Armed gunmen raided a Sunday morning service last week at Haske Baptist Church in Nigeria’s Middle Belt, killing one and kidnapping at least four others, the Barnabas Fund reported Tuesday.
The April 25 attack took place in Manini Tasha village, in Kaduna State, where Fulani raiders have carried out ongoing targeted attacks on the Christian population.
A man named Zechariah Dogonyaro was killed during the armed assault and two others were wounded by gunfire.
“The Fulani herdsmen came to our village as the church service was going on,” Yakubu Bala of Haske Baptist Church told Morning Star News. “They surrounded the church and started shooting. They came at about 9 a.m., and they rode on motorcycles. They shot at us randomly and at anyone they sighted.”
The Rev. Caleb Ma’aji, secretary of the Kaduna state chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), expressed consternation over the Nigerian government apparent inability to protect Christians.
“We wonder, what is the crime of innocent citizens, and how come the terrorists appear more free and protected than the citizens?” Ma’aji said. “This is a challenge to the government; indeed a government that is unable to guarantee the safety of its citizens and their properties will be best termed a failed government.”
Kaduna State lies in Nigeria’s Middle Belt, where at least 249 Christians have been killed in Islamic attacks since the beginning of July 2020.
Just days before the attack on the Baptist church, two Christian women were among five students killed after suspected Fulani herdsmen kidnapped them and 18 others from Greenfield University in Kaduna state.
Mainstream media have insisted that the anti-Christian violence by Muslim herdsmen is not religiously motivated, but this is not the experience of people on the ground.
“It’s tough to tell Nigerian Christians this isn’t a religious conflict since what they see are Fulani fighters clad entirely in black, chanting ‘Allahu Akbar!’ and screaming ‘Death to Christians!’ said Sister Monica Chikwe of the Hospitaler Sisters of Mercy at a 2019 Rome conference on anti-Christian persecution.
The media have largely downplayed the religious nature of the Fulani killings, preferring to attribute the violence to “ethnic tensions,” a “battle for land and resources,” or even “climate change.”
Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari, who is himself of the Fulani ethnic group, has encouraged this narrative, minimizing the importance of religion in the conflict.
Wall Street Journal writer Bernard-Henri Lévy asserted in 2019 that “professional disinformers” were behind the narrative denying the religious nature of the Fulani attacks.
The Fulani raiders, who number between 14 and 15 million, originated in the country’s mostly Muslim north but have made their way south where they have been carrying out a reign of terror on Christians, Lévy noted.
According to the 2019 Global Terrorism Index, the Fulani militants are now deadlier than Boko Haram and carried out the majority of the Nigeria’s 2,040 documented terrorist fatalities in 2018.
Two local Catholic bishops, along with other Christian leaders, have argued that the targeted violence represents a “clear agenda for Islamizing the Nigerian Middle Belt” by using armed Fulani jihadists.
One of the bishops, Matthew Ishaya Audu of Lafia, said in 2018 that the ongoing attacks are not random or economically motivated, but purposefully target Christians.
“They want to strike Christians,” Bishop Audu said, “and the government does nothing to stop them, because President Buhari is also of the Fulani ethnic group.”