In what the Christian Association of Nigeria is calling a "pure genocide," 238 more Christians were killed and churches desecrated by Muslims last week in the west African nation. This brings the death toll of Christians to more than 6,000 since the start of 2018.
According to a joint statement by the Christian Association, an umbrella group of various Christian denominations, "There is no doubt that the sole purpose of these attacks is aimed at ethnic cleansing, land grabbing and forceful ejection of the Christian natives from their ancestral land and heritage."
The statement condemned the recent attacks, "where over 200 persons were brutally killed and our churches destroyed without any intervention from security agencies in spite of several distress calls made to them."
The statement adds that the majority of those 6,000 Christians massacred this year were "mostly children, women and the aged... What is happening in ... Nigeria is pure genocide and must be stopped immediately."
The details of the murder of these thousands, though seldom reported, are often grisly; many were either hacked to death or beheaded with machetes; others were burned alive (including inside locked churches or homes); and women are often sexually assaulted or raped before being slaughtered.
Both the Nigerian government and the U.S. government have long sought to present this protracted jihad as territorial clashes between the haves (apparently always Christians) and haves-not (apparently always Muslims).
In 2012, for instance, President Bill Clinton said that "inequality" and "poverty" are "what's fueling all this stuff" (the "stuff" being a reference to the ongoing Muslim slaughter of Christians in Nigeria). Former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Johnnie Carson, said after an Easter Day bombing in 2012 of a Nigerian church left 39 worshippers dead, "I want to take this opportunity to stress one key point and that is that religion is not driving extremist violence". The Obama administration reportedly agreed to spend $600 million in a USAID initiative launched to ascertain the "true causes" of unrest and violence in Nigeria -- which naturally lay in the socio-economic, supposedly never the religious, realm.
In its recent statement, however, the Christian Association of Nigeria denied these claims. After saying that those responsible for slaughtering Christians are always allowed to "go scot free" by the Nigerian government—which further portrays the attacks as "farmers/herdsmen clashes"—it inquired:
"How can it be a clash when one group [Muslims] is persistently attacking, killing, maiming, [and] destroying, and the other group [Christians] is persistently being killed, maimed and their places of worship destroyed? How can it be a clash when the herdsmen are hunting farmers in their own villages/communities and farmers are running for their lives?"
On May 2, the National Christian Elders Forum -- a wing of the Christian Association, the members of which average the age of 75 and come from Nigeria's six geopolitical zones -- met with the British High Commission in an effort to receive support. (Days before the meeting, around 30 Muslim herdsmen had stormed a church during early morning Mass and murdered nearly 20 parishioners and two clergymen.) The group's executive summary of issues included:
It is clear to the Christian Elders that JIHAD has been launched in Nigeria by the Islamists of northern Nigeria led by the Fulani ethnic group [the "herdsmen"]. This Jihad is based on the Doctrine of Hate taught in Mosques and Islamic Madrasas in northern Nigeria as well as the supremacist ideology of the Fulani. Using both conventional (violent) Jihad, and stealth (civilization) Jihad, the Islamists of northern Nigeria seem determined to turn Nigeria into an Islamic Sultanate and replace Liberal Democracy with Sharia as the National Ideology. The object of course, is to supplant the Constitution with Sharia as the source of legislation. The current 1999 Constitution is plagued with dual conflicting ideology of Democracy and Sharia. There are certain values which are non-negotiable in a pluralistic society and it seems the advocates of the Caliphate do not respect this. A dual-ideology-driven Nigeria cannot be the Nigeria of our dream. We want a Nigeria, where citizens are treated equally before the law at all levels.... Bearing in mind that Christians constitute over 50% of the Nigerian population, the goal of the Islamists is bound to create serious conflicts which if not checked is capable of escalating into another civil war. Already, the Islamists are murdering Christians with impunity and destroying vulnerable Christian places of worship and communities at an alarming and inhuman rate.
That 6,000 Christians, "mostly children, women and the aged," have been butchered in just the first six months of this year is a reminder of how violence only escalates when left unchecked. That is the story of the Muslim persecution of Christians in Nigeria.
It took three times as long (a year-and-a-half, between December 2013 to July 2015), for example, for the same Muslim herdsmen to slaughter a total of 1,484 Christians (532 men, 507 women, and 445 children), critically wound 2,388 Christians (1,069 men, 817 women, and 502 children), and burn or destroy 171 churches.
The Nigerian government and the international community, however, have from the start done little to address the situation. This lack of participation is not surprising: they cannot even acknowledge its roots, namely, the intolerant ideology of jihad. As a result, the death toll of Christians has only risen -- and will likely continue to grow exponentially -- until such time that this reality is not only acknowledged but addressed.
The governor of Nigeria's Anambra State, Willie Obiano (center), visits a wounded survivor of a deadly attack on St. Philip Catholic Church in Ozubulu, August 11, 2017. (Image source: Channels TV video screenshot)
Raymond Ibrahim is the author of Crucified Again: Exposing Islam's New War on Christians (published by Regnery with Gatestone Institute, April 2013).