"Boko Haram has publicly declared war on Christians and stated its aim to Islamise the whole of Nigeria. Fulani militants are killing even more Christians than Boko Haram fighters, and appear to be serving the same agenda.
"This latest dimension to the violence can no longer be described as simply herder-farmer clashes.
"These reports also reinforce what Release partners are saying – that the government of Nigeria is simply not doing enough to protect its Christian minority in the North against attack from religious extremists."
Release International patron Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali said urgent action was needed.
"If Nigeria is to continue as a single entity, a concerted military and political effort has to be made to stop the depredations of so-called herders in the Middle Belt and Yoruba land," he said.
Source: Christian Today