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December 2018
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Christian persecution

Persecuted Church Christians in Nigeria Face Worsening Plight – The Numbers Are Staggering – We Must Act

Christians in Nigeria face increasingly worse persecution. The devastation is unmistakable.

According to numerous reports, groups like Open Doors, which tracks persecution across the globe, and as reported in USA Today, violent attacks by the Fulani herdsmen are estimated to have killed a staggering 60,000 Christians since 2001.

Earlier this year, Christian church leaders in the Nigerian Plateau State released a statement detailing their plight: “The renewed attacks on Christian communities and churches across Nigeria and particularly in the middlebelt of the country where over 6000 persons mostly children, women and the aged have been maimed and killed in night raids by armed Fulani herdsmen have necessitated our outcry . . . .”

It was also reported that earlier this year a group of Fulani herdsmen opened fire on a church in Nigeria killing at least 19 Christians and destroyed over 50 houses in the Christian community.

Other reports show that since 2011 the violent attacks by the jihadist group Boko Haram (which has pledged allegiance to ISIS) have killed more than 37,500 people, displaced 2.4 million, and created 228,000 refugees.

The governor of the north-eastern Nigerian state of Borno, Kashim Shettima, estimates that “‘[t]he Boko Haram insurgency has led to the deaths of almost 100,000 persons’ with ‘2,114,000 persons [having] become internally displaced as [of] December of 2016, . . . 537,815 in separate camps’ and another ‘158,201 . . . at official camps.’”

According to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom’s (USCIRF) annual report:

Boko Haram has destroyed countless churches, homes, and government buildings in attacks and has forcibly closed many schools. The group has killed and harmed people for being “nonbelievers,” including prominent religious leaders. Some of the most affected are women and girls, who have been abducted and subjected to forced marriage, forced conversion, sexual abuse, and torture.

In 2017, Boko Haram conducted more attacks than in the previous year, using more suicide bombings, increasingly carried out by women and children.

Christians have been some of the hardest hit by these jihadists attacks. Numerous reports have highlighted how Boko Haram is now intentionally targeting Christians.

In one particularly shocking example in recent years detailed by BBC News, Boko Haram conducted an outrageously heinous attack directly and solely aimed at Christians. Members of Boko Haram disguised themselves as preachers and brutally gunned down 45 Christians as they gathered for a worship service.

Boko Haram as repeatedly kidnapped hundreds of schoolgirls. In February of 2018, Boko Haram insurgents abducted 110 students from a girls’ boarding school. Of those, five were killed while being held captive. Ultimately, 104 of the schoolgirls were released, but Boko Haram still holds 15-year-old Leah Sharibu prisoner because she refuses to bend to Boko Haram’s demands that she renounce her Christian faith and convert to Islam.

At the ACLJ, and through our BeHeard Project, we are taking action to raise the plight of persecuted and beleaguered Christians in Nigeria. We’ve made both written submissions and oral presentations at the U.N. Human Rights Council, detailing the plight these Christians face and urging international action. We have sent letters advocating for the release of Leah Sharibu to both the Nigerian and U.S. governments. Most recently, we sent a letter to the U.N. Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng, urging global action to ensure that these atrocities are stopped.

We will continue to defend these persecuted Christians across the globe as we seek to raise awareness of the horrific plight they face and urge international action to protect them.