Christians in Nigeria are facing unrelenting attacks by radicalised Fulani militants, leading to fears that food insecurity may compound their woes.
They told reporters at a press conference in the capital Abuja that Christian farmers are being pushed off their agricultural lands by wave after wave of deadly attacks and that they fear being annihilated by a “systematic genocide”.
The news conference was organised by the UK-based charity, Release International, which supports persecuted Christians around the world.
They told reporters that unless Christian farmers can be returned to their lands, Nigeria may be plunged into a food crisis.
One of Release’s Nigerian-based partners, Mark Lipdo, explained: “Unless the displaced farmers can be resettled in their ancestral lands there will be a food shortage in Nigeria in the days to come.”
The Bokkos Cultural Development Council (BCDC), based in Plateau State, which has been plagued by attacks, called the situation a “persistent genocide” and a “threat to our existence to exterminate us and take over our land”.
“If the goal is to annihilate us through systematic genocide, then we take our case to the government and to God our creator,” it said in a statement.
“As Christians, we have faith in God who created us and placed us on the land of Bokkos. He will never leave us nor forsake us.”
A spate of violent attacks on Christians by Fulani militia over Christmas claimed 238 lives.
Lipdo warned that the violence threatens to engulf the whole country.
“These attacks are being seen by local Nigerians as a jihad, like the jihad of 200 years ago. This is why they are targeting Christmas and targeting churches,” he said.
“The Fulani are continuing the legacy of the ancestors. What is happening is a religious war.
“It is taking over the whole of Nigeria. Fulani militants are roaming around with heavy firearms. And nothing is being done by the authorities. We are hoping the authorities will come to their senses.”
Nigerian Christian charity, the Stefanos Foundation, has been keeping track of attacks since 2001. It estimates that some 42,000 Nigerian Christians have lost their lives since – over 4,300 were in 2023 alone.
Paul Robinson, Release International, is asking Christians to pray.
“Their communities, their houses and their churches are being deliberately targeted. For good reason, our partners and many others are using the word genocide,” he said.
“We are witnessing a land-grab and ethnic-religious cleansing. And time and again, the Nigerian military has simply let it happen. For decades, many in the international community have attributed the violence to farmer-herder clashes. This view is naive. What we are seeing has all the hallmarks of a jihad.
“While the international community must take action, we are also calling on Christians to pray for our brothers and sisters in Nigeria who are being killed in their thousands.”