CV NEWS FEED // A historic tension between Christian farmers and a Muslim-majority nomadic ethnic group has become exacerbated by the nation-wide rise in religious persecution and not as a consequence of climate change.
According to a report sent to Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) International, Christian farmers settled in the Catholic Diocese of Makurdi, located in the Middle Belt region of Nigeria, have endured at least 119 attacks from the Muslim-majority Fulani herdsmen in 2023.
ACN stated in its press release that “over 400 people have been killed, and more than 100 others wounded, raped or kidnapped in attacks on settlements and farming communities,” in Benue State between January 2 and December 27, 2023.
The report sent to ACN also records 35 cases of kidnapping for ransom.
ACN Project Partner and head of the Makurdi Diocese’s Foundation for Justice, Development, and Peace (FJPD) Father Remigius Ihiyula described the rise in Fulani violence against Christian farmers as unprecedented, stating:
In the past, the conflict over grazing lands never came with the killings and destruction witnessed today. Before, there was no intention to occupy and displace communities as is being done today. There were also mechanisms for peaceful resolutions and amicable settlements, none of which are present today.
Though media outlets such as Al Jazeera have described the “clashes” between Christian farmers and Muslim Fulani herdsmen as motivated by “climate change and scarcity of pastoral land […] irrespective of faith,” the latest report claims the “heavily armed” Fulani have been carrying out surprise jihadist attacks, and propagating Islam as an ideology.
Fr Remigius explained that the Benue State, located in Nigeria’s Middle Belt, “is known for its very fertile lands, and has become a battleground in these conflicts.”
The Fulani herdsmen mostly originate from northern border states of Sokoto or Katsina, or as far as the Republic of Niger. They have historically traveled south in search of land to graze their flock.
The report sent to ACN comes one month after Islamist terrorist attacks which took place over Christmas week left over 150 Christians dead in Nigeria’s Plateau State, just north of Benue.
Dozens of human rights organizations have called for heightened international pressure on Nigeria to end its persecution of Christians.
However, the US has continued to ignore these calls, declining for the third year in a row to redesignate Nigeria on its international religious persecution watchlist.