West & Central Africa

Full-scale of Christian persecution in Nigeria revealed – 13,000 Churches Devastated

Tens of thousands of churches were abandoned, closed or destroyed in northern and central Nigeria between 2000 and 2014 claimed a new report released this week by the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative (21CWI), a Christian human rights organisation, and Stephanous Foundation.

Over 2.5 million children and pregnant women are in need of assistance, claimed the two organisations.

The report calls on the international community to pay closer attention to the menace of the Boko Haram Islamic insurgency and the devastation carried out by Fulani Islamist cattle herders in the middle and north-eastern region of northern Nigeria.

Presenting the report, Mark Lipdo, President of Stephanous Foundation stated that, “Nearly 15  million people in northeastern Nigeria are impacted by this ongoing crisis.” It showed that 611 teachers have been “intentionally killed, 19, 000 teachers have fled and 1500 schools have been forced to close down.”

jos killins mass grave
Mass grave of Christians, mostly women and children, killed in Jos

The report also showed that “2,000 women, boys and girls have been abducted by Boko Haram since 2012”. Many are currently being used as sex slaves and ‘Boko Haram wives’ or cooks in the Jihadists camps and suicide bombers. This number includes the best known case of the 256 school girls from Chibok.

Over 950,000 school –age children have been left with almost no opportunity for education in the region, according to the report.

“In the Middle Belt, Fulani militant attacks are significantly escalating with the net effect that in the name of creating grazing territory largely Christian Local Government Areas are being targeted and destroyed.”

The report calls for immediate action by the international community because “the accelerating aggression of Fulani militants in the Middle Belt is threatening the heart of the country, creating one of the most significant security risks in West Africa”.

John Campbell, the US Ambassador to Nigeria from 2004-2007 noted that, “In general, traditional society, not just radical jihadists, discriminates against Christians, and the few Fulani converts to Christianity may be murdered, often by members of their own families.”

Women wail over bodies of Children killed by herdsmen
Women grief over dead bodies in Jos Muslim attack

The report concludes by stressing that immediate “changes in policy, and coordinated intentionality are needed in order to prevent Nigeria from fracturing along religious fault lines”

Elijah Brown, Vice President of the 21st Wilberforce Initiative, said, “As of December 2015, there were 2,152,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Nigeria – the third highest figure in Africa and the seventh in the world,”

In view of all these facts: “Without intervention, the crisis in the Middle Belt will continue to escalate.  This could affect other countries in West African region like the Republic of Benin, Chad, Cameroon, Mali, and Niger.” He therefore called, “on the world’s powerful nations to come to the aid of Nigeria in seeing to the end of insurgency.”