Around five million people marched on the first Sunday in February, in 28 of Nigeria’s 36 states, to protest the beheading of Brethren pastor Lawan Andimi by Boko Haram and to denounce the Nigerian government’s failure to stop abductions and killings.
The march, organised by the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) as the final event of a three-day fast, featured posters which read: “Nigerian Christians are under attack. Buhari act now”, and “Our values and way of life will prevail, the killings will not.”
Christian Solidarity International (CSI), an NGO campaigning for religious freedom, has issued a Genocide Warning for Nigeria. It also has called on the Permanent Member of the United Nations Security Council to take appropriate action to prevent genocide in Africa’s largest country.
CSI issued this Genocide Warning in response to a rising tide of violence directed against Nigerian Christians and others classified as “infidels” by Islamist militants in the country’s north and middle belt regions.
‘Christians have become an endangered species in their own country’
About one thousand Christians in Nigeria are reported to have been killed by Islamist militias over the past year, with 6,000 murdered since 2015, according to the most conservative estimates from Nigerian Christian sources. During late December and January:
- The Islamic State West African Province (ISWAP) released a video showing the murder of Ropvil Daciya Dalep, a Christian student at the University of Maiduguri (January 23).
- Reverend Dennis Bagauri was shot to death at his home in Adamawa state (January 20).
- Fulani militants attacked 11 Christian villages in southern Kaduna state and Plateau state, killing 50 and kidnapping 58 (January 6-13).
- Boko Haram terrorists beheaded Martha Bulus and her two bridesmaids as they were en route to her wedding in Borno State (December 26).
- ISWAP released a video showing 11 Christians being beheaded, in what the Islamic State claims was revenge for the killing of their “caliph,” Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (December 26).
“Christians have become an endangered species in their own country,” Dr. Samson Ayokunle, President of the Christian Association of Nigeria CAN, warned on January 23.
“Nigeria is under a siege orchestrated by the murderous bloodthirsty and criminally-minded Boko Haram terrorists, Fulani terrorist herdsmen, bandits and kidnappers.”
Ayokunle called the government to account for its inaction in the face of the escalating conflict and the culture of impunity in Nigeria. (CAN includes the Catholic, Pentecostal and main Protestant Churches in Nigeria.)
Grave concern has also been raised by the International Criminal Court’s Office of the Prosecutor. In a report published at the end of 2019, the Office of the Prosecutor warned that there is “reasonable basis” to believe that war crimes and crimes against humanity have taken place in Nigeria.
The ICC report stated that not only Boko Haram and its Islamist offshoots are under investigation, but also the Nigerian Security Forces (NSF). According to an ICC report, the investigation of NSF includes acts of violence against persons associated with the Shiite “Islamic Movement of Nigeria” and the predominately-Christian Indigenous People of Biafra.
“The conditions for genocide exist in Nigeria,” said Dr. John Eibner, the Chairman of CSI’s International Management, “with Christians, non-violent Muslims, and adherents of tribal religions being particularly vulnerable. The increasingly violent attacks and the failure of the Nigerian government to prevent them and punish the perpetrators are alarming.”
Eibner continued: “The vast majority of states, as signatories to the Genocide Convention of 1948, have committed to ‘undertake to prevent’ genocide, a commitment that was reaffirmed in the 2005 declaration of the Responsibility to Protect. CSI therefore calls on the permanent members of the UN Security Council to take swift action to uphold this commitment to genocide prevention in Nigeria.”
CSI has been monitoring the surge in sectarian violence in Nigeria. Last year, it set up the Nigeria Report website to provide news and a platform for discussion about ways to end the interwoven sectarian conflicts and tribal rivalries that have so gravely destabilised Africa’s most populous county.
Christian Solidarity International (CSI) is a Christian human rights organisation promoting religious liberty and human dignity.