On Christmas Eve, hundreds of armed terrorists attacked around thirty majority-Christian villages in Plateau state in Nigeria’s Middle Belt region. Waves of attacks continued until 30 December.
A fact-finding report from Stefanos Foundation (a Church in Chains partner organisation) titled “Black Christmas 2023″ listed a total of 238 people killed in the attacks, which were mainly concentrated on villages in the Bokkos and Barakin Ladi Local Government Areas. Monday Kassah, head of local government in Bokkos, said that more than three hundred wounded people were rushed to hospitals in Bokkos, Jos and Barakin Ladi following the attacks. An estimated 10,000 people have been displaced and over 1,500 homes were destroyed in the attacks. Eight churches and parsonages were burnt down in the attacks.
Stefanos Foundation interviewed an eye witness, Rev Gideon Dawel, the District Overseer of Christ’s Apostolic Church, whose wife and five daughters were burnt to death at their residence at the church pastorium in Kambarpelli in Tangor District.
Rev Gideon (on right of picture) said he stood far away with members of the vigilante group who were supposed to be protecting the community and heard the attackers shouting “Allah ak’abar” (Allah is great). He said that armed terrorists led the attack followed by others with machetes, ahead of others with flames who burnt down the houses. The vigilantes went into hiding as they were outnumbered by the attackers who were more heavily armed.
Rev Gideon said he could not come out of hiding until daybreak at 6am when he went to his house to find it burnt. Some rooms where grains were stored were still burning and he sat outside his burnt home as people came to greet him expecting that his wife and children would emerge from their hideout. Unknown to him, their bodies lay in the ashes of their home. When eventually someone went into the rubble and discovered the remains of his family, he collapsed and was taken unconscious to hospital.
Attackers were local Fulani herdsmen
Other survivors of the attacks recognised local Fulani herdsmen as the attackers. One woman who only survived by remaining motionless after being shot, recognised the gunman as her Fulani neighbour. She said she was shocked as she lay there watching her neighbour checking to see if she was dead. When he saw she was motionless, he went after her husband and hacked him to death with a machete.
An initial report from Christian Solidarity Worldwide Nigeria called for Nigerian government agencies to urgently provide essential relief and assistance to those displaced by the attacks. It also called for an increased security presence in the area, which has been targeted in previous militant attacks.
The wave of attacks has been widely condemned. United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk called on the Nigerian authorities to conduct a prompt, independent investigation “consistent with international human rights law”. He called for the perpetrators to be held accountable, saying “The cycle of impunity fuelling recurrent violence must be urgently broken.”
Amnesty International Nigeria warned: “The Nigerian authorities’ consistent failure to stem the tide of violent attacks on communities in Plateau state is costing people’s lives and livelihoods, and without immediate concrete action many more lives may be lost.”
(Stefanos Foundation, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, CSW-Nigeria, Morning Star News, Barnabas Fund)
Images: Stefanos Foundation
Church in Chains has sent an immediate grant of €5,200 via our partners which will be used to buy food to distribute to the displaced Christians who are in great need.
Church in Chains has written to the Nigerian Ambassador to Ireland seeking a meeting to discuss the ongoing violence against Christians in the country.