As tens of millions of Nigerian Christians all over the country and beyond its borders celebrate the “canonical” birth of Jesus Christ and the Christian Religion with biblical sermons and merriments; the leadership of International Society for Civil Liberties and the Rule of Law; have resolved to take the bull by the horn by alerting them over the growing and sustained threats to the safety and growth of Christianity in Nigeria. The lives of over 70 million Christians in the country are steadily under severe threats and the threats have gone viral following the ascendance to political and military powers and commands by some proponents of radical Islamism since mid 2015.
That is to say that Christians and Christianity in Nigeria are steadily and terminally facing depopulation, suppression and persecution and that if nothing concrete is done urgently to arrest the dire situation; the population of Christians in the country shall steadily or systematically be shrunk by wide margins just as the population of Christians in the Middle-East got brutally plummeted to present 3% from its over 20% in the past hundred years (source: Society for the Threatened Peoples (STP) December 2016).
Corroboratively, a respected German rights group- Society for the Threatened Peoples (STP), had in its 22nd December 2016 statement drew the UN and global attention to the situation of Christians in the Middle-East in which it found as follows: The believers are trying to escape from the ‘Cradle of Christianity’ due to the ongoing violence. The 2000-year history of the Christians in this region might soon be over, says Kamal Sido, the STP’s Middle East consultant. A hundred years ago, the Christians still represented 20 percent of the population of the Middle East. Now, it is only about three percent. Most of the Iraqi Christians fled or were expelled during the past three decades. Their number has decreased from 1.5 Million to only 300,000 today. In Central Syria, the ‘Islamic State’ (IS) has gained influence again, which is a threat to several villages with a Christian population between Aleppo and Damascus – such as Qaryatain or Maalula.
Even the few Christians in Turkey are increasingly under pressure due to the intensified Kurdish conflict and the rigorous measures taken by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The only Christian mayor in Turkey, Februniye Akyol, was removed from office, and her Kurdish colleagues were imprisoned. Terror, violence, and religious intolerance have led to significant changes in the lives of millions of people in the Middle East,” Sido criticized. The Christians and members of other religious minorities such as the Yazidis or Mandaeans must be able to rely on their freedom of belief – guaranteed by the state and supported by society – or they will hardly be able to survive there. IS has been driven away from most of the Christian communities at the so-called Nineveh plain to the north and the east of the embattled metropole Mossul in the north of the country, but many Christians and Yazidis will not be able to return to their villages unless the international community can guarantee protection from Sunni and Shiite extremists....
Also, owing to systematic and well coordinated violence and persecution using State and non-State violent instruments, the Christian populations in the Egypt’s Asyut communities are in a verge of brutal extinction. Asyut of Egypt is Africa’s oldest Christian Community, which produced the first African Pope (Coptic Orthodox Pope); called Saint Marks; after whom the great St Marks Coptic Orthodox Cathedral of Alexandria, built in AD60 was named. Egypt’s Asyut also produced the first African Secretary General of the United Nations; late Prof Boutros-Boutros Ghali. The Asyut of Egypt embraced Christianity few years after the birth of the Church in about AD35 and death of Jesus Christ in about AD33. Christian population of the Asyut rose to 6million or approximately 10% of the Egyptian population of 64million people in the late 90s before being brutally depopulated to less than 200,000 as at 2006. Between 1988 and 1990, according to the Middle-East Quarterly 2001, 50,000 Coptic Christian graduates were forcefully converted to Islam to escape State engineered joblessness, persecution and threats and death in the hands of radical Muslim groups.
In Nigeria, the safety of Christians and growth of their faith were brutally undermined and threatened particularly between 2009 and 2014 through the violent activities of northern radical politicians and Muslim fundamentalists; using Boko Haram terror group for purposes of Islamization and ascendance to Nigerian Presidency and its Christianity conquest agenda. As a result, most of Christian settlements and communities in the Northeast particularly in Borno and Adamawa States were uprooted and decimated with many sedentary Christians of the communities killed or forcefully converted to Islam or made to flee and become internally displaced persons or refugees. Over 13,000 Christians were killed, 13,000 churches and 1500 Christian schools destroyed. Hundreds, if not thousands particularly, women and children have been starved to death and over 1.3million other Christian citizens fled their ancestral homes to escape politically oiled persecution (Intersociety 2016; Christian Open Doors 2015).
In all these, fatalities and destructions suffered by Nigerian Christians in the northern part of the country in the hands of northern radical Muslim politicians’ oiled Boko Haram terror; are no way in comparison to threats presently faced by Nigerian Christians in the hands of President Muhammadu Buhari, Lt Gen Turkur Buratai and his Nigerian Army; Governor Nasiru el-Rufai of Kaduna State and the Fulani terror group. While the fatalities and destructions so incurred; were perpetrated at the level of non State actor and restricted to the Northeast and parts of North-Central and Northwest; using politically sponsored Boko Haram terrorism; the present threats are more menacing and widespread in that they are both State actor and non State actor oriented with the country’s largest Christians concentration of Southeast, South-South and Christian parts of North-Central Zone of Benue, Plateau and Nasarawa States being the gravest targets.
