NIGERIA: The killings continue…


Covid-19 may have stopped much of the world in its tracks, but in Nigeria’s north and central-belt areas Islamist militants continue to attack and kill Christians. Release’s Kenneth Harrod spoke to one of our partners there who helps care for survivors.

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Pastor Tagwi

Back in January the recently ordained Matthew Tagwi was posted to Nsah village in Plateau state to begin his pastoral ministry. With him was his 27-year-old pregnant wife Rose and their two daughters, Joy, aged three, and Esther, six.

Three months later, on April 6, Rose travelled to Kwall for her monthly antenatal check-up. When she said farewell to her husband, it was the last time she saw him.

That day a group of militant Fulani herdsmen attacked the village. Matthew was one of those shot dead. Because of Covid-19 restrictions – and fears of Fulani herdsmen returning – he was buried the following day. Rose, whose uncle travelled to Kwall to break the tragic news to her, was not even able to attend the funeral.

Abah Yoki, aged 65, survived the attack, although two of his sons were killed. He described to our partner what happened that evening. Standing outside his home at about 7.30pm, and seeing some movement in the bushes around his house, he cried out, ‘Who is there?‘, at which point gunshots rang out. Abah fell to the ground.

‘I laid down quietly as the Fulani, about ten of them, speaking in Fulfulde, went into my house. They shot dead two of my sons, Aduh (who was 30) and Ishaku (aged 11),’ he said. ‘Then they headed straight to Pastor Matthew Tagwi’s house. They called him out and I heard more gunshots. Then the men came back to where I was lying and walked away into the darkness.

‘I am pained, pained to my soul’

Two days later Fulani militants attacked another community, Ntiriku, about 15 kilometres west of Jos, the Plateau state capital. After the attack, our partner spoke to 80-year-old Joseph Maza, who was deep in grief.

‘I am pained, pained to my soul. My wife and son and brother were killed last night.’ Joseph then stood up and walked away, shaking his head and trying to conceal his tears. He said no more. ‘In this community it is cultural for an older man not to cry in public,’ our partner told me.

It has been estimated that over the past two decades Islamist Fulani herdsmen have killed as many as 19,000 people in Nigeria.

So far this year, despite lockdowns and curfews imposed in response to the pandemic, more than 300 Christians have been killed in Kaduna state and another 100 in parts of Plateau state. The last week of July and beginning of August alone saw attacks on 17 villages, which left more than 75 people dead, and a further 5,000 displaced from their homes.

Our partner commented: ‘We have seen well-planned, well-orchestrated, systematic attacks on Christian communities that have nothing to do with a fight for grazing lands. These attacks are driven by an Islamist ideology, aimed at destroying “the infidels” and, in many places, displacing them from their communities, while the Government, by design or omission, turns a blind eye to the carnage. The politically-correct narrative – which is easier for the international community to swallow, and which suits the Nigerian Government well – is to blame desertification and climate change.’

He added: ‘We ask for prayers for the persecuted churches and for pastors who are faced with the challenge of working to prove God’s love in these tragedies, while they equally try to stay alive.’

Signs of hope

Rose Tagwi
Rose Tagwi

Rose Tagwi, suddenly a pastor’s widow, has since given birth to her third daughter. She named her Patience because, she said, she is determined to wait patiently on the Lord for His strength and to see His purpose in her loss.

Responding to the martyrdom of her husband she said: ‘The evil men think killing a pastor will stop the gospel. Nothing will stop the gospel of Christ. My prayer is that his killers will get to know the Jesus I know. I do forgive them and will pray that the Lord saves their souls.’

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