By Vatican News staff writer
At least 68 Christians have been killed, with many more abducted or displaced in the last couple of months in Central Nigeria’s Benue State.
Aid to the Church in Need, a Pontifical Charity that supports the faithful wherever they are oppressed, persecuted, or in need, received a report from Bishop Wilfred Chikpa Anagbe of Makurdi, Benue, highlighting the concerning scale of the situation and pointing at the inaction on the part of Nigerian authorities.
At the center of this problem are “persistent attacks by terrorists from the Fulani tribe” who are mostly Muslim, against largely Christian farming communities in the central region of Nigeria.
The reasons for the attacks are complex. Conflicts between nomadic herders and settled farmers date back centuries but the influx of high-grade firearms over recent years has made attacks more destructive and deadly.
In recent years, Nigeria has been faced with the challenge of battling insecurity, especially in its northern and central regions. The problems began with the activities of the Boko Haram extremist jihadist group but has more recently evolved to include clashes between the herdsmen and stable farmers, and attacks from unknown armed bandits.
Bishop Anagbe highlighted a religious dimension to the attacks, noting that it “aggravates the situation in a country evenly divided between a majority Christian south and a mostly Muslim north, with most of the clashes taking place in the central region, which also possesses the most fertile land.”
He said that “the scale of killings, displacement, and wanton destruction of property by these Fulani jihadist militias only buttresses the now revealed agenda to depopulate Christian communities in Nigeria and take over lands.” He added that some of the terrorists even “disguise themselves as nomadic herdsmen to cover the true intent of their attacks, which is to drive Christians from their lands.”
The Bishop goes on to slam the government’s reluctance to take action on the matter, saying that in the face of the persistent attacks, the government in power gives “laughable reasons like ‘climate change’ or that some Muslims too are sometimes killed in attacks by so-called bandits.”
“Naturally, having to live with such a situation has been very terrible for me and my people, to say the least,” he added.
In the face of the insecurity caused by these attacks, Bishop Anagbe lamented that “Benue State is known to be the food basket of the nation but the terrorism has affected the food supply situation.”
In fact, he added, “farmers who could usually support themselves and their families are now having to survive on charity.”
The bishop further notes that the situation of want “has reduced many to a condition unworthy of human dignity, often relying on food rations contributed by others whose economic condition is not better off in any way.”
Makurdi, the Benue capital, houses 80 percent of the displaced people in the state. Despite financial challenges, the Church is doing its best to respond in order to relieve the sufferings of those in need, including providing food and clothing for those in camps and granting scholarships to dozens of displaced children.
There is also a parish in some of the settlement areas that caters to the spiritual needs of the displaced people, and the bishop hopes to purchase a mobile clinic to help respond to their health needs.
However, the instability of the region sometimes gets in the way of the ministry and the bishop himself says that he has not been able to carry out pastoral activities in some parts of the diocese.
In all these, ACN continues to support the local Church. In 2021, it financed 105 projects in Nigeria in different fields. The pontifical charity also provides a platform of information about the sufferings of Christians and helps local Church authorities to speak out on religious freedom and Christian persecution during international events.
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