Statistically, President Muhammadu Buhari as one of the major threats to the safety of Christians and growth of Christian faith in Nigeria is elementarily understood owing to his government’s clear-cut Islamist policies and conducts since he became Nigeria’s sixth civilian President of Nigeria on 29th May 2015. Instances of the referenced Islamist policies and conducts are a long list. Under his executive watch and seal, the Nigerian Army has massacred over 300 unarmed and defenseless Christian citizens. The armed opposition group, which is legally known as “the Miyatti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria”; which he is its national grand patron has massacred over 1700 rural citizens since his assumption of office. Most of the massacred citizens are Christians; and he has abetted and condoned same till date. Militarily or securitization wise, no single citizen of Igbo Christian extraction; Nigeria’s Christianity headquarters, is among the Service Chiefs of the Nigerian Armed Forces or head of any of the country’s 12 Police Zonal Commands till date. These are just to mention but few.
Lt Gen Turkur Yusuf Buratai and his Nigerian Army as one of the major threats to the safety of Christians and growth of Christian faith in Nigeria is considered going by Jihadist and gross partisanship of the Nigerian Army under his command. Apart from the gruesome massacre of hundreds of unarmed and defenseless Christian citizens of Southeast and South-south extractions; the Nigerian Army has now become a Fulani Fiefdom or an extension of the Miyatti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria. The Nigerian Army under Lt Gen Turkur Buratai has abandoned professional soldering to pastoralist cattle rearing; with its professional techniques and toolkits to be imported from Argentina.
Apart from announcement of its reported readiness to establish a country-wide cattle ranches, a Fulani Islamist agenda rejected and trounced legislatively; the Nigerian Army has also assumed the role of mediator-in-chief in Zamfara State where a variant of Fulani terrorist group has massacred not less than 600 defenseless citizens since 2015; thereby rewarding terrorists and criminals and massacring law abiding, innocent and unarmed citizens particularly the Shiite Muslims and Pro Biafra activists in Kaduna, Kano, Anambra, Abia, Delta and Rivers States.
It is so sad that when armies of other serious minded social climes are busy advancing in modern military science with innovative technological inventions and discoveries in astronomy, economy, military hardware and software, automobiles, aviation, rail technology, civil engineering and other industrial researches and innovations; the Nigerian Army under Buratai is committing suicide in the art of Fulani Nomadism.
In the case of Governor Nasiru el-Rufai of Kaduna State as one of the major threats to the safety of Christians and growth of Christian faith in Nigeria, he has totally abandoned conventional governance including good governance and accountability responsibilities to Islamic Jihadism. Apart from his strong culpability in the persecution and massacre of over a thousand opposing but unarmed Shiite Muslim faithful, he has strongly lent a hand in the butchery of not less than 250 Christians in Southern Kaduna since 2015, with not less than 200 killed in 2016 alone.
The authorities of ECWA Church in Kaduna State had in its recent press conference disclosed that a total of over 138 Christians lost their lives to Fulani terrorism in the State in the past six months of 2016. Few days ago, Governor el-Rufai raised an obvious false alarm saying that “Niger Delta Militants have perfected plans to attack and kill Southern Kaduna Christians this Xmas period”. The statement was totally diversionary and complicit; and as expected, the authorities of the Channel TV reported that many Christians were feared dead in the evening of Saturday, 24th December 2016 in Goska Kanikon Village in Jemaa Local Government Area of Kaduna State when terrorists of the Fulani armed opposition group raided the area.
Further, the Fulani Terrorist group; a killer-unit of “the Miyatti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria” is also one of the major threats to the safety of Christians and growth of Christian faith in Nigeria. This is on account of its systematic and coordinated violent attacks on Christian populations in Nigeria, which has gone viral since late May 2015. The attacks have grown into full ethno-religious cleansing particularly since its national grand patron, Retired Major Gen Muhammadu Buhari became the sixth civilian President of Nigeria on 29th May 2015. The terror group has also become untouchable, sophisticated and government and military linked.
It is a dominant expert view in Nigeria’s Criminal Justice and academic Security industry that pastoralist Fulani terrorism have been chosen as a replacement to folding Boko Haram terrorism by northern radical political and Islamic fundamentalists because of its wide network and tentacles, capable of penetrating with ease Christian dominated Rain Forest areas of the southern Nigeria; for the purpose of expansive short and long term depopulation, conquest, suppression and persecution of Christians and Christian Religion in Nigeria. While Boko Haram terrorism is almost wound up, except ISIS variant; more energies and resources appeared to have been channeled into rebranded Fulani terror project by radical northern politicians and Islamic fundamentalists.
