West & Central Africa

UK peer and US Bishop narrowly escape deadly ambush on Nigeria visit

Baroness Cox, a leading religious freedom campaigner, and her party of church and charity leaders, avoided an attack by armed Islamist Fulani herdsmen, by a matter of minutes on Monday 14 November.

Baroness Cox and Bishop Stewart Ruch III, of the Upper Midwest Diocese, were visiting Jos Plateau State where Islamist cattle herdsmen have become an even greater danger than the notorious terrorist group Boko Haram.

But shortly after Baroness Cox had left a village they received a phone call from a Christian minister, the Rev Gyang Boyi, to check on the safety of the party.

He described the scene in his phone call: “Barely thirty minutes after your team left, armed men came into the valley, the only way out of the village, and started shooting at people driving through. Many shot at were youths driving back from a wedding. They must have though it was your team.” Gyang Boyi said.

caroline-looks-at-where-once-stood-a-village
Baroness Cox looking at the scene where a village used to be in Jong

He added: “The Fulani Herdsmen killed the traditional ruler [Saf Ron Kulere, Lazarus Agai in July, in a similar ambush]. We thank God you escaped this.”
The team of eight including David Thomas HART (Humanitarian Aid Trust) Project Coordinator, Corinna Loges, who takes over as Chief Executive of HART from Caroline Cox, Sam Maison and Helen Gilbert, Chair of the Trustees, toured remote villages.

The pastor of the Church of Christ in Nations, the Rev Datiri Bulus said, “a large number of the Fulani herdsmen, all dressed in black, attacked four villages all at the same time in May. A Pastor, the Rev Chollom Sale was targeted and killed during the attack. They specifically surrounded the Pastor’s home killed the Rev Sale and destroyed the house.” said Datiri Bulus.

The Baroness Caroline Cox and Bishop Ruch III met the remnant of the villagers in Lo-Birin and listened to the stories of how they lost their community. “It was around 8 am when a group of Fulanis attacked all four villages at the same time, there seemed to be hundreds of them. They were all dressed in black and they were chanting, ‘Allahu Akbar!’ as they attacked the villages.

“They were shooting with guns and then they followed people fleeing and killed mostly the elderly who could not run and women and children. Over 20 people were killed in the attack,” said the Rev Gyang Boyi, Pastor of COCIN Lo Birin said.

“We made frantic phone calls to the army but they came hours after the attacks,” a resident added.
In all the four communities, houses were not just burnt but the buildings have been deliberately pulled down to their foundations to ensure that the Christian community does not rebuild the community.
As the Baroness and her team approached Jong, one of the destroyed villages, Fulani children, tending herds of cattle near the villages ran off to the Fulani settlements nearby where they have taken over a public secondary school and turned it into a Fulani residential quarters.
Asked for her reaction, Caroline Cox was more concerned for the Christian in Jos. She has visited many times and has supported the Church over many years of conflict.

“We count it a privilege to visit with Christians who are on the frontline facing all kinds of challenges everyday. Many in the West have no idea what kind of persecution many Christians go through. You are an example of living faith. We thank you for holding the frontline of faith and freedom for the rest of the world,” she said.

(Eye witness account by GCN West Africa editor, Hassan John)