“Islamic militants have a Masterplan to Islamise the region and wipe out Christianity”
Islamist nomadic herdsmen are waging a violent campaign to eradicate Christianity from Nigeria’s Middle Belt region – and the Government is doing very little to stop them “There is a clear agenda: a plan to Islamize all the areas that are currently predominantly Christian in the so-called Middle Belt of Nigeria.”
Those are the words of Bishop Wilfred Chikpa Angle of the Diocese of Makurdi in Nigeria, in an interview with Aid to the Church in Need. His diocese is home to the parish of Saint Ignatius in Ukpor-Mbalom, Benue State—the scene of the most recent attack by Fulani herdsmen, which took place on April 24, 2018. “Two of my priests were murdered, Father Joseph Gor and Father Felix Tyolaha, together with at least 17 of the faithful. They were celebrating Holy Mass at 6 in the morning” said the bishop
The area where the attack took place is now completely abandoned. The parish of Mbalom was established only in 2015. “There was nothing at the time, no schools and no hospitals. We built these, above all thanks to the dedication of Father Joseph and Father Felix. They were priests who were truly active and devoted to their community,” the bishop says.
Armed Fulani extremists also attacked the Sacred Heart Minor Seminary in Jalingo diocese, shooting Father Cornelius Kobach in the leg and beating up another priest, Father Stephen Bakari.
Describing attacks in the Middle Belt that have left up to 100 Christians dead this year alone, the bishop says that “11 parishes in the diocese have been attacked and there have been numerous other attacks throughout Benue State, where 99 per cent of the population is Christian. “
The attacks were carried out by nomadic cattle herders of the Fulani tribe which tends to be Muslim. “We are not speaking of Boko Haram this time, although some of the cattle herders have had relations with that terrorist group in the past and both groups are united in the same intention to Islamise the entire region,” the bishop states.
In the face of so much violence, one of the most worrying aspects for the bishop is the complete lack of action on the part of the government, especially the federal government. He went on to accuse unknown sources of providing the militant Fulani with sophisticated weapons. “When the attacks take place, there are never any police or soldiers present. Quite apart from the fact that the Fulani tribesman, for the most part, live in rough terrain and cannot afford the luxury of such sophisticated weapons. So who is funding them?”
He told ACN: “The inhabitants of Maiduguri see a lack of transparency and honesty on the part of the authorities.”
The violence has resulted in more than 100,000 Internally Displaced People, who are living in four separate refugee camps in the Diocese of Makurdi. Angle also spoke out against the government for failing to assist them: “The Church is helping the people, whereas the government is not helping us at all in this case.”
Aid to the Church in Need has already provided emergency and pastoral help for internally displaced and refugee families in different parts of Nigeria and those who have fled to neighbouring Cameroon.
In the face of so much pain and suffering, the Nigerian Christians still have not lost hope – but they do need the support of the international community. The Catholic Church in Nigeria organized a march on 22 May to protest against ongoing attacks on Christians by the Fulani cattle herders. Bishop Anagbe concludes: “Please pray for us and make yourself spokesmen for the suffering our community is going through. We need people to raise their voices in our defence. Nigeria is part of the United Nations, and we cannot simply be abandoned and forgotten by the world.”