Christmas Massacre in Nigeria

Christmas massacre in Nigeria – death toll nears 200. Attacks continue…

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Destruction Nigeria Christmas Attack, Stefanos Foundation : Release InternationalThe death toll in the Nigeria Christmas massacre has now risen to almost 200. And more bodies are still being discovered, according to partners of Release International, which supports persecuted Christians around the world.

Even as attempts continue to recover the bodies, Release International has been told of another attack by Fulani militia on the same area on December 28, and has received intelligence of plans for further attacks in Plateau State, central Nigeria.

‘Christmas terror’

‘These latest attacks were timed to bring terror to Christians at Christmas,’ says Paul Robinson, CEO of Release International (RI), which supports persecuted Christians around the world.

The wide-ranging Christmas assault on more than 80 communities began on December 23 and continued over Christmas. And in the late hours of December 28, Fulani militants again attacked Budel community in Bokkos.

Mercifully, on this occasion, RI partners report that no lives were lost due to the intervention of the security services.

The area remains on high alert, as does Pushit in Mangu Local Government Area of Plateau State.

According to press reports, the Christmas attacks drove some 20,000 Nigerians from their homes.


‘Many people were killed, slaughtered like animals in cold blood,’ Timothy Nuwan, vice president of Church of Christ in Nations (COCIN) told Agence France Presse (AFP).

‘We had to run for our lives,’ Lucy Joshua told AFP. ‘We didn’t even know where we were running to.’ She lost seven members of her family in the attack.

Partners of Release International say this latest onslaught is the worst massacre in Nigeria since 2018, when Fulani militia slaughtered 235 in coordinated attacks in broadly the same area.

Persecution Trends Report 2024 Cover Image

RI has highlighted Nigeria as a country where violence against Christians is set to rise in its newly published 2024 Persecution Trends report.

Targeting Christians

According to US-based Aid to the Church in Need these latest unprovoked attacks were also ‘well-coordinated and deliberate, specifically targeting Christian communities.’

The attackers, again identified as Fulani militia, killed villagers and set on fire their churches, corn stores and clinics. According to ACN, Muslim villagers and their property were left untouched.

Ct Screengrab In a pattern that has become all too familiar to the largely Christian communities in the area, Pushit was sent a written warning of the pending attack. According to the Christian Association of Nigeria, the letter warned Christians they ‘will not celebrate Christmas’.

Release International partners say: ‘In the same way messages were sent to the Bokkos area before the attack that took the lives of innocent and unarmed people.’

Security failure

As in the previous massacre in 2018, intelligence of the pending attacks was shared with security services who failed to act upon it. That changed on December 28 this year, when the military, having been warned, headed off the assault. But there are credible reports of plans for further attacks and the area remains on high alert.

Nigerian partners of Release International are calling on the authorities to intensify their efforts to protect Pushit and other vulnerable communities in the north and Middle Belt in the days ahead. They warn: ‘Intelligence shows that the assailants are bent on continuing their havoc.’

RI partners are sending out warnings to local communities via text messages. They’re also providing vital assistance in the form of trauma counselling for the victims of the attacks.

Two main factors underlie what is happening. The Fulani cattle herders are losing grazing land due to desertification and are attacking others to seize their land. There is also a religious element. There is a long history of attacks by Islamists to cleanse the north of its Christian minority, dating back to the Fulani jihads of the 18th and 19th centuries.

‘History repeating’

Paul Robinson

‘We are seeing history repeat itself in modern day Nigeria,’ says RI CEO Paul Robinson.

‘Many observers now regard the radicalised Fulani militia as a greater menace than the terror groups Boko Haram and Islamic State West Africa Province. Both organisations have sworn to turn Nigeria into an Islamic nation. And the Fulani militia, in ethnically cleansing Christians from the north and Middle Belt are serving the same agenda.

‘Release International calls for prayer for these Christian communities and urges the government of Nigeria and its security forces to take urgent measures to safeguard these communities from attacks. The ineffectiveness of Nigeria’s security forces in protecting the country’s Christian minority is being noted around the world.’

According to the Nigerian NGO Intersociety, 52,000 Nigerian Christians have been killed by jihadists since 2009, and 18,000 churches destroyed.

Release International is active in some 30 countries. It works through partners to prayerfully, pastorally, and practically support the families of Christian martyrs, prisoners of faith and their families. It also supports Christians suffering oppression and violence, and those forced to flee.

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