The day a Release International team finished filming witness testimonies to the violence in Nigeria, Fulani militants struck again – driving 19,000 people from their homes.
Release International was in Mangu, Nigeria to film interviews for its major Out of these Ashes campaign.
We spoke to many villagers from Plateau State and others who had gathered for a trauma healing workshop held by partners, the Stefanos Foundation.
They all described relentless attacks against Christian farming communities, killing men, women, and children alike.
One Release International partner, the Venerable Mark Mukan, has been describing the situation to churches in the UK.
Mark is Director of Mission Operations in the Anglican Diocese of Jos in Nigeria. He works tirelessly to bring the hope and assurance of Jesus’ love to persecuted Christian communities in north and central Nigeria.
Mark said the day the Release International media team completed their filming, the militants struck again.
29 churches burned
‘From reports from friends and pastors, we understand that 29 churches were burned, and people have fled to 14 different displaced camps.”
He described the devastation: ‘The people are in mourning. The blood of humanity has been spilled.’
While thousands have been driven into camps, many others have fled to family and relatives elsewhere. Says Mark: ‘In some Christian houses you find 10 people, because their doors are open for others to come in. There are many who have taken guests into their families. Christian hospitality has been a key strength for us.
‘We ask for prayer. We’re raising prayers for the families and that the Lord will grant them grace. And for those who are killing us, we pray that they will be carriers of this gospel tomorrow.’
A major source of concern in Nigeria is the apparent inaction of the soldiers, who are supposed to prevent the violence. Reports persist that men in military uniforms are joining in with the attacks.
Says Mark: ‘Often people who have experienced this violence say there were soldiers among them, or soldiers who were aiding the attackers.
‘The state is supposed to protect its citizens. I hope is it with this change of government [after the recent elections], that the Lord will raise a government which also has the heart of its citizens.
Impact on the Church
The impact on the Church in northeast Nigeria has been enormous. Says Mark: ‘If they have torched one church, they have torched us all. And in the northeast especially, denominations have been wiped out.
‘It might look as though the church is quiet out there, but though our leaders are in pain, they are organised.’ The question is, is anyone listening?
‘To whom will you cry?’ adds Mark. ‘Raising voices in places like this is all the strength that we have. And we have brethren like Release International, who are standing by us. They raise their voice for us around the world, so others will know what has become of us.’
The Rev Mark Mukan is the keynote speaker at the forthcoming Day of the Christian Martyr service at Holy Trinity Church Eastbourne on June 29.
The event, which is being live-streamed, forms the finale to Release International’s three-month Out of these ashes campaign.
Rev Mukan will be joined by Dr Eric Foley of Voice of the Martyrs Korea, and by Dr Bob Fu, the founder and president of ChinaAid.
To register for the event or to find out more, click here
1872 DEATHS IN FIRST FOUR MONTHS
Another Release International partner in Nigeria, the Stefanos Foundation, calculates that in the first four months of 2023 more than 1,800 people have been killed by militants.
Their latest report says that 217 attacks took place in 34 states between January and April. The strikes resulted in 1,872 deaths and left 65 injured. The attackers also abducted 714 people.
Nigeria has become the kidnap capital of the world. As well as attackers driving Christian farmers off their land, they often kidnap people, demanding ransoms that will impoverish the Christian communities.
Often, even if those ransoms are paid, the kidnap victims are killed.
Fatima Njoku, Advocacy Manager at Stefanos Foundation, described the growing violence at a press conference in Abuja.
The Chronicle Nigeria reported her words: ‘Armless, defenceless people are attacked in the middle of the night, killed with guns and machetes, houses burned down with their property looted, and entire communities wholly displaced. It is even worse when the attackers are not apprehended, let alone prosecuted.
‘This has happened in Agatu, Guma, Logo in Benue State, Kagoro, Zangon Kataf, Kajuru, Kafanchan in southern Kaduna, Bassa, Riyom, Barkin Ladi, and now Mangu in Plateau State. The list goes on.’
Source: Chronicle Nigeria.