While we were sitting down to Christmas dinner with our loved ones, Islamist militants launched a wave of coordinated attacks against Christian villages in Plateau State in Nigeria’s Middle Belt region.
Between the evening of December 23 and Christmas Day morning, the militants killed an estimated 295 Christians across 25 villages in Bokkos and Barkin Ladi Local Government Areas, according to Britain-based international aid organization Barnabas Aid, which reported the following:
The dead were mostly women and children including physically challenged people who were unable to run and were burnt alive.
In total more than 1,500 homes were burnt, eight churches destroyed, many hundreds of people injured and 30,000 displaced.
One of those killed was the Rev. Jonathan Daluk, a pastor from Tudun Mazat village who initially fled with his family but later realized his mother and brother were back at his house. When he returned to rescue them, all three were tragically murdered.
Almost 200 Christians have reportedly been killed in Nigeria during a massacre that started on Christmas Eve pic.twitter.com/8w1c61sGvB
— RT (@RT_com) January 3, 2024
The attack was serious enough to get the attention of Fox News, where veteran African correspondent Paul Tilsley labeled it part of a “never-ending massacre of Christians being ‘killed for sport,’” in which more than 52,000 Christians have been systematically wiped out since 2009.
Fulani militia groups, which are becoming as big a menace in Nigeria as Boko Haram, have been blamed for the recent attacks. Both are extremist organizations that seek to establish an Islamic state in Nigeria governed by Sharia law.
Christians currently make up approximately 46 percent of Nigeria’s population, though their number is in decline thanks to decades of Islamist insurgency from the north.
The Rev. Johnnie Moore, a former commissioner for the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, speaking to Fox News, provided vital context to the senseless Christmas slaughter:
Not a day goes by when Christians are not terrorized in western Africa in the most grotesque ways imaginable. Christians are killed for sport, especially Christian children. For every massacre which you hear about there are probably ten others which happened in the shadows. The death tolls are routinely in the hundreds.
Entire villages are burnt and pillaged. Thousands of churches have been destroyed. Children and women are hunted. Countless Christians have been kidnapped. I met one pastor whose two previous churches were burned down. Yet, he stayed in harm’s way because he was determined to be a light in the darkness, even if it [costs] him his life, and it probably will.
Moore added that “the goal of the Nigerian jihadists is to expulse the Christians towards the south, then to eliminate them.” He also warned that what was once a series of hotspots in the country is now “converging into a piecemeal Islamic State.”
While as Westerners we can feel helpless in the face of faraway tragedies like that in Nigeria, there is in fact much that can be done.
Whereas in 2020, the Trump administration had Nigeria designated as a “Country of Particular Concern” in the State Department’s International Religious Freedom Report, under Biden, Nigeria has lost this designation. Recently, there have been renewed calls from religious freedom activists to see this designation restored and a much greater focus given on Capitol Hill to the Nigerian crisis.
Whether you live in the United States or elsewhere, contacting your local representative about the situation in Nigeria and urging your government to act is a practical way to be a voice for the voiceless. If enough people speak up, governments will have to respond.
Giving to organizations that serve the persecuted church is another way to make a difference. For decades, NGOs like Open Doors, Barnabas Aid, and Voice of the Martyrs have been providing aid to the most marginalized faith communities on the planet. Equipping the Persecuted is another group working in Nigeria that is worthy of support.
Spreading awareness about the persecution is another powerful weapon. Why not hit “share” on this article to alert your friends and family on social media, adding a thoughtful caption to go with it?
Finally, prayer makes a difference. As a pastor in Bokkos told Barnabas Aid, “We do not and will not go for any reprisals or attacks. … The Lord is our help and our refuge.”
Despite making up only about 30 percent of the global population, Christians are on the receiving end of the most of religious persecution worldwide. Let’s do what we can to stand with them in dark times.
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