Muslim ethnic Fulani mount attacks in Plateau state; Boko Haram strikes in Borno.
Ethnic Fulani Muslims killed a Christian in a village near here on Tuesday (June 18), less than a week after the Islamic extremist Boko Haram sect killed a pastor in Nigeria’s northeastern state of Borno.
In the latest of a series of attacks this year in the Wase area, 216 kilometers (134 miles) southeast of Jos in Plateau state, Fulani Muslims killed Toma Vongjen, 40, and left church buildings in four villages in ruins, said the Rev. Dinfa Lamda of the Church of Christ in Nations (COCIN, formerly Church of Christ in Nigeria), in Jos.
“Just yesterday, these Muslim Fulani terrorists attacked some villages, including Bakin Rijiya village where Toma Vongjen was killed, and in Kumbur, Wase Tofa, Angwan Sayawa, some churches were also destroyed,” he told Morning Star News on Wednesday (June 19).
In Borno state, Boko Haram Islamic extremists on June 13 killed the Rev. Jacob Kwiza in the Mandara Hills area, church leaders said.
Lamda, a native of Langtang, near Wase, told Morning Star News that social and economic activities have been paralyzed in the Wase area, and “Christian fellowship activities and evangelism outreaches are no longer possible.” Most churches in Wase have closed due to the violence, and surviving pastors have been relocated, he said.
“There are Christian villages that have been completely wiped out by these Muslim terrorists,” Lamda said. “Just last week Muslim Fulani herdsmen attacked some Christian farmers in Wase and destroyed all the crops they planted on their farms.”
Fulani Muslims have longstanding property disputes with Christians of other ethnicities, and Islamic extremist groups are suspected of inflaming the herdsmen’s anti-Christian sentiment. Lamda said Fulani Muslims have attacked Christian communities in the local government areas of Wase, Langtang and Shendam, all in Plateau state.
“For a number of years, the attacks on Christians in these three local government areas have caused the displacement of thousands of Christians there,” he said. “There is a very lamentable problem, as we are no longer able to worship God as Christians in this part of Nigeria.”
He denied that the attacks were “reprisals” for alleged attacks by Christians on Fulanis or their cattle.
“Nigeria is today not at war because of the Christian faith – the teachings of the Christian gospel have been imbibed so much by Christians in northern Nigeria, and that is the reason you see Christians are at the receiving end of these attacks by Muslim terrorists,” he said. “If not for the gospel, I can assure you that there would have been retaliation for these unprovoked attacks, but the gospel urges Christians to always turn the other cheek.”
COCIN leaders told Morning Star News that in the past six months, about 60 Christian communities in the Wase Local Government Area have been attacked, resulting in the murder of 20 Christians, the destruction of at least 100 church buildings and serious injuries to about 100 Christians.
The Rev. Johnson Kikem, a COCIN pastor in Langtang in southern Plateau state, told Morning Star News that the attacks have displaced many Christians from Wase. Chairman of the COCIN Regional Church Council in Langtang, Kikem identified the attackers as Muslim Fulani herdsmen.
“They are armed with military assault guns and attack Christian communities at random, sometimes at night, or during daytime, when these Christians, who are mostly farmers, are on their farms,” he said. “This has forced those that have survived the attacks to flee from their communities, and hundreds of them are staying here in Langtang town as displaced persons.”
Kikem said the Fulani Muslims ramped up attacks on Christian communities in Wase early this year. Islamic extremist groups are believed to be increasingly arming Fulani Muslims and inciting them to attack Christian areas.
“It’s because we have refused to bow to the god of Islam, and so the plan is to forcefully Islamize us,” he said. “It is part of the Islamic agenda to impose sharia [Islamic law] on Christians in the northern part of Nigeria.”
Kikem said Christian areas that have been attacked include Zango, Angwan Fidelis, Angwan Obadiya, Angwan Mangdiem, Angwan Gidin Dutse, Angwan Anato, Pinau, Lamba, Yantanta, Kurmin Wadatan Kasuwa, Lyangjit, Shengel, Bangalala and Damshenya. He identified some of those killed this year.
“Andrew Dunka was killed and his corpse burned to ashes under Wase Rock,” an 800-foot geological feature where the first area church was established, he said.
Two others, Kwage Shengel and Ciroman Shengel, both from Shengel village, were also murdered, along with Philip Danjuma, Nemene Gowok, and Yakubu Sulhu, he said. He also identified some of the injured Christians.
“John Dendi Nban, who was cut on the head with a machete, and several others have been evacuated to hospitals in other safer parts of this state,” he said. “Several women were raped and dehumanized.”
Christians make up 51.3 percent of Nigeria’s population of 158.2 million and live mainly in the south, while Muslims account for 45 percent and reside primarily in the north, according to Operation World.
Besides hit-and-run attacks by Fulani Muslims, Christians in Nigeria have also been targeted by Boko Haram in its effort to destabilize the government and impose sharia nationwide.
In Borno state, Boko Hara members on June 13 attacked five Christian communities in the Mandara Hills area, some 150 kilometers (93 miles) from the state capital of Maiduguri, killing COCIN pastor Jacob Kwiza in Hwa’a as he worked in his orchard, church leaders said.
Defying the state of emergency declared by the federal government in three northeastern states, Boko Haram attacked Gjigga, Gathahure, Kunde, and Hwa’a, and Hrazah of the Gwoza Local Government Area, they said.
Mandara Hills is home to several Christian communities in Borno state. Other areas in the state that Islamic extremists have attacked in the past few weeks are Gwoza, Damboa, Chibok, Mbamba, and Kurana Bassa, church leaders said.
On April 24, Islamic extremists shot dead the Rev. Luka Bazigila and a member of his church, identified only by his surname of Yohanna, in Gwoza town, while a third Christian whose name was not immediately available was killed and his corpse burned by Boko Haram members.
“Our churches on the Lake Chad Basin [in Borno state] have been burnt, and our school in Baga, where millions of naira were sunk to provide quality education to the children of missionaries and the host community, has been closed down,” said the Rev. Soja Bewarang, COCIN president. “In Borno, Yobe [state] and Gwoza, our members are systematically identified and killed.”
Addressing the Executive Council meeting of COCIN on Tuesday (June 18) in Jos, Bewarang also disclosed that the elder brother of Deborah Mohzo, wife of the deputy general secretary of COCIN, has been killed in the attacks. In addition, he said Islamic extremists killed three other members of the church in Gwoza.
The Rev. Obed Dashan, COCIN general secretary, said the attacks in Borno state have traumatized Christians.
“Boko Haram terrorist activities especially in Borno and Yobe states have not only impacted negatively on Christians there but also led to creating communities that are traumatized and paralyzed economically,” Dashan said. “Ministering to such a church that is traumatized can be very difficult.”
President Goodluck Jonathan in May declared a state of emergency in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states, saying the government had no option but to take military action following incessant attacks on civilians and security agents.
COCIN pastor Lamda said the attacks constitute a jihad against Christians.
“Why is that it is only the Muslim Fulani that are attacking Christians all over rural areas in northern Nigeria?” he said. “There have been attacks on Christian minorities by these Muslim Fulani jihadists in the states of Bauchi, Plateau, Nasarawa, Kaduna, Benue and Niger. Why is this so?”