These are strongly supported by ongoing Islamist policies and conducts of the Buhari Administration. The patterns and trends of Fulani terror attacks have also changed from rag-tag agro-livestock and seasonal related, to systematic, coordinated and sophisticated ethno-religiously related. Rag-tag agro-livestock attacks by violent Fulani nomads are usually carried out in dry seasons when pasture and live feeding grasses are acutely scarce in dry upper north but in relatively large quantity in the Rain Forest areas of Southeast, Southwest, South-south and old Middle-Belt. But most of the recent violent attacks; linked to Fulani terrorism were carried out at the heat of the rainy season and outside agro-livestock strained circumstances. In most, if not all the areas attacked, Christian populations were the sole targets and constituted the bulk of fatalities and destructions.
Christian leaders in Nigeria particularly the ordained and members of the political class are also considered as one of the major threats to the safety of Christians and growth of Christian Religion in Nigeria. By sheer mercantilism, moral bankruptcy and omission to act; they have allowed fellow congregants in their tens of thousands and their holy places of worship in their tens of thousands as well to be slaughtered and destroyed in the past seven years (2009-2016). Before their very eyes, over 70million Christians in Nigeria were and are still subjected to acute physical and psychological state of fear and deprived of their constitutional rights to boldly profess their religion in accordance with the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria. In law, omission to act lawfully is a crime and in Christianity, omission to act correctly and morally is a high sin.
Many, if not most of the churches in Nigeria have fully become money-making ventures and cradles of immorality, Satanism and corruption. Salvation has given way to prosperity and primitive and crooked pursuit of wealth by members of the clergy and the laity. Pastors, priests and bishops have practically dispossessed Jesus Christ and assumed control materialistically and devilishly as earthly and lavish Jesus Christ. False prophecies and fake crusades are on rampage and church leaders now have “magic solutions” for all social and human problems; devilishly and wickedly deceiving and siphoning their congregants; no thanks to politically infested human sufferings and other man-made miseries in Nigeria which are now age-long. Agents of principalities and voodooists with crooked wealth are now offered best positions in the church laities. As a matter of fact, Satan has been crowned Jesus Christ in many Nigerian churches!
Some Orthodox and Pentecostal clergies have also become gamblers and un-Joseph De Carpenter like Jesus Christ. Members of the political class who are Christians have become arch conformists and enemies of Christian Faith, in exchange for blood and stolen loots. In all these, the safety of Christians and growth and development of Christian faith in the country have steadily and dangerously impaired, jeopardized and endangered, with innocent and defenseless Christians left in quandary and psycho-physical state of acute confusion, helplessness and hopelessness. As over 70 million Nigerian Christians celebrate the “canonical” birth of Jesus Christ and the Church, we consider have considered it extremely important to remind them that their safety and that of their Faith is in a grave danger of short and long term extinction and annihilation by sworn enemies in political circles and power in Nigeria.
It must be understood that Xmas celebration goes beyond consumption of cooked rice and stew and meats or showcasing of built and bought spatial houses and cars or spreading of bundles of naira notes of highest denomination or consumption of liquor and other drinks or political visits with bloated promises or traditional title takings or Christian harvests and bazaars and so on and so forth. The gateway into Christianity and its exit point are strictly for the growth of Christianity and its faith; embedded in salvation, good Christian life and godliness, societal tranquility, harmony and development.
Christian laities or congregants in Nigeria must rise up and force their leaders to wake up from their snoring slumbers and be pressured to triumphantly rise in defense of Christians and their faith in Nigeria or any part thereof. Unless a firm stand is taken by Christian leaders in Nigeria for the purpose of forcing the reversal of the motley of Islamist policies and conducts linked to President Muhammadu Buhari, Lt Gen Turkur Yusuf Buratai and his Nigerian Army, the Fulani terror group and Governor Nasiru el-Rufai of Kaduna State; otherwise the Christians and their Faith stand the chance of high certainty of being continually and systematically suppressed, repressed, persecuted, massacred and possibly destroyed and wiped out completely in years ahead. The political office holders named above must be compelled to revert and take a recourse at all times to Sections 10, 14 (3) and 38 of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria; which unambiguously provide for secularism or non State religion, non domination of political institutions and positions by one religion and freedom of thought, conscience and religion.
Emeka Umeagbalasi, Board Chairman
International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law (Intersociety)
Call Line: +2348174090052
Obianuju Joy Igboeli, Esq.
Head, Civil Liberties & Rule of Law Program
Call Line: +2348180771506