Churches burned. Thousands killed. Girls abducted and forcibly converted to Islam.
Media, like the New York Times, call it a clash between farmers and cattle herdsmen over land. Politicians blame climate change.
Christian leaders in Nigeria call it “pure genocide” and an “Islamic war of expansion.”
The attacks are on Christian communities and churches across Nigeria. Over 6000 people, mostly children, women and elderly, have been maimed and killed in raids by Fulani herdsmen, who are predominantly Muslim.
In April, about 30 Fulani herdsmen stormed a church during worship, killing 19 people. In another village in June, 86 people were massacred and 50 houses burned.
“There is no doubt that the sole purpose of these attacks is aimed at ethnic cleansing, land grabbing and forceful ejection of the Christian natives from their ancestral land and heritage,” church leaders stated.
Christian leaders are begging Nigeria’s president to act.
Some say President Muhammadu Buhari, who is Fulani, has allowed the violence against Christians.
“It has been going on for some years now and we have always been on the receiving end,” said Stephen Mkar, a community leader. “Our farmlands, produce and homes have been invaded on many occasions and the government has not done anything meaningful to stop all these attacks on our communities.”
In an open letter, Nigerian Church leaders say the perpetrators always get away “scot-free”.
In recent attacks, “over 200 persons were brutally killed and our churches destroyed without any intervention from security agencies in spite of several distress calls made to them.”
“How can it be a clash when one group is persistently attacking, killing, maiming, destroying; and the other group is persistently being killed, maimed and their places of worship destroyed?” they asked. “How can it be a clash when the herdsmen are the predators and the inhabitant/indigenous farmers are the prey?”
Analysts say the Muslim Fulani strategy follows a pattern of: migration, settlement, occupation and control through forceful conversion, abduction, deception and early marriage and then the demand for independent chiefdom.
Church leaders begged President Buhari “to stop this senseless and blood shedding in the land and avoid a state of complete anarchy where the people are forced to defend themselves.”
Five Christian youth were sentenced to death for defending their communities. They were accused of killing a Fulani herdsman, who allegedly had killed 48 Christians.
“No armed herdsmen has ever been arrested for prosecution even when they are caught in the act,” the Church leaders said.