Two new reports highlight the growing death toll among Christians in Nigeria, which is now in the tens of thousands.
The unconnected reports put the death toll of Christians killed in attacks by terrorists and militants at between 30,000 and 50,000. And the violence continues unabated.
Release International serves the persecuted church around the world. One of its Nigeria partners, the Stefanos Foundation, has been working for 20 years to help victims of violence in Nigeria.
Stefanos’ latest Situation Report calculates that from 2001, when the current violence erupted in Nigeria, to 2021, there were more than 30,000 killings at the hands of Boko Haram terrorists and Fulani militants.
And from 2016 onwards, the number of killings by Fulani extremists outstripped the murders committed by Boko Haram.
The report declares the violence ‘escalated out of control from 2012. Fulani militancy leads with the highest frequency of violence in Nigeria.’
It traces the origins of the violence to religious rioting in 2001, which ‘encouraged [the] Boko Haram insurgency from 2003 and was accompanied by Fulani militancy from 2012.’
It continues: ‘Terrorism, banditry, militant Fulani herdsmen attacks and kidnapping has become rife.’
The report confirms current witness accounts gathered by Release International in Nigeria that the military is failing to intervene to prevent the attacks, sometimes standing by and allowing the violence to happen.
Stefanos’ Situation Report states: ‘Victims continue to allege that where there are security agents on the ground, they refrain from stepping in to quell the situation on grounds that they have not received “orders from above”.
Earlier this month the Nigerian NGO Intersociety published its own report into the escalating violence.
Its figures are even higher.
It finds that since 2009, 52,250 Christians have been killed by jihadists, including Boko Haram and Fulani militants. According to Intersociety, militants have attacked:
- 18,000 churches
- 2,200 Christian schools
- 800 Christian communities
It claims: ‘The number of Christians killed in the country… between July 2009 and April 2023 has risen to 52,250 [and] 14m Christians have been uprooted and forced to flee their homes.
The report adds, ‘No fewer than 800 Christian communities have been seized or taken over; with many of them renamed and Islamised by the Jihadists since 2009.’
Intersociety calculates that 1041 Christians were killed in the first 100 days of 2023 alone.
An attack by Fulani extremists on April 15-16 killed 33 Christians at Runji village in Kaduna state – the third village in the area to be targeted in a week. The dead include a five-year-old boy who was reportedly beheaded.
The United Nations has condemned the killing of young children as ‘barbaric and senseless.’ And a report by a UK All-Party Parliamentary Group likens the slaughter to a genocide.
The report Nigeria: Unfolding Genocide? is published by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom or Belief. It notes Fulani jihadists have adopted ‘a comparable strategy to Boko Haram and ISWAP [Islamic State West Africa Province] and demonstrate a clear intent to target Christians and potent symbols of Christian identity.’
‘These figures are beyond appalling,’ says Paul Robinson of UK-based Release International.
‘We have been reporting year in and year out of the targeting of Christians in Nigeria by Islamist militants. Not only do Nigeria’s Christians face slaughter at the hands of Boko Haram and Islamic State terrorists, but they are also being killed daily by well-armed Fulani extremists.
‘So many Christians – whether the figure is 30,000 or 50,000 – have lost members of their families and their homes. And yet Nigeria and the world just seem to stand by and let this genocide happen. Genocide is not a word we use lightly, but what other word is there to describe this targeted slaughter of men, women and children?’
Release International is working with trusted partners in Nigeria to bring comfort and support, and much-needed trauma counselling.
‘We are raising their voices and their concerns around the world,’ says Paul Robinson. ‘And we will continue to do so. But these terrible figures – each a human being cut down by Kalashnikovs or machetes – cry out more clearly than we ever could.’
Release International has launched a major campaign to focus prayer and attention on the situation in Nigeria. Out of these ashes provides information and resources for churches and Christian groups to stand alongside their brothers and sisters in Nigeria and raise support. Details are available on the Release International website.
Release International is active in some 30 countries. It works through partners to prayerfully, pastorally, and practically support the families of Christian martyrs. It supports prisoners of faith and their families; Christians suffering oppression and violence, and those forced to flee.