by Lela Gilbert
October 2, 2020
In July 2020, Family Research Council published a major report on the suffering of Nigeria’s Christians, describing the murderous attacks against them and the Islamist ideology that lies behind them. Since then, the death toll of those Christians who are targeted solely because of their faith has continued to soar.
Our FRC Issue Analysis began:
Since the dawn of the twenty-first century, and with horrifying acceleration in recent years, verified reports of murders, rapes, mutilations, and kidnapping of Christians in Nigeria have persistently increased. These attacks are frequently accompanied by the torching of homes, churches, villages, and agricultural fields. A July 15, 2020 headline reports that 1,202 Nigerian Christians were killed in the first six months of 2020. This is in addition to 11,000 Christians who have been killed since June 2015. Such violence has reached a point at which expert observers and analysts are warning of a progressive genocide—a “slow-motion war” specifically targeting Christians across Africa’s largest and most economically powerful nation.
Last week—two months later—Decision Magazine reported, “Pressure has mounted recently on the Trump administration to more aggressively address the violence that has claimed some 60,000 Christians in the last 15 years….In addition, an estimated 2 to 3 million people have been displaced by the violence committed by the ISIS-affiliated terrorist group Boko Haram and militant Muslim Fulani herdsmen. There are reports of widespread hunger and health needs among the displaced, who are often living in squalor.”
The number of Nigerians dead, mutilated, wounded, and left homeless in the past decade is accelerating. This is particularly true when, for multiple reasons, the U.S. and other governments have done so little to stop the carnage.
Retired Congressman and religious freedom expert Frank Wolf, along with several others, participated in a September 16 press conference hosted by the International Committee on Nigeria [ICON] in Washington, D.C. An outspoken voice against the Nigerian government’s failure to control the killers in their midst, Mr. Wolf addressed the question of whether the crisis is a “potential genocide.” He emphatically rejected the word “potential,” “Genocide!” he asserted. “Genocide is taking place in Nigeria!”
Three groups are responsible for the attacks against Nigeria’s Christians: Fulani radicals, the notorious Boko Haram, and the burgeoning Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP). The UK’s All-Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom or Belief (APPG) noted in a recent influential report that the Fulani herdsmen have adopted “a comparable strategy to Boko Haram and ISWAP and demonstrate a clear intent to target Christians and potent symbols of Christian identity.”
Meanwhile, Nigerian reporter Akin Osuntoku writes, “Today, a new breed of herdsman has emerged: an aggressive and murderous terrorist bearing sophisticated firearms such as AK-47s and even rocket launchers. And they become the mobile avant-garde army of political Islam in Nigeria. Given the country’s porous borders, many of them are recent immigrants from neighboring countries. Herdsmen from Niger, Chad and Mali can walk across the border and immediately lay claim to all the sacrosanct rights appertaining to bona fide Nigerian nationals.”
Because of the aggression of these brutal jihadi groups, and thanks to the muted response of the world’s most powerful nations, Nigeria’s tragic stories never seem to stop. For that reason, reflecting FRC’s increasing alarm over untold numbers of abused and neglected Christians, we invited Richard Ikiebe to the Values Voter Summit to participate in a conversation with us from his Nigeria home. His words bring to life the ongoing struggle he and his fellow believers are facing: