Deadly conflict is raging in central Nigeria as more than 200 people were reportedly killed in a series of recent clashes between Muslim herders and Christian farmers.
The violence erupted on June 24 when Fulani herdsmen, who are mostly Muslim, attacked six predominantly Christian villages in Nigeria’s Plateau state. Many of those killed were Christians, and they were reportedly hacked to death.
“It is very, very, unfortunate that an incident is happening again like this,” Simon Bako Lalong, the state’s governor, said.
The violence has forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee their farms and villages. Nigeria’s president appealed for calm as military and police units were deployed to stop the bloodshed.
“The grievous loss of lives and property arising from the killings in Plateau is painful and regrettable,” Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari tweeted. “My deepest condolences to the affected communities. We will not rest until all murderers and criminal elements and their sponsors are incapacitated and brought to justice.”
The majority of the violent attacks in recent weeks have pitted Muslims against Christians as both communities fight for scarce farming and grazing resources.
As Nigeria’s population continues to explode, water and pasture are both disappearing, causing tensions to rise between religious groups.
By some estimates, the violent clashes have killed more than 500 people this year. The central states of Nigeria are particularly affected by deadly clashes over access to water, food, and land.
The weekend massacre also led to reprisal attacks by Christian farmers on Muslim villages. While some have sought to describe the attacks as a battle over dwindling land and farming resources, others increasingly view the conflict as a religious war between Muslims and Christians.
Bosun Emmanuel, secretary of the National Christian Elders Forum and a prominent Nigerian Christian leader, has accused the country’s Muslim president of doing little to protect Christian communities.
“Realistically speaking, Christianity is on the brink of extinction in Nigeria,” Emmanuel claimed recently during a forum. “The ascendancy of Sharia ideology in Nigeria rings the death knell for the Nigerian Church.”
Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country. Home to roughly 186 million people, the nation is evenly split between Muslims in the north and Christians in the south.
For years, the Islamic terror group Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for a spate of unrelenting attacks on Christian homes and churches. By some estimates, Boko Haram’s Islamic insurgency has claimed the lives of more than 20,000 people since 2009. The majority of those killed were Christians.
Emmanuel says Christians now face a new enemy, and if nothing is done to stop the bloodshed, he warns Christians in Nigeria may cease to exist in 25 years from now.
“In 2018, we can say in 25 years from now, we are facing the risk of being the last Christians in Nigeria,” Emmanuel claimed. “Therefore, Christians should be in the frontline of defending democracy in Nigeria.”
Emmanuel has accused Nigeria’s president Buhari of “openly pursuing an anti-Christian agenda that has resulted in countless murders of Christians all over the nation and destruction of vulnerable Christian communities.” He’s urging the administration to be more proactive.
Meanwhile, the governor of Plateau state has imposed a curfew from 6:00pm to 6:00am.