ABUJA, Nigeria (Morning Star News) – A Roman Catholic catechist and his wife were among dozens of Christians killed in central Nigeria’s Benue state last month, a local official said.
Fulani herdsmen killed Dominic Dajo and his wife at the St. Peter Catholic Church in Hirnyam village, Guma County on May 8 in the course of massacring dozens of other Christians, said Christopher Waku, a member of the Guma Local Government Council.
Herdsmen on the same day attacked Tse Vambe, Tse Ortim and Torough Mbanyiar villages in the county, he said. Over the next two weeks they also attacked the Guma villages of Agasha, Gbajimba, Mbawa, Iyer, Tse Iortim, Yogbo, Nyiev, Yelwata, Ukohol, Ortese, Hirnyam, Uvir, Nzorov, Mbawa, Mbadwem, Mbabai and Semaka.
“On Wednesday, 24 May, the Fulani herdsmen attacked several of these communities, killing and destroying whole villages, and displaced thousands of these Christians from their communities,” Waku told Morning Star News in a text message.
Fulani herdsmen on May 11 invaded another set of villages, including Mbawa, killing 28 Christians, Waku said.
“So also, on Tuesday, 9 May, the herdsmen who are collaborating with Muslim terrorists killed more than 22 Christians in other villages as listed above,” he said.
Area resident said most of those killed in the attacks were women and children.
Nigeria led the world in Christians killed for their faith in 2022, with 5,014, according to Open Doors’ 2023 World Watch List (WWL) report. It also led the world in Christians abducted (4,726), sexually assaulted or harassed, forcibly married or physically or mentally abused, and it had the most homes and businesses attacked for faith-based reasons. As in the previous year, Nigeria had the second most church attacks and internally displaced people.
In the 2023 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian, Nigeria jumped to sixth place, its highest ranking ever, from No. 7 the previous year.
“Militants from the Fulani, Boko Haram, Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) and others conduct raids on Christian communities, killing, maiming, raping and kidnapping for ransom or sexual slavery,” the WWL report noted. “This year has also seen this violence spill over into the Christian-majority south of the nation… Nigeria’s government continues to deny this is religious persecution, so violations of Christians’ rights are carried out with impunity.”
Numbering in the millions across Nigeria and the Sahel, predominantly Muslim Fulani comprise hundreds of clans of many different lineages who do not hold extremist views, but some Fulani do adhere to radical Islamist ideology, the United Kingdom’s All-Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom or Belief (APPG) noted in a recent report.
“They adopt a comparable strategy to Boko Haram and ISWAP and demonstrate a clear intent to target Christians and potent symbols of Christian identity,” the APPG report states.
Christian leaders in Nigeria have said they believe herdsmen attacks on Christian communities in Nigeria’s Middle Belt are inspired by their desire to forcefully take over Christians’ lands and impose Islam as desertification has made it difficult for them to sustain their herds.
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