Providence | Lela Gilbert | April 21, 2020
How much do Westerners know about Nigeria? Do we recognize it as Africa’s largest nation? Are we aware of its considerable economic importance? Are Western Christians alert to the dangers faced by our fellow believers in Nigeria?
Granted, it’s a little challenging to learn about Nigeria’s woes because we have to search for reports. Sadly, they only appear randomly on Christian websites. But it’s increasingly conspicuous that with every passing week, violence and terror in Nigeria intensify.
In fact, at this very moment—another genocide against Christians is silently unfolding there.
If you read the reports, you’ll often see photographs that accompany them. They might have been taken days ago, maybe last week or even last year, but the scene is eerily the same. A poor village with a few small buildings is surrounded by open fields. In the foreground is a pile of torched debris smolders. A dozen or so Africans stand staring at the indescribable remains, with one or two turning toward the camera, dazed expressions on their faces.
And the story is also nearly always the same: heavily armed jihadis suddenly appear in the dead of night. They attack house after house, breaking down doors, shouting Allahu akbar. They shoot the elderly and able-bodied men. They rape, mutilate, and murder women. They kidnap young boys and girls. They torch houses, schools, and churches.
Some villagers managed to flee into the bush and haven’t been seen since, so no one can say for sure who is still alive. Survivors’ faces reflect the agony of trying to remember just what happened, exactly when the screaming and shooting began, and how they managed to escape with their lives.
In short, there is a bloodbath in Nigeria. Those of us who track religious freedom violations and Christian persecution agree with those who increasingly speak of another genocide. Murderous incidents are acted out with accelerating frequency, perpetrated primarily by two terror groups—Boko Haram and Fulani jihadis. Tens of thousands of Nigerians have been slaughtered in the last decade. But their stories rarely appear in mainstream Western news reports.
ICON—International Committee on Nigeria—is a research group that reports on terrorism in Nigeria. According to ICON, Boko Haram was responsible for nearly 35,000 deaths there between 2015 and 2020. Meanwhile, Fulani jihadis reportedly murdered some 17,000 between 2010 and 2020.
Unfortunately, no one really knows the precise numbers thanks to mass burnings, chaotic aftermaths, disappearances, and population displacement. Still, the numbers are horrifying no matter how inevitably imperfect the recordkeeping may be.
To make matters even worse, now COVID-19 has also arrived in Nigeria with its own deadly risks, and the population’s fears have multiplied. At the time of this writing, Worldometers registered 493 cases and 17 deaths—numbers that are about to exponentially increase.
Meanwhile, in the midst of panicky lockdown orders, BBC reports that security forces have taken more lives than the pandemic.
Because of these multiple deadly threats, despair haunts Nigeria’s Christian communities, despite their deep faith and commitment. There are more than enough reasons for their uncertainty, as these examples show:
On April 16, Morningstar News reported, “Six children and a pregnant woman were among nine people that Muslim Fulani herdsmen killed in north-central Nigeria Tuesday night (April 14).”