Last Friday another Catholic priest has been killed in Enugu State in Nigeria’s southeast, with local church sources reporting they believe the attack was carried out by Fulani. Father Paul Offu became the third Catholic priest murdered in the area over the past five months.
52 attacks in six months
Overall, the Jubilee Campaign, which advocates for religious freedom worldwide, recently submitted a report to the International Criminal Court claiming that Fulani assaults on Christian farming communities in Nigeria meet the international standard for a “genocide.” Their data claim that 52 such attacks took place between the beginning of 2019 and mid-June. The Nigerian-based civil society group International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law asserts that some 2,400 Christians were killed by the Fulani in 2018 alone.
The Fulani-driven violence is often described as not “religious” or “sectarian”, because it also involves a decades-old land use conflict between herders and farmers.
However, Sister Monica Chikwe of the Hospitaler Sisters of Mercy recently told CRUX news agency during a Rome conference on anti-Christian persecution, that it’s tough to tell Nigerian Christians this isn’t a religious conflict since what they see are Fulani fighters clad entirely in black, chanting “Allu Akhbar!” and screaming “Death to Christians!”
So far, Nigeria largely has been spared a larger eruption in part because of the leadership of Christian clergy, who generally preach non-violent resistance. It’s unclear, however, how much longer that philosophy can hold up if the violence continues unabated and the perception is that government authorities are unable, or unwilling, to do anything about it.
Nigeria is an emerging African superpower, it’s the largest oil producer in Africa with proven reserves of 37 million barrels (10th-largest in the world), and it’s also the country with the world’s largest mixed Muslim/Christian population.
If things go bad, the consequences won’t be confined to Nigeria’s borders, but could spark economic, military and cultural upheaval around the world.
Sooner or later, the international community will be forced to recognize that the fate of Nigeria’s Christian population isn’t just a human rights issue – though it’s certainly that – but also a major global security concern.