Nigerian church leaders met with President Muhammadu Buhari earlier this month, to condemn the “evil” massacre of Christians and the falsehoods surrounding it. Rev. Dacholom Datiri, president of the Church of Christ in Nigeria, said that he delivered a report to Buhari describing the killing of 646 Christians in Plateau state alone last year. “The devastation in terms of massacre of lives and destruction of property is unimaginable. Pastors and members in their thousands have been either shot dead or slaughtered like animals or burned to death. Houses and businesses have been burned or looted and farmlands have been destroyed,” he said.
Thousands of other Christians have been massacred in the country since the start of 2018, prompting ongoing outcry from watchdog groups, demanding that the Nigerian government do more to protect citizens. “The narrative has been that these people are killed by unknown gunmen, or suspected herdsmen, or that there have been farmer-herders clashes,” Datiri said in his report. “All these are deceptive narratives deliberately framed to conceal the truth and continue to perpetrate the evil.” “After the attacks, it is the Fulani herders that settle and graze their cattle on the farms of the victims,” he continued.
“The nature of the attacks indicate that the military is being used as hired mercenaries by the Fulani militias. The government has not delivered on her constitutional responsibility to protect lives and property.” He pointed to the heavily armed militants with sophisticated weapons, including AK-47’s and rocket-propelled grenades, that have been killing Christians. Emeka Umeagbalasi, Chairman of the International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law, said the evidence, including the number of Christians killed, and churches converted for Islamic purposes, show that the thousands of deaths are not simply the result of farmer-Fulani herdsmen clashes.
“How many Muslim farmers are being killed by Fulani herdsmen? How many Muslim homes have been destroyed or burned? It has nothing to do with herdsmen-farmer clashes. It is false,” he added. “We don’t like to use the term ‘Fulani herdsmen’, we like to use ‘Fulani jihadists,’ who are under the guise of herdsmen.” In his statement to Buhari, Datiri further pointed out that as many as 38,000 Christians were forced to flee to camps for displaced people, with 30 church buildings and 4,436 Christian homes destroyed in the state, all in the space of half a year.
The Nigerian Church of Christ president accused Nigerian military forces of being complicit in some of the attacks. “The armed forces sent to keep peace seem to protect the aggressors and leave the victims mercilessly helpless.” On his part, Buhari did not dispute the statistics of violence in Plateau state, but said that the different communities must live together in harmony. “It is not all Muslims that are against Christians, and neither are all Christians against Muslims,” the president said. “The police are in the frontline making sure that communities irrespective of ethnic or religious bias live together in peace.”
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