Fulani herdsman attack Christians in Nigeria (Facebook)

Fulani herdsman attack Christians in Nigeria (Facebook)

At least 40 Christians were killed in two recent attacks in Muslim-majority northern Nigeria by Muslim Fulani herdsmen.

On Tuesday, 32 people were killed in an early morning assault on villages in and around Maro, in Kajuru County of Kaduna state, Morning Star News reported. On Feb. 10, an attack by herdsmen on Angwan Barde, in the same county, killed 10 Catholic Christians along with an unborn child.

In Maro, the Fulani herdsmen also damaged church buildings and property.

The mostly Muslim Fulani herdsmen have clashed with indigenous tribes and local, mainly Christian, farmers over grazing land for centuries. But the clashes intensified around the time of the 2011 and 2015 elections, and again earlier this year, the Christian group Open Doors points out.

President Trump was criticized for characterizing the issue as religious persecution in a meeting with Nigeria’s Muslim president, Muhammadu Buhari, at the White House in 2018. Buhari downplayed the issue, saying the “problem of cattle herders is a very long historical problem.”

But human rights advocate Ewelina U. Ochab, writing in Forbes, called the criticism of Trump “ignorant.”

She pointed out an Open Doors 2015 report rebuts the argument that the clashes were caused by environmental degradation and resulting migration.

“The report presents a more comprehensive picture incorporating some elements of religious persecution. Indeed, the conflict is extremely complex.”

Ochab wrote that “atrocities perpetrated by the Fulani herdsmen include the destruction of houses and churches, as well as the seizure of land and properties belonging to Christian owners.”

Reports have also emerged of the Fulani herdsmen kidnapping Christian schoolgirls to marry them to Muslim men, she wrote.

‘Please pray for peace’

Morning Star News reported the Evangelical Church Winning All said many of its missionaries working among the Adara and Katari ethnic groups have been displaced.

A boarding school for the missionaries’ children in Kufana town has been closed, said Rev. Bakari Ibrahim, director of the ECWA’s Evangelical Missionary Society.

“Please pray for peace in Kaduna state – hundreds have been displaced and hundreds killed by the Fulani jihadists,” he told Morning Star News in a text message. “We evacuated about hundred EMS kids from Kufana for safety. Many of our missionaries working among the Kadara tribe and some in Katari areas have been displaced. Please keep praying for our nation.”

A women’s fellowship leader of the ECWA congregation in Maro who requested anonymity told Morning Star News that women were meeting at the church building when the herdsmen invaded.

“We ran out of the church building as the shooting was going on,” she said on Tuesday. “Many have been killed, and I have not seen my family members since morning. I have escaped out of the area.”

A spokesman for the governor said the government was saddened by the attack and that security agencies were working to contain the aggression.

Survivors told Morning Star News that armed herdsmen in large numbers surrounded the village at about 11 p.m. that Sunday night. Area resident Ja’afaru Samaila, 21, said by phone that the herdsmen killed five members of his family.

“The Fulani gunmen surrounded our house and were shooting and shouting, ‘Allahu akbar [Allah is supreme].’ They killed my father, mother, two brothers and one of my sisters-in-law.”

Christians comprise 51.3 percent of Nigeria’s population, while Muslims, who live primarily in the north,  account for 45 percent.

Nigeria ranked 12th on Open Doors’ 2019 World Watch List of countries where Christians suffer the most persecution.

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