ABUJA, NIGERIA (BosNewsLife)– A major evangelical denomination in Nigeria has urged Christians to join in three days of fasting amid concerns over a surge in anti-Christian attacks by mainly Muslim Fulani herdsmen that killed at least dozens of people in recent weeks.
The Evangelical Church Winning (ECWA) said the November 21 to 23 fasting period follows attacks that included violence in the villages of Sanga, Kaura, and Jema’a Local Government Areas (LGA’s) of Southern Kaduna area in central Nigeria.
Speaking at ECWA’s Kaduna Central District Church Council, Reverend Zachariah Gado, decried “a campaign of ethno religious cleansing by Fulani herdsmen militia” that he claimed targeted churches and forcibly displaced thousands of villagers, whose lands were subsequently been occupied by herders and their families.
He also condemned frequent abductions, forced conversions and marriages of underage girls in Kaduna State. The church leader referred to the case of 15 year-old Sarah Jonathan, who was reportedly abducted on August 16. Sarah was allegedly taken to the palace of the Emir of Saminaka before being “married off”, and her father, an ECWA member, was being forced to appear before a Shari’a court by her abductors.
The November 16 press gathering happened place three days after an attack on five communities in the Chawai Chiefdom of Kaura LGA. Armed herdsmen descended on Kigam, Kitakum, Unguwan Magaji, Unguwan Rimi and Kizipi at around on November 13, killing 35 people, including children and pregnant women, and looting 120 homes before destroying them, Christian rights activists said.
All six churches were reportedly burned down in Kigam; the primary school was the only building left standing.
“Since the latest onslaught on Southern Kaduna began at least 138 people have been killed, most of them women and children, and at least 1,300 homes and churches have been torched,” the ECWA said in a statement distributed by Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW).
The killings in the Chawai Chiefdom bring the recorded death toll within the last six months alone to 98, Christians said. Ethno-religious cleansing may have intensified after the Kaduna State Government announced its intention to allocate 20,000 hectares of land in Southern Kaduna towards grazing reserves, over and above land already occupied illegally by the herders, the ECWA suggested.
The church has urged authorities to detain those responsible for the violence, ensure the return of all abducted minors and the prosecution of their abductors, and to end plans for grazing reserves as well as the restoration of occupied land to its rightful owners.
The ECWA also called for humanitarian aid for the displaced,
and for an army barracks in the affected area to deter further violence.
CSW’s Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said he understand these security concerns.
“Creating grazing reserves that may benefit perpetrators of ethno-religious cleansing would not only constitute a grave injustice; it could also worsen existing tensions,” Thomas said.
He told BosNewsLife that CSW has asked “State and Federal authorities to focus instead on providing adequate humanitarian assistance to victims, ensuring perpetrators are disarmed and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law without fear or favour, and facilitating the return of illegally occupied land.”
In addition, he said, it was crucial that “the security forces must be mandated and equipped to mount effective interventions in defence of
Christians have also suffered attacks by Boko Haram, the Islamic militant group which gained worldwide attention after abducting hundreds of Christian schoolgirls in 2014.