(Adds info about memorial website, more details)
By BosNewsLife Africa Service with reporting by BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos
ABUJA, NIGERIA (BosNewsLife)– Islamic militants have released a video showing the killing of Christian student Ropvil Daciya Dalep in Nigeria by a young boy as part of a crackdown on Christians.
The gruesome footage of the January 20 execution was distributed by the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), a group linked to the Boko Haram terrorist organization.
In the video, the 21-year-old Dalep is kneeling as a masked child stands behind him, brandishing a pistol. Before shooting him, the boy chants in Arabic and later speaks in the Hausa language. He says that Dalep’s execution is in revenge for “bloodshed,” allegedly by Christians.
“In particular, this is one among the Christians from Plateau State. We are saying to Christians, we have not forgotten what you have done to our parents and ancestors,” says the boy, who is roughly eight-years-old. “And we are telling all Christians around the world, we have not forgotten and will not stop. We must avenge the bloodshed that has been done like this one…,” the boy adds.
Soon after, Dalep is shot and killed. Christian activists, family members, and experts confirmed the authenticity of the video. Dalep from Jing village in Pankshin Local Government Area (LGA), Plateau state, studied biology at the University of Maiduguri.
He was reportedly abducted on January 9 on the outskirts of the Borno State capital with 20-year-old zoology student Lilian Daniel Gyang, also from Plateau State. Both were returning to university following the Christmas holiday, Christians said. A third person who was kidnapped with them was later released, according to sources familiar with the situation.
Supporters expressed their grief on a memorial website. Nigeria failed YOU. But we Love YOU bro, and YOU’ll always remain in our hearts,” wrote Sullivan Wisdom on a dedicated page of the forevermissed.com website. He added: “The blood spilled on that ground in Bornu, will leave your killers restless forever. You remained brave and calm even in the face of death. You’ll never be forgotten. GOD Loves YOU more. Sleep well, Ropvil Daciya.”
The execution of Dalep was the second video released by ISWAP linking executions to the faith and origin of its victims, noted advocacy group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW). “In a video released on September 22, 2019, terrorists wielding AK- 47s described the beheadings of Christian humanitarian aid workers Lawrence Dacighir and Gedfrey Ali Shikagham. [The militants called it] “the beginning of ‘revenge on Christians in Plateau state,'” CSW told BosNewsLife in a statement.
“They alleged that Christians from the state ‘kill our women and children and eat their meat,'” CSW recalled. Both men were from Plateau state, and members of the Church of Christ in Nations (COCIN), Christians said.
Student Dalep was killed on the same day that Boko Hamar militants beheaded the chairman of the country’s leading Christian umbrella group. Footage of the execution of Pastor Lawan Andimi, who chaired the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), was released Tuesday, January 21.
News emerged Wednesday, January 23, that the Shekau faction of Boko Haram had demanded $2.6 million in ransom for the pastor’s release. They rejected an offer of roughly $140,000, according to Christians familiar with the negotiations.
Family members and Christian leaders urged Nigeria’s government to find those responsible and to be more “proactive” in providing security to Christians in northern and central Nigeria.
CSW’s Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas told BosNewsLife that his group is “deeply concerned and saddened by the daily reports of violence against Christians in northern and central Nigeria.” They are, he said, “under siege from a multiplicity of armed non-state actors. We join the president of CAN in appealing for President [Muhammadu] Buhari and the government of Nigeria to be more proactive in addressing these issues.”
Thomas added that the reported deterioration in security highlights “the urgent need for a recalibration of military strategy.” He urged the government to “ensure that security forces are sufficiently resourced to combat every armed threat and to protect every citizen, regardless of creed or ethnicity.”
Activists have also expressed worries about pressure by Islamic militants and authorities supporting them on Christian missionaries and organizations.
CSW noted that this pressure also negatively impacted a group of orphans and caregivers. They were reportedly seized by Nigerian police and Kano state’s government from the Christian Du Merci orphanages for unwanted children in the Kano and Kaduna states on Christmas Day and December 31 of 2019.
Professor Richard Solomon Musa Tarfa, the co-founder of the orphanages, was also briefly detained. He was granted bail on January 3 by a court in Kano state in northern Nigeria, CSW explained. But his future is uncertain.
“There are worrying indications that efforts may be underway to implicate the orphanage’s co-founder in some form of wrongdoing,” CSW stressed.
CSW said it also obtained video footage of a 30-year-old woman and 22-year-old man being “threatened by police.” The two were reportedly threatened after protesting at the government home against the alleged police mistreatment and asking to return to the Du Merci orphanage.
A Nigerian broadcaster also accused the orphanage of forcibly marrying a former resident and it as “a baby-making factory, allegedly for trafficking,” CSW monitored.
The network quoted the Kano state Commissioner of Women’s Affairs and Social Development as saying there was “no record showing the existence of any Du Merci Children’s Home in the state.”
The broadcast included a clip of the professor asserting the orphanage is duly registered. He was “being paraded before journalists alongside armed robbery and kidnapping suspects.” CSW complained. “The professor’s lawyer subsequently recorded a rebuttal to these allegations.”
CSW’s Thomas said he is “deeply concerned by the ongoing detention of Professor Tarfa,” and attempts to “implicate him in crimes for which he is not responsible.”
He claimed that the children from the Du Merci center had been prohibited from leaving their new orphanage or even to attend school. “This is clearly not in the best interests of the children. We urge the Kano state authorities to release Professor Tarfa immediately and without condition. And to allow the children and adults seized with them to return to the Du Merci center and continue with their lives.”
Advocacy groups say killings, kidnappings, and other pressure on mission groups and Christian individuals are part of efforts by Islamists to root out Christianity in northern and central Nigeria.