ROME — The ongoing slaughter of Nigerian Christians by Muslim herders and terrorists is a powder keg waiting to explode, according to an essay Sunday by Christian persecution expert John L. Allen.
A recent report asserted that 52 lethal, anti-Christian attacks took place in Nigeria during the first six months of 2019, notes Mr. Allen, the author of the 2013 bestseller The Global War on Christians: Dispatches from the Front Lines of Anti-Christian Persecution.
Meanwhile, the Nigerian-based International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law declared that some 2,400 Christians were killed by the Fulani in 2018 alone. And Nigeria’s Daily Post reported last year that from June 2015 to June 2018, Fulani militants “killed 8,800 Christians and other non-Muslims,” torching “not less than 1,000″ churches and other places of worship during the same period.
While mainstream media have insisted that the anti-Christian violence by Muslim herdsmen is not religiously motivated, that is not the experience of people on the ground, Allen notes.
“It’s tough to tell Nigerian Christians this isn’t a religious conflict since what they see are Fulani fighters clad entirely in black, chanting ‘Allahu Akbar!’ and screaming ‘Death to Christians!’, Sister Monica Chikwe of the Hospitaler Sisters of Mercy told Allen at a recent Rome conference on anti-Christian persecution.
The media have largely downplayed the religious nature of the Fulani killings, preferring to attribute the violence to “ethnic tensions,” a “battle for land and resources,” or even “climate change.”
Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari, who is himself of the Fulani ethnic group, has encouraged this narrative, minimizing the importance of religion in the conflict.
Two local Catholic bishops, however, along with other Christian leaders, have insisted that the violence represents a “clear agenda for Islamizing the Nigerian Middle Belt” by using armed Fulani jihadists.
One of the bishops, Matthew Ishaya Audu of Lafia, said in 2018 that the ongoing attacks are not random or economically motivated, but purposefully target Christians.
“They want to strike Christians,” Bishop Audu said, “and the government does nothing to stop them, because President Buhari is also of the Fulani ethnic group.”
Allen, who visited Nigeria while researching his book on Christian persecution, concurs.
“Sooner or later, the international community will be forced to recognize that the fate of Nigeria’s Christian population isn’t just a human rights issue,” Allen wrote Sunday, “but also a major global security concern.”
A recent report filed by the Jubilee Campaign, which advocates for religious freedom worldwide, to the International Criminal Court, claims that Fulani massacres of Christians in Nigeria meet the international standard for a “genocide.”
Such a situation presents a serious problem for the international community, Allen declared Sunday.
“So far, Nigeria largely has been spared a larger eruption in part because of the leadership of Christian clergy, who generally preach non-violent resistance,” Allen said.
“It’s unclear, however, how much longer that philosophy can hold up if the violence continues unabated and the perception is that government authorities are unable, or unwilling, to do anything about it,” he added.