Eight Christians killed in Plateau state, Nigeria

Location of Plateau state, Nigeria.
Location of Plateau state, Nigeria. | (Uwe Dedering, Creative Commons)

Suspected Fulani herdsmen killed eight Christians, including two children, and wounded four others in attacks on three villages last week in a district of Plateau state, Nigeria, sources said.

In Hwrra village, Miango District, the assailants killed five Christians, including two children, as they slept on Wednesday (June 26), wounded another and set three homes ablaze, said Sam Jugo, spokesman of the Irigwe Development Association (IDA) of the predominantly Christian Irigwe ethnic group in Bassa County.

“There was an attack on the night of 26th June at about 10 p.m. by criminal elements suspected to be Fulani herders at Hwrra, Kwall axis, Bassa LGA,” Jugo said in a press statement. “The incident claimed the lives of five innocent Rigwe souls, namely Mrs. Jummai Matthew, 67, Martha Danladi, 13, Meshack Matthew, 18, Bari John, 30, and Robert Sunday, 7.”

Maryamu Sunday was severely injured and receiving treatment at a medical facility, he said.

“Three houses were also razed down,” Jugo said, adding that the incident was “heartbreaking, wicked, condemnable, unprovoked, and coming at a time that all well-meaning Rigwe natives are working tirelessly to ensure peace reigns at home and environs.”

Suspected Fulani herdsmen on Sunday (June 23) ambushed three Christians in Nkiedonwro village, killing one of them, while two others two escaped with bullet wounds. The village was also attacked in 2017, when Fulani herdsmen burned down church buildings and killed 30 Christians.

On June 21, the suspected herdsmen attacked Kparenke village, killing two Christians and wounding another, Jugo said. He identified the two slain Christians as Friday Mangwa, 28, and Deborah Monday, 40. Keziah Friday, 20, a Christian woman, was shot and seriously wounded and was being treated at a hospital in Jos.

“At about 10 p.m. on 21st June, when Christians in Kparenke community were asleep, Fulani herdsmen unleashed terror on them, and as a result, two Christians were killed and one other injured,” Jugo said. “These attacks are as despicable as they’re unfortunate. We condemn these acts of wanton disregard for human lives and extant laws of our nation and our country.”

Nigeria remained the deadliest place in the world to follow Christ, with 4,118 people killed for their faith from Oct. 1, 2022 to Sept. 30, 2023, according to Open Doors’ 2024 World Watch List (WWL) report. More kidnappings of Christians than in any other country also took place in Nigeria, with 3,300.

Nigeria was also the third highest country in number of attacks on churches and other Christian buildings such as hospitals, schools, and cemeteries, with 750, according to the report.

In the 2024 WWL of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian, Nigeria was ranked No. 6, as it was in the previous year.

Numbering in the millions across Nigeria and the Sahel, predominantly Muslim Fulani comprise hundreds of clans of many different lineages who do not hold extremist views, but some Fulani do adhere to radical Islamist ideology, the United Kingdom’s All-Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom or Belief (APPG) noted in a 2020 report.

“They adopt a comparable strategy to Boko Haram and ISWAP and demonstrate a clear intent to target Christians and potent symbols of Christian identity,” the APPG report states.

Christian leaders in Nigeria have said they believe herdsmen attacks on Christian communities in Nigeria’s Middle Belt are inspired by their desire to forcefully take over Christians’ lands and impose Islam as desertification has made it difficult for them to sustain their herds.