Date: January 25, 2023
Church members terrorized in Kaduna and Enugu states.
By Our Nigeria Correspondent
Funeral service for the Christians killed on Jan. 17 in Zonkwa town, Kaduna state, Nigeria. (Catholic Diocese of Kafanchan).
ABUJA, Nigeria (Morning Star News) – Five Christians were killed on Jan. 17 in northern Nigeria’s Kaduna state, while a church leader in the southeastern state of Enugu said Christians there were “under siege.”
In southern Kaduna state’s Zonkwa town, Zangon Kataf County, terrorists attacked at about 8 p.m. on Jan. 17, said local council official Yabo Ephraim. He identified one of the slain as Calistus Eze.
“The terrorists shot sporadically as they made their way into the town, killing five Christians and injuring many others,” Ephraim said. “The injured victims are currently receiving treatment at some separate medical facilities.”
Leaders of the Catholic Church’s Kafanchan Diocese in southern Kaduna state, where the attack occurred, said a requiem Mass was held on Thursday (Jan. 19) for the five Catholics slain.
On the same day, suspected Fulani herdsmen and other terrorists attacked St. Monica’s Catholic Church in Kaduna state’s Ikulu-Pari village, Kauru County, and kidnapped a parish catechist. Area resident Epharim Sheyin identified the teacher as Kefas Ishaya and the assailants who took him away at gunpoint as “Muslim terrorists.”
Sunday Bege, chairman of the church’s laity council, said “armed terrorists” took Ishaya away.
“And as they left, they were shooting sporadically at anyone they sighted,” Bege said, adding that the same church’s parish priest, the Rev. Joseph Shekari, was kidnapped on Feb. 6, 2022 and church worker Sati Musa was killed.
Shekari, kidnapped while ministering away from the church premises, was released after church leaders paid a ransom, Bege said.
“It’s possible they’ve returned for a similar mission to kidnapped the priest again, but they couldn’t find him,” he said. “The catechist, who’s on the church’s pastoral team, has been taken away by the terrorists. We are yet to contacted by the terrorists.”
In southeast Nigeria’s Enugu state, suspected Fulani herdsmen and other terrorists kidnapped four Christians on Jan. 17 and Jan. 19 in Ikem of Isi-uzo County, an area resident said.
On Jan. 16, eight armed terrorists attacked Emeka Odoh and four others as they were driving out of Ikem, Odoh said.
“Our car was riddled with bullets, and one of us was shot and wounded,” Odoh told Morning Star News. “Four of us in the car escaped unhurt.”
On Jan. 17 the terrorists kidnapped a Christian from Ikem, he said, and they returned on Jan. 19.
“The gunmen returned for the third time, this time at night, kidnapped three additional Christians and shot one other Christian whom they abandoned,” Odoh said. “He’s currently being treated at a hospital.”
He added that last year a lay leader of the Catholic Church in Ikem was among Christians kidnapped.
“A catechist was last year kidnapped when the herdsmen and terrorists attacked Ikem three times,” Odoh said. “The catechist and two other members of the church were kidnapped. The three were only released after ransom in various sums were paid to the herdsmen and terrorists.”
In the area’s predominantly Christian Eha-Amufu village, herdsmen and other terrorists mounted attacks in late December that resulted in the deaths of more than 100 Christians, a local leader said.
“Within the last few weeks, over 100 Christians have been slaughtered in Eha-Amufu, and this cuts across all ages,” community leader Okwu Nnabuike said in a press statement at that time. “We are unhappy as no word has come from the federal government as a form of sympathy to those affected. The herdsmen must be stopped from wreaking further havoc forthwith.”
Nnabuike said the “killer herdsmen” were trying to push villagers from their ancestral lands.
“This has to end; the security agencies must show the world that they are not part of what is happening,” he said. “For the umpteenth time, we call on the federal government-controlled security agencies to disarm the AK-47 wielding herdsmen who are slaughtering our people.”
The Rev. Daniel Olinya, Anglican bishop of Ehamufu Diocese, confirmed the killings, saying, “Christians in Enugu state are currently under siege from the terrorists and armed Fulani herdsmen.”
The bishop said hundreds of Christians have been killed and thousands more displaced by the attacks.
Nigeria led the world in Christians killed for their faith in 2022, with 5,014, according to Open Doors’ 2023 World Watch List (WWL) report. It also led the world in Christians abducted (4,726), sexually assaulted or harassed, forcibly married or physically or mentally abused, and it had the most homes and businesses attacked for faith-based reasons. As in the previous year, Nigeria had the second most church attacks and internally displaced people.
In the 2023 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian, Nigeria jumped to sixth place, its highest ranking ever, from No. 7 the previous year.
“Militants from the Fulani, Boko Haram, Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) and others conduct raids on Christian communities, killing, maiming, raping and kidnapping for ransom or sexual slavery,” the WWL report noted. “This year has also seen this violence spill over into the Christian-majority south of the nation… Nigeria’s government continues to deny this is religious persecution, so violations of Christians’ rights are carried out with impunity.”
Numbering in the millions across Nigeria and the Sahel, predominantly Muslim Fulani comprise hundreds of clans of many different lineages who do not hold extremist views, but some Fulani do adhere to radical Islamist ideology, the United Kingdom’s All-Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom or Belief (APPG) noted in a recent report.
“They adopt a comparable strategy to Boko Haram and ISWAP and demonstrate a clear intent to target Christians and potent symbols of Christian identity,” the APPG report states.
Christian leaders in Nigeria have said they believe herdsmen attacks on Christian communities in Nigeria’s Middle Belt are inspired by their desire to forcefully take over Christians’ lands and impose Islam as desertification has made it difficult for them to sustain their herds.