More than 600 Christians have been killed in attacks by Fulani herdsmen and Islamic extremist groups in Nigeria in the first four-and-a-half months of this year, according to a report released earlier this month.
The report, from the Nigerian-based International Society for Civil Liberties & Rule of Law, found that no fewer than 620 Christians had been killed as of mid-May. It takes the number of Christians killed since 2009 to 32,000, according to the society.
The report said the violence has gone “unchecked” with hundreds of houses burnt and destroyed during the period as well as dozens of Christian worship and learning centres.
UK-based Release International said the report’s findings supported claims by its partner organisations that attacks on Christians in the country were growing.
It quotes Mark Lipdo, a representative of the Stefanos Foundation – which has been providing relief to victims of attacks for more than 10 years as well as trauma counselling, as describing the violence as part of a “systematic strategy that enforces what the ethnic minorities believe is a jihad”.
“Christians in northern Nigeria are being annihilated,” he said. “It is heading towards a genocide.”
Release says that in one of the most recent night-time attacks – on a Baptist village, Gonan Rogo, in Kaduna State – the dead included an entire family and a six-month-old baby. “Miraculously, a three-month-old baby survived, after a bullet passed through her mother’s heart and penetrated the baby’s skull,” the organisation said.
Paul Robinson, CEO of Release, said the Nigerian Government was at best “ineffective” and at worst “reluctant” to prevent the attacks.
“Christians in Nigeria have faced an onslaught by Boko Haram terrorists,” he said. “Now they are having to endure even more deadly attacks by armed Fulani militants. How many more Christian villagers have to die before Nigeria’s military and police take effective action?
He called for action on both a local and international scale. “Our message to Nigeria and the international community is intervene and stop this now – before it is too late.”